Saturday, December 23, 2006

Man, the enlightened being. A Christmas message from 1953.

As the offices here at Not PC Towers shut down for the holidays, and as I won't be here to post this on Christmas Eve, I really do want to re-post Frank Lloyd Wright’s poetic 1953 Christmas message on “man the enlightened being”: “The herd disappears and reappears," says Frank, "but the sovereignty of the individual persists.”

The spirit and overwhelming benevolence of his words make them appropriate to post here on this Christmas Eve as this blog closes down for the festive season.
Literature tells about man. Architecture presents him. The Architecture that our man of Democracy needs and prophecies is bound to be different from that of the common or conditioned man of any other socialized system of belief. As never before, this new Free-Man’s Architecture will present him by being true to his own nature in all such expressions. This aim becomes natural to him in his Art as it once was in his Religion.

With renewed vision, the modern man will use the new tools Science lavishes upon him (even before he is ready for them) to enlarge his field of action by reducing his fetters to exterior controls, especially those of organized Authority, publicity, or political expediency. He will use his new tools to develop his own Art and Religion as the means to keep him free, as himself. Therefore this democratic man’s environment, like his mind, will never be style-ized. When and wherever he builds he will not consent to be boxed. He will himself have his style...
Read on here: Man, the Enlightened Being - Frank Lloyd Wright

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Holidays!

Yep, like many another blogger I'm off for a couple of weeks to find summer -- if indeed it still exists down here in the mid latitudes of the South Pacific.

I won't be promising to to update this blog while I'm away -- but I won't be promising that I won't.

There is no excuse for not posting, none at all ... except for the very good reason that I'm really, really, really looking forward to a holiday.

So until then, my very best Christmas wishes to all of you many fine people who deserve it, and may the fleas of a thousand camels infest the armpits of all the rest of you.

And do feel free to rummage through my archives until Not PC re-opens for business, or perhaps to check out Robert Tracinski's pick of the top five stories of 2006.

1. No Leadership this year
The top story of 2006 is the failure of President Bush's leadership in the war, and its consequences: the painful Republican loss in the mid-term congressional elections, and the return to the offensive of the "Islamist Axis" led by Iran, which is now attacking on all fronts, from Somalia to Afghanistan.
2. The Weapon of Democracy
The second most important story of the year is the chaos in Iraq, in Lebanon, and in the Palestinian territories—and the ideological factor that is driving it. America has made the promotion of "democracy" into the centerpiece of its foreign policy in the Middle East, but the Iranians and their allies are taking advantage of the contradictions in the modern concept of "democracy" and are using it as a weapon against us. (This issue was also covered in much greater depth in the print edition of The Intellectual Activist.)
3. The Cartoon Jihad
The #3 top story of the year is the improbably named "cartoon jihad," which made clear to the West the nature of our enemy's goal in the War on Terrorism: not any specific demand or goal, but an all-encompassing Western submission to Muslim rule. This is covered in the first three news links below, and in the first feature article (a longer version of which appeared in our print magazine).
4. "Small-government" conservatives think too small
We continue our countdown of the top stories of the year with #4: the short-lived rebellion of the "small-government conservatives" in Congress. The departure of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, first from the Republican leadership, then from Congress, followed by the loss of Republican House majority, set off a series of leadership battles in which "small-government conservatives" attempted to unseat the existing Republican establishment.
5. The second fall of Communism
A story that is enormously important for the future of the world, but which is happening slowly, in the background: the collapse of Communism in China, and the loosening of the regime's political control. That is the story covered in the first six items below, which are just a sampling of the extensive coverage we have given to this story over the year.

The flip side of this story, however, is Russia's continued slide back to dictatorship, as Putin's "Stalin Lite" regime goes heavier on the Stalin. That story—which has gained a higher profile recently with the assassination of a Kremlin critic in London...

(The full links are in the TIA Daily emails, but the Winston Smith blog has the raw text.)

See you next year!

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An end-of-year, Saturday, pre-Christmas ramble

This is my last ramble for the year -- my bags and books are almost packed, and sun rain-drenched beaches beckon, and for one last time for this year I'll ramble through my clippings file for the week, those items I've marked up to write about but just haven't had the time.
  • First on the list is LearnOutLoud's free -- free! -- audio collection of Great Speeches in History. Download to to whatever MP3 player you have, and you can have Pericles, Martin Luther King, Napoleon Bonaparte, Jesus H. Nazareth, Abraham Lincoln and others right there on the beach with you.
    Great Speeches in History - LearnOutLoud

  • Artist Michael Newberry shares with Amazon browsers his list of Desert Island recordings. Good stuff. Great presents.

  • Where did Angelina take Brad for his birthday? Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. How 'bout that!

  • Christmas for the Kelo family is a sad one this year. Susette Kelo it was whose home was taken by the US Supreme Court and given to a private developer to build condominiums. Susette is still exactly as pissed off as she should be, and she has sent to all concerned this lovely Christmas card: "Susette Kelo's holiday cards feature a snowy image of her pink house and a message that reads, in part, "Your houses, your homes, your family, your friends. May they live in misery that never ends. I curse you all. May you rot in hell. To each of you I send this spell." Rotting in hell is the least the thieving, constitutionally-challenged bastards deserve. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]
    In Eminent Domain Case: Bah, Humbug: Xmas Jeers From Woman Who Lost - Hartford Courant

  • Idiot/Savant has a frankly shocking summary of just how many people have been, and still are, imprisoned without trial in these Shaky Isles. "If these people are still being detained - and we just don't know - then this would mean that as of today, all had been imprisoned for more than a year, two for more than two years, and the longest-serving detainee is now coming up for their third anniversary in prison. All of this, remember, without any charge or any trial." Ahmed Zaoui and Thomas Yadgery are just the very top of the iceberg, it seems.
    Not Just Thomas Yadgery - No Right Turn

  • Sprawl. Where some see sprawl, even if they're unable to clearly define what the hell they mean by it, William T. Bogart sees metropolitan regions as dynamic systems -- which is of course what they are. Reason magazine has a fascinating interview with Bogart. Sample:

    reason: If we shouldn't call it sprawl, what should we call it?

    Bogart: "Trading places." It's a more accurate description of how metropolitan areas are structured today: Parts interact with each other by trading goods and services, which includes people moving from place to place and consuming and producing goods and services.

    It's also an explicitly dynamic term. Over the course of a day the populations of different parts of metropolitan areas change, and over the course of time the populations of metropolitan areas change. Too much of the discussion about metropolitan structure has been too narrowly focused, in both space and time -- it looks at a very small part of a metropolitan area at only one point in time.
    Read it all here:
    Trading Places: William T. Bogart on Dynamic Cities and Unnacountable Planners
    - Reason.Com


  • Now, here's an article on 'the war that won't go away' that comes highly recommended by the folks at Jihad Watch: "A tremendous address by John Lewis, an assistant professor of history at Ashland University and contributing editor of The Objective Standard, where you can read that address now." A tiny sample:
    [American] military capacities are not in doubt today. It is [American] moral self-confidence that is in question. What was it that stopped us from confronting Iran in 1979, except a lack of confidence in our own rightness, and an unwillingness to defend ourselves for our own sakes? Had we removed the Iranian regime in 1979, thousands of Americans would have been saved, and children across the world would not have grown up with sword verses rising in their minds as they give their lives to jihad. Consider the Japanese—and ask whether it would have been in our interest to have left the regime of 1945 in power, to continue preaching religious militarism and training kamikaze. The best thing Americans did for themselves (and, incidentally, the kindest thing for the Japanese) was to burn that regime to the ground. So it is today. The Islamic State—Totalitarian Islam—must go. And it is the moral responsibility of every American to demand it.

    As Jihad Watch recommends, "Don't fail to read it all." (And maybe take a look too at Lewis's Open Letter to Republicans explaining in terms that even Republicans can understand just why exactly they lost the mid-term elections. John Key apologists might also benefit from reading it.)
    No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitiarianism - John Lewis, The Objective Standard

  • An article that appeared recently in the Wall Street Journal on the Iraq War and the report of the Iraq Study Group has been creating quite a stir. Robert Tracinscki calls the report of the Iraq Study Group the work of Captain Obvious. That is not intended as a compliment. As he says, "There you have it: a series of recommendations based on conditions that 'very well might not' happen... The whole ISG report is a spectacular punt. It contains a few broad, vague goals for our policy--and a whole range of specific recommendations for actions that are not in the power of the American government to take."
    Captain Obvious to the Rescue: The Problem with the Iraq Study Group - Robert Tracinscki, Wall Street Journal

  • And here's a related article on the website of the George Mason University (and if I haven't noted the author's name it's because I confess I've forgotten it):
    The Very Messy Way In versus A Very Neat Way Out of Iraq - George Mason Uni

  • On to another war: Grant McCracken has an insightful look at the culture wars and the phenomenon of moral panic -- from both left and right.
    Ending the Culture Wars (or, Ecumenical Me) - This Blog
  • For all the talk about physics here recently, some of you may be in need of a brush-up in your own knowledge of all the complicated concepts and observations that physicists seek to explain. If you want it all de-mystified, then Carl Wiemann's Interactive Physics Simulations are just the thing. Superbly explanatory Java applets that you really do need to play with.
    Interactive Physics Simulations - Physics Education Technology
    Physics 2000, "an interactive journey through modern physics!" - Carl Wiemann, Colorado Uni.


  • Here's a request: I've just noticed that the Jul/August issue of Architecture New Zealand magazine had a fourteen-page special on Claude Megson, 'Degrees of Freedom,' written by one Giles Reid. I'd love to have a look at the article (and if I don't record it here I'll forget all about it by the New Year), and I'd love to know too just who Giles Reid is. Anyone have any info?
  • Item 1 – Plant a Tree and Save the Planet? As Owen McShane notes, "Not in New Zealand it now seems."
    Can planting trees stop the sea level from rising, the ice caps from melting and the whole planet being Gored to death? A new study says that it depends on where the trees are planted. In fact it cautions that new forests in mid-to high-latitude locations could actually create a net warming. New Zealand is a mid to high lattitude country.My wife and I have planted over 85,000 trees and plants on our property so are we doomed to global warming jail? Sadly, it seems our Government has got it wrong again. But that is what happens when you are convinced "The Science is Settled" when most of it is actually unexplored territory.
    Read the whole shocking story at:
    Plant a Tree and Save the Earth? - Earth Observatory.

  • The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. The volunteer vigilante for this Christmas break -- that time when governments are prone to drop their shittier news in the expectation that no-one will notice -- is once again the G-Man, and he's already found a shit drop from the Ministry of the Environment.
    The Great Christmas Shit Drop - G-Man Inc.

  • And Cactus, of course, has the perfect advice for all of you considering holiday presents for employees. Forget the alcohol, free hams or i-pods -- give 'em CASH!
    Corporate Wowsers - Cactus Kate

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Beer O'Clock: The horror that is the Beer List

Some horror stories from Neil at Real Beer. The following stories are both true. Names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

It doesn’t happen very often, but I was dining recently at one of Wellington’s most up-market eateries. It was going perfectly - the decor was impressive, the staff attentive, everything on the menu looked delicious and someone else was paying. Life, in short, was sweet.

At which point my attentive wait-person asked if I would like a drink, to which I quite naturally replied, "I would love a beer," (this does happen quite often) and, "could I possibly see the beer list."

Apparently not. This fine establishment did not produce such an obscure document but (and I swear I am not making this up) “if I wanted to tell them what beer I would like, they would tell me if they had it.”

I was at a loss for words (and this most certainly does not happen very often). Playing guessing games with my wait-person had not been on my list of things-to-do at one of Wellington's finest eateries.

As it turned out they had just six beers on offer – which is bad enough in itself - but I tried to imagine such a posh restaurant asking diners to guess a wine they light like to go with their entrées, and then letting them know later whether they had it. I couldn't do it.

Another story. I dined recently at a restaurant which did have a beer list. That was the good news. Below a list of six brands it read (and I almost wish I was making this up) “light beer,” “dark beer,” and -- wait for it -- “imported beer.” I don’t think a wine list would ever be printed with “foreign wine” as a category.

These are just two personal examples of quality eating establishments treating beer as a second-rate beverage. It is based on the implicit assumption that all beers are really the same, so why have a list, or even a decent range.

Those assumptions are simply not true. There is a huge variety of domestic and international beers available, and as every Beer O'Clock reader knows, there is a world of difference between a hoppy lager, a chocolate stout, a spicy wheat beer and a sour Lambic. Beer goes well with food, and the art of beer and food matching is becoming more widely understood with the charge led in this country by the Monteith’s Wild Food Challenge and Lion Nathan’s Beer Ambassador program.

I don’t expect every place to have 100 beers on offer (like the Malthouse) or a wide range of speciality Belgian (like Leuven), but when establishments won’t let you bring your own beer to dinner, I believe there should be some expectation they will provide a reasonable selection of beers -- and to put that reasonable selection down on a damn list so you know what's on offer.

If your favourite eatery doesn’t give beer drinkers fair treatment, then let the buggers know. Consumer pressure is the best way to bring about change, and to push back against the forces of wine snobbery.

Yours in beer, and best wishes for 2007,
Neil Miller
Real Beer.

In defence of Scrooge

Scrooge has a bum rap. Scrooge was a good guy -- at least by 'modern' standards. Argues Steven Landsburg (tongue somewhat in cheek):
In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to.
Ebenezer Scrooge. Hero to both John Key and Al Gore. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

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Responsible holiday drinking

Responsible holiday drinking? The Onion has just the tips you need. [Hat tip Samizdata]

More writing tips

Nine tips on writing better blog posts come to you courtesy of Alan -- a more polite version of my own writing tips I posted the other day.

The aim of good writing is to say as much as you can with as little as you can get away with. You might want to consider Harry Binswanger's proposed new unit of measurement: a MicroRand (named after author Ayn Rand). The MicroRand is defined as the unit of writing in which one statist premise is blown one mile high in one sentence.

That is not an invitation to write longer sentences.

Annan UN disgrace

Kofi Annan has now gone from the top UN job, a post he held for ten years. Does anyone know anything he's achieved in all that time.

Amongst the genocide, corruption and hand-wringing ineffectiveness of the world's biggest bureaucracy, can anyone list any one, single achievement of Annan's rule? Anything? Srebrenica, Rwanda, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Kosovo, Darfur ...
Isn't it true that genocide, corruption and hand-wringing ineffectiveness are simply endemic to the United Nations -- on whose board have sat some of the most corrupt dictatorships known to man, and whose actions often amount to little more than standing aside while aggressors kill people, while feeding the dictators and stopping any action against their aggression that could perhaps prove effective.

“To judge by what is happening in Darfur, our performance has not improved much since the disasters of Bosnia and Rwanda,” Annan said as he pissed off. He sure got that right.


"Is there blood on his hands?" asks the Sunday Times? There's blood all across the whole damned UN. Screw the whole corrupt, bloody organisation, I say.

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Ding, dong, another dictator is dead.

Ding, dong, another dictator is dead. The former head Stalinist of Turkmenistan has kicked the bucket just in time to give Turkmenistanis a Christmas present, and (perhaps) a chance at some sort of freedom. Liberty Scott has a bio of the thug, and a list of just some of the bizarre features of his authoritarian rule.

LINKS: Merry Christmas Turkmenistan - Liberty Scott

RELATED: Obituary

Prohibition: Learning from history

As always, The Onion makes learning from history easy by making the lesson itself so blindingly obvious.
The Onion - 18th Amendment

Obvious enough that even Jacqui Dean and Jim Neanderton might get it, do you think? The message:

Never has.

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Politics-NZ

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A gift for gangs at Christmas?

PJ O'Rourke once observed that every time the US Drug Czar announces a major drug seizure, Colombian drug lords celebrate.

Now, PJ assumes the reader understand basic economics, something Jim Anderton and Jacqui Dean obviously don't -- but the leaders of NZ's illegal drug trade certainly do. If Colombian drug lords throw a party every time there's a seizure of cocaine in the US (because, of course, the price of drugs goes up) then what the hell do Anderton and Whacky Jacky think our own local gang leaders will be doing if party pills are banned here in NZ?

As Lindsay Mitchell observes, with the gift of the ban that Progressive Jim is considering and National Socialist Jacqui is demanding, Christmas could be coming right on time for local gangsters.

LINKS: Keep up to date with the story at Stash.Co.NZ

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Politics-NZ

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The Ten Least Successful Christmas TV Specials of All Time

As you prepare to settle back for the Christmas season, and perhaps to prepare for a Salacious Saturnalia, you might be looking forward to one of the modern Christmas traditions: the TV Christmas Special. Here, for your edification, is the list of the ten least successful Christmas TV Specials of all time.

They include Orson Welles's seminal The Assasination of St Nicholas; the much-discussed 'lost' Star Trek Christmas episode, Christmas: A most Illogical Holiday' Noam Chomsky's Deconstructing Christmas -- despite the concession of Chomsky to wear a seasonal hat for a younger demographic appeal, still unaccountably the least requested Christmas special ever made; and of course, Ayn Rand's 1951 classic, A Selfish Christmas.

Check them all out here.

LINK: The ten least successful holiday specials of all time - Whatever

RELATED: Christmas, Humour

Thank the producers

Imagine doing without without entrepreneurship and the many benefits it brings. As Lew Rockwell notes at today's Mises Daily, the word entrepreneur "refers to those who make speculative judgments in a capitalistic economy, risking their own resources to bring us goods, services, and techniques that we have never known before."
It is the entrepreneur's intuition and imagination that make economic progress possible.
As year on year and generation on generation our lives are blessed with the material benefits brought into the world by those especially imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit, it's worth it just occasionally to pause and say thank you, and to wonder why and who would want to put a stop to their life-enhancing efforts. As Rockwell notes:
Unfortunately, some would. They oppose the free-market process that makes improvement possible. They seize on some innovation that they don't like, and instead of declining to buy, seek to deny that opportunity to others by passing laws against free exchange and economic progress.

Such people seem to be everywhere these days. The environmentalist movement is replete with them; indeed, the ideology pretty much defines the ideological Left. They preach that we buy too much, sell too much, and compete too much, while calling on the government to stop us.

This hectoring must carry some persuasive power, given how many people have been taken in by it. The mistake is in thinking that economic progress is driven by some strange force outside our control. In fact, material progress represents the social ratification of the ideas and actions of dreamers in a capitalistic marketplace, people seeking to bring us better ways of living, and using peaceful means to do so.

...People have been led to believe that shutting down entrepreneurship and the marketplace will improve the world. Actually, that way lies barbarism, and a system unfit for human beings.
A good and timely message. When Brad Thompson declares that "capitalism works because it's moral and just," this is what he means: that freedom, which is what capitalism represents, leaves free all those dreamers -- leaving them free to rise, and able to take us with them.

What a great thought to contemplate at Christmas.

LINK: Entrepreneurship and social progress - Mises Daily
The morality of capitalism - Not PC

RELATED:
Politics, Ethics, Economics

"She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli..."

Where would writers be without metaphors and analogies. They're as useful as an enormously useful thing. When you run out of one yourself, there's always this list to choose from, a collection of analogies compiled by U.S. high school teachers from their students' essays. Sample:
  • Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.
  • Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  • The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  • The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  • She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  • She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
[Hat tip Stephen Hicks]

Danaë - Gustav Klimt

The Danaë. Impregnated by Zeus sometime back in pre-history. Painted by Gustav Klimt in 1907.

RELATED: Art

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A smoking hot cash crop

Speaking of the sticks and carrots of outrageous governments, and how those slings and arrows actually affect activity in the real world, did you notice recent news on the most valuable cash crop in the US?

Not soybeans, which attract generous growing subsidies.

Not corn, which attracts generous growing subsidies.

And not carrots either.

Answer: cannabis. As a cash crop cannabis earns as much as the other two major players put together, despite all the many sticks aimed at growers. (I'm sure we all have our suspicions, too, about the part it plays in some of NZ's regional economies.)

It just goes to how how well government incentives work, eh -- and just what happens when you ban something?

LINKS: America's cannabis crops hit all-time earnings high - NZ Herald

RELATED:
Victimless Crimes, Economics, Politics-US

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The morality of capitalism

Brad Thompson, whose series on the failure of modern American conservatism I ran here recently, has just launched his Institute for the Study of Capitalism, to be domiciled at Clemson University.

The news has brought a generally praise-worthy article from the New York Sun and a whole quarrel of philosophers out to impart their view on the morality of capitalism, otherwise known as the system that keeps them fed and watered. Their comments say more about them than they do about capitalism. For example:
  • Princeton University professor, Cornel West, said Adam Smith was "anti-imperialist," which he said was something that those "on the right" generally "don't want to appropriate."
  • "Capitalism is thoroughly immoral and has no moral foundation," said Kirkpatrick Sale, the director of the Middlebury Institute, a think tank that studies "separatism" and "self-determination." "In fact, it celebrates all of what we know of as the seven deadly sins except for sloth."
Less irrelevant were the comments of the director of Manhattan Institute's Center for the American University, James Pierson:
Perhaps the most promising development on campus in recent years has been the creation of various centers and programs dedicated to the study of political liberty and the history of free institutions — for example, the James Madison Program on American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, the Gerst Program at Duke, the Salvatori Center at Claremont McKenna College, the Political Theory Project at Brown, and the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate.
Professor Thompson himself deserves the final word:
Capitalism is made possible by a limited government that has as its primary purpose the protection of individual rights, which in turn takes the sovereignty of the individual as a moral absolute... Most conservative intellectuals argue that capitalism is good because it works. We think capitalism works because it's moral and just.
Too true. And too easily forgotten.

LINKS: Clemson University Establishes a Think Tank Devoted to Studying the Moral Basis of Capitalism - New York Sun [Hat tip Noodle Food]
CONSERVATISM: A NEW OBITUARY, Part 6 - The consequences of conservatism - Not PC

RELATED: Education, Politics-US, Objectivism, Ethics, Politics

New lib blog

New blog added to the blogroll: A Neo-Jacobin, a "London-born, free Englishman. Free to say anything and free to go anywhere. A libertarian, arguing for a world that's fit for us humans to live in."

Hat tip ... well, she always gets coy when she's mentioned on the front page.

Carrots and sticks

"A mixture of carrots and sticks." That was how Aunty Helen described the method whereby her Government intends to take us into the promised land of "carbon neutrality" (All Hail the Great God Gore!).

The first step on their yellow brick road of "sustainability" is to encourage land-owners to plant new trees by the time-honoured method of hitting around the head with a stick those who've already planted trees, making anyone with even half-a-mind to do so utterly disinclined to invest in new planting.

So what about those carrots, eh?

Just another lesson from the file full of stories about how when you make governments big enough to give you everything you want, they're also big enough to take it all away again -- and quite inclined to want to do so.

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Environment, Global Warming

Ten tips to survive the party season

As Stephen Hicks notes, it's high time to study those ten survival tips again on how to survive December's liver-crushing load of Christmas parties, starting with Scenario 1: What to do if you can't remember the name of the co-worker you are making out with in the supply cabinet.

By the way, how's your liver holding up?

Christmas Advice from Lord Byron

Drunkenness
I would to heaven that I were so much clay,
As I am blood, bone, marrow, passion, feeling--
Because at least the past were passed away--
And for the future--(but I write this reeling,
Having got drunk exceedingly today,
So that I seem to stand upon the ceiling)
I say--the future is a serious matter--
And so--for God's sake--hock and soda-water!
(Fragment on the back of the Poet's MS. of Don Juan, Canto 1)

RELATED: Poetry

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Last week's top headlines

Some of last week's top headlines, courtesy Lyndon Hood at Scoop [hat tip, Kiwi Herald]

Helen Clark Agitated After Fijian PM Overthrown Over Corruption Allegations, Foreshore Legislation

Release Of 2050 Energy Strategy Leads To Parliamentary Hot-Air Trading

Draft Energy Efficiency Strategy: Save Power By Reducing Drafts

Telecom Unbundling Bill Solves Every Problem In Country

Parliament Stops Sitting; Politicians Keep Lying

Public Servants To Work Even Less Over Christmas Season

...and my favourite :

Nats To Contest 2008 Election On Global Warming, Maori Issues
- Labour To Propose Tax Cuts

And here, courtesy of David Slack (who was sent it by six disgruntled Gnats) is an advance draft for National's forthcoming, all-new, all-focus-grouped, billboard campaign:


RELATED: Politics-NZ, Humour, Cartoons, Hollow Men

Bans? There's a whole, long list of the bastards!

Ban, ban, ban, where will it all end. The boys at Pacific Empire ask the question we're all asking, and they list the most recent knee-jerk responses to stop people getting on with what they want to.

If I may pull a Mencken quote out of the comments section for a moment, so much of the over-developed banning reflex in politicians comes back to Mencken's observation on the motivation behind puritanism: "...the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, might just be having a good time."

LINK: Ban, ban, ban ... where will it all end - Pacific Empire

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics, Quotes, Victimless Crimes

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A lot of yap.

Another reflection on 2006: just what the hell have I been posting on all year? Here's the list of top-dozen topics appearing here at Not PC, according to my archives - the number indicates how many posts on each topic, and if you click on each link you can read every post!
Not far from 1,000 posts on politics in this funny little country. Phew. I think it's definitely time for a holiday.

RELATED: Blog

Victory in three

Those Australians. They sure know how to win.
And they really know how to celebrate victory. Roll on 5-0 -- would you bet against it?

RELATED: Sport

Is Christmas too commercial?

Isn't it great seeing people enjoying themselves at this time of year? Getting together with workmates, friends and loved ones to be happy together, to celebrate the year, to give gifts and share pleasure with people you value, and whose friendship you want to enjoy. Boats full of happy work-groups cruise the harbour, enjoying the spectacle and each other's company; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy.

This is what we work for, right? To be happy and full of good cheer like this?

So why the constant claims that Christmas too commercial? Says philosopher Leonard Peikoff, to make that claim is to miss the very point of Christmas.
Christmas ... is an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life. Yet all of these are castigated as "materialistic"; the real meaning of the holiday, we are told, is assorted Nativity tales and altruist injunctions (e.g., love thy neighbor) that no one takes seriously...

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....

All the best customs of Christmas, from carols to trees to spectacular decorations, have their root in pagan ideas and practices. These customs were greatly amplified by [Western] culture, as the product of reason, science, business, worldliness, and egoism, i.e., the pursuit of happiness...

Life requires reason, selfishness, capitalism; that is what Christmas should celebrate -- and really, underneath all the pretense, that is what it does celebrate. It is time to take the Christ out of Christmas, and turn the holiday into a guiltlessly egoistic, pro-reason, this-worldly, commercial celebration.
And so say all of us.

LINK: Christmas should be more commercial - Leonard Peikoff, Capitalism Magazine

Christmas Drinks: The Perfect Martini

T'was the week before Christmas and all through the house, all the creatures were stirring .... and tension did mount.

Stress? Tension? Reasons to kick back and to savour life? Time then for a Martini or two (for the perfect Martini usually has a Second Act). Mencken declared the Martini to be "the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet." Mencken was perfectly right.

There is dissension as to the perfect Martini. The perfection of Martinis shows the contextual nature of value judgements, you see. This man prefers a gin martini. This woman a vodka. James Bond, naturally, prefers his shaken, not stirred -- and he prefers his Martinis the same way. Everyone has their own view of perfection, but unlike other forms of Holy writ, these scriptures are not kept secret -- such pleasant fruits of hours of indulgence are freely shouted forth to the winds.

Owen prefers a gin Martini, and has the perfect description.

Personally, I prefer a vodka Martini, and I have the perfect recipe.

Tom likes a gin martini, but he prefers to drink out in search of perfection. If you're in Wellington, you can take advantage of his spadework in the pursuit of the perfect gin Martini. [Deadtree format here]

Shaken or stirred? Advice on that here.

The perfect Martini needs the perfect accompaniment. Good friends, good stories, and good friends telling their own Martini stories are always acceptable. If some of the stories are true, that's okay as well -- after the second Martini.

The ideal serving accompaniments for mine are at least one friend (or nearly sane person), and the Benny Goodman Small Groups CD on your player. The Breakfast at Tiffany's soundtrack or something by Nina Rota provides a very acceptable alternative.

Enjoy! (And in case you're wondering, the perfect present for a Martini-drinking friend (if they're not already in possession of the Goodman, that is) is a set of small Martini glasses -- small because the perfect Martini needs to be filled to the brim, and because you really want that first one to start the party, not to kill it.)

LINKS: The Martini gospel according to McShane - Straight Thinking (Owen McShane)
The perfect Martini does exist - Not PC
Wellingtini - Well Urban (Tom Beard)

RELATED:
Beer & Elsewhere

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Monday, December 18, 2006

An inconvenient truth for carnivores

An inconvenient truth for carnivores from a study of 8,179 people, published in the latest British Medical Journal:
A Southampton University team found those who were vegetarian by 30 had recorded five IQ points more on average at the age of 10... Men who were vegetarian had an IQ score of 106, compared with 101 for non-vegetarians; while female vegetarians averaged 104, compared with 99 for non-vegetarians.
Another sacred cow slaughtered -- if you'll pardon the metaphor.

LINK: High IQ link to being vegetarian - BBC News [Hat tip Andrei]
An Objectivist tiger in a vegetarian cafe - Not PC (June, 2006)
Myths that can kill: Meat - Not PC (Feb, 2006)

RELATED: Health

Modern education: Value for money?

We may be spending more on schools, but how about the argument that teachers in general still aren't paid enough? I asked the question the other day, suggesting that without a market for education it's simply impossible to say for sure. Alan Caruba asks and answers the question in the American context, and based on the service performed, and his answer is a very firm "Hell, no!" His charge (and the problems he cites) holds true locally as well:
It is an act of thievery to take money to provide goods or services and then fail to do so. Our nation’s schools have become a great criminal conspiracy, promising to educate our children, but more often producing “graduates” without even the most basic skills, let alone a useful, wider body of knowledge.
If you doubt the truth of that charge, perhaps I can remind readers of the results of the comprehensive 1996 International Adult Literacy Survey, which surveyed adults from 16-65. The survey ranked reading levels from level 1 (very poor) to level 5 (very good); level 3 is regarded as being “functionally literate,” ie., the minimum level required to meet the “complex demands of everyday life and work.” The New Zealand portion of that survey found that for prose (the “ability to understand and use information from text”) a staggering 66.4 percent of Mäori were below this minimum level and an equally tragic 41.6 percent of non-Mäori.

There is no reason to suppose that insuperably different results would be achieved today, yet this 'service' takes children from their homes under the pretence of education, in return for which taxpayers continue to pay, and are forced to pay. How much? Through the nose.
“According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average private school charged $4,689 per student in tuition for the 1999-2000 school years. That same year, the average public school spent $8,032 per pupil.” Somehow, private schools are able to out-perform public schools when it comes to imparting knowledge and skills despite the fact their students have less than half as much funding as public school students...
The figures are commensurate with local prices. Conclusion?
The entire education establishment, frequently advocating the teaching of values at odds with those held by parents, has ruined our nation’s schools and are defrauding taxpayers by failing to truly educate the children placed in their care.
What will it take for it to become politically unacceptable to fail at this level, to take so many young minds and to have them reduced to so much mush, and at such great expense? A great scam is taking place before our eyes, and we're all too blind to see it.

Alas, while such unspeakable disasters are avoidable, they are not unprecedented historically, and a brief historical detour will help to make Caruba's point even plainer. That great humanitarian Victor Hugo wrote in The Man Who Laughed of the 'Comprachicos,' a breed of "strange and hideous nomads" from the 17th century who "made children into sideshow freaks," for which there then was some demand. Hugo described the hideous process:
To succeed in producing a freak one must get hold of him early; a dwarf must be started when he is small... They stunted growth; they mangled features... It was a whole science of inverted orthopaedics. Where nature had put a straight glance, this art put a squint. Where nature had put harmony, they put deformity.. The child was not aware of the mutilation he had suffered. This horrible surgery left traces on his face, not in his mind... During the operation the little patient was unconscious by means of a stupefying magic powder.

In China since time immemorial, they have achieved refinement in a special art and industry: the moulding of living man. One takes a child two or three years old and puts them into a grotesquely shaped porcelain vase, without cover or bottom, so that the head and feet protrude. In the daytime the vase is upright, at night it is laid down so the child can sleep. Thus the child slowly fills the contours of the vase with compressed flesh and twisted bones. This bottled development continues for several years. At a certain point, it becomes an irreparable monster. Then the vase is broken and one has a man in the shape of a pot."
Ayn Rand noted that while Hugo wrote this in the nineteenth century, "his exalted mind could not conceive that so unspeakable a form of inhumanity would ever be possible again. The twentieth century proved him wrong."
The production of monsters--helpless, twisted monsters whose normal development has been stunted--goes on all around us [observed Rand], But the modern heirs of the comprachicos are smarter and subtler... They do not hide, they practice their trade in the open; they do not buy children, the children are delivered to them; they do not use sulphur or iron, they achieve their goal without ever laying a finger on their little victims.

The ancient comprachicos hid the operation, but displayed its results; their heirs have reversed the process: the operation is open, the results are invisible. In the past, this horrible surgery left traces on a child's face, not in his mind. Today it leaves traces in his mind, not on his face. In both cases the child is not aware of the mutilation he has suffered. But today's comprachicos do not use narcotic powders; they take a child before he is fully aware of reality and never let him develop that awareness. Where nature had put a normal brain, they put mental retardation. To make you unconscious for life by means of your own brain, nothing can be more ingenious.
This is the ingenuity practiced by most of today's educators. They are the comprachicos of the mind.

They do not place a child into a vase to adjust his body to its contours. They place him into a [modern] school to adjust him to society.
Perhaps this Christmas you might reflect that it is beyond time to effect the political change necessary to turn around what should be a matter of national outrage. Forget all the alleged scandals and conspiracies supposedly buried under froth and spin -- attack the inhumanity like this that is happening right out in the open! And attack it as fiercely as you know how.

LINKS: Robbing parents to pay teachers - Alan Caruba, Capitalism Magazine
Adult Literacy Survey - Ministry of Social Development

RELATED: Education, Politics-NZ, Objectivism

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Dawkins in Ireland

Whatever your view of religion, of Richard Dawkins, or of Dawkins's recent book The God Delusion, and whichever side of the theist-atheist divide on which you sit, you'll have to agree that these two appearances by Dawkins on Irish television are good intelligent television of the sort that makes NZ television seem like amateur hour.

Think how much is discussed in just twenty-odd minutes in the Late, Late Show with Pat Kenny [hat tip the Lemur], and with such wit in The Panel.

LINKS: Richard Dawkins on The Late Late Show - You Tube
Interview with Richard Dawkins on The Panel, Ireland - You Tube

RELATED: Religion

Taking the Christ out of Christmas

I hear people complaining that "Christ is being taken out of Christmas." In fact, the Vatican, poor dears, have "accused some western countries of waging "a war against Christmas" by removing Christian values and symbols from the holiday."

So what? Christ was never in Christmas, except in fiction and by order of the Council of Trent.

Jesus wasn't even born in December: he was born in July*, which makes him a cancer -- just like religion.

'Christmas' was originally not a Christian festival at all, but the lusty pagan festival that became the Roman Saturnalia, celebrating the winter solstice. This was the time of year in the northern hemisphere (from whence these traditions started) when days stopped getting darker and darker, and started once again to lengthen. The end of the hardest part of the year was in sight (particularly important in northern climes where all-day darkness was the winter rule), food stocks would soon be replenished, and all this was something well worth celebrating with enthusiasm, and with relish -- and if those Norse sagas tell us anything, they tell us those pagans knew a thing or too about celebration!

Dark Age Christians couldn't put a stop to these lusty revels, so they hit upon a solution: first they stole them, and then they sanitised them. (Just think, the first 'Grinch Who Stole Christmas' was really a Pope!)

The best of Christmas is still very much pagan. The mistletoe, the trees, the presents; the drinking; the celebrations; the gift-giving; the trees and the decorations; the eating and the singing; the whole full-blooded, rip-roaring, free-wheeling, overwhelming, benevolent materialism of the holiday -- all of it all fun, and all of it fully, one-hundred percent pagan.

Says Leonard Peikoff in 'Why Christmas Should Be More Commercial', the festival is "an exuberant display of human ingenuity, capitalist productivity, and the enjoyment of life." I'll drink to all that, and then I'll come back right back up again for seconds. Ayn Rand sums it up for mine, rather more benevolently than my brief introduction might have led you to expect:
The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: ‘Merry Christmas’—not ‘Weep and Repent.’ And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance....

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying is good for business and good for the country’s economy; but, more importantly in this context, it stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decoration put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only ‘commercial greed’ could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Salacious Saturnalia!

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* Yes, this is simply a rhetorical flourish. Jesus' birth may have happened in March. Or in September -- or not at all -- but it certainly did not happen in December. More here.

RELATED: Religion, History

Lawyers

Spirit of 76 suggests I've spent too much time recently attacking christians and John Boy Key. He's right. I need to spend equal time attacking other threats to freedom and the good life. Like lawyers.

In the service of that end, allow me to quote H.L. Mencken:
All the extravagance and incompetence of our present Government is due, in the main, to lawyers, and, in part at least, to good ones. They are responsible for nine-tenths of the useless and vicious laws that now clutter the statute-books, and for all the evils that go with the vain attempt to enforce them. Every Federal judge is a lawyer. So are most Congressmen. Every invasion of the plain rights of the citizens has a lawyer behind it. If all lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we'd be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.
Wise words.

RELATED: Law, Quotes

The donkey gets the nod


John Armstrong picks the smirking knob in the middle of the donkey as his Politician of the Year with this simpering selection of apostrophes to mediocrity:

"...the killer contribution came from English, who with Key, are the only real contenders for the title of Politician of the Year."

Anyone who can remember English being punched around by singer Ted Clarke in a boxing bout on national television will realise that the use of the words "killer" and "English" in the same sentence is surely an unfortunate combination.

"Key, of course, made the big leap into leadership. But he did the groundwork last year, which made him leader-in-waiting and Politician of the Year for 2005. And judging on his form so far as leader, he will be on the shortlist next year."

The "groundwork" for John Boy Key's "leap into leadership" consisted of destabilising his leader by talking up a coup for a year -- and in this he had the active support of Armstrong and his colleagues. And as is now clear, the "groundwork" for Key's "great leap forward" in no way included any policy development, any reason for him wanting the big brass ring any more than -- similar to what Walter Lippman once wrote about Franklin Roosevelt -- that he is simply an affable man without conspicuous convictions who very much wanted to be Prime Minister. Little enough, perhaps, but more than enough to make Armstrong's short-list.

"This year the title [of Politician of the Year] goes to English, partly for the sheer political machismo and guile he displayed in securing both National's deputy leadership and the shadow finance portfolio..."

This is either satire, or Armstrong is in serious need of either a holiday or a new job. "Machismo." "Guile." And Mr Twenty-One Percent! Whatever repertorial judgement Armstrong may once have had -- and I must confess I've never seen any sign of it myself -- it's clear it has now left him.

My nomination for the year's most sycophantic so-called journalist? John Armstrong.

LINKS: Opinion - John Boy Junior, NZ Herald

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Hollow Men

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

How was your 2006?

How was your 2006? It's almost time to be summing up your year, isn't it.
How was your 2006? Name 3 good things about it. Name 3 bad things. (5 marks). Prove using the Principle of Least Action (10 marks).
  • Favourite movie seen in 2006: Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Classic film noir. Edgy, taut, climactic -- "a razor-witted dance of death." They literally do not make them like this any more: it was made in 1946.
  • My best book of 2006: Sprawl: A Compact History. A ground-breaking read. Ayn Rand Answers wasn't too foul either.
  • Favourite magazine: The Free Radical, of course.
  • Most work: Editing The Free Radical!
  • Favourite theatre performance of 2006: Berlin: A Cabaret of Desire. Loved it the first time, and heading back to The Silo for seconds this week. Score!
  • Favourite musical performance: The all-NZ Parsifal, no question. Thrilling. Overwhelming. Electric. Proof of what music can do, and of what it can do for you -- and of how NZ music has reached maturity.
  • Favourite architectural moment 1: Opening of and view from the new Museum Dome.
  • Favourite architectural moment 2: Impending housewarming of Organon Architecture's Hamilton House.
  • The three worst things: Politics, politics, and politics. What scum.
  • Most shabbily treated New Zealander of 2006: Don Brash.
  • Second most shabbily treated: Peter Davis.
  • Favourite political moment: Announcement of Bernard Darnton's suit against Helen Clark.
  • Most dishonest: Clark Government's get-out-of-jail-free legislation.
  • Best thing about Not PC: The steady increase in the number of friendly yet combative commenters. [Pretentious? Huh! :-) ] And the new beer columnists. And the beer.
  • Worst Not PC thing about 2006: The implosion of some formerly friendly yet combative commenters.
  • Beer discoveries of 2006: Cheap imported real Czech Budvar. The fine products of the Emerson and Limburg breweries.
  • Favourite early evening drink of 2006: Dry Martini.
  • Late evening: Tullamore Dew.
  • Holiday Drink: Hangman's Blood [see recipe at the List of Iconic Drinkers]
  • Best party: Bonfire Night.
  • Best sporting moment of 2006: The down-to-the-wire AFL final. What sporting magic is made from. (The All Blacks almost-clean sweep wasn't bad, either. Bring on the World Cup next year!)
  • Much needed at the end of 2006: A holiday!
So what was good, bad, indifferent or most memorable for you?

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Today's Bible reading: Who gets to go to church?

More useful advice from the 'good book.'
Deuteronomy, 23:1 He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Uh huh. Anyone else excluded?
23:2 A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Uh, right. I see now why it's called the 'good book.' No bastarding eunuchs wanted.