Friday, 10 March 2006

God drinks Guinness

Friday afternoon a week before St Patricks Day seems an ideal time to ponder a fairly convincing Ontological Proof of God provided by a skinful of Guinness, a pretty girl and a bright sun, courtesy of an old post at Manhattan Transfer [and a hat tip to Stephen Hicks's archives]. This excerpt gives some of the flavour:

"This spot is good, the beer is wonderful and that girl who is wearing the Temporley ballerina skirt is amazing. I know we’re unlikely to find anything better around here. But we could imagine something better. And, look, our imagining better things presupposes an end, what the Greeks call telepathy.”

“You mean teleology,” I would have told him three or four pints earlier...

Read on here. As proofs of God go, this one has to be amongst the most convincing -- however it does come with the associated danger that the more convinced you are today, the less you'll remember about your convictions tomorrow.

And while we're talking Guinness, turns out it really does have something for everyone: it also provides proof of evolution -- at least it does if this Guinness ad is to be believed. [Hat tip Real Beer]

LINKS: How the Existence of God Is Ontologically Proved Via the Medium of Very Good Stout and a Pretty Girl on a Spring Day - Manhattan Transfer
Ontological Argument - Wikipedia
Good things come to those who wait - Guinness video ad

TAGS: Religion, Beer & Elsewhere

Celebrating with bubbles

The Herald's Liam Dann reports on where economist Gareth Morgan (father of TradeMe founder Sam, and a shareholder in his own right) was to be found 9:30 on Wednesday morning when "an inquiring journalist... foolishly tried to find him at work."
She eventually tracked him down in his spa-pool where he laughed his way through the interview. Frankly, who could blame him. If your son had just made you $47 million, where would you be?
The Herald's headline? Laughing all the way to the spa.

TAGS: New Zealand

John Key - "More meddling please"

Those of you have commented on John Key's speech to West Harbour Rotary in which he argues for the benefits of greater government meddling might be interested in yesterday's discussion of the speech with bFM's Simon Pound, now online.

LINK: Simon Pound and John Key - bFM Wire
John Key: Speech to West Harbour Rotary Club - Scoop

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

'Australia's most important architect' dies

One of Australia's most prolific architects has died. Harry Seidler (1923-2006) was an unabashed modernist responsible for many of Australia's well-known public buildings including Sydney's Australia Square and Grosvenor Place, and Brisbane's Riverside Building.

He was "Australia's most important architect," declares Philip Cox (who might himself be able to lay claim to that title) in a gracious obituary in The Australian. Glenn Murcutt, another who might be in the running, said Harry Seidler "brought modernism in architecture to large-scale commercial design."
Harry brought art to architecture... Whilst he wasn't everyone's cup of tea, for those in the profession that know Harry and know his work so well, he actually brought a level of architecture that very few architects have seen in this country.

Pictured here is Seidler's own 1966 house at Killara, described by Cox "as one of [Seidler's] greater achievements."

LINKS: A poet in concrete - The Australian
Tributes flow for Seidler - Sunday Times
Harry & Penelope Seidler House
Harry Seidler Associates tribute

TAGS: Architecture, Obituary

Black holes existence questioned

As if to demonstrate that we know far less about astro- and quantum physics than we think we do, New Scientist reports this week that the existence of black holes is under question by a Noble physicist and his colleague.
Dark energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology...

"People have been vaguely uncomfortable about ... problems [associated with the theory of black holes] for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says [physicist George] Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."
Quantum physics? Contradictions? I'm sure when historians do look back they'll be questioning them all, as scientists and philsophers should be doing now. Most 'contradictions' associated with QM seem to involve drawing too-extensive conclusions from too few observations, or forming conclusions that undercut the very scientific methodology and philosophical bases being used to make the observations.

I look forward to discussing this further tomorrow over a beer. And I also look forward to SF authors finding some new plot lines for their stories.

LINKS: Three cosmic enigmas, one audacious answer - New Scientist
Three cosmic enigmas, one answer - Press Release
Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update - Not PC
Cartoons by Nick Kim

Science, Philosophy

When partly true is untrue - 'More FM' misreporting shows interview dangers

How many times have you been involved with events that have been picked up by the media, only to find that you barely recognise the story that was eventually reported? The more you see incidents you're familar with being changed into stories you barely recognise, the more you realise that when it comes to current affairs it's important to read between the lines -- that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is unlikely to appear on the front pages of the popular press.

Being interviewed by the media can be just as frustrating, and the results can be even further from the truth. Consider for example the case of Julian Pistorius, who was interviewed by More FM about burning his census papers -- an interview that became more wide-ranging as it progressed. After he woke up the next day he was astonished to find that More FM were reporting that "racism in Northland is acceptable according to the Libertarianz Party," and that his own 'racism' was being denounced by no less than Dover Samuels on behalf of all "fair-minded" New Zealanders who "would turn their backs on that type of policy."

Fortunately, Julian managed to obtain an apology from the radio station which clarifies his position and that was broadcast this morning:
More FM yesterday ran a story saying that the Libertarianz political party supported racism. More FM now accepts that this was incorrect. Libertarianz Deputy Julian Pistorius confirmed that his party does ~not~ support racism, but it does support people's freedom to believe whatever nonsense they wish. More FM sincerely apologises for any ambiguities associated with Thursday's story.
The apology has satisfied Julian, who I understand will shortly be posting clips and transcripts on his blog of both interview and news report. They will make interesting browsing for students of journalism.

There is a reason witnesses in court are asked to provide the whole truth. Words taken out of context are a way of being economical with the truth -- like for example having a lowlife tell you that just because you think David Irving has the right to peddle his nonsense that you're a holocaust denier yourself. Such smears suggest that the accuser has been unable to find anything else with which to accuse you, so he has had to make up something to fling in your direction.

Partial reporting is not the whole truth. The whole truth gives the whole context, something the media have a responsibility to present. As long as they don't, it behooves those giving interviews to be cautious in what they say, something I'm sure Julian will be bearing in mind in future.

UPDATE: Commentary slightly revised, and new link added to media files and story at Julian Pistorius's blog.

LINKS: More FM - Northland
Journalism Ethics 101- Julian Pistorius

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Racism, Libz

Thursday, 9 March 2006

New Microsoft Search Engine

Microsoft have just released a new Search Engine with which they're hoping to challenge Google. Says Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of information services at MSN, the division that's working on Windows Live:
``A lot of people think, 'Hey, ... Didn't Google become the popular search engine? And don't they just do a great job? And there's no room for improvement.''' Mehdi said. Once people get a feel for Windows Live Search, Mehdi said, ``They're going to say, 'Holy cow, I had no idea that search could get this much better!'''
Try it out here. Naturally, the first thing to do is to check out your own name. :-)

LINKS: Microsoft launches Windows Live Internet search engine - SiliconValley.Com TAGS: Geek stuff, Blog

Can Ahmed Zaoui go home now?

Is there any reason Algerian political refugee Ahmed Zaoui can't go home now? Reuters reports that:
Algeria will complete the release this week under an amnesty of 2,629 Islamists jailed during civil strife that lasted more than a decade, the justice Minister was quoted as saying on Sunday.
The amnesty was apparently inspired by the successful South African amnesty process put in place at the end of the white-apartheid era, and has won praise from the president of the European Parliament, Josip Borrell. Speaking to the Algerian parliament, he called the plan "an important step for the North African country to restore social order." Says the BBC:

The amnesty also offers a pardon to militants on the run who surrender, as long as they are not responsible for massacres, rapes or bombings of public places... The amnesty is an attempt to heal Algeria's wounds after years of a brutal and bloody conflict believed to have claimed more than 150,000 lives
Amongst those released and pardoned is hardline nutcase and praiser of Iraqi insurgents Ali Belhadj, the deputy leader of Zaoui's political organisation the Islamic Salvation Front, which raises the question of why Zaoui can't now go home.

So why can't he? If he's no threat here and not in danger there, why can't he get off the taxpayers' tab? He may not want to go home, but perhaps one or two liberals might want to meet some of his bills and perhaps sponsor him to stay.

And, speaking of those sucking off the taxpayers' tit, how about Zaoui's lawyer Deborah Manning -- what does she say? Predictably, legal-aid lawyer Deborah Manning (recipient already of a mllion or so of taxpayers' money on Zaoui's behalf) says he can't go. 'He can't!' she says.
"There has been an amnesty given, but it's only to people who will go back to Algeria and confess to their crimes," Ms Manning said." Amnesty International and other groups in the United Nations have condemned the amnesty because it's giving impunity to the security services and stopping people from talking about the troubles in Algeria."
Condemned the amnesty? Well, Amnesty have "called the law's impunity measures a major setback for human rights in Algeria." But they haven't suggested there's any danger to those being granted an amnesty. And the amnesty applies "only to people who go back to Algeria"? Who's she kidding? According to the BBC story quoted above, the amnesty "offers a pardon to militants on the run who surrender, as long as they are not responsible for massacres, rapes or bombings of public places."

I assume that applies to Zaoui, so what's the problem Deborah?

LINKS: Algeria to free 2,629 Islamists under amnesty - Reuters
Algeria frees Islamic militants - BBC News
Zaoui should return home, says NZ First - NZ Herald
Algeria: New Amnesty Law Will Ensure Atrocities Go Unpunished - Ammesty International

TAGS: Politics-World, Politics-NZ

Sobering Transmission Gully observations

LibertyScott has been following the Transmission Gully process for some time as part of his professional duties, and he's been blogging it regularly. He suggests this morning that those celebrating the decision by the Western corridors Hearing Committee need to "sober up" and consider:
  1. This is not a final decision, simply a "recommendation" - not a 'go-ahead' for the project, just a go-ahead to go to the next committee.
  2. At around $1 billion, "it still remains unaffordable" - "the money for it simply does not exist." As Kerry Prendergast points out, there is at least half-a-billion dollars missing to pay fo rit.
  3. If it does go ahead, it will consume moneys needed for more beneficial projects.
  4. Tolling the roadway would not even pay for the cost of tolling it.
  5. Lots of other stuff.
Read his piece if Transmission Gully is gettgin you excited. (And reflect, perhaps, that for all those claims we've recently heard about how the census is needed for 'planning,' this is just another example of how long government projects take - by the time they're anywhere near completion, the world is half-a-century on.)

LINKS: Transmission Gully proposed by Hearings Committee - LibertyScott

TAGS: Wellington, Politics-NZ

Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - update

This Saturday. That's the answer to those of you who expressed interest in hooking up in Auckland to listen to and debate a provocative series of taped lectures on the philosophic corruption of physics and who wanted to know when we're starting. The answer is: This Saturday. As I mentioned when I first suggested this, "we plan to integrate BBQ, beer-drinking, physics and rugby":
What could be better, eh? Schrodinger's Fridge Cat? Strange particles? The interconnectedness of everything? Beer! In a series of taped lectures, informal discussions, and fully loaded BBQs we'll peel back the philosophical base behind modern physics, and examine why and how it became corrupted -- and no prior knowledge of either physics or philosophy is needed. Knowledge of beer and how to open it might however prove useful.
Wine might prove an acceptable substitute. We'll start at 5pm. More details and the rest of the evening's programme can be found at my earlier post. Email me at organon at ihug dot co dot nz for the address of the Drinking Room.

LINKS: The Philosophic Corruption of Physics - David Harriman - Ayn Rand Bookstore
Rugby, Physics, Philosophy & Beer - Not PC
Quantum Aristotle - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Science, Philosophy, Objectivism, Beer & Elsewhere, Events

Don't do him!

I can think of a few local bloggers who might value a website called Don'tDateHimGirl.Com, "a controversial website that lets women publicly out the men who cheat on them in an effort to warn other women so they avoid the heartache and betrayal." Is there something similar for blokes to use? "Fear not," reports Wonkette, "help is on the way."
According to the NY Times, site founder Tasha Joseph “is planning to start a companion site for men,” She just needs to acquire the domain name — from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
LINKS: Don'tDateHimGirl.Com
(Name Here) Is a Liar and a Cheat - NY Times
Caveat Dater - Wonkette


Wednesday, 8 March 2006

'Country House' - Mies van der Rohe, 1923

A wonderfully free-flowing 'pinwheel' plan for this country house project by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe from 1923. A plan that combines elements of Frank Lloyd Wright, De Stijl (see below left for example from 1918), Berlage and Malevich.

Walls thrust out into the environment, almost as Frank Lloyd Wright had them do a generation earlier -- only here they are simpler and less 'centred'; they 'hold' rather than 'grasp,' and their reach is less centrifugal and perhaps less ordered.

The elevations themselves are less successful -- Mies was still working out how to roof such a plan (something he worked out with his 'floating roof' of the Barcelona Pavilion) -- but it's fair to say that with this floor plan a new thing was brought into the world. It was a plan that justified a 'Eureka!'

TAGS: Architecture

TradeMe block a tipping point?

It doesn't stop, does it. Hard on the heels of Carter's Whangamata Veto, the Communist Commerce Commission chair-thing Paula Rebstock says she wants to throw a spanner in Fairfax's plan to give TradeMe founder Sam Morgan a large cheque.
"In the recent Fairfax/Times Media Group acquisition, the commission, while defining a distinct print media advertising market, acknowledged that the extent to which it faced competition from online advertising was increasing." The commission intends to consider these issues further in assessing the competitive impact of the proposed acquisition of Trade me by Fairfax, she said.
Meddling arseholes upon meddling arseholes -- and they can't even speak good clear English. When the productive have to beg for permission from unproductive vermin such as these in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is on the rocks. Are we there yet?

LINKS: TradeMe deal in watchdog's sights - TVNZ

TAGS: Economics, Politics-NZ, New Zealand

Get Carter

Chris Carter has done everyone a favour. He's made it clear even to the unwashed and unenlightened that meddling is in, that enterprise is out, that the separation of powers in this pathetic authoritarian backwater is non-existent, and that New Zealand operates not under the rule of law, but under the rule of men and women whose view of the people they rule is that of chattel. You are an underclass. Ballot fodder. And you just keep on taking it.

To clearly see his view of you and yours, consider what Carter said when delivering his verdict public announcement of the Whangamata veto, delivered yesterday afternoon:

"Mr Carter said he had serious concerns about aspects of the proposal..."

All of which had already been dealt with in court.

"Under the Resource Management Act, the Conservation Minister is the final decision-maker on restricted coastal activities."

In other words, I remind you we live under the rule of men, not of law, and I am the man -- and don't you forget it. Take your application through the courts all you want, just as the law requires, but in the end I am the final arbiter and my decision may be taken on whatever basis I wish, and whatever whim I might harbour.

"In my view it is apparent that the salt marsh is valuable... "

'Valuable,' to whom? The question of 'value' presupposes the question: valuable to whom and for what. If it's 'valuable' to Chris, then let him and any like-minded others show precisely the value they place on the salt marsh by investing in it. And if it's not that valuable, then let him stop speaking for the speechless and get the hell out of the way.

"I recognise that the Whangamata Marina Society has spent a great deal of time and money on this proposal and I sympathise with their frustration at my decision.."

Fine words that butter no parsnips. It's not sympathy theyr'e after, it's justice.

"New Zealand's coast is a spectacular asset..."

A marina would be a spectacular asset to the people of Whangamata, say the people of Whangamata. Yet Carter knows better, says Carter. New Zealanders' freedom and their property rights are (or were) a spectacular asset to them. Is that worth defending for future generations? Or has it already gone for good?

The Foreshore and Seabed Act removed whatever property rights attached to what is now considered 'public space.' The RMA has destroyed legal certainty, eviserated property rights, and nationalised New Zealanders' land. Incredibly however, "this decision destroys the credibility of the RMA," says the man without credibility, Nick Smith, about an Act whose credibility is long gone. "It is constitutionally outrageous and has never happened in the 15 years of the RMA," says the man with a short memory; the man who administered the RMA for three years without changing a thing; the man who brought in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act that, in conjunction with the RMA, allowed then-Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee to veto the Whitianga Waterways project -- a veto overturned only after vehement protest by Whitanga residents and a threat to send busloads of them down to fill the forecourt of Parliament.

"Chris Carter's actions today highlight the desperate need for substantive reform of the Resource Management Act," says Smith. No what his actions highlight is the desperate need to get the unproductive permanently out of the way of the productive, and to end the need for the latter to be permanently cap in hand to the former. Smith, who had ample opportunity to 'substantively reform' the RMA when he was a minister but chose not to -- "far-sighted environmental legislation" he called it then -- is now just posturing like the politician he is.

How bad is Carter really? Well, however bad Carter and Co might be and are, at least they'll tell you to your face when they're doing you over. Smith and Co wait until your back's turned before sticking the knife in, and then deny all knowledge. But between them and their colleagues they've got this country so tied up with legislation, regulation and bureaucratisation that we can barely breathe, and you lost just keep voting for more of the same. As Ayn Rand had a bureaucrat say in what was then a work of fiction:
You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals.

Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone?

But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be
much easier to deal with.
How easy are you to deal with? How much more are you prepared to take? Have we reached a tipping point yet?

LINKS: Ministerial veto destroys RMA credibility
- New Zealand National Party - Scoop
Carter declines Whangamata Marina proposal - New Zealand Government - Scoop
Greens welcome Whangamata decision - Greens - Scoop
The advantage of speaking for the speechless - Peter Cresswell - Not PC
Waterways nigtmare is property rights disaster - Peter Cresswell - Scoop (2001)

TAGS: Environment, RMA, Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Politics-Labour

Rodney Hide. Legend.

The fearless, crusading zeal of Rodney Hide is inspiring. The Herald asks Rodney Hide about Richard Worth quoting him saying "I would legalise all drugs" at a 2003 Act event... "I don't know what that's about," whimpered Rodney in response.
Herald: "Do you support widespread legalisation?"

Mr Hide: "No."

Herald: "What about cannabis law reform?"

Mr Hide: "No, I think he's confusing me with Nandor [Tanczos]."

Herald: "So you don't support cannabis law reform?"

Mr Hide: "Well, it's not been an issue in Parliament."

Herald: "It has in the past ... "

Mr Hide: "It's never come up for a vote in my time there..."

Herald: "What about the NORML website quotes?"

Mr Hide: "I'm just not interested in commenting on his letter."

Herald: "Do you have a view on cannabis law reform?"

Mr Hide: "I don't think the prohibition on cannabis is giving a good result and I'm all for looking at better ways of managing it. I think it's having no impact on the use of cannabis at all and you can easily see that because we can't keep cannabis out of prisons so we certainly can't keep it out of our streets, no matter how many police we have. So I've always been sceptical of our drug policy and always probably will be. But does that mean I go around and advocate legalisation, of course not."

Herald: "Not decriminalisation either?"

Mr Hide: "It hasn't come up for a vote but certainly if it did it would get interesting because I think it's an important debate to have."

Herald: "Are you saying you don't have a view?"

Mr Hide: "No, I'm saying it hasn't come up for a vote."
God, he's inspiring isn't he. Rodney Hide: Making the world safe for obfuscation and evasion.

LINKS: Worth launches an attack on Hide - NZ Herald
MP Pages: Rodney Hide - NORML New Zealand

TAGS: Victimless Crimes, Politics-ACT

Concreting over fun

Jimi Kumara has some thoughts and some memories on the plans by Waitakere City Council to concrete over a popular West Auckland swimming hole with "1600 truck loads of concrete" in order to "reduce the risks":
Why is it the f**king swimming holes fault? It seems that in our society we believe that rules and regulation will solve any problem. But doesn’t that kind of circumvent any personal responsibility?

If a four year old kid drowns in a swimming hole isn’t it probably the parents fault?

Clearly something’s gone mad, but is it political correctness? Or is it the contemporary need for everything surrounding children to be safe, sanitised and padded to a maddening degree.

Political Correctness hasn’t gone mad – bureaucracy and parenting has. When I think back on my childhood growing up in West Auckland I cant help but feel that they would want to concrete the whole of that in too, or have it shut down by OSH. We were in almost constant peril...
In constant peril, and better for it too: "Because we did that stuff we learned a lot of lessons. We learned all about consequences. We explored boundaries. We became self-reliant."
Scraped knees and various wounds and bruises were de rigueur. If my son Harry doesn’t come home with similar when he grows up I will wont to know why.
“Go outside and hurt yourself you bloody sook.” I will say.
Quite right. We've become a nation of sooks, a flock of easily-cowed sheeple happy to be pushed around, waiting to be led, and eager to get ourselves fleeced. No wonder Chris Carter thinks he can get away with his dictatorial "I-am-the-final-decision-maker" grand-standing at Whangamata.

LINKS: Gimme danger - Jimi Kumara

TAGS: Political Correctness, Auckland, New Zealand.

Baa Baa ~What~ Sheep?

From the dripping-wet-politically-correct file comes news that 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' has ben black-balled to "avoid causing offence":

ANONOVA NEWS: Nursery school bosses [in Oxfordshire, UK] ordered the words of the rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep to be altered to Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep. The change was made to avoid offending children after teachers examined the nursery's equal opportunities policy. Stuart Chamberlain, manager of the Sure Start Centre in Oxford, could not explain why children might be offended...

Snow White's dwarves and Humpty Dumpty have also got the treatment "so as not to upset children," and "dangerous" conkers have been banned from some British playgrounds.

Finding offence where none was ever found, and danger where it isn't. It's not just bad poetry and bad judgement. It's just bloody stupid.

LINKS: Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep - Ananova
Why black sheep are barred and Humpty can't be cracked - Times Online

TAGS: Political Correctness, Politics-UK, Education

The Whangamata veto: who's to blame?

Chris Carter stepping all over the dreams, hopes and long-sought court victory of the Whangamata Marina Society. The Whangamata veto. Who's to blame? Well, let me tell you.

It's not really Chris Carter. He's just doing what the Resource Management Act (RMA) expressly allows him to: to step on people's dreams. But he's not really to blame.

It's not really the fault of the people who brought in and administered the RMA either. It's not really the fault of Labour's Geoffrey Palmer, or National's Simon Upton and Nick Smith, or of the assorted ACT Party luminaries who at various times were cheerleaders for the Act. It's not really their fault either.

No, none of them are really to blame. They were all just doing what they thought the voters wanted.

And who are the voters? Who's to blame? You are. Every single one of you who voted for these meddling arseholes is to blame; every one of you who wanted some kind of control over what other people might be doing, might be saying, might be wanting to build. Every one of you who looked the other way when authoritarianism grew and property rights were abandoned. You're to blame. Your votes, your complacency and your own desire to mind other people's business has handed the lives and property of all New Zealanders over to the meddling arsehole that brought down yesterday's unilateral veto.

So when you're blaming him for his decision, take a look in the mirror and see who's really to blame. And then ask yourself what youre going to do to make amends.

TAGS: RMA, Politics-NZ, Libertarianism

Larkin Building - Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Building of 1905 was revolutionary. The first atrium office building -- indeed, the first atrium building of any type -- air-conditioned, fire-proof, a veritable 'cathedral of industry.'
The Larkin building was completely revolutionary for the time. Most obviously it was one of the first buildings to use a form of air conditioning that was integral to its design. The main pillars would circulate air through them and treat them with a water mist to cool and cleans the air as it flowed into the rest of the building...

The building was designed with both elevators and stairways.
Its open center section was lit with large plate glass windows and a large skylight...
The Larkin building was demolished in 1950. Only one of the wall pillars still stands. The building was removed and replaced with a parking lot.
Watch a brief clip here from the Ken Burns's biopic of Wright discussing the Larkin Building.

LINKS: Larkin Building - Ken Burns's 'Frank Lloyd Wright' documentary

TAGS: Architecture

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Breathing fire on Nanny's census

The Wellington firebreather made short work of a stack of census forms tonight at the Botanic Gardens Soundshell, doing what he does best in front of a crowd of forty or so that included a group of scouts chanting "Burn, Census, Burn!"

I trust a few other 'barbeques' also went as planned.

LINKS: Libertarianz barbequing Census - Newstalk ZB
Firebreathing over census at Wellington's sound shell tonight - Not PC
Fire-breather to Incinerate Libz Census Forms - Scoop

TAG: New Zealand, Libertarianism, Libz

Meddling arsehole stops Whangamata project

This is what a meddling arsehole looks like (left). Chris Carter, MP, has just stepped in to reject the application to build a $10 million marina in Whangamata after consent for the project had already been granted by the Environment Court. Carter knows more than the courts.

We can only imagine how it looks like to the applicants (right) who have spent over $1 million and fourteen years -- fourteen bloody years! -- shepherding this application through the court system where all possible issues were aired, only to have it stamped on by this meddling arsehole once success in court was achieved.

Take note that New Zealand today is what the rule of men and not the rule of law looks like. Why have law and courts of law when dictators like Carter and Co know best?

And take note too, those who will complain about a Labour minister doing the meddling, that the Resource Management Act that allows this meddling was originally brought in by a National Party minister, Simon Upton. The two parties are as bad as each other.

LINKS: Carter declines Whangamata Marina proposal - Scoop
Whangamata fury over marina - NZ Herald

Property Rights, RMA, Environment, Common Law, Politics-NZ,

Vote PC!

Oh yes, if you really do want to do something for me (that's turned you off, hasn't it?) you can vote for this blog at the Netguide Awards, 2006. I promise to remember you all in my victory speech. :-)

LINKS: Netguide Web Awards, 2006

TAGS: Blog

'Clash of civilisations' rubbished by Arab-American woman

Wow. Dr. Wafa Sultan is a secular Arab-American psychologist, whose view of Islam can best be decribed as one of absolute contempt. On February 21 she confronted radical Islamist cleric Ibrahim Al-Khouli in a debate on 'The Clash of Civilizations,' not in the relative safety of American television but right there on al-Jazeera television, from which you can see a snippet here. Here's how she opens:
Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete...

I understand from your words that what is happening today is a clash between the culture of the West, and the backwardness and ignorance of the Muslims?

Wafa Sultan: Yes, that is what I mean...

Unlike many others, Wafa Sultan is not an Arab apologist for terror. She is a secular hero. Watch the clip here. Transcript here.

LINKS: Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan on Al Jazeera TV (Qatar) - MEMRI TV
A fearless Arab-American - Washington Times
'You can believe in stones, but don't throw them at me' (Transcript) - Jerusalem Post
Latest clips - MEMRI TV

TAGS: War, Religion, Multiculturalism, Heroes


Didn't 'we' do well. Weta Workshops's Richard Taylor is now equal Oscar-wise with Clint Eastwood, Bob Hope, John Barry and Francis Ford Coppola as the winner of five Academy Awards. Says the Dom enthusiastically: "Wellywood and Weta have done it again, with King Kong grabbing three Oscars and The Chronicles of Narnia earning a fourth on a night that had Kiwis beating their chests on stage at the Academy Awards."
King Kong special effects wizard Richard Taylor continued to work his magic on Hollywood, winning his fifth Oscar, but it was the sound-mixing team of Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammon Peek who delighted cast and crew by beating their chests in unison on stage, with Peek saying "Go Kiwis"... "It's just fantastic. Kiwis do it again," said King Kong editor Jamie Selkirk, who won the best film-editing Oscar in 2004 for The Return of the King.
Good for them. Taylor puts the gongs in perspective. "The awards," he explains, "were a by-product of the Kong crew's real achievement. 'It's about the job and the results of the job, not just the awards'." Quite right. As Howard Roark tells Peter Keating in The Fountainhead, "Peter, before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences."

Good on Taylor and his crew. They are entitled to bask in their achievement, even as they undoubtedly plan their next project.

LINKS: Kong gong gives Weta boss entry to exclusive Oscar club - NZ Herald
Chest-beating wins for Kong -
Dominion Post

TAGS: New Zealand, Films, Objectivism

The truth about cats and dogs and politics

Liberals tend to like cats; conservatives tend to like dogs. Such is the result reported by the Washington Monthly (the graph (right) shows the result to be more conclusive for women than men). [Hat tip No Right Turn]

There is no mention of Robert Heeinlein's observation that cats are libertarians while dogs are natural slaves.

Neuropolitics has more results showing the difference between conservatives and liberals. Sadly, they have none showing why neither conservatives nor liberals value the 'f' word*.

LINKS: The Liberal temperament - Washington Monthly
Neuropolitics.Org Ezine, March 2006

TAGS: Politics, Science, Nonsense

* What's the 'f' word? Freedom, of course.

Crimes against society

While people have been discussing 'prisoner rehabilitation' and Rachaelle Namana over the last day or so, I've kept hearing the phrase "repaying their debt to society." Prisoners, people keep saying, need to to "repay their debt to society." What on earth are they talking about? What "debt to society" are they talking about?

Let me tell you, there is no "debt to society." None. 'Society' isn't the victim of crime -- people are. Individuals who have been the victims of crime are those to whom a debt needs to be repaid, not society. But that debt never is repaid, is it, especially not as that flawed idea of a 'debt to society' dominates.

There is no such thing as a 'debt to society' that prisoners must repay, there is only the debt to those they offended against -- the long forgotten victims of crime. Repaying the victims (where possible) should be amongst the first things considered in sentencing -- as a basic principle it should be ensured that no offender achieves any value by virtue of their crime, and (where possible) no victim loses it.

And when there is no real victim, then there is of course no real crime.

TAGS: Law, Victimless Crimes

Firebreathing over census at Wellington's sound shell tonight

LibertyScott has gone all the way to the UK to avoid filling out his census -- well, in truth he was already there. Didn't full out the last two, he says, and nothing happened to him.

Meanwhile, Libertarianz has organised a protest at the Wellington Sound Shell, with a fire breather to burn census forms. The press release states:
"Libertarianz leader, Bernard Darnton, announced the event today, saying that "the census is a blatant example of Government intrusion intopeople's private lives and should not be tolerated."

The fire-breather will be performing on the Sound Shell Lawn in the Wellington Botanic Gardens at 8.30pm on census night and everyone who opposes the compulsory collection of personal information is welcome... “The correct response,” Darnton says, “when Government agents come knocking on the door asking for personal information, is not to meekly comply with every request but to tell them to go to hell.”
The press release also notes that Germany doesn't have censuses, and the sky hasn't fallen in. Maybe it learnt from its less than free recent history? Go join them in the Sound Shell tonight, at least to watch the spectacle and support another dimension of free speech - the right not to be FORCED to speak.

LINK: Ignore the census - defend the right to NOT speak - LibertyScott
Fire-breather to Incinerate Libz Census Forms - Scoop

TAG: New Zealand, Libertarianism, Libz

Houses - when bigger is not necessarily better

Does size matter? Australian house-buyers are saying 'Yes!' in bigger numbers, and so too do increasing numbers of NZers. 'Bigger is better' say owners of houses with incurable grand-o-mania -- houses in which, if you want to avoid other residents you can, and where you might almost need to wear GPS locators to actually help find each other. Australia's '60 Minutes' investigate the phenomenon here. [Hat tip butter paper]

So who exactly are these house-buyers and builders trying to impress with their big entrances, stadium-sized lounges and kitchens that take a day to walk from sink to fridge and back again -- themselves, or their neighbours? And are they comfortable to live in?

'No!' say the authors of The Not So Big House. Large and liveability don't necessarily go together; smaller and more thoughtful do. What many of the designers of these houses has forgotten is the human sale that makes a place 'fit' rather than overwhelm. Says Susan Susanka, author of The Not So Big House:
When someone buys a Mercedes Benz or Jaguar, they look for quality, comfort, and detail. Size has nothing to do with the appeal of these cars. If you wanted nothing but space, you could buy a truck. Why is it, then, that some people feel compelled to buy huge houses with empty, cathedral-like spaces that offer few comforts of home?
... Susanka writes of a conversation with a banker who was at first skeptical when she proposed her own home-building plans to him: "But as I described to him my frustration with designing large houses with rarely used formal spaces, and my vision to put forward a different home model into the market-place, his demeanor completely changed. Suddenly he was telling us about his own house, a suburban Colonial, and admitting that in 25 years his family had never sat in the living room. They lived in their family room. The banker, who at first appeared to be our biggest obstacle, became our strongest advocate."
... One very defining feature of all Not So Big Houses is that they stress quality over quantity. By shrinking the size of the house and providing less square feet for the same amount of money, the home builder can add the details, the columns, framing, millwork and the like that make a house personal.
Of course, it hardly needs saying at this blog that the choice of home is entirely up to the owner, and kudos to the successful home-owners who are enjoying their wealth by conspicuously consuming it. But is size per se really everything? Just because something is bigger, is it necessarily a good thing? Or is it perhaps just the opposite.

LINKS: The Castle - ABC's 'Sixty Minutes'
The Not So Big House - NotSoBigHouse.Com
Big ideas behind Not So Big Houses - Architecture Week
Little houses in the big burbs - Design Coalition
Creating the Not So Big House - IS Design.Net
McMansions - Wikipedia

TAGS: Architecture

National Farmer's Bank, Owatonna, Minnesota - Louis Sullivan

National Farmer's Bank, Owatonna, Minnesota - Louis Sullivan - 1908

In 19o6 architect Louis Sullivan criticised the then-traditional bank with its classical ornament and layout in an article in The Craftsman -- read by musician-turned-banker Carl Bennett, Sullivan was challenged to "suggest how to obtain something better than the usual Roman bank."

The Owatonna National Farmers' Bank in Minnesota was the result: a variegated brick cube sparely, beautifully and thematically ornamented and proportioned, and judged by Frank Lloyd Wright to be the best of the many banks Sullivan was to build in this later part of his career.

LINKS: Louis Sullivan's Owatonna Bank
'The tall building artistically considered' - Louis Sullivan -- Peter Cresswell
Lieber-Meister page: Louis Sullivan, the architect & his work

TAGS: Architecture

Monday, 6 March 2006

Namana a challenge to both prohibitionists and welfarists

NEWSTALK ZB: Rachealle Namana has now finished her six-year sentence for the brutal manslaughter of her stepsister's 23-month-old baby Lillybing in 2001. She has told a Sunday paper prison was not as hard some people make out, saying she enjoyed drugs and porn in her cell...

Two points to make here:
  1. If drugs can't even be prohibited from prisons, how on earth do prohibitionists seriously exect them to be prohibited from society? Face it, the more you try to ban them, the more profits you guarantee to criminals and corrupt policemen.
  2. When Libertarianz started all those years ago, we said it was wrong that we were all forced to pay no-hopers to breed. When the Domestic Purposes Benefit was first introduced in 1975, 17,000 women received the benefit. There are now 111,000 women receiving DPB. A typical DPB beneficiary with one child has an income of around $18 -20,000. It is not a 'safety net,' it is a hammock -- a hammock that costs taxpayers over $2 billion a year and just dehumanises the children it claims to protect, turning them into a meal-ticket for the irresponsible. Forced welfare is not benevolence. Namana is undoubtedly among the worst human beings in this country -- the DPB helped her to become that; prison taught her she had no need to change. Lindsay Mitchell reminds us just how disgusting this no-hoper really is.
LINKS: Killer of Lillybing out, and not reformed - Newstalk ZB
Rachealle Namana - Lindsay Mitchell

Politics-NZ, New Zealand,
Victimless Crimes

TradeMe changes hands for big money

Good for Sam Morgan, the fomer owner of NZ's most popular website, TradeMe, the site he started just seven years ago that now accounts for sixty-percent of NZ's web traffic. He is "the former owner" because as you might have heard he's just sold it for the staggering sum of $700 million.

Good for him. Here's a story about how TradeMe began. Apparently it all started with a heater...

LINKS: Slow burner to online sizzler DominionPost 13 September 2004
TradeMe goes for $700m - Newstalk ZB

TAGS: New Zealand, Geek Stuff, Heroes

A republic. If you can keep it

Democracy, as Bill Weddell used to say, is the counting of heads regardless of content. I talked the other day about the importance in a democracy of putting things beyond the vote, so that your life, liberty and your right to pursue your own happiness can't be taken away by the vicissitudes of modern political life in a democracy. In fact, as Walter Williams makes clear, what I was really talking about was the superiority of a republic -- which is just what he says is needed in Iraq, not the democracy they have got.

America, he reminds us, was not founded as a democracy but as a constitutional republic. At the close of Philadelphia's Constitutional Convention in 1787, a Mrs. Powel asked Benjamin Franklin as he emerged from the hall, "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" responded Franklin: "A republic, if you can keep it." The America the founding fathers deliverd was a constitutional republic, not a democracy. In fact, as Williams affirms, "the word "democracy" appears in neither of [the U.S.'s] founding documents -- the Declaration of Independence nor the U.S. Constitution."

In a democracy, the majority rules either directly or through its elected representatives. The law is whatever the government determines it to be. Laws aren't necessarily based upon reason but power. In other words, democracy is just another form of tyranny -- tyranny of the majority...

In a republican form of government, there is rule of law. All citizens, including government officials, are accountable to the same laws. Government intervenes in civil society to protect its citizens against force and fraud but does not intervene in the cases of peaceable, voluntary exchange.

Democracy, what the Bush administration calls for [in Iraq] , is different.

Sure is. Democracy is three wolves and a sheep voting for dinner. A republic allows all to eat their dinner in peace. See here how Williams would set up Iraq.

LINKS: Conflict: The Battle Hymn of the Democracy - Walter Williams
Putting freedom beyond the vote - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Constitution, Politics, Democracy, Cue Card Libertarianism, Rights, War

Where there's a census, let there be fire!

Tomorrow night I shall be burning my census form. That is, I would be if I had one. Apparently I am amongst the third or so of central Aucklanders who haven't yet had a form delivered. How sad. Perhaps I'll need to download a form in order to burn it.

Why will I be burning it? Because the answers are none of the Chief Statistician's business. But you need my answers in order for the government to plan ahead, you say? But I don't wish you to plan ahead -- your past 'planning ahead' has been a signal failure, and I have no better expectations for your future planning. The only plans I wish you to make are to get the hell out of my way. But this is "an exercise in national cooperation," you say, in which we must all take part? Must? Must? Where is 'cooperation' when the word 'must' is wheeled out? When compulsion is the means by which 'cooperation' is obtained? If our respect for individual liberty is so thin, what about our respect for the meaning of words?

This is not an exercise in national cooperation; it is an exercise in compulsion -- a not-so-gentle reminder that the state can issue instructions, and we sheeple all have to comply -- and over matters which are either already known or able to be easily established in the free market by voluntary means.

The issue is not that there is anything about my affairs that I wish to hide. The issue is that they are my affairs. If you want to know about them, then ask nicely. And if you do I'll tell you just as nicely to go away. Census rebel Bill Weddell deserves the final word. He had this to say on the matter back in 1978 in his statement to the court:

In failing to comply with a government order to disclose private information concerning my private life and private property, my intention is not to flout the Law as such, but to lodge formal protest against the Statistics Act, and to register my rejection, on moral grounds, of the widespread practice of State expropriation of private property and related information under threat of forcible punishment.

I hold, as a moral absolute, the conviction that in a civilised society all relationships between men must be voluntary; that compulsion abolishes morality altogether, and must be outlawed; that no man shall gain a value from another by the use or the threat of force; and that it is the only proper function of the Law to protect men against those who do.

I have declined to plead or to offer any legal defense since the very existence of the Statistics Act abolishes objective justice, the only legal principle that could defend me. The Law as it stands arbitrarily declares the contradiction that guilt defined by Law can co-exist with and overrule provable innocence in objective reality.

I do not regard my actions as a crime, but as an act of self-defence. Every man possesses the absolute right to own private property and, in acting solely in defense of that right, no offence against, or violation of the rights of others is possible. Yet my actions have been twisted in legal terminology into an ‘offence’, and my alleged victim is held to be the very Act of Parliament by which the theft of my property has been legalised.

The Law is of necessity an instrument of physical force; therefore theft perpetrated by an armed government against legally disarmed citizens is an act of civil war. In addition, the Law functions by a process of deriving logical consequences from established precedents. The Statistics Act is an empowering Act enabling the State to take stock of its citizens’ wealth and furnishes clear evidence of its intention to escalate from partial confiscation by taxation to outright plunder by total control. In this case I regard blind obedience to a blatantly coercive law to be no excuse for inaction. The sanction of the victim, implied in this case by my silence or inaction, would be the worst of evils.

This census, I would urge you to be a principled opponent of the census instead of a smart-arsed clever dick. Don't fill out the form as a Jedi. Don't tell them you're an acrobat. Burn your form as an act of defiance, and tell them to go to hell. And if you do end up being compelled against your will then either make your simple, principled statement in court, or, if you can't face the fine, concede only to supplying the minimum necessary information required: Name, address, age, citizenship. And on the final question, if you do decide to fill it in, tell them you're a New Zealander.

LINK: Politically Incorrect Show 15 Feb 2001 - Lindsay Perigo

TAG: New Zealand, Libertarianism, Libz

Gone quickly

Working a few years back in London as a Project Manager for a concrete subcontractor, I spent a lot of time writing letters to Main Contractors either justifying delays so we weren't charged for them, or claiming reimbursement for delays caused by others. This sort of thing:
Dear Sir, I wish to advise that with regard to the above contract we are in delay on Item 17 due to obstruction by other trades/unavailability of crane time/weather events as per clause XYZ.
This will accordingly have a knock-on effect on Items 18, 21 and 25. Please find attached Daywork Sheets to reflect this delay. Yours etc.
Why am I telling you this? Because it's already one fifth of the way through March, yet it only seems like yesterday we were enjoying Christmas. And, fact is, I always wanted to send this sort of letter to a Main Contractor:
Dear Sir, I wish to advise that with regard to the above contract we are in delay due to the fact this year has just gone so damn quickly...

Friday, 3 March 2006


I'm away to sip martinis up at Tutukaka, and to devour the latest 'Free Radical' magazine. Try and enjoy the weekend without me -- and maybe if you do get withdrawal you can rummage through the archives.

Have a good weekend. I'll see you back here on Monday.

Do the rich really make us all poorer?

'The rich keep getting richer!' screams economist Paul Krugman. 'So what,' says George Reisman in his latest blog.

Actually, they both say it far more learnedly than I just summarised, but what you got was the gist of it. Blaming something he calls "power relations," Krugman claims there is a "rising oligarchy" in the U.S. whose incomes are increasing while the incomes of the country's grunts have essentially stagnated or declined. "The essential thing to understand here about Krugman is that he is a Keynesian," responds Reisman.
And as Mises observed, “The essence of Keynesianism is its complete failure to conceive the role that saving and capital accumulation play in the improvement of economic conditions.” This failure is present in Krugman’s hostility to economic inequality.
So Reisman concedes Krugman's point then? Well, not exactly. Krugman's failure, which he shares with many others of many different stripes, is that he thinks of income purely in terms of something to consume -- something with which to purchase consumer goods. But for the most part, the rich don't spend their income loading up their plates with ever more food and gravy; they invest it.
The truth, which real economists, from Adam Smith to Mises, have elaborated, is that in a market economy, the wealth of the rich—of the capitalists—is overwhelmingly invested in means of production, that is, in factories, machinery and equipment, farms, mines, stores, and the like. This wealth, this capital, produces the goods which the average person buys, and as more of it is accumulated and raises the productivity of labor higher and higher, brings about a progressively larger and ever more improved supply of goods for the average person to buy.
And not just goods: "The capital of business firms is also the foundation of the demand for labor. The wealthier and more numerous are business firms, the greater is the demand for labor and the higher are wage rates." Thus, as Reisman says there are two great benefits to all of the capital owned by some:
The capital of others is the source of the supply of the goods they buy and the source of the demand for the labor they sell. And the greater is that capital, the greater is this two-sided benefit to everyone. To the extent that the supply of goods produced is greater, prices are lower. And to the extent that the demand for labor is greater, wages are higher. Lower prices and higher wages: that is the effect capital accumulation.
But what about the manifest inequality complained about by Krugman right at the start? Incomes have declined or stagnated, haven't they? Here Reisman agrees, and here he too blames "power relations," specifically the forcible government intervention in the economic system.
...the more extensive the government’s intervention becomes, the greater becomes the gap between the life that people must live and the better life they could have lived had the government not stood in their way. At some point government intervention becomes sufficient to cause people to live not only worse than they might have lived, but worse than they actually did live in the past.

This last is what has been happening to the American people since the era of the “New Frontier” and the “Great Society.” Since that time, the weight of government intervention has become sufficient to stop or nearly stop economic progress for large numbers of Americans and to cause actual economic decline for many.
Read on here to see Reisman spell out just how government meddling makes you poorer. The rich are getting richer, perhaps, But the rich could also be getting us richer, if only government would get the hell out of the way.

LINKS: Graduates versus oligarchs - Paul Krugman
Answer to Krugman on economic inequality - George Reisman's blog

TAGS: Economics, Politics, Politics-US