Friday, July 17, 2009

Beer O’Clock: A Gimlet for Mr Chandler

It’s my pleasure to repost by permission a piece written by Robert F. Moss of the Raymond Chandler site, the Chandler blog and the excellent non-fiction work, Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference.  It originally appeared at The Rap Sheet as part of their series celebrating novelist Raymond Chandler, and brings together two of my favourite things.  Mix yourself a tall one, and read on.

A few months ago, I commemorated the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler’s death by mixing myself a gimlet and reading passages from The Long Goodbye (1953).

It was a melancholy exercise. Chandler died of bronchial pneumonia at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego, California, on March 26, 1959. By all accounts, his last few years were ones of great sadness and confusion. His wife, Cissy, had passed away in 1954, just after Chandler completed The Long Goodbye, which many critics (myself included) consider his best novel. Without Cissy he was adrift. He resumed heavy drinking, and in February 1955 attempted suicide.

Chandler was more active socially during his last five years than he had been at any time since marrying Cissy. He split his time between La Jolla, California, and London, England. In England, he was treated like a literary celebrity and mixed with what he called “the St. John’s Wood-Chelsea literary-artistic crowd,” which included Natasha and Stephen Spender, J.B. Priestley, Ian Fleming, Dilys Powell, and Leonard Russell. But, he also suffered from depression and continued drinking, which alienated his new circle of literary friends and left him hospitalized on several occasions. He struggled to complete Playback, his final novel, saying “my heart was too sad to let me capture the mood and gusto and impudence which is essential” for a Philip Marlowe story. His finished that book in December 1957, and it was published the next summer, during the final year of his life.

109143 Gimlets are the appropriate drink for remembering Chandler, and a treat to enjoy during the coming warmer months. In The Long Goodbye, Philip Marlowe and a dissipated playboy named Terry Lennox create an uneasy bond over gimlets at Victor’s bar. The gimlets Lennox and Marlowe drank weren’t the real thing, as Lennox himself points out:

We sat in the corner bar at Victor’s and drank gimlets. “They don’t know how to make them here,” he said. “What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.”

Marlowe and Lennox’s brief friendship is founded on the recognition that they share a personal code of behavior in a world that has lost its moral standards. For a few months, they meet regularly at 5 p.m. for drinks. Then, one morning at 5 o’clock, Lennox shows up at Marlowe’s doorstep, holding a gun. Marlowe asks no questions and drives him to Tijuana. Later, after learning that Lennox has committed suicide in a Mexican hotel room, Marlowe receives a letter that Lennox mailed just before his death, containing a veiled confession to murdering his wife, a $5,000 bill, and a request to “drink a gimlet for me at Victor’s.”

Gimlets weren’t in the first draft of The Long Goodbye. In 1952, as Chandler was revising the novel to prepare it for publication, he and Cissy took a month long trip to London. He discovered gimlets on their return voyage aboard the RMS Mauretania. He liked them so much that he worked them into the final version of the novel.

Chandler’s formula of 1/2 gin and 1/2 Rose’s seems pretty steep, since a gimlet is basically a martini with Rose’s Lime Juice rather than vermouth. The 1954 Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, published in London the year after The Long Goodbye, cites the Savoy Hotel’s recipe of 3 parts gin to 1 part Rose’s. Esquire also notes, “A true Gimlet must be made with Rose’s bottled lime juice, which vanished like nylons during the war but is now seen around again.”

Many recipes today still call for lime juice mixed with powdered sugar, and some call for lemon juice, but these are poor substitutes for Rose’s Lime Juice, which has a pale yellow color and sweet, candy-like taste that is hard to duplicate. Lauchlin Rose, an Edinburgh shipping provisioner, formulated the original lime-and-sugar syrup in the 1860s to preserve limes for British sailors, who were required by law to take a daily dose of lime juice to prevent scurvy. Rose’s invention was a nonalcoholic alternative to the older method of preserving limes in Demerara rum, which prevented scurvy just fine but led to tipsy sailors falling out of the riggings. Ironically, the general public found Rose’s Lime Juice to be splendid when mixed with gin, and today it’s a bar staple.

The origin of the gimlet itself is less certain, but it became popular in Hong Kong and other tropical British colonies around the time of World War I, and it took hold in London during the 1920s and ’30s. When Chandler discovered it on the Mauretania, it was just re-emerging from its war-enforced obscurity because of the unavailability of Rose’s Lime Juice.

For Chandler fans, gimlets will always be a sentimental drink, conjuring up a sense of melancholy and loss. They are best drunk in a cold, dark bar while it’s hot outside, re-creating Marlowe’s moments of cool reflection amid the sun-blind heat of a Los Angeles summer. The gimlet’s flavors are an appropriate combination for Chandler, whose writing and personality could be simultaneously sour and syrupy sweet. That combination is reflected in Marlowe’s relationship with Terry Lennox, too.

It takes the private eye a little while, in The Long Goodbye, to get back down to Victor’s and fulfill Lennox’s request to “drink a gimlet for me.” When he does, he finds that the barman has ordered a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice and can now make those drinks the proper way with no bitters. “With the lime juice it has a sort of pale greenish yellowish misty look,” Marlowe notes. “It was both sweet and sharp at the same time.” He meets heiress Linda Loring in Victor’s that afternoon, beginning an on-again, off-again relationship that’s continued in Playback and would lead to a few chapters of a novel fragment called The Poodle Springs Story (later completed by Robert B. Parker as simply Poodle Springs) in which Marlowe and Loring get married. Marlowe has one more run-in with gimlets and the memory of Terry Lennox before the tale is played out ... but there’s no need to spoil the novel’s ending.

In the letter to his agent that accompanied the manuscript of The Long Goodbye, Chandler wrote, “I didn’t care whether the mystery was fairly obvious, but I cared about the people, about this strange corrupt world we live in, and how any man who tried to be honest looks in the end either sentimental or just plain foolish.” Chandler himself was quite sentimental and even foolish in the last years of his life, but in his writing he remained honest to the end.

During his lifetime Raymond Chandler was never secure in his achievements, and he was plagued by the suspicion that he had wasted his talents in a subliterary genre. Fifty years later, both literary scholars and the public at large have put such concerns to rest. His best books--The Big Sleep (1939) and The Long Goodbye--are on the short list of the greatest American novels ever written. Through the character of Philip Marlowe and through his contributions to film noir, Chandler has made a lasting imprint on American popular culture, and he remains the most vivid chronicler of Southern Californian life between 1930 and 1960. The gimlets we drink in his memory may be potent and a little sour, but they are also very sweet. And what could be a more fitting way to remember a great American writer?

READ MORE: “Writing The Long Goodbye,” by Mark Coggins. [Warning: Contains spoilers.]

* * Keep an eye out for more pieces here at NOT PC linking great writers and their drinks * *

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Sleeveface

Since the cool kids aren’t doing what cool kids are supposed to be doing, and since it’s Friday, let’s remind each other of one of the the joys they’re apparently rediscovering:  The simple pleasure of vinyl.  Just one of the things you can do with an LP that you could never do with an MP3 is . . . this:

6q8zaqo Hold up a record cover in an imaginative pose, and hey presto, you’ve got  ‘Sleeveface  art’ :
sleeveface3 sleeveface-thumb-434x271 LORETTA LYNN 8gdy4nr Cash Elvis 89kzvdd

You can see lots more of it (or submit your own) at the Sleeveface site (hat tip Bits on the Side).  Be warned however, the results can sometimes be disturbing:

6uoqg6s

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Justice isn’t working

Justice It’s said by someone who should know better [see her 16-page speech here in PDF] that New Zealand must reconsider its whole approach to imprisonment and to the way we “create criminals.”

That we must consider the view that “imprisonment is a symptom of social failure”; that we must look more at the causes of crime rather then the effect of crime on its victims; that instead of locking people up the justice system should instead “find out why blameless babes become criminals”; that “effective rehabilitation” of criminals has suffered since “leadership of the debate about penal policy has passed from officials and professionals . . .  to advocates for victims and safer communities.”

In a complete reversal of cause and effect she asserts that “providing only a prison at the bottom of a cliff is not a solution” because the existence of that prison ensures “criminals will just keep on falling into it.”  In a complete insult to all of us she appears to put criminals and their rehabilitation ahead of the victims of crime and safer communities. And in a complete reversal of the principles of justice she wrings her hands on behalf of “blameless babes” who become criminals and get locked up, while failing to even consider what these “blameless babes” have done to get locked up, and to whom.

This is said by New Zealand’s Chief Justice Sian Elias in an address to the Wellington branch of the Law Society.  It is not her speaking in a personal capacity – it is our Chief Justice ‘speaking with her robes on.’  It is a disgrace.

“Society creates criminals,” she quotes a mentor approvingly, “society must look at the conditions that create them.”  That’s all very well, Ms Chief Justice, but before considering how “society creates criminals,” shouldn’t we – and you – first understand the damage that criminals do the non-criminal members of society. And since you’re the Chief Justice, shouldn’t you at least have some grip on what “justice” actually means?

In that light, I invite Ms Elias to to reflect on why we have a justice system in the first place.  Which is to say, if we follow Thomas Jefferson, to reflect on why we institute governments at all.  To paraphrase Mr Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be demonstrable in reality: that because the mind is our species' means of survival and full flourishing, human beings are individually possessed of certain inalienable rights, which are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of private property and happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among people . . ; that all laws legislated by governments must be for the purpose of securing these rights; that no laws legislated by government may violate these rights . . .

Seems pretty straightforward.  Almost self-evident, you might say: that we all have rights; that government’s job is to secure those rights; that all laws legislated by governments must be for the purpose of securing these rights; that the agents of government must be agents of right, not of wrong.

So what sort of things violate our rights then?  That’s pretty straightforward too: assault, burglary, fraud, murder, that’s the sort of stuff we want protection from.  That’s the sort of thing for which “governments are instituted among people”: to protect us from our rights being violated: to ensure  “safer communities” (to use the phrase that soured in Ms Elias’s mouth) – i.e., communities in which you and I are safe from being assaulted, burgled or murdered by “blameless babes” and rehabilitating criminals – and the protection of our most basic rights.

This is the primary purpose of governments, and it delineates by extension the primary purpose of the justice system – which is neither to rehabilitate criminals nor to punish them, but to protect us from those who do us over.

Sure, if the rehabilitation of criminals can make us safer then by all means give it a go. And if punishing criminals by hard labour and long sentences will keep them off the streets and away from threatening our loved ones and our property, then that’s something to encourage.   But let’s not overlook the fact that the primary and principled purpose of the justice system is not to reduce the number of criminals, but to reduce the number of victims.

“Our prison system isn’t working,” you say? If it’s keeping at least some criminals off the street, then to that extent at least it is.

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Quote(s) of the day: On justice

Mercy to the guilty is injustice to the innocent.
- paraphrased from Adam Smith

It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you—whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?
- Ayn Rand on justice

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General debate

Feeling frustrated?  Mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore?

Anything you want to get off your chest?  Anyone you want to admonish?

Then have at it! Here’s your chance.

‘Villa Modern’

Prefab or Group houses built to standardised designs don’t have to be dull – and the way the building regulations are going here in EnZed, they might soon be the only affordable way that home-owners might ever live in an architect-designed home.LELAND HOUSE -- the only economical way to get a flower instead of a weed out the system.

Here for example are three houses produced by a crowd of US home-builders called Villa Modern [hat tip Prairie Mod] offering “a combination of modern influence infused with some of the traditional forms and elements that most people associate with a comfortable liveable home.”

M. FARADAY HOUSE“The modern home designs here are inspired by the art and architecture that began in Europe in the early 1900's and was characterised by clean lines, broad windows and open floor plans. Incorporating the historic design concepts into today’s lifestyles the houses represented are liveable, sculptural, and dramatic.

Modern influenced, but moderately affordable.JENKINS HOUSE

“Inspired by historical precedent in modern design, and a lean towards flexible open living spaces, these designs reflect a more  sophisticated value on home design and statement,” they say.

They’re not exactly site specific, but they indicate that mass-produced needn’t mean demeaning.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Interest rates: high? low? how the hell would Alan know? [update 2]

Eric Crampton noticed a little, shall we say, inconsistency from His Alan-ness of the Reserve Bank:

A week ago the RBNZ berated banks for interest rates being too high; today, Bollard berates consumers for responding to interest rates being too low. Which is it?

Well, how the hell would Alan know?  It sure as hell beats his pair of jacks.  Fact is, without a real market, how would anyone?  The problem is not just with our local Reserve Bank Governor – the problem is universal. As Jesus Huerta de Soto points out in his book Money, Bank Credit & Economic Cycles,

6a00d83451eb0069e20115720667e2970b-800wi     the theorem of the economic impossibility of socialism, which the Austrian economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich A. Hayek discovered, is fully applicable to central banks in general, and to the Federal Reserve . . . in particular. According to this theorem, it is impossible to organize society, in terms of economics, based on coercive commands issued by a planning agency, since such a body can never obtain the information it needs to infuse its commands with a coordinating nature.
    Indeed, nothing is more dangerous than to . . . [believe] oneself omniscient or at least wise and powerful enough to be able to keep the most suitable monetary policy fine-tuned at all times.

So without a real market for money, we can never know what the 'real ‘price’ of money, i.e., the interest rate, should be.

What we do know however, but only after the fact, is when the central banks get it wrong.  For instance, “the relative price stability experienced under Greenspan” was not a good thing -- summarises Peter Boettke, it “is actually problematic, rather than a sign of the perfection of central banking practice.  During this period of time, the US realized tremendous productivity increases due to technological innovations, and also new trading opportunities in China and India.”  What we should have seen with those tremendous productivity increases was not “stable prices,” but gently declining prices. As Huerta de Soto writes:

The absence of a healthy "deflation" in the prices of consumer goods in a period of such considerable growth in productivity as that of recent years provides the main evidence that the monetary shock has seriously disturbed the economic process.

In short, the central banks don’t know what interest rates should be when things are bad (high? low? how the hell would they know?); but neither do they know what the hell they’re doing when things are going “well.” 

And when they get it wrong, and keep right on getting it wrong, we all suffer.

UPDATE 1: Just to make the point more plain: the pursuit of so called “price stability” (which generally involves a fair degree of meddling with CPI definitions) provides neither an anti-inflationary panacea (particularly not when housing prices are booming at a time of so-called stability) nor a guide to interest rate levels. M.A. Abrams makes the point clearer:

    In an economically progressive community (that is, one where the real costs
of production per unit are falling and output per head is increasing), any
additions to the supply of money in order to prevent falling prices will be
hidden inflation; and in a retrogressive community, (that is, one where output
per head is diminishing and real costs of production are rising), any
contraction of the supply of money in order to prevent rising prices will be
hidden deflation. Inflation and deflation can occur just as well behind a stable
price level as when the price level is rising and falling.

It rather puts several current controversies (inflation or deflation? rates up or rates down?) into perspective, don’t you think?

UPDATE 2: From the farting-against-thunder file comes this research from Canada’s Sprott Asset Management on the massive US budget deficit and bond issuance problem, which Bernard Hickey reckons is “a must read.”

It says global interest rates will rise [anyway] as the US nears default on its debt. Sprott says there isn’t enough money in the world to pay for the US deficits and its looming Medicare and Social Security crisis as baby boomers retire. . .

  • “…the future solvency of the United States as a nation state is currently in jeopardy [says Sprott]. It is in far deeper trouble than the mainstream press cares to admit. There are simply not enough new buyers of debt on this planet to support the spending programs of the United States government - and it appears that current holders of debt are beginning to sell. Because it is impossible to balance the budget from outside sources of capital, the only source of funds left for the US, in all reality, is continued money printing. The Federal Reserve’s policy of Quantitative Easing is failing. The US budget is ludicrous, spending is out of control, spending promises are out of control, the world knows it - and we know it. For all the pundits who see the economy improving over the next year, we invite you to explain to us how this debt crisis will resolve itself without significant turmoil.”

Moral of the story (if you haven’t learned it already): Even central bankers can’t fake reality for ever.

UPDATE 3: As Mr Crampton says, Larry White’s free banking regime has much to recommend it.

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In an alternative universe we could have seen economic recovery in February [updated]

ObamaChangeJar Joseph Keckeissen offers an alternative universe in which the bailouts didn’t happen and TARP was thrown back; in which the money supply wasn’t bloated up with “quantitative easing,”and the budget wasn’t inflated with stimulunacy inanities. No more rescues. No more trillions -- “those who have received any bit of largesse promptly return their ill-gotten loot to the Treasury,” and the bankruptcy courts were authorized to get on with their jobs without fear or favour.

This is an alternative universe in which we would have seen recovery in February.

    There would be no more impatient dilly-dallying on the part of investors, waiting for the government to decide who are going to be the recipients of the new trillions in handouts, and causing daily upsurges and downfalls in the unsettled Dow.
   
Assets would have fallen to their normal worth, the present discounted value of their future returns. No need to wrestle with mark-to-market account. . .
   
Mr. Geithner wouldn't be stressed to invent new ways to cajole folks to contribute to the buyout of overvalued securitized junk. Nor would there be the least excuse for more G20s to be needled into bastardizing their overbloated monetary systems. Mr. Bernanke would have stopped acting the role of Santa Claus, distributing the government-invented moonshine to the denuded former greats of Wall Street.
   
The corpses of the erstwhile automobile empires would have breathed their last, their good assets now transferred to the hands of newer more responsible entrepreneurs. The prior executives would be moving over to Cheapside and brushing off their overalls, perhaps in line to join a new remodeled UAW, in search for some job where they couldn't mess things up any more.
   
The bankruptcy courts would be finishing up their exequies for the deceased former titans of the packaged debentures. The tombstones of the new economic cemetery would display the once great names of Fannie and Freddie, of Citi, of AIG, of Merrill Lynch, along with the hapless Lehman Brothers, interred several months before. And so many more financial cadavers would have been laid to rest, their memory duly to be forgotten, as perpetrators of a fake capitalism now buried and forgotten. . .
   
Washington would finally be silenced, even if the Fed were not yet duly junked in the process, and the Treasury's overbearance would be bridled as the rest of the uneconomic trash was being flushed out of the system.
   
The Case Shiller indices would have completed their downfall to a level that future homeowners could devote the traditional 30 percent of their money incomes towards purchasing their long-wanted love nests. New families would be rushing in to fill the vacant home sites.
   
True capitalism would be alive again; employment would be rising up to normal. The waiting lines would no longer be for unemployment checks, but rather to be first to enroll in the new jobs daily being created. The new savings of the American people, shocked by the catastrophe, would now offset the strangling of the market rate of interest on the part of the monetary gymnasts, and would reflect the new flow of healthy capital ready to be invested in solid new ventures. The Dow would be healthily aglow with daily increments. All the bubbles would have burst away.
   
Happy days would be here again! We'd once again be rolling in prosperity!
   
But why hasn't this happened?
   
Why is the world still in acute misery, even expecting the worst yet to come?

Because in this universe, none of this happened.  Washington wasn’t silenced.  Ben Bernanke wasn’t strangled.  Instead of following the lessons of the Great Depression of 1920-21 (you know, the one that no one remembers because of the so-swift recovery), political functionaries instead made sure we got to enjoy a rerun of the Great Depression that everyone does remember.  Faced with the choice of short, sharp pain or a long-drawn-out blood-letting, “the authorities” ensured we have to endure the latter.

The Visible Dead Hand has returned to strangle our future, at the expense of the “invisible hand” which could have transformed it.

It makes one almost wish for an alternative universe in which the roles were reversed.

UPDATE:  Sadly, in this universe, the pain continues:

U.S. Foreclosure Filings Hit Record 1.5 Million in First Half.

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When Apollo made our giant leap -- forty years ago [update 3]

When man first shook off earth’s pull and planted a flag on the moon – the object of centuries’ impossible dreams – it was marked, famously, by Neil Armstrong’s “small step for (a) man, a giant leap for mankind.”  It was, said Ayn Rand, an unabashed symbol of man’s greatness.

CLICK TO ENLARGEWhat [Apollo revealed], in naked essentials—but in reality, not in a work of art—was the concretized abstraction of man's greatness. . .  The fundamental significance of Apollo 11’s triumph is not political; it is philosophical. . .  Frustration is the leitmotif in the lives of most men, particularly today—the frustration of inarticulate desires, with no knowledge of the means to achieve them. In the sight and hearing of a crumbling world, Apollo 11 enacted the story of an audacious purpose, its execution, its triumph, and the means that achieved it—the story and the demonstration of man’s highest potential.

Hard to believe it was all forty years ago this week!  The New York Times marks the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon with “an in-depth look at the historic journey.” 

CLICK TO ENLARGE Check out photos taken by the astronauts in space and pictures of the  spectators at the launch. Read about the awe-inspiring days  of the space race and examine its cultural impact. Tell your story of the moon landing and share family photos that were  taken during those eight days in July 1969:

And Popular Mechanics magazine has outdone themselves with “dovetailed interviews” of all involved in the Apollo 11 moon landing. [Hat tip to the Tizona Group Blog, which also has extensive coverage of the event by The Onion – a must-see!]

We can celebrate the achievement, but still deplore the taxpayer funding --  and the government involvement.  (Where is D.D. Harriman when you need him, i.e., The Man Who Sold the Moon?) Both Daily Pundit and Samizdata however hold out hope that the government-run monopoly on space travel/exploration is doomed. “Maybe not as fast as we would like, but eventually. . .  And that is a good thing.”

Sure is.  “It has often been said, even by vocal proponents of free enterprise who claim to hate government subsidies, that while private citizens are good at settling or homesteading, the government is good at exploring. They argue that we have always needed the government to do the exploring, to pave the way for the private settlers. [Ron Pisaturo’s reply is]: Recognize private property for exploring, and you will see that private citizens make better explorers than do government employees.”

UPDATE 1: Brad Taylor’s Blog has pictures of the SpaceX Falcon 1 launching a commercial satellite without coercive taxation.  Way to go!

UPDATE 2: He’s a busy lad. Brad also has a piece on the future of space, and it’s SpaceSteading -- “transforming space from a government-owned bureaucratic program into a dynamic and inclusive frontier open to people.”  Proponents are determined, they say, “to convert the image held by many young people that the future will be worse than the present, and we reject the idea that the world’s greatest moments are in its past.”

UPDATE 3: And I’ve just received this note which I’ve yet to check out, so take it for what it’s worth. Apparently, so I’m told, the only official NASA documentary film capturing the Apollo 11 mission in 1969  Moonwalk One has been restored, “ delivering the most incredible HD quality and 5.1 sound mix version allowing Theo Kamecke the original director to create his long awaited Moonwalk One – The Director’s Cut.”  My emailer tells me that “All broadcasters across the globe have been given permission to download and broadcast the files from this web browser file transfer site: http://81.106.218.34:8080/1247758725484,” and also that Moonwalk One – The Director’s Cut is “exclusively” on sale from moonwalkone.comIf you try the links, let me know how you get on.

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Key

Since there’s been so few good summaries of John Key’s “major” speech yesterday detailing “the problems and solutions for New Zealand’s economy,” I’m going to go with the Dim Post’s pithy effort. Here’s The Shorter Key:

“I have a very good understanding of the problems facing New Zealand. I have no idea how to fix them.”

Earthquake

For overseas readers concerned about scary reports you’ve been hearing [CNN, BBC, AP] there is little damage after major Fiordland quake:

The only reports of damage are some isolated power outages, a burst water main in Winton,  cracks in some buildings and products falling off shelves in shops. It also downed some phone and power lines.

Southland readers are welcome to give reports.

NOT PJ: Comics in the Clinics

A funny thing happened on the way to the hospital, explains Bernard Darnton…

_BernardDarnton We may have a die-while-you-wait health system but at least now in Canterbury you’ll die laughing. A “clown doctor” program begins at Christchurch Hospital in September.

I assume in these recession-bitten times that it’s cheaper than using normal doctors. Clown camp goes for six days and costs $475 whereas medical school goes on forever and costs an ulna and a tibia. If laughter truly is the best medicine we could expand the programme across the country and transfer all our hospitals’ assets into Clown Health Enterprises.

The Press reports that, “Clown doctors already operate in clown-care programmes worldwide.” I assume that’s “operate” in the general sense of “perform some kind of activity” rather than the more hospital-specific “cut people open and do intricate things to their internal organs.” The last thing you need when you’ve got a burst appendix is for the surgeon to turn your intestines into a balloon giraffe.

What are the clowns up to? (It’s a question we often ask here.) If they’re not performing facelifts to give people permanent smiles, what specialist medical care are these clowns providing?

The Press quotes Dr Thomas Petschner, who introduced the clowns to New Zealand, saying that the clowns’ aim was “to increase the wellbeing of the patients and to restore the healthy powers in the sick person.” Dr Petschner is also pioneering the use of clown translators.

When they’re not restoring the healthy powers, part of the clowns’ job is to “demystify painful or frightening procedures.” Maybe we should also get clown tax collectors. At the very least they’d be able to communicate easily with the clown accountants who run New Zealand’s finance companies.

Clipboard01 If the clown doctor programme is successful I expect comedy-related treatment across the entire medical profession. Michèle A’Court would make a good anaesthetist. If I catch swine flu I demand a consultation with Mike King; I know I’ll be treated humanely before being slaughtered and sliced up for bacon. The whole thing could be topped off by appointing a clown as Minister of Health. This last idea may not be original.

Other industries could be transformed as well. The Greens could go one better than their “four wheels bad, two wheels good” policy and demand the transfer of all of New Zealand’s freight onto unicycles. Even accounting for the enormous shoes the industry’s footprint would become miniscule.

For the time being, the clown doctor programme is limited to entertaining sick children but the possibilities for putting clowns in charge of all parts of public life are endless. The results might not be any better than we get now but at least we’d know what we were in for.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

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‘Captives: La Hollande’ – Martin Desjardins (1637-1694)

Martin-Desjardins-Captives

Says the Artcyclopedia site about this group, of which this figure is one: “This stunning group of sculptures represents prisoners taken by France during the Holland War. Here is the captive known as La Hollande. The Louvre Museum website has images of the remaining three captives.”

This has to be the pick of them, by far.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hitler’s plants grow this high [updated]

Here’s a picture that puts the recent Labour Party-Hitler kerfuffle into some context.  It’s the English soccer team playing in Berlin in 1936, giving the Nazi salute to you-know-who.  Blindness, thy name is stupidity.

soccer

The Australian website I pinched the picture from has a couple of other embarrassing sporting photos too, including what it calls Australia’s “darkest sporting moment.”

UPDATE: By the way, Hitler’s found out about all those YouTube videos making fun of him, and boy is he pissed off! [Hat tip Noodle Food]

Al Gore: ‘Not Evil Just Wrong’ [update 2]

New film out soon.  Here’s the trailer [hat tip I Love CO2):

Here’s the site for the film:
not_evil_banner_280 And here’s its blog.

Which has the news that he’s trying to rewrite history.

And here’s the news that The Goracle was greeted by protesters in Melbourne.  (And he bringeth rain.)

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Boxing, banks and boring Bill

richardmcgrathIn which Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines.

  1. ‘Next Decade A Demoralising Trudge’ – English – Bill English essentially tells an audience to abandon all hope of meaningful economic reform on his watch. Yes, folks, it will be three more years of the same old failed Keynesianism from Mr Glum. Don’t expect any change in personal or corporate tax rates before 2017. That’s correct: 2017.
    Bill, here’s a heads-up: you will probably be warming the Opposition benches long before then. If you want to save your sorry ass, you could do a lot worse than lifting the income threshold for taxation to $50k and getting rid of GST. You could do this tomorrow. Of course, you will need to cut government spending by tipping public servants out of their sheltered employment, and privatising most government departments - but the voters will thank you. 
    Remember the voters?
  2. Chocolate boycott supported – A wildlife centre in Christchurch is following the lead of Auckland zoo and dropping Cadbury products, in response to Cadbury putting palm oil in its chocolate.
    Now, I don’t necessarily agree with the logic behind this (apparently orang-utans are being pushed out of South East Asian rainforests as palm oil is harvested) but it shows that people are capable of spontaneous voluntary, co-operative, goal-oriented action – without bureaucrats there to manage them. A number of individuals acting in a co-ordinated manner creates an ‘invisible hand’ that can have far-reaching and powerful effects – without the state needing to be involved. Peaceful protest - without coercion, property damage or threats of physical violence against people. Just as it should be.
  3. U.S. Budget Deficit At $1 trillion” – Well, gee, when you bail out banks and car companies; attempt to ‘stimulate’ the economy by spending money you don’t have; and block the normal corrective processes of the free market (that tend to weed out delinquent companies and redeploy their personnel into more secure jobs) – you do tend to end up with a national debt described by economists as “mind-boggling.” Naturally, some unnamed senior Democrat is promoting another round of handouts.
  4. Swiss Banks’ Veil of Secrecy Slips” – Ghouls from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service harass U.S. citizens for operating Swiss bank accounts, and threaten the banks themselves. So far they have extorted $780m out of Swiss bank UBS by threatening to charge them and their customers with tax evasion and money laundering. All part of the grand plan to shut down “tax havens.”
    But what are these “tax havens”? They are national jurisdictions that steal less of people’s earnings than various socialist governments such as those in the U.S. and European Union. The people who use these havens to escape arbitrary and confiscatory levels of taxation in their home countries are reviled as tax evaders. Their only “crime” is to wish to retain a greater proportion of their legally earned wealth then the politicians and IRS thinks they should be allowed to keep.
    How dare they, the greedy capitalist pigs!
  5. wtaGuns & Hoses Slug It Out – In Masterton last Saturday night, twenty pugilists from the local Fire Service and Police fought a series of bloody battles – a titanic struggle that was eventually won by the fire fighters, raising thousands of dollars for two local charities. 
    That’s me in the photo mopping the face of courageous Mike Drummond, whose eyelid I later stitched back together. Most of the eighteen men and two ladies who faced off in the ring that evening had trained long and hard, including one policemen who lost 25 kg along the way.
    I salute these gladiators, one and all, for the long hours of training and preparation, and for an entertaining spectacle on the night.          

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

* * Read Richard McGrath’s column every Wednesday here at NOT PC * *

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Man Carving His Own Destiny, By Albin Polasek

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mancarvingpolasek As The Aesthetic Capitalist says, a far superior version to many other sculptures on the same theme – and even Polasek (1879 – 1965) has done several versions. (That’s him on the right with another of them.)

“If there is such a thing as Capitalist art, or art for a Capitalist society and culture,”  says The Aesthetic Capitalist, “then this is it!“ 

Head here to learn more.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Same country, different views [update 5]

Alan:

    New Zealand is likely to begin recovering from the global financial crisis ahead of the pack , Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard said today. . . “The New Zealand economy has taken knocks, but some form of recovery is now on the horizon."

Bill:

    Speaking at the Herald's Mood of the Boardroom breakfast, Bill English admitted that the current global recession made it difficult to take any long-term economic views with certainty.
    "It's getting a little easier to get a fix on what the picture will be like in a month's time", he said, "but forecasting a year or more out is not so easy.” . . .  English certainly was not about to promise any quick fixes. He described the ten years we face until we achieve fiscal surpluses again as a "demoralising trudge"

Well, they can’t both be right, can they. 

Meanwhile, NZ’s M2 money supply is increasing at a year-on-year rate (as of May) of 10.7%.  We still haven’t learned, have we

UPDATE 1:  Says Bernard to Alan Bollard: “Stop wagging your finger and start hiking”:

    Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard has developed a finely tuned style of finger wagging lately. He has wagged his fingers at so many people and in so many directions he risks looking like a man who just waves his hands around a lot and doesn't actually do much. . .
    So what is it Dr Bollard? Should we borrow less and spend less? Or should we borrow more and spend more? Or would you like us to save more and spend less? Or should we do everything at once? Why do you tell us to do one thing with your finger and then do another thing with your OCR?

Here’s what Alan should do.  He should stop wagging his finger around and just resign.  Shut down the Reserve Bank, and step down – and let interest rates be what they will on a genuine free market.  That, dear friends, is what genuine deregulation looks like.  Central Banks: Who Needs Them?

UPDATE 2: I love this comment from a National Business Review reader:

I was optimistic till I heard Mr B says we are out of trouble. This guy couldn't pick last weeks Lotto.

UPDATE 3: If Alan’s relying on the States to pull us out he’d better think again.  Morton Zuckerman at The Wall Street Journal says “The Economy Is Even Worse Than You Think.”  Read the 10 reasons the US is in even more trouble than the 9.5% unemployment rate indicates.

UPDATE 4: Eric Crampton notes a little . . . inconsistency from His Alan-ness:

A week ago the RBNZ berated banks for interest rates being too high; today, Bollard berates consumers for responding to interest rates being too low. Which is it?

Life’s always tough for an economic dictator. 

UPDATE 5: Matt Nolan comments at TVHE [hat tip Anti Dismal]:

When the hell did the Reserve Bank become a central planner? Their mandate is to control medium term inflation, not to decide how national income should be divided.

Give an economic dictator an inch, and he’ll try to take your smile.

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It’s Bastille Day! [updated]

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” They were the words with which Charles Dickens began his novel of the French Revolution – the Revolution celebrated today on the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille.

It was the best of times – the Revolution overthrew feudalism.  It was the worst of times – it instituted dictatorship.  It was the best of times – it proclaimed liberty.  It was the worst of times – it enforced equality.   It was both thrilling and blood-chilling – like the anthem of blood lust to which it gave birth, and which it still so well reflects. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, and to be young was very heaven,” said Wordsworth – but he said it with the protection of La Manche between him and The Terror.  He embraced the Bliss; he dismissed the Destruction.

“To destroy is the task,” said Victor Hugo, “to build is the work.  Progress demolishes with the left hand; it is with the right hand that it builds.  The left hand of Progress is called Force; the right hand is called Mind.”  Both hands raised the French Revolution into the light, but it was the left hand that eventually took the spoils.

The French Revolution essentially lasted twenty-five years. It started in hope, and plunged immediately into bloodshed and murder.  It overturned feudal aristocracy and ended in fifteen years of military dictatorship and war all over Europe. It started in the Tennis Court at Versailles and ended on the field at Waterloo.  It started with liberty, equality and fraternity, and ended in class warfare and the guillotine.

The French Revolution felt the impact of the American revolution, but misunderstood its message.

In the face of a colonial oppressor the American founding fathers raised a flag reading “Don’t Tread on Me”; in the face of a thousand years of feudalism the French Revolution raised the guillotine.  The Americans threw off their colonial ruler and proclaimed a constitutional republic; the French threw off the miasma of feudalism, and replaced it with the the dead weight of dictatorship.  The American inspiration was John Locke; the French was Rousseau. The American Revolution threw up Washington and Jefferson; the French threw up Robespierre and St Just.    The American Revolution proclaimed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and then set out to protect them; the French Revolution proclaimed the “the General Good”  and set up a Committee of Public Safety to protect them. As Michael Berliner explains, "Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit"; Robespierre and Marat fought for the principle of the rights of the majority, meaning the the principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation’s rulers. The American Revolutionaries fought to set up a government that protected individual rights; the French to set up a dictatorship that protected “collective rights” – and killed class enemies.  The Americans knew about Cromwell’s Protectorate and sought to avoid it; the French had forgotten it and were fated to emulate it.

The lesson of the French Revolution, as Ayn Rand says below, “is that political freedom requires much more than the people's wish. It requires an enormously complex knowledge of political theory and of how to implement it in practice.”  America’s founding fathers knew that; France’s Committee of Public Safety did not.  It is the American Revolution that has lessons to follow today; the French Revolution is one of many that has lessons to avoid.

    It took centuries of intellectual, philosophical development to achieve political freedom. It was a long struggle, stretching from Aristotle to John Locke to the Founding Fathers. The system they established was not based on unlimited majority but on its opposite: on individual rights, which were not to be alienated by majority vote or minority plotting. The individual was not left at the mercy of his neighbors or his  leaders: the Constitutional system of checks and balances was scientifically devised to protect him from both.
    This was the great American achievement—and if concern for the actual welfare of other nations were our present leaders' motive, this is what we should have been teaching the world.
    Instead, we are deluding the ignorant and the semi-savage by telling them that no political knowledge is necessary—that our system is only a matter of subjective preference—that any prehistorical form of tribal tyranny, gang rule, and slaughter will do just as well, with our sanction and support.
   It is thus that we encourage the spectacle of Algerian workers marching through the streets [in the 1962 Civil War] and shouting the demand: "Work, not blood!"—without knowing what great knowledge and virtue are required to achieve it.
    In the same way, in 1917, the Russian peasants were demanding: "Land and Freedom!"  But Lenin and Stalin is what they got.
    In 1933, the Germans were demanding: "Room to live!" But what they got was Hitler.
    In 1793, the French were shouting: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" What they got was Napoleon.
    In 1776, the Americans were proclaiming "The Rights of Man"—and, led by political philosophers, they achieved it.
    No revolution, no matter how justified, and no movement, no matter how popular, has ever succeeded without a political philosophy to guide it, to set its direction and goal.

Let’s remember the lessons of the French Revolution today, just as we remember the lessons of the American on July 4th – bet let us not forget which of them has lessons and the political philosophy we might want to emulate.

UPDATE:  I love Sandrine’s wonderful, and true, point:

The French Revolution and the Marseillaise should not be symbols of Liberty.
The Art about the French Revolution should definitely be . . .

Which says a whole lot about both art and revolution, when you think about it.

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: ‘TV or not TV,’ or, ‘Knowing your Yoni’ [updated]

Susan Ryder’s been watching TV . . .

It started in the latter half of the last decade. Sex – the word, not the activity – in US sit-coms.

Did you have sex last night? I haven’t had sex for two whole days! Are they having sex?! God, the sex was GREAT! I can’t believe I’m having sex! I really, really want to have sex!

On and on it went as if the sit-coms had just hit puberty, along with the studio audiences who roared with laughter on cue every time.

It was painful. I was hoping they’d all get a collective STD and go away to scratch, but no such luck. There was mileage in it and they were milking it for all it was worth. It was almost as if the writers sat around the table each week and said “So how many times can we work it into the dialogue this time?”

I think it hit its nadir in an episode of Friends where a woman in childbirth screamed “Oh My God! There are babies coming out of my vagina!!” The studio audience – true to form – were beside themselves. I remained unimpressed. Where the hell were they supposed to come from, her bloody ears? Now, that would have been something …

But quite aside from the sheer stupidity of the writing, what really disgusted me was the ill judgement from TV2 in promoting the upcoming episode later that evening, using that particular clip during the children’s programmes at 4pm. More than anything, it spoke volumes of the clowns at TV2.

But then we are talking about the organisation that brings us Fear Factor, Footballers’ Wives and – it’s a big call, I know – arguably the most stupid show ever created, The Bachelor. I watched an episode once out of sheer curiosity, thinking that it couldn’t possibly be as bad as the promotional trailers suggested. I was categorically wrong. If there was ever a time to experiment with recreational drugs in order to alter reality, that was it.

Look, I’m sure most of us have our secret, private trash and that’s fine. I fully admit to watching Coronation Street and have done for ages. At nearly 50 years old it’s a British institution, but a soap opera nonetheless. And even though there are quality programmes available on free-to-air television, there is definitely a lot of junk created for shock value in an increasingly shock-proof society. Sadly, it’s not limited to entertainment programming.

Last week, TVNZ screened a British documentary from the Real Life series, “The Perfect Vagina.” Based on the premise that you can’t comment on what you don’t watch, I tuned in. As it transpired, it made for fascinating, albeit alarming viewing.

Over the course of two years, a 35 year old journalist and mother of two young girls researched the increasing numbers of British women seeking cosmetic surgery on their genitalia, many of whom are only in their teens and early 20’s. She interviewed several women and the doctors who performed their surgery.

It was graphic, leaving nothing to the imagination. A 21 year old reckoned that she’d been publicly teased by her sister and a group of young guys in a pub as to the “state” of her genitalia. The resultant humiliation led her to the drastic resort of surgery, in spite of her best friend’s warnings. I was with the journo and girlfriend: ditch the cow of a sister and find a better group of guys to hang out with. However, the young woman went ahead with the procedure at a cost of more than three thousand pounds. Several months of intense post-operative pain later, she was pleased with the final result. Her friend still couldn’t see what was so good about “having your body cut into.” Needless to say, the issue is now up for discussion with regard to National Health funding. Did someone mention floodgates?

It got sillier. A beauty therapist put the fad down to the consequences of newly-bared skin due to the rise in popularity of the Brazilian wax, occurring she said, as a result of an episode of Sex and the City ten years ago. “You can date the increase from right after that,” she said. I did say it got sillier.

The journalist consulted a group of her male friends in their 30s. They were horrified to learn that women would go to such measures to, as one said, “change something that you can’t even see! And why would they put up with partners who were so shallow?!” Why, indeed.

The documentary reported growing numbers of UK-based Islamic women insisting upon hymen-restoration procedures prior to being married. The journalist went along to shoot pool with a group of young British-raised Islamic men, all of whom were adamant that their eventual wives would have to be virgins. After being questioned as to their own sexual status, they openly admitted to sleeping around. They scoffed at the notion of any double standard, saying that it was “different for women.”

The nonsense wasn’t limited to these young men. The journalist asked a couple of middle-aged British tradesmen painting her home as to their opinion. One was very vocal. He definitely wanted a woman “who looked tidy down there, with nothing hanging out.” Given his own grossly hirsute, overweight, rapidly-aging status, he’d be bloody lucky to come within a mile of one, I thought. Tosser.

I nearly switched the channel when we reached the male artist who was so struck by “the beauty” of female genitalia, he has made a wall of them. Yes, you read that correctly. He has persuaded numerous women to bare all so he can personally make a clay mould of each, er, one, and then add it to his collection. Is that art or perversion? I’ll leave it up to you.

There is an organisation of brave Iranian and Kurdish women trying to stem the tide of Islamic women in the UK undergoing these procedures for marital reasons. The journalist interviewed a group of unmarried Islamic women, who all admitted to having lost their virginity. “What would you do if your husband-to-be insisted upon your virginity being intact?” asked the journalist. “Get a better husband!” said one defiant young woman to cries of agreement from her girlfriends. Well said, that girl.

The doctor who performed the surgery in the case of the 21 year old admitted to performing 10 to 15 similar procedures every month. When asked if he did not think it absurd for grown women to have surgery to attain the (genital) appearance of a 12 year-old, or just plain wrong to perform this type of surgery on teenagers, he stated that psychologically, all his patients felt better for the procedure. And this was verified by the women interviewed.

Enter the Earth Mothers, bless their organically-grown cotton socks. Centres exist, complete with crystals, beads and herbal teas, where small group sessions are held for women to “reconnect with their genitalia.” This involves sitting cross-legged in a circle. When the time is right, you’re presented with a mirror and off you go, just you and your yoni; (‘yoni’ being the Hindu term for the female genitalia, regarded as a divine symbol of sexual pleasure and matrix of generation). Yonis have a history, Earth Mother Superior said. They have likes and dislikes.

At that point I felt a bit disconcerted. I certainly wouldn’t want to revisit my yoni’s history, thanks all the same. Some things are best left in the past. Likes and dislikes, though, were dead easy. Mine likes chocolate cake, The West Wing and Harry Potter. It absolutely loathes socialism, Sue Bradford and mince & cheese pies. Yoni sorted.

I liked the journalist’s style. She was as troubled as I was with this latest western female obsession to radically change a body part that remains hidden from many, if not nearly all, of whom we encounter. The odd absurdity aside, the shock-documentary was serious in the main, raising serious issues. A silly sit-com, this was not.

It’s just all so public, though. And I still can’t decide whether that sits well with me or not. Sometimes there’s a very fine line between a serious adult topic and juvenile titillation.

* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

UPDATE: Bet Sus didn’t know this: Apparently you and I and every other taxpayer has generously provided corporate welfare of $200,000 to an American production crew to film the dating show The Bachelor in New Zealand earlier this year.  Nice of us, huh.  News over at Motella.

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Popular science from the seventies: ‘Here Comes the Flood’

Remember when the coming ice age was something to sing about?  How times have changed . . .

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Monday, July 13, 2009

You fat bastard? [update 2]

There was a time back there in history when the biggest problem was malnutrition. Now, if you believe the headlines, it's obesity.

Latest headline you're supposed to believe says "Hefty price as kiwis get too fat," and continues by 'reporting' that New Zealand is the "third fattest nation" in the developed world.
The report puts New Zealand's obesity rate at 26.5 per cent in 2007, Mexico was at 30 per cent in 2006 and the United States led with 34.3 per cent of its population classed as obese in 2006. The latest figure for Australia was 21.7 per cent in 1999."
Now there's many things to be said about this "report," perhaps the first of which is to point out the different dates at which these things were measured -- that's some 1999 apples with 2007 pears thank -- and then to notice that the last time New Zealand's "obesity rate" was "measured" was back in 2003, when the OCED claimed it to to be just 20.6 percent of the population [PDF]. Quite some jump, don't you think. Around a thirty-percent increase in fat bastards in just four years.

You really think we've eaten all those pies in four years? I don't know about you, but it smells a lot like bullshit to me. So given that the ban-it merchants over at the Green Party are already calling for the government to ban tasty foods and spend more money on Green party activism, and the wowsers at the taxpayer-funded Obesity Action Coalition want to have fat taxes, vegetable subsidies and to ban everything Sue Kedgeley doesn't, it's worth taking a closer look at where these bullshit figures come from. Says the report:
Estimates relate to the adult population (normally the population aged 15+ unless otherwise stated) and are based on national health interview surveys for most countries (self-reported data), except for Australia, the Czech Republic (since 2005), Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Slovak Republic (since 2004), the United Kingdom and the United States where estimates are based on the actual measurement of weight and height. This difference in survey methodologies limits data comparability, as estimates arising from the actual measurement of weight and height are significantly higher than those based on self-report.
Note those words: "This difference in survey methodologies limits data comparability." Which means there are limits to how seriously one can take headlines like "NZ third fattest country in developed world ," and to how much political capital one should try to make from them.

But it gets worse for the scaremongers and headline writers. The so called "obesity rate" is given by "The Body Mass Index (BMI," says the report, "a single number that evaluates an individual's weight status in relation to height (weight/height2) with weight in kilograms and height in meters."
- Overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 and 30 kg/m² (25≤ BMI <30>
So much so straighforward, right? Wrong. First of all, even by the report's authors' own description the "obesity rate" includes both overweight and obese. This is a rather convenient way to, ahem, overload your figures. But there's a more significant concerdn, and that's with the bullshit index itself.

As Keith Devlin at NPR explains [hat tip Dr Shaun Holt] "this Body Mass Index fails on ten grounds." I'll summarise, but I suggest you head to the full explanation to realise just how serious is the failure -- perhaps the most fundamental being that "a high BMI does not mean an individual is even overweight, let alone obese. It could mean the person is fit and healthy, with very little fat." Here's the top ten objections:
  1. The person who dreamed up the BMI said explicitly that it could not and should not be used to indicate the level of fatness in an individual.
  2. It is scientifically nonsensical.
  3. It is physiologically wrong.
  4. It gets the logic wrong.
  5. It's bad statistics.
  6. It is lying by scientific authority.
  7. It suggests there are distinct categories of underweight, ideal, overweight and obese, with sharp boundaries that hinge on a decimal place.
  8. It makes the more cynical members of society suspect that the medical insurance industry lobbies for the continued use of the BMI to keep their profits high [or that professional lobbyists ensure their continued use to support nonsense like this].
  9. Continued reliance on the BMI means doctors don't feel the need to use one of the more scientifically sound methods that are available to measure obesity levels.
  10. It embarrasses [wealthy countries like] the U.S.
Basically, there was a time back there in history when the biggest problem was malnutrition. Now, the more scientifically, technologically and medicinally advanced you are as a country, then chances are the further you are from being malnourished. Which means that "studies" like this are less about real science (since it's it's very far from that) than they are a way to bash countries that are rich and well-fed. As always, when you add politics to science, the result is going to be bullshit.

And chances are, too, that the more self-responsible you are then the leaner, healthier and fitter you are (which, ironically, can actually raise your BMI).

So if the nett effect of banning stupidity is to fill the world with fools and fat bastards, (to paraphrase a famous saying just slightly), why not just stop the bans and try self-responsibility instead.

UPDATE 1:The Onion saw all this coming in August 2000: Hershey's Ordered to Pay Obese Americans $135 Billion.
"This is a vindication for myself and all chocolate victims," said Beaumont, TX, resident Earl Hoffler, holding a picture of his wife Emily, who in 1998 succumbed to obesity after nearly 40 years of chocoholism.
And my fellow NOT PC columnist Bernard Darnton wrote about it a year earlier in "Achtung Fatso!" But when he wrote it as satire, he didn't realise that Sue Kedgeley was taking notes:
All New Zealand residents will be required to register with the Body Mass Index Safety Authority. Those at risk will be encouraged to attend programmes carefully designed to train clients to adopt a less damaging lifestyle. Advertising of products with a high caloric content is a significant factor in inducing young people to consume harmful foods. This advertising will be banned. Government funding, through the EatSmart brand, will be available to compensate for any losses this may cause. To assist in offsetting the high cost of treatment of fat-related disease, a calorie tax will be introduced. To assist in offsetting the high cost of collecting the calorie tax, a salt tax will also be introduced.
All persons involved in the cooking or preparation of food will be required to submit samples to the Food Quality & Composition Commission. This will ensure that every meal adequately meets the prescribed conditions. To assist in the identification of suitable foods, a useful diagram has been developed & will be distributed to every household in the country. The Healthy Eating Swastika has four branches illustrating the four acceptable types of food. For example, an excellent meal may consist of muesli, broccoli, prunes & mung beans. . .
Read on here.

UPDATE 2: Cactus Kate has spotted the problem: It's not how we're eating at all, it's who is eating.
If you are Pacific Islander you are three times as likely to be obese as a European and Maori are twice as likely.
So I'm calling fat on this one. Until Maori and Pacific Islanders can "improve" their statistics in excelling at being fat, I propose a 20% health levy on all pre-tax income derived by Maori tribes such as Tainui and Ngai Tahu, to be tagged for their healthcare. Levying Pacific Islanders is a tad harder as they didn't receive government handouts because of their race, so lets slap a dedicated 20% health levy on all welfare payments and grants made to their communities to be paid into the health fund.
If it's good enough in America for the supposed "wealthy" to be paying more tax to fund obese bludgers (and we know Obama is an idiot), it's good enough in New Zealand for the source of the problems to start paying differentiated tax rates and levies based on their propensity to use services if they can't be made to pay for their own treatment thanks to the overly-generous New Zealand public health system. . .
Government cannot be expected to interfere in the lives of people and tell them they cannot eat foods, and these "5 plus a day" huggy campaigns just do not seem to work for the right people so lets look at it the other way - like insurance companies do. Passing responsibility on based on risk.

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