Monday, 4 December 2006

'Wind That Shakes the Barley' vs 'Michael Collins'

I've been meaning to post a short review of Ken Loach's movie 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley,' playing now at The Rialto.

This is not that review. It is simply to suggest that if you are considering seeing it, then my recommendation would be to see Neil Jordan's 'Michael Collins' first (or instead) -- Jordan's film of the great Irish leader deals with similar times and similar themes, but is everything Loach's film isn't (including politically) -- and to brush up on your Irish history so you know what the hell is going on.

Rather than allowing you sufficient context to work out what is going on, Loach, as he so often does, prefers to let you try and abstract from his smaller-than-life characters to the drama going on around them, and for mine that just doesn't work successfully. Jordan's film does the opposite, and is a much better introduction to the times (and, incidentally, a much better film).

In the meantime, and to help keep you informed, I'll try and dig out a review of the 'Michael Collins' film I wrote at the time it came out.

LINKS: 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' - Wikipedia
'Michael Collins' [film] - Wikipedia

RELATED: Films, History-Twentieth Century

Speed maidens get their signs out

The Danes have worked out how to slow down speeding drivers: Have a young, attractive, topless woman do the job. Pictured right is one of Denmark's new 'speed maidens.' As one Copenhagen motorist explained, "It's really kind of obvious. Why didn't they think of this sooner."

Frankly, if LTSA is going to waste my money road safety campaigns, then rather than the vile and pathetic TV ads, I'd far rather see some attractive young speed maidens fronting a more attractive campaign. As the Sunday Times says, this is a "flash of road safety genius."

Video report here. [Hat tip Crusader Rabbit]

LINKS: Flash of road safety genius - Sunday Times
Video report - Speed Bandits
Flash of road safety genius - Crusader Rabbit

RELATED: Humour, Sex, Law, Politics-World

The Key to my blogroll

After a week of limp dick John Boy Key's wet blathering -- sample, "I'm like the Inland Revenue. Firm but fair" -- I've decided to amend the Team Blue part of my blogroll by shifting all Key supporters to where they now belong. Team Red.

Naturally, all those bloggers filed under Team Libz on the blogroll stay put (I'd say "once a libertarian, always a libertarian," but unfortunately Deborah Coddington gives the lie to that one), and ACT types stay put in Team Blue (Rodney has cleared that one up today).

Bloggers rightly outraged at being unwittingly caught up in this peremptory shift may may make application to be reinstated to Team Blue by a carefully placed Cactus or two placed under the arse of what the "reasonable, sensible and curiously attractive" Cactus calls this "Keynesian soft cock Socialist leaning IRD apologetic point man."

Go on, let yourself go. Say what you really think, or else stay sitting there in the Team Red clubhouse.

UPDATE: One year on, Stephen Franks gets moved to Team Red for this.

LINK: National strategy - Cactus Kate
ACT working to woo back National's right-wingers - NZ Herald

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

Farrar with libertarians

Good to see blogger David Farrar keeping better company in Britain than he sometimes does back home. Rubbing shoulders with libertarians for two days at the conference of the UK Libertarian Alliance has got to make him a better person than does rubbing shoulders with local Nats, doesn't it -- and it sure shits all over paying homage to David Cameron.

LINKS: The Libertarian Alliance - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)
The Annual Conference of the Libertarian Alliance - Libertarian Alliance

RELATED: Politics-UK, Libertarianism

Another iron law of prohibition

Here's another 'iron law' of prohibition: you can pass all the laws you want enforcing prohibition, but no law on earth can make prohibition work.

You want some proof? Here's a sample from the Sunday Star Times, from an interview with a prisoner:
Prison's where you go to get drugs. It's incredible, I've never had drugs in my life. I had the opportunity to experience every type if I'd have wanted.
The point is that talk about drug laws should start at the point of what's possible. If you can't even ban drugs from prisons, then how on earth do you think you can ban them from a free society?

NB. Phil's comment below is exactly right: "If it is impossible to ban drugs, then the question becomes: should we have a legal, transparent, accountable market for drugs, or an illegal, secretive, unaccountable one?"

Your call.

RELATED: Victimless Crimes

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Today's Bible Reading: Killing the Firstborn

Another great Sunday School story from the book telling tales of the loving God: this week, the pre-meditated mass-murder of innocent children:
EXODUS 11:4 ...Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 11:5 And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 11:6 And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt...
And lo, it was done:
EXODUS 12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle. 12:30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
There you go. Just another family-friendly story from the tales of a loving God that you can enjoy in detail -- and with pictures -- at the Brick Testament: The Tenth Plague.

Do not try this at home.

(DISCLAIMER: Fear not friends. This is just fiction -- the wishful thinking of the Bible's scribes. There is no historical evidence for a tribe of Jews enslaved in Egypt, for Moses, or for the genocide-from-on-high described here. Just another reason to file the Bible under 'fiction,' and keep it in the sealed section of your library.)

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense, History

Guest Post: "...Shall I pile up the quotes from evolutionists having serious doubt about that fossil evidence?"

In a recent debate here at Not PC, I made this comment to a debater:'re beginning to look like a Creationist refusing to countenance the fossil evidence for evolution." Ah," they say as the fossil evidence keeps piling up, "but you haven't yet got enough evidence to shake my faith...
To this point, Berend de Boer replied: "Fossil evidence, yeah right. Shall I pile up the quotes from evolutionists having serious doubt about that fossil evidence?" I now post that "pile-up" and hereby claim my beer (and you can check Berend's argument), but not before re-posting another of Berend's comments for some context. James asked:
...while you are at it [Berend], please explain those pesky Dinosaur skeletons that keep being dug up all over the show....when in the last "6,000 years " did God sneak those in without us knowing...?
Berend's reply forms an instructive introduction to this post here today:
As to dinosaurs, I'm not sure what you mean. What's the sneaking? I've always wondered why people in the Middle Ages had pictures of creatures we now clearly identify as dinosaurs.

Obviously if we find a human foot print and a dinosaur foot print together, there has been contamination, because that can't be true.

And isn't it a bit annoying that dinosaur bones smell so strongly after those millions of years of decay? That stretchy tissue has been found in their bones, leading the main researcher to claim she found blood cells. Why, [if they have] been dead for tens of millions of years?
Settle back now, dear reader. Like you, I look forward to hearing about those "people in the Middle Ages [who] had pictures of creatures we now clearly identify as dinosaurs..." [You might also care to consider the arguments put forward in some previous posts here at Not PC:
The eyes have it: dismissing Creationism again
The passion of science
Closing of 'Intelligent Design' trial
Unintelligent design, Part 3
Unintelligent design, Part 2
Unintelligent design, Part 1 ]
* * *
BEREND: In a comment Peter Cresswell put forward the claim that Creationists just discard the fossil evidence for evolution. I claimed to be able to cite evolutionists also wondering what the fossils are actually evidence of. Peter offered to put any quotes I could find on his blog. Given that this has turned into a rather long article [make that "extraordinarily long" - Ed.] I suppose I have to compensate him for the space, so I'll buy you a beer Peter. One day. And without further ado here is the article.

It seems our preconceptions can prevent us from seeing things. One can see something and not see it. It's a very human thing it seems, even scientists cannot escape it.

Our perception appears to be so strong that it can even determine what we smell. A stark reminder of this is the recent event of Dr Mary Schweitzer's discovery of stretchy tissue in dinosaur bone. It was so sensational, so upsetting, Discover magazine titled the story: "Schweitzer's Dangerous Discovery" (Discover 27(4):37--41, 77, April 2006). After her find Schweitzer suddenly smelt something, something she had never smelled before, because it could not exist. 65-million-year-old bones don't smell. But she now clearly did smell a distinctly cadaverous odour. When she mentioned this to long-time paleontologist Jack Horner, he said: "Yeah, all Hell Creek bones smell."

It goes further. Our perceptions can even determine the facts that we allow to be accepted. The previously mentioned Discover magazine says: "When this shy paleontologist found soft, fresh-looking tissue inside a T. Rex femur, she erased a line between past and present. Then all
hell broke loose." Dr. Schweitzer had a hard time getting her work published:
I had one reviewer tell me that he didn't care what the data said, he knew that what I was finding wasn't possible," says Schweitzer. "I wrote back and said, 'Well, what data would
convince you?' And he said, 'None.'
And that leads us to fossils and our interpretations of these. Clearly there are fossils. But what do we see when we see fossils? Fossils don't come with an interpretation, that's something we humans attach to them. The evidence does not speak for itself, and facts should always trump theory. So what do we see when we look at fossils? Peter Cresswell claims that when we look at the fossil record, we see evolution. That is not exactly a clearly defined statement, so I
interpret that in the usual school text-book sense of seeing Neo-Darwinist evolution. We see primitive creatures gradually evolving into more advanced creatures. In particular we see an overwhelming amount of intermediate forms, creatures no longer around.

Before continuing I must first define evolution. The meaning of evolution has become a synonym for things that are definitely not evolution. When the word evolution is used, both micro-evolution and macro-evolution are included. Micro-evolution is natural selection, i.e. Darwin's Finches, but also breeding dogs and horses. It is a rearrangement of existing genetic material. No one is arguing that this is real and is happening.

But macro-evolution is different: it is the appearance of new genetic material, new functionality that didn't exist before. For example if a mouse evolved into a bat, he would not only need wings, but also the brain to use these wings: bats are not taught to fly, they know it. Macro-evolution is single cell to elephant, ape to man, goo to you.

The distinction between natural selection and evolution isn't something creationists have invented. The biologist L Harrison Matthews wrote in the preface of the 1971 edition of the Evolution of Species that the peppered moth example showed natural selection, but
not "evolution in action."

Does fossil evidence show evolution in action? What do we see? How do paleontologists interpret fossils? In this article I will quote various paleontologists and tell you what they think the evidence is saying.

Let's start with Darwin himself, writing in the Origin of Species:
Why is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory.
Yes, why not? Darwin was worried. It was clearly not the fossil evidence that swayed him, because he writes that there wasn't such a thing at that time. And he finds it the most serious objection that can be argued against his theory. Sure a hundred years later, things
have improved?

But exactly one hundred years after the first edition of the Origin of Species, in 1959, G.G. Simpson summarised the fossil record in an article prepared for the Darwin Centenary Symposium in Chicago of the same year:
Gaps among known species are sporadic and often small. Gaps among known orders, classes and phyla are systematic and almost always large.
Also in that year Norman Newell, past curator of historical geology at the American Museum of Natural History wrote in The Nature of the Fossil Record (Proc. of the American Phil. Soc, 103 (2)):
...experience shows that the gaps which separate the highest categories may never be bridged in the fossil record. Many of the discontinuities tend to be more and more emphasised with increased collecting.
Yes, the fossil evidence is overwhelming isn't it? Except if you ask a paleontologist. Twenty five years after that, in 1977, the most famous paleontologist of recent times, Stephen J. Gould, wrote (Evolution's Erratic Pace, Natural History, vol 86. (May 1977) p.14):
The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of preserve our favoured account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.
Oops. Nothing changed that in the time up to 2002. In his last book, the Structure of Evolutionary Theory, Stephen J. Gould wrote:
... since we have no direct data for key transitions that occurred so long ago and left no fossil evidence ... such entirely speculative scenarios must be understood within their acknowledged
limits -- that i as hypothetical stories, "cartoons" in Buss's words, invented to illuminate a potential mode and not as claims about any historical accuracy.
Stephen J. Gould also quotes George Gaylord Simpson:
... the greatest and most biologically astute paleontologist of the 20th century ... acknowledged the literal appearance of stasis and geologically abrupt origin as the outstanding general fact of the fossil record and as a pattern which would "pose on of the most important theoretical problems in the whole history of life."
Except in the fossil text books at public schools where there is no evidence of a problem at all. But sure, we could go to a museum and see a missing link, couldn't we? After all the evidence is
overwhelming. [NB., The reader should note that this did not stop Gould providing expert testimony against the equal-time creationism law in McLean v. Arkansas.]

In Darwin's Enigma Luther Sunderland interviewed five leading fossil experts from the world's major fossil museums. None of the five museum officials could offer a single example of a transitional series of fossilized organisms that would document the transformation of one
basically different type to another.

Dr Colin Patterson, a senior palaeontologist at the British Museum of Natural History and author of the book Evolution said (quoted in Darwin's Enigma, Luther Sunderland, 1988):
Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils. As a palaeontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identifying ancestral forms in the fossil record. You say that I should at least "show a photo of the fossil from which each type of organism was derived."? I will lay it on the line-
there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record.
Dr Colin Patterson, author of the book Evolution, and a senior palaeontologist at the British Museum of Natural History received a letter from a reader. The reader asked why he did not put a single photograph of a transitional fossil in his book. On April 10, 1979, he replied to the author in a most candid letter as follows:
... I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used to visualise such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic licence, would that not mislead the reader?
Ideology has triumphed over the data. Dr David Pilbeam of the Boston Natural History Museum acknowledged this in "In Rearranging Our Family Tree", Human Nature magazine, June 1978. In that article he reported that discoveries since 1976 had shaken his view of human origins and
forced a change in ideas of man's early ancestors. Dr Pilbeam's previous views were wrong about tool use replacing canine teeth, evidence for which was totally lacking. He did not believe any longer that he was likely to hit upon the true or correct story of the origin of man. He repeated a number of times that our theories have clearly reflected our current ideologies instead of the actual data. Too often they have reflected only what we expected of them.

In Evolution by Mark Ridley, published in 2004, we learn why there has never been a Nobel Prize awarded for evolutionary theory. He states:
We need to keep in mind the status of the evolutionary biologist's argument here. The series of stages may in some cases not be particularly plausible, or well supported by evidence, but the argument is put forward solely to refute the suggestion that we cannot imagine how the character could have evolved. (p. 263)
He continues and concludes his argument in the following paragraph:
It is fair to conclude that there are no known adaptations that definitely could not have evolved by natural selection. Or (if the double negative is confusing), we can conclude that all known adaptations are in principle explicable by natural selection. (p. 263)
Fossil evidence for evolution? Why do people who claim that not have [all] paleontologists on their side? The stratigraphic record demonstrates only stasis. When this record is viewed through the lenses of information theory, it demonstrates trivial morphologic changes, no transitional forms of any type, and the outworking of natural selection.

But who needs data and facts? Richard Dawkins admits there are no missing links, but he doesn't need them:
But those fossil animals that have no fossil ancestors must have had ancestors of some kind. They can't have sprung from nothing. Therefore there must have been ancestors that didn't
fossilize, absence of fossils does not mean absence of animals. (p. 209);
Sad isn't it? There are no missing links, but that doesn't mean a thing, because our theories say it did happen. Again, where is the overwhelming evidence? Let's conclude with a biologist, S. Stanley (Macroevolution (1979)):
The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid.
One hundred years after Darwin wrote that the absence of intermediate forms was one of the strongest objections against his theory, Michael Denton wrote in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis:
Despite the tremendous increase in geological activity in every corner of the globe and despite the discovery of many strange and hitherto unknown forms, the infinitude of connecting links has still not been discovered and the fossil record is about as discontinuous as it was when Darwin was writing the Origin. The intermediates have remained as elusive as ever and their absence remains, a century later, one of the most striking characteristics of the fossil record.It is still, as it was in Darwin's day, overwhelmingly true that the first representatives of all the major classes of organisms known to biology are already highly characteristic of their class when they make their initial appearance in the fossil record.
I rest my case.

Berend de Boer, Auckland, 2006.

TAGS: Science Religion Philosophy

Saturday, 2 December 2006

John-Boy Key: "I'm like the Inland Revenue"

The Herald's Michelle Hewitson extracted this from John-Boy Key this morning:
"I'm like the Inland Revenue," said John-Boy. "Firm but fair."
What a fuckwit.

UPDATE: Perhaps someone working in Rodney Hide's office could send the slimey, limp-dick fuckwit a copy of Rodney's book, 'The Power to Destroy' so he can see for himself how "firm but fair" his chosen alter ego really is.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

"Recognition is bullshit."

I was struck by this quote from Casino Royale director Martin Campbell in this morning's Herald: Reflecting on the fact he has "slipped under the radar" as far as widespread recognition in his home country (New Zealand) and further afield, he says,
"Recognition is bullshit. It's the work that's important."
I was struck by that because that's precisely the reverse of how so many people see it, and because it was almost precisely the sentiment behind Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead, in which, in a climactic scene, architect Howard Roark explains to a man who has lost his soul through the rewards of second-handedness and recognition-seeking:
"Before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing. Your own action, not any object of your charity. I’ll be glad if people who need it find a better manner of living in a house I designed. But that’s not the motive of my work. Nor my reason. Nor my reward. My reward, my purpose, my life is the work itself. My work, done my way. Nothing else matters to me."
I feel sure Martin Campbell would agree. (And wouldn't Daniel Craig make an outstanding Howard Roark?)

RELATED: Films, Books, Objectivism

A weekend ramble

Another weekly ramble through the clippings from the Not PC off-cut desk
  • Cox and Forkum summarises what's fast becomin an obvious conclusion about Russia's ruler:

  • The stadium sage continues. And as it rumbles along, I was amused to note this comment at Philosophically Made/Red Bears, self-described as a blog by "NZ based bloggers of a leftwing persuasion": "Even though I hate to agree with ACT and the Libertarianz," said blogger STC, "at this point Carlaw Park looks like a pretty terrific option." I should point out that Libertarianz per se really have no view on Carlaw Park -- I do however, and I still affirm that Carlaw Park is a terrific option, particularly for what a stadium there could do for the city, but that's a personal view (I confess, I do like a good stadium), and I've been beaten about the head by my Libz colleagues for daring to say so. The Waterfront - Philosophically Made

  • Joel Schwartz has a whole host of climate science resources at his website, including his latest, a slideshow conference presentation [pdf]. Climate Change: Science, Policy, Politics - Joel Schwartz [PDF]

  • The War On Drugs debate continued here the other day with the discussion over Milton Friedmans' Iron Law on Prohibition, stated by Richard Cowan in this way, "The more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes" -- or as I put it in the post under debate, 'More Prohibition, Worse Drugs.'
    Commenters argued that unlike us "pie in the sky" legalisers they lived in "the real world," and as good prohibitionists they were still keen to make laws for other people. It's worth having a look at how alcohol prohibition worked to see how prohibition does actually work in the real world instead of in the fetid fantasies of prohibitionists. How did alcohol prohibition work in the real world? A: Bloody poorly. And the Iron Law of Prohibition was clearly in effect; see the graph below for example which shows how consumption of toxic bathtub liquors -- the more potent alcohol -- flourished, exactly as you'd expect.
  • Total Expenditure on Distilled Spirits as a Percentage of Total Alcohol Sales (1890-1960)
    If you didn't already know the years in which the fooolishness of alcohol prohibition was in effect, then you can seeit clearly enough from the graph. Unsurprisingly, since the onset of prohibition did more than anything ever before to give piles of cash to violent criminals, these were also years in which murder experiences enormous growth. Pictured below is the US homicide rate from 1910-1944:
    If you really do want to be informed about the disaster of prohibition rather than being guilty of interviewing the inside of your own skull, then just below are some good links to check out. And if you don't wish to be informed, then butt the hell out of the argument, and leave other people the hell alone:
    - Alcohol Prohibition was a Failure - Prof. Mark Thornton, Cato Institute
    - The Re-legalization of Drugs - Tibor Machan & Mark Thornton, FEE
    - How Prohibition Makes Any Drug More Dangerous - Drug Policy Forum of Texas
    - Lessons of History. Lesson 8: Crack - Efficacy Online
    The more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the drugs. If a dealer can smuggle only one suitcase full of drugs ... which would he be carrying - marijuana, coca leaves, cocaine, or crack? He gets more dollars for the bulk if he carries more potent drugs...
    - How the Narcs Created Crack - Richard Cowan, National Review
    Be good to conclude here with a line from the conclusion of Penn & Tellers's 'Bullshit' episode on the War on Drugs: "I don't do drugs, but it's your right to do so if you wish. Just stay the fuck away from my house."

  • Physics and induction -- the science and the method of science that go together like coffee and eggs. Induction itself is the science that provides the foundation for all genuine universal knowledge, yet is still the subject of much misunderstanding: Just how do we form general, universal conclusions from particular observations? What methods must we follow to be confident our conclusions are sound?
    Lisa Van Damme from the Van Damme Academy explains first how physics can be (and is) taught in an inductive fashion at her Academy.
    "My students, she says, "have the extreme good fortune of being taught physics by David Harriman, a scholar of physics who is currently writing a book on the influence of philosophy on the history of physics. With his vast knowledge of physics and pedagogy, Mr. Harriman designed a new, and very effective method of teaching physics."
    You can read about it in her article at CapMag: Physics by Induction: The Genius of Learning Science the Proper Way. And on the Objectivist front, work continues by physicist David Harriman and philosopher Leonard Peikoff on their much-awaited book, Induction in Physics and Philosophy. Meanwhile, however, you can listen to a three-minute sample of a 2003 lecture series by Leonard Peikoff: Induction in Physics and Philosophy available at the Ayn Rand Bookstore and, if you're keen, buy the lectures, a fourteen-CD set [and if you do, I'd love to borrow it :-) ].
    These historic lectures present, for the first time, the solution to the problem of induction—and thereby complete, in every essential respect, the validation of reason.

    Peikoff begins by identifying the axioms of induction and the method of establishing their objectivity, including the role of measurement-omission. This enables him to make clear the parallels between concept-formation and generalization-formation, and leads him to discover the real distinction between induction and deduction.

    Peikoff goes on to discuss the methods used in science to prove non-axiomatic generalizations and advanced theories. He stresses, with many examples (from Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Maxwell and others), the roles of experimentation and of mathematics.

    Diana Hsieh at Noodle Food has a summary of the course (albeit brief, and albeit at third-hand) and the subsequent discussion proved fruitful. And Objectivist Ron Pisaturo takes issue with some of Peikoff's views in his own take on induction: Ron Pisaturo: A Theory of Knowledge.

  • "Public misunderstanding of basic economic principles leaves us easy prey to political quacks, charlatans and assorted hustlers," explains Walter Williams in What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity.
  • And finally (well, nearly), Walter Williams takes a brief look at the nonsense of so-called "racial diversity," which he argues flourishes at the expense of genuine intellectual diversity.

    There are some ideas so ludicrous and mischievous that only an academic would take them seriously. One of them is diversity. Think about it. Are you for or against diversity? When's the last time you said to yourself, "I'd better have a little more diversity in my life"? ...When academics call for diversity, they're really talking about racial preferences for particular groups of people, mainly blacks.
    The price, he argues, is steep. Racial Diversity at the Expense of Intellectual Diversity - Walter Williams, Capitalism Magazine.

  • And on the subject of focussing too much on race and so-called "cultural identity," I can't go past an observation made by philosopher Tibor Machan, himself an immigrant from Hungary to the US.
    When, more recently, it began to be fashionable to stress one’s ethnic or cultural or racial identity, I was puzzled. To start with, what kind of identity is it that one acquires by accident? So, I was born in Budapest and heard a lot of gypsy music, ate paprika csirke and palacsinta. And, yes, I liked these things and still do. But how significant a part of me is there in that? My idea from early on was that what’s important about one’s identity is what one contributes to it oneself.
    Who one is shouldn’t be a matter of happenstance but of purposive action. I liked to read and think about philosophy and religion, so if someone wanted to know who I was, I’d tell them about that. Or, in a less serious vein, about things I liked to do such as traveling and playing tennis.Some collage of these aspects of my life, of the things over which I have had some say, some choice, seems to me to make me who I am— not so much how tall I am or where I was born.
    As I got to hear more and more about ethnic and racial pride, I was even more puzzled. How can someone be proud of being, say, Caucasian or black or gay or Asian? What had
    one to do with such things? Perhaps one might be glad of being tall or of having lived among other members of one’s ethnic group if, indeed, this had amounted to a good experience.
    And one could certainly refuse to be ashamed of being black or white or whatever one could not help being.
    Even more, one might feel some affinity with others who were being picked on for attributes one shared with them and be willing, even, to unite with them to resist such treatment.
    But proud? Doesn’t pride require some worthy achievement from oneself?
    In my neighborhood newspaper, there is someone who writes mainly about Hispanics, and in nearly every column Hispanics are urged to feel special for being Hispanic. Why so? What is special about that? Doesn’t feeling special for being Hispanic or Hungarian American or black or tall suggest that others aren’t as special and worthy of feeling similarly about themselves? I have never liked the idea of a chosen people because it suggests that the universe or God picks some to be inherently, undeservedly superior to others.
    When I am told, “Hey there are some other people from Hungary you must meet,” I respond, “Why exactly? Do they play tennis, love philosophy, or like the blues?” The idea of ethnic or cultural pride, it seems to me, suggests something close to an insidious form of prejudice.
    Without having done anything worthwhile whatsoever one gets to be satisfied for belonging to a group. Just whom is one kidding anyway?
    Beautifully put, which is the reason I post it here at such length. It's been nagging me for some time to put it out for you lot to consider. You can read the whole column in PDF form at the link below, where it appears as part of an online copy of Tibor's recent book of his columns, Neither Left nor Right that the Hoover Institute has made available online (which is rather annoying since I paid good money for my copy). The column quoted above, 'Never Mind One's Cultural "Identity",' appears on page 23 of the section 'Sex and Politics in America.' [PDF]


RELATED: Stadium, Global Warming, Science, Objectivism, Philosophy, Victimless Crimes, Law, Racism, Books, Economics

Friday, 1 December 2006

Beer O'Clock: News from the Limburg front

Real beer talk this week from Real Beer's Stu.

Rumours of Limburg’s demise have been partially exaggerated (and not, this time, by Nicky Hager). Media reports and beer forums have had New Zealand craft-beer lovers in a spin; with the news that Chris O’Leary’s award-winning Hastings brewery was sold.

Although the Limburg Brewery has indeed been sold, the Limburg range of beer – Hopsmacker, Czechmate, Witbier, Porter and IPA – is marketed under a different company and is still being contract brewed by Steam Brewing in Auckland. They will still be available at a supermarket near you. This has both positive and negative aspects…

The positives of the move are numerous and, economically, surely outweigh the negatives: the beer is still being brewed; it is being brewed by NZ’s most award-winning brewer (Luke Nicholas); in a more cost effective brewery; and, Auckland will almost certainly be a better location from which to distribute the beer (meaning it is more likely to arrive fresh to our lips).

The negative: we are about to lose one of the few breweries in New Zealand with a very distinct “house” character. Like Cooper’s in Australia, though with a much shorter history, Limburg is one of the few breweries to really show off its yeast on the palate (the beer equivalent of wearing your heart on your sleeve). The orange and spice yeast notes, that I enjoy in each of the Hastings-brewed beers - even when they are slightly out of character, absolutely reek of the passion that has made Limburg so recognisable. That yeast character and, of course, “Hopsmacker” (one of the most inspired names in marketing history, surely) were synonymous with Limburg.

One beer that will really miss the unique character is the Limburg Porter. Released earlier this year, the porter shows off the usual biscuit and toast characters of New Zealand dark ales but with beautiful yeast roundness of rich fruit and spice that is so rare in our usually clean tasting Kiwi craft ales. It also comes in a lovely, man-sized, 640ml bottle that will quite likely be dropped with the new brewing contract. Get it now, before the last of the Hastings-brewed bottles disappear, and match it with crusty bread and sweet nutty cheese (or a rich and dark Indian curry).

Tonight I raise my glass of Limburg Porter filled glass to Chris O’Leary – champion of the New Zealand craft beer industry.

Cheers Chris, slainte mhath, best wishes from all serious beer fans.

Other beery good news:
SOBA -- the Society of Beer Advocates -- New Zealand's leading beer consumer group, is now officially incorporated and promoting good beer near you. See the website for news and details of supporting sponsors (Limburg are amongst them). Perhaps it’s time for you to SOBA up and join the revolution, where taste triumphs over brand.

Cheers, Stu

LINKS: Cooper’s house character Limburg SOBA sponsors RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Free Radical 73: The Assault on Free Speech

The new Free Radical is out today!! The Free Radical with the free speech cover, and the inside word on the latest threats to free speech and freedom in New Zealand and around the world is out now, and in shops and letterboxes from Monday.

This Free Radical arrives as you make your plans for summer holidays, and it’s packed with good holiday reading – articles to shock, to enlighten, and to offer ammunition for the inevitable debates of the holiday season.
  • Bernard Darnton examines and attacks the Clark Government's assaults on free speech, highlighting how the exposure of the stolen election has brought the Clark Government’s totalitarian instincts into the foreground. Packed with Cabinet Ministers who once espoused the value of free speech for themselves, the Clark Government now routinely shuts down debate except on their terms. "With these threats, proposals and very real fines and incarcerations in the air, there is being created 'an atmosphere where criticising the government is becoming hazardous'.”
  • "Misleading, one-sided, exaggerating and wrong" -- that's the verdict on both Al Gore and the Stern Report on Climate Change. Free Radical 73 has all you need to gore Gore, and gang up on the Stern Gang. We have the definitive skeptics' guide to An Inconvenient Truth, George Reisman's take on why the Blair Government's Stern Report "could be environmentalism's swan song.," and more -- much, much more!
  • One pledge card ... slightly used ... Bernard Darnton sells a pledge card, one bidder at a time.
  • Turning illiteracy around -- find out about the reading warrior turning illiteracy around for troublesome non-readers.
  • The 'Third Way' of the left and the Neocon new right are two sides of the authoritarian middle, says Peter Cresswell. Find out more inside.
  • One whole half-century of green failure. The Free Radical centre-section has the goods.
  • 'Sustainability isn't sustainable, says Peter Cresswell.
  • Too little globalisation, and too little capitalism, says Johan Norberg.
  • Tax cuts are good for growth, explains Phil Rennie
All that, PLUS humour, insight, all your favourite columnists, and the Best of Beer in 2006!

Get your Free Radical now, and be ready for the summer holiday debating season.

The Free Radical -- out today, and in all the best shops from Monday. Don't miss out: Subscribe now.

(And don’t forget the perfect Christmas present for all your thinking friends: a Gift Subscription to The Free Radical. Just write 'GIFT' on your subscription, and include delivery details and your chosen message.)

Peter Cresswell

Samizdata on Cameron on Key

Citizen Key, meet Citizen Cameron. David Cameron, that is, UK Tory leader, upon whom Neville Key has reportedly been modelling himself -- right down to the bicycle clips. Former NZ PM Mike Moore notes, '
I understand [Key] has studied the strategies of David Cameron, the new Conservative leader in Britain, who has the media and the Conservative Party in raptures when he exclaims, "I quite like trees." Cameron has even praised public servants and public health. UK Conservatives have set up policy commissions on all sorts of subjects and invited opponents, like Bob Geldof, to join. Hell, they even invited me to be a member.
"Broadminded" indeed. A mind so broad that anything may enter, however vacuous. It's instructive to see Cameron for what he is, and for that the UK libertarian Samizdata blog is the place. For those remaining libertarian-types in NZ's National Socialist Party, here's some Cameron-comments taken almost at random, including a brief account of his own first week as leader, this time last year, that you might find instructive:
David Cameron as Peter Sellers
Those of you who think Cameron is just being clever should go watch Peter Sellers in 'Being There' and realise that what you are mistaking for cleverness is in fact just emptiness.

Calling all Tory apologists
Again and again, when people here on Samizdata and elsewhere pointed out that there was nothing 'conservative' about 'Dave' Cameron, various Tory apologists kept saying "oh, but Dave does not really think those things!"...

I look forward to them now explaining how the Right Honourable Member for Witney can be making common cause for an authoritarian socialist like Polly Toynbee.

Perhaps the few remaining members of the dwindling faithful who voted for this jackass to be their leader should repent their ways and go join a real conservative party before 'Dave' does the 'full Toynbee' and backs the forcible suppression of all private education, confiscation of private wealth (oh, sorry, he's already decided to back that) and nationalisation of whole industries like dear Polly would like.

Cameron balks at even minor tokens of conviction
The utterly flaccid David Cameron has balked at even the token gesture of pulling his 'conservative' party out of the Euro-integrationist European People's Party in the European parliament. As withdrawal from the EPP would be little more than a minor token that did nothing beyond offer the tiniest of fig leaves to the now completely naked Euro-skeptic remnants within the Tory party, is anyone under any illusions now of his inclination to 'stand up for British interests' in dealing with the EU? ...having the Tories ditch the EPP (whose platform includes 'ever closer union') was one of the planks of his pitch to win the Tory Party leadership against David Davies.

David Cameron - irony free zone (Sept., '06)
The media are going all out to boost Mr David Cameron (the leader of the British Conservative party)... Mr Cameron himself (with the strong support of the Economist) is busy destroying (in the name of democracy) what little democracy there is in the Conservative party.

Why the British 'Conservative' Party is not a political party at all
For what a political party is supposed to be, one should turn to Edmund Burke (the man who is often cited as the founder of modern Conservatism), who produced the classic defence of political party - defending it from the charge that is was simply a 'faction', a despised term in the 18th century and before, of people out for power.

Edmund Burke argued that a political party, as opposed to a faction, was a group of people allied around a set of principles - i.e. they were interested in how government acted, not just in who got power...

Now it may be that the 'Conservative' party will one day become a political party, but I suspect that it will not be a Conservative one - as the forces of Mr Cameron seem stronger than those of his enemies (most of whom seem to lack the guts to even declare that they are his enemies). Indeed Conservatives are leaving the 'Conservative' party every day (it has lost a least 10% of its members over the last six months) - so if it does become a party (a group of people united around political principles, rather than just a corrupt alliance or faction of people out for the money and prestige of government office) it will be a Social Democrat one, like the Labour party or the Liberal Democrats.

When Edmund Burke and Charles James Fox clashed in the House of Commons over the French Revolution, Fox (with tears in his eyes) said that, whilst they differed, there was no "loss of friends" (i.e. they were still in the party). Burke at once got to his feet and said that there was indeed a loss of friends. He understood that people who hold fundamentally different political principles can not be in the same political party (if it is to be a political party at all).

It is time for those Conservative who remain in the 'Conservative' party to follow Burke's example.

David Cameron's interesting start (Dec., '05)
David Cameron, newly elected leader of the Tories, has got off to a wonderful start, as I am sure readers will agree. He has signed up Sir Bob "give us yer fokkin' money" Geldof to advise on world poverty; Zak Goldsmith, the environmentalist, has been also approached to advise on how to save the planet, and in a recent masterstroke, Oliver Letwin, a Tory MP, opined that the Tories should be concerned with redistributing wealth. Splendid. I am sure the sort of voters who deserted the Conservatives in 1997 and failed to return will be thrilled at this embrace of what looks like a sort of social democratic touchy-feely product by the Wonder Boy of Notting Hill. Or again, they may not.

All that remains is for Cameron to steal Labour's old Clause Four promising nationalisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Then on to victory!

Meanwhile, Tim Worstall is similarly underwhelmed by Cameron.

It's all so dreadfully familiar already, isn't it.

I leave you with this thought from Mathew d'Ancona of the Sunday Torygraph, an admirer of Cameron: "Without Blair, the Cameron phenomenon would be impossible to imagine. Who would have thought that the Tories would make the environment their core issue, lead the campaign against NHS cuts, promise to hug a hoodie? Last week, a senior Labour strategist said to me that he was concerned his party might lose votes on the Left to Mr Cameron..."

The italics are mine. That this is cited as something of which Cameron may be proud is perhaps more instructive of conservatism in the wild than anything else.

New Zealand now has its own David Cameron. Empty, vacuous, vacillating, telegenic and fighting for the terrain of the political left.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-UK, Politics-National


I have to confess I have no idea what the hell is going on in Fiji.

But that puts me in good company. No one else seems to either.

Neville Key: Black is white

The headline from Newstalk ZB declares Key denies watering down Nat policies. Let's check Neville's denial against his last few days of speech-making, shall we:
  • National Party leader John Key says there will be no nuclear powered ships entering New Zealand's harbours as long as he leads the party and he accepts the ANZUS treaty is dead... "For as long as I am the leader of the National Party the nuclear-free legislation will remain intact." The policy would now include no reference to a referendum.
  • "I firmly believe in climate change and always have..." " is obvious to anyone who cares to look that all of us...have taken too long to put the protection of our environment at the forefront of our thinking. That needs to change. In the National Party we have taken steps to do this, and we will be taking more steps."
  • "There will always be a social welfare system in New Zealand because you can measure a society by how it looks after its most vulnerable...."
  • "...the National leader said he still supports the abolition of the Maori seats in Parliament, but believes the timetable needs to be reviewed."
But Mr Key is adamant he is not watering down the policies of former leader Don Brash. He says he is the new leader of the party and is simply putting his stamp on the role as would be expected...
Is he stupid, or does he think we are? (Yes Virginia, that is a rhetorical question.)

Watch out Helen, that's Neville Key outflanking you on the left.

Thursday, 30 November 2006


With Christmas and the next Free Radical magazine both nearly upon us, the semi-official 'Not PC'/Free Radical /'Darnton V Clark' Xmas barbecue is imminent: this Friday, December 1, and you're invited.
Details here.

Peters for PM (Fiji)

The news from the Kiwi Herald is that fresh from the magnificent achievement of getting Fiji's two most powerful men to sit in the same room for two hours, Winston Peters is now set to govern Fiji himself, "avoiding a coup and leaving the door open for Major Ron Mark to take control of the NZ First Party." The Herald (Kiwi) has the news.

LINK: Peters to govern Fiji - Kiwi Herald

RELATED: Humour, Politics-Winston_First

Head east, young Don.

Where to now for Don Brash? 'Get thee to East Coast Bays' is the message from Liberty Scott, posed as an idea for Rodney Hide:
Invite Don Brash to join ACT, to stand in 2008 as East Coast Bays candidate against McCully, and to be finance spokesman and deputy leader. It will be your best ever chance to revitalise ACT, now that the Nats are on the slow train to their comfort zone of platitudes and status quo politics.
There's more than one way for The Don to make finance minister, and more than one way to cannibalise the Nats.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Politics-ACT

Telecom mugged

I've been interested to see some of the self-seeking justifications for breaking into and breaking up Telecom's private property.

No one but an idiot or a cabinet minister would expect to see businessmen or women making a long-term investment in infrastructure when theft of such an investment is imminent, or the breakup of that investment is on the cards. In Australia for example, Telstra's CEO Sol Trujillo resisted being forced to grant access to Telstra's proposed $3 billion broadband fibre network to its competitors, and indeed has resisted making the investment. Says The Economist:
Worried that giving rivals a free ride would undermine his profits, Mr Trujillo is threatening not to lay the fibre
Good for him. Says Trujillo. “Those who risk capital to earn returns shouldn't have to subsidise those that don't.” Quite right.

But what about the many and various economic advantages of such a network? The fact is, if you want those advantages you need that sort of investment, and you'll only get it if government's keep their hands off -- government intervention such as has happened with Telecom is chilling for investment, not an encouragement, and not just for investment in telecommunications. The investment effect of this dismembering will be felt further afield than just the pocket books of Telecom shareholders.

If you think the breakup of Telecom is all good and will deliver you everything you might wish for, then reflect on the words of Thomas Jefferson: that "the government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away again."

UPDATE: Liberty Scott has some background on how Telecom came to this, and the alternatives to political dismembering: Telecom - the Left Has Won

LINKS: Telstra shrugs - Not PC (May, 2006)

RELATED: Telecom, Property_Rights, Politics-NZ


I've been listening all week to Nicky Hager telling us we have a "right to know" what was in Don Brash's emails, that the theft of these emails is in "the public interest," and how he has no regrets about publishing a book filled with someone else's mail. A book published as the result of theft.

According to Hager, if "the public interest" demands it, then anyone's private mail should be available to bottom-sniffers like himself to cherrypick and pull together into whatever story he can try and make from it all.

Now, Hager insists the emails weren't stolen (at least not by him), but refuses to give the name of the person who did, um, borrow this stuff. Don't we, by Hager's own reasoning then, have " a right to know" who the bottom-sniffer's muckraker is? Isn't the name of this thief and the means by which these private communications liberated a matter of"public interest" so we may judge for ourselves the context and provenance of the mails? In short, don't we have a right to the contents of Hager's own inbox, however unedifying the contents might be?

The answer, of course, is that we have no such right, any more than Hager had any right to publish a book based on receipt of private communications.

And here's something else Hager might like to think about: the story of the News of the World 'journalist' currently in the dock in London for intercepting and publishing private communications. Clive Goodman (right), who intercepted the calls of royals, MPs and celebrities, has been told by the judge that he faces jail time. Hager meantime has been led to believe by our own complicit media that he faces a best-seller.


UPDATE: How do you think Hager would look in court if one or others of the owners of Hager's stolen communications were to take him there?

LINKS: Goodman pleads guilty - Guardian

Politics-NZ, Politics-UK, Politics-National

Yahara Boat Club - Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright's Yahara Boat House, for the University of Wisconsin. Designed in 1905, ground for its construction was finally broken just this year, in September 2006!

The project has a website, and a twelve-minute video (try to ignore the ultra-cheesy soundtrack).

RELATED: Architecture

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

"What defeat?"

From a Sixty Minutes interview with US General John Abizaid (right), the four-star commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East (transcript here; video here), comes this excerpt.
INTERVIEWER: "We hear very little about the victory in Iraq these days. We hear a lot about how to manage the defeat. And a lot of…"
GENERAL ABIZAID: "What defeat?"
INTERVIEWER: "How we minimize…"

GENERAL ABIZAID: "That's your word. You talk to our commanders in the field – they don't believe that they've been defeated. Defeat is your word, not my word. Can Iraq stabilize? Yes, Iraq could stabilize."
"We hear..."? Who from.

LINKS: An annotated transcript of the whole interview is here: Gen. Abizid on stabilizing Iraq - CBS, 60 Minutes
A video of the interview is here: "Manage the defeat" - Powerline
[Hat tip Major Scarlet]

RELATED: Politics-US, Politics-World, War

The stadium, solved!

Dunedin architects have been working feverishly to come up with what they say is THE solution to the stadium problem.

Here it is:RELATED: Stadium, Humour

Sexism, "discourse about gender" and "negotiated masculinity"

More 'useful' academic research revealed in the Herald today. Story here. Waikato University School of Education sociologist Toni Bruce has been conducting research on (in her words) "the intersection of sport and the media - analysing both the content of the media and how media workers (sports writers, TV commentators) understand their roles."

Recent research by Bruce includes papers on 'Modern and Postmodern Discourses in Media Coverage of the Commonwealth Games,' 'Indigenous Logic in the AFL,' a barrel of laughs by all accounts, and 'Interrogating the Intersections of Nationalism and Gender in Media Coverage of International Sports Spectacles' -- the last was reported to be walking off the shelves in the Waikato University Sociology Library.

Her latest research topic? Marc Ellis and the TV show Sportscafe.
Overall, our analysis revealed that Sportscafe constructed a discourse about gender that privileged new lad masculinity and reinforced the marginalisation of women, while masking its messages in boyish humour.
Wow. You can sure see why she gets the big bread. She also noted that "sexualisation" was a prevalent theme on Sportscafe, with "regular sexual innuendo and sarcastic references to sexual prowess (or lack thereof)," and recorded her male students who played soccer saying they had to "negotiate their sense of masculinity because they were not taken seriously because they choose not to play rugby." Poor lambs.

Do you think it just possible that New Zealand might have too many sociologists chasing too few valid research topics?

To the right is a photograph of a young woman.

LINKS: New lads, or old sexists? - NZ Herald

Nonsense, Sexism

Why we need chains

I've been meaning to respond, however briefly, to Idiot/Savant's post on the lessons of Nicky Hager's book: Why we need transparency.

People donated money to a political party. Big deal? Hager thinks so. Hager refers to pots of money "reportedly promised" to National in meetings, letters and emails before the 2005 election -- and frankly neither I nor Idiot/Savant nor Hager have any idea whether any of this money or any of those promises were anything more than hot air -- and from that money proffered by business donors, I/S and Hager and others draw the conclusion that the money was spent (or at least promised) to buy policies. I/S quotes Hager:
When National MPs oppose measures to control smoking or gambling, or to allow greater subsidies for or advertising of pharmaceuticals, the public has every right to know whether those interests have been giving the party money.
We need, concludes I/S, "an end to money laundering and anonymous donations."

Do we? I take a different view.

In the present context governments "redistribute" upwards of forty-five percent of the country's GDP, and vote on legislation that at the stroke of a pen can help one company (Fletcher Building, Slingshot, Air New Zealand) and devastate another (Telecom, Origin Pacific, Air New Zealand). That's a lot of potential winners and losers, an awful lot of favours to deliver, and a lot of motivation for a lot of controls, subsidies, and legislation to be "bought off."

As PJ O'Rourke famously observed, "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."

So do we need controls on party donations? NO! We need controls on legislators being able to control buying and selling. Controls on Governments who use their office to buy elections. We don't need controls on whom people may donate to (that's their business): We need controls on what those donations can buy. In short: We need controls on the legislators, and on legislation!!

In my view, people may donate money to whomever and to whichever political party they like, but what can be done by those political parties in the way of delivering policies should be severely and constitutionally circumscribed. You see, as long as politicians can deliver absolutely anything (as they can presently), then -- rules or no -- everything will be delivered, everything will be bought and sold, everything is potentially up for sale.

But as long as politicians are properly chained up, there would very few favours they would be able to deliver.

And that's my preference.

LINKS: Why we need transparency - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)

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

Operational separation for Kiwiblog

The logic of argument has forced Parliament’s Commerce Select Committee to recommend a Bill for the forced breakup of David Farrar's Kiwiblog. "This is due," said the report, "to its monopoly position in the blogosphere."

The Committee was almost unanimous in endorsing, and improving the breakup. MPs from Labour, National, NZ First, Maori, United Future and the Green Party all agreed on the report, and are expected to vote 119-2 in favour of the bill.

"This is a no-brain," said one.

Said Labour's David Cunliffe in announcing the breakup, "There are many precedents for this type of regulatory action when a company with market power is required to provide competitors with access to its network or faces controls over the prices it can charge."

Effecting an early dismembering of the Kiwiblog empire, David Farrar was nonetheless ebullient. "This is quite right to my mind. A vertically integrated monopoly is that rare beast which should be regulated if competition is stymied. And the problem is that for over four years Kiwiblog has stymied effective competition. I got too cute at blocking effective competition, so the power of regulation became the only option. Kudos to the Minister (David Cunliffe) and the Select Committee Chair (Shane Jones) for getting the Bill to this point, and also to all the members of the select committee. These fine gentlemen (and woman) clearly have their eye on the bigger picture in a way I cannot."

At the time of writing, Kiwiblog Blogshares had gone through the floor. More details of this shock move at G-Man Inc.

David Farrar is 67.

LINK: Government to separate Kiwiblog - G-Man Inc.
Operational separation for Telecom - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)

RELATED: Humour, Telecom, Property_Rights, Politics-NZ

Environmental scientists in the wild west

Cartoon by Nick Kim.

RELATED: Environment, Cartoons, Humour, Science