Friday, 16 April 2010

FRIDAY RAMBLE: The Whitewash Edition

Much to talk about in this week’s ramble, so let’s get started.

  • There’s much to be said about Telecom’s fall and fall and further fall since David Cunliffe began dismembering while Theresa Gattung pandered.  The complaisance of Gattung while Telecom burned and Cunliffe plundered is a case study in (amongst other things)  how appeasement leads to destruction just as surely in business as it does in foreign affairs.
    Despite the self-serving cant of her biography, Gattung was Telecom’s Neville Chamberlain.  Yesterday’s fall in Telecom’s share price is her legacy, and Cunliffe’s.
  • While everyone was getting off on slapping each others back at the success of Obama’s ‘lets-all-get-along’ bunfest in keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists, the country who is the world’s biggest sponsor of world terrorism was getting on with their nuclear programme.  “Iran's bomb [say analysts at the Gloria Center] will change the strategic balance, inspire revolutionary Islamist movements, lead Arab and Western states toward appeasement, and thus shift power in the region decisively toward Tehran.” So no wonder Obama didn’t want them there.
    Listen to the Two Best Arab Journalists Warning What A Nuclear-Armed Iran Means [hat tip Nevil Gibson, NBR]
  • Does Obama’s arms control tie America’s hands?  You betcha. The primary importance is not reducing the number of nukes from many thousand to several thousand, but properly identifying your enemy.  Obama’s evasion of Iran’s belligerence (and Bush’s war on a tactic) indicate neither Administration has yet grasped that.
    The Non-Nuclear Option: Does Obama's Arms Control Tie America's Hands?  - PAJAMAS TV
  • John Cox comments. And now a word from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
    MA And recommends Charles Krauthammer’s “sharp and insightful piece on the signing of the arms reduction treaty that examines how rogue nations just may benefit from this agreement.”
  • The first fruits of Obama-style engagement?  “The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria has transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah.”
    The Fruits of Obama-Style Engagement - POWERLINE
  • Don’t worry about Obama’s re-plunging popularity.  He’s going to win the 2012 election the same way Franklin Roosevelt won the 1936 election at the same time in the Depression cycle: He’s going to buy it.
    FDR - Obama, Another Ominous Parallel – SHAVING LEVIATHAN
  • Okay, what’s this?
    pornfortheblind-300x210 If you answered, “a pornographic magazine for the blind,” then you get the prize.
    Pornographic magazine for the blind launched - TELEGRAPH
  • Britain is now enduring its own Tweedledum and Tweedledummer election.  Liberty Scott tries hard to see any difference between the Conservative and Labour Party manifestoes.  He’s not entirely successful.
    New Labour - Trust us, we know how to spend other people's money. – LIBERTY SCOTT
    Conservative manifesto - less worse than Labour but where is the freedom? – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Samizdata shares similar sentiments:
    Dave Cameron's bold vision - more of the same... renamed – SAMIZDATA
  • But Tim Evans from the Adam Smith Institute thinks different. Brian Micklethwait interviews Tim, who is “in opposition to those who say that Cameron is a waste of space and heading for disaster, of one kind or another, electoral or Prime Ministerial.”
    Tim Evans talks about David Cameron – BRIAN MICKLETHWAIT’S BLOG
  • And how did those leaders’ debates go last night.  Says Guido Fawkes, “Spin is cheap, punters put their money where their mouth is, currently the punters on Political Smarkets rate the chances of victory for the leaders in the debates thus:
            16:45 David Cameron 55%  Nick Clegg 48% Gordon Brown 29%
            18:30 David Cameron 65%  Nick Clegg 48% Gordon Brown 20%
    And check out Guido’s ANTI Spin Room
  • Here’s three “highlights,” one from each of the people wanting control over British pockets:

  • And here they all are pandering to bigots:
  • Watch that last one again, and you’ll see what Chris Mounsey of the new Devil’s Kitchen means when he says:
                “Oh wow! It's only taken about ten minutes for the three Big Party leaders to
            attempt to outdo themselves in how unpleasant and draconian they are going to
            be to immigrants.
                “Any minute now, the camera will pan up and we'll see Nick Griffin [from the
            British National Party] holding the strings on three puppets. That must be the case.
                “Because surely Brown, Cameron and Clegg cannot possibly be this authoritarian
            and unpleasant, can they?”
    Um, yes they can.  And are.
  • The “scientific” report is out on the alleged scientists at the centre of the Climategate scandal and, surprise, surprise, it’s a whitewash.
    • ”The whitewash has been applied so thinly, you can still see the scandal poking through,” says Iain Murray.
      Whitewashing is quick work! – DAILY CALLER
    • “In short; trust us, we’re an inquiry.”
      A stuff-up but no conspiracy – CATALLAXY FILES
    • “I’ve read blog posts longer than this report,” says Anthony Watts of the Oxburgh committee’s 200o-word whitewash of Phil Jones and the East Anglian Climate Research Unit. The Global Warming Policy Foundation of London has this to say about it:
              “ The Panel worked by interviewing and questioning staff members of CRU, but
          failed to interview critical researchers who have been working in the same field
          for many years. The Panel even ignored, as it admits, to properly review their
          written evidence.
              “We welcome the acknowledgement by the Panel that the Urban Heat Island
          effect on surface temperatures records in and around large cities is important but  
          poorly understood. We also welcome the admission that the IPCC ignored the
          expressions of uncertainty in CRU papers.
              “We also note, in the context of the long-term temperature record, its comment that
                  ‘the potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in
                  this area. It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been
                  involved in  this work.”
      In general, the report is being politely kind to CRU, but in essence rather
          critical of the disorganised and amateurish use of statistics….”
      Read Another Unsatisfactory Rushed Job
    • Steve McIntyre, the researcher responsible more than any other for bringing the Climate Research Unit to book, was just one of many the Oxburgh committee failed to speak to. Says McIntyre of the inquiry:
              “Without specifically mentioning the famous ‘trick …to hide the decline,’
          Oxburgh subsumes the ‘trick’ as ‘regrettable’ ‘neglect’ by ‘IPCC and others.’
              “But watch the pea under Oxburgh’s thimble.
              “The Oxburgh Report regrettably neglected to highlight the fact that CRU
          scientists Briffa and Jones, together with Michael Mann, were the IPCC authors
          responsible for this ‘regrettable neglect’ in the Third Assessment Report. They
          also regrettably neglected to report that CRU scientist Briffa was the IPCC author
          responsible for the corresponding section in [the IPCC’s Fourth Report] AR4….”
      Read Oxburgh’s Trick to Hide the Trick – STEVE McINTYRE
    • However, “After incompletely whitewashing the Climategate scandal, a member of the Oxburgh committee mentions in passing that the notorious ‘hockey stick’ may have been a crock::
      All clear, expect for one or two big exaggerations
  • ipcc-mwp-hockey-stick-globalwarming-graph-wuwt_thumb Meanwhile, following multiple revelations of slipshod, shoddy and less-than-scientific work in the IPCC’s much-vaunted reports, on which the world’s governments and Nick Smith are relying to do us all over,  a “citizen’s panel” of 40 auditors in 12 countries has taken it upon themselves to audit the quality of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) against the standards for peer review the IPCC say that they follow—and it turns out they’re rarely, if ever, followed at all.
            “21 of 44 chapters in the United Nations’ Nobel-winning climate bible earned an F
        on a report card [released] today. Forty citizen auditors from 12 countries examined
        18,531 sources cited in the report – finding 5,587 to be not peer-reviewed.
            “Contrary to statements by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
        Change (IPCC), the celebrated 2007 report does not rely solely on research published in
        reputable scientific journals. It also cites press releases, newspaper and magazine
        clippings, working papers, student theses, discussion papers, and literature published
        by green advocacy groups. Such material is often called ‘grey literature.’
            “We’ve been told this report [by the IPCC] is the gold standard. We’ve been told it’s
        100 percent peer-reviewed science. But thousands of sources cited by this report have
        not come within a mile of a scientific journal.
            “Based on the grading system used in US schools, 21 chapters in the IPCC report
        receive an F (they cite peer-reviewed sources less than 60% of the time), 4 chapters
        get a D, and 6 get a C. There are also 5 Bs and 8 As.
            “In November, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri disparaged non-peer-reviewed
    Read IPCC AR4 also gets a failing grade on 21 chapters, and send a copy of this report to your MP.
  • While climate scientists continue to be a disgrace to the last word in their job description, a real scientist has had a court victory in Britain over some real quacks—the Scientologists of medicine, the Chiropractic Association.
    Victory for Science over Quackery – WHALE OIL
  • So to celebrate, here’s a kitten with an iPad [hat tip Roar Prawn]
  • You think if “miracles” aren’t explicable you should fall down on your knees and pray?  Then you need to read this:
    The Skeptical Homeopath – DAMIAN PETERSON
  • China is "the world's greatest anti-poverty program of the last few decades," says Alex Tabarrok.  That’s a great way to think about it,
    The future of cooperation -- and economic growth: Exclusive interview with Alex Tabarrok – TED
  • VonMises Turns out Barney Frank knows his Ludwig von Mises better than most Republicans. “On Feb. 24, 2004, Rep. Frank took to the floor of the House and expressed amazement that many of his Republican colleagues, who had professed to believe in the free-market principles of Ludwig von Mises, were arguing for larger agricultural subsidies. Bravo! Although he himself opposes free markets, Barney Frank knows that Mises never would have advocated subsidies for a special interest. “
    And turns out, sadly, that many people know Ludwig von Mises better than the Mises Institute which, says Mark Hendrickson, should be re-named "The Rothbard Institute,"  something I’ve suggested myself before now.
            “I think [says Hendrickson] Mises would be disappointed that the institute named after him would be known as
        a center of anarchist thought.”
    Ludwig von Mises: Setting the Record Straight - Mark W. Hendrickson, BROOKE’S NEWS
  • Twenty-two years after the Basel I Banking Agreement that essentially told banks around the world that loans to buy house would rank better as reserves than loans to businesses (cue low capital growth and the slow inflation of a worldwide housing bubble), the Basel bankers are economics03back with Basel III, “advising financial engineers how to model the cat we’ll swallow to catch the bird that is catching the spider that is catching the fly. The West Germans told us to swallow the fly 22 years ago.”
    The First Basel and a Doofus from West Germany – MIKE KONCZAL
  • Who knew?
    Greenspan and His Fed Were Wrong 90% of the Time  - DAILY RECKONING
  • And what about his successor? “If Bernanke admits the forecasts made by himself and other economists are equatable to a weather forecast, why are they making them so far out into the future and why aren't we being told they are essentially guesses"?
    Bernanke's Economic Predictions and Unpredictability of the Future -  TODD SULLIVAN
  • Economists, listen up, and repeat after me: “the purpose of economic models isn’t prediction.”
    I can’t hear you . . .
    Economic models – THE VISIBLE HAND
     Mankiw is right – this time on prediction  - THE VISIBLE HAND
  • Time for another reminder that you can stick on your wall and show folk:
  •          "If it were possible to calculate the future structure of the market, the
          future would not be uncertain. There would be neither entrepreneurial
         loss nor profit. What people expect from the economists is beyond the
         power of any mortal man."

                    - Ludwig von Mises (1949)
                      Human Action: The Scholar's Edition, p. 867.

  • In all the most disastrous economic fallacies, the Broken Window Fallacy is the most egregious, the most widespread, yet the easiest to debunk. Tom Palmer and Austin Petersen from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation offer the latest debunking (hat tip Anti Dismal):
  • The Association of Private Enterprise Education went to Las Vegas, and all we got were reports of this great debate between Jim Otteson and Yaron Brook over the defenses of capitalism offered by Ayn Rand and Adam Smith.  “This was one of the best conference sessions I've ever been to,” says Art Carden. “I (and others) suggested that Jim and Yaron should take the show on the road or, in the spirit of the meeting's location, get a theater in Las Vegas.”
    So who’s got a link to?
    The Association of Private Enterprise Education is Decadent and Depraved: 2010 Edition – DIVISION OF LABOR
  • If you believe in miracles, then you’re ripe for exploitation.  And there are charlatans willing to exploit you.  Here’s the final in an online contest to find the biggest charlatans in the Christian universe.  The competition is fierce—and hilarious—and that’s without including the Pope and his cardinals.
    CMMI Championship: New Mystics vs Cancer Pastor – SCOTTERIOLOGY [hat tip Damien Peterson]
  • It’s the most famous epitaph in history:
                ‘I am just going out and may be some time.’
    But did he really say it? Or do we have to take
    Scott's word
  • Motella has a whole collection of motel signs that don’t quite make it . . .  including these two

  • Dim Post showed up to bitch about mainstream TV news, and stayed around long enough to discover they’ve improved.  A bit.  He has a pie chart.
    That went well/badlyDIM POST
  • Imperator Fish is not so relaxed.
    A Good Old Fashioned Rant At The MediaIMPERATOR FISH
  • Still, we have a “cycling superhighway.” 50 people gathered to enjoy the taxpayer’s boon. I bet it was still cheaper than the “information superhighway” that’s currently quoted at $1.5 billion, plus cockups.
    The Cycling SuperhighwayPUBLIC ADDRESS
  • At least one of the New Atheists is starting to understand that if morality doesn’t come from God that doesn’t mean there isn’t any morality at all—or that we have to examine our feelings to find it.  Sam Harris makes the case that morality comes from realityAlmost sounds familiar, doesn’t it.
  • Stephen Hicks is still posting his Philosophy of Education lectures online at his website . Recent posts: ‘The Argument from Design,’ ‘The Value of Reason,’ ‘Obedience Experiments,’ ‘Education’s epistemological mission’ and ‘What Epistemology Is.’ 
    All good stuff.
  • And speaking of education, Chapter One of Angeline Lillard’s superb book Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius is now online at Angeline’s site, along with a truckload of articles and op-eds., including how ‘Students Prosper with Montessori Method’ from the ‘Scientific American.’  Great stuff.
    Montessori: The Science behind the Genius, Chapter 1 (PDF)
    Articles at Montessori-Science.Org
  • While we’re still speaking educatin, Charles Anderson has taken a look at the price of American state schools compared to the best private alternatives, and discovered that with state education you really do pay more for less.
    I’m pretty sure a look at NZ education would show something very similar, the utter waste of money spent on sinkhole schools teaching nothing but indoctrination to students made illiterate by their teachers--not to mention the many hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted buying homes in school zones so parents can  get their offspring into the few good state schools remaining.  So who’s up for doing that research?
    The Public School Scandal – OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST
  • And speaking even more about education, it’s time to “rid our schools of junk history,” says historian Niall Ferguson.  Actually, I think it was time several decades ago, but a start now would be good.
    Niall Ferguson: 'Rid our schools of junk history' - GUARDIAN
  • What’s “the most influential work of academic political philosophy in the last half-century”?  If you named John Rawl’s execrable ‘A Theory of Justice,’ then you got that prize—and one answer to why so much of academia is such junk. 
    So here’s an antidote, what Stephen Hicks describes as “an excellent overview and critique”:
    “Blind Injustice” – ERIC MACK
  • And now, a public service announcement for intelligent folk who might be short of a dollar: The Objective Standard’s First Annual Essay Contest, with over US$3000 in prizes!
          Topic for 2010: The Moral Foundation of Capitalism
    Few people who advocate capitalism know fully what this social system is, and even
          fewer are able to defend it on moral grounds. What is capitalism? What are its
          distinguishing characteristics? On what moral principles do they depend? And why are
         so few people able to name and uphold these principles?
    Write and win!
    The First Annual TOS Essay Contest – OBJECTIVE STANDARD
  • Need help with your writing?  Then if you want to get into intellectual activism, you could do a lot worse than take some writing tips from the now-widely published Paul Hsieh (hat tip Thrutch).
    Tips for getting published – NOODLE FOOD
  • Who knew that the witty British “television legend” Clive James has a neat website full of his interviews and reviews
    If you’ve never come across him before, start with this interview with the author of Wild Swans and Mao, and go from there.
    INTERVIEW: Jung Chang, writer – CLIVE JAMES
  • The Tea Parties, then and now (courtesy of the Heritage Institute, and hat tip Noodle Food)
  • The Rational Capitalist reminds today’s Tea Partiers of their legacy, and the ideas behind that legacy, in his latest speech.
    A Message to the Tea Party – THE RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • Here’s a beer to play with your sensibilities: a beer called ‘Fucking Hell.’  True story. Honest.
    German Firm Wins Right to Make Beer Called 'Fucking Hell'  - DER SPIEGEL
  • When do you think this was written:
  • You must know that the world has grown old, and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun’s warmth are both diminishing; the metals are nearly exhausted; the husbandman is failing in the fields, the sailor on the seas, the soldier in the camp, honesty in the market, justice in the courts, concord in friendships, skill in the arts, discipline in morals...
    The person who said "in the third century AD" wins the prize. Yep, today's pessimists and are pikers compared to the doom-makers of the third century.
    More mining please – NOT PC, Aug 2006
  • I missed my blog birthday here last week.  It was five years ago on the 5th of April that this blog began taking flight, and I’ve been blogging here regularly ever since.
    Here’s a look back at that first week of blogging, which included an attack on Don Brash and the Nanny State, praise for The Herald, some salutations to the Pope, posts on music, art and Frank Lloyd Wright . . . much the same as this week, really.  So you can’t say I haven’t been consistent.
    The Very First Week of NOT PC
  • coffee poster And now, some good news.  Coffee isn’t just good for mornings, it’s good for life!  “The enhanced learning, memory, and speed of information processing caffeine delivers has been well documented scientifically. New research published on-line in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, reports that coffee can also ward off some effects of aging on the brain.”
    The Fountain of Youth in a Cup of CoffeeNATURAL REMEDIES THAT WORK
  • Always wanted to ring someone up and impersonate Tiger Woods?  Slate’s Tiger Woods Soundboard makes it easy for you.
    (Hat tip Sport Review)
    The Tiger Woods Crank-Call Generator – SLATE
  • And also courtesy Sport Review, here’s something you don’t see every day: a Formula One car played on electric guitar.  Yes, you read that right.
    Fernando Alonso Bahrain 2010 lap on slide guitar – YOU TUBE
  • And finally, when they say the wedding brought the house down, this wasn’t what they meant.  (Hat tip Tim Blair).  To paraphrase Billie Holiday. “Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little pole dancing can do to you…”

Have a great weekend!


Eagle Feather – Frank Lloyd Wright


A striking ‘desert stone’ and timber house for the Malibu coast—towards which the soaring balcony was thrust—this was designed for film-maker Arch Oboler, credited with being the progenitor of 3-d films.

Oboler and Wright shared a similar sense of humour.  Chasing Wright for plans which he’d promised, Oboler wired, “Still waiting for plans you promised three weeks ago. Should we plan for house on cliff or in heaven?”  Wright wired back, “Have been busy saving you from living in Hell. Ready for builder to come at once.  FLlW.”

Despite much enthusiasm on Oboler’s part, he only succeeded in building a retreat for his wife Eleanor, and the Gate House, which eventually grew to become a fully-fledge house in its own right.

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

“Pompous fart” faces jail time

doughos_300x2001_thumb[2] Since the announcement the other day that former Minister in Charge of Treaty Capitulations Douglas Montrose Graham, KBE, KCMG, LOMBARD faces charges and fines for alleged indiscretions in his directorship of a failed finance company, leaving around 4000 investors around $127 million worse off, the Securities Commission have now preferred criminal charges against him and his fellow directors, who now face potential five-year jail terms.

As I said other day, I can think of few people who would deserve it more.

Perhaps it’s time to recycle a song we used to sing in his honour from out of The Great Libertarianz Song Book, sung to the tune of ‘How Great Thou Art’ . . .  (here’s the original, sung by the late Horrid MaoriSong). The revised lyrics begin thus:

Oh Lord Montrose,
When I look back at all your blunders,
Consider all, the taxpayer’s done for you…

Before heading to this lusty chorus:

Oh, you’re corrupt,
Your thieving knows no end.
Where do we start?
You pompous fart.

Never could lyrics have been more appropriate.

I must dig out one of those Song Books to get the full lyrics. Since I suspect we’ll be singing it many times over the next few months, I’d hate to get any of them wrong.

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No to private prisons

Given what you read here every day, you’d probably expect to see me overjoyed at the government’s  announcement of a private prison in Wiri.

Well, I’m not.

You could only think I’d be overjoyed if you haven’t read me closely. Delivering prisoners to private enterprise to incarcerate is an unconscionable mixing of the dollar and the gun that can only lead to disaster.

It’s telling that the only privatisation contemplated by this Labour-Lite government is the only privatisation that should not be done.

But rather than repeat what I’ve already said before on this topic, let me just direct you there instead:

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One of the first lessons children learn as they grow up is that they can’t have everything they want.  Reality just isn’t built that way. Sadly, too many people forget that when they reach adulthood.  Some of those people become planners or, worse, politicians, who think a mere wish is the same as a promise to deliver.

But resources are not infinite. If they’re being used for one thing, they can’t be used for another. Children know this.  Planners (and politicians) still don’t.  Nonetheless, there is a prodigiously fertile means by which a market easily and simply puts resources to their best, most highly-valued use—just as long as people are left free to exercise it.

The mechanism is known by the name “price signals.”

In a dispersed division-of-labour economy, price signals are the preeminent form of conveying important information right across a market: for those who are alert to them they convey the information, from moment to moment, of what is most highly valued by buyers—and they offer the extra profits that encourage more sellers to supply more of what is most demanded most, and less of what is demanded less.

Put simply, fewer buyers chasing more goods or services push those prices down; and more buyers chasing fewer goods or services push those prices up. And the extra profits made in selling the higher-priced goods pays producers to shift their resources to producing the most highly-valued goods and services.

In that respect, there is a beneficent “self-levelling” that happens within a free market of self-interested participants—pushing more production to where it is demanded more, and removing it from where it is demanded less—that couldn’t be replicated by one grandstanding politician or a whole army of central planners.

This is  the “prodigiously ingenious mechanism” of spontaneous order by which people's wants are supplied and great cities are fed and watered, a process which to some people still appears to be a miracle. If it is, it’s a miracle that is the product of human action, not of human design.

Richard Cantillon explained the elegantly simple process of self-correction as far back as 1755:
    _quote For if some of the farmers sowed more grain than usual on their land they would have to graze a smaller number of sheep, and have less wool and mutton to sell.  Then there will will be too much grain and too little wool for the consumption of the inhabitants.  Wool will therefore be dear, which will [require] the inhabitants to wear their clothes longer than usual; and there will be too much grain and a surplus for next year… the farmers … will take care the next year to have less grain and more wool, for farmers always take care to use their land for the production of those things which they think will fetch the best price at market.  If, however, next year they have too much wool and too little grain for the demand, they will not fail to change from year to year the use of the land until they arrive at proportioning their production more or less to the consumption of the inhabitants.  So a farmer who has adjusted more-or-less his output to the demand will have part of his farm in grass, for hay, another part in grain, another in wool and so on, and he will not change his plan unless he see some considerable change in the demand…”
People often say that without planners there is no planning.  The truth is quite the opposite.  Entrepreneurs allocate their resources on the basis of what price signals tell them about demand, adjusting their plans to meet the plans and desires of buyers.  Thus do buyer and seller fall into a natural harmony.
"The consideration of prices is what integrates and harmonizes the plans of each individual with the plans of all other individuals and produces a fully and rationally planned economic system under capitalism" - George Reisman, Capitalism, Pg. 137
As Frederic Bastiat used to say, It is not so much “planning” as the natural process of harmonisation of interests that occurs when people are left free.

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GUEST POST: Safety legislation, and how to practice it


By Barnaby Perkins

Barnaby  Perkins-1 When it comes to the burgeoning industry surrounding health and safety legislation I am, like the chorus in T.S.Eliot’s play ‘The Family Reunion’, ‘afraid of all that has happened, and of all that is to come’.

In our age, H.S.E. (Health, Safety and the Environment) practitioners, legislators, auditors, and general gurus, have become like the high priests of some new religious faith or cult. They permeate every area of our lives, impinging on and infringing our personal liberty and dampening down the human spirit. They dog each move we make in a society, becoming evermore concerned with how we manage our own individual, and our civilization’s, ‘safety.’

Just like the many things that arrive in our lives and ‘sit at the door, as if they had been there always,’ so has the legislation in this area arrived on our doorstep, like an amorphous black blob, providing a multitude of reasons to hobble us in our day-to-day activities.

‘Sorry – it’s against health and safety regulations’ has become a watch cry, the overarching excuse for anyone who can not, or will not, be bothered to exercise the freedom of the human spirit in the general public anaesthetising of our times.
Click here to read more ... >>


St Jerome - Caravaggio


With Caravaggio comes an unsurpassed ability to convey three dimensions with paint.

It’s not so much what he painted, which is almost always a subject less than admirable, as the way his subject was presented.  He didn’t present his subjects so much as project them.

See how the figure of St Jerome emerges out of the darkness almost as a hologram—as a fully-rounded figure with a fully noble presence--that’s the imagery Caravaggio managed to convey in a two-dimensional canvas.

He had an unmatched talent put to a less than admirable use.

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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

British billboards

It seems a long time since there was a British election in which voters were offered a fundamental choice—perhaps the most stark was the ‘Winter of Discontent’ election of 1979 when Britain was offered the same full-on socialism that had led Britain to bankruptcy in just three decades, or Margaret Thatcher.

Sadly now, when its government’s deficits are once again at South American levels (and climbing), all that Britons are offered as an alternative to Gordon Brown’s print-and-hope policy is David Cameron--Britain's smile-and-wave leaderette in the wings.


But despite the often paper-thin differences between the main parties, their political advertising has always been brilliant. Being much easier to attack than to present the non-existent positive qualities of their own party, they’ve always gone for the jugular in attacking their opposition.

 The Telegraph has a gallery of some of the more memorable, including a few from elections where there really was a stark difference.  These are some of my own favourites, in roughly chronological order:

NoFuture Kinnock ShameAboutThePillocksInFront BlairKohl



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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Meths, death & forgiving a dead Beatle

_richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Meths ban mooted, Wellington ratepayers hammered, and a dead Beatle forgiven.

1. “Meths drinking on the increase – What a surprise. Did the politicians, who regularly increase the taxes on booze and cigarettes, and the wowsers who celebrate hysterically every time they do so, really think there would be no consequences in this?
    If you price something off the market, people will look for cheaper alternatives. Such as methylated spirits instead of ethanol-containing beverages. Of course, when there is an unintended side effect to sin taxes, the knee-jerk reaction is to reduce the availability of whatever has sprung up in place of the taxed commodity. But people never learn. Wayne Temple, from the National Poisons Centre at Otago University, now wants to ban methylated spirits. Does he really think that will be the end of the matter and that no-one will poison themselves with intoxicating alcoholic compounds?
    How about a new approach to the problem of health problems related to the use of intoxicatants? Why doesn’t the government just assume for a moment that adults should be permitted the freedom to put whatever they like into their bodies, as long as they remain financially and legally responsible for their actions before and afterward? People would not turn to crap such as meths if it were cheaper to purchase less harmful alternatives. Have the wise heads forgotten (or never learned) the Iron Law of Prohibition?   

2. “Wellington City Council convicted over driver’s death – Can you imagine what would happen if a truck driver working for a private firm died in a crash at work? The directors and shareholders of the company would suffer significant financial penalty, someone would probably wind up behind bars, and Matt McCarten and the authors of The Sub-Standard would demand all CEOs be hanged. But when a city council employee dies, the council receives a fine less than a quarter of the maximum, CEO Gary Poole announces that managers will receive extra training, and it’s back to business as usual. And of course Wellington ratepayers will pay that fine, thank you very much. Looks like the Council’s roading engineers failed to adhere to guidelines on the recommended gradient for the road, allowing drivers to take trucks down a wet 42 degree slope. Yet no-one is held responsible, and the CEO doesn’t have the integrity to sack those responsible for placing council employees at risk of death - and then offer his resignation, as he should.
    Why should Wellington ratepayers have to keep funding a bureaucratic empire that is so blasé about killing its employees? At the very least, property owners should have the option of using other companies for their roading maintenance, rubbish collection, water supply and other utilities, instead of having to use the Wellington City Council.

3. “Vatican forgives John Lennon – How gracious of them. Only took 44 years, after initially condemning Lennon for his observation that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” and for claiming that Christianity will “vanish and shrink.” Turns out of course that Lennon was right on both counts--perhaps that’s why he was forgiven! Congregations have been shrinking for decades as the left-wing political tendencies of the churches become more apparent and churches continues their absurd attacks on the wrong people--such as a Catholic archbishop’s decision to excommunicate doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old girl who was fifteen weeks pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. Was the stepfather excommunicated? Apparently not. Neither have priests in the Catholic church who have been systematically raping children entrusted to their pastoral care for decades.
    The perpetrators of these sex crimes should be brought to justice, and those who have covered up their activities and given them opportunity to re-offend should be exposed. The decision to forgive John Lennon for voicing an opinion which today seems quite reasonable, but which was controversial at the time, is a bizarre distraction from the huge task the Catholic Church must confront--rooting out the paedophiles that lurk within its ranks and assisting in their prosecution under common law.

“When the people fear the government, there is
tyranny - when the government fear the people, there is liberty.”
- Thomas Jefferson  

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Doug Graham: LOMBARD

doughos_300x2001 You may be aware that LOMBARD is an acronym. It became popular in 1980s London to describe a certain kind of plonker. It means Lots of Money But A Real Dirtbag.

Never was a bunch of dirtbags better named.  See what I mean: ‘Ex-ministers charged over failed finance firm.’  The name of the company? Lombard Finance. 

Name of one of the directors?  Douglas Montrose Graham.  Lots of Your Money, And A Real Dirtbag.

    “Former National minister Sir Douglas Graham and former Labour minister Bill Jeffries face penalties of up to $500,000 each for misleading investors in Lombard Finance.
    “The Securities Commission is also continuing to investigate the laying of criminal charges.
    “Graham was trusted with setting New Zealand's laws as Justice Minister, as was Jeffries. They later traded on that trust to get people to put their money into Lombard.
    Lombard collapsed, and now the two former ministers face the courts.”

83232188 It’s a sad story for hundreds of investors who chose for themselves a brighter future, gambling it on the honesty, integrity and acumen of Sir Douglas Douglas Graham of Lombard Finance.  Like National voters in 2008, however, they were deluded.  They were betting on a pompous arse who has never earned an honest dollar in his life.

Whose entire wealth has come out of the pockets of unwilling taxpayers and deluded investors—deluded by qualities the man never, ever had.

A man who gained access to the trough through the safe seat of Remuera--one of the selection board confiding upon his selection for the seat that National could win there if it put “a donkey” up as a candidate--"and that's just what we've done this year."

Who made his nut as Minister in Charge of Treaty Capitulations taking millions of dollars out of the pockets of New Zealand taxpayers to give to tribalists for things those taxpayers didn’t do. 

Who as Minister of Apartheid, after giving millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to Ngai Tahu, insisted: “The sooner we realise there are laws for one & laws for another, the better."

Who as Minister of Injustice insisted that defendants have their assets confiscated by the state, even before they’d been found guilty.

Who retired from politics to write his memoirs in Italy—and sucked down a sinecure from the taxpayer to pay for it.

Who came out of retirement to tell taxpayers “You better keep paying your taxes,” to keep him in his retirement in the style to which a lifetime of troughing had made him accustomed.

Who has been in the trough his whole life.

Who clearly had no intention of changing that even in his retirement, however he had to do it, and whichever pockets he had to fleece to do it.

Never could schadenfreude have come to a more deserving dirtbag. The only tragedy is that hundreds of investors had to lose their life savings to make it happen.

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Rehabilitation Center, Rainberg – Sarah Schneider

Here’s another one for you to consider: what do you make of this?  A rehabilitation centre in the forests of the Austrian Alps for fifty patients, designed by young architect Sarah Schneider. This was her diploma project.

Click here to read more ... >>


Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A sad birthday for Jefferson

A birthday tribute by Gen LaGreca to the great Thomas Jefferson.
By Marsha Enright and Gen LaGreca

On a spring day in 1743, a towering figure in world history was born: Thomas Jefferson. His skillful hand carved much of the character of America.

Today, however, what Jefferson so painstakingly crafted lies pulverized almost to stone dust. Were he alive to celebrate his birthday this April 13, instead of sipping champagne, he might want to drown his sorrow in whiskey.

What has happened to the revolutionary ideas he penned on the parchment that is the soul of America, the Declaration of Independence? How many of today’s citizens—and elected officials—understand the stirring proclamation that every person possesses certain “unalienable rights,” among which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Today, most Americans don’t understand their rights; the entire concept has been hopelessly muddied. Many now believe that if they want or need anything—from health care, to a “decent” salary, to help paying their mortgage—that they have a “right,” through government taxation and regulation, to compel others to provide it for them. As a result, our actual rights have been eroded at an ever-increasing pace.

So, in homage to Thomas Jefferson, and with his guidance, let’s examine some features of our real rights, to set the record straight.

Click here to read more ... >>

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More on "Eco-cide"

After talking the other day about the attempt by lawyer Polly Higgins--Hippy Higgins to her few friends--to equate "eco-cide" with genocide, reader Willy S. sent me this clarification of what she means.

First, the Hippy's definition of "eco-cide:
"Ecocide is the extensive destruction, damage to or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished."
You can see an example of such a thing after the jump . . . (which I've always wanted to say) . . .

Click here to read more ... >>

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Mr Key goes to Washington [updated]

3575232 Franklin Roosevelt’s Vice President John Nance Garner famously described the job of American Vice President as “not worth a pitcher of warm spit.”  Sadly, that pretty much describes the value of John Key’s meeting earlier this morning with the American Vice President, particularly when that Vice President is Boofhead Biden.

As a meeting it would be as much use, and with as much chance of success, as trying to persuade Sione Lauaki not to pinch your beer.

Key’s real whistle-stop is his lunch with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.  It would be nice to think that John Key explained David Ricardo’s Principle of Comparative Advantage to Mr Vilsack, demonstrating that both US and NZ consumers—and consumers all around the Pacific Rim—would be better off with freer trade through the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. This presumes, of course, that Mr Key understands that principle himself. 

Whether or not that conversation happened, Mr Vilsack will undoubtedly be telling Mr Key that whatever the multiple benefits of free trade, inefficient American farmers can’t afford to allow our cheaper and better produce to appear in American shopping trolleys, and the frank truth is that American senators can’t afford not to have the donations of these inefficient farmers.  He’ll be told quite bluntly, I suspect, that Mr Vilsack and his colleagues would rather please one inefficient American producer (who, to a Senator, is known as a donor), than please several million hard-pressed American consumers (who, to a Senator, are known as prize saps).

So let’s not get too excited about today’s meetings.  These are politicians we’re talking about, not high achievers.

summit And speaking of high expectations, that pretty much explains Obama’s much-touted nuclear summit—not so much a “beer summit” as one that will have the all-encompassing reek of patchouli, a miasma strong enough to obscure (for a while at least) several hard truths about it that will probably not make the summit communiqués.

Such as the fact that the nuclear genie is long out of the bottle, and no amount of hand-wringing is going to put it back again. (You can wish upon a star all you like, but unless you confront that basic fact you have dreams that will never come true.)

Such as the deal OBambi just signed agreeing that Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev may essentially do whatever they like with 34 tons of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. (Burn it in a breeder reactor.  Bury it out back. Play pinochle with it. Whatever.)

Or the deal that India signed with the US to re-process spent US fuel into weapons-grade plutonium (encouraging erstwhile US ally Pakistan to seek some similar favour from China).

Or the fact that the two who at present loom largest in the world’s ‘most-likely-to-push-the-button’ contest (not to mention their high-ranking in the most-likely-to-give-fissile-material-to-terrorists stakes), North Korea and Iran will both be conspicuous by their absence—conspicuous, at least, to anyone who doesn’t take the communiqués of non-proliferation summits seriously.  And, if we might continue being blunt, even if they were there they would hardly be taking the proceedings any more seriously than France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, who was quoted after leaving the White House recently as calling OBambi “insane,” and “appalled” at Obama’s “vision” of what the World should be under his “guidance” and “amazed” at the American Presidents unwillingness to listen to either “reason” or “logic.”

So we might say in summary of the summit that rather than making the world a safer place, by encouraging those who do constitute genuine threats it’s likely to leave the world less safe. Suggesting the only communiqué that might make sense would be this:

"With all of the preparations and posturing, with all of the media coverage, citizens of the world live in quiet hope that the proliferation of non-proliferation summits has peaked and that time and money can be redirected to more obtainable goals such as a Mars landing."

Everything else is just smile-and-wave.

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Architectural Mini-Tutorials: ‘Wrightscapes’

Frank Lloyd Wright maintained that the fundamental intention of good architecture, specifically of his “organic architecture,” was to make human life more natural and nature more humane. Clearly, if that’s your aim, then doing that must begin with how you relating your architecture to its surroundings, and vice versa.

To put it simply, the integration of site and architecture is paramount—and no-one has done that more successfully than Frank Lloyd Wright.

Charles & Berdeana Aguar’s exceptional book ‘Wrightscapes: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Landscape Designs’ looks at the spaces outside Wright’s magnificent houses, looking at the relationship between man-made and natural—between site and house. Because in every good design, neither can be understood without the other.

The Aguar’s offer this potent summary of the principles they identify as being identified with Wright’s landscapes—and I say “potent” because they identify principles worth applying to every house that attempts that goal, not just a Wright-designed one:
Click here to read more ... >>

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Monday, 12 April 2010

JAMES VALLIANT: An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

_Valliant Guest post by James S. Valliant

Dear Mr. Glenn Beck,

As a fierce defender of the American Founding Fathers and the free market, as well as an atheist, I listened intently to your discussion of "faith" and the founding of America, April 8, 2010, on the Fox News Channel. Despite my views on religion, I have become a regular viewer because, in my estimation, the history lessons you deliver every night are enormously valuable.

However, today's discussion not only left me unpersuaded of your case, but also profoundly disturbed for the future of American Ideals. If men like you, i.e., the defenders of America's Founding Fathers, have no better an appreciation of the Founders' achievement than you displayed today, then we have a far more troubling problem than a bunch of Leftists who simply ignore the Constitution to create their vision of a socialist America.

Let me take a minute to explain why.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Arresting the Pope

For many people, the Pope is an arresting figure.  Now, two prominent atheists hope to change that slightly.  They hope to make him an arrested figure, arguing that no-one deserves it more.

Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, plan between them to have the Pope arrested during his state visit to Britain “for crimes against humanity.”

Says Dawkins: “This is a man whose first instinct when his priests are caught with their pants down is to cover up the scandal and damn the young victims to silence.”

Says Hitchens: “This man is not above or outside the law. The institutionalised concealment of child rape is a crime under any law and demands not private ceremonies of repentance or church-funded payoffs, but justice and punishment."

The priest & paedophile scandal should be the death knell for any notion that the Church is an organisation providing moral leadership. The arrest of its putative head would be a fitting postscript to the public realisation of its clear and institutionalised moral degeneracy.

Stories about what’s planned by Dawkins & Hitchens here and here, in The Times and The Telegraph respectively. [Hat tip Marcus Bachler]

Seeing the back of Ratzinger:


Seeing the backside of God:


Seeing the back of both together: Priceless.

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