Saturday, 18 November 2006

Tangled up in Tonga

Idiot/Savant has it right on Tonga:
....Tonga has apparently asked New Zealand for military assistance to restore order. I am deeply uneasy about this. It's one thing to stop people from killing one another, but this smacks of propping up a corrupt feudal regime. And if that regime fails to deliver on its promises of democratic reform, and another riot happens, will we see New Zealand soldiers gunning down Tongans to keep a kleptocrat in power?
Good question. Tonga, Timor, Solomons ... Fiji? And given that the democratic reformers themselves appear to be in favour of the rioting -- Akilisi Pohiva, for example, says "the violence that erupted in Tonga on Thursday was a natural consequence of many years of fighting for democracy"! -- rioting that has reportedly almost wiped out most of Nukualofa's businesses -- it seems to me like a situation to keep out of, doesn't it?

UPDATE: Robert W states it plainly in the comments:
Is there a credible alternative to the King? That is, is there an effective, organised opposition who is dedicated to peacefully transforming Tonga from monarchy to (for argument's sake) a constitutional Republic?

Because if the choice is just the Kleptocrat vs The Mob, we don't want to get in the middle of it unless we are prepared to annex Tonga -- and I'm not.

Saturday afternoon ramble

I told you I'd carry on rambling this afternoon, didn't I. Here's more of my unfinished list of things that might interest you:
  • Grim Pill had one of my heroes on this morning, Professor Graham Webb about whom I've spoken here before a few times (here, for example, and here). An almost fascinating discussion which I only caught the end of, State Radio has yet to post the audio so Ci an hear it all (I guess they're all nine-to-five state employees there, huh?) So keep an eye here for the audio to be posted ... maybe Monday?
  • And on the subject of State Radio, Bryan Crump hosted an interesting discussion last night with the founders of pirate radio station Radio Hauraki. Youngsters might not realise just how "oppressive" (their words) was the wall-to-wall grey monopoly that was State Radio before Hauraki prised open the monolith. Keep an eye here for the grey ones to post that interview.
  • Oh yes, Keith Locke and Rodney Hide will be co-hosting a meeting tomorrow avo to help coordinate opposition to the white elephant proposed for the waterfront. With fitting irony, the meeting is to be held in one of Auckland's greatest white elephants, the Ayatollah Centre. Be there at 2pm. I will be. Locke, Hide to Host Meeting on Stadium.
  • What is the importance of great art? Lisa van Dame outlines how a "unique approach to analyzing a work of art has transformed my esthetic life, enhancing my enjoyment of art, of literature, and of life in general." Read on to see how just this one aspect of art can enhance your own life: The Power of Observation: From Art to Literature to Life.
  • Speaking of great art and of stadiums, can you see this by architect Renzo Piano growing out of the north-west corner of the domain? More later...

  • And I presume by now you've seen Bob Clarkson's estimate for the Bedpan to be $1.8 billion? As Illinois-based professor of economics and business Robert A. Baade says in this morning's Herald, when you're talking about the "hoopla" of so-called iconic buildings and their projected "economic benefits, "We have a kind of rule of thumb. We move the decimal place one place to the left and we're closer to what actually occurs." For construction of these things, a good rule of thumb is to move the decimal point one place to the right from the first estimate.
  • A new literary genre: blogger's books. Tim Worstall joins the throng with 2005 Blogged: Dispatches From the Blogosphere.
  • TS Eliot suggested that the greatest tragedy is to do the right thing for the wrong reasons. Joe Libertarian has some new evidence: the blue-skinned fruitcake who stood for the US Libertarian Party in
    a hotly contested Senate race where Democrat Jon Tester won by just 2,565 votes. Jones's vote count of 10,324 was more than enough to cover the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidates. By virtue of his ten thousand vote pull, Jones is being given credit for shifting the balance of power in the senate. It is an honor he does not deserve. Was the notoriety and press coverage generated by Jones good for the libertarian party? I don't think so.
    See: The Blue-Skinned Libertarian.
  • The idea of comparative advantage is at once one of the most non-intuitive and most powerful concepts of economics. If you don't understand comparative advantage, you can't begin to understand the point of Adam Smith's invisible hand, or the harmony of interests shared by free men. Russell Roberts from Cafe Hayek has published a new piece, part one of a two part series on comparative advantage. "I find it remarkable how poorly professors of economics (including this one) teach and understand a concept that many would label the single most important insight of the discipline," he says. "An easier way to understand the lesson of comparative advantage is to see that there are two ways to get fish, the direct way and the roundabout way. The direct way is go fishing. The roundabout way is to collect water and trade it for fish. Which is better? It depends of which way is cheaper." See: Treasure Island: The Hidden Elegance of Comparative Advantage.
  • More links from Stephen Hicks on the misanthropy of some environmentalists:
    Another environmentalist doom scenario meets its doom: Apocalypse Cancelled. Of course, that won’t slow down those for whom environmentalism is a cover for anti-humanism. More on anti-humanists from Robert McHenry at Tech Central Station.
  • And George Reisman chimes in on the same subject: Standards of Environmental Good and Evil: Why Environmentalism is Misanthropric.
  • And I'm still waiting to get my copy of Stephen's Nietzsche and the Nazis, A Personal View.
    Can't wait. How philosophical were the National Socialists? How socialist were they? How did the Nazis come to power in a nation as educated and civilized as Germany? What influence did heavyweight intellectuals such as Martin Heidegger, Carl Schmitt, and Oswald Spengler have? And to what extent was Nietzsche a forerunner of the Nazis? Here is the strikingly- designed 38-chapter Scene Selection Menu
  • Speaking of the late Milton Friedman (which we were yesterday), I see David Slack has posted the first Pinochet reference. Deserved, yes, but you'd think he might at least wait until Milt is buried. That's just to say that while Friedman was often very good (as most obituaries deservedly point out), he wasn't all good, as Walter Block points out at the Mises Blog. Friedman's divorce of morality and economics was his biggest failing: here's a post in which I summarised Rand's celebrated example of this failing in Friedman's early career: Helen Clark and Michael Cullen Might Like It.
  • By the way, have we mentioned recently how good is globalisation? George Reisman has chapter and verse on the benefits, a complete weekend read, on the subject. Globalisation: The Long-Run Big Picture.
  • Oh yeah, thanks for the plug, DPF. Who knows when that might be online, eh?
UPDATE: The Radio NZ links are being updated as I write. Good old Radio NZ, eh. :-)

RELATED: Stadium, Auckland, Politics-NZ, Architecture, Art, Objectivism, Economics, Obituary, History-Twentieth Century, Environment, Ethics, Politics, Libertarianism, Politics-US, Blog

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Another Saturday morning ramble, 1.

At the end of every week I have notes about all sorts of things I wanted to write about but never got around to. Here's just a few of these (in no particular order) that you might want to ponder yourself:
  • Those pictures show Cardiff's Millenium Stadium, which (conditions underfoot aside) is perhaps the world's finest rugby stadium. And there seems to be a message there for Trevor Mallard, doesn't there? To paraphrase John Lydon, "This is Not a Bedpan."
  • The prosecution of Greg Carvell for shooting a machete-wielding intruder is igniting much-deserved outrage. Oswald Bastable rounds up blog comments on the matter. The Sensible Sentencing Trust says, "We have become a society that stands up for the rights of the criminal and we’ve trampled all over the rights of the law-abiding citizen. It’s despicable" -- and they're right. Libertarianz, as you might recall, said Carvell deserves a medal, not a charge sheet. Even former lawyer Richard Worth has a view on the matter, and as a former lawyer his view helps to encapsulate the case:
    On Thursday 27 July 2006, Ricky Beckham burst into the premises of Small Arms International in Penrose armed with a machete and allegedly said "give me the guns or I will kill you". Greg Carvell shot Beckham in the stomach at close range with a handgun. It seems a classic case of self-defence. The law is clear - you can use such force to defend yourself as is reasonable in the circumstances; up to and including deadly force.
    Rodney Hide, however? He has no view. None at all.
  • Rodney does have a view on property rights however. Like our friends in the Clark Government who, in their pursuit of a waterfront stadium are showing us what they really think about issues of moment -- in their case of the legal chains that bind us, and which they themselves wish to be free of -- in his otherwise laudable pursuit of the Carlaw Park option Rodney Hide shows how he really feels about property rights: "Mr Hide said he would support using the Public Works Act to confiscate private land at Carlaw Park." Can I hear a "Sheesh!" ? How about a "For fuck's sake!" ?
  • Did you know that Patrick McGoohan from The Prisoner and Diana Rigg from The Avengers have a Degree of Separation of 2? The Uni of Virginia have a 'Star Links' system that allows you to determine the degrees of separation of any film or TV performers. Try it out.
  • And speaking of John Lydon, Clint Heine has linked to a You Tube clip of Johnny Rotten (AKA Lydon) on censorship, which I imagine would be good ... if I could get the damn thing to load. See if you have more success than I have to date.
  • Karl Popper's defence of science is still sadly popular, and still so threadbare that as a defence it does everything science's attackers want. Sydney University's D.C Stove attacks Popper and four other "modern irrationalists," explaining how all their irrationalism about science became credible. I'm told it's very good, but as I haven't yet read it myself I can't say that first-hand. Let me know.
  • A Glossary of Free Speech is up at Bernard Darnton's FreeSpeech.Org.NZ site. Highly useful. Highly recommended.
More to come later this avo: Look for more 'Ramble' updates through the day -- and look out too for two posts I'm putting together on the Stadium debate: one showing what lessons the Sydney Opera House competition, architecture and construction has for the Waterfront Stadium, and another looking again at Carlaw Park.

RELATED: Stadium, Property Rights, Politics-ACT, Politics-NZ, Self-Defence, Films, Free Speech, Science, Philosophy

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Friday, 17 November 2006

Beer O'Clock: Black Mac

An old favourite reviewed by Real Beer's Stu. Enjoy.

Mac's and craft brewing are very nearly synonymous in the New Zealand beer lover's vernacular. Terry McCashin's Stoke brewery, near Nelson, was the epicentre of a sluggish craft brewing revolution that now has New Zealand breweries making some of the best beer in the world. The beer was good and the bottles were strikingly different, a perfect recipe for success. After building up a nice little trade Lion came in with the cheque book and the rest is history. Until now...

Mac's are about to be everywhere you look. They are going through a rather large re-branding exercise, and with this one comes some fairly brutal consolidation. Gone are the old regulars from the Mac's Brewery Bar (Verboden Vice, Wicked Blonde and Sultry Dark) and with them go some of the more recent additions to the Mac's family (Reserve, Blonde and Copperhop). The survivors are Gold, Black and Sassy Red, while the pitter patter of tiny feet is heard from the new kids: Hop Rocker (a crassly named but tasty hoppy lager), Great White (a cloudy wheat beer) and Spring Tide (a low-carb something or other, cough, cough).

I'm always excited when new beers come out, some re-branding occurs or a new head brewer takes on a job. The results of any of these changes are usually an improvement in flavour, at least for the first few batches (as the accountants struggle to work out $/litre), and so I approached my old friend Black Mac with a renewed sense of excitement.

Black Mac, or Mac's Black as it was also briefly known, was one of the original stable of Mac's beers brewed in 1982. It's been through a few changes but has always remained a fairly dry, mildly hopped dark lager. It was also one of the first beers to grab me by the scruff of the neck and shake the DB Bitter can from my hand (or was it Speight's Old Dark?).

This year's model pours the usual dark brown with garnet highlights and a lacy tan head. The nose is surprisingly hoppy, with herbal lemony hints of the famous Fuggle hop dominating an underlying toastiness. Once in the mouth the beer is assertively toasty and quite fizzy, which is to the detriment of the dry cola-like caramel notes in the background. It's also a little overtly astringent (that warming sensation around the front and roof of the mouth). However, before I get too disappointed there's a late flourish of hop flavour to please the palate. Far from mind-blowing, but it is, I guess, a beer worth another investigation.

After emptying a couple of the bottles and staring at the new labels, I do find myself wondering how much money Mac's have donated to the school of the winning entrant in their branding competition. A smart idea, which surely must be cheaper than paying the marketing department to come up with something stylish. Perhaps the Auckland Waterfront Stadium Sub-Committee should look into the idea - they could probably award one prize each for the Mallard and Hubbard stands.

Slainte mhath

LINKS: Real Beer
Mac's (coming soon)
Mac's (old school)
Mac's Brewery Bar
Society of Beer Advocates

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Darnton on Aussie ABC

Australia's ABC radio sought out Bernard Darnton to find out just what was going on at the last election. Pledge card, misappropriations of public money, lies, retrospective legislation ... it's all right here. [Interview starts about 23:20]

As Bernard says, I assume that for slagging off the Clark Government overseas he’ll get charged with treason.

LINK: Interview on ABC’s Counterpoint - Darnton V Clark
Electioneering NZ Style - Counterpoint, ABC Radio

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


Tongan chaos

Democracy: the counting of heads regardless of content. If mindless burning of your downtown is your chosen way to replace a monarchy with a democracy, and if an unrestrained democracy is the result, then Tonga is on the way to something worse than where they are now. As Phil at Pacific Empire notes:
Chinese-owned businesses have also been attacked, just as in the recent Solomon Islands unrest, and possibly providing further evidence for Amy Chua’s hypothesis. The attitudes and actions of Tonga’s new king have proved fatal to his government’s legitimacy.
Let us hope that the actions of what have been called "drunken youths" will not prove fatal to an eventual, peaceful replacement for the monarchy.

Keep up to date at Matangi Tonga.

LINKS: Tonga update - Pacific Empire
Breaking news in Tonga - Pacific Empire
Rioting crowd leaves trail of wreckage in Nuku'alofa - Matangi Tonga

RELATED: Politics-World


Milton Friedman dies

Milton Friedman has died overnight. He was 94. Obituaries everywhere, so I'll just point you to some of the best:
  • Liberty Scott: "For all of his critics, Friedman was one of the most successful advocates of economic liberty in the world..."
  • New York Times: "...the grandmaster of conservative economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward lesser government and greater reliance on free markets and individual responsibility."
  • Tyler Cowen: "He was one of the most important minds of the second half of the twentieth century and his influence remains felt all around the world."
  • Tyler's blog partner Alex Tabarrok: "Great economist by day and crusading public intellectual by night, Milton Friedman was my hero. Friedman's contributions to economics are profound, the permanent income hypothesis, the resurrection of the quantity theory of money, and his magnum opus with Anna Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960, all stand as great achievements."
  • Freakanomics author Steven D. Levitt: "He was truly a revolutionary thinker. People do not realize how revolutionary because so many of his ideas that were thought to be crazy when he suggested them eventually came to be seen as obvious..."
  • Samuel Brittan in the FT: "Milton Friedman ... was the last of the great economists to combine possession of a household name with the highest professional credentials." (Ignore Brittan's fatuous claim that "only John Maynard Keynes was able to combine a household name with the highest scientific credibility" -- the claim says more about Brittan than you need to know.)
  • Wall Street Journal [via Brad de Long]: " of the most influential economists of the last century..."
  • Peter Boettke: "Today is a VERY sad day for both those who love economic argument and value economic freedom. "
As Matthew Sinclair says, "I think, in the end, the best tribute to Friedman is in his work." Milton Friedman's 10-episode Free to Choose TV series, perhaps one of the most influential free-market programmes ever, was available free at Google Video (but no longer) but Matthew Sinclair has found some clips at You Tube. [Let me know if you find any more.] It was good TV. As a commenter says at Cafe Hayek, "In each instance he took on his opponents with unflailing politeness but also with the intellectual rigor that showed his true commitment to reasoned discussion."

The Cassandra Page describes the effect of Friedman's book Free to Choose on him and his own intellectual development, and he largely speaks for me as well:
I don't know much about his life, but I remember the impact he had on me and my own growth. Friedman's book, "Free to Choose" was one of the first truly conservative books I read as I broke free of the leftist teachings of my public school education almost 25 years ago.

As I recall, I never finished the book. By the time I had read most of it, I was so excited by the ideas it presented, I moved on to other, more libertarian works. "Free to Choose" was simple enough for a high school student to understand. The book easily explodes the myths propagated by any unionized teacher regarding economics, politics and even history. With Friedman's help, it was relatively easy for me to "unlearn" the myths I had heard regarding the industrial revolution, the depression, taxes and federal spending.

Free to Choose, in the early 1980's, was like manna in the desert for someone whose only previous exposure to conservatism and conservative economics came from the statements of Ronald Reagan...
You can enjoy Friedman's Nobel Prize acceptance speech here.

Finally, The Cassandra Page also has a series of Friedman quotes to help give you the flavour of the man [hat tip Tim Worstall]:
Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

I'm in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my values system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.

Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit.

UPDATE 1: I'll just note here, without canvassing all the reasons now, that I wasn't a fully-fledged Milton fan myself. This post helps to explain why: Not PC: Helen Clark and Michael Cullen might like it.

UPDATE 2: Just in from Forbes.Com:
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher paid tribute, saying, "Milton Friedman revived the economics of liberty when it had been all but forgotten. He was an intellectual freedom fighter. Never was there a less dismal practitioner of a dismal science."

Obituary, Economics, History-Twentieth Century


Dullard lashes out

By jillikers, Mallard snarls when he's spurned, doesn't he. Clearly the meeting with Auckland councillors yesterday went as well for him as the various stadium votes around the place.
  • Aucklanders have "no vision" he says -- or could it just be we dislike his vision, and really don't like being railroaded.
  • "Waterfront opponents" are guilty of "a viral campaign" against him, he charges.
  • Eden Park trustees are incompetent, he suggests, for offering him a $385 million option for just 14,528 extra seats.
"Trust him," he says, despite his venom and despite him -- in just one week -- lying about Eden park piling and the price of the waterfront stadium; insisting that the Government's own legal avenues for development be sidestepped by the Government; declaring last week he needs "unanimity" in the stadium choice and this week (when things are going against him) that all he needs to go ahead with the waterfront is just a rump that agrees with him; and it being revealed this morning that the piling contract for the waterfront option may have been illegally let (never mind, eh, that's what retrospective legislation is for!).

And I note that "Aucklanders" have been instructed to "decide" on just two stadium choices in just two weeks -- as Jim Hopkins summarises: "Here are your options. Pick one or it goes to Jade!" -- without anything like adequate information being presented to explain the Government's preferred option; without any explanation at all what the plans are for the displaced port operations; without any explanation why other options such as Wiri, Carlaw Park and North Harbour were so summarily rejected, apparently without adequate investigation -- even as he dismisses "phone-in" polls that reject his baby as "unscientific."

Is it any wonder this person and his methods of operation are held in such contempt -- and I say that in the full knowledge that Parliament's speaker "may treat as a contempt reflections on the character or conduct of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House."

But tell me this, has anyone seen anything clarifying how those decisions are to be communicated to he who likes to be obeyed? Or is it really just Auckland City and Auckland Regional Councillors who get to decide? Or can we just expect a declaration by the Sports Minister about this time next week decreeing what he has discerned"we" actually want?

Minister, you are contemptible. I fart in your general direction.

UPDATE: Confirmation this morning too that Mallard lied about Carlaw Park, which he said was dismissed for three reasons which included the problem that "roading runs too close to the proposed area for the park, leaving inadequate space for people filling a 60,000 seat stadium to spill out on to afterwards." As I noted at the time, the 'problem' just isn't there at Carlaw Park (see a proposed Carlaw Park plan to the right with concourses effecting the dispersal), but it is there in spades with Mallard's bedpan as traffic engineer Graham Steverson confirms this morning:
A fundamental requirement would be closing Quay St for rugby cup games and other big events.

"That is essential because it is the only side of the compass you have got to get everybody out of the stadium, so you can't have a live road there."

The question of where Quay St's regular traffic would go was "a biggie."

It is. Mr Steverson can't just be dismissed because he's Eden Park's traffic engineer. It is a biggie. See NZ HERALD - Stadium decision: Street closure and tunnel on cards [Hat tip Whale Oil]

RELATED: Stadium, Sport, Politics-NZ, Auckland


Asger Jorn Art Museum Project - Jørn Utzon

A rather unusual project this one, by Jørn Utzon, the architect of the Sydney Opera House, for an art gallery for Danish 'painter' Asger Jorn (the inventor of 'three-sided soccer').

I say "unusual" because of the gallery's three stories, two of them are below ground. You can find out why and more about the project here and here. The picture at top shows the one above-ground storey, with just the tops of the three-level top-lit galleries peeking through, as Utzon said, like “crocuses big and beautiful in porcelain.”
The second photo above is a plaster model showing part of the internal spiral ramp system (very Guggenheim), just above a section through the buried building, and below a floor plan of the gallery level.
LINKS: Silkeborg Museum of Fine Arts - About: Architecture
Unbuilt project, Jørn Utzon, Silkeborg Art Museum extension - arcspace.Com



Thursday, 16 November 2006

Fisking "the science is settled"

"The science is settled," we're told. Not so, says Dr Vincent Gray, who fisks the conclusions of the Third Assessment Report of the InterGovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to see how "settled" the official statement really is. Says Dr Gray, "Even a cursory study of the arguments put forward to support the idea that greenhouse gases are warming the climate would show that the "science" is very far from "settled", and that the arguments for this proposition are not based on science at all, but largely on guesswork."

Dr Gray seeks precision, and looks to ascribe precise meanings to the published statements. He points out however that precision is not what the reports offer.
The most pervasive example is the "equilibrium climate sensitivity", the rise in global temperature from a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration. The range of figures used by the IPCC 1.5ºC to 4.5ºC, was decided by "a show of hands" at an early meeting of "experts". The IPCC Reports are full of statements of how "confident" they are of model results, and how they are "improved" (over what?).

They have developed a series of purely qualitative guesses to judge the model results, to which they have the cheek to assign statistical figures, as follows:

"In this Summary for Policymakers and in the Technical Summary, the following words have been used to indicate approximate judgmental estimates of confidence:
virtually certain (greater than 99% chance that a result is true);

very likely (90-99% chance);

likely (66-90% chance);

medium likelihood (33-66% chance);

unlikely (10-33% chance);

very unlikely (1-10% chance);

exceptionally unlikely (less than 1% chance)."
These creative guesses are obtained from meetings of "experts" who are all people who depend for their livelihood on the success of their models. These figures cannot therefore be taken seriously.

It is useful to consider the following statement of the IPCC (often regarded as a"conclusion") using these assessments.
"In the light of the new evidence and taking into account of remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations..."
"most." not all, but how much?

"observed" "over the last 50 years" restricts it to the unreliable surface record.

"warming' "over the last 50 years" The "observed" temperature fell for the first half, from 1950 to 1976.

"likely" This means, as stated above, one chance in 3 to one chance in 10 that they are wrong.

"greenhouse gas concentrations" No mention of humans. The most important greenhouse gas is water vapour and nobody knows whether its concentration has increased or fallen.
Let us look at the other IPCC statements.
"The balance of the evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate..."

"balance" This presumably means more than 50% probability.

"suggests" Who decided that this suggestion should be made? Biased scientists?

"discernible" but has it actually been DISCERNED?

"human influence" No mention of greenhouse gases.
Then there is
"There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities..."

"most" Above 50%?

"warming ... over the last 50 years" Restricted to the unreliable "surface record."

"warming ... over the last 50 years" For the first half (1950 to 1976) the temperature fell.

"attributable" but it has not actually been ATTRIBUTED, has it?

"human activities" which do not include emissions of greenhouse gases.
Then, on top of that, is this statement from Chapter 1 of "Climate Change 2001"
"The fact that the global mean temperature has increased since the late nineteenth century and that other trends havebeen observed does not necessarily mean that we have identified an anthropogenic effect on the climate system.Climate has always varied on all time scales, so the observed change may be natural."
How can anybody claim that this mixture of pronouncements can be interpreted to mean that "the science is settled"?
RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Politics

More capitalism => More forests.

According to the sternly sanctimonious Stern Report, well over one-third of contributions to CO2 emissions are due to deforestation. And what do you think is the best way to minimise deforestation? To get rich.

That's right: as countries get wealthier and as technologies improve, there is less pressure on forests. As a country gets wealthier, for example, it tends to urbanise, and more urbanisation sees rural areas tending to empty out. And as farm technology improves, for another example, farming concentrates more on fertile lands and less on marginally fertile forested areas.

This claim -- that more wealth creates more forests -- may seem counter-intuitive if you view things in a static rather than a dynamic fashion, but a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [pdf] confirms that "forests are increasing in countries across the world after centuries of being destroyed for their wood and to make way for people." Notes The Times in their summary of the report:
Wealth is one of the clearest indicators of a country’s success in reversing deforestation. Of the countries surveyed, all of those with a GDP per capita greater than $4,600 (£2,400) — roughly equivalent to that of Chile — had increased their forest cover since 1990.
Face it, the natural environment is a luxury good. The wealthier we are, the more natural environment we can afford, and the poorer we are ... Well, as Tim Worstall notes, "it's a combination of poverty and population pressure "that inspires large-scale forest clearances. It's increasing wealth that removes that pressure."
The solutions seem to be increasing the efficiency of agriculture, thus reducing the pressure for more farmland (Hellooooo GM!), increased urbanisation and industrialisation, thus drawing labour away from susbsitence peasantry (Helloooooo FDI and the Multi- Nationals!) and getting that average GDP up (Hellooooo Trade and Globalisation!).
So in summary: if you want more trees, then encourage more capitalism. Or as Worstall says: "Free trade to save the planet!"

LINKS: Forests begin to revive as global devastation of trees is reversed - The Times, London
Forests and carbon emissions - Tim Worstall
Forestry and CO2 - Tim Worstall
Study: Returning forests analyzed with the forest identity -
Kauppi et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [6-page PDF]

RELATED: Politics-World, Economics, Environment, Conservation, Urban Design, Politics

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Peak oil? Not yet.

Bad news for doomsayers who suggest "the Earth may have already reached peak oil production or that this point is very near": Peak Oil is not yet upon us.

The Nostradamus-like pronouncement made fifty years ago by American geophysicist MK Hubbert and religiously trotted out when oil prices rise is given short shrift in a report by oil analysts Cambridge Energy Research (founded by Daniel Yergin, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1991 oil industry history The Prize, and who famously noted, "This is the fifth time we've run out of oil since the 1880s"), which estimates "remaining global supply at 3.74 trillion barrels, compared with 1.2 trillion estimated by "peak oil" theorists... CERA finds that not only will world oil production not peak before 2030, but that the idea of a peak is itself "a dramatic but highly questionable image"."
"World oil production will not begin to fall for at least another 24 years, contrary to doomsday theories that supply is already in terminal decline, a prominent energy consulting group said Tuesday.

"Cambridge Energy Research Associates said in a report that the world has some 3.74 trillion barrels of oil left -- enough to last 122 years at current consumption rates and triple the amount estimated by 'peak oil' theorists...

“'Oil is too critical to the global economy to allow fear to replace careful analysis about the very real challenges with delivering liquid fuels to meet the needs of growing economies,' said Peter Jackson, director of oil industry activity for Cambridge, a Massachusetts-based consultant to the oil, natural gas and electric power industries.

"They said the peak in global daily oil production will not come before 2030 and will be followed not by a steep decline, but rather by an 'undulating plateau' of ups and downs in output before a gradual dropoff, according to the report.

"Jackson said the main flaw in 'peak oil' theory is that it fails to account for exploration, technology, rising estimates of the size of existing fields and geopolitical shifts...
Are you listening, Jeanette? As George Reisman has pointed out (and as we've discussed recently), resource use is a dynamic process, not a static one, with the ultimate resource being the mind applied to things that nature offers us. Making doomsday predictions on resource use without factoring in the role of the mind in resource production is itself doomed to failure.

NB: You can see a short video of author and Canbridge Energy Research founder Daniel Yergin discussing the report at the MSNBC site. The clip is at the right of the page. "The theory [of Peak Oil] is very fashionable ... but it completely discounts technology, which constantly expands our horizons..." he says.

LINKS: CERA says peak oil theory faulty - Energy Bulletin
World oil supply still plentiful, study shows - MSNBC
Environmentalism refuted - George Reisman, Mises Institute
More sustainability - Not PC (October, 2006)
Review of Andrew Bernstein's Capitalist Manifesto - Le Quebecois Libre

RELATED: Politics-World, Economics, Environment, Conservation, Urban Design, Politics, Politics-Greens, Ethics

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Popular Not PC

Top ten most popular posts here at Not PC. Have you read them all?
Architecture V Architecture: John Soane's House, London
Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City
A new 'Frank Lloyd Wright house' nears completion
Becky wants to knock her school down
Gravity research offers science fiction results
The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order.
Stadium: What about the architecture?
Frank Lloyd Wright's Massaro house
Delusions and why people have them
Medal for gun dealer, not court
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becky from dublin
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pauson wright
alberto baruffi
gravity's secret martin tajmar
frei otto olympic park
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soane's house
gravity's secret gravitomagnetism
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Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Don't criticise Peter

Did you know it's still a 'crime against Parliament' to bring the House into contempt? Says Speaker Margaret Wilson, "Standing Order 400(n) establishes that the House may treat as a contempt reflections on the character or conduct of a member in the member’s capacity as a member of the House." Doing so might just "breach Parliamentary Privilege" and thereby bring you before the House to answer for your temerity.

Claims the Speaker, this measure exists "to protect members going about the business of the House from unfounded, scurrilous allegations of serious impropriety or corruption."

Oh, the horror! Frankly, I find a day only half-done in which I don't make at least one "allegation of serious impropriety or corruption" against a parliamentarian, so naturally I view this potential curtailment of my freedom to criticise ineptitude and power-lust with some alarm.

This feudal leftover, if you recall, was the Parliamentary Standing Order under which Carmen was hauled before Parliament some few years ago for bringing the House into much-deserved contempt, much in the same fashion as a peasant was once hauled before his Lord for a similar 'crime.'

Why am I telling you this? Because former MP Matt Robson is being hauled before the Privileges Committee in his private capacity for having the temerity to say something rather intemperate about the petulant Peter Dung in his monthly internet newsletter. Petulant Peter, poor lamb, took umbrage at a claim by Robson he voted according to the bidding of the liquor industry. Despite the claim being removed ever-so-swiftly from the net, presumably at the request of the petulant one, the tantrum remains undiminished, and the Dunne One demands satisfaction!

What a plonker. And what a threat to free speech if we can't criticise those like him who ooze self-importance and power-lust.

Idiot/Savant has the details
of the case. Why not get on top of them and then write to Petulant Pete and Speaker Margaret and tell them what you think of their attack on free speech. Peter.Dunne@Parliament.Govt.NZ and Margaret.Wilson@Parliament.Govt.NZ. They can't take us all to task, can they?

LINKS: An abuse of privilege - No Right Turn (Idiot/Savant)
Privilege: Robson-on-Politics/Peter Dunne - Press release, Margaret Wilson, Scoop

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Free Speech


The Waka Stadium

Another high-powered candidate for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Stadium has emerged: The Waka Stadium. "The most famous stadium in the world..."

LINK: Waka Stadium

RELATED: Stadium, Humour


Delusions and why people have them

Senior Skeptic Michael Shermer has a look at the many delusions afflicting too many people, "from alien encounters to Virgin Mary sightings on pizza pies, to hidden messages revealed while playing "Stairway to Heaven" backwards - and explains the evolutionary and cognitive basis for these lapses in reason."

TED has the video. Robin gets the hat tip.

LINKS: Skeptic founder Michael Shermer on TEDTalks - TED Blog

RELATED: Science, Nonsense, Philosophy

A new 'Frank Lloyd Wright house' nears completion

A new Frank Lloyd Wright building has almost been completed -- at least, there is controversy as to what extent it is still a Frank Lloyd Wright design.

The Massaro house, pictured left and above, was designed by Wright for a unique lakeside setting but never built -- until now. Anecdotal evidence suggested Wright thought it even better than Fallingwater, and the new and eager owner/builder, building from sketch plans developed by Wright, is now only weeks away from completion.

But controversy has erupted, with questions raised by Wright purists as to whether it can truly be called a Wright house ... Bloomberg has the story. Douglas Sanders and The Guardian have background to the story. Apple.Com has a trailer for a documentary on the house. And Graphisoft have a one-hour presentation on design, construction and documentation.

And of course, I did mention some of this before...

LINKS: Controversial Frank Lloyd Wright home rises; purists protest - Bloomberg.Com
Lake Mahopac house - Frank Lloyd Wright Newsblog (Douglas Sanders)
"Building Wright" - Apple.Com [film trailer]
Case Study: Massaro House - based on an original Frank Lloyd Wright design, ArchiCAD helps bring the project to life for the first time - Graphisoft
'This is his finest work' - Guardian

RELATED: Architecture, History Twentieth_Century

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What about the architecture?

Mathew Brown at the Auckland Architectural Association has noted that "its not often that architecture hogs the headlines," but with the stadium debate that's what we've seen. However, as he's noted, "it has given an insight into architecture’s place in New Zealand’s culture."

The discussion has been framed in terms of buildability, expenditure, heritage, public transport, democratic participation (or lack thereof), but as he says:
What does it say about architecture’s place in New Zealand’s society when the extent of design discussion is, in the end, reduced to some 3D renderings?

Up until the unveiling of Warren and Mahoney’s proposal in the weekend papers, the graphics guy at the New Zealand Herald had done more with photoshop to describe the possibilities of a waterfront stadium than any commentary offered by our profession...
And as Robin notes of that ninety-second 3d rendering:
All the flashy Weta effects can’t hide the bulk of Mallards Stadium New Zealand. Sitting on the waterfront like a giant turdthat’s washed up in a spring tide, making it translucent doesn’t hide the size. Interesting it’s only shown at dusk and never from Quay Street which is how it will be seen by most and where the impact of it’s bulk will be the worst.
Mathew concludes:
The architecture profession in New Zealand needs to provide the public with the skills to participate in a design discussion. That way, when a situation like this presents itself, we might expect the public to seek a good architectural response.

Instead we find ourselves in a position where “Auckland” has two weeks to decide which option they want. That’s right, design by public opinion. Now that the ratepayers have heard what the builder, quantity surveyor, minister for sports (and economic development) and prominent rugby players have said, we’ll turn around and ask them what they think. Does that sound like a successful design process?
Does it?
UPDATE 1: We've now been treated by waterfront stadium architects Warren and Mahoney to a brief view of their proposal from Quay St (right, courtesy of the Herald), and a more informative one by that stalwart Herald graphic artist.

UPDATE 2: Meanwhile, Sports Minister Trevor Mallard, fresh from claiming Fletcher Building had been talking down the Eden Park foundations (a claim denied by Fletchers) has come out accusing Eden Park supporters mounting a "viral" campaign against his baby, of pushing "unscientific" polls, of "a lack of vision," and of peddling misinformation. Minister Mallard is now undergoing treatment for an overdose of irony.

LINK: Ahem...what about architecture? - Mathew Brown, Auckland Architecture Association
Mallard's translucent turd by the harbour - Stadium NZ - RobiNZ Personal Blog
Mallard accuses waterfront opponents of 'viral' campaign - NZ Herald

Stadium, Architecture, Sport, Politics-NZ, Auckland

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How transparent is the diversion?

Is this wisdom from G-man?
Speaking of the stadium…can’t you see the set-up coming here? Can’t you see that in a few days or so that Helen Clark herself will be declaring that Labour have "seen common sense...have decided to spend taxpayers money judiciously…have decided to preserve New Zealand’s sporting heritage…have heard the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders and that the great beloved leader will make it all better" ?????!!??

Am I the only one who can see their brilliant strategy? They get a get out of jail free card over Taito Phil and the pledge card from the media AND look prudent AND look like they're listening to the people!!! Brilliant!!
What do you think? I suspect Liberty Scott sees it this way when he says:
Time passes quickly.
It is 15 November and have they paid it back?
Thieving bastards.
See. Thieving and duplicitous.

LINK: Yo yo. some questionz for y'all peace out and all that etc etc - G-Man Inc.
Sport - the opiate of the masses for politicians - Liberty Scott

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Stadium, Darnton Vs Clark

Cabaret of Desire - Silo Theatre

Allow me to recommend a season of Berlin cabaret at Auckland's Silo Theatre: a 'Cabaret of Desire'! A brilliantly conceived and executed performance in a season that runs until mid-December. Don't miss it. From the playbill:
Sex. Hypocrisy. Defiance. Escape. Silo Theatre explores the biting musical experience of Kurt Weill, Mischa Spoliansky and Frederick Hollander. From MACK THE KNIFE to SURABAYA JOHNNY, these rousing anthems expose the hypocrisy of politics and the art of the possible.

Provoke your spirit with the voice of the underground.

“…the lust and anarchy of the Weimar Republic shall live forever…”
This is music from a time when cabaret had an edge: music that recognised, in the words of lyricist Freidrich Hollander*, whose songs were sung tonight: "Truth is hard and tough as nails/ That's why we need fairy tales" -- and it gave you both harshness and the fairy tale. Kurt Weill, for those who don't think they know him, is the predecessor to people like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Serge Gainsbourg. Whipsmart music with attitude and bite. If you don't think you know him, or this era of unforgettably pungent music (Alabama Song, Mack the Knife might be familiar?) or if you want to know more, then my own favourite Weill album might be of interest -- Lost in the Stars: A Tribute to Kurt Weill -- or almost anything by Dagmar Krause -- if you can find anything -- or by the luminous Ute Lemper.

And do try and get along to the Silo before the season finishes. You won't regret it.

LINK: Berlin: Cabaret of Desire - Silo Theatre

RELATED: Music, Theatre, History

* PS: Here's a verse and chorus from that song quoted in part above, Hollander's 'Munchausen':

I saw a court of law where all the justices were just again
Where all the lawyers worked for free and all of them were honest men
You could be rich, you could be poor, you could be Christian or a Jew
Your politics did not have sway on how a judge would rule on you
Their hearts were young, their minds were free, they judged all man equally

Liar liar liar liar liar liar
I'm sick and tired of lies from you
But how I wish your lies were true
Liar liar liar liar liar liar
Truth is hard and tough as nails
That's why we need fairy tales
I'm all through with logical conclusions
Why should I deny myself illusions?


Tuesday, 14 November 2006

Medal for gun dealer, not court

Auckland gun dealer Greg Carvell should be applauded, not charged, for defending himself and his co-workers from the idiot who brought a machete to a gun-shop. Libertarianz Firearms deregulation spokesman Peter Linton agrees:
"Auckland Gun Dealer Greg Carvell should be applauded for his actions in defending himself from a machete wielding aggressor in his shop last July," says Peter Linton, Libertarianz Firearms Spokesman. "It's disgusting that the police are charging Carvell with 'possessing a firearm without lawful, proper or sufficient purposes'."

"It is perfectly reasonable for Carvell, or any other responsible New Zealander, to possess a firearm for self-defence. The right to defend oneself and one's loved ones must not be attacked, Linton explains. "This is a ridiculous charge against a law-abiding New Zealand citizen who should be given a medal. Why are the Police putting criminals before their victims?
Good question. Perhaps, as a colleague says, they're trying to turn gun shops into safe work environments for criminals? If more of us were armed and willing to defend ourselves then perhaps more criminals would end up in hospital instead of their victims -- victims such as the poor Dutch couple savaged over the weekend by animals in human clothing.

Unfortunately, however, the New Zealand police believe they have more right to defend themselves and their property than the average NZ citizen...

I urge readers to e-mail Police Minister Annette King - - and express your outrage at this decision.

UPDATE: Good comment on this from the Crusader Rabbit: Non-negotiable right.

LINK: Gun dealer should be applauded, not charged - Peter Linton, Libertarianz

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Self-Defence

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The fatalism of entropy. The dynamism of spontaneous order.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
- W.B. Yeats

People often talk as if the Law of Entropy somehow restricts human activity, or is a restraint on human free will. The idea, for example, that "even if human ingenuity is infinite, entropy may eventually put an absolute limit on the amount of wealth that can be created." Things fall apart, you see, the centre cannot hold, and there's not a blind thing we can do about it.

This is both an error of scale -- with entropy happening on a universal rather than a human scale -- and a mis-application. It ignores the very nature of human activity and human free will, and ignores too the very simple observation that confirms there is order all around us. As the author of the book Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order says:
Scientists have often been baffled by the existence of spontaneous order in the universe. The laws of thermodynamics seem to dictate the opposite, that nature should inexorably degenerate toward a state of greater disorder, greater entropy. Yet all around us we see magnificent structures—galaxies, cells, ecosystems, human beings—that have all somehow managed to assemble themselves.
The phenomenon of spontaneous order is often cited as one of the two or three most non-intuitive notion of economics -- see if you can guess the others -- but the free application of human ingenuity in a division of labour system is one such example of spontaneous order in action. Tim Harford describes it succinctly in The Undercover Economist as an order that "emerges out of the behavior of individuals even though it is not anyone's intention to promote the overall order."

Why am I telling you this? Because the chaps over at Cafe Hayek have spotted a beautiful example of spontaneous order in full and graphic action: a visual representation of air traffic in the United States over the course of the day. Watch as mainland USA and Hawaii are slowly 'painted in' by the 'spontaneous' travels of individual flights. Click here to go see the Quick Time movie. As they say at Cafe Hayek, what looks random slowly emerges as a most developed kind of 'un-planned' order -- unplanned that is by any central planning. "The flights around the country aren't random. They spring out of population density and the routes people want to travel. These are the source of the order and its visual representation."

Spontaneous order. It's a wonderful thing, and perhaps the best answer to both mis-applying 'entropists' and would-be central planners.

LINKS: The recent revival of spontaneous order - Economics Library
Flight Patterns - Aaron Koblin at UCLA
The nature of the order - Cafe Hayek
Sync : The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order - Stephen Strogatz, Amazon. Com
The Undercover Economist - Tim Harford, Amazon.Com

RELATED: Economics, Ethics, Philosophy, Science

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Tips for women

Harry Enfield reminds us that women should know their limits. And here's how to put on a bra.

[Both at You Tube. Hat tip for both, Diana Hsieh]

RELATED: Humour, Sexism

Gravity research offers science fiction results

One of the 'last unknowns' for science is an understanding of gravity sufficient to put that understanding to technological use. A new development in research into something called gravitomagnetism "might point towards a new quantum theory of gravity," says the New Scientist magazine, and possibly open the door to some very exciting innovation.

Research by Austrian scientists has suggested the phenomenon of gravitomagnetism may have more importance than was previously predicted, and it not only calls into question what was previously thought about gravity. Just as a moving electrical charge creates a magnetic field, so a moving mass generates a gravitomagnetic field. According to Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, the effect is virtually negligible. However, Martin Tajmar, ARC Seibersdorf Research GmbH, Austria; Clovis de Matos, ESA-HQ, Paris; and colleagues have measured the effect in a laboratory, and found a higher figure than previously expected. Notes New Scientist:
It might even herald a futuristic technology that could be used to pull, push or levitate any object, regardless of its composition, electrical charge or shape.
Other scientists will soon be checking the research by trying to replicate it themselves.
The results could be out in a year or so. If they are positive, it puts the technology of science fiction on the horizon. Levitating cars, zero-g playgrounds, tractor beams to pull objects towards you, glassless windows that use repulsive fields to prevent things passing through. Let your imagination run riot: a gravitomagnetic device that works by changing the acceleration and orientation of a superconductor would be the basis for a general-purpose force field.

The suggestion that gravitomagnetism might one day form the basis of some new technology evokes a quick reaction from Everitt: "Absolutely, unquestionably no!" Then, after a pause, he adds, "But I suppose Simon Newcomb was just as certain in 1900 when he said that humans would never build a heavier-than-air flying machine."
You can read about the research in the latest issue of New Scientist (subscription needed) or you can take a peek here at this cached forum page (scroll down to see the text).

LINK: Gravity's secret - New Scientist (subscription needed)
Gravity's secret - Science a Go Go Forum (scroll down to see the text)
Towards a new test of general relativity - PhysOrg.Com
Gravitomagnetism - Wikipedia
Gravitomagnetic induction of gravitational fields - Gravity Control Idealism blog

RELATED: Science