Saturday, 11 February 2006

God for the return home

The head of the Gods is a New Zealander, and he's returning home.

Best known for the role of Wotan the chief of the Gods in Wagner's Ring Cycle, a role which for many years he made his own around the great opera houses of the world, Sir Donald McIntyre (left) is returning to appear in Wagner's Parsifal in Wellington in March.

He's "looking forward to a swim at a Wellington beach," he says, and to joining a "knockout cast" which includes another accomplished New Zealander, tenor Simon O'Neill playing the title role, and Margaret Medlyn as Kundry.

"It's extraordinary that New Zealand has five singers in this cast," says McIntyre. "In the hands of Anthony Negus, it could be an absolute sensation."

I can't wait.

LINKS: Our knight at the opera - NZ Herald
Tenor Simon O'Neill's site
Festival announces Parsifal as the opera
- Opera NZ blog
- Wellington Arts Festival site

More from Not PC on Music, New Zealand, Heroes

Holmes home on the blogs

Hey, the BBC says I'm part of Sherlock Holmes's 'Baker Street Irregulars' - and so too are most of you lot. Listen up. Says Paul Reynolds, World Affairs correspondent for the BBC:
I regard the blogosphere as a source of criticism that must be listened to and as a source of information that can be used. The mainstream media (MSM in the jargon) has to sit up and take notice and develop some policies to meet this challenge...
Reynolds gives a some examples of what he calls "the collective strength of blogs," and continues:
[Bloggers] have an army of what Sherlock Holmes called his "Baker Street Irregulars," that is an almost unlimited number of people around the world, many of them expert on the subject under discussion, scouring sources and sending information in to an easily accessible central site which can disseminate it instantly.

The other role of the blogs is to criticise and attack. And here they have shown their power in a way that ought to make big media organisations also take notice.
The MSM are slowly beginning to sit up and take notice. Read the whole piece here. [Hat tip Antarctic Lemur]

LINK: Bloggers: an army of irregulars - BBC


Friday, 10 February 2006

Speaking of cartoons...

Speaking of cartoons, here's one of my favourites from the Nineteenth Century. Richard Wagner hammers through an eardrum.

Friday Beer News: Beer drinkers are healthier

PRAGUE DAILY MONITOR: A study conducted by doctors who monitored nearly a hundred middle-aged men over the course of three months revealed that the moderate consumption of beer slows aging and reduces the likelihood of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis, the daily Plzensky denik reports today.... Full story here.

Good news, especially for New Zealanders, who rate 11th in the world for per capita beer consumption, way, way, way behind German beer drinkers, and the Irish -- who put away twice as much as we do. No wonder they're so healthy. (The word 'moderate' in the news above is clearly just a sop to the wowsers.)

And even more good news (and all courtesy of the fine chaps at RealBeer.Co.NZ, from whom all these links were shamelessly stolen), science has given us a Beer Robot called Asahi, and a product just crying out for someone to mass-produce and make their fortune: a means by which to carry all your beers to your seat when you're at a sporting event. That is, if you can't afford a Beer Wench like this one below, or if the bloody police just can't stop pestering her:

LINKS: Doctors say moderate beer drinkers age slower - Prague Daily Monitor
Stats > Food > Beer consumption - Nationmaster
Beer Pouring Robot, Finally! - RealBeer.Co.NZ
Invention of the Year - Brian Hunt

Hat tips for all the good news above, the fine chaps at RealBeer.Co.NZ

Herald spins for Helen


Speaking of spin and scapegoating, as I was earlier today, The Herald has helped Helen out on the issue of overspending by asking completely neutral and utterly impartial Victoria University political lecturer Jon Johansson to give them an afternoon headline on this issue. Says the ever-obliging Johansson: "Alleged overspending by the Labour Party showed ..." What do you think he says it showed:
a) that Labour Party President Mike Williams an campaign coordinator Trevor Mallard should be imprisoned as the law allows?; or
b) that the election should be declared a nullity?; or
c) that taxpayers should not be funding that campaign of political parties?; or
d) all of the above?; or
d) that
rules around campaigning needed a rethink, as it's all a bit confusing for the poor lambs.
You guessed it: Johanson's answer is (d). The spin is in, and it's on the march, and it's right there in Herald headlines and the VUW PolSci department.

So now we can answer at least two of the questions I posed earlier today: it seems that, yes, they do think we're stupid; and no, the press gallery won't be attacking this issue so much as forming a defensive line around it.

Labour case shows need for campaign spend rule change - NZ Herald
Case closed - David Farrar

Taxpayers pony up for Labour's overspend

NZ HERALD: Police are investigating the Labour Party for the $440,000 it spent on pledge cards and pamphlets sent to homes before the election. It is the first time the Electoral Commission has referred a political party to the police for allegedly overspending in breach of the Electoral Act. The party was allowed to spend $2,380,000 but in fact spent $2,798,603...
  • Which is worse, spending more than $400,000 too much in your election campaign (a 17% overspend), or having the taxpayer front up for the bill?
  • Or then suggesting that the presentation of your policies to the whole of the country was not part of the campaign at all?
  • Are the sheeple really that stupid?
  • (Don't answer that last one.)
  • Did Labour buy the election?
  • And will the press gallery bother to push this issue? How far?
  • And are National able to? How far?
  • And why the hell should the taxpayer be funding any campaigning from any party anyway? Why can't the thieving bastards pay for their own broken promises.
  • (And by the way, how good is to Google search using the words 'Labour' and 'police inquiry into.')
As you might expect, more questions, comments and coverage at David Farrar's blog, here and here including a timeline of sorts. And spin and misdirection at The Thondon Bubble blog: "It's time, once and for all, to clarify spending limits on the one hand - and, given what happened earlier this year, how third parties can be involved in election campaigns..." Yeah, right. Like that's the issue here. LibertyScott clarifies: "Oh dear, that's what to use in court - sorry judge, the law is outdated and unclear, I wouldn't have broken it otherwise, I'd like it to change." And by they way, those bloody Brethren look pretty suspicious (where would you be without a decent scapegoat, eh?).

Sheesh. Just how stupid do they think we are?

LINKS: Labour's $440,000 elections spending probed - NZ Herald
Police to probe Labour spending - Dominion Post

Questions that should be put to Helen - David Farrar
When were Labour told? - David Farrar

Labour bought the election? - LibertyScott

Nature v Nurture - character is all

There are some things you just can't do anything about.

We can't do anything about who we are born to, and how and where we're raised. Those choices are all in the hands of others. And neither can we choose the human faculties with which we're endowed: our pleasure/pain mechanism; our emotional faculties; all those bloody hormones charging around... if that was all we had -- if nature and nurture were the whole of the debate -- then that would be it, and we would be ruled only by our animal functions, as indeed all other animals are

But we humans have a certain trump card to play, something different on top of all that which changes the game. Man -- as Aristotle defined him the rational animal -- has rationality on top of his animality.

Rationality gives one great thing that's a game-changer in the nature/nurture 'debate,' something called Free Will.

Specifically, what free will gives us is the capacity to turn on the conceptual faculty of our brains, and to make our own choices. That's where our free will starts; the choice for each of us is what we can do with that.

Free will means we are not contained either by our nature or by our nurture: these two are simply our starting points with which we can then either take wing, or take flight.. What we are given is given by nature and nurture; what we do with what we're given is then entirely up to us.

Philosopher Tibor Machan puts it this way. What we're given by nature and by nurture he calls our personality. These are the things about which we have no choice -- our particular skills, talents, and faculties. What we then make of all this, he calls our character.

The 'nature/nurture debate' as it's popularly termed is just too simplistic, reckons Tibor, and conveniently excludes what makes us distinctively human. If we are to have a debate, it might be better couched as one of nature/nurture and free will.

Our free will makes us distinctively human; it is what gives us wings. As the poet said, by our choices may you know us. It is wrong to have this particularly human faculty excluded from a debate about what it is to be human.

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AFL tourney in Auckland - get down to the park

Following news that two of NZ's top footy juniors have been training with an AFL junior programme, the world's most libertarian sport now comes to South Auckland -- this weekend New Zealand's top Australian footballers show off their skills in a weekend NPC. Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury and Waikato (preview here) play off in a round robin which starts Saturday morning, and finishes 2:30 Sunday with Auckland v Wellington, before a NZ team is chosen for the Australian Country Championshions in July. Says World Footy News:
New Zealand enjoyed considerable Australian footballing success in 2005. Besides winning the International Cup [in an MCG final], the Pacific nation was invited to compete in the Australian Country Championships and thousands of junior participants were exposed to the sport. This February, Auckland hosts New Zealand's premier domestic football tournament - the National Provincial Championships - which will determine the nation's best senior league.
Aussie Rules footie is a sport best seen live, so if you want to see the highest standard of live footie available in NZ, get down to the ground this weekend. And now you know where I'll be spending a lot of my weekend, feel free to join me in a VB on the sidelines.

What: New Zealand's Australian Football NPC tournament
Where: Mountfort Park, Manurewa. Map here.
When: This Saturday and Sunday. Fixture list here.

LINKS: NPC Fixture list - NZAFL
NPC to showcase NZ's footballing talent -
World Footy News
National Championships preview - NZAFL
AFL's Talent Manager commits to international youth development -
World Footy News

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Thursday, 9 February 2006

'Fugit Amor' - Auguste Rodin

Fugitive Love (Fugit Amor), Auguste Rodin, c. 1881-87, Bronze, 43.2 x 36.8 x 21.6 cm


Blogger seems to be doing something odd with comments. Some of the comments appearing in the 'Recent Comments' section on the front page don't show up on the post in question, and don't get emailed to me by Blogger as all other comments do.

I've noticed this for with recent comments from Eric Olthwaite and Tim Selwyn, and Tim said he lost another comment when Blogger went down recently for half a day; some friends have told me too that Blogger just refuses to let them register to post comments. Sheesh. If I knew how to, I'd set up my own stand-alone blog site with a reliable host (this, BTW, is an invitation for volunteers).

In the meantime, you might like to be careful when you post comments; copying your comment to the clipboard before you press 'Submit' would be one suggestion.


Islamic humour is an oxymoron

In the interests of 'balance,' I've linked here to:

1) The Anonymous Muslim Man Complaint Box. [Hat tip Eric O.] It's what you might call a 'Dear Al Abi' help-and-advice column for the Muslim Man of today. A sample:
My child was drawing pictures for school and this is forbidden. What makes the situation worse is that the picture was of our whole family and also blessed Mohammad. It was not a very clear picture of Mohammad and I think his likeness would be considered obscured by the scriptures. Just to be sure I hanged my son and burned his body and then my brothers burned the school and also hanged the teacher. What I want to know is what can be done about the ability to draw?
2) Anti-semitic humour from various Islamic sources. As the hosting site says:
A number of the countries [in which these were published] are regarded as moderate or allied to the West. Most print media in the Arab world are under the full or partial control of the ruling regimes.
You might notice two crucial differences between the humour you find at the two links:
1) One is funny, and intended to be.
2) The other is neither.

And note this too: As George Carlin says before setting off on a joke about rape, "I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is. What the exaggeration is. Because every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion." Observe what the Islamofascists choose to exaggerate (or even manufacture out of whole cloth): bloodshed, holocaust memories, Nazi imagery.

I'd say the Islamofascist cartoons say more about themselves than they do about their targets. What do you think?

LINKS: The Anonymous Muslim Man Complaint Box - Something Awful
Cartoons from the Arab World - Tom Gross
Rape Can be Funny - George Carlin

Hero rescued

HERALD: [Rescued from the sea after three days] Mr Hewitt was last night recovering in Wellington Hospital after his ordeal, which rescuers have called a miracle of endurance and inner strength: "To spend three days in the open water, that's a lot of courage and commitment. I've been involved in a number of search and rescues and unfortunately they always turn into search and recovery [said the naval officer in charge of the search team]."

It appeared he had spent the whole time keeping himself afloat ... with only his dive suit and catchbag, having discarded his diving equipment. He kept himself alive by eating the kit from his catch bag. He'd been fishing and had caught a couple of crayfish and kina, and he'd cracked those open and eaten them raw to keep himself going for the three nights at sea."

Robert Hewitt is a legend, and an inspiration. Alone, with only himself and his own ingenuity to call on in his grim battle of man against nature, his courage, calm, patience and will won out.

When the hero of Operation Desert Storm, General Norman Schwarzkopf, was asked about the main problem in America he replied: “Ethics. People talk about a leadership crisis... It's never a competence problem. It's an ethical, moral crisis. It's a problem of character.” Robert Hewitt has character in spades; and he demonstrates where ethics begins -- with the choice to live -- and showed he had all the virtues necessary to make that choice real.

Robert Hewitt is no quiche-eater. He is a real man, the epitome of the bloke who the gracious Maddox calls "the kind of men who perpetuate our species." Read Maddox's tribute to real men here. It's a riot. Hewitt would enjoy it, especially perhaps the story of Aron Ralston.

LINKS: Navy training, raw kina and crayfish key to Hewitt's survival - NZ Herald
A tribute to real men - Maddox

Nats 'firm' and 'decisive' on 'nuke ships'

National have announced their nuclear ships policy for this week:

"Nuclear ships will not be okay with us this week," said a short but wringing wet party spin doctor, "and will probably be okay, or not, next week either." Pressed to clarify his remarks as a pool of wetness grew around him, the spokes-spinner went on to say that "he wished to make the policy clear, quite clear, so that this issue will no longer be an issue --except if it becomes one -- and so there are no further misunderstandings about our position, which we do have, and about which we've always been very certain. Very certain indeed. Except when we weren't."

The spokeswaffler went on to apologise for his uncharacteristic display of forthrightness. "We're really quite firm that we're not firm about this anymore," he was heard to say to the few remaining people who continued to take him seriously.

LINK: Murray McCully drips moisture over Larry Williams - Newstalk ZB audio.

'Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum' - Vincent Van Gogh

'Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum,' September 1888, Oil on canvas. Vincent Van Gogh. Like yesterday's artwork, Van Gogh uses colour to suggest delight, and to give spatial depth. Michael Newberry explains the techniques of giving a painting the third dimension (scroll down about halfway to find this work).

LINK: Transparency: A Key to Spatial Depth - Michael Newberry

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Appeasing the unappeasable

Ah, wouldn't you know it. The Stone Agers of the Maori Party (right) appeasing the stoners and wreckers of the Dark Ages:
HERALD: The Maori Party says it fails to see anything funny about the controversial Muhammad cartoons...
I guess a sense of humour would help.

HERALD STORY: Maori Party says cartoons no joke.

Heads up to Multiculturalists: Time to change your mind.

There is a widespread view that it is wrong to criticise another's culture, that all cultures are equally valid, and that to do crticise cultural practices or mores is insensitive, if not outright racist. This viewpoint, known as cultural relativism, is as widespread as it is wrong. As a view that purports to accurately describe the way the world is (rather than how we might wish it might be), recent events have made clear it is a viewpoint that is increasingly untenable. It is an idea in crisis.

For the multiculturalist, these are dark days. Western values of tolerance and freedom of speech are being challenged by voices from the Dark Ages calling for the beheading of those who offend them. Clearly, there's something wrong when the leaders of that culture are those making that call. Is this culture of repression and violence really equal to the values of the west?To the tolerance and freedom these apostles of the past despise? Really? A culture that takes violent umbrage as easily as it might take a life. A culture that responds to offence with fatwahs, threats, destruction and violence. Salman Rushdie. Oriana Fallaci. Pim Fortyn. Theo Van Gogh. 9/11, Madrid, Bali and London. The victims of Islamic threats and violence show these recent threats must be taken seriously. Serious too is the question that now confronts the honest cultural relativist: Is the culture that produced these brainless, chanting, threatening hordes really equal in value to the one that produced Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Really?

The view that all cultures are equally valid is known as multiculturalism, which holds that we may not criticise other cultures as the shambles that they are, no matter how bad. Those who hold that view might already have stopped reading and called me a racist. I hope not. I hope to show them that racism is perhaps on the other foot.

As Ayn Rand pointed out, trying to equalise two values that are objectively unequal is like trying to square the circle. You can't do it. You can either raise a hero to the mountaintops, or you can just raze the mountains -- the latter is always easier. Just as destruction is always easier than construction, so spitting on the civilisation created by the west while raising barbarity to the mountaintops is easy and fun, and gets you out into the open air.

Western culture in the view of the multiculturalist is less equal than all the others; western valuesby this view, are imperialistic, destructive and 'Eurocentric.' Appeasement of the barbarians and apologising for the west's achievements is the leitmotif of the multiculturalist. To use the freedom of the west to denounce the west; what could be more ingenious? Mark Steyn makes the philosophical point (Hat tip Stephen Hicks):
One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural ‘sensitivity,’ the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want—including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers.
However, honest people who hold that view are presently seeing it thrown back in their face by flag-burning, hate-chanting, embassy-destroying representatives of a culture that values repression over freedom, and destruction over human life. The appeasement or apologia provided by cultural relativism only gives such people fuel.

Ibn Warraq throws down a gauntlet to those who hold that view, and who still seek to enjoy all the benefits brought by the west:
This raises another more general problem: the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud, do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins our fathers? Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways, roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil service, the establishment of a universal educational system where none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law?

What of the British architecture of Bombay and Calcutta? The British even gave back to the Indians their own past: it was European scholarship, archaeology and research that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were a witness to that past glory. British Imperialism preserved where earlier Islamic Imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.

On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football? Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces, or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower castes.
Great column -- a great column-- and worth printing out and reading in its entirety, and then sending on to your friends. Western culture has nothing for which to apologise. Nothing.

But this is offensive, you say? To describe western culture as objectively superior to all others is racist, wrongheaded, and 'Eurocentric,' you say? Well, no it's not. By the standard by which such things are judged, ie., human life and wellbeing, western culture is immeasurably superior to all the others. And as George Reisman's classic pamphlet, 'Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism' argues, if racism exists in such a view, it the racism goes all the other way. Western culture itself is entirely independendent of race; its benefits are available to all who choose to embrace it. Here's just a taste of Reisman's well-considered argument:
Reference to an objective superiority of one civilization or culture over another, encounters the opposition of a profound, self-righteous hatred of the very idea. Thus, cultures may practice ritual sacrifice, cannibalism, mass expropriation, slavery, torture, and wholesale slaughter--all of this is accepted as somehow legitimate within the context of the culture concerned. The only alleged sin, the only alleged act of immorality in the world is to display contempt for such cultures, and to uphold as superior the values of Western culture. Then one is denounced as an imperialist, racist, and virtual Nazi.

It should be realized that those who take this view do not regard as the essential evil of Nazism its avowed irrationalism, its love of force and violence, and its acts of destruction and slaughter... What they hold to be the evil of Nazism was its assertion that Nazi culture was superior to other cultures. Needless to say, of course, it is only on the basis of the recognition of objective values that one can seriously condemn Nazism--not for its absurd claims of superiority, but as a primitive, barbaric culture of the type one would expect to find among savages.

The fact that civilization is an intellectual matter is not known to the critics of "Eurocentrism." In their view, Western civilization is a matter not even so much of geography as it is of racial membership. It is, as they see matters, the civilization of the white man... The critics of "Eurocentrism" proclaim themselves to be opponents of racism. In fact, they accept exactly the same false premise they claim to oppose--namely, that civilization, or the lack of it, is racially determined...

They claim to hold that race is irrelevant to morality and that therefore people of every race are as good as people of every other race. But then they assume that if people of all races are equally good, all civilizations and cultures must be equally good. They derive civilization and culture from race, just as the European racists did. And this is why they too must be called racists...

...what they want is to conduct the study of the various civilizations and even the state of outright savagery itself in a way that makes all appear as equal... Now such a program means the explicit obliteration of distinctions between levels of civilization, and between civilization and savagery. It presents ignorance as the equivalent of knowledge, and superstition as the equivalent of science.

Everything--logic, philosophy, science, law, technology--is to be ignored, and a culture limited to the level of making dugout canoes is to be presented as the equivalent of one capable of launching space ships. And all this is for the alleged sake of not offending anyone who supposedly must feel inferior if such a monumental fraud is not committed...

Race is not the determinant of culture. Not only is Western civilization open to the members of every race, but its present possessors are also potentially capable of losing it, just as the people of the Western Roman Empire once lost the high degree of civilization they had achieved. What makes the acceptance of the "Eurocentrism" critique so significant is that it clearly reveals just how tenuous our ability to maintain Western civilization has become.
Multiculturalism is in crisis. Help it out. Give it a kick while it's down by reading and passing on Reisman's and Warrraq's arguments to everyone you've ever met. Do your own small part in protecting Western civilisation.

LINKS: 'Sensitivity' can have brutal consequences - Mark Steyn
Democracy in a Cartoon - Ibn Warraq
Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism - George Reisman
Western Dhimmitude - Cox & Forkum

More from the Archives of
Not PC: Multiculturalism, Individualism, Racism.

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George Reisman's blog

George Reisman, an economist who has no problem forming a conclusion -- and one quoted here at Not PC many times -- now has a blog at the site of his book, Capitalism. And wouldn't you know it, his most recent post is on ... the cartoons.

I'll be adding his blog to my blogroll once I get my computer sorted out this morning.

Link: George Reisman's Blog


Don't mess with ~these~ old ladies

Hey. Don't mess with these old ladies. Audio link here. [Hat tip Ciro D'Agostino]

Link: Phone call to CHUM FM, Texas.

Liberty lost her principles down in Costa Rica

I mentioned the Costa Rican elections here last week, and you might be wondering how the Costa Rican 'Libertarians' got on. Former Moviemento Libertaro activist Jorge has the news, and plenty of criticism. The MLs went soft in a bid for power over principle ... and the bid failed, and with it went the principles:
[Party leader and Presidential candidate Otto] Guevara and his group expelled the hard core libertarians, or as he called them “radicals”, from the party, saying that they were responsible for the impeding the growth of the party. He said that by becoming “moderate” they would move closer to the Costa Rican people, thereby gaining many more votes.

So, they abandoned ideology, purged the “radicals” from the party, spent 9.5 times what they did before, and came out slightly worse [than last election]. Maybe significantly worse if the seat that is hanging by a thread is lost...

What would have happened if the ML had remained hard core? We will never know the answer to this question, but I will offer a possible scenario.

In September of 2004 I saw the results of an internal poll which said that the entire Libertarian message was very popular with 25% of the population. Many positions were supported by the majority of the people. The main problem seemed to be that the ML had not effectively communicated the message. For example 70% of the population was opposed to government funding of political campaigns. Yet only 15% was aware that the ML did not accept state funds. When speakers would talk to small groups of people, communicating a hard core message, they would get enthusiastic responses, including offers of help. The big challenge was figuring out how to package the message into 30 second TV spots and getting the funds to take it to the people.

There were very creative people in the party. This problem was being addressed. If it had been solved, then a hard core ML would have elected 14 or 15 Diputados and been a significant force in the legislature. Possibly being able to advance Freedom a little bit. Sadly, we will never know.
Says one commenter there, he hopes they "learn the lesson and comeback to the core libertarian principles." Perhaps all libertarians might learn the lesson, huh? If you're trying to change a country in accordance with libertarian principles, there's no way you can do it by abandoning those principles. There are no shortcuts, but there are always plenty of sidetracks.

UPDATE: Some debate and disagreeement on this issue over at Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey's place: Movimiento Libertario abandons principles, gets spanked. (Thanks for the heads up, Jackie.)

Links: ...and they didn't even get the votes - Sunni & the Conspirators
12 seats for Costa Rican Libertarians? - Not PC
Libertarians May Get 20% of Seats (Feb 2nd) - Best Syndication
Moviemento Libertario site

'Path through Monet's Garden,' Claude Monet

'Path through Monet's Garden,' Giverny, Claude Monet, 1902.

A striking use of colour to create depth, and to give the picture its third dimension. Best seen large.

Tuesday, 7 February 2006

When passive verbs attack

What's a passive verb? It's a way of writing that removes from what is written both writer and passion. Compare for example: 'You cannot do this' (active) with 'This cannot be done' (passive). Passive verbs are used to soften the sense of a phrase, and too often to camouflage an opinion as being the writer's own. It's a way of speaking for the speechless without appearing to.

Why does this matter? Well, how many times do you hear these phrases used like a stop sign:
It is considered that...
That is inappropriate...
This is offensive...
As at least one style guide points out, the use of the phrase "It is considered that" "may sound impressive, but it is meaningless." Considered by whom for goodness sake? This is just a way for bureacrats to hide beneath their rocks. You'll hear this phrase from town planners and other jerks weighing up what you might and might not be allowed to do with your own property; it litters their reports like dog turds on city pavements. For example: "It is considered that the tree in question is a fine example of Folius Somehingorotherus, and therefore that your application to remove it and build a house be rejected." Think how much more direct, and honest, it would be for the meddling arsehole to write: "I've decided I like that tree. Don't fucking touch it or else."

Think they'd get away with that? Not bloody likely. Ban the passive voice from bureaucrats' writing, and we might just be on to something. (Better yet, ban the bureaucrats. But we have to start somewhere.)

How about "that is inappropriate..."? Usually heard from prudes and blue-stockings who are easily shocked, but too timid to offer an opinion themselves that might just be unsupported by others. Far better instead to seek the comfort of other people's prudery, or at least to suggest others might share their's. "Your anger was inappropriate," says the prude, with one eye on her smelling salts and another on the censor's office. What they mean is "I didn't like what you said." Well, so what? If you don't like it, then either make your case or leave the room. Simply calling something 'inappropriate' is not a case for or against anything, and nor is it even the beginning of an argument -- it is instead just a substitute for one.

But now comes the kicker: When passive verb is coupled with aggression -- when, as in recent days, "that is offensive" becomes "behead those who offend me" -- then both a moral rule and a grammatical one have been broken. I remind you again of Stephen Fry's point about such passive-aggressive threats:
'It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?'
When passive verbs attack, it's time to fight back.

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REPOST: 'Mohammed's believe it or else!' - the comic book Mohammed

Reposted and updated from June 2005: An online Islamic comic book this morning, for your enlightenment, amusement and elucidation. Download it now at the Islamic Comic Book site while you still can. An html version can be found here. The main site now includes a particularly pithy ditty 'Islam's Not for Me' which downloads automatically, so if Islam is for you, expect to be offended.

Tag on the Islamic Comic Book site:

"Above all else, the Devil cannot stand to be mocked." — C. S. Lewis "I'll bet the Devil's really upset now." — Islam Comic Book Webmaster

Hear that Mohammad married a 6-year-old and had sex with her when she was nine years old; that he referred to black people as "raisin heads"; and that he was terrified of solar eclipses. Read that he thought Satan sleeps in people’s noses; find out that Allah won’t hear your prayers if you have bad breath or head lice; and thrill to the notion that the sun sets in a muddy pool at night. All these lessons from The Prophet and more are all there in full, graphic, living, blasphemous colour. [Hat tip, To the Point]

And of course, it must all be true because it's all in the Koran -- and as a sword-wielding mullah once said when justifying burning the great books of the west to a cinder, "If it's in the Koran we don't want it; if it's not in the Koran we don't need it." Such a peaceful religion.

But the Bible is just as absurd, you say? It certainly is ...

Links: Mohammed's Believe It or Else!
Cruelty in the Quran - The Skeptic's Annotated Quran
Cruelty in the Bible - The Skeptic's Annotated Bible

4 things meme

Pinched from Ruth at Chaos Theory:

4 jobs I've had
* Tofu maker
* Warehouse Manager
* Carpenter
* Project Manager

4 movies I can watch over and over
* The Castle
* Life of Brian
* Amadeus
* Malcom X

4 places I've liked
* John Soane's Museum, London
* East Berlin just after the wall came down
* O'Riordan's Public House, Brentford
* Guggenheim Museum, New York

4 places I've lived
* Wellington
* Sydney
* Perth
* London

4 TV shows I love
* Scrubs
* The Avengers
* The Prisoner
* Howard Goodall's Big Bangs

Four places I've vacationed
* Hersonissos, Crete
* Murmansk, Russia
* Dublin, Ireland
* Normandy, France

4 of my favourite dishes
* Falafels
* Spicy Sichuan Tofu
* Moules Frite
* Miso Soup

4 Places I would rather be right now
* O'Riordan's Public House, Brentford
* Verandah Bar, Raglan
* Taliesin East
* Taliesin West

4 sites I visit daily
* SOLOPassion
* TradeMe (I confess)
* Cox and Forkum
* CapMag

4 victims I'm tagging - whoever wants to martyr themselves.


Monday, 6 February 2006

Cartoons and death threats: Respecting the disreputable

Aren't those Islamofascists a bunch of intolerant pains in the neck (almost literally in the example on the left)? Offend, and your head's on the block. Sheesh.

In the interests of free speech and equality, Xavier at Kete Were is trying to leave no religionist unoffended, of whatever stripe -- he's found a Baby Jesus Butt Plug. If that doesn't do the job for X-ians -- Ouch! -- then perhaps nothing will. As Xavier says in a piece far more thoughtful than you would think from my introduction of it:
The whole situation [...] has illustrated two disturbing trends. Firstly, the absolutely vile, violent and visceral reaction of Islamists to any commentary that questions, satirises, mocks and...shock horror...offends their religion. Even more worrying is the handwringing of supposed liberals and the spineless concessions to a paradigm that is alien to all things liberalism holds dear: pluralism, tolerance and freedom.
Dammit, he's right you know. That's precisely the point of the Cox and Forkum cartoon below. Limp liberals, handwringing in the face of barbarism. A few frankly inoffensive cartoons on one side, and a bloody fatwah on the other. Wishy washy liberals like Chris Carter, MP, calling local publication of the Danish cartoons "undermining the nation's reputation of tolerance." For freedom's sake, has he seen the placards of those bloodthirsty bastards in London (above)? As Robert Bidinotto says of the Islamofascists:
Observe that these thugs claim for themselves complete freedom of expression with regard to their adversaries -- including threatening their enemies with death -- but simultaneously deny anyone else the freedom to express an opinion contrary to Islam (or Islam as they conceive it to be). They issue their death threats freely in a Western city, London...while in that same city, the newspapers are too frightened to reprint the cartoons that fomented the protests. Could the irony -- and the hypocrisy -- be more transparent?

It is one thing to oppose those adolescent mentalities who try deliberately to give offense to others: those who would simply provoke hostility by mocking what others revere deserve our contempt. [Ed: whoops, there goes the buttplug then.]

But it is quite another thing to allow fanatical thugs to dictate the "proper" boundaries of political discussion and intellectual expression here, in the West -- and to unilaterally arrogate to themselves the sole right to enforce their dogmatic edicts by murdering anyone who disagrees.

As Glenn Reynolds puts it, "This really is a case of civilization against the barbarians." To allow radical Islamists to declare their religion and its founder off-limits from criticism -- even depiction -- is to surrender our entire way of life to a backward, barbaric, and brutal cult. Volumes have been written about this threat.
And will probably continue to be for some time yet. "We must respect the other fellow's religion," said HL Mencken, "but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." Respect works both ways, something the Islamofascists need to learn. Urgently. And here's something too that the liberal handwringers in the West need to learn urgently: when the bloody barbarians make threats, they mean it.

Links: Cartoons, Butt Plugs & Tolerance - Kete Were
Islam and Those "Offensive Cartoons
- Robert Bidinotto
A Right to Blasphemy - Cox and Forkum

More from the Archives: Religion, Multiculturalism

Jazz, Bues and Mr & Mrs Smith

I was forced to watch a movie last night 'starring' the couple-of-the-moment, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Vapid nonsense is the kindest thing I can say about Mr and Mrs Smith. It was, quite literally, the Pitts. In truth, it was so bad I couldn't watch it to the end; it would be unfair to criticise Jolie for her acting, since she so clearly wasn't; just as whoever was responsible for the script was clearly not a scriptwriter.

Which brings me to the Mission Bay Jazz & Blues Festival here in Auckland on Saturday night. A very enjoyable night, and kudos to all who put it together, but with rare exceptions there neither jazz nor blues musicians playing on the night: they were simply people who play jazz and blues music -- and very little of the former. There is a difference. All were enthusiasts and enthusiastic, but only a rare few were actually musicians.

Of those who were, the two in front of whom I spent most time were the Darcy Perry Blues Band, and Jan Preston, formerly of Coup D'Etat and Red Mole (who I still remember with excitement playing at the Mangere Metro when I was but a wee youngster). A great and very liquid night.

One country. One law. One constitution.

Another Waitangi Day and (no doubt) another set of protests and claims for more legal privilege. Another Waitangi Day in which the the usual parade of politicians and protestors confront and avoid each other, and the professional grievance industry discuss and issue their demands for the taxpayer to give even more -- (for those interested in such things, this year's fashionable demand seems to be for a separatist Maori General Assembly.)

Frankly, we don't need another taxpaid gravy train or another grievance industry or yet another charter for separatism or a forum in which to demand it; we simply need good law.

We don't need more nationalisation of land, seabed or foreshore; we simply need a (colourblind) legal system in which what we own is protected, and in which real injustices can be proven swiftly and without great expense, and justice can be done and be seen to be done.

'He iwi tahi tatou.' We are now one people. So said Governor Hobson to Maori chieftains as they signed the Treaty that is now the source of division. But are we really 'one people'? Not really. No more than our ancestors were then. But nor are we two, three or fifty-four peoples -- do you have a people? -- and nor does it matter. What Governor Hobson brought to New Zealand with the Treaty was Western Culture, which makes it possible to view one another not as 'peoples,' but as individuals.

Unfortunately, we still don't, do we?

What he brought was a hastily written document intended to forestall French attempts at dominion (and the Frank imposition of croissants and string bikinis), and which brought to New Zealand for the first time the concept and protection of property rights and of an objective rule of law. The Treaty signed one-hundred sixty-six years ago today was not intended as the charter for separatism and grievance and the welfare gravy train that it has become - it was intended no more and no less than to bring the protection of British law and the rights and privileges of British citizens to the residents of these islands -- residents of all colours. That was the context that three simple clauses were intended to enunciate. And one-hundred and sixty-six years ago, the rights and priviliges of British citizens actually meant something -- not a promise of unlimited tribally-based welfare, but a promise to protect individuals from each other, and to protect also what individuals owned and produced by their own efforts.

Life in New Zealand before this advent of the rule of law recognised neither right, nor privilege, nor even the concept of ownership. It was not the paradise of Rousseau's noble savage; force was the recognised rule du jour and the source of much barbarity (see for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand') -- indeed just a few short years before the Treaty was signed, savage intertribal warfare reigned and much of New Zealand was found to be unpopulated following the fleeing of tribes before the muskets and savagery of other tribes.

Property was not truly owned, it was just something that was grabbed and held by one tribe, until grabbed and held by another. Life to be blunt, was shit, just as it was in pre-Industrial Revolution Europe, and - let's face it -- it was largely due to the local culture. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: "Cultures are not museum pieces. They are the working machinery of everyday life. Unlike objects of aesthetic contemplation, working machinery is judged by how well it works, compared to the alternatives."

Let's be really blunt (and here I paraphrase from this article):

In the many years before the Treaty was signed, the scattered tribes occupying New Zealand lived in abject poverty, ignorance, and superstition -- not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included). The transfer of Western civilization to these islands was one of the great cultural gifts in recorded history, affording Maori almost effortless access to centuries of European accomplishments in philosophy, science, technology, and government. As a result, today's Maori enjoy a capacity for generating health, wealth, and happiness that their Stone Age ancestors could never have conceived.

Harsh, but true. And note those words before you hyperventilate: "not due to any racial inferiority, but because that is how all mankind starts out (Europeans included)." The boon of Western Civilisation was being offered for just a mess of pottage, and the right for Westerners to settle here too. As Sir Apirana Ngata stated, "if you think these things are wrong, then blame your ancestors when they gave away their rights when they were strong" - giving the clue that 'right' to Ngata's ancestors, equated to 'strong' more than it did to 'right.'

In any case, Maori didn't even own New Zealand. First of all, they had no concept of ownership, except that things taken by force might be held by force, if they could be (see again, for example 'Property Rights: A Blessing for Maori New Zealand'). Second, even if they had begun to develop the rudiments of such a concept (the concept of ownership by right being relatively new even to 1840 Europeans) they didn't own all the country -- they only 'owned' what they owned: that is, the lands and fisheries that were being occupied, farmed, fished and used. But note that this did not encompass all of New Zealand, nor even most of New Zealand. The rest lay unclaimed by anyone.

Third, Maori did not even see themselves as 'one people'; the word 'Maori' simply meant 'normal,' as opposed to the somewhat abnormal outsiders who had now appeared with their crosses and swords and strange written incantations. The tangata whenua saw themselves not as a homogeneous whole, but as members of various tribes - there was no way a whole country could be ceded by those who had never yet laid claim to it.

So the British came, and saw, and hung about a bit. The truth is that some of the best places in the world in which to live are those where the British once came, and saw and then buggered off -- leaving behnd them their (once) magnificent legal system, and the rudiments of Western Culture. See for example, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and of course (as noted in this week's Obituary of former governor John Cowperthwaite) Hong Kong. We lucked out.

What the Treaty did do, for which we can all be thankful, was to bring British law to NZ at a time whan British law was actually intended to protect the rights of British citizens. But the Treaty itself was not a founding document. No, it wasn't. On its own, with just its three simple clauses there was just not enough there to make it a founding document. As a document it simply pointed to the superstructure of British law as it then was and said, 'let's have that down here on these islands in the South Pacific.'

The treaty's greatest promise was really its bringing to these islands those rights and privileges that British citizens enjoyed by virtue of their then superb legal system; the protection of Pax Britannia when those rights and that protection meant something, and British law saw protection of rights as its sworn duty. Sadly, it no longer does see its duty that way, which means the legal context in which the Treaty was signed has changed. Law, in Britain and in NZ, now places welfarism and privilege above individualism and rights.

The truly sad thing is that the Treaty relied on a context that no longer exists; that, in my view is the chief reason a new constitution is needed: to restore that legal context, and to improve upon it with a constitutions that protects and reinforces an Objective rule of law, as British law itself once did; and that makes clear what in the Treaty was only vague and barely put. And in doing so, of course, such a constitution would make the Treaty obsolete. Thank goodness.

Waitangi Day comes just two weeks after Martin Luther King Day. It might be worthwhile to remind ourselves of King's dream:

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...
Perhaps we will one day celebrate the national day of New Zealand without the colour of a man's skin being more important than his character, and without what has become a charter for grievance continuing to poison discussion, and empower a gravy train of grievance.

Linked Articles: Unsure on foreshore: A Brash dismissal of Maori rights? - Not PC

Property Rights: A Gift to Maori New Zealand - Peter Cresswell
What is Objective Law? - Harry Binswanger
No Apology to Indians - Thomas Bowden

Superseding the Treaty with something objective called "good law" - Not PC

More from the Archives: Maoritanga, Racism, History, Law, Constitution

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Sunday, 5 February 2006

Drink for yourself

STRESS: The condition created when the mind overrides the body's natural desire to choke the living shit out of some arsehole who desperately deserves it.

Stress. Anxiety. Boredom. Dealing with arseholes. Even days which are going great and you're 'in the zone' will still have their darker or lesser moments, and deliver idiots who do their best to get up our nose -- the more of a city dweller we are, sadly, the more such moments we're likely to experience. Just think for example how many times during the average day in the average city you have to override competely your natural desire to choke the living shit out of some arsehole who's just begging for it (or learn to repress such a thing for just a moment or two until you can safely get your hands around their throat unnoticed). Every day brings us these little (or large) repressions we need to exercise in order to get through the day productively, and intact.

The more such days we have, the more likely we are to get home, sit down and say, "Damn, I need a drink." And it's a damn good thing we do, because alcohol is good for us. Oh yes, there are studies galore showing the direct health benefits of red wine, and beer and so on, but alcohol has more than just health benefits: used properly, it helps us gently dissolve the essential 'shell' we build aounrd ourselves so we can get through each day with our soul and our emotions intact. Used properly and in the company of friends and the things that make life worth living, alcohol helps to enjoy life, and to truly savour our rewards for living: emotions.

Our emotional faculty is uniquely organised to give us our rewards for living well -- love, joy, passion, triumph -- and if enduring happiness is our aim then we have to ensure that faculty is not de-sensitised, and be able to fully enjoy and truly experience our emotions, no matter what sort of day we've just had and how many arseholes with which we've been confronted.

Alcohol helps us with that important work of shedding our outer skin, uncovering ourselves so we and our friends can get on and enjoy our real selves 'with the bark off.' If you want to see the unvarnished truth about someone, then get drunk with them. Works every time -- and it can be great fun.

Alcohol is one of the few things on which enormous effort and expertise is expended in order simply to produce something which gives pleasure. How 'bout that! And how much pleasure is there to be had in enjoying and savouring the hidden pleasures of each of these products of professional expertise. Fruity pinot noirs; peaty whiskeys; hoppy lagers; rich, dark stouts; crystal clear martinis ... beautifully crafted for the sole purpose of giving us pleasure.

But alcohol is dangerous, you say? Well, yes it is if you drink stuff that isn't well-made. Tui, for instance. Or Spumante. No, no, you say, doesn't alcohol make people violent, abusive and prone to getting off with people they shouldn't? Well, yes, it does with some people. Alcohol unveils the character of the person within; that person with all the bark off. If the person within is boorish, monstrous or criminally self-absorbed, then all will soon be revealed. Instant arsehole; just add alcohol. If that's you we're talking about, then leave alcohol to those who deserve it, and do something to sort yourself out.

Let the rest of us enjoy our drink in peace. And as it's almost noon, I'm just away to start mixing up a tall one. Cheers.

Links: Still flowing. Still in the zone. - Not PC


Rules of Engagement

Here's a helpful rule for those who might need it, and those who probably think they don't: Don't shit in your own kennel.

Simple rule really, one which over the years has worked very well. Here's three practical uses for the Rule:
  1. Don't do your flatmates.
  2. Don't do your partner's friends.
  3. Don't do your friend's partners.
Life is a whole lot easier if you keep that in mind. Break them if you must, but do it knowing there will be consequences -- prepare for someone to be hurt, possibly you, but certainly someone close to you. Here endeth the advice.

'An Awakening Mind' - Damon Denys

A scene about as far from Islamic repression as you can get. Says the artist's website:
The scene itself portrays a young woman, engaged in reading Aristotle’s Analytics in their original Greek language, who has had an epiphany of sorts and is now experiencing an elevation of mind and soul. Thus the name of the painting, 'An Awakening Mind.' It is no coincidence that the figure is a woman, as the artist intended the picture to possess pro-feminine content that is relevant to modern times. The landscape behind her is agricultural, symbolizing the fertility of her mind. The farmland progresses towards a mountain, which we can see is very high indeed due to the presence of snow on its slopes (another symbol of the purity of the woman’s mind). The mountain peaks just behind the woman herself, symbolizing again her reaching an elevated state of mind. Her golden sash indicates the integrity and truth of her achievement, while the vivid red drapery underscores her passion and determination.
Link: About 'An Wakening Mind' - Damon Denys