Monday, 23 October 2006

Current reading

What are you reading this long weekend? Here's what I have scattered around:

Author! Author! - David Lodge
Somewhat disappointing this compared to Lodge's other rather more colourful and witty novels (which I've been reading with increasing interest), the subject this time is turn-of-the-century author Henry James's ultimately unsuccessful foray into writing for the theatre, and his difficulty in reconciling the commercial failure of his own tendentious writing for both theatre and novel with the outstanding trans-Atlantic success of a friends's pot-boiler about love and lust in bohemian Paris. It does encourages further reading of those rather stodgy but linguistically interesting psychological novels of James's, but not with any expectation of serious enjoyment.

A History of Western Philosophy: The Twentieth Century to Quine and Derrida - W.T. Jones
Inspired sufficiently by Lodge's efforts on behalf of Henry James, and made curious by the brief references to his brother William to reacquaint myself with his own work, I've been reading again Jones's masterful summary of the failure of twentieth-century philosophy (a failure well summed up in the title, to my mind) in order to refresh myself with what William James had to say about psychology and certainty (or lack thereof).. Wikipedia however ultimately proved more fruitful in that task:
James defined true beliefs as those that prove useful to the believer...
Nothing like using a 'razor' to remove a whole swathe of human knowledge, is there?
James' assertion that the value of a truth depends upon its use to the individual who holds it is known as pragmatism. Additional tenets of James' pragmatism include the view that the world is a mosaic of diverse experiences that can only be properly understood through an application of "radical empiricism." Radical empiricism, distinct from everyday scientific empiricism, presumes that nature and experience can never be frozen for absolutely objective analysis, that, at the very least, the mind of the observer will affect the outcome of any empirical approach to truth since, empirically, the mind and nature are inseparable.
Etc. "Never," by the way, is said with the certainty which James himself says is not possible, but as with many of the twentieth-century's sorry excuses for philosophers, such a conundrum never seemed to bother him. It's obviously "true" since he wanted it to be so, and by virtue of asserting it to be true he fashioned a career, which undoubtedly proved useful to him (if not to his students). So much, anyway, for pragmatism as a guide to "truth."

Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics - Frederic Spotts
Some years ago when a television mini-series featured the relationship between Hitler and his architect Albert Speer, a friend commented that he was pleasantly surprised at the thing. "I'd thought it would be about as useful as a film about Hitler's milkman," said my friend, "but it proved to have remarkable insight." So it did. This book is the same. Too little historical account is taken of the fact that Hitler was and saw himself as an artist -- not a very good one, however, but it was an artist he began his work. Says Spotts, "His aesthetic nature, his conviction that the ultimate objective of political effort should be artistic achievement and his dream of creating the greatest culture state since ancient time, or perhaps of all time," this is what the book has as its focus.

It's truly revealing, including as it does an account not just of Hitler's self-serving view of art's relationship to the State, but also of how Hitler's own grandiloquent but barren aesthetics infected a whole generation of German artists, architects, musicians and artistic expression, and how ultimately it was as an "artist of destruction" he will be remembered. An insightful look into a much-neglected aspect of evil.

Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language - Don Watson
Quite the opposite of what you might expect after the preceding title, Watson bemoaons the effect that bureaucracy and rampant illiteracy has had and is having on language. From the flyleaf:
When was the last time you heard a politician use words that rang with truth and meaning? Do your eyes glaze over when you read a letter from you bank? When your employer tells you to make a commitment going forwards, or speaks of enhancing the bottom line, does your mind shut down?

Buzzwords, jargon, bullet-points instead of argument, the 'verb famine and 'noun pile-ups' and the inflation of cliche, drivel and weasel-words to regular occurrence. "Every day we are confronted with a debased, depleted sludge." Watson's book sets out to combat this all-encompassing irrationalism, and while not quite as witty as it should be, and not quite as useful as Richard Mitchell's similar but more meaty Less Than Words Could Say, it is nonetheless in the right spirit. Henry James would have approved, except perhaps for it having just a mite too much colour for that genteel old gentleman.

[NB: All links above are to US editions available on Amazon. Covers and some titles may differ slightly.]

RELATED: Books, Art, History, Philosophy

SUMMARY: "No Substitute for Victory: Military Offense and the Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism"

I'm envious of my colleague Julian who is presently attending the Boston Objectivist Conference (OCON in Boston), and posting updates to SOLO. From his latest update comes this (lightly edited) summary of an insightful lecture by John Lewis, assistant professor of history at Ashland University, with the subject, "No Substitute for Victory": Military Offense and the Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism. [Dr. Lewis] began by assessing the differences in response by the US administration to the attacks on the USA by the Japanese in WW2, and the approach taken following the September 11 attacks. In the former case, there was an unrestrained response, which culminated in the A bombs. There was no warning, no threats, just a stated recognition that the blame for any suffering lay at the feet of the militarists who had initiated the war, not at the feet of the US. The goal was to bring the enemy to its knees, and the US was forthright and did not attempt to hide the truth in what it was trying to achieve (see telegram below). And the Japanese empire fell and now Japan is a peaceful prosperous nation. The attacks of September 11, by contrast, have been met with restrained responses which have been considered both moral and practical. The results have been a complete contrast to the success of the war against Japan. The USA has been shown to be weak which gives the enemy hope, and encourages continued resistance, and even more bloodshed. Furthermore, and unlike the successful strategy of McArthur's in Japan, the US military of today has not broken the link between Islam and the state (see Iraq, for example, where Islamism is written into the very constitution introduced by the US). Dr Lewis distributed a copy of a telegram from the State Department to to the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Japan which stated:
Shintoism, insofar as it is a religion of individual Japanese is not to be interfered with. Shintoism, however, insofar as it is directed by the Japanese government, and is a measure enforced from the government is to be done away with... The Japanese government will be required to cease financial and other support of Shinto establishments.
Dr Lewis then asked us to substitute Iran for Japan and Islam for Shintoism. Iran is a country which is actively seeking to destroy Israel and the USA and is seeking to obtain nuclear weapons. They support terrorist organisations and this regime must be eliminated. And not one American soldier needs to set foot in Iran. We must not seek legitimacy for action outside of our right to self-defence. We must break the political power of Islam, the clerics must be stripped of power. Once Iran is dealt with the message is clear to all other regimes that Islamic States will not be permitted. And most importantly, state clearly what you are going to achieve. Be forthright and don't hide the truth of what you are doing. This was an outstanding lecture. LINK: The jihad against the west: The real threat and the right response - Objectivist Conferences (OCON) OCON Boston now free for students - SOLO RELATED: Objectivism, Politics-World

Sunday, 22 October 2006

Ship the UN off to Venezuela

Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute giving his view of the United Nations [roughly transcibed from the Q & A at the recent Boston Objectivist Conference ]:
The UN is an evil organization which should never have existed. It was set up with five permanent members on the security council, and at that time four of those members sitting at the table represented regimes which had killed millions of people. It should be shipped off to Venezuela.
LINK: The jihad against the west: The real threat and the right response - Objectivist Conferences

RELATED: Objectivism, Politics-World

Today's Bible reading

Open the Bible at random, we're told, and you will find therein words of wisdom to guide your actions. Let's see:
Ye shall keep the sabbath ... every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death.--Exodus 31:14
Hmm. Maybe not.

RELATED: Religion.

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Thoughtful pieces for a long weekend

** Here's another good thoughtful piece suitable for a long weekend, a short piece which helps explain all the day-to-day irrationalism we see around us, Harry Binswanger writing on The Battle of Our Era:

We are engaged in a vast battle to defend scientific, industrial civilization against irrationalism.

Whether the enemy bombs the World Trade Center, abortion clinics, logging equipment, or medical research labs, the target is the same: reason--the use of reason to produce material values.

Think about it. And read more.

** Meanwhile, talking about reading for a long weekend, maybe you've now got time to give this 120-page critique of Al Gore's movie a good examination? Think of it as a sporting contest perhaps; give both a go, and see who comes out on top. Al Gore? Or Marlon Lewis Jr., the author of A Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth. [The link takes you to a short summary.] Enjoy.

And afterwards, have another look of you haven't already at Numberwatch, a site that hosts A Complete List of Things Caused by Global Warming. You'll be surprised. Numberwatch has more than 300 predictions and accounts of death, destruction, disaster and calamity, and all (as they say) "on 0.006 deg C per year! " And maybe if you just want the short story, here's Junk Science's Pub Quiz Guide to Global Warming.

** And now, some good news on the beer front. Stu at Real Beer summarises:
Beer doesn’t make you fat. In fact it helps the cardiovascular system, slows down dementia, reduces the risk of diabetes, prevents and reduces hypertension… and amazingly can help prevent aids!

The Eccentric Scientist puts some weight behind the famous Benjamin Franklin quote that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
Beer is so good it can almost make you religious. Almost. Read the whole piece here at The Eccentric Scientist: Let's Hear it For Beer! And remember to drink up; after all, it's good for you!

** From You Tube and the International Herald Tribune comes a report that reminds us that not all the world is a friendly place. You will need a drink after seeing this. Says Nicholas Provenzo:
Here's shocking video from a mountain-climbing trip to Mount Everest that reveals the Chinese to be as murderous as ever. In it, Chinese soldiers shoot Tibetan pilgrims without seeming provocation or due process.
Here's a link to The Herald Tribune's coverage of the episode: Video Contradicts China on Shooting of Tibetan Pilgrims. And Nicholas Provenzo hosts the video here: Made in China.

** Closer to home, Lindsay Mitchell has news that
the Ministry of Social Development released its Annual Report today. Full of meaningless repetitive waffle it proudly informs us that there are now 9,000 employees in 200 sites, "supporting more than 1 million New Zealanders in living successful lives." What can I say?"
What can one say about an agency boasting about over one-quarter of the country being on welfare (that is, one-million plus nine-thousand)? Get angry about it too, and then say it to your MP.

** Close to Arizona, or passing by there shortly? Then make time for the 3rd Annual Design & Development Conference hosted by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Wright's Arizona home Taliesin West on the weekend of November 8-11, 2006. Unfortunately, I have no plans to attend, but a simple donation of some airline tickets could easily persuade me. :-)

** And if you haven't seen it yet, my own humble piece describing how the left's Third Way is simply the mirror image of the right's Neoconservatism is, I humbly suggest, worth a read. As a ccmmenter said at SOLO, "I hope everyone here has read this, as it nutshells the modern western political raison d'etre." I do believe it does: How 'Left' Meets 'Right' in the Authoritarian Middle. And perhaps you could bookend it with a 'companion piece' of mine that looks ascance at both wings: Are Libertarians Right Wing?

** And finally, news in from Variety magazine that a new screenwriter has been appointed to adapt Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged to the screen. The new man is Randall Wallace, previously responsible for 'Braveheart.' Here's hoping for a good result.

** PS: Petition now well over 32,000 and still climbing. :-)

RELATED: Global Warming, Architecture, Films, Objectivism, Welfare, Beer & Elsewhere, Health, Philosophy, War

"The problem is too little globalisation, and too little capitalism..."

“It is correct that the wealth of the world is very unevenly distributed… the reason why it is unevenly distributed is that there is an uneven distribution of capitalism [..] The problem of the world today is too little globalisation and too little capitalism.” - Johan Norberg
The author of that statement, Johan Norberg (right), takes part in a thought-provoking interview that makes the perfect Saturday afternoon listening. Tune in here to 'The Devil's Advocate,' the English edition of this Swedish show in which Norberg covers:
  • the effects of globalisation,
  • how to explain the success of the Nordic welfare states and how these compare to the US,
  • whether the role of the state in the economic development of the Asian tigers challenges the widely held belief that economic liberalism and political and individual freedom are inseparable.
  • Finally we touch on Johan Norberg’s vision of the good society and how to achieve it in a world in which both left- and right-wing governments are at home with the notion of a big state.
Says the friend who sent me the link (thanks David), "I think people should hear this." Tune in here. A last excerpt before you tune in:
“My moral ground for this is based on the idea that individuals are actually quite smart they are quite creative. That’s why I think freedom is a good idea basically, because I think people can create wonders and that’s what I think history has taught us. In the last 100 years of relative freedom we have created more than in the 100.000 years of oppression, slavery and feudalism before that.”
Great stuff.

LINKS: Interview with Johan Norberg - Devil's Advocate

RELATED: Politics-World, Economics, Libertarianism

THE ONION: N. Korea Detonates 40 Years Of GDP

'News' from The Onion:
THE ONION: N. Korea Detonates 40 Years Of GDP
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA—A press release issued by the state-run Korean Central News Agency Monday confirmed that the Oct. 9 underground nuclear test in North Korea's Yanggang province successfully exploded the communist nation's total gross domestic product for the past four decades.

"This is a grand day for the Democratic Peoples Republic Of Korea, whose citizens have sacrificed their wages, their food, and their lives so that our great nation could test a nuclear weapon thousands of feet beneath our own soil," read an excerpt from the statement..."

...According to the CIA, over 500 tons of compressed purchasing power, the equivalent of 40 years of goods and services produced by the impoverished country, vaporized in 560 billionths of one second. The device consumed 15 years of peasant wages' worth of uranium, two decades of agricultural- and fishery-export profits' worth for its above-ground emplacement tower, and the lifetime earnings of the entire workforce of the Kilchu fish-canning factory for tungsten/carbide-steel bomb casings...
Read on...

N. Korea Detonates 40 Years Of GDP [Hat tip Kiwi Herald]
RELATED: Politics-World, War, Humour

Friday, 20 October 2006

In the pub, with the Greens.

The last two paragraphs excepted, the Greens's Frogblog comes down refreshingly on the "more freedom, less government" side of the argument on the question of banning eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds from drinking in bars. Good stuff.

Go tell them they should do more of this "freedom" thing.

UPDATE: Great and very pointed satire on this from Lyndon Hood posted at Scoop: 'Select Committee Supports Raising Drinking Age to 41.'

The Law and Order select committee today reported to Parliament in favour of a bill to increase the legal age for purchasing alcohol to 41. In a survey of New Zealanders aged over 39 almost three quarters of respondents supported the change...
Go have a laugh, before you visit Idiot/Savant who tells you what you can do about this now that you're angry.

LINK: Mum, can we go to the pub? - Frogblog, Green Party
Drinking age bill is back - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)
Select Committee supports raising drinking age to 41 - Lyndon Hood, Scoop

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere, Politics-Greens, Libertarianism, Politics-NZ

An update from today's Hypocrisy files

From today's Hypocrisy files [Hat tip Elliot Who?]:

Fined drivers may be refunded

Thousands of motorists fined for breaching bus and transit lane bylaws during the past three and a half years could be entitled to their money back because the infringement notices were unlawful.

The Government has changed the law but has refused to backdate it because, according to parliamentary documents obtained by The Southland Times, Cabinet ministers said they were against retrospective laws and didn't think many people would ask for their money back.

Let's just read that again: "Cabinet ministers said they were against retrospective laws..."

Angry yet?

Beer O'Clock: A fine spring beer, Wanaka Brewski

Your weekend beer recommendation comes from Stu at Real Beer.

As spring continues to tease me with lovely sunny mornings and then torment me with day after day of strong nor’westers, I found myself thinking about perfect spring beers. In spring I’m looking for a beer that goes down just as well at a beachside barbeque as it does after a hard day skiing (not that I’ve ever been skiing).

My mind wandered through a plethora of fantastic kiwi beers and an almost as impressive list of quality imports -- stopping only for the briefest of moments to ponder how a pantomime donkey managed to sneak into the thought process -- before settling on a beer from Wanaka, a place where you might just be lucky enough to ski in the morning and have a beachside barbeque in the evening.

Wanaka Brewski was one of my great surprises of 2005. I’d seen it in bottle stores and supermarkets all over the country but never managed to get around to picking it up. Perhaps the name put me off? It’s more likely that sometimes, and thankfully often in the bottle stores I shop in, there is simply too much to choose from. I have, however, been picking it up here in there ever since my first sample.

Pouring a lambent pale gold, almost green-hued, it throws off a soft white foam that contains a divinely fresh aroma of sweet malt, cut grass and a hint of fruit. In the mouth there is a lot going on - the sweet malt is very juicy and delivers a delightful hop flavour that’s full of grassy, tropical fruit and spicy notes. The crisp hop bitterness cuts through the malt, leaving the juicy fruit notes to linger on the palate.

As delicate as great sauvignon blanc, yet far more quenching, the Brewski is a superbly-balanced kiwi Pilsner that lovers of Emerson’s Pilsner, Mac’s Reserve and Mac’s Wicked Blonde will appreciate.

The folk at Ratebeer agree. Beer lovers from Sweden, Denmark, Canada, USA and the Czech Republic (the home of Pilsner) are lining up to declare this as a world-class drop. Join up to Ratebeer and let the brewer know what you think, it’s only a couple of good ratings away from taking a place in the top 10 Bohemian Pilsners on the site.

It certainly deserves to be.

Slainte mhath

LINKS: Wanaka Beerworks -
Ratebeer (don’t just take Stu's word for it)
Society of Beer Advocates

Beer & Elsewhere

Perigo now on air

Lindsay Perigo is on air now at Radio Live, from midday to 3pm. Ring in now with your petition stories. 0800 RADIO LIVE. 0800 723 465. Listen in on your radio (frequencies here), or on the net:

His question for today: Is it time for the GG to throw the buggers out?

How the new 'left' and 'right' meet in the authoritarian middle

Many people have expressed surprise at the alliance of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, men respectively of the right and the left but who share an obviously genuine friendship. The answer to the apparent paradox is to be found in their respective philosophies. The so-called 'philosophies' of the left's 'Third Way' and the right's Neo-Conservatism' to which these two subscribe share more than their promoters might like to concede.

In fact, I would suggest that in all essentials the 'Third Way' is just the mirror image of 'Neo-Conservatism.' It is no accident that George Bush and Tony Blair have become allies; the understanding they so clearly share is born of a common way of seeing the political landscape, and it has lessons for us here in New Zealand.

Let me explain. These two political schools of the right and the left have until recently both of dominated their respective political 'markets,' and they've done so largely by making themselves 'pragmatic on principle': that is, they accept what they view as the 'political realities' of the present ideological and political geography of a country; they concede that capitalism produces rather more than any other alternative yet devised; and they've chosen to shackle the levers of power and the engine of capitalism simply to deliver votes.

That in a nutshell is the 'big idea' behind the ruling ideologies of both the Neocons and the Third Way zealots.

Far from being big ideas, both are little more than strategies for gaining and holding power for their 'side,' but in placing strategy over principles both leave largely bare the question of what they are gaining power for -- the result is that for both schools the pursuit of politics becomes power for power's sake - and we know (and have seen in the NZ Parliament recently) what the pursuit of power tends to do to those who pursue it absolutely. It's not at all pretty, and not all a natural environment in which freedom and liberty can flourish.

Fortuitously, recent posts on the local blogosphere make the comparison between the two relatively transparent. Prof. Brad Thompson's superb analysis of American conservatism gives the necessary keys to understanding the so-called philosophy of Neo-Conservatism; and now and in an apologia to the local left posted yesterday, Labour strategist Jordan Carter summarises for the "further left" the Third Way strategy followed by Labour here since 1993.

Third Way
If we look first at that "Third Way strategy" as summarised by Jordan: "The key components of that locally have been," he says,
  • Emphasis on the connection between social justice and economic development
  • Moderate political positioning, in touch with voters not activists
  • Pragmatic policy lines in terms of public spending and the market/community boundary
  • An avoidance of 'reform' as opposed to consolidation in most areas of policy
  • Incremental change and routing around, rather than challenging, opposition to particular policies
As I suggested above, this is hardly a 'big idea' in terms of political philosophy - this is strategy not philosophy, and if I may translate from the language of wonkery above into how it has worked in practice here, the strategy has been this:
  • Shackle capitalist means for socialist ends -- that is, use the engine of capitalism to produce, and the maw of politics to redistribute
  • Accept the political landscape (as Blair did in keeping the Thatcher reforms, and Clark has in keeping the Richardson/Douglas reforms) and seek instead to capture and massage and persuade the unthinking and the easily persuaded
  • Take ownership of the 'commanding heights' of state welfare (health, education, welfare), and use welfare distribution as a tool of politics: that is, make sure welfare is politically targeted (remember for example how South Auckland came in for Labour last September?) and that new welfare programmes are identified with Labour (Welfare for Working Families anyone?)
  • Keep former New Labour activists close and compliant (Hello Jim), and the harder left rabble quiet by whatever means necessary, including both 'buy-in' and buying off.
  • Blur public-private boundaries, and make both public and private companies either politically or financially dependent on the party in power
The aim of course is not reform per se, except to the extent that reform might attract votes. The measure of success for such a strategy is not the success of the programmes and policies introduced (as demonstrated in the almost complete lack of interest shown by Labour in plummeting literacy and numeracy, increasing (if now-hidden) hospital waiting lists, and the almost complete disinterest in recent poverty surveys showing increasing poverty), instead the real measure of success to such a strategist can be best measured by the number of votes such a strategy attracts. As Jordan boasts:
[The 'Third Way' strategy] has been a very successful strategy for Labour. The party has rebuilt from a very low share of the vote of 28% in 1996, to three consecutive election wins around 40%. The message of moderation, and of investment in public services instead of cutting taxes, has been an electoral winner.
Never mind the poverty and dependence, feel the power! "We won, you lost, eat that!" The aim of the 'Third Way' strategy is clear enough: it is power. Power for power's sake. The pursuit of power, and the holding of power once gained -- and all policy is geared to that aim, policy as the hand-maiden of power-lust.

How does this differ from Neo-Conservatism? Hardly at all. Professor Brad Thompson summarises the advice given by Irving Kristol, the father of the Neo-Conservatism:
Kristol’s advice to Republicans is: Stop taking your principles so seriously (as if that were ever a problem). The successful statesman, he argues, is chameleon-like in his ability to redefine his principles in the light of changing circumstances. Don’t concern yourselves with principles; concern yourselves with acquiring and keeping power.
In other words, make policy the hand-maiden of power-lust. Third Way leftists and Neocon rightists might start at what they see as different ends of the political spectrum, but they both meet up in the authoritarian middle. Continuing the summary of the Neocons [with Thompson's words double-indented and my own single-indented):
Neocons agree with the underlying moral principles of the socialists; they disagree merely over the best means to achieve their shared ends. As do all good socialists, neocons hold that welfare should be regarded as a right because it is grounded in people’s “needs”—and, as Kristol explains, for the neocons, “needs” are synonymous with rights...
So how does a conservative welfare state work? And how does it differ from a liberal welfare state? Behind all the rhetoric, the shabby secret is that there is very little difference except how and by whom the readies are doled out. Both liberals and Neocons opposed Clinton's refoms of the welfare state. Both liberals and neoncons promise cradle to grave nannying. The Neocons, who (like Roger Douglas) talk about socalist ends through capitalist means simply insist that the all-powerful state should provide, but people should be allowed some "choice." The state will continue to put its hand in your pocket, increasingly so say neocons, but "the people choose their own “private” social security accounts; they choose their own “private” health and child-care providers; and parents receive vouchers and choose which schools their children will attend."
The choices, of course, are not the wide-open choices of a free market; rather, the people are permitted to choose from among a handful of pre-authorized providers. The neocons call this scheme a free-market reform of the welfare state.
Socialist ends through capitalist means, you see (or at least "conservative" means, capitalism not being the process so described). And as far as the neocons' "big idea" goes, that's it. George Bernard Shaw observed years ago that a government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always rely on the support of Paul. The neocons rob Peter, rob Paul, and channel that money to the providers pre-approved by the ruling party (who can expect to show their gratitude in the appropriate way), clipping the ticket on the way on behalf of the paternalistic state.
So the Neocon strategy of gaining and keeping power differs in practice only marginally from the strategy of the Third Way; both seek to politicise the delivery of welfare, and in doing so both seek to enlarge and expand the nannying state and put it at the service of buying votes.

In practice, then, Neocons and Third Way strategists are soul-mates. George, meet Tony. Tony, meet George. (Jordan, how do you feel?)

The Vision Thing
But as I've suggested above there is a problem with the strategies of both Neocons and Third Way zealots like Jordan's beloved Labour party, and it is best summarised by Brad Thompson in talking about the neocons:
The most remarkable issue about the neocons’ notion of a “governing philosophy” is that it is a strategy for governing without philosophy. The neocons unabashedly describe themselves as pragmatists; they eschew principles in favor of a mode of thinking—and they scorn thinking about what is moral in favor of thinking about what “works.” For over twenty-five years, they have fought an ideological war against ideology.
And at the end of that 'war' -- and just like Labour -- all they are left with is power, and little real idea of what to do with it. And here's the key thing, and it is this: the 'vision thing' is left for someone else to determine,
Never mind "the vision thing" -- about which George Bush Sr. agonised -- give yourself over instead to absolute rule, and let the other side seek out new visions . That's the neocon ticket. The three most important rules for absolute rule: Compromise, compromise and compromise. The fourth rule: if visions arise that are going to happen anyway, then just roll over and make sure you take the credit... This is what it means to “think politically.”
And therein here's the hope for local politics. As long as Third Way and Neocon strategists eschew ideas and the 'vision thing,' then ideas and vision become (or should become) the province of their ideologic opposition.

The question is, are they up to it?

LINKS: Third Way Tactics in Labour Politics - Just Left (Jordan Carter)
The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism - C.Bradley Thompson, The Objective Standard
'CONSERVATISM: A NEW OBITUARY.' Part 5: The "neocons" in practice -- adding cynicism to love - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Labour has failed the poor - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)
The Tom Roper Prize this year goes to Christchurch, New Zealand - Diogene's Lamp
The illiterate teaching illiteracy - Not PC (Aug, 2006)
Neither free nor education - Not PC (Nov, 2005)

RELATED: Politics-US, Politics, Objectivism, History-Modern, History-Twentieth Century, Politics-NZ, Welfare, Education, Health

Libertarians are swing voters - study

With US mid-term elections coming up on November 7, a series of US studies shows that between 10 to 20 percent of US voters identify as small 'l' libertarians, and in the two-horse race that is American politics these voters are highly volatile -- debunking pundits who talk about "a country split down the middle" between red and blue and conservatove and liberal, and giving the lie to all the talk about the "shrinking of the swing vote."

Notes David Boaz from the Cato Institute of these voters who would place themselves in the libertarian 'quadrant' of the diamond-shaped spectrum used (right),
For those on the trail of the elusive swing voter, it may be most notable that the libertarian vote shifted sharply in 2004. Libertarians preferred George W. Bush over Al Gore by 72 to 20 percent, but Bush's margin dropped in 2004 to 59-38 over John Kerry. Congressional voting showed a similar swing from 2002 to 2004. Libertarians apparently became disillusioned with Republican overspending, social intolerance, civil liberties infringements, and the floundering war in Iraq. If that trend continues into 2006 and 2008, Republicans will lose elections they would otherwise win.

The libertarian vote is in play. At some 13 percent of the electorate, it is sizable enough to swing elections. Pollsters, political strategists, candidates, and the media should take note of it.
I wonder what size the small 'l' libertarian vote is here in New Zealand? (I would at least wager it is bigger at the end of this month than it was at the start.) MIght I suggest that pollsters, political strategists, candidates, and the media take note of it here too?

PS: Which 'quadrant' do you fit into? Left liberal? Right conservative? Authoritarian? Centrist? Libertarian? Take the World's Smallest Political Quiz online and find out. Perhaps you are a libertarian too?

LINKS: Policy analysis: The libertarian vote (Executive summary) - Cato Institute
Policy analysis: The libertarian vote (Full text) - Cato Institute [1MB PDF]
World's Smallest Political Quiz - Advocates for Self-Government

Politics, Politics-US, Libertarianism, Quiz

Thought for the night ...

"The 'remote possibility' of the best thing is better than a clear certainty of the second best."
- A maxim fondly quoted by author Henry James


Thursday, 19 October 2006

Petition hits 10,000 in one day

MikeE grabbed a screenshot (below) as the Petition to Deny Royal Assent to the Government's 'Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free' legislation clicked over ten-thousand names on board, and only one grumpy bum among them.

That's ten-thousand signatures in just one day
! (No wonder Labour lackie Jordan Carter whose name was included by some wag as signatory 3038 is so grumpy. All the anger, poor Jordan declares sniffily, is just "the angry right [continuing] to go mental over losing the election." He can't get his head around the idea that the anger just might be justified.) However, as MikeE notes:
It is currently the 2nd most popular petition online on the Internet (at least on petitionsonline, which as far as I know is the biggest petition site on the web).

Will people take notice of this? Or is 10,000 people on one day too few?
What do you think? Is this 'house of cards' time?

PS: I'm happy to boast I'm number 8 on the petition. :-) I bet there are many of you too who would want to boast -- I wonder if petition organiser Blair Mulholland was to organise T-shirts or bumper stickers showing personalised signatory numbers how much he would make? Would you buy one?

PPS: At the time of writing this is now the most popular online petition in the world, and at 10:26pm, Thursday night the number of signatories is 16,339, minus Jordan. Keep it going!

Petition hits 10,000 signatures - The Home of MikeE
Petition: No Royal Assent to Electoral Act Violations - Petitions Online

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Politics-Labour

Anti-DPB activist on air

Blogger and anti-DPB activist Lindsay Mitchell appeared on the otherwise dull afternoon show on the National Programme on Tuesday discussing why the DPB has not exactly been a Godsend for children. Until this time next Tuesday (when it disappears), you can listen in here. Lindsay's spot begins at about 16:50, and goes until about 22:30.

LINKS: National Radio - Lindsay Mitchell
Reeling in the Years - Radio NZ

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Welfare

Govt "not focusing on policy"?

Phil Sage points out that "analysis of Labour Party Press Releases by blogger 'Half Done' shows that over 80% of Labour's time this year has been spent not focusing on policy." Phil isn't sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

Well, if that was reflected in a similar thrust in Parliament I would say it's unequivocally good -- given the prevailing policy focus of all the major parties the less parliamentary focus on policy there is from the ruling party the less meddling we would have to endure. Sadly however, I suspect the focus in Parliament has been about 80% on policy, 15% on avoiding questions, and 5% on "moving on."

LINKS: Labour has spent over 80% of their effort not focusing on policy this year - Phil Sage
Further analysis of Labour Party press releases on Scoop - Something Should Go Here, Maybe Later (Half Done)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Labour

A year of vindication for global warming skeptics

A New Smear: Even as the phrase "climate-change deniers" is being inflated into a smear similar to "holocaust denier" -- with one Gore-touting US environmental magazine calling for "Nuremberg-style war crime trials" for members of the global warming "denial industry" -- those troublesome skeptics just aren't going away.

A New Open Letter: Sixty scientists -- including local "deniers" Augie Auer, Vincent Gray and Chris de Freitas -- have written to Canadian PM Stephen Harper "to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government's climate-change plans. This would be entirely consistent with your recent commitment to conduct a review of the Kyoto Protocol." They argue:
Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future. Yet this is precisely what the United Nations did in creating and promoting Kyoto and still does in the alarmist forecasts on which Canada's climate policies are based. Even if the climate models were realistic, the environmental impact of Canada delaying implementation of Kyoto or other greenhouse-gas reduction schemes, pending completion of consultations, would be insignificant. Directing your government to convene balanced, open hearings as soon as possible would be a most prudent and responsible course of action.

While the confident pronouncements of scientifically unqualified environmental groups may provide for sensational headlines, they are no basis for mature policy
formulation. The study of global climate change is, as you have said, an "emerging science," one that is perhaps the most complex ever tackled. It may be many years yet before we properly understand the Earth's climate system. Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.
No warming thanks, we're Southern Men: Meanwhile, despite being predicted for the last eighteen years, "catastrophic warming" is still not happening anywhere except those computer climate models, and in fact figures for the troposphere obtained from the US National Space, Science & Technology Centre and recently recalculated by separating out hemispheres suggest that even the warming that is present is only present in one hemisphere: the north. Here in the south however we're still freezing our tits off. See:

That's the global average for tropospheric temperatures shown at the top, with the northern hemisphere in the middle, and us colder cousins at the bottom. [Cambridge physicist Luboš Motl summarises here.] That 'El Nino' spike in 1988 aside, there's been nothing of note to deny down here.

Global warming? Well, maybe northern hemisphere warming. "Catastrophic" warming? I think not.

"A Year of Vindication for Global Warming Skeptics":
Rob Bradley from the Institute for Energy Research (one of those nasty members of the global warming "denial industry") has called 2006 a year of vindication for [global warming] skeptics. He summarises some of the recent highlights:
  • Global Cooling on the Horizon? In August, Khabibullo Abdusamatov, a scientist who heads the space research sector for the Russian Academy of Sciences, predicted long-term global cooling may be on the horizon due to a projected decrease in the sun's output.
  • Sun's Contribution to Warming: Recent findings in peer-reviewed literature over the last few years show that the Antarctic is getting colder and the ice is growingand a new 2006 study in Geophysical Research Letters found that the sun was responsible for up to 50% of 20th-century warming.
  • "Global Warming" Stopped in 1998: Paleoclimate scientist Bob Carter has noted that there is indeed a problem with global warming -- it stopped in 1998. "According to official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the UK, the global average temperature did not increase between 1998-2005... this eight-year period of temperature stasis did coincide with society's continued power station and SUV-inspired pumping of yet more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere..."
  • Alaska Cooling: According to data released on July 14, 2006 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the January through June Alaska statewide average temperature was "0.55F (0.30C) cooler than the 1971-2000 average."
  • Oceans Cooling: Another bombshell to hit the global warming alarmists and their speculative climate modeling came in a September article in the Geophysical Research Letters which found that over 20% of the heat gained in the oceans since the mid-1950s was lost in just two years...
  • Light Hurricane Season & Early Winter: Despite predictions that 2006 would bring numerous tropical storms, 2006's surprisingly light hurricane season and the record early start of this year's winter in many parts of the U.S. have further put a damper on the constant doomsaying of the global warming alarmists and their media allies.
  • Droughts Less Frequent: the claim that droughts would be more frequent, severe and wide ranging during global warming, has now being exposed as fallacious. A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters authored by Konstantinos Andreadis and Dennis Lettenmaier finds droughts in the U.S. becoming "shorter, less frequent and cover a small portion of the country over the last century."
  • Global Warming Will Not Lead to Next Ice Age : Fears that global warming could lead to the next ice age, as promoted in the 2004 Hollywood movie "The Day After Tomorrow" are also unsupportable. "...two different research teams present convincing evidence [ in Geophysical Research Letters ] that no slowdown is occurring whatsoever,"according to Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels, editor of the website World Climate Report.
  • Study Shows Greenland's Ice Growing, Arctic warmer in 1930's than today:
    A 2005 study by a scientist named Ola Johannessen and his colleagues showed
    that the interior of Greenland is gaining ice mass. Also, according to the International Arctic Research Institute, despite all of the media hype, the Arctic was warmer in the 1930's than today.
  • Polar Bears Not Going Extinct: Polar bears are not facing a crisis, according to biologist Dr. Mitchell Taylor from the Arctic government of Nunavut. "Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present," Taylor wrote on May 1, 2006.
  • Media Darling James Hansen Hypes Alarmism: As all this new data debunking climate alarmism mounts, the mainstream media chooses to ignore it and instead focus on the dire predictions of the number-one global warming media darling, NASA's James Hansen. The increasingly alarmist Hansen is featured frequently in the media to bolster sky-is-falling climate scare reports. His recent claim -- that the Earth is nearing its hottest point in one million years -- has been challenged by many scientists. Hansen's increasingly frightening climate predictions follow his 2003 concession that the use of "extreme scenarios" was an appropriate tactic to drive the public's attention to the urgency of global warming. Hansen also received a $250,000 grant form Teresa Heinz's Foundation and then subsequently endorsed her husband John Kerry for President and worked
    closely with Al Gore to promote his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." See also
  • For a comprehensive review of the media's embarrassing 100-year history of
    alternating between promoting fears of a coming ice age and global warming,
    see Environment & Public Works Chairman James Inhofe's September 25, 2006,
    Senate floor speech
    debunking the media and climate alarmism.
  • To read and watch Senator Inhofe on CNN discuss global warming, go to:
  • "Inhofe Correct On Global Warming," by David Deming, geophysicist, adjunct
    scholar with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
    and associate professor of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.
LINKS: Nuremberg-style trials proposed for global warming skeptics - US Senate Committe on Environment
Open Kyoto to debate - Canada.Com
Southern hemisphere ignores global warming - 'The Reference Frame' physics blog

RELATED: Science, Politics-US, Global Warming


From the front page of today's Herald, in a 'pull-out' on the 'Get Out of Jail Free Act':
Opposition leader Don Brash says it means there is "no legal obligation on anybody to pay back anything." But Prime Minister Helen Clark disagrees: "I don't believe that's the intention at all but you have to take parties at their word and they say they will refund that becomes a matter of honour."
Honour? From a politician? The irony really is palpable. Time for that old, old joke:
Q: How do you know when a politician's lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Politics-Labour

Are libertarians "right wing"?

Libertarianz are an "extreme right wing party," declared Helen Clark a few weeks back. The Herald yesterday called Libertarianz a "right wing political party" (since amended I see, well done The Herald.) Well let me just clarify: libertarians are as "right wing" as Herald journalist Fran O'Sullivan is a blogger.

Libertarians are not right wing. The "right wing" is generally inhabited by conservatives, and what they wish to conserve depends on the context. At best conservatives are economically liberal, but on issues of personal freedom they're generally big-government busybodies. In New Zealand, in general, conservatives have helped to conserve big government and a shackled market while being agnostic or even worse on issues of personal freedom such as free speech.

Libertarians are not right wing.

Libertarians are not left wing. The "left wing" is generally inhabited by those who are personally liberal but economically authoritarian -- with the authoritarianism generally infecting whatever liberalism they espouse.

Libertarians are not left wing.

In fact, both left and right wing are just variations of a collectivist theme. Both "wings" see government's job as bossing people around, putting their hands in your pocket and distributing whatever they find there -- the only fundamental arguments between them are over what the bossing is about, and to whom the goodies go.

"Left" and "right wing" are simply two ends of a one-dimensional spectrum that collapses important distinctions and obscures more than it reveals.

Libertarians are neither left nor right wing. On the two-dimensional spectrum seen at left we are North, as oposed to the authoritarian South of the spectrum. We are economically liberal AND personally liberal: we say you should have the same freedom to do what you wish in the boardroom as you should in the bedrooom, (with the only proviso being rules against the initiation of force or fraud). We are in favour of capitalist acts between consenting adults.

So are we liberals? No! The word "liberal" has been perverted too long by wet, hand-wringing, limp-dick, pussy-whipped, guilt-ridden, spineless, big-government-worshipping tossers intent on stealing your wallet and bossing around your children. It's too late for "liberal," whether classical or otherwise.

We are not liberals; we are not right wing; we are not left wing. We are libertarian. If you too believe consistently in economic and personal freedom, then have the balls to call yourself a libertarian too!

MORE: Left and right and that post-modern nonsense - Not PC (Feb, 2006)
Right Plus Left = Wrong - Lindsay Perigo, Free Radical
NZ's Political Spectrum - Not PC
Left Wing - Right Wing -
The World's Most Popular Political Quiz - Advocates for Self Government
Left? Right? A plague upon you both! - Not PC (April, 2005)

RELATED: Politics, Libz, Libertarianism, Politics-NZ

FREE RADICAL 72: The great environmental sellout - why 'Bluegreen' is the new wet

The mainstream media only picked up on NZ's political challenge of the year in late September, but The Free Radical had the whole Darnton V Clark story and the details about the stolen election in July!


Free Radical 72 is out now, it gets beneath the news, and it's ready to hit your letter box today. SUBSCRIBE NOW. In this issue:
  • We look at the 'other side of the aisle': we examine the National Party’s much-trumpeted and much-deliberated upon environmental policy release, and we ask the question, “Why is it so bloody wet?”
    ** We point out why it is a lost opportunity.
    ** We explain why, if implemented, National's policies promise to further erode liberty and property rights in New Zealand.
    ** And we explain what a rational set of environmental policies might look like.
  • Bernard Darnton updates reactions to his case against the Clark Government's stolen election.
  • What's the Truth about Islam? Reuben Chapple, Peter Cresswell and Lindsay Perigo explain.
  • 'Why Did the Music Die'? Edward Cline explains.
  • What's wrong with NZ's National Drug Policy? Richard Goode has something to think about.
  • Civil War in New Zealand? Phil Howison looks into the future.
  • A philosopher "obsessed" with truth? Marcus Bachler investigates this unusual phenomenon.
  • An Australian classical liberal who's just too liberal for John Howard's Liberal Party -- Prodos tells his own story.
  • Lindsay Perigo explains why he's stepping down as editor, and where he's heading next.
All this and more, much more, including your own cut-out-and-keep Al Gore poster -- perfect for your wall, fridge or door-mat! -- your own 'Labour Party Problem Solving Wallchart,' and regular columns by George Reisman, Jason Roth (from Save the Humans), Rex Benson, 'Susan the Libertarian,' and Carol the Montessorian ... along with regular features on art, architecture, beer, music, health and much, much more!!

Don't miss out. Look for it in the very best newsagents, or you can SUBSCRIBE NOW to get your own copy of this, the first issue by the new editor: me.

Peter Cresswell

LINK: Free Radical 71: The Stolen Election issue
Subscribe - Free Radical

RELATED: Free Radical, Politics, Economics, Objectivism, Libertarianism, Philosophy, Politics-NZ, Environmentalism

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

"No Royal Assent to Electoral Act Violations"

I have just read and signed the online petition "No Royal Assent to Electoral Act Violations" at

The Petition asks the Governor-General to refuse giving Royal Assent to this disgraceful retrospective legalisation legislation currently being rammed through Parliament. I personally agree with what this petition says, and I think you might agree, too. If you can spare a moment, please take a look, and consider signing yourself.

LINK: Petition to: His Excellency, Anand Satyanand, Governor General of New Zealand - Petitions Online

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Constitution, Law, Politics-Labour

Tax cuts are good for growth

As I said the other day, tax cuts are good for two basic reasons: First because tax cuts are good for growth. Second, because it's your bloody money!

Phil Rennie at the Center for Independent Studies takes the first tack with his new 12-page research paper, 'Why Tax Cuts Are Good For Growth.' Good reading.

LINK: Why tax cuts are good for growth - Phil Rennie, Center for Independent Studies
Report supports tax cuts - v. short summary at Newstalk ZB
Tax cuts - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
CIS Home Page

RELATED: Politics, Economics, Budget & Taxation

Breakfast with Perigo & Brash

Here's a breakfast event tomorrow morning you can get your teeth into:

If you can't make tomorrow's, then ring and enquire about the next two in the series.

Banana Republic Day

Pass the bananas

Just clarifying what Bernard Darnton will be doing today. From his blog:

Libertarianz will be marking New Zealand’s transition from a land of constitutionally limited government to banana republic by declaring October 18th to be Banana Republic Day. Libertarianz members and supporters will be outside Parliament from 11:30 this morning handing out bananas to mark this inauspicious occasion.

Join him. All welcome. And bring your own bananas.

UPDATE: The Herald notes the protest, but unilaterally declares Libz "right wing." What nonsense.

LINK: Banana Republic Day - Darnton V Clark
Left and right and that post-modern nonsense - Not PC (Feb, 2006)

RELATED: Libz, Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Constitution, Law, Politics-Labour

'Legal highway robbery' says Maori Party

TVNZ has a summary of reactions to the disgraceful goings on in Parliament, and they are revealing:
  • "The Maori Party is describing the government's bill to validate election overspending as 'legal highway robbery'... [Hone Harawira] says walking your talk is the first principle of genuine leadership and that cowering behind the facade of legislation is the domain of thieves and scoundrels."

    Good for them.

  • "National is telling Labour the public will never forgive it for passing retrospective legislation to validate its overspend at the last election."

    But it hasn't told the public that it would rescind that retrospective legislation, has it?

  • "[Constitutional law expert Bill Hodge says he] does not trust the government and believes Labour could use the legislation to avoid paying back the money it owes. Hodge says it is bad for the government to bring parliament into the debate as it besmirches the legal system and makes New Zealand look like a banana republic."

    He's right on the money, isn't he.

  • "The leader of the Libertarianz Party is not ruling out further legal action against the government. Bernard Darnton admits his high court case attempting to declare Labour's pledge card spending illegal has little chance of survival. He says the bill will likely spell the end to the action. But Darnton says he will be looking for other avenues to take."

    One of those actions will be to declare and host a 'Banana Republic Day' on the steps of Parliament at 11:30am today. JOIN HIM DOWN THERE IF YOU CAN, AND BRING YOUR OWN BANANAS & YELLOW BALLOONS.

UPDATE: DPF has a round-up of media reaction, and some comment on the Validating Bill itself.

UPDATE 2: He also has news that
"Labour have explicitly voted to kill off a lawsuit against themselves." An emendment was proposed allowing Bernard Darnton's legal challenge which was voted down by Labour and its allies:
Clause 6A(1) Nothing in this Act shall affect the High Court proceedings of Darnton v Clark dated 29 June 2006 (Civ No. 2006-485-1398) in which the plaintiff seeks a declaration that the expenditure on the “pledge card” and related brochures by the Labour Parliamentary Party is a breach of the Constitution Act 1986, the Public Finance Act 1989 and the Bill of Rights 1688.
DPF's reaction says it all:
This is even more repugnant than what Muldoon did as he did not stand to personally benefit from his actions in Fitzgerald v Muldoon. This also cements in place the big lie that Labour pushes that the Auditor-General changed the rules. The AG is adamant he did not, and this lawsuit would have allowed a Judge to decide whether or not the pledge card was legal under the current rules.
LINKS: Election bill "legal highway robbery" - TVNZ
Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Constitution, Law, Politics-Labour