Saturday, July 01, 2006

INTERVIEW: Islam: Religion of peace?

Here's some intelligent weekend listening for you. Listen, download, or podcast the latest PRODOS Worldwide interview from the SOLID VOX (tm) Network:
ISLAM: THE RELIGION OF PEACE. OR NOT?

An interview with SORGE DIAZ of www.WesternResistance.com

Islam is often presented as "The Religion of Peace."

If it really is that, why do terrorist groups (eg. Hamas), theocrats (eg. Ahmadenijad), Muslim scholars (both currently and over the centuries) quote The Koran and the Hadith to justify their very NON peaceful and intolerant positions?

Do all the above represent, a distortion of a "proud religion" as President George W Bush has stated? Or are they a correct application of The Koran and Hadith?

SORGE DIAZ, the creator of the WesternResistance.com blog argues that Islam is, at its very core a dangerous Religion of Violence.

That Mohammed's life exemplified the repression and murder of non-believers. That Islam utterly rejects any separation of Mosque and State. That what is meant by "Peace" in Islam is not liberty, but submission to coercive Islamic rule.

An interesting issue that comes up during this interview is the significance of the Iranian President's letter to President George W Bush in which he invites the US President to convert to Islam. This is the protocol established by Mohammad to issue a Declaration of War.
LINK: Islam: The religion of peace. Or not? - Prodos Worldwide

TAGS: Religion, War, Objectivism, Philosophy

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Markets don't fail, economists do -- just as Plato did

The debate about market failure (below) has beome a philosophical one, although its protagonists may not see it that way. One commenter avers that 'market failure' isn't an anti-concept at all, instead it's an 'ideal' by which economists measure actual markets. Just like "perfectly competitive markets" which he says, "are just a benchmark model that one shouldn't expect to hold in the real world."

An interesting point, but a destructive one -- just like the philosophy from which his contention springs (on that, more a little later). Like the concept of 'market failure,' which has no referents in reality but which is supposed nonetheless to perform a sort of heuristic function, neither does the doctrine of 'perfectly competitive markets' have any refererents in reality. None at all. Explains George Reisman:
No one has ever defined “pure and perfect competition”—the procedure is merely to present a list of conditions which it requires...

To summarize these conditions: uniform products offered by all the sellers in the same industry, perfect knowledge, quantitative insignificance of each seller, no fear of retaliation by competitors in response to one’s actions, constant changes in price, and perfect ease of investment and disinvestment...
Perfect competition, thus defined, probably does not exist, never has existed, and never can exist. . . . Actual competition always departs, to a greater or lesser degree, from the ideal of perfection. Perfect competition is thus a mere concept, a standard by which to measure the varying degrees of imperfection that characterize the actual markets in which goods are bought and sold.
So neither concept actually exists -- neither 'market failure' nor 'perfectly competitive markets' -- yet both concepts are used to damn real markets by those who quite naturally do look for real referents for such terms. That's why they're anti-concepts: their use serves to destroy real concepts which (like all real concepts) do have real referents. As George Reisman expains,
The doctrine of “pure and perfect competition” marks the almost total severance of economic thought from reality. It is the dead end of the attempt to defend capitalism on a collectivist base.
And so it is. It is also fuel for those who seek to shackle and to damn markets. The non-existence of 'market failure' and 'perfectly competitive markets,' which don't exist in the real world, are the anti-matter to real markets and to real businessmen who do.

If markets don't work in the ideal manner prescribed in their heuristic manner by this collectivist variety of economist, then so much the worse for markets say the regulators, who haven't hesitated to regulate, to shackle and to jail businessmen (who resolutely refuse to fit the economists' models and just keep on producing in the real world instead); and who continue to espouse the need for ongoing regulation in order to make the 'imperfect' markets fit the ideal dreamed up for them by ivory tower economists and utopian collectivists.

The doctrine of pure and perfect competion is called by George Reisman "platonic competition," since these destructive 'ideals' are a pure and perfect example of the Platonic "ideal of perfection" which draws from non-existence to serve as the "standard" for judging existence.

Reisman's two-part article on the subject make 'perfect' and very timely reading, and it does help to prove the contention that those who disregard philsophy are destined to be frequently bitten by it.

LINK: Platonic competition, Part I - George Reisman's blog
Platonic Competition, Part II - George Reisman's blog

TAGS: Economics, Philosophy, Objectivism

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Hirsi Ali rejection topples Dutch Government

NEW YORK TIMES: Dispute Over Minister Topples Dutch Government NIJMEGEN, the Netherlands, June 29 — The center-right government collapsed Thursday after one of its coalition partners failed to force the country's controversial immigration minister to resign over her handling of a prominent critic of fundamentalist Islam. The three-party coalition government came undone after six weeks of political infighting over the way the minister, Rita Verdonk, treated Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant and a member of Parliament who is widely known for her outspoken stance against certain Islamic practices. The smallest party in the governing coalition party said that if Ms. Verdonk, who oversees the country's strict immigration regulations, would not quit, the party would. Late Thursday evening, the party, D66, carried through on its threats and dropped out of the government.

Good. Bloody. Job. (Detailed story here.)
Click here to read more ... >>

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Beer O'Clock: Hofbrau Munchen 'Maibock'

Beer O'Clock comes to you once again courtesy of the fine chaps at Real Beer -- who I'm happy to say are now running boutique beer tours around Wellington. Just the job for an involuntary long weekend. This week, Stu steps up to the bar:

The World Cup has had me, like many others, thinking a bit about Germany.

Germans are up there with the biggest drinkers in the world; take from that whatever you will but they certainly have a fantastic choice of beer to drink. Rather than drink the same old red can of bland alcopop all year, Germans seem to have a beautiful and quite distinct beer for all the different seasons (though, ironically, the have the ghastly Budweiser for their World Cup).

In late winter and early spring they release their bock beers: strong malty, and usually dark coloured, nutritional lagers that have been brewed and lagered through the winter. By the time they've been drinking these bocks for a month or so they feel like something different and so they roll out the paler, and more assertively hopped maibock.

I'd seen Hofbrau Munchen range around the supermarket shelves for a couple of months but thought it was probably a bland tasting over-marketed lager (possibly even equine filtered, like many of the beers in supermarkets seem to be). When my less cynical half brought the Maibock home I got an extremely pleasant surprise.

Pouring a vibrant copper and lightly carbonated, this bock has a mild nose of pale and lightly toasted malts with a subtle spicy hop presence (lager yeasts, for those who don't know, are usually supposed to showcase the beers ingredients rather than themselves). Mostly sweet in the mouth but with a lovely balance brought about by the light bitterness of continental hops and dry nature of the toasty malt.

On tap at The Malthouse the Maibock is even better: the stylish earthenware stein (sadly, without the traditional German barmaid) reveals a far fresher, big biscuity malt aroma. You may well find it unusual but it is certainly most delicious, and far too easy to drink for it's hefty 7.2%.

Put on your best pair of lederhosen and get on down to The Malthouse now. Otherwise pick some up at your local New World or good bottle store and drink it in the safety of your own home (where you can wear whatever you like).

LINKS: German beer styles
Reinheitsgebot
Boutique beer tasting tour -
Wild about Wellington

TAGS: Beer_&_Elsewhere, Wellington

'We' didn't do it

Here's one reason I haven't mentioned the Kahui twins. Marc Alexander gives a convenient example of the point:
We know the story. Only the names and superficial details have changed. Lillybing. James Whakaruru. There are too many. These are names that should shame us. Shame us into action. Shame us into weeping. And now we have the Kahui twins.
Do you see it? Can you spot it: What's with the 'we' white man? Why should I be shamed? I didn't do it. I didn't kill them. Did you? Did Marc? Of course not. Any action provoked by such a poorly conceived starting point is going to do less good than its promoters might like, and will probably only do more harm.

Who is responsible is not you or me. It's the person or person who did kill them. That's who's responsible. Not society; not 'we'; not 'us': just the murderer(s). These aren't 'our' kids; they were the Kahuis, and that's who's responsible -- no one else. Just them, or the people that the law finds responsible.

Helengrad, 1688.

A bit of history this morning just to remind you what the 1688 Bill of Rights is all about. Article IV of the Bill is one of the crucial legs that Bernard Darnton is relying on in his suit of Helen Clark.

One of the great, and perhaps most often overlooked, documents in political history is the 1688 Bill of Rights. It followed the all too frequently forgotten Glorious Revolution of 1688 -- when English nobles effected a peaceful revolution to eject a King who had forgotten that he ruled only through the consent of the governed -- and it followed a revolution in political thought that was intended to put the citizens in the saddle instead of the monarchs, who tended too often to ride their citizenry with whip and spurs. The revolution in thought was summed up by Thomas Jefferson:
All eyes are opened or opening to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred ready to ride them legitimately by the grace of God.
The Bill of Rights ranks up there with the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution as one of the four foremost documents in the history of liberty, and all four derive from that same political tradition. The Glorious Revolution and the passing of the 1688 Bill of Rights (sometimes called the 1689 Bill of Rights for obscure reasons I won't bother you with) were the first events to give voice to the ideas of John Locke, so well developed in his Two Treatises of Government and developed further a century later in the American Revolution and those two historical US documents that sprang from it.

The Glorious Revolution of 1688 gave effect to Locke's argument that a ruler or a government has power only by the consent of the governed, and, when a government or ruler is in revolt against a people, then the people have the right to overthrow the ruler. That argument was put into effect in England that year to eject the absolutist King James, and put in place the constitutionally limited William of Orange.

The constitutional limits were put in place by that Bill of Rights. The idea was that it was the ruler's job to protect the legimate rights of the citizens: the Bill of Rights was intended to chain him up to do that and no more. The result was a Constitutional Monarchy, somewhat imperfect it's true, but the protections of the Bill do still remain in law -- as Helen Clark is now learning.

The Bill is simple, and clear, and terse -- so unlike modern legislation in that regard as well. You can read the whole thing here in just ten minutes. Ten minutes to read; but a mountain of thought to understand its subtleties.

LINKS: Darnton Vs Clark
1688 Bill of Rights

TAGS:
History, Politics, Libertarianism, Darnton Vs Clark

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Not 'market failure': government failure

'Market failure' is an anti-concept designed to allow government intrusion into places they have no right be. Glenn Woiceshyn takes the anti-concept to task:
[T]here is no such thing as “market failure.” Like the unicorn, it doesn’t exist.

To say that something failed means it did not meet a standard that it was designed to or capable of meeting. For example: “a valve failed to open” or “a student failed a math test.” The free market refers to a group of people involved in the voluntary exchange of goods and services. It presupposes that each individual participates to pursue his or her rational self-interest and that a government exists to protect individual rights, including property rights. It’s based on the recognition that everyone can benefit from division of labor and free trade.

A free market doesn’t guarantee that an individual will act in rational self-interest—errors are possible—only that he or she is free to do so. If a person fails to act as such, then it’s the person’s failure, not “market failure.”

. . . if the activities of some people harm others, such as harmfully pollute their water or air, and if the harm can be objectively proven (a concept foreign to environmentalists), then it’s the government’s failure to protect individual rights—not “market failure.” And a tax on emissions is not a valid solution, because it implies that it’s okay to violate rights as long as you pay government for the privilege.
Market failure? As Woiceshyn concludes, "anyone who makes the charge of 'market failure,' should be charged with 'intellectual failure'."

LINKS: 'Market failure' doesn't exist - Capitalism Magazine

TAGS: Economics, Nonsense

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Contributing to Bernard Darnton v. Helen Clark

I've been getting emails all morning asking me how people can contribute to Bernard Darnton's fighting fund to take Helen Clark to court. And I'm happy to tell you that it couldn't be easier to donate: If you just go to the website set up for the case, you can make a PayPal payment to help out.

If you do want to see Helen Clark in court, then ask yourself how much that is worth to you. And do remember, good lawyers aren't cheap.

LINK: Darnton Vs Clark - The Government is Above the Law - Make a Donation

TAGS: Libz, Darnton_V_Clark

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Goverment is not above the law

Yes, Labour stole the election -- knowingly over-spending the legal limit by nearly half-a-million dollars, after being told by the electoral commission that their 'pledge cards,' the reason for the over-spend, would be included in their election spending.

They didn't care. They went ahead anyway, funding the pledge cards with your money. They bought the election with money they weren't allowed to spend. Not for the first time, they thought they were above the law.

They're not. And now, something is being done about it.

Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton has filed suit in the High Court:

The lawsuit claims that the use of the parliamentary leader's fund to pay for the pledge card and brochure breached the Constitution Act 1986, the Public Finance Act 1989, and the Bill of Rights 1688. Darnton is calling for the High Court to make a declaration that this expenditure was illegal.

“Helen Clark is not above the law,” Darnton said. “This time she's not going to get away with it.”

“The rules on Crown spending are very clear. All Crown spending must be authorised by Parliament. Each year Parliament must pass an Appropriations Act that details how much the Crown may spend and what it may spend it on. The money spent on the pledge cards was appropriated for the running of the leader's office. This rules for this money explicitly exclude “party political, promotional or electioneering material”. It was not appropriated for election advertising and thus the spending was illegal.

“This government seems to have forgotten who's in charge. In a democracy, the people are in charge. The people elect a Parliament and then parliamentarians form a government. The government is the servant of the people, not their master. The appropriations rules are one of our basic constitutional protections. By ignoring the appropriations rules, this government has shown that it doesn't care about the will of Parliament or the will of the people and is quite happy to behave like a dictatorship.

“A declaration by the High Court that this spending was illegal will send a clear reminder to the Clark regime that they are not above the law and that they are still answerable to their master, the public.

“I'm absolutely committed to making sure that this government doesn't get away with breaking the law. A government that follows the rule of law is essential to a free and open society. Something is rotten in the state of New Zealand, and my pledge is to stop the rot.”

You can find out details of what Labour did and what's being done about it in the new and re-launched The Free Radical (pictured above), which is out early next week, bigger and better than ever before. Subscribe now, or order your copy from your newsagent to make sure you don't miss out.

And you can keep up to date with proceedings at the trial website: www.DarntonVsClark.org.

This promises to be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour, Libz, Darnton V Clark

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Style and Grammar

In a bid to raise the standard of the blogosphere, I wish to point out that too many bloggers are ending their sentences with prepositions. This is the sort of thing I mean: "Just had an amusing case of passing a message along electronically at the Telco conference I am at."

Awful. As Winston Churchill said about such things, "This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put."

LINK: 'Preposititions at the End,' part of Guide to Grammar & Style - 'P'

TAGS: Blog

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What about the roads?

NZ HERALD: Auckland gets big bite of road pie

Auckland roads came out as the big winner after Land Transport New Zealand's national road funding announcement today. . .

Or did we? Liberty Scott has a look at the funding announcement, and the poor reporting thereof.

LINK: Dummies guide to the National Land Transport Programme- Liberty Scott

TAGS: Politics-NZ

State racism to continue

Parliament voted yesterday to continue with racist legislation. The 'Anti-Discrimination Bill was a private members Bill introduced by Rodney Hide to remove all race-based legislation from the books. It was voted down by all the advocates of state-sponsored racism: Maori Party, Greens, Labour, United and Winston First.

Yes, that's right, Winston voted against what he claims is his policy -- a policy that everybody else is supposed to have stolen from him. (Another lie from the poodle, by the way. As it happens, a libertarian called Warwick Malone was the first to fly this particular flag.) So he voted it down, and so did those other four parties, who by their vote have now shown their own position on state racism:
They're all in favour.
LINKS: Racism in Parliament and Winston's betrayal - Liberty Scott
One country, one law, one electoral roll
- Not PC

TAGS: Racism, Politics-NZ, Law

Who ate all the biscuits?

One present fashionable concern is obesity. For most of history the very real concern was malnutrition. Lift your eyes occasionally and see things in a historical context, and you realise some fashionable concerns actually incorporate something to celebrate.

As a reminder of just how recent were these concerns, here's an actual New York Times ad from June 27, 1906 [hat tip Craig Depken at Division of Labour]:TAGS: Health, History

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Frank Lloyd Wright on building codes and education

"The building codes of the democracies embody, of course, only what the previous generation knew or thought about building..."

"Nations have run out of ideas. Why? Because the individuals composing them have none. Schools have none for the same reason. Authority is dry."

"Education, unfortunately for us in dire need, has produced only those who can do things by patterned precept; by election and selection, rather than by any creative impulse or instinct guided by tested principle whatsoever."

Frank Lloyd Wright, excerpts from 'Organic Architecture--the Method,' a speech delivered in London, 1939.

TAGS: Building, Quotes, Education

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Telecom case gives new meaning to 'voluntary'

THIS IS A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: There is a new meaning for the word voluntarily, whose use we strongly recommend you adopt. Let me give you some examples of its new use:
  • Mrs Smith tells Smith Jr.: If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. Smith Jr. eats his meat voluntarily.
  • Teacher tells a student: If you don't pick up that paper, then I'm putting you on detention. The student picks up the paper voluntarily.
  • The Government tells Telecom: If you don't split your business in two, then we'll regulate for that anyway. Telecom agrees to split in two voluntarily.
To give you some context, the Herald describes the last case:
Telecom to voluntarily split in two
Telecom said today its decision to split its business and put rivals on the same footing as its own retail business had not been forced by the Government. . .

Asked whether the Goverment would be placated by the move, chairman Wayne Boyd said the company was "reading the tea leaves". . .

Telecom's shares were unchanged on $4.10 in late trading [down from 5.55 just before David Cunliffe announced the nationalisation of Telecom's lines].
Voluntarily is the adverb form of voluntary. Here's what the word used to mean:
Voluntary, a. proceeding from or determined by one's own free will or choice , not under external constraint...
Let me make this clear: that is the old meaning. It's useage in the above examples shows its new meaning. Please ensure you use the word in the new way in future. Backsliding will be double-plus-ungood, and treated accordingly.

So just to recap: just as the unbundling of Telecom's lines was not nationalisation, this is not forced separaration of Telecom -- this is voluntary separation. Cheerleaders for this separation are not enthusiasts for regulation and government intrusion, they are not moochers and parasites, they are in fact apostles of voluntarism.

And just by the way, we are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia.

Thank you for your time.

TAGS: Telecom, Politics-NZ

Public Access: Have your say -- it's your property they're after

A guest blog this morning from Julian Pistorius.

Are you a land-owner? Are you aware of the government's plans for giving the public access to "significant" areas, and how that will affect your property rights? Are you concerned yet? If not, I urge you to read on. You have until Friday to make a submission in support of your remaining property rights.

The previous attempt to force the issue of public access was grossly arrogant and high-handed, with the bureaucrats having no apparent appreciation of the importance of your property rights.

Surprise, surprise.

Fortunately, after a public backlash that included the Orange Ribbon campaign of Federated Farmers, the bureaucrats were sent scurrying back to Wellington -- but the busybodies have not learnt their lesson, they're regrouped and they're now back to push their assualt on private property again. This time they are treading a bit more softly, but don't be conned: the people behind this have not changed, and they still have no idea how important your property rights are.
A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. --Theodore Roosevelt
The politicians behind the "Walking Access Consultation Panel" seem to think that there is a serious problem - that too many members of the public are having difficulty in accessing "significant" natural areas. Yet, a survey by Federated Farmers showed that about 90% of farmers gladly let people cross their property when asked. There aren't "serious access problems" at all - there is a problem with bureaucrats yet again sticking their noses in where they don't belong.

However, let's assume that there are cases where clear and lasting access rights are sought by interested groups. How should this be achieved? That is what the Consultation Document tries to find out.
Where there is no private ownership, individuals can be bent to the will of the state, even under threat of starvation. --attrib. to Leon Trotsky
According to the document (which you can download here in full as a PDF, or here in sections) they are seeking "solutions that are practical and cost effective, but recognise that their implementation may take several years" (p02), and "with the objective of arriving at common-sense solutions" (p03).

Here is my solution: Common law. Common law has hundreds of years of demonstrated success in protecting property rights, as well as being practical and cost effective. It's common sense.

Under common law, the right of access is just one of many 'sticks' in the bundle of rights associated with your land. Groups (or individuals) can only acquire such rights by either purchase, or by long unchallenged use (as per 'prescription,' or the doctrine of 'lost modern grant'). Such groups might for example be tramping clubs, angling organisations, hunting clubs, skiing clubs, botanical societies, canoe clubs etc. Such rights, if they exist, would be specificclearly defined and circumscribed, and would appear on title deeds as a specific easement in favour of specific groups, which property-owners would know about when property was purchased. Common law is clear, certain, and protects your property rights (the exact opposite of the RMA, for instance.) And best of all, common law is simple, and thus doesn't require hoards of bureaucrats to administer it. (And if you complain that no group has access rights over land you wish to walk, and the owner hasn't granted you permission, then ask yourself why the hell you should have a right to access?) So the lesson is this:
  • If you wish to have access to someone else's land, either ask the owner nicely, or apply to one of the holders of access rights to land.
  • And if you're a property-owner, make a submission on the Walking Access Consultation Panel. Your own property rights are at stake here.
They who have no property can have no freedom. --Stephen Hopkins
Why are your property rights so important? Strong property rights are the basis of your individual rights, your freedom, and our whole civilisation. Nobel Prize-winning economist, Friedrich A. Hayek noted: "The system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves."

So, your property rights must be secure. If anybody wants access over your property, they must be able to demonstrate long-term use, or they have to purchase these access rights by mutual voluntary agreement. Simple. This is however not the 'solution' proposed by the Panel.

Surprise, surprise.

Submissions close on Friday 30th of June, so this is your last chance to have your say. Go to www.walkingaccess.org.nz, download the submission document, and tell them what you think.
Nothing is ours, which another may deprive us of. -- Thomas Jefferson

No other rights are safe where property is not safe. --Daniel Webster

The right of distribution over private property is the essence of freedom. --Merrill Jenkin
Most of the other problems raised by the panel (mapping, information about access, signs, etc.) can easily be solved by technology, and a good dose of common sense.

I have serious doubts about the honesty and motives of this consultation process. My impression of the documents and the meetings are that, as with most government-run 'consultations' they were designed to lead you to the government's own pre-determined conclusion. It's not a consultation, but a lecture. In their own words, the panel "is seeking to create a consensus about solutions for formal access" (p1). Create a consensus? Isn't a consensus reached by all parties, rather than"created."

How do they propose to "create" this consensus of theirs? Well, their questionnaire resembles a set of gates, and the panel's job is to drive the sheep through these gates and get the whole flock into the same pen. That's how they will go about creating consensus - by relying on your passive silence, on your obedience, by confusing the issues, by intimidation and by subtle threats - just like a dog driving sheep.

They have decided which check-boxes to present to you, artificially narrowing your choices to their own ideologically-blinkered options. In setting the parameters of the discussion, they have made sure that the question of property rights is demoted. Property rights are not even mentioned in the primary aim of the walking access panel. In the "aim" section of the full document, the closest they come is by characterising property rights as "having our very own piece of dirt" (p5) - in jest, I hope. You have to wonder whether the bureaucrats who dreamed this up understand the importance of secure property rights? (This, is by the way, a rhetorical question.)
Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that human rights are superior to property rights simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of human. --Ayn Rand
From the documents and the meetings, you can see that they have already decided that there should be a national "access agency" with suspiciously wide capabilities. I am afraid that it will either become another huge, ineffectual, bureaucratic money-waster (which in some respects would be the best outcome for it) or worse, like DOC it may become a powerful lobby group that will use your tax money against you and threaten your hard-won property rights.

I urge you to send in a submission. The more noise you make about this issue, the clearer the following message will be sent to the government: "Hands-off our property rights!"

LINKS: Consultation document - Walking Access Consultation Panel
Property rights - the Northland speech - Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Property_Rights, Politics-NZ

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The house that Norm could no longer build

There are some odious politicians in the House these days, perhaps none moreso than Clayton Cosgrove. Perhaps there's just one who's more odious: Nick Smith.  So, given their combined odium, watching these two square off is like watching Australia play England -- you really want both to lose.

Anyway, yesterday in the House Cosgrove was out to capitalise on Bob Clarkson's comment that prospective home owners should be able to construct dwellings free of the massive regulatory hurdles that today stand in the way of anybody wanting to build their own house -- on which of course Clarkson is absolutely right. Smith reminded Cosgrove that Labour's one time PM Norman Kirk had built his own house entirely by his own hands. Note the clueless Cosgrove's descent into ambiguous waffle.
CLAYTON COSGROVE: I have received a report that a member of this House plans to promote a member’s bill that: “would allow New Zealanders to build their own homes, licensed or unlicensed.” That would allow the status quo to remain, whereby anyone could slap on a tool belt, call himself or herself a builder, do shonky work, and create havoc—which is what National gave us when it deregulated the industry in the 1990s. That report comes from Mr Bob Clarkson, associate spokesperson on building and housing for the National Party. Of course, as with Mr Clarkson’s comments on selling State houses made at a select committee last week, it may be that more senior members of the National Party will denounce these comments, as well.
NICK SMITH: Has the Minister visited the Kaiapoi home of former Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk—in the Minister’s electorate—that he built with his own sweat and toil, including making his own blocks, a feat now outlawed by the Minister’s complex licensed building practitioner regime, which would have required Norm to have a licence for concrete work, a licence for blocklaying, a licence for roofing, a licence for carpentry, and a licence for external plastering; why does the Minister want to destroy with his politically correct red tape the proud New Zealand tradition of Kiwi battlers being able to build their own homes, when there is no evidence that the leaky homes problem was caused by DIY builders?
CLAYTON COSGROVE: Unlike that member, yes, I have. And I can say to that member that the Government, unlike the previous National Government, has struck a common-sense balance. On the one hand we are not going to destroy 100-plus years of good old-fashioned DIY tradition, but on the other hand we are mindful of the need to run the cowboys out of the system. Therefore we have allowed the good old-fashioned DIYers to do basically what they can do now. For example, they can build a deck, a bathroom, or a woolshed. But significant work—that is, on the structural integrity of a building—has to be supervised or done by a licensed building practitioner. I say further to that member that Norman Kirk, if he were alive today, could indeed build every aspect of his home, but for parts of it he would have to be supervised by a licensed building practitioner. He could do the roof, he could do the concrete—he could do all of those things—but for parts of the work he would have to be supervised and a licensed builder would have to sign them off
NICK SMITH: I seek the leave of the House to table a picture of the house in Kaiapoi that Norm Kirk built—which, contrary to the member’s assertion, I have visited—making the blocks himself as well, and for which he would not have had a hope of paying the cost of a bureaucratic supervisor for its construction.
MADAM SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
If we didn't know that Smith was a huge fan of his own particular brand of red tape -- ie., the RMA, which he calls "far-sighted environmental legislation" -- you'd almost be impressed. As it stands, however, his point here is a good one.

TAGS:
Politics-NZ, Building, Politics-National

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Canadian Museum of Civilization - Douglas Cardinal

Interior, Canadian Museum of Civilization,Douglas Cardinal.

TAGS: Architecture

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reisman fisks 'The Times'

The New York Times has made George Reisman angry -- and an angry Reisman is an eloquent Reisman.

Read George fisking an entire newspaper. Where the Times offers bleating and ignorance about global warming, death duties and estate taxes, minimum wage laws and the welfare state and the shackling of production ... where they offer hatred of success and of the American way of life, Reisman offers analysis of and answers to their sneers.
The [New York] Times doesn’t care to know any of this [he says of his answers]. Instead, it prefers what it considers to be the “moral high ground” of everyday contemptuously looking down its long, supercilious nose and sneering at the capitalist economic system, those who make it work, and those who enjoy its benefits.
Read it here.

LINKS: The New York Times: It just can't stop hating success and the American way of life - George Reisman's blog

TAGS: Politics-US, Economics

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Towards a moral policy of self-defence

Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute offers a serious challenge to the ethics of US Defence policy and of 'just war' theory. It's long, but well worth printing out and pondering. Read it here.

LINK: 'Just war theory' vs. American self-defence - Objective Standard

TAGS: War, Ethics, Politics-US, Objectivism

Laughter out of pain

My belly laugh for the morning comes from this Kiwi Herald headline:
CAPILL SAYS CHILD ABUSE A MAORI PROBLEM

Graham Capill has joined the chorus of politicians and celebrities describing child abuse as a Maori problem.
Read on here.

UPDATE: Maybe it's just me, but I thought it was clear this was good satire. Hmmm.

LINK: Capill says child abuse a maori problem - Kiwi Herald

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Humour

Jargon -- muddying the waters to make themselves appear profitable

Maybe there's a point to bullshit and 'MBA-speak' (but perhaps I repeat myself?) The Goodness points out a new study written up in The Age with an unsurprising finding:
Apparently there's a simple reason why annual reports are hard to read: managers, in many cases, are trying to hide something.

The study, Annual Report Readability, Earnings and Stock Returns, found that the annual reports of underperforming companies are harder to read than those of companies that are performing well. . .

How 'bout that, huh? The Goodness has a good comment from George Orwell that this brings to mind. Nietszche nailed it with a certain type of poet and academic, and perhaps it applies too to MBAs and managers: They muddy the waters to make themselves appear deep.

LINKS: Optimisation of cliché synergies - The Age
Performance and obfuscation correlation framework analysis - The Goodness

TAGS: Nonsense, Economics

"CDs have taken the ageism out of music"

The other day I was yapping on about some of the differences betwen CDs and records. Hugh Cornwell mentioned the other night an observation about CDs made my Malcolm McLaren:
The great thing about CDs is that they make all music the same age: they re-release all these old records and a new generation hears them for the first time... CDs have taken the ageism out of music.
Discuss.

TAGS: Music

Casa Las Pircas - Marcelo Cortés


The Casa Las Pircas -- the Pircas House - by Chilean architect Marcelo Cortés. A well-crafted 'solar hemicycle' that embraces its landscape. The material of which it is built is a sort of industrial adobe, or 'earth ferrocemento.'

LINK: Marcelo Cortés - Earth Architecture - official website

TAGS: Architecture, Building

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Bullshit Bingo

If you've never played Bullshit Bingo then you've been missing out. If you spend too much time in too many meetings where phrases like the following are used, then you need Bullshit Bingo to help keep you sane.
  • in a nutshell
  • moving forward
  • in the fullness of time
  • thinking outside the square (only ever used in my experience by people resolutely within their particular square)
  • vision statement
  • win/win situation
  • scenario
  • segment
  • sector
  • skill set
  • value added
  • team player
If you were playing Bullshit Bingo and you heard all or even some of those phrases in a seminar, phone call or meeting, then you could be on to a winner! Just download your Bullshit Bingo cards from here, print them out, and when you or your colleagues score a line, leap to your feet and shout Bullshit!

Turn your next meeting into a Bullshit Bingo game. It's probably the most productive thing you can be doing.

LINK: Bullshit Bingo - home page
Bullshit Bingo commercial - iFilm Shorts

TAGS: Games, Humour

I'm an Autonomous Rebel

No Right Turn has linked to a barmy Canadian piece of marketing tripe "which classifies participants into tribes based on age cohort and shared social values."

However, since so many of you lot like doing quizzes and being told where you fit in, feel free to go here and find out if you're an Autonomous Rebel/Autonomous Post-Materialist like I am.

LINKS:

TAGS:
Quizzes, Nonsense

How not to skewer modernism

Here's an example of bad writing: a rant on modernist architecture by a chap too dim to see that he hasn't a point to make. To celebrate British architecture week, his "contribution to this joyous occasion [is] a brief meditation on the links between modernist architecture and totalitarianism."
The great authoritarian regimes of the 20th century were all suckers for the cool, clean lines of modernist architecture... At first sight, [he says] this might seem grotesquely unfair.
In fact, even after finishing his piece -- in The Guardian no less -- it seems more than unfair. In fact, it's just it's wrong. The Nazis liked bad classicism. The Soviets liked bad classicism.

In fact, not only were the great authoritarian regimes of the 20th century NOT suckers for the "cool, clean lines of modernist architecture," they were almost completely opposed to it.

There were certainly modernist architects sympathetic to both regimes -- and much work that should have been right down their strasse, such as the Nazi Pavilion by Mies van der Rohe (above) -- but neither regime really gave a rats for what the modernists were offering architecturally.

Many of those rejected modernists ended up in America (for better or worse), spreading modernist architecture to willing capitalists rather than to uniformed dictators -- and irony Tom Wolfe makes much of in his hilarious From Bauhaus to Our House. ("Row after Mies van der Rohe of worker housing pitched up fifty stories high" in the downtown commercial capitals of America's greatest cities.)

So as a serious piece, this one fails at the very first hurdle. His point then? It seems he just wants attention. And he does manage to gratuitously smear Ayn Rand in there somehow, which no doubt earns him some points in the Guardian's lunch room,but it's not really awfully clear what his point is there either, except perhaps to link Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler and Ayn Rand together in the same article. What a moron.

If his point really is that some modernists' work was totalitarian, that has been done better elsewhere -- including by Ayn Rand herself, and also here, by me.

If his point is that some modernists such as Philip Johnson were fascists, then that point has also been better made elsewhere -- including here, by me.

If his point is that he's an ignorant blowhard who courts controversy without the evidence to back it up, then that's a point that he's made all too well.
LINKS: Why fascism is a glass house - Peter Franklin, The Grauniad
From Bauhaus to Our House -
Tom Wolfe's site
Modernism: How Bad Was It? - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Architect Philip Johnson dies at 98
- Not PC (Peter Cresswell

TAGS: Architecture, Politics, Politics-UK

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Privatise the TAB

Does anyone know any good reason why the TAB should enjoy a coercive monopoly? Any reason at all why the government should own it? Any good reason local bookies shouldn't be legalised? I can't think of any.

And neither can our friend at Write Ups.
Contrast this absurd situation with the UK: they have Ladbrokes, Bet365, Willhill, Cantor Index. The UK punter can bet on so much more than his Kiwi counterpart.
Why can't we have this choice? Answer: Because Nanny says you can't. That's why.

LINK: Gambling regulation has got to go - Write Ups

TAGS:
Politics-NZ, Privatisation

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Sketch - Michael Newberry

In the early hours,
I met a hooded figure,
It was death and he said:
"I have not come for you."
A very powerful mourning piece tonight from artist Michael Newberry. This is what truly great art looks like when it confronts the death of a partner.

LINKS: Michael Newberry, artist

TAGS: Art

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hugh Cornwell's ten best

In honour of Hugh Cornwell's memorable gig on Friday at Auckland's Transmission Room, here's my list of ten favourite, most played, Stranglers songs.
10. Don't Bring Harry
9. Something Better Change
8. Goodbye Toulouse
7. No More Heroes
6. Walk On By
5. Toilers on the Sea
4. Nice n' Sleazy
3. Hangin' Around
2. Always the Sun
1. European Female
A great gig, a great night, and very strange to be talking afterwards (albeit briefly) with someone who's 'lived in my head' for so long. As a special treat, here's an MP3 clip from his new album Beyond Elysian Fields, a tribute to Bob Dylan called 24/7.

LINK: Hugh Cornwell's website

TAGS: Music

My favourite conspiracy theory

I've been asked to share my favourite conspiracy theory. Alright, I invited it: I suggested in a post below that everyone has their own favourite conspiracy theory; everyone likes to speculate about events in history for which conventional explanations seem insufficient -- including me. I'll tell you below what my own favourite conspiracy theory is, but first, some conjecture.

Not all conspiracy theories are the province of moonbats and tin-foil hat wearers. But there are too many to count that are. Bizarre theories about the moon landings; who shot JFK; who killed Diana; what the CIA are doing to our heads/water/radio waves; that Noam Chomsky is a captured asset of the New World Order; and about what the Bush family are after/have done/will do/are doing. And as Jack Wheeler observes, many of you conservatives are equally prone to moonbatism:
For some weird reason which has to do with psychology rather than reality, a small but loud subset of conservatives easily falls prey to conspiracy theories about cabals of powerful people meeting in secret to take over the world: the Bilderbergers, the Trilaterialists, the Council on Foreign Relations, or some such.

The world headquarters of this subset of conservatives is on a grassy knoll in downtown Dallas.
So there are nutters about. As All Embracing but Underwhelming says, "Fact: conspiracies have occurred, are occurring and will occur again in the future. The question is whether it is rational to believe in them." That is, some conspiracy theories are more rational than others: ie., rather than being cherry-picked, off-the-wall and at odd with everything else that we know these theories are evidence-based, reasonable, and integrated with the entire context of all existing knowledge. It's just that there are some facts we'll probably never know, and about which we have to make inferences.

Real conspiracies do exist, but not as often as conspiracy theorists think. The danger perhaps is thinking that conspiracies are the only thing that moves the world, and thinking that in unearthing a genuine conspiracy -- in finding out who did it -- we are also explaining why they did it, which in the study of history is infinitely more important, but frequently less clear without sober philosophical analysis and proper historical inquiry.

Conspiracy theories too frequently ignore the why of history, and the importance of looking at the whole context. Exploring conspiracies is very different to exploring theories about how ideas have moved the world: theories about abstract ideas and their effect on history which can be discussed, argued and considered with evidence that is easily available, but with some abstract thinking that is required to put things together. By contrast, conspiracy theories eschew abstract thinking and are generally relentlessly concrete -- one reason perhaps for their appeal to so many concrete-bound minds -- and rely for their coherence on evidence that is either unavailable, likely never to be available, or simply dreamed up, arbitrary and uncheckable, and will all too often remain unresolvable -- surely part of the charm for the conspiracy theorist.

So what's my favourite conspiracy theory then?

So, now that I've blathered for so long, let me reveal my own favourite conspiracy theory about which I occasionally like to speculate, and which I like to think is entirely rational. And for that you have to go all the way back to 1938, when US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in a hole and desperate to get out.

Elected two years before in a landslide after 'fixing' the depression with four years of motivating, meddling, and pouring historically unprecedented amounts of money -- huge gobs of cash! -- into make-work programmes, bizarre schemes and outright vote-buying, FDR found in 1938 that his party was almost completely set against him, and the depression was even worse than it was when his meddling and taxing and spending and crop-burning began.

His budget was blowing out, his schemes and nostrums were being struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, and unemployment, 11,586,000 in 1932 when he took power, was now back up at 11,369,000 with a further 19,648,000 on relief -- a figure 3 million more than what Franklin found when he took power. Worse, he was totally out of answers, and becoming petulant about it. It was everybody else's fault for the hole he was in. All the quack remedies had been tried, and all had failed him and had served only to make the depression worse. In an unguarded moment he threw a tantrum at his Cabinet, shouting: "I am sick and tired of being told by Henry [Morgenthau, the Secrtary of the Treasury] and everybody else what's the matter with the country while no one suggests what to do!" The great conjurer had no tricks left up his sleeve, and he was looking at a richly deserved place in history as a flake and an abject bloody failure.

He resolved right then and there to get himself out of the hole the way that statists throughout history have got themselves out of such holes at such a time: he resolved to take advantage of the storm clouds brewing internationally and go to war -- at one stroke to unite the country and its propaganda services behind him, and to flood the country with government-printed money to spend his way out of the hole he had spent his way into.

His problem was this: 1) Americans didn't want to go to war; and 2) he had promised voters over and over again "on several stacks of bibles" that "he would not send American boys to die in foreign wars." If Franklin was to get American into the war it would have to be dragged in -- and so it was. And here's where agreed facts are left behind and conjecture and inference really begin: it was dragged in with the full and enthusiastic planning and support of US President Franklin Roosevelt, who had done his very best to get America entangled in the war, even as he told voters the exact opposite.

For at least two-and-a-half years FDR tried to provoke either Germany or Japan into "firing the first shot" and declaring war on the US, and for at least two-and-a-half years he failed. As Secretary of War Henry Stimson confided to his diary on November 25 1941,
The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves.
Finally, on 7 December 1941, after years of provocation including US blockades, US oil and steel embargoes (on a country with neither), the total freeze of Japanese assets in the US, 'small boats' placed in harm's way in the hope they'd start an incident, and the placing of the US Pacific Fleet like a sitting target at Pearl Harbor, after all of this and more he succeeded in provoking Japan into a surprise attack that was less a surprise to some in FDR's Administration for its timing than for its ferocity. After the attack, Stimson confessed that "my first feeling was of relief . . . that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people."

That's the conspiracy theory, in which there is a reasonable degree of inference, yet in my view it is inference well justified by the facts. In my view, FDR wasn't directly complicit in planning the attack (how could he be? -- that was done by the Japanese) but he and his aides did have a pretty fair idea it was coming, and he and his Administration did conceal important information from the commander of the Pacific Fleet Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and the Hawaiian army commander Lt Gen Walter Short, who were to become the scapegoats for the unpreparedness of the defence.

What genuinely suprised Roosevelt and others I think, was not the attack itself but its ferocity and the destructiveness. Patrician America had seriously underestimated the 'yellow race' they had been baiting for so long, and the results of their frank underestimation, the sea of death and destruction did shock them. You can hear that shock in FDR's famous 'Day of Infamy' speech to Congress, responding on the day of the attack, but his Cabinet colleagues report he was nowhere near as shocked privately as he was in public.

So there it is. That's my own favourite conspiracy theory. The very infamy he condemned so eloquently is something which Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself deserved to share.

The good thing about such theories for the theorist is that there's always more to know: there's always more to find out and and another book to buy in order to track down the ever-elusive facts. In fact, I'm just going through another bout of reading the various histories of the time and the man, including a new book, Conrad Black's incomprehensibly titled Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom that I figured I needed to read to challenge myself. It hasn't so far.

To that I'm comparing again the accounts given in some of my favourite and frequently re-read titles such as John Flynn's The Roosevelt Myth (highly recommended), Gerald Johnson's Roosevelt, William Leuchtenburg's Franklin Roosevelt and the the New Deal, Robert Higgs's Crisis and Leviathan, Murray Rothbard's America's Great Depression, Mark Skousen's 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II,' Gene Smiley's Rethinking the Great Depression, Thomas Fleming's The New Dealers' War, Gordon Prager's At Dawn We Slept, Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit, Robert Nesbit's Roosevelt and Stalin: The Failed Courtship, Nikoloai Tolstoy's Victims of Yalta, John Denson's The Costs of War, and Paul Johnson's Modern Times to help put it all in context. That's a big stack to have beside the bed, but great fun to plough through, consider and mull over.

So there you go. Shoot me down.

TAGS: History, History-Twentieth_Century, Nonsense, Politics-US

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