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

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Who's the face of Telecom theft now?

So with Annette Presley gone, who is the Face of Theft for this latest raid on Telecom? David Farrar, who's lapping up this Cabinet-level sortie into the nation's boardrooms? David Cunliffe, the smug bastard holding the gun? Or all 119 MPs who on the back of a Select Committee recommendation to "split" Telecom today have signalled they will vote to further dismember the private property of Telecom shareholders, confirming the loss of one-third of Telecom's value in just six months.

This is an outrageous assault on private property rights.

Says the report of the Finance & Expenditure Select Committee in recommending this change: "There are many precedents for this type of regulatory action..."

Yes, there are. In Venezuela.

LINKS: 3-way split for Telecom recommended - NBR
ACT: The only party to support property rights - Scoop
Annette Presley: The face of theft - Not PC (May, 2006)

RELATED: Telecom, Property_Rights,Politics-NZ

More prohibition, worse drugs: Friedman's "Iron Law of Prohibition"

Johann Hari from London's Independent newspaper is surprised that ten days after Milton Friedman's death he's been eulogised for his monetarism, praised for his proselytising on small government and buried with his errors, but few have raised the "one issue [on which] Friedman applied the forensic brilliance of his brain to a deserving purpose. Over forty years," notes Hari, "he offered the most devastating slap-downs of the “war on drugs” ever written."
He once told Bill Bennett, Bush Snr’s drugs tsar, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

Friedman proved, for example, that prohibition changes the way people use drugs, making many people use stronger, more dangerous variants than they would in a legal market. During alcohol prohibition, moonshine eclipsed beer; during drug prohibition, crack is eclipsing coke. He called his rule explaining this curious historical fact “the Iron Law of Prohibition”: the harder the police crack down on a substance, the more concentrated the substance will become.

Why? If you run a bootleg bar in Prohibition-era Chicago and you are going to make a gallon of alcoholic drink, you could make a gallon of beer, which one person can drink and constitutes one sale – or you can make a gallon of pucheen, which is so strong it takes thirty people to drink it and constitutes thirty sales. Prohibition encourages you produce and provide the stronger, more harmful drink. If you are a drug dealer in Hackney, you can use the kilo of cocaine you own to sell to casual coke users who will snort it and come back a month later – or you can microwave it into crack, which is far more addictive, and you will have your customer coming back for more in a few hours. Prohibition encourages you to produce and provide the more harmful drug.

For Friedman, the solution was stark: take drugs back from criminals and hand them to doctors, pharmacists, and off-licenses. Legalize. Chronic drug use will be a problem whatever we do, but adding a vast layer of criminality, making the drugs more toxic, and squandering £20bn on enforcing prohibition that could be spent on prescription and rehab, only exacerbates the problem. “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts,” he said. “But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.”
Read on here for more. Challenge yourself.

LINKS: The one reason I will miss Milton Friedman - Johann Hari, Independent
Milton Friedman dies - Not PC (Nov 17)

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Cartoon

New Prisoner?

News for Prisoner fans like myself:
BBC NEWS: Remake for cult show The Prisoner
Patrick McGoohan played Prisoner Number 6 in the original Cult TV series The Prisoner is to be remade into a six-part series for Sky One, the broadcaster has confirmed. Director of programmes Richard Woolfe promised a "thrilling reinvention" of the drama about an ex-secret agent trapped in an isolated village.

Too early however to tell if this is good news. Like all fans of these TV shows, we remember with horror the Avengers film... In the meantime, click to hear this important message from that first series:

"I will not make any deals with you... I've resigned... I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own."

LINK: Remake for cult show The Prisoner [Hat tip Robin T]
The Unmutual. A Website dedicated to the 1960s TV series The Prisoner
The Prisoner for a new generation - Jennie Fiddes, The Unmutual website
Message from The Prisoner - Movie Sound Clips [audio]


Eden Park

Q 1: Given that the bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup was made on the basis of sub-$100 million temporary stands, and all they have on the table now is a half-a-billion Rolls Royce, do you think the Eden Park Trust Board just saw their chance at piles of your money and went for it?

Q 2: Do you think they'll get it?

Q 3: Do you think they should get it?

RELATED: Model T or Rolls Royce - Brian Rudman, NZ Herald

LINKS: Politics-NZ, Auckland, Stadium

Bullshit Bingo with Key, later today

Watching John Key talk last night on both Close Up and Campbell (with the same lines wheeled out on Larry Williams radio show last night and on Breakfast TV this morning), a friend observed, "He talks a lot, but he says very little."

It's true, isn't it.

How much actual substance do you expect from his "Values Speech" today? Liberty Scott has a list of nine points of substance that he and I would both like to see in that speech, all of which actually mean something, and which taken together would actually "move the country forward" -- one of which, one law for all, Key has already said he's abandoning.

And Scott has another set of nine points ... well, nine nice-sounding empty phrases really ... phraes that, if used, will lose his interest altogether. These, I fear, have much more chance of being wheeled out. Feel-good nothings like, "Government needs to listen (and I'm a good listener)" "Government needs to be smarter" (and just look at me), "social responsibility" (who would want to be thought irresponsible?), and of course something about "families" appearing in the same sentence as "I believe in ..."

Expect more of the froth, and far less (about nine fewer appearances) from the list of substance. In fact, why not try a game of Bullshit Bingo. Score a 'Line' when you hear all of "reaching out," "inclusive," "multicultural," "tolerance," "moving forward," "forward-thinking," "unity," and "I believe..." -- and if you hear all that and "State house" then it's time to yell out "Bingo!" or perhaps "Bullshit!" since that's what you'll have been listening to.

And when he says once again (as he undoubtedly will) that he believes in "inclusiveness" and "tolerance," then bear in mind where he voted on the "litmus test" votes on Civil Unions, legalising prostitution and keeping the drinking age at eighteen.

He voted against.

UPDATE 1: Oh yes, the Herald's John Armstrong has his own ten points. I scored 'Line' by the second time he'd advised Key to "reach out." And once again Armstrong is getting advice from his own typewriter, this time when he advises Key to sack Brash now. "He is too scary to middle New Zealand to be let loose in health, education, social development, housing, accident compensation or state-owned enterprises," says Dumb John. "Too scary" is a pretty odd thing to say about someone for whom "middle New Zealand" voted in droves just one year ago, and supported in even greater proportions in recent polls.

However, given that for all Key's talk of "unity" and his joy in a"united caucus" he hasn't yet and doesn't expect to talk to Brash any time soon ("sometime in the next forty-eight hours"), it would seem Brash is already getting the "You're not welcome" signs.

UPDATE 2: Here's "a further embellishment" to the bingo game, courtesy of David Slack:
Take a drink every time you hear John say anything Helen wouldn't. So much of this is motherhood and apple pie, I think you'll have plenty left in the fridge at the end of the game.
And I think he's likely right.

UPDATE 3: Key's "Values" Speech online now at Scoop. [Click the link to read]

** So how did I do at Bingo? I lost:
  • "unity" - zero occurences
  • "tolerance"/"tolerant" - zero
  • "reaching out" - zero
  • "inclusive" - zero
  • "multicultural" - zero [of course there is this: "we should celebrate the cultural, religious and ethnic differences we all bring to New Zealand."]
  • "moving forward" - zero
  • "forward-thinking" - zero
  • "I believe" - three
  • "State house" - one
** Scott did better. He hoped for:
  • "National’s principles" - one appearance, but perhaps a major one:

    "What you can be assured of is that our policies will always be measured against our core principles. Let me be also clear that I make no excuses for saying those polices will be harvested from wherever we see the best results being achieved.

    I am interested in what works, and not what should, or could, or might work in theory."

  • "Private property rights" - no sign
  • "Personal freedom"- one appearance
  • "One law for all" - "one standard of citizenship"?
  • "Less government is better" - "the appropriate role for the government is in the background, not in the foreground"
  • "More choice in education" - Nothing. But he did mention some problems with zoning last night, and fixing the "underclass" today.
  • "There should be less tax" - Nothing
  • "Dependency on the state is not a virtue" - Not exactly
  • "Law and order is a vital role of government" - Half a mark
** How about Scott's 'Bullshit Bingo' score, the things he hoped would not make an appearance:
  • "Government needs to be smarter" - "I am interested in what works, and not what should, or could, or might work in theory..."
  • "Government needs to listen" - zero references
  • "environment" - four references
  • "families" appeared three times, once in the same sentence as "Personal freedom, individual responsibility, [and] a competitive economy..."
  • "Government needs to help the innovators, creators and employment producers by providing funding…" - nothing
  • "More money for health and education" - nope
  • "Corporate social responsibility" - nope
  • "Inclusiveness" - no sign today
  • "Climate change is the biggest challenge in our time" -
    " one with any awareness of the world can be ignorant of [global warming]... all of us, across the political spectrum, with the exception perhaps of the Greens, 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."
    And those steps do not feature property-rights based solutions.
So, about even, wouldn't you say?

** And David Slack's Bingo entry, ie. "Take a drink every time you hear John say anything Helen wouldn't. So much of this is motherhood and apple pie, I think you'll have plenty left in the fridge at the end of the game."

-->NUMBER OF DRINKS TAKEN: One small sip. That quiet sip might just be the clincher.

"There is much, much more to come," says Key. You can say that again. Do we now "know what John Key really stands for" as he promised? No, we don't. Unless that is what he stands for, in which case the answer is "whatever works."

But he did write the whole speech himself.

UPDATE 4: Three useful summaries of the Key Speech:
  1. Ross Elliot at SOLO, Meet the New Boss: "Today, John Key gave his first speech as National Party leader, and it was as bad as I thought it would be. Filled with nothing but bland, soporific pragmatism and third-way, warm 'n' fuzzy, political code-speak, Key's speech says nothing and adds up to nothing. It does, however, reveal everything... Al Gore could have given Key's speech during his 2004 presidential campaign. In fact, I think he did."
  2. David Slack at Public Address, I Have Aspirations Going Forward: "For the most part, though, specifics are not to be found, and this is unfortunate for an aspiring Prime Minister, because it tends to dull the lustre of his vision. In the absence of something to latch on to, you have the appearance of floundering, or, possibly, courting the job for its own sake." Hacking through the Key flannel, David has a quiz to see if you can tell Key's speech from Helen Clark's most recent conference speech.
  3. And even Michael Cullen: Key All Style, No Substance: "The speech tells us what he is not. He is not Don Brash. It doesn't tell us what he is... "Mr Key has yet to demonstrate any substance despite having spent much of the last four years thinking about being the leader of the National Party."
Can you disagree?

LINKS: John Key - excite me - Liberty Scott
Bullshit Bingo - Not PC

Politics-NZ, Politics-National

NEW SITE - An Artist's Voice: A Radical Perspective

Introducing a New Website, from artist Michael Newberry. Here is part of his statement for it:

An Artist's Voice: A Radical Perspective

The Carrot and The Stick

What motivates you to be the best that you can be? For me, it is the carrot and the stick. By visualizing the best results of my skills and the disasters of my worst attributes, the process somehow manages to kick my butt in gear to correct my mistakes and light a white-hot fire underneath me to relish my best.

Many of you have read the Mini-Tutorials, which show the wonderful ways artists create and solve art problems. Now, I would like to introduce you to my more polemical side, A Radical Perspective. It's a new website on aesthetic commentary.

A Radical Perspective

In the A Radical Perspective, I also link to artists, architects, designers, and philosophers, who are also personal friends of mine. These individuals, in their creations, are making fresh insights and brilliant aesthetic contributions to our culture.

Critic's Credo
Finally, here is my critic's credo taken from A Radical Perspective:

The joy of creation is one of the great gifts of human ability. It is not easy and it is not automatic: there can be many painful twists and turns, and many mistakes made. Yet when it works--when all the complex building blocks come together to express something meaningful--it transports the soul.

Good criticism is about identifying what works and what doesn't. All critics have a perspective and an agenda. Mine is radical: I believe in uncompromising and innovative methods, fundamentals, and art that values human existence.

From that perspective, I hope you will enjoy it when I take off my gloves and engage my more polemical nature.

Enjoy life and art,

Michael Newberry
November 25th, 2006

Monday, 27 November 2006

Dream Team? Or Blancmange.

I castigated the Herald last week for a front page full of crap. John Armstrong is back there today with more of the same.

"The logic" for Key choosing English is "inescapable," says Armstrong, whose opinion on this is presumably on the front page because it's thought to be wisdom. It's not. English as deputy is neither logical nor inescapable, despite what Armstrong might appear to think.

"[Key] needs English working for him rather than operating in isolation," advises Armstrong. Why? What skills or talents does English have that haven't already been examined and rejected overwhelmingly by both the electorate and his colleagues. Armstrong overstates both English's supporters, of which he has few, and his talents, of which he has even fewer -- and none of any quality.

Key needed English's support as deputy to avoid "the impression [on whom?] the caucus is highly factionalised." This is the sort of nonsense that Armstrong used to write about Brash, suggesting that Brash's strong views "factionalised" the caucus, and was thus A Bad Thing. But what's wrong with strong views and honest opposition? It's what happens when you actually have ideas. No problems now, since neither new leader Key nor new leader English have or can articulate a strong view or any ideas of any sort. Just mush.

But I digress.

"Had Brownlee won the vote for deputy] by a narrow margin," continues the Herald's front-page pundit, "[Key] would only have been weakened." How? If Brownlee's supporters are more numerous than English's (which by all accounts they are), then why wouldn't the factionalism created by these Nats be something to consider? And, frankly, how could Key possibly be weakened by side-lining or making opponents of the likes Nick Smith, Tony Ryall and the other dripping wet electoral liabilities known to be English supporters. The earlier those losers are side-lined, the better.

"An English victory," suggests Armstrong, would "[make] it appear he now had a deputy he did not want." But he doesn't want him. We know that. Key is only taking English for the same reasons of faux-solidarity that Armstrong espouses here -- but no one is fooled for a moment.

There are concerns about Key, notes Armstrong, who ignores the most important concern that he stand for nothing.

There are concerns about him "getting the front bench to weigh in behind his leadership," says Armstrong, and "his relative inexperience but abundant cockiness." "Getting English on board in an oversight capacity goes a long way to dispelling those concerns," says the sage of the front page. This is just nonsense, isn't it. That's a front bench that needs sacking not sucking up to, and English's "experience" is no more than a long history of failure and mush-peddling. Seeking "oversight" from such a man would be like seeking it from the current England rugby coach.

And here's the kicker for Armstrong as a pundit: "Another driver is English becoming deputy is Key's need to harness [English's] policy grunt in the crucial shadow finance portfolio... " Policy grunt"? From English? You can lay all English's "discussion papers" from end-to-end (and you could almost wallpaper a waterfront stadium with the pages full of bilge you will find there) but of either grunt or a conclusion in any of them there is none. Grunt? Oh, please! And to place English in that role is to exclude from it a man described by Professor James Allan this morning (correctly) as "probably the most economically literate political leader in the world."

This is not "logical," it is dumb.

The media are talking up English now in this fashion in the same way they talked him up before his own disastrous reign as leader, and it's quite simply because he's one of them in a way that Brash never was. Unlike both Key and English, Brash actually stood for something, and that he did and was prepared to stand up for it frightened his advisers, his caucus and his political opposition -- but it was something the public embraced in a way they never embraced the mush of English, or the muddled-speech of Shipley.

In the end, for me this is the chief concern I have about both English and Key and the leadership coup they've helped effect. They stand for nothing except "management," which is to leave open the question, "Management, to what end?"

Both English and Key have spent much time and energy undermining Brash, trying to roll Brash, or to have him rolled, all in order that one or other of them can be leader -- but now we must ask what did they actually want to be leader for?

It's clear enough that it wasn't to put in place their vision (they have none). It wasn't to have their party stand for something (they stand for nothing). It wasn't even that they had particular objections to Brash's policy prescriptions (only objections as to how "the public" might "perceive" those prescriptions).

No, they both wanted to be leader and did what they could to make it happen (including undermining their previous leader) for fairly simple reasons -- reasons enough to get Key out of his not-so-humble career in business, and to keep English in parliament after the electoral flogging he received in 2002 : They both want power. They both want their egos stroked. This is the next-to-top job and they want it, not for what they can do in the job, but for what the job can do for them.

Which leaves the question of where exactly this leadership duo will "lead" National, and the answer is that neither yet knows. Key will sense the way the wind is blowing -- along the lines, probably, of how he reacted to Al Gore's nonsense, of which Key said airily after Gore's Auckland lecture, "it pushed all my buttons" -- and English will write more vapid "discussion papers," and both will effect a stance when they need to, but both will grant their opponents the ability to set their political principles for them since neither have any of their own to repair to.

Consider: What is a leader for? Answer: to lead, not to follow. Did either English or Key want to become leader in order to advance particular policies and principles that they believe in; that would advance the specific goals they seek for the country; policies, principles and goals that they passionately believe would lead to an improvement for the country and the people in it? No, not at all. Instead, they seek the reverse. They will seek policies to advance goals (about which they will care little) in order only that they can espouse what they think will cement them in place as leaders. That's the extent of their commitment to policy (to say nothing, quite literally, of principle). They will not seek to lead policy debate, and so by default they will end up following it -- they will not be advocates, but straws in the wind.

It is not leadership they really want, it is just the leader's job. Just the power, but without a purpose. And we are back to the criticism made abundantly with National under English and Shipley before: that here is a party that will believe everything and stand for nothing; a party still in search of a political philosophy; a the same Blancmange party appearing again before us now, even as the man who took them to their highest place in the polls for years is being shown the door by the men who have coveted his job for so long.

The irony is that the public (by their polling) showed they were more than happy to accept the vision for the country put forward by Brash, and it was his caucus colleagues and press gallery cockroaches like Armstrong who sought to undermine the vision with the claims the public couldn't accept that vision when offered straight. Brash proved the pundits wrong, and to do that is simply unforgiveable.

No wonder Brash could never fit the National Party caucus, or meet the expectations of a press gallery full of Armstrongs. In the end he was simply never spineless enough to fit in.

UPDATE: Key has responded to claims today and over the weekend that no one knows what he stands for by promising to deliver a speech tomorrow that will do so, a "kind of 'Values' speech," he calls it. If his chat with Larry Williams this afternoon is any indication, expect words like the following to feature strongly -- "tolerant," "inclusive," "multicultural," "State house," "aspirational" -- and for us to be none the wiser afterwards.

But I'm happy to be proved wrong.

LINKS: Hager, Brash and Herald humbug - Not PC
Without Brash, New Zealand will suffer - James Allan, Australian
Key puts 'dream team' together - John Armstrong, NZ Herald

Politics-NZ, Politics-National

Advice that should have been followed

The best piece of advice Brash received in his time as leader was to sack his advisers. Pity he didn't. It wasn't his own straight talking that did for him, it was the dissembling foisted upon him by the moronic likes of McCully and Co.

And the best piece of advice he could have got, and should have followed? When asked about the Brethren, he should have replied the same way Ronald Reagan did when asked about fruitcakes campaigning on his behalf:
"When people join my campaign," said Reagan, "they are supporting me; I am not necessarily supporting them."
To imply otherwise is outrageous collectivism. And to lie about such an innocuous association is just stupid, and -- like all lies -- in the end fatal.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

Dream team?

John Key and Bill English make a "dream team," say commentators?


This is no "dream," this is Cullen-Lite and Dead Wood. What a team.

And what they stand for is ... what exactly? Mush and spin? Bright smiles and dopey compromise?


RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National

150 things

150 things you need to do before you die. 'Cross them off' by 'bolding' the things you've done. (Pinched from Mark.)

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins (couldn't -- one of the fuckers was pregnant)
03. Climbed a mountain (well, some tall hills)
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive (how about enjoyed a test drive in one while a friend drove?)
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse (Cheltenham Gold Cup, Auckland Cup, Grand National ...)
29. Asked out a stranger (and been turned down)
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse (only on webcast...)
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking (my dancing is always "like a fool")
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day (when you're working with several hundred Irishmen, it's the only way to be understood!)
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer (three!)
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends (and still have!)
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country (over which several discreet veils will be drawn)
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign (I confess)
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight (D&D?)
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest (but I was only six)
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand (never wanted to)
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror (only when drunk)
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favourite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery (those damn broken cheekbones...)
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart (sadly...)
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery (depends whet you call "major")
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours (after a few all-nighters working on projects)
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents (not yet Out of Africa)
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach (more than I've wanted to)
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and The Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office (
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care (just last year...)
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair (those 'World's Smallest Political Quiz' booths are always popular)
146. Dyed your hair (those bottles of food colouring are good, aren't they)
147. Been a DJ (Raglan, Saturday morning shows)
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

'China From the Air'

From part of a set of 'China From the Air Photos' sent me by architect Laurie Virr:


Sunday, 26 November 2006

Today's Bible reading: Advice on marriage

More good advice from the Bible...
And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms... 1:2-3
Well, what are you waiting for?

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Saturday morning ramble, 25 Nov

More offcuts this morning from the 'virtual desk' of this blogger. Here's what didn't or won't make it into its own post this week or next, but which I picked up and kicked around and aime to write about at length but didn't, or won't.
  • Jason Quintana reflects that as the world becomes more advanced technologically, scientifically and economically -- in other words, as we become more a world primarily of mind instead of muscle -- the education for that world will of necessity take longer and maturity will come later, and those most suited for that world will be those least suited to be penned up for so long in factory schools being 'socialised' while awaiting their chance to soar. I give you: Why Nerds Are Unpopular.
  • What role does philosophy play in history? According to standard Objectivist theory, it is ideas that move history. But Robert Tracinski, the editor of magazine The Intellectual Activist, challenges that view in a three-part series that has attracted much attention, and much of that negative. The three parts can be found here: Part 1: What Went Right? The Non-Collapse of Civilization; Part 2: What Went Right? The Implosion of the Population Bomb; and Part 3: What Went Right? Pajama Epistemology. Author Ed Cline takes up the cudgels on behalf of the opposing point in The Intellectual Activist's Lost Guide. His main point is this:
    [Honest hard-working] men are today working in a philosophical vacuum. Unless a philosophy of reason salvages our culture and civilization, civilization cannot move forward and the work of such men will be for nought. Their work will constitute the rubble of a civilization that committed suicide because it rejected a fully consistent philosophy of reason.
  • Tibor Machan reflects on them old Market Blues: "The free market economy is the most suited to human commercial affairs, there is no reasonable doubt about this. But a free market leaves some people with various laments that then tempt them to undermine this great institution..." Why? Read on for a new take on those who make the perfect the enemy of the good, and their whims the enemy of markets. 'Market failure?' No, says Tibor, just people doing what people value.
  • Why will people intervene to help the victims of violence, except when the thugs are wearing police uniforms? That's the question posed in Police = Man by Vigesimal Pundit, who suggests we're still to fully outgrow our attraction to kings, emperors and Nanny-knows-best government.
  • Milton Friedman videos abounded this week: here's another in which the late Uncle Milt expounds on libertarianism, beginning by contrasting his own utilitarian libertarianism with the more principled 'libertarianism' of Ayn Rand. (For her own part, Rand repudiated the label 'libertarian,' and described Friedman's "value-free" economics as giving the game away.) Uncommon Knowledge: What is a Libertarian? - with Milton Friedman.
  • Meanwhile, Ed Younkins's survey of the intellectual history of liberty and a free society is worth some investigation to see the intellectual stream in which Rand and Friedman sit. It is a broad stream going back to Aristotle and Lao Tzu, and continuing today with thinkers such as the late Robert Nozick, Michael Novak and Thomas Sowell. Younkins's survey allows you to see these thinkers in context, with both strengths and errors magnified by comparison to other thinkers. Revisiting the Intellectual History of a Free Society. [Broken link fixed.]
  • And speaking of videos and the intellectual tradition of liberty, Marcus Bachler has discovered a video interview with the author of a new book, The Age of Rand – Imagining an Objectivist Future World. Notes Marcus, "The author claims that there will be an 'Age of Rand' 50-100 years from now." "If only!" we might say. Watch it yourself to see if this is wishful thinking on the author's part, or something else: The Age of Rand – Imagining an Objectivist Future World [video].
  • Stephen Hicks links to a "an excellent series of reflections by Marsha Enright at the College of the United States’s website, reflecting chiefly on "What makes a great teacher great?" Highly recommended. Her answer: First We Must Inspire, Not Just Inform.
  • And Stephen uncovers another gem: Two pieces by Kathy Sierra explain "why creative people shouldn’t wait for the muse to show up"; or, how deadlines help your creativity. Don't Wait for the Muse, and How to Make Something Amazing, Right Now.
  • Borat. I confess, I'm a fan. But sundry others aren't. The LA Times has a story on the people suing Borat and making lawyers rich-- from the drunken frat boys pillloried in the film to some of the Romanian villagers of Glod, in which some scenes were filmed and numerous attractive Kazakhstani women were featured. And goats. Villagers to Sue Borat. Meanwhile, the Kazakhstani ambassador to Britain gets the joke, but wishes he didn't have to. He begins:
    LET ME admit it: we Kazakhs owe Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat’s creator, a debt. Not only is he capable of making many of us — myself included — laugh out loud, but his spoof documentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, has resulted in the kind of media attention of which previously I could only dream...
  • Cactus Kate looks at Nicky Hager and sees at once a hollow man and a peddler of the bleeding obvious. Somewhat cynically (and who can blame her) she makes the point: Politicians lie? Big deal. "It's called politics you stupid little man. It's their JOB. Whole industries are created on this... Next he will be publishing a tell-all book on how the tax consulting industry is profiting from IRD policy. The next book really should be about Nicky Hager himself. Maybe a job for Ian Wishart. Oh. That's right. He's busy."
  • Architectural drawing is an art all its own. Have a look at this year's winners of the KRob Architectural Drawing Competition, the sort of stuff you have to do if winning architectural competitions is your thing. I have to confess that too often the slickness of so much architectural drawing is intended simply to obscure the banality of the architecture delineated, and my own preference for architectural drawings are those that are clear, explanatory and still delightful in their own right -- and there are very few of the latter to be found here. There's an example on the right. The 32nd Annual Ken Roberts Architectural Delineation Competition.
  • Now to Tonga. An interesting letter appeared on the Matangi Tonga website, castigating the leaders of the so-called pro-democracy movement for their involvement in the recent and ongoing violence. Mobocracy at work is the view of the author, one Inoke Fotu Huakau.
    One of the worst forms of social incompetence reared its ugly head that day, apathy in its worst form. The helpless owners and employees of businesses that were looted and burned, right in front of a church-going public, with only a few daring to lend a helping hand. A public severed of their social responsibility and altruistic values through years of mindless propaganda of hatred and the principle of “them and us” in the name of democracy. But above all that, is the total failure of our Police force to plan for such social occurrence, and to protect the property and rights of the business sector that has been the target of hate campaign by the leaders of the pack ‘Akilisi Pohiva and ‘Uliti Uata... The government has been trying to appease the Pangai Si’i Mob in a number of ways, but with the irrationally intoxicated mind of the pack leaders, they take any indecision by government as a weakness of leadership and it fueled their arrogance by the day.
    Strong stuff. PRs [ie., MPs] Who Instigate Terrorism Should Resign
  • Strong stuff too from Amy Brooke at The Critical Review, who has been Sickened by the Media and what the media have done to Don Brash. She occasionally misses the point (her objection to cheap Chinese imports for example, and some of her choices of reading material) but this long and angry post is worth reflecting on.
    As thick as two planks - but bloated on self-esteem - the verdict on too many of our media reporters and interviewers.

    The climate of unpleasantness the media systematically built up around Don Brash in recent months, intensifying because of the contemptible act of his emails being stolen, will be a pyrrhic victory for the fourth estate. It is already regarded as among the lowest of professions in this country. It will now be reckoned as the lowest. But it never seems to strike home why this is the case.

  • And finally here's a neat website that you can play with yourself to show which countries you've travelled in. Really useful for ... adding colour to blog posts on a Saturday morning, as I've done with mine, above. Enjoy adding your own. Create your own visited countries map. I'm sure you can improve on mine.
There you go. Plenty of good weekend reading for you. While, you're investigating all or some of that, I'll be putting the finishing touches on the next Free Radical magazine, due out at the end of the week. Do keep an eye out for it: it's going to be a beauty!

Friday, 24 November 2006

Beer O’Clock – Dog trumps Hog

Your beer update this week comes from a cricket-addled Neil Miller from the Real Beer website:

Time is short in the House That Beer Built today.

Consequently, I have decided to post my latest column, which is reprinted with kind permission from The Wellingtonian newspaper. [Much more of this and I won't be sending those cheques - Ed.]

There are Loaded Hogs scattered up and down the country (and even one in Spain) so the article should be read as a nation-wide warning -- it should also disprove the mistaken theory that I like all beers.

Truthfully, all beers are not created equal

I have heard more stories about indifferent staff, inexplicable delays, corked wine, cold food and off beer at the Loaded Hog than all the other bars in Wellington put together.

At first glance, it is hard to see what there is not to like about the Hog. Like the Hog at Auckland's Viaduct, the Wellington Hog is a big venue which nestles comfortably on a prime waterfront location (See picture right).

I love the feel of the interior, full of deep woods, dark fabrics and exposed stone.

You have choices. You can stand and talk, dine at a table, drink at a leaner, lounge on the couches, relax in a sheltered porch or take your chances on the sunny but sometimes windswept balcony [Note: This clearly refers to the Wellington location only - Ed.].

It really does have everything ... except, that is, when you try to eat or drink there. On my last visit to Welington's Hog I received only average service. Unfortunately, that was easily the best service I have ever had there.

The service is often slow (even when quiet) and frequently shambolic. I worry when a simple request to open a tab for lunch baffles the staff to the extent they have a team meeting to decide if my “wacky” request is possible.

However, I wanted to give the place another chance so I headed off down the waterfront to check out the Loaded Hog range of beers.

I started with the Hog Wheat. This poured light in the glass with virtually no head. The low flavour intensity and the slice of lemon reminded me more of an old Corona than a wheat beer. There was a dodgy flavour lurking in there.

It popped up again in the Hog Gold. A pleasant looking beer, it failed to back it up when tasted. There was a dirty malt sweetness, but now I could clearly taste butterscotch.

Butterscotch means diacetyl, and diacetyl is bad news for most beers. It can either be a brewing fault or a problem with the storage and serving of the beer.

It simply boomed out of the Hog Draught, a mid-brown beverage with a sweet, muddy honey finish.

The “pick” of a very poor bunch was the Hog Dark. It was a dark brown beer, light in the mouth with a gentle roasted coffee and chocolate flavour. The butterscotch was a bit more integrated in the Dark but it hardly sent me rushing to the bar for another.

In fact, and in search of a good beer, it sent me heading out for the short walk round to One Red Dog.

Like a fool, I tried their Hog Wheat. Uuugh! It had the same problems as the Hog's Wheat and I sent it straight back. No one batted an eyelid. I guess it happens a lot.

With some trepidation, I sipped at the replacement Mac’s Reserve. It was simply spectacular. At $15 for pitcher of fresh Mac’s Reserve, One Red Dog is a fine place to drink good beer on a budget.

That near-perfect Reserve saw the Dog trump the Hog in my book.

LINKS: Loaded Hog Brewery

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Happy Thanksgiving

As my American friends enjoy their thanksgiving celebration today, let me offer you this heartfelt thanksgiving tribute from Lindsay Perigo: A Thanksgiving For All Mankind.
I want to join our American friends this day in giving thanks to their Pilgrim Fathers, and more importantly, their Founding Fathers (I hope they are doing that!), for creating the greatest country on earth, Western civilisation's highest achievement: the United States of America.
Read on here for why this really should be a thanksgiving day for us all.

PS: Don't think the United States of America is Western civilisation's highest achievement? Then you tell me yours, after you've read Perigo's.

RELATED: Events, History