Saturday, April 30, 2005

Holiday House, by Organon Architecture

Italian Idol

A man sits on the battlements of a prison, deep in thought. In the distance the sound of shepherd boys can be heard, their clear voices filling the starlit sky. Dawn is imminent. In less than an hour the man will be shot.

What thoughts go through a man’s mind at such a time?

If the man is Mario Cavaradossi and the opera is Tosca, the memories he is filled with and overwhelmed by are those of lost love in fragrant gardens, of soft kisses and tender caresses … of the despair he feels at his imminent demise, yet the poignancy that never - at this moment of death - has he loved life so much!

Such is the material of Puccini’s much-loved aria ‘E Lucevan le Stelle’ (‘And the Stars were Shining’); such a song demands a singer who not only knows his stuff, but one who can deliver to the listener in one performance both that despair and the love of life. Last Sunday night a judging panel of two convened in my lounge to explore every singer in our collection to judge what they made of such a moment. I give you here the fruits of our survey – the finalists of ‘Italian Idol.’

The contenders were many: ‘E Lucevan’ is amongst the most recorded of all Italian arias, every top tenor worth his salt has a version in his repertoire, and most were entered in our contest. Pavarotti was tried: the voice was gorgeous, but as my fellow judge suggested, “Why does he not do more with it?” Perhaps, I thought, he was saving it for something – maybe for a long career?

Next we tried Guiseppe di Stefano in two different recordings, one with Maria Callas and the orchestra of La Scala and the other with Leontyne Price conducted by the brilliance of Herbert von Karajan. A truly luminous voice and beautifully tender, the first of these quickly made itself a contender and became the standard by which other contenders were judged. The second, sorry to say, was too tired to score well - the singer had clearly suffered a long night himself, but the conductor was first rate! This version immediately became the standard by which other conductors were judged; Karajan’s orchestra had captured in music the drama and poignancy of the moment – there would be no other to touch him.

Benjamino Gigli was played. Lyrical and gorgeous he was, but the judges declared it too delicate for our stalwart prisoner. Mario del Monaco had strength, but was a little stentorian in passages. Josef Schmidt was pleasant but too light. Placido Domingo in two slightly nasal performances touched heights of beauty that had one judge enthused, but for this judge neither performance could beat de Stefano’s at La Scala for lyrical power.

On came Jussi Bjoerling to sing Mario’s last. A wonderful natural voice and achingly expressive, he very nearly had the judges in tears.

Wiping our faces, we examined which contestants were left to perform? There were two: Jose Carreras singing Tosca with Monserrat Caballe under Colin Davis, and Mario Lanza singing the aria in 1950 as part of a session for his Great Caruso album.

Jose’s singing was tremendous; he made one feel as if you were on those battlements with him. Or he would have, but for one thing: an appalling production decision has left echo all over his voice – as if we are hearing him from several miles away. Galt knows why such decisions are made, but it removed Carreras from the contest.

So with di Stefano still holding the lead, Mario Lanza entered the field. Wow! From the first few notes all other tenor contestants were in the shade. Here was power, beauty, lyricism and a wonderfully natural voice that seemed to just surge forth – what stupendous control just to restrain such an instrument. And what emotion! Mario Cavaradossi is a man still burning with life, but singing here of his last hour before dying; Mario Lanza alone of all the world’s great tenors makes us feel as if – truly – we are hearing a man sing each note as if it was his last one on earth.

This is an absolutely breathtaking performance. The tragedy is that we can never hear the man in a complete opera; all we have to savour are gems such as these. I bow to each of the performers, but to Lanza goes the prize.

Bush was right - but I wasn't

You know, I'm flabbergasted. Truly bowled over. Over the last day or two I've posted a number of pieces, but based on recent experience there were two in particular which I'd assumed would create some controversy and some debate: one saying GE is great, and one saying George Bush was right.

The post on GE and its subsequent follow-ups here and here have generated twenty-two comments to date - for the most part all reasonably argued, even if in my estimation often greatly misguided; the post arguing that George Bush was right to invade Irag has generated just one comment - and that from a nutbar. Even publishing the latter post in my weekly column on Scoop has failed to generate any outrage.

That's NO outrage. None. For a post on Scoop. Arguing that George Bush was right to invade Iraq. None so far, at least. :^)

What that suggests to me - so far at least - is that many people have now accepted however reluctantly that Bush was right to invade Iraq, and the "long-frozen political order ... cracking all over the Middle East" is due to GWB's own foreign policy; and also that despite my own observations on the matter, feelings on the GE issue still run high, and are highest among those I would least expect.

So as I said, I'm flabbergasted. Fortunately my brain-cells were sufficiently regenerated last night that I'm able to think about this phenomenon properly this morning. You'll be the first to know when I've got an answer.

Friday, April 29, 2005

'Slipper', by Michael Newberry

'Slipper', by Michael Newberry

Success of Waterways well-deserved

Hopper Brothers' Waterways projects have been wildly successful - and for very good reason - with only politicians and busybodies finding anything about them to object to. Bob Dey explains here today many of the very good reasons why they've been so successful, and what's up with the Hoppers' latest project at Marsden Cove.

Reading Bob's excellent summary reminds me again of those busybodies who object to the transformation of the landscape for human pleasure and wellbeing. One of the things about which I am most proud in my campaigning in the Coromandel electorate last election was helping to squash Sandra Lee's appalling decision to stymie the superb Whitianga Waterways project.

I explain here who was really to blame for trying to squelch the project. Fortunately, public pressure got it back on the rails, and naturally ever since I've been enjoying the subsequent success of the project, and of the Waterways concept itself.

I hope they make a pile of money at Marsden Cove. They've earned it.

Alcohol: The real health tonic

Friday afternoon is a good time to reflect that the best tonic for the brain is alcohol, and as we all know there's no better time to start taking that tonic than a Friday afternoon.

Let me paint a picture for you to tell the full story. Imagine a herd of buffalo stampeding across the prairy - or, if you're a 'Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy' fan you can imagine a herd of Perfectly Normal Beasts intead. That herd will only run as fast as the slowest buffalo in the herd; in order to speed up the herd, those slow buffalo need to be killed off.

Such is the case with our brain cells. The neural wiring of our brains is so complex that most of the brain is used for most of our thinking, so as with the herd of stampeding beasts, the brain only functions as fast as the slowest of our brain cells. The best thing to improve our thinking, therefore, is to ruthlessly cull those slow brain cells - which is exactly what alcohol does for us!

Now, I first heard that story in a bar some years, and as we know stories confided in such a place are invariably found to be true - right? To make sure, I've subjected the theory to a great deal of empirical research since, research that has proved the theory's soundness - to me at least. But don't just take my word for it: today on Scoop comes news of research from impeccable sources backing it up.

I look forward to the new Government health campaign: Sharpen up: Drink more!

NEXT WEEK: How beer built civilisation.
Tags: Economics Education

Stop taxing families

It's truly a hold-the-phone day when a National Party press release is found to be talking sense, but that day is now here.

Judith Collins points out today that the Labour Government's Working for Families package is an election bribe paid being paid for with voters' own money, and furthermore it's a bribe that is damaging to both families and the economy. She's a little less succinct than that of course, but that's her essential point and one with which I can only agree.

Stop stealing from people and give then their money back, she (almost) says - unusual stuff from a National Party who was once pretty good at election bribes themselves: "Keeping families functioning and healthy is a tough business," she correctly concludes. "It is certainly too tough for a bunch of politically correct 'experts.' I say, give the money back to the families that are functioning, looking after their own children, paying their way and raising responsible adults."

Quite right. The only thing I might add to this is that all the money stolen from them by government should be given back, not just the billions wasted on the Families Commission and on turning the middle classes into welfare beneficiaries.

In this respect I invite Ms Collins and her readers to reflect that when the total tax-take is getting on for 47% of the country's GDP, then one parent from each working family is going out to work just to pay that family's tax bill.

If Ms Collins or Mr Maharey really would like to build stronger families, then perhaps they might consider advocating stealing from them a lot less. If taxes were just a fraction of what they are now, then both parents going out to work would be a choice for families to make for themselves, and not a necessity.
Tags: Economics Education

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Q&A: Why are Libertarians for genetically modified food?

In response to yesterday's Celebration of Ten Years of Commercial GE here at Not PC, Lucyna asks on the Sir Humphrey blog: "Why are Libertarians for genetically modified food?" A fair question.

It's true that many libertarians (small 'l') are in favour of capitalism, technology and genetically modified food, but as a political party Libertarianz (big 'l' and an 'NZ' on the end) is neither for nor against GE. What Libertarianz is for is laws protecting against force and fraud. What we are against is busybody politicians inflicting force and fraud on us. In this respect, under 'Force and Fraud' and 'Busybody Politicians' please see 'The GE Debate,' particularly under Fitzsimplesimons, Jeanette and Hager, Nicky.

The Libertarianz position is that the issue of GE food is not one for politicians who know nothing - who should butt out - but for scientists, consumers, farmers, manufacturers and the like; the only political issue is a legal one, that there should be laws that protect against fraudulent labelling and objectively proven damages. I answered the particular question about legal protection some years ago here, and gave a speech to students on the subject some more years ago here. (Dates have been changed on the hosting site for some reason; these two were delivered some three to five years ago as I recall.)

The Royal Commission made a similar point in its report when discussing common law. In fact, the Royal Commission went much further than this:
"Technology is integral to the advancement of the world [they said]. Fire, the wheel, steam power, electricity, radio transmission, air and space travel, nuclear power, the microchip, DNA: the human race has ever been on the cusp of innovation. Currently, biotechnology is the new frontier. Continuation of research is critical to New Zealand's future." 

Not my words, or those of Ayn Rand, but those of the Royal Commission on Genetic Modification, which I would be proud to have written. The Commission adds, "As in the past we should go forward but with care." And as Lindsay Perigo clarified at the time: "The only "care" that needs to be exercised here is that at no stage are the rights to life, liberty & property violated. Otherwise, I say to the geneticists, tamper away - from your work will come more & better food, new medicines, & the unlocking of more of life's secrets. I hope you make bucket-loads of money from it."

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A tribute to Dover's bladder

A tribute to Dover Samuels this morning, who in a regression to childhood normally typical of a Cabinet Minister pissed in a hotel corridor when the Duty Manager couldn't get Dover's electronic door-key to work - possibly because Dover had already wet the key.

Ten great moments in pissing history:

10. Pissy Neville Chamberlain. "Peace in Our Time!" Arse.

9. President Lyndon Johnson, who said of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover that he would "rather have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in."

8. American/Australian/UK/NZ Idol – surely this over-hyped non-talent quest was taking the piss. In any case, Chris Knox’s 'Listener' column saying he was a fan of the show definitely had to be a piss-take.

7. All Black fullback Mils Muliaina, who was suspended from playing for Auckland for two weeks in 2002 after urinating on the floor of a bar, and Auckland cricketer of the year Tama Canning, who allegedly pissed on the floor of a club called ‘Boogie Wonderland,’ which is surely all a club with such a name deserves.
Rumours that a tribute pub crawl around Auckland centred around 'Boogie Wonderland,' the Heritage Hotel and the Parnell establishments favoured by the Auckland Blues were said by a spokesman to be "only speculation at this stage."

6. Napoleon – too much of a pissant to get to Moscow.

5. Paris Hilton, who is apparently a huge fan of water sports ...

4. The late alcoholic Oliver Reed, who made something of a career of publicly pissing his pants on every continent.

3. Twelve car movies to make Ralph Nader wet his pants.

2. When deposed Italian Fascist Dictator Mussolini was captured and killed trying to flee to Switzerland, his body was hung upside down by partisans before being torn down to allow "several screaming women to spread their skirts and urinate on his battered face."

1. The very greatest moment in pissing history, the conquering of Everest: On the summit after reaching their goal, Tensing Norgay knelt and paid tribute to the four winds, offered tribute to the spirits of the air that had allowed their journey, and gave thanks to the gods who had favoured them with success. Edmund Hilary unzipped his fly and took a leak.
Tags: Economics Education

Smoking bans and GE Labelling

Much nonsense spoken around the place yesterday over a poll that purported to show that most people like having smoking banned in bars. (I refuse to soil the word 'free' by applying it to to a ban.) Jordan Carter for instance was suggesting that the polls showed that banning smoking on bar-owners' property was "a simple step in line with public opinion."

Well, if that's true and public opinion really was in line with banning smoking on other peoples' property, then there wouldn't have needed to be a law passed to that effect, now would there? And if public opinion now really does favour bars in which the patrons don't smoke, then there is no need for the law and it can swiftly be removed, can't it. The law is either redundant - because people feel that way anyway - or it is a nannying intrusion, because people don't feel that way and are forced by Nanny's agents to behave as Nanny wishes.

In the case of that stupid cow Steve Chadwick, she's both redundant and a Nanny. (Photo here. It carries a Public Health Warning.)

Anyway, once you've grasped the contrast between redundancy and nannying, you might realise that the same argument that applies to smoking bans also applies to the issue of food labelling, something that was discussed around here yesterday (see here and subsequent comments.)

If there is huge public supprt for labelling food as either GE or not, then food manufacturers and suppliers will be doing their darndest to cover their packaging with labels in order to satisfy that demand - and as long as laws on fraud still exist, those labels will need to be accurate. By contrast, if there is little or no public demand for such labels, then equally there is no justification for laws making them mandatory - there is no mandate for such a law, just as there is no principled justification for one.

The situation at present is that many people who favour specialist foods such as soymilk, organic foods and the like do like GE-Free labelling, and this market has responded appropriately. But the wider market? It doesn't give a damn, and - I submit - nor should it.

As I said yesterday, GE is a technology to celebrate, not one to hand-wring about.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Anatomy of a latter day troglodyte


Not PC's tribute to ten years successful commercial production of GE crops. Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical magazine.

Cave Creek: Still unfinished business

Much has been said about the commemorations today of the Cave Creek tragedy.

The one thing I haven't heard in the ten years since the disaster is a good reason why those responsible for the death of fourteen people have not been prosecuted.

The subsequent inquiry found that the reason the Department of Conservation built a death-trap was not in fact blind incompetence, but was instead an example of 'systemic failure' - a clear illustration if one were needed that sheer blithering incompetence is not confined to the Department of Conservation, but is also alive and kicking in the Department of Justice.

Andrew McCarthy, whose daughter Kathy died when the viewing platform collapsed, said the lessons had been learnt from the tragedy, "almost over learnt", and there was no point dwelling on the past. Hmmm.

"I think it was a great shame that Cave Creek has been used as an excuse by the bureaucrats to over-regulate our lives," says McCarthy. On that we agree.

Celebrating ten years of GE

Commercial genetically-engineered crops are now ten years old, and it's high time this wonderful technology was properly celebrated Michael Fumento is celebrating in the Washington Times:
Globally, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, biotech acres planted have grown almost 50-fold since 1996. They now cover the equivalent of 40 percent of the U.S. land area. An increasing percentage of these crops are in places with hungry populations such as China and South Africa. In the United States, three-fourths of the cotton, almost half the corn and 85 percent of the soybeans planted are biotech. Considering the massive variety of foods we consume containing corn and soy and cottonseed oil, almost all of us eat biotech food daily.
And evidence continues to grow that the food is healthier than 'health foods', a godsend for third-world farmers who can be productive without expensive fertilisers and pesticides, and in the case of crops like the soon-to-be-rolled-out golden rice 2, able to provide highly nutritious food where at the moment there is very little. This stuff feeds the world better than a song by Sting or Bob Geldof ever could.

And, despite the many warnings by activists that GE food 'could,' 'might' or 'may' lead to unspecified disasters, it hasn't. Not one single person has died in that time due to food being genetically engineered. 

On the other hand, food that hasn't been genetically enginered has continued to cause problems, some of which genetic engineering may have helped with. The onset of birth defects from fumonisins caused by mouldy organic corn, mentioned by Fumento, is just one example.

Ironically, as no news of problems with GE foods continues not to flood in, we continue to see reports such as these from The Times about organic foods: There is evidence "that organic farms may act as reservoirs for fungi which generate dangerous food mycotoxins - two such (fumonisin and patulin) are both reported to have a higher incidence in organic food. There have been cases of contamination of organic food worldwide -botulism in tins of organic soup, listeria in organic cheese, salmonella in organic sprouts, E. coli in organic apple juice..." Etc.

So do I expect the opponents of GE to get over themselves any time soon? Well, the Greens are now banging on about Peak Oil instead of GE in a desperate attempt to get themselves an election hook, and their FrogBlog hasn't even mentioned GE since the blog began. See.

So you tell me? Maybe I was wrong back in 1999? Maybe they have got it now. Maybe I was wrong in 2001? Robert Bidinotto doesn't think so.

What do you think?

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The voices of mainstream mediocrity are tipping

Sir Humphrey rightly slags off the pretentious twats at the clearly mis-named Fighting Talk blog for bitching about not being noticed.

The poor dears are giving up, and they're having a swipe at the whole blogosphere on the way - according to these blowhards, blogs are "only water wings for playing in the shallow end of the media pool. To plagurise [sic] a radio station whose attitude sums up the pigheaded arrogance out here; all blogs are shit." To plagiarise a well-known ad: Yeah right.

But as the boys pack up and jump from the well-deserved anonymity of their blog ('If you write as good as you talk no-one reads you' - Lou Reed) to the well-deserved mediocrity of the mainstream, we bloggers who can write continue to be read. Seems to me there are just two things to be said on this topic:

The first is a personal comment. As a good friend would say in moments like this: You're not being read, I am. Bite me.

The second is that mediocrity is not enough. The boys might be a bit premature in their jump into mainstream media punditry, but at least their mediocrity will be at home there. In an irony that is hopefully not least even on these would-be pundits, some commentators are begining to notice that the mediocre Big Media organisations are losing their audiences to the very alternatives Un-Fighting Talk are so condescendingly dismissing. "Big Media have their faults -- chiefly laziness, political groupthink, and a tendency to condescend to their audiences -- and those are starting to cost them," says one commentator here, and he suggests that we might be near a media 'tipping point' in which blogs and alternative media come out on top.

The reason? Says columnist Jim Bennett, "What is going on with journalism today is akin to what happened to the Church during the Reformation. Thanks to a technological revolution (movable type then, the Internet and talk radio now), power once concentrated in the hands of a few has been redistributed into the hands of the many." Perhaps that's what really annoys the non-fighting Fighting Talkers, just as it did the Church - with power in many more hands it's much, much harder to manufacture consent.

The lesson for the voices of mediocrity is that they should never take the status quo for granted. Now that is fighting talk.

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Bush was right!

The Syrian army has left Lebanon, after popular protests forcing them out. Muammar Gaddafi is desperately sucking up to the west. Free elections have been held in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are to be held soon in Egypt and in Lebanon. The Palestinian Authority held free elections, put together a cease-fire and called a so-far mostly successful moratorium against attacks on Israel.

Arab and Muslim absolutism is slowly being replaced with western ideas of freedom. Peace is breaking out in the Middle East - and I mean real peace: peace with freedom. It's almost like watching the Berlin Wall fall all over again and freedom take hold across Eastern Europe.

Who could possibly object to the latest developments in the Middle East? Well, there's Al-Qaeda’s Dr. Ayman Zawahiri of course; and (Abu Musab) al-Zarqawi and the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars. And Saddam’s remaining Baathists. And the entire unwashed anti-war movement across the west. And Robert Fisk.

Turns out, the critics - liberal and cynical and peacenik and 'realist' - were wrong, just as they were wrong about the Cold War. The critics got Reagan wrong and the Soviets wrong, and now they've got Bush wrong and the 'Arab street' wrong. Time for them to 'fess up on both.

When the Soviets fell it was chiefly due to the Reagan Doctrine which was crafted not to contain the Soviet Empire, but to destroy it. So too with the 'Bush Doctrine,' which seeks not to contain Islamic terrorism but to hunt it down and destroy it,and destroy those who support it.

When the Arab street finally got to speak and say what they thought about this doctrine, they called - not for American blood - but for freedom and dignity and prosperity. For something we take for granted called 'normality.' The 'Bush Doctrine offered them a chance at liberation, and they're grabbing it with both hands. As one commentator has suggested, "the two central propositions of the Bush doctrine have been vindicated: First, that the will to freedom is indeed universal and not the private preserve of Westerners. And second, that American intentions were sincere. Contrary to the cynics, Arab and European and American, the U.S. did not go into Iraq for oil or hegemony, after all, but for liberation--a truth that on Jan. 31 even al-Jazeera had to televise."

Back in March even the New York Times had to admit that maybe Bush's foreign policy was ... um, well.. probably justified by events, and things have only got better since then: "It's not even spring yet [in the Northern Hemisphere], but a long-frozen political order seems to be cracking all over the Middle East. Cautious hopes for something new and better are stirring along the Tigris and the Nile, the elegant boulevards of Beirut, and the impoverished towns of the Gaza Strip....

"[T]his has so far been a year of heartening surprises -- each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power."

If even the New York Times can almost admit the truth, then perhaps it's time we heard this from further afield: Bush was right.

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My smoky car is okay. Phew!

The Herald reports this morning that the Government has decided against idle testing of vehicles to check for harmful emissions, saying such testing would have proved more expensive than first thought.

Phew. It's not like WoF tests don't already check for every bloody thing under the sun these days. So perhaps I can now get my car back on the road then?

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Hollywood is anti-capitalist shock

Hollywood has an anti-capitalist bias. No, really?

From Citizen Kane to Jaws to Wall Street to Erin Brockovich, business and businessmen are always the bad guy in Hollywod's blockbuster fairy tales.

Law professor Larry Ribstein asks why here (thanks to Stephen Hicks for the link):
But this general condemnation of business seems an unlikely explanation for films’ anti-business tone. Capitalism has brought vast wealth to a broad segment of U.S society, including most moviegoers and films’ writers, directors and stars. One would not be surprised to see occasional criticism of capitalism, or to see moviemakers use the drama inherent in the oppression and eventual triumph of economic underdogs.

But why should capital always be the heavy? Why should filmmakers so rarely exploit the dramatic potential of business triumph, or of underdog businesspeople struggling against government tyrany? More importantly, films are the product of large companies. Why would they attack themselves?

This article seeks to explain films’ bias against capital. In brief, it is not business itself that filmmakers do not like, but the capitalists who control it. But this is not the classic view of the struggle between capital and labor. Filmmakers display little concern with workers' problems and only rarely blame firms' social irresponsibility on the fact that capital rather than labor is in control. Filmmakers’ main problem with capital being in control seems to be that the filmmakers are not.
[Emphasis mine.] Seems to be the same problem that opposition politicians have with the Government, don't it?

He sees no consiracy amongst filmmakers to demonise capitalism, however Ribstein does point out that in many modern day anti-capitalist fairy tales the bad business-guy is never shown - what he calls the 'phenomenon of the missing bad guy' - these academics, eh! - and puts it down in part to the enthusiasm for a good conspiracy.

Enthusiasm for a good conspiracy has provided many people with a good living - take our own Ian Wishart for example (pleeeease take Ian Wishart!). But why are conspiracy theories so seductive? Robert Bidinotto tries an explanation here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

'Ascendancy' by David Knowles

'Ascendancy' by David Knowles

The popular Mr Pistorius, and other stats

Here's my top ten search terms, popular pages and summary of my third week as a blogger. Once again, let me thank everyone who reads this and sends me comments - however acid - for making it the pleasure it is.

The sad news for bloggers around here is that Ruth has given up her blog at Freudian Slippers, which she says has been deleted due to there being too many arsehats. I'm sure I'm not the only one with arsehat problems who can relate, and I'm also sure I'm not the only who misses her acerbic wit.

Also this week, other blogs including mine have been experiencing access problems - I'll continue to explore Haloscan which might, I'm told, help with this problem.

Now for the top ten searches finding this site, (with this site's ranking for that search in brackets): Encouragingly for the Berrymans, this blog is no longer rating so highly for search terms involving their case, indicating a much wider interest in them than in previous weeks. Full credit in particular to Duncan Bayne and John Waterman for being amongst those doing their best to ensure that 'Moodie's 500,000' are getting out there. And I really, truly have no idea what Mr Goldsmith's sign has to do with breasts. I'm sure someone does, however. Perhaps they could tell us. (All are Google searches unless noted otherwise):

1. julian pistorius libertarian (2nd & 3rd)
2. rob moodie (not front page)
3. berrymans butcher report ('Yahoo' search: 5th)
4. berryman moodie (fifth)
5. doctor moodie and berryman bridge (7th)
6. breastfeeding goldsmith's sign
7. kyoto sceptic (6th)
8. antisocial 3yo (10th)
9. dame malvina major ('Google.co.nz' search: 2nd)
10. Steven Ching ('My Google' search: 10th)

The top ten popular pages for the week will be appearing soon in the sidebar. A few suprises there too.

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Butcher Report “all over New Zealand and all over the world” - Moodie

A defiant Dr Rob Moodie told Justice Wild during yesterday’s High Court contempt hearing that web pages carrying the suppressed Butcher Report had received more than 500,000 hits so far. No one mentioned King Canute, but it is apparent that suppression of such things is no longer possible, and the court appeared to accept that. Story here from The Dominion.

The hearing ended in indefinite adjournment, with the focus now on a Thursday hearing by the Manawatu District Law Society. Manawatu District Law Society president Gordon Paine said last night that tomorrow's hearing was only a preliminary one to decide what to do with the complaint. Help him decide – contact details for the Law Society are here.

And Don Brash has now entered the fray, putting pressure on Helen Clark to make good her promises of 1998. He’s twelve days late on picking up on this, but at least he’s saying something. But still nothing but silence from Rodney Hide, the leader of the party purportedly representing New Zealand’s battlers.

De-politicising the busybodies

There are busybody arsehats everywhere, as I’m sure you know, but perhaps none more so than out in Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges.

It’s often said that an environmentalist is one who already has their bush cabin. Seeking to prove the truth of that saying and to push up their own property values by excluding others, a group calling itself the Waitakere Ranges Protection Society says they plan “to appeal a controversial decision by the Waitakere City Council that allows small-lot subdivision in the foothills of the Waitakere Ranges to the Environment Court.”

“In spite of the best efforts by council officers, rogue decisions will always be made and loopholes in the rules exploited by determined developers,” says the Society. More power to those determined developers, I say. “The Resource Management Act process just doesn’t deliver the consistency and quality outcomes we need,” concludes Society President John Edgar. Now there, we agree. Perhaps he too should look at property rights and common law based protections for the environment rather than the blunt instrument he currently wields.

He might find it the best way to de-politicise the environment, instead of witch-doctoring it up with plans and planners.

Who'd be a builder?

Who would want to be a developer, or a buyer of a first home? Hard on the heels of news that interest rates are up to 9 per cent and the official cash rate is up 1.75 points since December 03 comes fee increases for building consents in the order of twenty to thirty percent, and higher prices for builders as their numbers dwindle following the introduction of the new Building Act.

The ironic thing about the new Building Act – beyond its banning of home maintenance and DIY for home-owners – is that the reason for the amendment of the Act was the hysteria about leaking homes.

Consider then that the higher profile leaking-homes cases were in the main designed by Registered Architects and built by Master Builders. The solution put in place by this Act is to add more red tape, and to make it mandatory to be a Registered Architect or a Master Builder. Top thinking.

As always, the more red tape the better it is for larger organisations, and the harder it is for smaller firms, especially one-man band operations. Look forward then to the number of builders leaving the industry, even as the market for builders divides itself up as it does in places such as the UK into ‘suits’ and ‘cowboys’ - hidebound suit-wearing larger firms who cost a lot, and smaller firms offering affordable work but on a ‘black-market’ basis, and often without consumer protection.

In any case, the cost and complexity of building is going to increase. Blame the Building Act 2004

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Back on line

Had a few problems accessing my blog today - normal transmission will soon be resumed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Liberty is the breath of progress


New Freeland - something to be getting on with.
Courtesy The Free Radical magazine.

Petition for the Berrymans

News from Rob Moodie's contempt hearing that his laywer is asking for more time for Dr Moodie's defence to be properly prepared. Naturally, the Army is asking for the hearing to be done immediately. So much for their commitment to a fair trial.

In the meantime, a petition to get justice for the Berryman's is being circulated - a copy of which can be downloaded here.

The Wanganui Chronicle says the petition is "a repeat of the strategy that enabled him to get Wanganui Police Superintendent Alec Waugh reinstated last year with $1.5m in compensation after he was wrongfully dismissed in 1996 on fraud charges."

Turn off that telly

If you're sick of having televisions playing in your favourite bar or cafe when the sport isn't on, or you agree with architect Frank Lloyd Wright that television is just chewing gum for the eyes, then you might have already heard about a new device called the TVB-Gone which allows you to switch off errant idiot boxes within a seven-metre range, and the advent this week of Television Turnoff Week.

British group White Dot will happily sell you the TVB-Gone, a small device you can apparently attach to your key ring - story here. US group TV-Turnoff may not have such a device, but they do at least offer plenty of arguments to turn off the box and get yourself a life.

New Zealand does not appear to have amy similar groups, or at least none with any decent sense of humour. We do however have the two public broadcasting channels, which between them effectively constitute their own TV-Turnoff campaign ...

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Selling the foreshore

If Don Brash was asking the Auditor-General to "put a dollar value" on the foreshore we would be hearing scare stories that he'd be trying to privatise the foreshore. Unfortunately he's not, and more's the pity, I say.

But Michael Cullen has asked the Auditor-General to do just that, not however as a prelude to privatisation but instead as an adjunct to his Government's high-handed nationalisation of the beach-front effected last year.

Personally, I think New Zealand's foreshore should have all existing property recognised and protected (no matter what colour the rightful beneficiaries of those rights) before selling what remains to buy secure annuities for New Zealand's pensioners. That's one very easy and very effective way to instantly de-politicise both the foreshore issue and the issue of the impending superannuation blowout.

And before you start howling about access to beaches being a Kiwi's birthright, well, there is no reason most of the foreshore can't be sold with access and use convenants attached where appropriate ao that existing access and use rights acquired by common law usage are protected.

And there's no reason to stop at the foreshore either, as economist Richard Rahn argues in an American context here; see also where he got the idea from here, and my own earlier comments on the foreshore debate here.

As Richard Rahn concludes: "Ask your family and friends if they would prefer the government to: (a) Increase their taxes; (b) cut their benefits; or (c) sell surplus government land."

Which would you prefer?

Warming in Antarctic glaciers shows media spin

First the bad news: A recent study has shown there is warming in Antarctica. Glaciers are retreating.

And now, the good news, as Dr. Patrick Michaels says on Tech Central Station: "By 'Antarctica' they actually meant the Antarctic Peninsula, which comprises about 2% of the continent. It's warming there and has been for decades. But every scientist (or for that matter, everyone who has read Michael Crichton's "State of Fear") knows that the temperature averaged over the entire continent has been declining for decades."

Check out Dr. Patrick Michael's report on the science and the spin here (and a cool graphic - and I mean 'cool' quite literally); and the scare story as reported in New Zealand here. Read it before you hear the spin from Jeanette Fitzsimplesons.

And then reflect on why the media is so gullible, and why they want to tell such half-baked half-truths. JunkScience.Com has some suggested answers here. My own answer is that whatever the reason, if you have to lie to make your point then you don't really have one. Just ask Michael Moore. But I digress.

While you're reflecting, you might also give some thought to what this means for all the accepted global warming models, which predict that Antarctica should by rights be warming. But it isn't. And ask yourself why somebody like Ted Scambos from the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Centre would be saying that the study's results are a "warning to the world."

"It is a great bit of insight," blathers the appropriately named Scam-bos. "The Antarctic peninsular is in a state of transition due to warming and what is happening there is going to be a good indication of what will happen as the larger ice sheets - Greenland and Antarctica proper - begin to warm," he said.

As a great man once said: "Bollocks."

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Contempt hearing this morning for Rob Moodie

As the Berrymans' lawyer Rob Moodie heads to a contempt of court hearing this morning for releasing the Butcher Report, and the Manawatu Law Society meets Thursday to discuss their complaint against Dr Moodie, David McLoughlin has a good summary in the Dominion summarising the history behind the collapse of the Berryman's bridge, and their subsequent legal and financial battles. Both Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark are fingered.

Meanwhile, Michael Cullen's offer to have the Solicitor-General consider grounds for a new inquest has been dismissed by both Rob Moodie and Winston Peters.

Dr Moodie's hearing this morning in Wellington's High COurt is to be held in closed session, but supporters of the heroic Dr Moodie may still be able to offer their support outside the court. I feel sure the media will take note of their presence, and their comments.
[UPDATE, 4:10pm, Tuesday April 26: Newstalk ZB reports that Justice Wild has adjourned the contempt hearing indefinitely, but allowed the continued suppression of the Butcher Report. Is there anyone yet who hasn't seen the Butcher Report? If so, check here.]
[[UPDATE, 4:20pm. Newstalk ZB report here.]

Eat your Greens - after all, you're paying for them

In their battle for the religionist vote - with environmentalism being the new religion - the Green Party released their party list on Earth Day, which Bob Bidinotto suggests should be a religious holiday. Meanwhile, most of the world ignored Earth Day, as they do the Green Party list.

Not PC suggests you don't ignore the Green Party list however. As a taxpayer, why not peruse the list and see if you can spot anyone on it whose lifestyle and activism you aren't paying for.

And what about the environmentalist arguments behind Earth Day? Not PC agrees with Capitalist Magazine that the earth is mankind's garden:
There is an alternative to the environmentalist argument. It is one that says the Earth is man's garden and that man's mind as fully competent to meet the challenges of living in his garden, whatever those challenges may be. It is an argument that recognizes that the ultimate resource is not oil, coal, caribou or even the energy of the atom. It is an argument that recognizes that the ultimate resource is a free, unfettered human mind.
Message to Green Party: Leave us alone.

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Labour's new small business policy: Ignore the buggers

Labour's Minister of Small Business Rick Barker has demonstrated to Tauranga businessmen the contempt and lack of understanding that the Labour Government has for small businessmen. As small businessmen explain how they are strangled in bureaucrats and red tape, Rick Barker does his own impression of a disinterested bureaucrat by sitting back ignoring them and spending the meeting texting like a teenager.

To paraphrase Voltaire, it will be a great day when the last politician is strangled by the guts of the last bureaucrat.