Friday, July 16, 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘“damn-hole”-has-been-plugged’ Edition

Biggest news of the week has to be the news coming out the Gulf of Mexico that the damn hole has finally been plugged. We hope.  So now the clean-up and recriminations—and reparation for damages!—can now commence in earnest. 

For me, Don Boudreaux puts it all perfectly in perspective in another of his beautifully crafted letters-to-the-editor, this one to a radio station:

    “During today’s 1:00pm hour you played a clip of a listener who is ‘livid that Americans aren’t up in arms against the devastation that corporations inflict’ on us.  This gentleman’s anger was sparked by the BP oil spill.
    “I have little sympathy for BP, it being a firm that has often feasted at government troughs.  But some perspective is now very much needed on the costs and benefits of corporations.
    “Consider that the latest estimated cost of the BP spill is $33 billion.  That’s a lot of money, to be sure.  But this sum pales in comparison to the amount of money that Wal-Mart’s retailing efficiencies are estimated to save consumers each year: $200 billion.*
    “Oil spills are compellingly photographable – and, hence, attention-getting and emotion-stirring.  In contrast, lower prices for – which, by the way, mean fewer resources used to bring to market – clothing, children’s toys, digital cameras, camping equipment, kitchen appliances, groceries, and other goods that we routinely enjoy are not photographable in any compelling way.  The result is that the social benefits of corporate innovations and competition are easily overlooked, ignored, taken for granted, forgotten.  But these benefits are enormous.  And any assessment of the worthiness of corporations in modern life had best take them into accurate account lest we adopt policies that make us all poor and miserable.
    Sincerely,
    Donald J. Boudreaux

            * See Matt Ridley’s splendid new book, The Rational Optimist (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), p. 113.  A few
            pages earlier (p. 110), Matt observes

     “Yet for all the liberating effects of commerce, most modern commentators see a far greater threat to human freedom from the power of corporations that free markets inevitably throw up.  The fashionable cultural critic sees himself or herself as David slinging stones at vast, corrupt and dehumanizing Goliath-like corporations that punish, pollute and profiteer with impunity…”

  • “Never let a crisis go to waste, and it if looks like it may, extend it.”
    Extending the BP Crisis – Jeff Perren, SHAVING LEVIATHAN
  • This video attacking Obama’s handling of the Gulf crisis is about as partisan as you can get—implying that there was some magic Republican wand that could have been raised to deal with the gushing oil that the Democrat president didn’t have or wouldn’t use—but it does capture very well the sense that this president, moreso even than  recent presidents, sees the world in terms of opinions to be massaged rather than a reality full of absolutes.

Oil Spill Timeline from RightChange on Vimeo.

And in other news…

  • If university funding is to be made partially contingent on whether graduates are able to get jobs after university, as Steven Joyce suggested yesterday, then Eric Crampton has a reasonable point: “If we now reckon the point of universities is the increased earning power of graduates, there's little case for state funding of university students…”
    Yeah, but will it get you a job? – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • Is the philosophy PhD student admitting that philosophy doesn't produce job options…? Maybe that has something to do with the brain damage that studying philosophy in today’s philosophy departments engenders.
    Fears for philosophy degrees – STUFF
  • This is bound to go well… “Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of rules touching every corner of finance in the biggest expansion of government power over banking and markets since the Great Depression.”
    Law Remakes U.S. Financial Landscape – WALL STREET JOURNAL
  • Who says Auckland hasn’t got toll roads? To the world’s most expensive toll bridge in Grafton, you can now add this: “Auckland drivers have been fined $4.2m in a year for using bus lanes…
    $4m bus-lane 'disgrace' – NZ HERALD
  • For some reason, many people are talking about a guest post by Jordan Carter at the progressive Policy Progress (sic) blog whining about the “failures” of the left in the face of “thirty years of neo-liberal ascendancy”—whatever the hell that means--a post that almost point by point proves Doug Reich’s thesis on liberal inanity that I posted here the other day. I’d suggest reading Jordan’s piece; followed by Phil Sage’s fisking of it; followed by Doug’s more substantive piece.  They make a nice complete set.
    Have they really changed? – Jordan Carter, POLICY PROGRESS
    Socialism is dead, long live market democracy – Phil Sage, NO MINISTER
    Liberal Despair Over Obama, Taker of the Ham Sandwich – Doug Reich, RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • And there’s a good post-script to those book-ends that Doug recommends: an earlier post reflecting why liberals don’t even bother reading the laws that they pass.  Trust me, it’s worth reading.
    Why Liberals Don't Read Their Bills, Evade Their Constituents, but "Penetrate the Message Wars" – Doug Reich, RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • Quite apart from the news-value involved, if this doesn’t get your irony meter going nothing will.  Communist-hunter Trevor Loudon recommends reading Fidel Castro’s comments on the potential for a looming Iran/Israel war.  Don’t know about you, but I make that at least three layers of irony.
    Fidel Castro on the Looming Iran/Israel War – Trevor Loudon, NEW ZEAL
  • Hugo Chavez continues to demonstrate that the end road of socialism is dictatorship.
    Globovision under Siege – Gus Van Horn
  • Meanwhile, Libya took time out to taunt Israel. A Libyan ship carrying “aid” and activists was heading for Gaza in a mission that Israel described as an “unnecessary provocation.” A prize if you can work out which of either aid or provocation Libya was more interested in.
    Israeli navy on alert as Libyan aid ship heads for Gaza – GRAUNIAD
    Fortunately, this time, the ship’s master agreed to divert to Egypt, where the “aid” was peacefully unloaded just a few hours ago.
    Libyan Aid Ship for Gaza Unloading Supplies in Egypt – VoA
  • Britain’s healthcare anti-system still struggles to do what its name says if should. And now “the ‘sixth major reform of the service in 20 years,” looks as likely to succeed as all the others,” says Lindsay Mitchell.  Which is to say, it’s unlikely.
    Another Mickey Mouse makeover for the NHS – LINDSAY MITCHELL
  • They’re wrong about John Key’s predications, but apart from that I like Roar Prawn’s short and sweet comment on the possibility of “boat people” arriving in KiwiLand. I like it a lot.
    Waka Bailers  - ROAR PRAWN
  • Peter Schiff thinks the US is entering the economic lull before the storm.
  • Retail spending is down in the States … but don’t despair. That’s a good thing, says Jeffrey Tucker.  “Contrary to the model of an economy without risk, uncertainty, time, or capital, this is exactly what should be happening in light of the downturn.” Bring on the savers!
    Retail sales despair – Jeffrey Tucker, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • A new spectre is haunting the dis-united states of Europe, one not entirely unrelated to KArl Marx’s famous piece of imagery.  This time it’s the spectre of public debt. “The debt-to-gross domestic product ratio for the European Union is projected to reach 80 per cent this year,” and folk are starting to realise things are not going to go well. Not well at all.
    Pain ahead for indebted Europe – Henry Ergas, THE AUSTRALIAN
  • And in completely related news, the States comprising America’s United States are going the same way. “While the private economy has done a good job adjusting during the recession and paving the way for the growth we see now, we can’t say the same holds true for the government. In fact, as fiscally irresponsible as the US government has been, the next big shoe to drop for the US may be the revealed insolvency of some of its big states.”
    When the States Go Bankrupt – Chris Mayer, DAILY RECKONING
  • By the way.  Just so you know. Economics is tool difficult for bloggers.  Yes, it’s true.  A bureaucrat at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia, says so.  Economist Sterling Terrell tells the econo-weasel to go to hell.
    Economics Is … Easy – Sterling Terrell, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • Mind you, you can see how you’d think economics was complicated when you fall for the nonsensical chartist blather at the heart of the Keynesian system.  It’s a theory that doesn’t so much shoot itself in the foot, as shoot everyone in the wallet.
    The Self-Defeat of the Keynesian Cross – Predrag Rajsc, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • Still, if you don’t want to listen to bloggers, here’s some freedom-fighting talking heads disagreeing about the reasons for the US’s economics malaise.  See how many fallacies you can spot.


  • Thanks to reader David S. for this: “A look at some of the flawed thinking that prompts people who believe in certain non-scientific concepts to advise others who don't to be more ‘open-minded’.”
  • (The video discussion rather reminds me of Howard Devoto’s noisy musical take on this question on the B-side of his 1976 ‘Shot By Both Sides’ single, the the B- and A- sides of which seem to have subsequently become, respectively, a personal mantra and a description of my place in both politics and the political blogosphere.)
    Magazine - My Mind Ain't So Open – YOU TUBE
  • An atheist takes on the Pro-Atheism billboards appearing around the city.
    ”What sort of abject cop-out is ‘There probably is no God’ … Would we say there probably are no goblins, ghosts, tooth fairies, taniwha and trolls under bridges?”
    Memo to NZ Atheists—Grow a Pair! – Lindsay Perigo, SOLO
    Ken Perrott rounds up some of the other reactions to the lukewarm atheist activism, and offers a challenge...
    Theological critiques of billboards required – OPEN PARACHUTE
  • Russell Brown tries “a waggish, attention-grabbing headline.”
    Wanna Route? – HARD NEWS
  •     “It should come as no surprise that the development of a way to grow apples that won't brown when sliced would encounter opposition. It is, after all, progress. And progress is something some folks don’t hold with. Folks who embrace the so-called ‘precautionary principle,’ that is.
        “This principle holds that no new development or activity should be allowed until the proponents can prove that no damage will occur to the environment or public health. The principle has taken hold in Europe and in some quarters of the United States, particularly among environmental and health-advocacy groups.
        “Under the precautionary principle, however, many of the millions of technological advances that have occurred since the dawn of time would not pass muster….”
    Precautionary Principle Thwarts Scientific, Societal Advancements – CAPITAL PRESS
  • GM Food Labels: Is it the Need to Know or Right to Know This is the doctoral thesis that Sue Kedgely needs to read. (Maybe someone could send it on)”
    “Label what and why?  An interdisciplinary risk analysis methodological comparison in the context of green biotechnology and food labeling,” by Dr Stan Benda
    Thesis may be secured from Thesis Canada.  Dr. Benda can be reached via  Benda@sim-lowman.com.
  • Should the law encourage preventive health? Well, no. (And, yes, send this one to Sue too.)

  • Just three years ago the politics of global warming was enjoying its golden moment. Now, it’s in headlong retreat. Stefan Thell explains why “the environment” is no longer a sure-fire winner.
    A Green Retreat: Why the environment is no longer a surefire political winner. - NEWSWEEK
  • Warmist Clive Crook rips the two main Climategate reports a new one.  Even a child could see the corruption on show in the Climategate emails--“an ethos of suffocating groupthink and intellectual corruption” calls it. So how come the so-called independent reports couldn’t? Because all they listened to was the case of the defence. They never even bothered to listen to the case for the prosecution.[Hat tip WUWT]
            “I had hoped, not very confidently, that the various Climategate inquiries would
        be severe [says Crook]. This would have been a first step towards restoring confidence
        in the scientific consensus. But no, the reports make things worse. At best they are
        mealy-mouthed apologies; at worst they are patently incompetent and even
        wilfully wrong. The climate-science establishment, of which these inquiries have chosen
        to make themselves a part, seems entirely incapable of understanding, let alone
        repairing, the harm it has done to its own cause.”
    Ouch.
    Climategate and the Big Green Lie – Clive Crook, THE ATLANTIC
  • India’s Economic Times has a sober summary of the situation now:
            “Critics have lambasted the supposedly-independent inquiry by Sir Muir
        Russell because he himself is a climate change crusader. He interviewed the CRU
        scientists but not the climate sceptics whom the scientists were targeting. This has
        been called ‘a trial with judge, jury, reporters, spectators and defendant , but no
        plaintiff. The plaintiff is locked outside the courtroom sitting in the hall hollering
        and hoping the jury hears some of what he has to say.’ 
            “At the end of it all, two things are clear. First, it is fantasy for crusaders to claim
        that catastrophic global warming is established science: the emails reveal doubts
        and caveats even among true believers in CRU. Second, the International Panel on
        Climate Change must disavow its claim made first in 2001 — based on the ‘hockey
        stick’ graph of Michael Mann using historical tree-ring data — that the world is
        warmer today than ever before…
            “This is inconvenient for climate crusaders who blame fossil fuels for all warming.
        But it will provide citizens with basic information they need before deciding whether
        to spend trillions on combating a problem that may or may not be real.”
        Climategate: Beyond inquiry panels – ECONOMIC TIMES
  • More post- ClimateGate Fall-Out: After their whitewashed report, Michael Man’s employer endures a belated ad richly-deserved integrity crisis.
    Penn State’s Integrity Crisis – CANADA FREE PRESS
  • And a post-Climategate global warming debate in London brings together at least one of the major players. Oddly, both Greenpeace and Anthony Watts feel much the same about how the evening went.
    Climategate- the showdown –GREENPEACE
    Report from the Climategate Guardian debate – Anthony Watts, CLIMATE AUDIT
    UPDATE: Video of the event is available here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2010/jul/15/climategate-public-debate
  • While I’m posting links to Greenpeace, why not go the whole hog and link to the Green Party as well, you say? Okay, here you go.  We might disagree on the science, but the Greens’ Frog Blog has posted a link to a neat Google Earth plug-in showing the purported effects of a 4 degrees rise in world temperature—the very upper limit of IPCC “predictions.” Find out their worst prognostications (and let me know how the Himalaya glaciers and Amazon predictions look—given recent events they’d be two among dozens worth checking for their propaganda value).
    Google Earth – climate change edition! – FROG BLOG
    Czech physicist Lubos Motl offers a less sympathetic view:
    Alarmist politicians draw circles on Google Earth – Lubo Motl, REFERENCE FRAME
  • The Czechs do it again—giving it up for “transparency” in politics.  See what I mean: Czech MPs pose for a “glamour calendar” in shots like this one.
    Czech01_thumb[2]
    (Please, please don’t try this in Wellington. I get all the wrong sorts of visions of Ruth Dyson!)
    [Thanks to reader Jeff for the link]
    Female Czech MPs pose for calendar – TELEGRAPH
  • Read about the IHC society and “the triumph of ideology over common sense.” What you might call the politicisation of the disabled.
    The Road to Hell… – Karl du Fresne, NZCPR
  • FIFA’s rankings of the world’s soccer teams are out, and following their unbeaten World Cup campaign, New Zealand has rocketed up twenty or so places to 52.  But John Ansell reckons on the basis of games unbeaten, New Zealand should be on top of the world. Maybe just below the Octupus?
    Only NZ and octopus undefeated – JOHN ANSELL’S BLOG
  • Here’s a great web tool.  According to this analysis site, and depending on which of my most representative ten posts I paste for analysis, I write like either H.P. Lovecraft (twice!), Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Brown (three goddamn times!), Edgar Allan Poe (twice), or David Foster Wallace. Take your pick.
    A bit disappointing really (particularly all those damn Dan Brown hits), and especially so since I was always aiming at a style somewhere between PJ O’Rourke and Raymond Chandler. Sigh.  [Hat tip Fundy Post]
    I Write Like…
  • And here’s some great tips to help you unclutter. I”ll get on to actually doing them shortly. Honest.
    10 uncluttering things to do every day
  • The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra put on a great show last night in the first of their Splendour of Vienna series, with Beethoven’s Ninth being a highlight, as always, particularly with a choir that really did get it powerfully right on the night. 
    But the big surprise for me was the three lieder by Hugo Wolf.  Here’s the most dramatic of the three, a setting by Wolf of poet Eduard Mörike’s ‘Fire-Rider,’ sung with uncharacteristic feeling by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
  • And here’s the highlight of the evening, the choral finale to Beethoven’s Ninth—the fitting finale for this (or nearly every) evening (performed here by the Vienna Philharmonic under the energetic Leonard Bernstein).
  • The list of listenable songs by free-jazz messiah Ornette Coleman is a short one. This one was recommended by estimable Aucklander Graham Reid, whose equally estimable Elsewhere website contains literally hundreds of thoughtful recommendations for intelligent listening in Jazz & Elsewhere. Start with his Essential Elsewhere, “a selection of cornerstone albums to help you build an interesting collection of diverse Elsewhere  music.”  Highly recommended.
  • And finally, I’m not sure I’m really partial the video itself, but here’s the song that was a minor ‘hit’ at last weekend’s party. By local heroes Sola Rosa, by way of a cannibalised Tommy Dorsey track.

That’s all for me.
Have a great weekend!
And if you’re in the area, check out the Cask-Conditioned Croucher’s Pale Ale now on tap at Galbraith’s, Mt Eden.  I will be.
Cheers.
PC

Click for Croucher's Blog



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“The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Present Crisis”

I see that this piece by George Reisman written in the teeth of the crisis is doing the rounds again, and with good reason.  It’s still among the most thorough explanations of what happened, and how it could have been avoided.  

So if you genuinely want to know what happened (that is, if you’re not a liberal who’d rather not be told), then take a(nother) read while you’re waiting for my regular ramble.  Go on, click that link…

The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Present Crisis - George Reisman

     “The myth that laissez faire exists in the present-day United States and is responsible for our current economic crisis is promulgated by people who know practically nothing whatever of sound, rational economic theory or the actual nature of laissez-faire capitalism…
    “The utter absurdity of statements claiming that the present political-economic environment of the United States in some sense represents laissez-faire capitalism becomes as glaringly obvious as anything can be when one keeps in mind the extremely limited role of government under laissez-faire and then considers the following facts about the present-day United States…”

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Pastels, by Chan Luu

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Chan Luu, Lalique Vase, 2010, pastel on dark paper, 14 x 18 inches

If you’ve been wondering what artist Michael Newberry has been up to, then the answer to your wondering is spending time in Hawaii in a private tutoring session with designer Chan Luu.  These two pastel studies indicate the time hasn’t been wasted.

chanmango Chan Luu, Mango, 2010, pastel on dark paper, 14 x 18 inches

Thursday, July 15, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Open Mind” versus“Closed Mind”

_Quote [There is a] dangerous little catch phrase which advises you to keep an 'open mind'... A ‘closed mind’ is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices—and emotions. But this is not a ‘closed” mind, it is a passive one…
    What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an ‘open mind,’ but an
active mind…”
         - Ayn Rand, from her essay ‘Philosophical Detection.’ Read the full quote at The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

The Truth is in the Pie Chart: Tour de France Edition

Taken from the always-hilarious I Love Charts blog.

And while we’re at it, from the same source, here is the Walrus

 

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The harassment of the Hubbards continues

While businessman Allan Hubbard and his wife Jean still have to endure having their wealth confiscated by Simon Power-Lust, existing now only on $1,000 a week of their own money doled out by Power-Lust’s government-appointed apparatchik selected to do them over inspect their business, the apparatchik has just issued his first report, in which he finds nothing he can point to that would provide evidence of All an Hubbard being a southern Bernie Madoff. It seems Hubbard’s greatest crime lies in keeping his records in hand-written cashbooks and journals rather than the fancy fund-management software the apparatchik would expect.

Strange times indeed when the method by which financiers over the centuries have kept records is now considered grounds for government confiscation. So much for sanity, or the rule of law.

As Mark Hubbard (no relation) says on the subject,

[None] of us knows if Allan Hubbard chose to 'ignore any laws' or not. The initial report is very full of words such as 'may' and 'might', but is more notable for the fact that other than the accusation of 'poor records', there is nothing factual in it that can be considered substantial at all.
    And even look at the way they're using 'poor records', and then how the MSM like Bernard twist this with their reckless headlines: what it seems to merely mean is he was using hand written records, as an 80 year old would…. So I am not even going to conclude, at this stage, that there were poor records, just hand-written ones, which tells me nothing…
    Meanwhile, Allan and Jean Hubbard are being given $1,000 of their own money by the manager a week to live on. Because this is more than they've ever taken form their business on a weekly basis, it's more than they know what to do with, so they are apparently giving it to some of the elderly investors of Aorangi who are having a hard time making ends meet because the manager has not paid the quarterly July interest payment (the first time a payment has been missed by this company in 30 years of operation)…

Meanwhile, too, the harassment of the Hubbards is now affecting the fortunes of South Canterbury Finance—surely an entirely intended consequence of the harassment. Just another success story for Simon Power-Lust and the appartchiks, no doubt.



Why do rational, economic arguments fail to move liberals?

In the midst of a wide-ranging discussion on liberal whining over the failure of “their” president to deliver the goods, Doug Reich at The Rational Capitalist asks an excellent question--Why do rational, economic arguments fail to move liberals?—which provokes a much more interesting answer.

It’s not just the bad ideas that liberals hold, he argues, that leaves them immune to economic logic; it’s because they tend to view ideas not as an integration of facts to form valid conclusions, but as a part of a “narrative” used like a rhetorical bludgeon against competing “narratives”—a very post-modern view of ideological struggle—leading inexorably to the idea that success in the battle of ideas comes not by promoting ideas that conform to reality, but by promoting stories that their friends can agree with. Can feel good about.

To put it another way, they figure you should embrace positions not because they agree with reality, but because they agree with the view of their neighbours. For them the idea of “consensus” trumps the reality of logic.

Welcome, if you like, to the logic of the People’s Republic of Grey Lynn, where everyone is all but required to agree with everyone else. It’s like tribalism extended to epistemology.

But the further implication of this is that when liberals fail it’s not because reality has failed to respond to their wishes (reality, what reality?), but because someone else must be grabbing the narrative.  And since they hold their own ideas on the basis not of their truth but because of their agreement with the group, they assume the opponents who’ve confounded them must hold their ideas in a similar fashion.

So by this standard then, liberals’ complaints about the failure of President Zero stem not so much from any failure of reality to conform to his tantrums (“Plug the damn hole!”  “Fix the damn recession!”) but because of the success of their opponents in grabbing the “narrative.”

Doug quotes liberal journalist Eric Alteman, whining, for example, that Americans’ increasing skepticism about government “has been reinforced during this same period by a massive ideological investment by conservative individuals and foundations—aided by global corporations—in discrediting activist government and presenting laissez-faire policies as the natural order of things.”  It’s like a massive liberal conspiracy theory, involving everyone from Fox News to the Cato Institute. “These [conservative & libertarian] groups and others championed the likes of Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek and American economist Milton Friedman to replace what had previously been a Keynesian consensus. These ideas were further disseminated by a rash of new publishing outfits, later augmented by an entire alternative media structure we now understand to be a natural part of our political and cultural landscape.”

As Doug Reich observes,

_Quote Although I do not necessarily agree or support the various conservative writers to which he refers, it is important to note the subtle implication in this passage , an implication which almost always underlies liberal arguments, namely, that the truth of an idea is not relevant. According to Alterman, these pundits did not integrate facts into theory and reach a valid conclusion, rather, they went on a "crusade" to overthrow the "Keynesian consensus." And how was this "Keynesian consensus" originally validated? He doesn't say. To him, belief in ideas can only be based on faith and consensus rather than reason. He is not only imparting a religious connotation to the free market movement but to ideas as such—a view that stems directly from modern intellectuals' broader rejection of reason and objectivity.”

It’s worth reading all of Doug’s thoughtful post.  It’s good:

UPDATE: In the second of his “Freedom School” videos, Head of Canada’s Freedom Party Paul McKeever points out a related danger for those who rely only on economic arguments to make the case for capitalism, without any reference to morality.  You know who I’m talking about.



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Everybody Kill the Cartoonist Day [updated]

I just thought you’d like to know.  Molly Norris, the Seattle cartoonist who kicked off Everybody Draw Mohammed Day with the cartoon below now has a fatwa against her issued in the name of the Religion of Peace by Al Qaeda cleric and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki, who says "She should be taken as a prime target of assassination.” 

That’s a death threat. For this:

norris2

Just for the record, threats like these should not be taken lightly. Islamist Anwar al-Awlaki is still being sought in Yemen for his alleged role as a planner of the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound passenger plane on Christmas Day last year, in which a passenger tried to set off plastic explosives sewn to his underwear—a bombing that only failed because the Semtex failed to detonate properly. In February a Somali man believed to have ties to terrorist groups broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard with an axe to avenge Westergaard’s  offence of having drawn a cartoon of the Prophet.  And of course, Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh was stabbed to death by an Islamist in an Amsterdam street for having the temerity to criticise Islam’s appalling violence towards women, his stabbing “a message in blood” from Islamist totalitarians to the west.

But Islam is a Religion of Peace. Islamists are not at war with the West. Islamists have never been at war with the West…

UPDATE: Reminds Edward Cline in Everybody Drew a Fatwa:

_Quote The Islamists mean to censor us one way or another: if not from fear of retaliation, then by retaliation. Shut your mouth, still your pens, stop thinking, or we will do it for you. Permanently.

Yahoo News also points out the fatwa extends not just to Norris, but to everyone who drew Mohammed on Everyone Draw Mohammed Day.

_QuoteThe killings should not, however, be limited to "Draw Mohammed" participants, the article says. "Because (participants) are practicing a 'right' that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make... attacking any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint."

Respnds Cline:

_QuoteOf course, one needn’t have drawn Mohammad to become a prime target for assassination. Watching a soccer match in Uganda is also a punishable offense. Or publishing an Islam-friendly novel about the adventures of Mohammad’s child bride -- without illustrations. Or an imageless history of the images of Mohammad. Or employing terms that identify the enemy in national security reports (that would be “profiling” a “religion of peace”).

[Hat tip Rational Capitalist]



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BULLSHIT: This show is NOT about pyramid schemes.

We’ve all met them.  Those annoying people who think they’re suddenly entrepreneurs because they’ve joined the top of a pyramid multi-level marketing scheme and found the easy money of economic Shangri La. Penn & Teller take on the bullshit that is pyramid selling multi-level marketing.

If you don’t like the sight of genitals, don’t watch.



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Salome, by Aubrey Beardsley

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Monna Vanna.  Medea. Lucrece. Judith. Salome. Woman in literature and history whose terrible choices altered destinies and overthrew dynasties.  The ultimate sexually charged femmes fatale!

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happiness, choice, spontaneous order … and food!

I love talks that use something familiar to successfully make a much wider point. Here’s two of them

Why is “Chinese food” more universal around the world McDonalds? NYT food correspondent Jennifer Lee's answer: it’s spontaneous order versus central control.

And why have I put quotation marks around the words “Chinese food”?  Watch her talk at TED and find out how spontaneous order works so well, why the Chinese Colonel Sanders wouldn’t recognise his most famous dish, and how come all that Chinese food you ordered may not be as Chinese as you think.

And on a related talk, Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell examines “the food industry's pursuit of the perfect spaghetti sauce -- and makes a larger argument about the nature of choice and happiness” … and about the Fallacy of the Platonic Dish.

[Hat tip to Jeffrey Tucker for both]



The book to teach yourself free-market economics in two hours

Writing in the UK Telegraph about Peter Schiff’s new book, MEP Daniel Hannan reckons it’s just the book to “teach yourself free market economics in two hours.”

_Quote If you want to understand what’s happening to the world economy, read Peter Schiff’s new book (co-written with his brother Andrew): How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes. You don’t need any background in economics to understand it; an intelligent child could follow its arguments…
    “As a general rule, if experts cannot explain an idea simply, we should be suspicious. The Schiffs explain their model very simply indeed, which is what makes it so convincing. If you feel that you want to get a decent grasp of free market economics, but you don’t have the time to tackle the complete works of Mises and Rothbard, this book is the perfect place to start. And if you find the Schiff thesis compelling, have a look at the Cobden Centre, which is working to apply Austrian economics to British political conditions.”

Naturally, this made the good folk at the Cobden Centre very happy.  And for their own part, they reckon you should add the Schiff book to the “two [other] standard economics primers that the aspiring Austrian student could get started with, i.e.,

And one final point Hannan answers:

_QuoteWhy should we pay attention to Peter Schiff? Well, here’s one pretty convincing reason: he accurately and exactly predicted the recent crash. I don’t just mean that he said that there were bad times coming. A man who constantly predicts downturns will necessarily be correct every ten years or so. No, I mean that he foresaw the collapse in sub-prime mortgages, that he was right about when it would happen and that he explained why it would happen. He has, in short, earned the right to be listened to…”



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More brainy billboards

Here’s another set of brainy billboards to match a previous trove posted here.

_Quote In order to capture the natural aspects of their products, they used a billboard using nature itselft to represent their product.  A perfectly placed billboard that uses the sunset and moonlight to illustrate their superior hair color products and change the hair color of the billboard.”

See what they mean!

sunsethair

Who says billboards have to be boring.

moonhair

Head here for an image of the entire ad at different times of the the day.



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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Home brew, home invasion and home worship

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for headline and stories affecting our freedom.

This week: Home brew, home invasion and home worship

  1. _richardmcgrath[5] Sly-grogging ‘to pay for restoring car’ – An 80 year old man distills spirits in his garage and sells the products to willing adult customers for an agreed price. No-one is forced to buy, sell or drink the stuff. The free market at work.
        Does Nanny approve? Not on your life. You see, Edwin Wilson doesn’t have a permission slip from Nanny, called a licence, to sell his home brew. And Nanny gets very upset when people don’t tell them about their private fund-raising activities, because if Nanny doesn’t know about it, then it can’t set its enforcers to work collecting Nanny’s cut of the profits (taxes).
        The state can’t just leave people like Edwin alone, because it needs the money to spend bribing other people to vote for them. It’s all about keeping politicians in power.
        What would a Libertarianz government do? It would leave Edwin alone, provided he didn’t try to sell liquor to minors, and allow him the dignity of being self-reliant and able to earn an honest living. Giving him the freedom to operate his business unmolested might give him an opportunity to forego any claim on the taxpayer via the state-provided pension he no doubt currently receives.
  2. Commissioner expects new firearms policy by Xmas – Following the shooting of two policemen in Christchurch, discussion of arming policemen has again emerged. Sadly however, the obvious way to circumvent future scenarios of this type is overlooked.
        The elephant in the room is this: The escalation of violence occurred because the two officers involved had decided to investigate a house that smelled of cannabis. And handling cannabis is currently illegal. If the house smelt of incense or fried chicken, there would have been no reason for the policemen to try and execute a search of the house, and no reason for the occupants to fear visitors. It was the smell of an illegal substance that set the whole sorry train of events in motion.
        The libertarian solution to what is essentially a non-problem (a house smelling of cannabis) is to legalise all acts of non-aggression—which includes adults making, selling and smoking dope. That is not to endorse the cannabis industry, but to remove it from the sphere of crime, where it simply does not belong. If cannabis handling was legal, talkback callers would not now be wringing their hands over bringing back the death penalty and allowing police officers to carry side-arms.
        For the record, a Libertarianz government would absolutely not restore the state-sanctioned killing of private citizens, and would allow both police officers and law-abiding New Zealanders to carry firearms for self-defence, including handguns.
  3. Church forces ‘secular NZ’ retreat – Following their latest atrocious decision, the Human Rights Commission, along with Race Relations Conciliator and communist sympathiser Joris de Bres, should be tipped out on their arses and told to find honest work—should anyone be foolish enough to employ them.
        In a decision that betrays both complete ignorance and craven cowardice, the Human Rights Commission has accepted the Catholic Church’s objection to statements that New Zealand is a secular state and that religion is a private matter.
        Of course New Zealand is a secular state—unlike Iran, we do not have a state-sanctioned religion which inflicts Sharia law on its people and allows acts of barbarism including the rape, honour killings, floggings and stoning of women. Of course religion is a private matter—if people want to worship goblins and ghosts, that it their business. So what if people are ‘offended’ that others could even question their faith-based dogma?
        Any government worth its salt should separate state and religion, just as it should separate state and the economy, state and banking, state and sport, state and the health industry (the state and everything with the exception of the armed forces, police and justice systems). And just incidentally, on the basis of decisions like this, the state should look at separating itself and Joris de Bres.

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government
fears the people, there is liberty.
- attrib. to Thomas Jefferson



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‘Crimson Cloud’ – David Knowles

This is a new landscape by Wairarapa painter David Knowles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A majestic use of space.

Just stunning.

Tranquillity captured on canvas.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Madness in Palmerston North

A friend sent me through a piece of news he thought would interest me.  It did.

_Quote Police are hunting a ‘bunch of idiots’ after five cars were rolled on to their roofs in Palmerston North overnight.  The cars were found upside down on Pacific Drive, Benmore Avenue, Kaimanawa Street, Church Street and Ruahine Street, covering a distance of more than 10km.
    "’It's all round town, it's bloody madness,’ a police spokesman in Palmerston North told NZPA.  ‘Instead of chucking rocks through their windows, now they're just tipping them on their roofs.’
    “This was the first time he had seen such a case in the city, the spokesman said.  ‘This is a phenomenon from last night. It's a bunch of idiots, I'd say. 
    “Nothing had been taken from any of the cars. It was not clear what time the vandals had struck.”

Let's look at that statement again: "This was the first time he had seen such a case in the city," the police spokesman said.

But I have a clue. It’s not the first time! Many years ago, I had exactly the same experience in Palmerston North …

I can’t say too much (what happens at Massey stays at Massey).  Except to warn other punters wishing to avoid similar straits not to park their Mini-van outside the Vet Tower on a cold, dark Easter night, no matter how tempting the inducement.

It’s madness. But then, this is Palmerston North.

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Battle of the Toons, 5: How many statists do you recognise?

Since we’re advocates of “balance” here at NOT PC, here’s the counterweight to a recent cartoon

So, how many statists do you recognise?

24types

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“Austerity” versus “stimulunacy”—with a Krugmanite twist!

The whole economic world is now debating “austerity” versus “stimulunacy,” with every variant of alleged economist on either side, with every variant of what those two words might mean—including Paul Krugman, who is famously still telling the world that the US (on its knees after a world-historical scale  borrow-and-spend binge) has to endure its government borrowing and spending on a Biblical scale  if it’s ever to get back on its feet.

This is, of course, like the prescription your Dr Feelgood likes to give you: more of the same drug that got you hooked in first place, and in ever vaster quantities.

Krugman at least has the virtue of consistency on his side.  He was offering the same batshit crazy prescription when the Asian Financial Crisis hit in 1997, famously insisting in his book Return of Depression Economics that unless Asian governments whacked up their deficits to similarly eye-watering heights, the whole world was in for a swift come-down.

Famously, of course, he was wrong, for reasons pointed out by economist Kenneth Rogoff (who was by then chief economist to the IMF) in a letter to Krugman ally, George Siglitz—reasons which have now become as topical as they were then, as you’ll see.  Said Rogoff:
Governments typically come to the IMF when they are having trouble finding buyers for their debt, and when the value of their money is falling.  The Stiglitzian[/Krugmanite] prescription is to raise  … fiscal deficits, that is, to issue more debt and to print more money.
And so it is!
You seem to believe [Rogoff continues, warming now to his theme]  that if a distressed government issues more currency, its citizens will suddenly think it more valuable. You seem to believe that when investors are no longer willing to hold a government’s debt, all that needs to be done is to increase the supply and it will sell like hot cakes. We at the IMF—no, make that we on the Planet Earth—have considerable experience suggesting otherwise. We earthlings have found that when a country in fiscal distress tries to escape by printing more money, inflation rises, often uncontrollably. Uncontrolled inflation strangles growth, hurting the entire populace but, especially the indigent. The laws of economics may be different in your part of the gamma quadrant, but around here we find that when an almost bankrupt government fails to credibly constrain the time profile of its fiscal deficits, things generally get worse instead of better.
Stiglitz and Krugman were both wrong.  Fortunately, nobody outside Japan listened to them then. Rather than splurge on a new Keynesian investment line of deficits and stimulunacy, as Stiglitz and Krugman insisted, predicting disaster all round if they didn’t, Asian governments (outside Japan) instead balanced their books and let their economies re-tool, reallocate and recover—and rather than relapse into depression, they instead returned swiftly to rapid growth.  Unlike Japan of course, which followed the prescription of Drs Stiglitz and Krugman, and is still even now in the Recovery Ward.

Just another world-historical lesson that you might consider remembering today, as you listen to the same debate again. Same debate, even one of the same con-men, just slightly different protagonists.

PS: On a somewhat related note, since he’s taken to criticising the “Hayekian” solutions  currently characterised under the label of “austerity,” it’s now apparent that the alleged economist Paul Krugman doesn’t even know his Hayek from his hat-stand.  Just one of the inconvenient truths pointed out to him in the replies to his latest column by (among others) Jonathan M. F. Catalan, Richard Ebeling, Bob Roddis, and Richard Ebeling again.

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Jeff Perren: The Mysterious Egalitarian Impulse

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Donald Berwick, Obama's pick to head the U.S. Medicare program, is a big fan of the British National Health Service, that disastrous socialized medicine program slowly turning a once-great nation into a Soviet hospital ward. It gets worse. He's quoted in a recent WSJ editorial as having had this to say:

[A]ny health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must — must — redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.
Probably more evil statements than this have emanated from the Administration in the past 18 months — the worst of them no doubt by Cass Sunstein. But this one will do. No wonder Obama made Berwick a recess appointment to avoid any Senate debate about his views.

I've studied a fair amount of history and philosophy over the past forty years, yet it still astounds me how a human being can so blithely ignore the property rights of innocent citizens. I mean, isn't that the sort of idea Americans are supposed to be fed with mosther's milk? It's equally amazing how someone could fail to grasp the obvious contradiction in any form of coerced charity. Maybe I should've studied less of those subjects and more psychology, because this I truly do not understand.

Maybe it's just as someone once said: "anyone who wishes to deny men the right to property, simply wishes to make property of men."

And I can't think of anything more evil — or more puzzling — than that.

‘The Flight of Icarus’ – Gabriel Picart

Quick as a flash, after Spain kicked their winning goal this morning  (NZ time) Linda Cordair suggested you “celebrate Spain's victory in the #worldcup by buying some art at Quent Cordair Fine Art by our Spanish artist, Gabriel Picart.”

And why wouldn’t you.  It’s gorgeous . . .

14-icarus 48” x 60”
Original oil and mixed technique on panel
2004

More of his work here at his website.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Mayoral hopeful Simon Prast is right. Prohibition does not work. Has not worked. Can not work.

Mayoral hopeful Simon Prast is right. Prohibition doesn’t work.  If no government, however officious, can even keep drugs out of its prisons, then it's clear enough that drugs aren't just going to disappear from the streets no matter how many laws are passed--any more than alcohol disappeared when laws were passed prohibiting that.  All prohibition does is raise the crime rate, criminalise consumers, corrupt the cops, and put profits and quality control in the hands of gangs. 

But don’t ask “What sane person would want to do that?” because prohibition is not about sanity. Says the UK Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, "Drug laws are driven by ‘moral panic’… Whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life.”

_Quote_thumb[2][5]Demonising drugs does more harm than good… The use of illegal drugs is by no means always harmful any more than alcohol use is always harmful," Professor Anthony King of Essex University, the commission chairman told Britain's Daily Telegraph. Professor King added: "The evidence suggests that a majority of people who use drugs are able to use them without harming themselves or others... The harmless use of illegal drugs is thus possible, indeed common."

It’s didn’t worked for alcohol—banning alcohol in the US was history’s biggest boon for organised crime.

It hasn’t worked for cannabis—banning cannabis in NZ has been the biggest shot in the arm for gangs you could imagine.

It hasn’t worked for party pills—prohibition putting the ‘P’ into BZP, and more profits in gang coffers.

It hasn’t worked any better for ‘P’ either.

_Quote_thumb[2][5]Obtaining methamphetamine may be getting easier despite a Government crack down on the drug, a report says.

These are probably some of the reasons so many former law enforcement officers have joined the international advocacy group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) (wouldn’t it be great to hear Leighton interviewing one them on air?), which argues that prohibition only exacerbates the harms it purports to diminish…

LEAP Statement of Principles
LEAP does not promote the use of drugs and is deeply concerned about the extent of drug abuse worldwide. LEAP is also deeply concerned with the destructive impact of violent drug gangs and cartels everywhere in the world. Neither problem is remedied by the current policy of drug prohibition. Indeed, drug abuse and gang violence flourish in a drug prohibition environment, just as they did during alcohol prohibition.
To view LEAP's Statement of Principles in its entirety, please click here.

But why on earth is Simon Prast talking only about legalising ‘P’?  Yes, that’s a War that is already lost.  But the best way to get rid of ‘P’ would be to get rid of prohibition across the board. Or even begin formulating a serious transitional plan to start the process. Why do I say that to get rid of ‘P’ we need to get rid of prohibition altogether? Because, as Milton Friedman pointed out with his Iron Law of Prohibition, it’s the particularly virulent drugs like ‘P’ that prohibition actually encourages.  Johann Hari summarises:

_Quote_thumb[2][5]‘You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society [said Friedman]. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.’ Friedman proved, for example, that prohibition changes the way people use drugs, making many people use stronger, more dangerous variants than they would in a legal market. 
    During alcohol prohibition, moonshine eclipsed beer; during drug prohibition, crack is eclipsing coke. He called his rule explaining this curious historical fact “the Iron Law of Prohibition”: the harder the police crack down on a substance, the more concentrated the substance will become. Why? If you run a bootleg bar in Prohibition-era Chicago and you are going to make a gallon of alcoholic drink, you could make a gallon of beer, which one person can drink and constitutes one sale – or you can make a gallon of pucheen, which is so strong it takes thirty people to drink it and constitutes thirty sales. Prohibition encourages you produce and provide the stronger, more harmful drink. If you are a drug dealer in Hackney, you can use the kilo of cocaine you own to sell to casual coke users who will snort it and come back a month later – or you can microwave it into crack, which is far more addictive, and you will have your customer coming back for more in a few hours.
    “Prohibition encourages you to produce and provide the more harmful drug.
    “For Friedman, the solution was stark: take drugs back from criminals and hand them to doctors, pharmacists, and off-licenses. Legalize. Chronic drug use will be a problem whatever we do, but adding a vast layer of criminality, making the drugs more toxic, and squandering £20bn on enforcing prohibition that could be spent on prescription and rehab, only exacerbates the problem. ‘Drugs are a tragedy for addicts,’ he said. “But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.’”

He’s still right.  And so is Prast.

So forget the ‘moral panic,’ and think instead of the immorality of telling others what they’re allowed to do to themselves. And consider: If it is impossible to ban drugs and iniquitous to try, then the only relevant question becomes: should we have a legal, transparent, accountable market for drugs, or an illegal, secretive, unaccountable one?

Your call.

* * * *

*No, I never thought I’d be writing a sentence like “mayoral hopeful X is right.”  But there you go.  Well done Mr Prast.

PS: For those not familiar with Uncle Milt’s ‘Iron Law,’ here’s a handy summary:

IronLaw

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