Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Rodney: Dancing for mediocrity

Lynne Truss, "the world-famous author" of Eats, Shoots and Leaves explains Rodney's limpet-like ability to stay in contention in the TV show that defies good taste as much as Rodney's dancing (reportedly) defies the definition of the term.

In her new book Talk to the Hand Truss examines the utter bloody rudeness of everyday life. Fifth in her list of "six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door" is what she identifies as the rush from merit, or what she calls "booing the judges":
Authority [she says] is largely perceived as a kind of personal insult which must be challenged. On TV competitions, judges are booed and abused for saying, "Look, I'm sorry, he can't dance!" because it has become a modern tenet that success should have only a loose connection with merit, and that when 'the people' speak, they are incontestably right.
Now, if that doesn't explain it, I'm not sure what would.

TAGS: Books

Trickle-down in action

For years we've heard from the likes of anti-capitalists like Russel Norman, John Kenneth Galbraith and Michael Cullen about "trickle down." According to one view, capitalism is supposed to be characterised by the poor getting the crumbs that have trickled down from the top tables of the rich. Galbraith characterised it thus: "If you feed the horse enough oats, the sparrow will survive on the highway."

But no sane economist has ever advocated such a view. Thomas Sowell invites anyone -- anyone -- to prove him wrong in that assertion:
A year ago this column defied anyone to quote any economist -- in government, academia, or anywhere else outside an insane asylum -- who had ever argued in favor of a 'trickle down theory'... a stock phrase on the left for decades and yet not one of those who denounce it can find anybody who advocated it. The tenacity with which they cling to these catchwords shows how desperately they need them, if only to safeguard their vision of the world and of themselves.
Frankly, if you want to see trickle-down in action, the only place you're going to see it is in Government. The best place to see it in NZ is in Labour's Welfare for Working Families package: they take your money, waste a large portion of it (fiscal drag, you see), and then dole out a small proportion of it back to some voters (for which they're pathetically grateful). That's trickle-down for you, as administered by the residents of an insane asylum.

LINK: The 'trickle down' left" Preserving a vision - Thomas Sowell
The 'Trickle down' economics straw man - Thomas Sowell (Sep, 2001)

TAGS: Economics, Labour, Welfare, Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Nonsense

Red Green is new co-leader person-person

The Greens have a new co-person-leaderette, the red Russel Norman (he's the ginga on the left with rival candidate Nandor). LibertyScott has an analysis of Norman's vapid acceptance speech.

If bland luddite blathering is your thing, then Russel will be your cup of herb tea. That it's been voted in as the Green thing makes clearer than anything else could how intellectually ghetto-ised the party is keen to make itself.

If you haven't already, read Trevor Loudon's various posts on Russel's background to see why the Greens are called watermelons.

UPDATE: Trevor has provided a convenient summary of all his Norman-related posts right here.

LINK: Russel Norman, ecologically, economically vapid - LibertyScott

Green Party Insider on Extreme Left Take-over - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)
Fisking Russel Norman- New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

"Russel Norman" at New Zeal
Reds taking over Green Party?
- New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

TAGS: Politics-Greens

Monday, 5 June 2006

Popular Not PC

Top ten popular posts here at present, just so you know:
  1. Super 14: Genius
  2. Bernini - Ecstacy of St Teresa
  3. Beer O'Clock: Monk's Habit
  4. CO2: They call it pollution
  5. Frank Lloyd Wright - Broadacre City
  6. Ms A Presley gets community service
  7. Annette Presley: Face of threats
  8. Cullen's a grumpy little thief this week
  9. Beer O'Clock: A Moa that's not endangered at all
  10. How postmodernism gutted the left
And the top few searches:
  1. peter cresswell
  2. not pc
  3. the living city frank lloyd
  4. tim wikiriwhi
  5. broadacre city
  6. bernini sculpture the ecstacy of st teresa
  7. presley tree auckland fine
  8. when did the industrial revolution start
  9. mark inglis
  10. ah chee house nz
  11. belgian show no balls
  12. hitchens fry debate
  13. samoan/niuean girl pics
  14. clitorectomies sterility
  15. evening fall of day rimmer
  16. classic sex
  17. reith lectures mp3
Yep, just a couple of oddities there, to which you can add "gay pc signs""lucy lawless exposed breast," "inflamed testicles," "rape can be funny" and "online weirdos," which also pretty much expains about half the searches that land here.

TAGS: Blog

Rodin's life force

I love it when other people 'get' great artists like Rodin -- it's like discovering them yourself for the first time. And by crikey, Oh Crikey's just discovered Rodin and fallen "madly in love," and it's great to watch. Says OC:
Rodin's art is saturated with immense psychological depth & complexity. His figures often appear 'in motion' as if encapsulating that very moment of peak desire & passion.

I sat riveted leafing through picture after picture of hands. Who would've thought a mere 'hand' could convey so much anguish & torment, or tenderness & delicacy? ...

In Maori terms, we could say Rodin's sculptures have a mauri, or a 'life force'. The more rational among us will scoff, "Oh, that's silly, inanimate objects can't possibly have a life force!" But they're dead wrong, Rodin is alive! ...

All the more depressing is the glut of crap art polluting Wellington's public spaces. What I'd give to trade all that cheap, gimmicky nonsense for one Rodin! That's what you call 'art'! And that's what will live on for centuries after all the other tired, contrived, uninspired rubbish is rightfully buried & forgotten.
What a magnificent (and true) tribute. Go here to read it all.

LINK: Bloggers come and bloggers go, but great art endures: Rodin's mauri- Oh Crikey

TAGS: Art, Sculpture

The 7 deadly sins of home renovations

According to Market Watch magazine, these are the top seven things not to do when remodelling the American home for investment (the same 'sins' mostly apply to the NZ home-owner considering renovations for profit). Here's the summary:
  1. Don't over-expand or over-capitalise.
  2. Don''t make you home into something it isn't.
  3. Don't change a room's function
  4. Don't DIY
  5. Add a large contingency amount to your budget
  6. Don't renovate what brings no return
  7. Don't forget maintenance.
You'll notice that an architect or home-owner remodelling for fun rather than profit might have a somewhat different list. Full list with reasoning here.

LINK: Seven deadly sins fo home remodelling - Market Watch magazine

TAGS: Building

Cold May, cool science

A few bloggers have already noted that this last May was NZ's coldest in ten years, and wondered where global warming is when you need it. In a Saturday press release, the Climate Science Coalition agrees and expands on the point:


3 June 2006. PRESS RELEASE

Claims by Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons today about "greenhouse" gases and "global warming" are contradicted by the national climate summary just released by the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) showing that last month was the coldest May since 1996.

Dr Vincent Gray, a member of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition's scientific panel and a member of the expert reviewers panel of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the NIWA report demonstrates that there is no relationship between warming and level of gases in the atmosphere.

"This coldest May in 10 years comes at a time when recordings made at Baring Head of carbon dioxide over New Zealand show that concentrations of the gas have increased by almost 15 per cent since 1970, in spite of the fact that average temperatures in this country have been in decline since 1998," said Dr Gray. "This makes a mockery of claims by global warming propagandists that warming is driven by carbon dioxide. In turn, this brings into question the whole rationale for the Kyoto Protocol, carbon taxes and other unjustified measures that have been in the public and political arena in recent months.

"Global warming enthusiasts claim that there is a steady increase in global temperature caused by the steady increase in what they erroneously label as "greenhouse" gases. But there was no warming between 1942 and 1978 despite a steady increase of greenhouse gases over that period. Similarly, there was no increase in the average temperature of New Zealand between 1955 and 2006. The greenhouse gases seem only to work over some periods and they stop working at others. This is impossible. The odd warming period (for example 1910 to 1942, 1978 to 1998) must have some other cause," he said.

Dr Gray has just published a paper responding to global warming claims by the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "I believe my paper to be the only international response so far to the NOAA paper, which in most respects is the last remaining serious claim of the greenhouse supporters and the IPCC for a relationship between greenhouse gas increases and 'global warming'. The warming takes place only on the earth, but not in the lower troposphere where it is supposed to happen, " said Dr Gray, whose paper is available on the coalition's website: www.climatescience.org.nz

Dr Gray has commented also on methane: "The rate of increase of methane in the atmosphere has been falling since records began in 1984, It has now reached a constant value for five years, and can be expected to fall. Of course, all the models predict that it will rise."

Contact: Climate Science Coalition


TAGS: Global_Warming, New_Zealand

Sunday, 4 June 2006

How much is a handbag really worth?

What's a handbag worth? Well, depends how you measure it. When it's one of hundreds of vinyl replicas on sale in the shops it's worth thirty bucks. When former All Black captain Tana Umaga has used it to subdue team-mate Chris Masoe, it's clearly worth more than your average old bag -- in fact, as you've probably already heard, Sue Langmaid (that's her celebrating at right) has just paid Nicole Davies a cool $22,750 on behalf of a friend for the privilege of ownership, causing howls of outrage to erupt around Grey Lynn and the Aro Valley.

So what's a handbag worth, and how do you know? And why the outrage?

Some economists would say the handbag has an intrinsic value, and then hurry to find ways of measuring this value, most of which on close examination turn out to be quite subjective, and all of them requiring large payments to economists to assess.

Karl Marx (and most of the residents of Grey Lynn and the Aro Valley) would have assessed how much the handbag is worth by the amount of labour that went into making the bag, this was what Karl called the labour theory of value, and would then decry anything charged above that amount as exploitation -- but unless she's putting on a very brave face, buyer Sue seems about as far from being exploited as it's possible to be. Hence the outrage: Sue's friend is clearly a filthy capitalist herself, awash with cash from exploiting the workers and speding her ill-gotten gains on trivia.

Ludwig von Mises by contrast would have said that the handbag is worth exactly what someone wants to pay for it. What's it worth to me? Bugger all? What's it worth to Sue Langmaid's friend, who Rugby Heaven reports she bought it for? Clearly, to her friend, owning the bag is worth more than having the $22,750 he's paid for it, and worth more than having (for example) an otherwise highly desirable Hermes Birkin handbag now selling at eBay for $22,000. And to Nicole Davies, who just sold it, having $22,750 is obviously worth more than having the bag. So both Sue's friend and Nicole are now happy - they've both received a higher value to them -- and so are we because we now know what the bag is worth to Sue's friend.

The point is that no value can be assessed aside from its context. Things don't have any intrinsic worth -- their value comes from our own assessement of their value to us. Like everything else, this handbag, and the Hermes Birkin, is worth no more and no less than what someone wants to pay for it. And that's value, folks.

LINKS: The $22,000 Umaga handbag farce - NZ Herald
Handbag buyer would have paid more - Rugby Heaven
Subjective theory of value - Wikipedia

TAGS: Economics

Lindsay Perigo on Radio Live: Barking madness

This should have been Lindsay Perigo's editorial on Radio Live this afternoon,(or at least it would have been if they could have got the feed up):

There’s a lot of it about. Barking madness, I mean. Some of it’s good, most of it is innocently bonkers, some of it is quite intentionally evil.

Michael Cullen has certainly gone barking mad. Earlier this week the flaky Finance Minister went nuts at press gallery journalists for letting their own desire for tax cuts get in the way of their objectivity in reporting the issue. This after a catastrophic poll showing Labour trailing National by nine points, after omitting tax cuts from the latest budget, notwithstanding that they take $9 billion more of our money than they spend so lovingly on our welfare.

Now Mad Michael must surely know that it not only is it in fact the first recourse of a desperate politician to blame the media for his woes, but it’s also seen to be by voters, notwithstanding their quite extraordinary stupidity— so his impromptu tirade will send his fortunes plummeting further. But even crazier is his claim that journalists in general and those he singled out in particular, are in favour of tax cuts. At least three of those and 99% of all journalists are raving lefties who’d probably favour tax increases, especially for the evil rich.

The idea that the current Fourth Estate, and the supinely subservient press gallery in particular, are zealous protectors of our liberty and our money from the greedy intrusiveness of Big Government is ludicrous. Crazy Cullen was screaming at his own allies. Barking mad. Bad.

Of course, another early recourse of desperate politicians is to question the patriotism of their adversaries. National leader Don Brash, showing an unusual aptitude for a good one-liner, which we should probably attribute to his speechwriter, said that Labour does indeed believe there’s a place for tax cuts—it’s called Australia. That hurt. Helen Clark’s response? Don’s a traitor, who wants our kids to grow up cheering the Wallabies. Why doesn’t he go live across the ditch himself if he thinks it’s so great over there? she demanded. Potty, potty Prime Minister! Fact—Kiwis are heading for Australia in record numbers; 34,000 in the year ended March. Fact—they ‘re going because they can work hard over there and retain much more of their earnings in their own pockets. It’s not that Australia is some sort of Small Government El Dorado—it isn’t; it’s just that its government has less of a Soviet mindset than the one in Helengrad. Don Brash wants to stem the tide and see hard workers better rewarded in New Zealand. For that he’s unpatriotic? Potty, potty Prime Minister. Barking mad. Bad.

An example of barking mad, good, was the protest by hundreds of feisty farmers in the McKenzie country against the imminently compulsory micro-chipping of dogs, replete with their own dogs barking up a storm. The farmers are mad at the pointless cost and inconvenience of this idiotic procedure, as well they might be. Barking mad dogs will be no more controllable or trackable because of compulsory micro-chipping, whose only tangible result will be more money in the hands of politicians and bureaucrats. My question is, how long before the dinky dictators in the Beehive want to microchip us? The only humans who ought to be microchipped are politicians and bureaucrats themselves, and certain other types of criminal. Farmers seem to grasp this. Here’s hoping they’re as successful in their campaign against micro-chipping as they were against the stinky Fart Tax. Farmers. Barking mad, good.

Barking mad bad is par for the course in a country where funny Toyota ads get pulled, folk get fined for cutting down their own trees, bureaucrats tell you what colour you may paint your house, progress grinds to a halt because of taniwha, barking mad Muslims and Catholics unite in their efforts to end free speech, the Green Party elects a red co-leader, Rodney Hide doesn’t get eliminated immediately for his embarrassing jerking-off in Dancing with the Stars because the ACT Party are skewing the voting (notwithstanding the excellent observation of Paul Mercurio: “Krystal, you’re hot; Rodney, you’re not”) and so on … but we can take heart from the fact that it’s not just us—the whole world has gone barking mad.

Out of Seattle this week we learned that those in charge of public schools there regard individualism as a form of racism. Yes folks, you heard me right. Racism, according to Seattle Public Schools, includes “having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.” Now, I don’t think even Steve Maharey or Trevor Mallard have gone that barking mad, though the epidemic of so-called Attention Deficit Disorder among the young would suggest that our public schools are doing a great job of inoculating youngsters against a future time orientation. Happily this particular piece of barking madness has been rescinded after a public uproar. One Caprice D. Hollins (she’d have to be barking mad with a name like that), Director of Equity and Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools, has announced:
In response to the numerous concerns voiced regarding definitions posted on the Equity & Race website, we have decided to revise our website in a way that will hopefully provide more context to readers around the work that Seattle Public Schools is doing to address institutional racism. The intended purpose of our work in the area of race and social justice is to bring communities together through open dialogue and honest reflection around what is meant by racism and the impact is has on our society and more specifically, our students. …

Thank you for sharing your concerns. Warm regards, Caprice D. Hollins, Psy.D., 'Director of Equity & Race Relations'
Seattle Public Schools.
Unfortunately, that’s only a temporary tactical retreat. The world is run by the likes of Caprice D. Hollins.

I presume “Psy.D.” is some sort of psychology degree. Psychologists, of course, are all barking mad. They’re a mixture of lunacy and charlatanry. Here’s one, Marc Wilson, a lecturer in psychology in fact at Victoria University, quoted in the paper today, about what would motivate someone to pay $22,750 at auction for the handbag (pictured right) with which Tana Umaga subdued his rampaging colleague Chris Masoe:
By having the bag to hold and rub and take to bed with you, you are able to live some of that out.
Some of what out? Just what does Marc Wilson think the successful bidder wants to do with the bag? Remember, dear taxpaying listener, you and I are paying this witchdoctor to intone such hocus-pocus. Barking mad, bad.

Yes, there’s a lot of it about. Help me fight it. Raise your voice of sanity right here on Radio Live: 0800 723465

UPDATE 1: It looks as if the broadcast feed from Helengrad is off for the afternoon, so you''ll have to do without Perigo live on Radio Live, this week at least.

UPDATE 2: Revised and updated version of editorial posted.

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics, Nonsense, Education, Racism

Saturday, 3 June 2006

Cue Card Libertarianism: Power

There are two kinds of power that are too frequently confused: political power and economic power. Economic power comes from production and trade, "the ability to produce material values and to offer them for trade"; by contrast, and in Mao Tse-Tung’s memorable formulation, political power comes from the barrel of a gun.

The great danger in confusing the two is that too frequently political power is either put in the service of economic power, or it is set against it. In the libertarian view, it is essential that the two powers are separated totally and completely and constitutionally.

The separation of economy and state is as important as was the seperation of church and state, and for the self-same reasons: the abuse of political power without any effective separation of powers. Governments have a legal monopoly on the use of force – citizens have no choice but to submit to it. It makes no essential difference that they may have elected the government. Political power is coercive.

This is true, be it noted, even in a free society, where the initiation of force by citizens is illegal, but governments reserve the legal right to use force against those who initiate it. (That is the proper use of political power; it is much more commonly used improperly. See Government.)

Economic 'power,' by contrast, is wielded by producers of goods and services by virtue of the voluntary patronage of their customers – who are free to withdraw or relocate their patronage the moment they become dissatisfied. Economic power is non-coercive. As Harry Binswanger says so memorably, the symbol of political power is the gun. The symbol of economic power is the dollar.
The only power a business has to induce customers to give it money is the value of its products. If a business started to produce an inferior product, it would eventually lose its customers. By contrast, the only power that the government has to offer is a threat: "We'll dictate what businessmen can and cannot do—and businessmen better toe the line or we'll throw them in jail."
Blurring the distinction between the dollar and the gun is a favourite ploy of statists, who use this equivocation to justify the curbing of economic freedom through the extension of political controls. "There is no difference between being dictated to by a politician and by a businessman," fudges the statist, "so what harm is done by giving more to the politician and less to the businessman?" Answer – immeasurable.

MORE READING: Harry Binswanger, 'The Dollar and the Gun,'

Part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far is here. .

LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC .

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Economics

CO2: They call it pollution

If you want to see the global warming TV ads that I'm told got up John Campbell's nose the other night, then here they are: Energy, Glaciers and "a special web-only bonus on the occasion of the release of The Inconvenient Truth: Al Gore's Big Fat Carbon Footprint."

These are, say the producers, "television spots focusing on the alleged global warming crisis and the calls by some environmental groups and politicians for reduced energy use."

You can get them all in one place here, at the website of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

LINKS: We call it life - TV Ads by the Competitive Enterprise Institute

TAGS: Global Warming, Humour

How postmodermism gutted the left

Stephen Hicks points out a review of leftist radical Todd Gitlin’s "new book on how postmodernism gutted the Left." Gitlin's book bewails that as if it's a bad thing.
His new book, a collection of essays titled The Intellectuals and the Flag, hopes to inspire a "new start for intellectual life on the left" because "Marxism and postmodernism ... are exhausted."
That last point at least is indisputably true.
Gitlin [says the reviewer] is surefooted in identifying the problem. The left, he argues, took a wrong turn when it abandoned knowledge as its guiding light on the grounds that knowledge, as argued by theorists like Michael Foucault and Edward Said, was merely a masked form of power...
Hicks of course argues that the left had "already suffered a brain-stroke," which is why it had to turn to such nonsense, hence the thesis of his excellent Explaining Postmodernism --
"Thesis: The failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary." If you don't already have a copy of Hicks's book, already into its fifth printing, then now's the time.

LINKS: Post-Postmodernism - Fred Siegel, Blueprint magazine
Explaining Postmodermism - Stephen Hicks, Amazon

Postmodermism, Philosophy, Socialism, Objectivism

Friday, 2 June 2006

Beer O'Clock: Monk's Habit

Our guest columnist Stu from Real Beer assures me this is no Cock and Bull story. ...

It's about a beer that is quite probaby New Zealand's most awarded ale, and yet is still virtually unknown to the vast majority of New Zealand beer drinkers. It's Monk's Habit - a beer that even my fellow beer columnist Neil Miller (the hop head) and myself (the malt monster) can agree is great [see this review for explanation, Ed.].

Monk's Habit is a veritable feast for the senses and is certainly not for the faint-hearted (nor, sadly, thanks to Helen's excise tax, for those with shallow pockets). Pouring chestnut brown with a creamy light tan head, the nose is full of toffee, caramel, pine resins and woody spices. Sappy caramelised malt and more of those resinous hops are balanced wonderfully in the mouth, and the finish has that perfect brewers secret - just the right level of bitterness to have you begging for more (a dangerous quality at 7%). My tip: let it warm up, just a little, before drinking, and then savour every drop.

Judges are virtually unanimous - twice Supreme Champion Beer at the NZ Beer Awards, Best in Class at the last two Australian Beer Awards and a swag full of other gold medals from various beer awards. As to Ms Clark's thoughts: perhaps Luke Nicholas - the champion brewer of this and many other fine beers, regular blogger, and man behind RealBeer -- though not behind Helen -- will be able to fill us in on what she thought? Or perhaps readers might like to speculate below... ?

In any case, you can start your own habit on tap at any of the Cock and Bull pubs around Auckland and Hamilton, or at the Malthouse in Wellington. For those of you who don't have the luxury of living near one of these establishments, there is a secret stash of limited release bottles at the brewery (contact Steam Brewing and ask nicely - just tell them Stu sent you).

Slainte mhath Stu

LINKS: Steam Brewing, Monk's Habit, RealBeer


Super 14. Genius.

According to some bloggers who shall remain nameless, Super 14 rugby players aren't just great at make-up and accessorising, they're pretty sharp when it comes to quotable quotes as well. From this latest Super 14 season comes, allegedly, these gems:

"Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein." - Jono Gibbs - Chiefs

"I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes." - Rodney So'ialo - Hurricanes - on University

"You guys line up alphabetically by height." and "You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle." - Colin Cooper - Hurricanes coach

Chris Masoe (Hurricanes) on whether he had visited the Pyramids during his visit to Egypt: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."

"He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is." - Colin Cooper on Paul Tito

Kevin Senio (Auckland), on night vs day Games "It's basically the same, just darker."

David Nosafora (Auckland) talking about Troy Flavell "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'David, I don't know and I don't care.'

David Holwell (Hurricanes) when asked about the upcoming season: "I want to reach for 150 or 200 points this season, whichever comes first."

"Andy Ellis - the 21 year old, who turned 22 a few weeks ago" - Murray Mexted

"Colin has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator." - Ma'a Nonu

"He scored that try after only 22 seconds - totally against the run of play." - Murray Mexted

"We actually got the winning try three minutes from the end but then they scored." - Phil Waugh - Warratah

"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body." - Jerry Collins

"That kick was absolutely unique, except for the one before it which was identical." - Tony Brown

"I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." - Tana Umaga

"Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby - but none of them serious." - Doc Mayhew

"If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again." - Anton Oliver

"I would not say he [Rico Gear] is the best left winger in the Super 14, but there are none better." - Murray Mexted

"I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat." - Ewan McKenzie

Murray Deaker: "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?"
Tana Umaga: "On what?"

"Well, either side could win it, or it could be a draw." - Murray Mexted

"Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for
even longer." - Murray Mexted

I say "allegedly" because they really come from here. I expect he's ridden a camel or two in his time but, just ask yourself, when was Chris Masoe last in Egypt?

TAGS: Humour, Sport

Hushed expectation around the office...

Here's what's getting us excited around the office at the moment -- apart from our exciting projects of course: Graphisoft has just released ArchiCAD 10 (left), and it's due at our office (right) any day now!

What started in 1984 when Hungarian physicist Gabor Bajor smuggled two Macs into his country to start writing a 3d architectural programme -- this was at a time and a place when even owning a computer was illegal -- is with each year getting better and better.

I can't wait to get my hands on this release.

TAGS: Architecture

It's blogger vs journo on global warming

The waves made by Sceptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg are still being felt. As we speak, a global warming-fuelled blogobrawl is erupting between Brit journo Johann Hari, who's taken a tilt at Lomborg, and blogger Scott Burgess, who's taken up the cudgels on behalf of the sceptics.

Good reading. I recommend starting from the end and working back.

LINKS: Sceptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg - Official website
My response to Johann Hari - The Daily Ablution (Scott Burgess)

TAGS: Global_Warming

Cullen's a grumpy little thief this week

A few of you have sent me the latest evidence that the megalomania of Lord Cullen of Michael is beginning to bite. In short, he's lost it, he's nasty, and -- even better -- you can see the evidence for yourself right here in a TV interview on tax cuts. [Click the link and go to 'Cullen attacks press over tax cuts']

Where does the desire for tax cuts come from according to Michael? Why, it's a "personal issue, that is driven by the press gallery" who just want a raise. What about the survey showing the majority of New Zealanders want tax cuts? "It's biased too," says Michael, who's beginning to resemble nothing so much as a child having a tantrum because he wants to keep all the cake for himself.

As one friend said who sent me the link, "See it now before TV1 get a ring from the Politburo."

UPDATE: Another friend made a useful comment. When people in the real world make mistakes or find their whole approach to something not working, they re-evaluate what they're doing. Not politicians. When a politican finds they've stuffed up, when for instance they read studies on illiteracy that show their policies aren't working, or they view surveys showing people are slowly but surely realising they're being stolen from and want some of it back, then what a politician does is spin. And shout. And start to lose the head. Which might be a sign that it's time for them to try the real world again.

LINKS: Cullen attacks press over tax cuts - TVNZ

Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-Labour, Politics-NZ

Queenstown House - Michael Wyatt, Architect

A surprise from this month's Trends magazine: a contemporary NZ house that holds up to its spectacular setting. The website has plenty of photos so you can 'walk through' the house, but sadly no floor plans.

LINKS: Under the mountain - Trends

TAGS: Architecture, New_Zealand

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Newsworthy indeed: Good Sense on bad planning

Sometimes people surprise you, but I was entirely unprepared to be surprised by Richard Worth, MP. He has this comment in the latest weekly missive:

A tale of two cities

There has been a fierce internet debate on urban sprawl versus the determination of the Auckland Regional Council to fix urban limits to growth.

Along comes an interesting speech by Bob Day of the Housing Institute of Australia, comparing Sydney where the medium house price is just over A$500,000 and Houston Texas, where the medium house price is a mere A$140,000.

In affordability terms that is an extraordinary difference and why might it be. Well Houston has no zoning.

Day cites the situation in Australian cities

"We have the ludicrous situation in Australian cities where urban growth boundaries cause land on one side of the boundary - residentially zoned land to sell at $100 a square metre while land outside the boundary zoned agricultural thereby prohibiting residential development, sells for $10 a square metre.

These absurd zoning practices drive land prices through the roof and worst of all, lock low and middle income earners out of the home ownership market."

There are three primary reasons for my astonishment: first that Worth has the common sense to recognise Day's points; second, that he's been following the "internet debate on urban sprawl versus the determination of the Auckland Regional Council to fix urban limits to growth"; and third ... well, have another look at that jpeg of RMA villains I posted yesterday. I put it together a couple of years ago after a certain party leader told me just who needed to be persuaded for real RMA reform to happen from that direction...

So this is promising.

LINKS: News Worthy, #74 - Richard Worth, Scoop
Not PC's Urban Design Archive

TAGS: Urban_Design, Auckland, RMA,

Today is Tax Freedom Day

Yes, that's right. After working for the grey ones for nearly half the year, you now get to go out to work for yourself and your family. According to some of you "that's the price of civilisation." According to Not PC that's obscene.

Staples Rodway -- who should be formally excluded from the slight on accountants in the post below --have the figures and all the charts. It's not pretty. [Hat tip DPF]

LINKS: June 1st is Tax Freedom - New Zealanders work nearly half the year to pay tax - Staples Rodway
Today is Tax Freedom Day - Kiwiblog (DPF)

TAGS: Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-NZ

Cue Card Libertarianism - Unemployment

Unemployment: [n.] That of which there is not nearly enough. Politicians, bureaucrats, and the excess of lawyers and accountants they make necessary should be added to the ranks of the unemployed forthwith.

Were that to happen, with the reduction in taxes and regulations and the concomitant leap in prductivity such a joyous event would presuppose, the number of real jobs that would become available would rise even more impressively than it is already thought to be. Too often in present-day New Zealand, the productive are to be found cap in hand asking permission from the unproductive in order to produce. For the good of all of us, the unproductive have to be put in their place and the productive left free to produce.

The 'full employment' supposedly enjoyed by New Zealand prior to the eighties was an illusion, just as it is now. Armies of people were then 'employed' but were not working, as evidenced by the dramatic improvements in productivity which followed the shedding of tens of thousands of jobs in newly corporatised and privatised industries. The irony today is that thousands more are now working, but are not just unproductive -- there too many thousands working far too often on putting hurdles in the path of those who are productive, or who would be if they were not so shackled.

We might perhaps have been better with featherbeds than with petty fascists, but the fact is we would be better with neither. Real jobs create wealth, they don't seek to shackle those who are creating wealth.

NZ is is still awash in bureaucracy, and in the state worship that fuels the affliction. The quantum leaps in unemployment that began during the Muldoon administration were the inevitable result of decades of living in a Fools’ Paradise to which the Greens et al would bid us return. And the recent year-on-year quantum leaps in the infestation of bureaucrats over the are the inevitable result of not having abandoned the state worship that still afflicts New Zealanders.

If there was a revolution in the eighties, then it certainly hasn't been inside New Zealanders' heads. The state worship imbibed by many with their mothers' milk is still with us, and still weighs us down.

The surest and quickest way to end the periodic crises of unemployment permanently is, as always, to walk the path of freedom. To get the unproductive permanently the hell out of the way of the productive, and let laissez-faire rip. To let the law of supply and demand determine the real price of labour – minimum wage laws should be scrapped and the Employment Court should stop making it impossible for employers to fire anyone (which deters them from hiring in the first place). A time limit should be placed on the dole (“Its chief effect is to turn the unemployed into the unemployable” – Dean Inge) and Company Tax first cut to the bone and then scrapped.

Employers should not be made financially liable for their employees’ pregnancies, their hobbies, their after-hours accidents, weddings, funerals, etc, unless they voluntarily take on such responsibilities. The state’s role should be confined only to providing the machinery for parties who wish to prosecute for breaches of freely negotiated contracts. The underlying principle here is: what’s good for freedom is good for business; what’s good for business is good for jobs.

Part of a continuing series explaining the concepts and terms used by libertarians. Originally published in The Free Radical. The 'Introduction' to the series is here. The series so far is here.
LINKS: Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC
TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Libertarianism, Politics, Politics-NZ, Economics

Still questions about Timor intervention

A week or so ago I suggested that with 160 NZ soldiers (and counting) now in East Timor for at least a year, it's surprising that there's been so little debate. Have I missed it somewhere? I invited debate here at Not PC, but it was muted, though intelligent, unlike the comments my invitation attracted elsewhere from bloggers who apparently can't read.

When troops are sent overseas into battle, most Parliaments and most people debate the intervention. Not here. I find that odd. It's essential to know what your goal is with any military intervention, and it's essential there's widespread public support for an intervention - if for no other reason than that support beeing needed if things do go pear-shaped. A debate would at least crystallise what's going on and why we're there, wouldn't it? Or should we just trust Helen and Phil now? Anyway, in response to my questions, Phil Howison responded [italics mine]:
If the intervention is well-led, it will probably be successful, at least in the short term. The gangs, rebels and factions are completely outgunned. It seems like the Aussies have allied themselves loosely with the ex-guerrillas - a smart move. After all, they defeated the Indonesians in guerrilla warfare, they could certainly force an Australian withdrawal if they saw it as opposed to their own interests (I certainly can't see the Aussies staying for 24 years, like the Indonesians).

As for the strategic rationale, this is definitely in Australia's interest, and New Zealand should contribute both to give more regional legitimacy and to support an ally. Operations like this pose little risk and offer troops a chance to put their training into practice.

Australia is currently surrounded by weak and failing states to the north and east. A full collapse of any of those countries poses risks for Australia including disease, refugees, arms trafficking, smuggling etc. One major threat to Australia is terrorism. Weak states north of Australia - Indonesia, the Philippines etc - are home to Islamic terrorist groups like JI and Abu Sayyaf. They haven't attacked Australia yet, but failed states close by could offer secure locations for training camps and staging grounds unless Australia intervenes. This would particularly be the case if those Islamic groups (or radicalised elements within the Indonesian military) launched a jihad against East Timor and the Australians based there.
Good points. The threat of failed states is a real one, which makes taking an interest in preventing failed South Pacific states is in our selfish interests, which is of crucial importance, but the items I italicised still worry me. Is there really so little risk? And as you say, the intervention is likely to be successful in the short term (we trust), but what about the longer term? Is there sufficient support for a longer haul there that starts to get messy? Mark responded to my question as to whom the beneficiaries of the intervention might be:
The beneficiaries will be the people of East Timor. Yes, the NZ taxpayer foots the bill, but we have an obligation to help out in our region. The troops will bring peace and stability, and save lives.
Well, let's hope so. But Trevor at New Zeal has a series of posts that might cast a less attractive light on who the political beneficiaries might be. Is Xanana Gusmao really such an unalloyed good thing as he's being said to be? And Helen Hill in The Age wonders why now-sacked PM Mari Alkatiri is being so demonised -- but then she's a sociologist, so we know she can't be taken seriously. Trevor has information about him too that sounds less savoury. The pertinent question is, do we really know enough about either man or about the so-called rebels to know who is worth defending and which side to take, which is a question we are ineluctably going to have to answer - if not in Wellington and Canberra but of necessity on the ground in Dilli. Beyond "peace and stability," who exactly are our troops fighting for, and against whom exactly? And let's not even mention Helen's UN ambitions -- unless of course they're relevant?

There's been little debate here in NZ. Paul Buchanan however asks some good questions, first about whether recent South Pacific crises might have highlighted a failure of intelligence:
Political instability and collective violence in Fiji, the Solomons and East Timor in recent months raises questions about New Zealand’s intelligence and security capabilities in its primary area of geostrategic concern, the southwestern Pacific Rim.
Given the surprise with which each crisis was greeted, that seems the case doesn't it. He continues with some concern about the vagueness to date of the precise mission on which NZ's troops are engaged:
Then there is a more fundamental issue. What exactly is the mission being undertaken? Geostrategic perspectives determine mission definition. Mission definition determines force composition, and force composition determines tactical orientation and deployment. The entire syllogism ideally determines weapons system acquisition and professional training, which are the ultimate determinants of mission accomplishment.

What then, is New Zealand’s security mission in the Solomons and Timor Leste? Originally defined as defending the East Timorese from Indonesian-backed militias and military aggression during the period surrounding national independence in 1999 and operating under UN mandates, the mission has evolved into something else. But what exactly is it? Peacekeeping? Nation-building? Embassy protection? Policing? Establishing Law and Order (if not the Rule of Law)? Showing the Flag? Humanitarian assistance? Support for the UN? Support for the (widely despised) Timorese and Solomon Island governments?

The reason mission definition matters is that without clear and concise grounds and guidelines governing the rules of engagement in conflict zones, these military expeditions run the risk of suffering mission creep: the re-definition of the objectives and rules of engagement over time due to changing circumstances in-theater. When that happens, as in the case of US military interventions in places as disparate as Vietnam, Somalia and Iraq, the threat of being bogged down in an irresolvable political-ethic quagmire looms large. This means a potential waste of resources and possible weakening of New Zealand’s security position there and elsewhere, as well as potentially compromising its economic and diplomatic interests in the region.

More importantly, mission creep is most often a product of inadequate strategic planning resulting from faulty intelligence, lack of foresightedness and logistical incapacity. This scenario courts disaster, as mistakes in the field of international security assistance are measured in blood—in this case potentially that of Kiwis as well as those they seek to dissuade or protect.

Hard questions need to be asked of New Zealand’s national security leadership regarding these matters.
I agree. As Greg Sheridan warns in The Australian,"it is time to speak bluntly." I agree with him at least on that.
The situation in East Timor is much worse than even most analysts and commentators realise. The savage killings and lawlessness of the past few days, the fighting between soldiers and police, and between soldiers and soldiers, and police and police, represent a catastrophic failure of the East Timorese Government...

This crisis reveals dreadful underlying problems in East Timor that cannot be solved quickly but that must be addressed...
So are our own troops up to that job? Are they well-enough equipped? Should they be there? What precisely is their mission? Was there an 'intel failure' in our security services -- or only in our own civilian radar screens? What intellectual horsepower (if any) is there for 'nation building'? Is that what we're doing there? Why is there seemingly so little debate about all this? Without direction, any involvement will be flawed. And without a decent debate, will there be enough support when (or if) things start to go pear-shaped.

I for one think these are reasonable questions to ask.

LINKS: East Timor: Why? How many? And for how long? - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Stand up the real Mr Alkatari - Helen Hill, The Age
NZ Intel failure evident in Timor Leste crisis - Paul Buchanan, Scoop
Dig in to save Timor - Greg Sheridan, The Australian

TAGS: War, Politics-NZ, Politics-Australian, Politics-World, Timor

'From dark to light' - A mini-tutorial from Michael Newberry

See in this mini-tutorial how artist Newberry goes step-by-step through one session with his model, sketching with pastel on dark paper.

Says Michael,
I love working pastel on dark paper for one important reason: the pastel being lighter than the paper directly creates a pure colored light... The idea is to gradually add light and color one tone at a time starting with those dark tones just one step lighter than the paper.
Read the whole mini-tut here, and get a feeling for how an artist approaches producing something like this in just one sitting.

LINK: Mini-tutorial:Pastel on dark paper - just add light - Newberry Workshop


Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Student philosophical 'research'

Stephen Hicks has a compilation of some recent philosophical 'research' that's passed across his desk from his students. Clearly, some haven't been listening too well in class ...
Is philosophy a waist of time? Ethical debates have been around for a long time, but nobody seems to have any answers. Ethnics are very important... For the world to be good means having strong Altruistic people to help the society survive in this doggy dog world.

The existence of God is questionable since evil does have some good points to make. John Hick rebukes the concept that God would not allow suffering if he existed in the third paragraph of his essay. Because of evil there is said to be another force in the universe, a dark force. His name is Satin.

According to Freud, the child has lust during the breast-feeding stage. Eventually his mother stops, and his lust is suppressed until his adultery stage.

In feudal times, jobs were passed on from fathers to sons. For example, if your father was a priest, you would probably become a priest too.
Read on here for more 'insights.'

TAGS: Philosophy, Humour

Celebrate Smokefree Day with a cigar

Today has been mandated as World SmokeFree Day by a bureaucrat somewhere. Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor rejoices, saying as a country we are doing well to make as many places as possible smokefree.

Isn't that irony. The only time you hear the word 'free' these days its associated with a ban.

Here's what I'll be doing later to celebrate SmokeFree Day: I'll be smoking the biggest, dirtiest, smelliest cigar I can get hold of. I'll smoke it on principle, and I'll damn well enjoy it.

Won't you join me!

UPDATE: Here's someone (left) gettin' wit' da program in the correct manner. Onya, Jean.

TAGS: Political_Correctness, Beer&Elsewhere

Q: Do you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property?

I'm going to answer that question in the title above by linking to an earlier piece on neighbourly relations, and I need to answer it because of misunderstandings like this from people who should know better:
I don't subscribe to the notion that you have an inviolable right to do whatever you want on your property. I'm comfortable with not being able to build a 100 foot high fence as it may block your neighbour's views...
The 'notion' being argued against in that extract is a straw man. The notion being suggested, by me at least, is something quite different.

But first, an introduction: let me tell you about something called 'freedom.' Freedom in this context means to be free from physical coercion; in other words, having political freedom means that you're free to do whatever you're able and whatever you damn well please as long as you don't initiate force against anyone else. My freedom ends, in other words, where your nose begins. In this respect you might call your neighbour's nose your 'side-constraint,' just as his nose is yours -- which meams some of us do get more freedom than others.

Now, under common law, which is what I would propose to repair to once the RMA is abolished, you have the secure right to peaceful enjoyment of your property. And as both you and your neighbour would enjoy that same right, his right of peaceful enjoyment is your side-constraint. Your freedom ends where your neighbour's peaceful enjoyment begins. The 'side contraints' for land use under common law require you to take account of, among other things, your neighbour's rights to light, to air, to support, and to road access and the like. These are significant side constraints, but they are both objective and reciprocal -- your neighbour is equally constrained to recognise your similar rights.

So how are neighbourly issues resolved under common law? How for instance might I ensure my view or a neighbour's tree was retained? Voluntarily, as I explained here.
Voluntary agreements and the use of easements and covenants is the key. If, for example, I want to protect my existing view over your land, then I can negotiate with you to buy an easement over it for that purpose, and that easement would be registered on the title, and legally protected. It might be that my neighbour doesn't want money; it might be that he values very highly the stand of trees on my property. How highly? Highly enough perhaps to ask for a restrictive covenant over those trees to be registered on my title, in his favour. We shake hands. We have agreement.

We each have want we want, we each have security over what we want, trees and view are both protected, and not a bureaucrat or resource consent was needed to do it--just common sense, the tools of common law, and respect for each other's property rights. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it.
And no room for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world -- or, at least, no house room for them.

LINKS: Tree chopping - Kiwiblog (DPF)
The 'right' to a view - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Freedom - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Cue Card Libertarianism - Common Law - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

TAGS: Common_Law Conservation Environment Property_Rights RMA

Where does their power come from?

I know some of you are unclear where the power comes from for the Jackie Wilkinsons of this world to tell you what you can and can't do on your own land, so perhaps I can help clear it up.

First of all, it come from the local District Plan. Like arseholes, every council planner's got one. Here's the one that Auckland's planners use. That's an awful lot of rules. Here's the rules dealing with trees, and other stuff council planners think you should like.

I can sympathise with you hating the District Plan and trying to 'fix it.' But that takes time. The real power comes from the Resource Management Act (RMA)-- that piece of excement that former Environment Minister Nick Smith calls "far-sighted environmental legislation." The RMA required councils to write District Plans telling you what you can and can't do on your own land. In fact, it's quite explicit:
9. Restrictions on use of land—
(1)No person may use any land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a district plan or proposed district plan unless the activity is—
(a)Expressly allowed by a resource consent granted by the territorial authority responsible for the plan; or
(b)An existing use allowed by [section 10 or section 10A].
(Just for reference, the "existing uses" allowed by section 10 are now severely limited.) Let me repeat the important phrase from the RMA's Section Nine: "No person may use any land in a manner that contravenes a rule in a district plan..." In other words, you may only do on your land what you are allowed to by the council. (This is an example what RMA author Geoffrey Palmer called "permissive legislation.") By contrast, under the Local Government Act, councils may do whatever they wish unless the Act denies them. Kind of neat, huh?

"But they can't do that!" you might say. "They can't have carte blanche can they, while making me ask permission for absolutely anything, can they?" Well, yes they can. And they have. And they do. Yes, there is a word for this kind of political system (it starts with 'F'), and they do make you ask permission, and they frequently deny it. People have been denied permission to do things as simple as mowing their lawns because it would "disturb local wildlife"; to cut down trees, to plant trees, to build driveways, to put up fences, to take down fences -- the list goes on, let alone the number of people denied permission to build, to renovate, and to improve their own properties. There are people around the country who own gorgeous beachfront properties on which they're not allowed to build -- and there are people like Jackie Wilkinson and Sandra Coney who have made it their job to ensure they won't.

And don't forget the RMA has a draconian penalty regime attached if you do what those in charge of your property haven't previously allow you to, and people have ended up in front of local goon squads to be pilloried -- George Bernard Shaw, for example, in Onehunga recently -- and they've also ended up in jail -- Andrew Borrett, for example, who was jailed for cutting down his own trees to get a driveway to his house.

"When the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce," said author Ayn Rand, "then you may know that your society is doomed." Well, we're there. Under the RMA, you must ask permission from poeple like Jackie Wilkinson so you can "use" your own land -- and "use" under the RMA has a very particular meaning: Almost everything. I quote again from Section Nine, 'Restrictions on Use of Land,' "the word 'use' in relation to any land means:
9. 4(a)Any use, erection, reconstruction, placement, alteration, extension, removal, or demolition of any structure or part of any structure in, on, under, or over the land; or (b)Any excavation, drilling, tunnelling, or other disturbance of the land; or (c)Any destruction of, damage to, or disturbance of, the habitats of plants or animals in, on, or under the land; or (d)Any deposit of any substance in, on, or under the land; or [(da)Any entry on to, or passing across, the surface of water in any lake or river; or] (e)Any other use of land— and ``may use'' has a corresponding meaning.
Happy now? Can you see now that the cartoon in the post below isn't funny, it's tragic. The enemy to attack is the RMA. That's where it all starts. If you object to all this, it's the RMA that has to go. As someone once said, a Ministry for the Environment is a ministry for everything. A law that seeks to control the environment with the means adopted by the RMA means laws for everything. This is eco-fascism pure and simple. Offend the prevailing state religion, and expect to be done over for your crime.

And who brought it in? Who's responsible for this blot on our freedom and property rights? Have a closer look at the picture above. Print it out a PDF and pin it on your wall, and throw a dart at it every time you hear another story like that of Alice Presley's -- and then email each of the people on it and tell them the RMA has to go.

I've said it before: It's time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA. It's time to abolish it. Time to replace it with the simple common law protections of property rights and environment that once existed, and can be given power once again.

UPDATE: A correspondent reminded me that when Nick Smith updated the RMA's penalty regime some years back by bringing in instant fines, court-imposed fines of up to $200,000 and up to $10,000 a day, and up to two years in jail for not doing as you're told, Nick ("this is far-sighted environmental legislation") Smith declared that for the Jackie Wilkinsons of the world to properly get their way "all we need to do is 'ping' one or two people. Then everyone will get the message." What a creep. This is the character you National Party supporters expect to 'amend' the RMA if they ever get near power.

LINKS: Section 9: Restrictions on use of land - RMA
Section 5C: Auckland City District Plan
'No' to more council powers - Libertarianz, Scoop (August, 2001)
RMA villains - PDF
Submission on the McShane Report on the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Libertarianz (1998)
It's time to put a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical [4-page PDF, 2005]

Auckland RMA Common Law Cartoons, Property_Rights Urban_Design Environment New_Zealand Politics-NZ