Friday, March 30, 2007

Beer O’Clock – Fisking Rosemary McLeod

Beer O'Clock comes from Neil this week:

Late last year, columnist Rosemary McLeod wrote an article called “Girls just can’t hold their beer.” You can read it here. It was nonsense.
Below was my response entitled “A stout defense of beer.”
Rosemary McLeod’s opinion piece “Girls just can’t hold their beer” (23 November) is based entirely on a series of stereotypes, generalizations and false conclusions which Nicky Hager and Robert Fisk would be envious of.
Ignoring her simply false claims that women don’t drink beer (they do) and that fruity ready-mixed drinks are “brimming with health giving vitamins” (it’s mainly sugar and food coloring), Ms McLeod makes a series of claims about beer which simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.
According to her, only beer makes men feel that they can sing in public. I’d advise her to check out any of this country’s fine karaoke bars and observe two obvious phenomena: a) women sing in public and b) people drink wine, spirits and cocktails before singing too. A few really brave souls even sing without drinking any alcohol at all.
Apparently Ms McLeod believes that it is only beer which makes men “ill able” to realize their “wild erotic hopes”. She seems to think the performance impairing effects of alcohol are only present in beer and not in any other form of drink.
I am sure many people were amazed to learn from her column that every single broken bottle in the history of New Zealand was a beer bottle. All those bottles on beaches, gutters, playgrounds and in long grass– if Ms McLeod is to be believed – without exception started life as beer bottles.
She even goes so far as to say every shard of glass she has ever driven over came from a beer bottle. I suspect the Top Gear crew will be on the phone shortly wanting to know what kind of car she drives.
Car nuts will want to hear about a vehicle which has such amazing suspension that the driver can identify by feel alone that the broken glass she drove over came from a beer bottle and not from a wine bottle, a vodka bottle, a coke bottle or a broken mirror.
Jeremy Clarkson could do a colorful little piece on the glass shard identification characteristics of various cars. Top Gear has done whole shows based on sillier concepts.
Ms McLeod needs to recognize that no one type of alcohol has a monopoly on anti-social behavior.
She surely can not argue that it’s only beer which causes people misbehave at office parties. I suppose bottle after bottle of cheap champagne only causes a furtive outbreak of Hegelian philosophy in the store room.
I guess all the first-hand accounts of quite intoxicated people at the Martinborough Wine Festival must have been made up because no beer was served there.
I suspect Ms McLeod sees only what she wants to see. She considers beer to be a second class beverage and feels comfortable attributing all the social ills she observes to it.
To her way of thinking, a $5 bottle of wine is inherently more sophisticated than a $10 bottle of beer. I would remind her that people are not called “winos” because they drink a lot of beer.
Her perspective on beer seems to have shaped by her drinking habits as a student back when she chose beer because it was cheap and less likely to lead men to believe she wanted to go home with them.
Imagine her reaction if I claimed “I drank Marque-Vue as a student so I know that I don’t like champagne…” She would laugh at such absurdity – as we should at her similar argument.
Beers can be bland or poorly made – so can cheap wine and rotgut whiskey.
Beer can be drunk to excess and contribute to anti-social behavior – so can champagne and vodka.
Good beer drunk for the right reasons can be a tasty and socialable experience – just as it can for wine and spirits.
As a result of her faulty argument Ms McLeod reached the somewhat patronizing conclusion that “beer will never be the thinking woman's drink, or the drink of the strategic thinker.”
I’d urge her and her readers to think again – this time based on the facts.
Neil Miller
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Links Article: http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3875240a1861,00.html
SOBA: www.soba.org.nz
Realbeer: www.realbeer.co.nz/blog

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Early finish

Just about to head off to Christchurch and Queenstown, a mixture of business and pleasure. I'll do what I can to keep in touch with the blog...

Atlas in Fiji

An interview in Monday's Fiji Times with the new chairman of the Fiji Trade and Investment Bureau, Sir James Ah Koy, suggests there may be hope for Fiji yet.

"If anyone can deliver us out of the situation we're in, he can," said Interim Commerce Minister Taito Waradi in confirming the appointment of Ah Koy.
Sir James said his acceptance of the invitation was based on selfish motives and an interest in national preservation. He said his renewed role at the FTIB was primarily to maintain and protect the present and future and help attract more new investments to Fiji. "The economy is going bad for the present, there is no doubt about it."But this is not a time for Atlas to shrug," Sir James said. He said he was referring to the philosopher Ayn Rand's classic novel Atlas Shrugged. Sir James said those with talent and know-how must not evade their responsibilities and leave the nation to those who did not know what they were doing. "Now is not the time to desert our investments and head for the hills, as Ayn Rand depicted in her novel Atlas Shrugged.
Perhaps Taito Waradi is right: ""If anyone can deliver us out of the situation we're in, he can. He totally fit the bill perfectly."

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Creationist error

'P-Zed' Myers at Pharyngula (whom Richard Dawkins calls "America's pre-eminent scientific blogger") posts what he says is "a straightforward example of creationist error":
It’s a classic example of the genre, and well illustrates the problem we have. The poor fellow has been grossly misinformed, but is utterly convinced that he has the truth.
I have to say, it will look somewhat familiar to readers of this blog. You'll enjoy P-Zed's scientific 'smack' down.

Oh, and P-Zed is delighted to know that Richard Dawkins read out part of his (P-Zed's) own arguments in an Oxford debate on evolution, creationism and the existence of God. Says P-Zed:
You can listen to it online—I think I'm going to have to have Dawkins read all of my posts aloud, since he makes them sound so much better.
I'm just as delighted, since both Dawkins and PZ Myers appear in the latest Free Radical (subscribe here), and a copy of the magazine should be in both of their hands by now.

RELATED: Science, Religion, Philosophy, Free Radical

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Hendo filming under way

The ODT has news that filming of Dave Henderson's four-year battle against the IRD is under way, with expectations of a late-2007/early-2008 release date.

Rodney has the clipping. That's Dave on the left with a picture of his new project, building a whole new town just outside Queenstown.

Normal is as normal does; it's criminalisation that harms them

Inconsistent she may be -- yesterday she wanted Nanny to nationalise children, today she wants Nanny to butt out of people's personal pharmaceutical choices -- but on this today Pamziewamzie is perfectly right:
It comes as no surprise to me that "normal people" with no criminal record get into the drug scene. If BZP stayed legal we would have the time and resources to develop it into a safer, more user friendly substance. (Without the ghastly come down) This could discourage people off methamphetamine and dodgy tinnie houses in Otara.

Just an idea...
And a very good one. Horror has been expressed at "professional" people using recreational drugs -- how dare they! -- and hysterical "remedies"have been mooted that range from publishing all their names and sending them to their employers, and throwing the book at them and locking them and throwing the key away.

All of these solutions are intended to demonise these normal people, but all those proposing these solutions seem to have overlooked that these normal professionals are holding down proper professional jobs for which, apparently, their recreational drug use is currently causing their employers no concerns. The harm of drug use for these professionals is not their use of these drugs, but the criminalisation of the use of these drugs, and Pam is quite right to say that more legalisation is more likely to lead to more safety than thirty-five years of the opposite approach has done.

Just an idea...

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, NZ Politics, New Zealand

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Still more on the global warming swindle

Scientist Fred Singer offers a good one-page summary of the arguments promoted in the film 'The Great Global Warming Swindle.'

Incidentally, Thrutch posts the link with this comment: "To end the litany of arbitrary and/or fraudulent claims made by the man-hating environmentalists will take a new morality and the rediscovery of a rational epistemology." And he's right.

If you want a more thorough but still readable paper summarising the up-to-date science of global warming, Russell Lewis of Britain's Institute of Economic Affairs has a thorough 48-page paper which is just that [pdf]. If you want the bones of it, head straight to the three-page centre-section on page 18, the Rejoinder to the Main Points of the IPCC 4th Report on the Science of Climate Change.

Small sample:
IPCC: Global temperatures continue to rise with 11 of the 12 warmest years since 1850
occurring since 1995. Computer models suggest a further rise of about 3 ºC by 2100 with a
6 ºC rise a distant possibility
RL: Yes, but balance that with the fact that there has been no global warming since 1998.
Besides, present historically high temperatures are due to the superimposition of a powerful
El Niño (a huge cyclical climatic change in the Pacific) in 1998 on top of the rise of
temperatures achieved earlier in the 20th century. Moreover the actual climb in temperatures
has fallen far short of the scary computer predictions originally trumpeted which led to the
setting- up of the UN International Panel on Climate Change.
IPCC: It is virtually certain that that carbon dioxide levels and global warming are far
above the range of natural variability over the past 650,000 years.
RL: Past estimated levels of CO2 have been disputed as too low, being based on evidence
from ice cores, which leak and are otherwise contaminated. Global temperatures were
higher than today in the medieval era and in Roman times.
IPCC: It is virtually certain that human activity has played the dominant role in causing
the increase of greenhouse gases over the last 250 years.
RL: Let’s get this in perspective: The amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere each year:
natural 169 billion tons (ocean: 106 bn, land: 63 bn.), man-made 6 bn. – hardly dominant!
In any case, it is equally plausible to argue that the oceans have been warmed by the sun or
the earth’s core and in consequence have released most of the greenhouse gas increase over
the last 250 years. This would mean that most of the growth of greenhouse gas is natural
and not due to human activity.
IPCC: Man-made emissions of atmospheric aerosol pollutants have tended to counteract
global warming which otherwise would have been significantly worse.
RL: This is merely an excuse for the failure of previous doom- laden computer predictions
that the hemisphere should have warmed in the 20th century by 2.3 ºC while the actual
warming was only 0.65 ºC. In any case, as Prof. Patrick Michaels put it...

Read on here for more [pdf]. I'll conclude with the quote from HL Mencken with which Russell begins his paper:
The whole art of politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with and endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
That's a lesson wider than just the present debate, isn't it.

RELATED: Global Warming, Science

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

1, 2, 3, 4, Labour MPs will cross the floor...

After today's march on Parliament -- lets hear it again: "2, 4, 6, 8, We don't want your Nanny State" -- a story is doing the rounds tonight that 1, 2, 3, 4, Labour MPs will cross the floor...

Keep listening for more on that particular story.

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More pics from Wellington's anti-anti-smacking rally

Perigo and speakers at top, Perigo and organiser Mitch Lees at middle, Plain Jane anti-anti-anti-smackers at bottom.




UPDATE: Videos of all the speeches are now up here. First up is Lindsay Perigo: "They do not have the right to nationalise your children."

RELATED: Smacking, Libz

First pics from the Wellington anti-anti-smacking rally

First pictures just in from the Wellington anti-anti-smacking rally, courtesy of Dominion (above) and Robin Thomsen (below):

Listen up!

Entry into Parliament grounds.

March organiser Mitch Lees.

Four Libz at the rally point, setting the tone. Spot the pun.

UPDATE 1: Newswire has a report, as does Newstalk ZB:

Around 500 placard-waving protestors vented their spleen outside Parliament after a march from Civic Square. They say the proposed law robs parents of their rights to discipline their children. One placard sent a clear message to the MP's "represent your voters or lose them", which is reflective of opinion polls which have consistently pointed to around 80 percent of voters being opposed to the law change.

Libertarian Lindsay Perigo raised spectres of a police state, saying police will become the Gestapo and New Zealand will become a nation of snitches if the bill goes through.

Following Helen Clark's shot at what she described as "fundamentalists" yesterday, the debate has become increasingly personal. Former WINZ boss and current child campaigner Christine Rankin took a swipe at Helen Clark for ignoring public opinion, saying "the childless Prime Minister thinks she knows better than the public".

Ms Rankin also lambasted the bill's sponsor Sue Bradford, saying comments the Green MP made last October that men opposed to the bill are sexual perverts who get a kick out of hitting children "says it all".

In Christchurch an estimated 2,000 protestors braved a wet, wintry lunchtime in Christchurch today to march from Victoria Square to the Cathedral Square.

Lindsay Mitchell has more of Perigo's attention-grabbing speech.

UPDATE 2: Scoop has more pictures, and a frankly sneering,report by Kevin List, topped off with an inaccurate headline: Libz, Bible scholars and Nats fight S59 repeal - Scoop

Why inaccurate? Because as David Farrar explains, Bradford's Bill doesn't repeal the section, it simply fills it with mush. See Lies, damn lies and more lies - Kiwiblog.

UPDATE 3
: Robin Thomsen provides this report:
Today's Anti-anti-smacking March in Wellington was a great success, around 500+ protesters turned up carrying placards, including many children [wouldn't you expect these kids to be counter-protesting? :-)]. There was a crew of Libertarianz there, as well as members and supporters of Act, Family First, Destiny Church etc, all united (this time) against Nanny State.

There was a small and weird looking group of noisy Anti-anti-anti-smackers, but this gathering possessed little imagination and the limit of their counter-protest was blowing a whistle loudly and trying to chant, unsuccessfully, over the main protest.

Once the march had arrived at Parliament, Lindsay Perigo gave a rousing speech, followed by ACT's Heather Roy, United Future's Larry Baldock, National's Chester Borrows, Christine Rankin and Family First's Bob McCoskrie. None of the Anti-smacking Bill's supporters spoke or dared to get close, possibly fearing a public spanking.

We understand several other marches around the country had also been highly successful, with several thousand marchers protesting in Christchurch. [Newstalk ZB reports 2,000 (see above)]

Good on Mitch Lees for kicking off this successful protest.
RELATED: Smacking, NZ Politics, Libz

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Carbon neutral

What does it mean to be, like Al Gore, a member of the Church of Carbon Neutrality? Says Mark Johnson of WDEV Radio, Vermont: “It’s kind of like sitting at a track and eating a box of cookies but paying someone to run around the track for you so you could be calorie neutral.”
[Source: Snarky Blog]

RELATED: Quotes, Global Warming, Humour

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Let's play spot the errors with Russel

Here's an exercise for economics students. Go through Russel's recent homily on why the Greens are needed to save capitalism from itself, and see how many fundamental economic errors you can spot. I count eight, which isn't bad in just 549 words. How many can you do? I'll wager that Austrians and students of economic history will do better than others.

RELATED: Greens, Nonsense, Economics, Environment

"2, 4, 6, 8, We don't need your Nanny State!"

First, a message from "our" Prime Minister [cue music]:
New Zealand has it on its conscience that our rate of child death and injury from violence, including in the home, is appalling.

It is a stain on our international reputation, and I cannot see how those who are demanding the right to be able to thrash and beat children can possibly then turn around and confess concern about what is happening to our children.
There endeth the fireside chat, which appeared on the front page of this morning's Herald. There are four things to say about this.

The first is this: "You patronising bitch." "Our" children, you say? Our children! I didn't kill them. I didn't thrash or beat anybody's children. I have nothing on my conscience, and neither do the good parents of all those children who are unbeaten, unthrashed, and unassaulted, but who you want to criminalise.

The second is this: "You damned patronising bitch." Smacking is not beating; smacking is not thrashing; and both thrashing and beating are already illegal -- and you are either too ignorant to know that, which no-one believes, or by now you are so used to treating us as idiots and feeding us with spin that you think you can go to that well forever. You can't. If you and your supporters really don't know the difference, then can I suggest you be kept away from other people's children -- and if this is really the best you can do, it suggests that your 'argument' really isn't one. Smacking is not beating.

Another point to make is the one made by Lindsay Mitchell this morning:
New Zealanders are badly aggrieved because they feel everybody is being scrutinised and dictated to when the kind of maltreatment the Prime Minister describes happens to children is almost exclusively a very small minority of the population... [As recent research shows, that "small minority"] of children who were maltreated were more likely to have a mother with less than a high school education, more likely to have a father in jail ... more likely to have been on welfare ... and more likely to have had a mother who was a teenager at the time of her child's birth.
In other words, these are people who have been condemned by thirty years of successive Government policies; if there is an underclass, then this "small minority" is it -- and you, Helen, and all your antecedents are responsible. As Lindsay says, "I would suggest to the Prime Minister she takes off her ideological blinkers and starts thinking seriously about how to reduce the size of the group from which most of the problems hail. Until she and her fellow travellers do so, she has no right to claim a genuine concern for abused children" -- particularly since it is she and the policies of her and her fellow travellers who have put those children in harm's way.

Genuine concern? There is no genuine concern. I'll repeat this point again, since it's so obvious even Helen must be aware of it. Passing this Bill will do nothing -- nothing -- to stop that very small minority of bastards from beating their children. The law already outlaws beating your children, and those bastards aren't listening. They don't care. They just go on doing it anyway.

Further, as Michelle Wilkinson-Smith said in yesterday's Herald, "I challenge anyone to find a case where section 59 has excused a real bashing that left a child injured." This law won't stop the beaters, and the current law doesn't excuse them; but it will criminalise good parents who do take responsibility for the actions of their children.

On behalf of all those parents, let me just say this very simply: "Butt out, Helen!"

At noon today, marchers on Parliament will have a chance to make their opposition known to those within -- to those wavering Labour MPs in marginal seats, to the Maori Party MPs who are hearing from their constituents opposed to the Bill, to the NZ First MPs threatened with demotion, to the whole damned Parliament who need to realise that nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders want Nanny to butt out.

Join them at noon in Wellington's Civic Square, and let's hear you say it loud: "2, 4, 6, 8, We don't need your Nanny State!"

UPDATE 1: Anti-anti-smacking march organiser Mitch Lees has a last-minute 'heads up' for marchers.

UPDATE 2: First news comes out of the anti-anti-smacking rally via Lindsay Mitchell, who reports,
It was worth going on the rally to Parliament for this moment alone;
"You are not the child abusers," libertarian Lindsay Perigo exhorted the 5-600 strong crowd, "We all know who the child-abusers are. They are the people who have children they don't want because those people in there," spinning and pointing to the Beehive, "are paying them to do it. They are the child abusers."
The crowd was momentarily stunned. I clapped loudly. And so did a few others. That is cutting to the heart of the matter.
No pictures up at Scoop yet, which is unusual since most every other protest at Parliament gets oodles of pics posted at Scoop the moment they show up in the forecourt ...

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"Global Warming is not a Crisis" - debate now online

** The great global warming debate -- which I blogged last week -- now has the audio up. Click here to hear either the full ninety-minute debate or a fifty-minute edit, or even just clips of each speaker.

Just to remind you, this was a high-profile New York debate arguing the motion "Global Warming is Not a Crisis" Arguing for the motion, that global warming is not a crisis, were author Michael Crichton, British biogeographer Philip Stott (left), and MIT climate scientist Richard Lindzen. Ranged against them were warmist scientists Brenda Ekwurzel and Richard C.J. Somerville, and Gavin Schmidt (right) -- who some commentators suggested almost lost the debate single-handedly.

Listen in here. It's bloody good 'radio.'

** And if you'd like something a little shorter, then tune into this ten-minute interview with climate skeptic Richard Lindzen. He really is a wonderfully lucid speaker. [Hat tip, Cafe Hayek]

** And for related entertainment, have a look at this report of a classroom of Year Six students who put humans on trial for global warming, asking a jury of students to decide guilty or not guilty. You might be surprised at the result.

RELATED: Global Warming, Science

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"Skunk killed my beloved son" - or did it?

The UK's Daily Telegraph carries a haunting story of a mother who says she lost her son to cannabis. "Guy may have taken his own life, but it was cannabis that killed him," she says.

There are many things to be said about this, and one of the most important is that this when any sixteen-year-old boy takes his own life this is a tragedy. Let none of us miss that point. But many other things are also true, none of which are mentioned in this article -- and all of them are, I believe, relevant.

The first is that signs of adult psychosis do not generally emerge until late puberty. Normal teenagers, as Guy reportedly was, will often exhibit no signs of psychosis at all until those first symptoms emerge. I mention this simply to suggest that the link between Guy smoking cannabis and Guy exhibiting psychosis as reported is not made -- that is, the causal connection is not made. It's quite possible that it developed naturally, and only emerged with adolescence. It is simply not possible to say with confidence, solely on the facts reported, either that "it was cannabis that killed him," or even that it was cannabis that caused Guy's psychosis.

Now, included in this Telegraph article is the additional story that the UK's Independent newspaper is to resile from "its 10-year campaign to decriminalise cannabis" because of a link that is made.
[The Independent] cited new research published in the Lancet, showing that the drug is more dangerous than LSD and ecstasy, and confirmed that a link has been established between strong cannabis and psychosis.
So there is research that does show a link. Let's assume that it does, and the link is not backwards (ie., that people who smoke cannabis develop psychosis because of it, rather than that people who develop psychosis find that they enjoy using cannabis). Does that link mean that cannabis should be illegal? Is The Independent right to resile from its ten-year campaign?

Well, I say no, it's not. The first point to make is that LSD and Ecstacy (and cannabis) are less harmful than alcohol. As is cannabis. That is undoubtedly the reason that these two were chosen by the journalist as the comparison here.

The second point is that the deaths and harm attributed by researchers and newspaper headlines to drugs are occurring in a legal regime not in which drug use is legal, but one in which drugs are already illegal. We are already in the ideal world of which anti-drug campaigners wish for.

But what do we see in this 'ideal world'? We see that demonising drugs does more harm than good. Making drugs illegal has not kept drug dealers off the streets; it hasn't kept drugs out of the hands of youngsters; it hasn't ensured that dealers' profits have gone down while the quality of what dealers supply has gone up; it hasn't ensued that drug-related crime has gone down.

Instead -- in yet another instance of the Law of Unintended Consequences -- making drugs illegal has ensured exactly the opposite of what was supposedly intended. Just as with the prohibition of alcohol in the Twenties, drug prohibition has ensured that those who sell this stuff are people who are predisposed to criminality; that the quality control (or lack thereof) of their products is left in the hands of these criminals; that drug-related crime has gone up; and that (unlike products that are legal), sales to youngsters of illegal products can't be properly policed. And despite their illegality they do get into the hands of youngsters, who in their rebellious teenage stage are predisposed to look favourably at something as rebellious as a widely used illegal substance, and what they're using is of a quality of which no one can really be sure.

A third point to make here is what Milton Friedman called his Iron Law of Prohibition, which states that prohibition causes the prevalence of ever-more virulent drugs.
[Friedman] once told Bill Bennett, Bush Snr’s drugs tsar, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

Friedman proved, for example, that prohibition changes the way people use drugs, making many people use stronger, more dangerous variants than they would in a legal market. During alcohol prohibition, moonshine eclipsed beer; during drug prohibition, crack is eclipsing coke. He called his rule explaining this curious historical fact “the Iron Law of Prohibition”: the harder the police crack down on a substance, the more concentrated the substance will become.
Why? Read on here to find out whole, straightforward reasoning, but here's the short answer:
Prohibition encourages you produce and provide the stronger, more harmful [product]. If you are a drug dealer in Hackney, you can use the kilo of cocaine you own to sell to casual coke users who will snort it and come back a month later – or you can microwave it into crack, which is far more addictive, and you will have your customer coming back for more in a few hours. Prohibition encourages you to produce and provide the more harmful drug.
A further point to make is to those who say that all that's needed is just to get drugs off the streets and out of the schools, and what's needed to get drugs off the streets and out of the schools is just more vehement enforcement. To that I have one word: "Crap!"

There has been as violent and vigourous enforcement of the War on Drugs as it's possible to have, and what we usually see is not the harm caused by drugs themselves, but the harm caused by the War on Drugs itself. It's not a question of either more virulent or more vehement enforcement -- when governments have spent billions and billions of dollars on the War on Drugs, and they can't even keep drugs out of prisons, which are surely among the most policed places in the country, then they certainly can't keep them off the streets. And they don't.

Most of the harms associated with drugs are those caused by the War on Drugs itself. The harm caused to youngsters like Guy is part of that War. Supply by gangsters, and drugs in schools; ever-more virulent drugs; increased crime; criminalisation of users .... all of these harms exist now in this regime in which most recreational drugs are not legal, and these problems either only exist or are exacerbated by that very illegality.

And here's the last point to make. Consenting adults have the right to make their own choices for themselves, and we do. I do. As with alcohol use, so with drug use, youngsters need to be able to see both responsible drug use, and people saying no because they want to say no, not because their free will has been lobotomised.

Because in the end, that's the most important point. You can't ban free will -- and of course you can't stop people making choices --and if you try to, then you have to deal with the consequences of your Canute-like stupidity. Or, that is, you help to ensure that people like Guy have to. As Milton Friedman concluded, “Drugs are a tragedy for addicts, but criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike.”

LINKS: Skunk killed my beloved son - (UK) Daily Telegraph
UK Study: Demonising drugs does more harm than good - Not PC
Law of unintended consequences - EconLog
Milton Friedman's 'Iron Law of Prohibition': More prohibition, worse drugs: - Not PC
Another iron law of prohibition - Not PC
More drugs, less crimes - Not PC

RELATED: Victimless Crimes, Cartoon

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Hillside Villa, Nocera Inferiore , Italy - Sarno Architetti


Another villa from Sarno Architetti, this one in Nocera Inferiore, Italy. Seen here is a model of the house. Say the architects [again, I've cleaned up the translation a little]:
Nestled on the hill the villa is generated by the principles of the new organic architecture: it engages with its surrounding environment in and eco-systemic way, the 'unity in the diversity' keeping the harmony between the parts: the creation of a unique and unrepeatable locus; a continuous, intense and vibrating space (interior and exterior) that stimulates the senses and the spirit of the man; an organic-formal envelope; a harmonic representation of man's love for nature. In this way way, the villa becomes a microcosm open to life in every form, harmonic organic space for the good life, and for the good living of her inhabitants.
RELATED: Architecture

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Take the hemlock, Soc!

Here's what Socrates would have to put up with if he taught today: teaching evaluations from the drooling dolts before which his pearls of wisdom were cast. From The Chronicle of Higher Education's Hemlock Available in the Faculty Lounge comes this selection of "reviews" of the great man:

This class on philosophy was really good, Professor Socrates is sooooo smart, I want to be just like him when I graduate (except not so short). I was amazed at how he could take just about any argument and prove it wrong.

I would advise him, though, that he doesn't know everything, and one time he even said in class that the wise man is someone who knows that he knows little (Prof. Socrates, how about that sexist language!?). I don't think he even realizes at times that he contradicts himself. But I see that he is just eager to share his vast knowledge with us, so I really think it is more a sin of enthusiasm than anything else.

He's sooo arrogant. One time in class this guy comes in with some real good perspectives and Socrates just kept shooting him down. Anything the guy said Socrates just thought he was better than him.

He always keeps talking about these figures in a cave, like they really have anything to do with the real world. Give me a break! I spend serious money for my education and I need something I can use in the real world, not some b.s. about shadows and imaginary trolls who live in caves.

He also talks a lot about things we haven't read for class and expects us to read all the readings on the syllabus even if we don't discuss them in class and that really bugs me. Students' only have so much time and I didn't pay him to torture me with all that extra crap.

Also, I believe this Republic that Prof. Socrates wants to design — as if anyone really wants to let this dreadful little man design an entire city — is nothing but a plan for a hegemonic, masculinist empire that will dominate all of Greece and enforce its own values and beliefs on the diverse communities of our multicultural society.

I was warned about this man by my adviser in women's studies. I don't see that anything other than white male patriarchy can explain his omnipresence in the agora and it certainly is evident that he contributes nothing to a multicultural learning environment. In fact, his whole search for the Truth is evidence of his denial of the virtual infinitude of epistemic realities...

I learned a lot in this class, a lot of things I never knew before. From what I heard from other students, Professor Socrates is kind of weird, and at first I agreed with them, but then I figured out what he was up to. He showed us that the answers to some really important questions already are in our minds.

I actually came out of this class with more questions than answers, which bothered me and made me uncomfortable in the beginning, but Professor Socrates made me realize that that's what learning is all about...

I don't know why all the people are so pissed at Professor Socrates! They say he's corrupting us, but it's really them that are corrupt. I know some people resent his aggressive style, but that's part of the dialectic. Kudos to you, Professor Socrates, you've really changed my way of thinking! Socs rocks!!

An excellent class over all. One thing I could suggest is that he take a little more care about his personal appearance, because as we all know, first impressions are lasting impressions.

Socrates is bias and prejudice and a racist and a sexist and a homophobe. He stole his ideas from the African people and won't even talk to them now. Someone said that maybe he was part African, but there is noooooo way.

RELATED: Education, Philosophy, Humour

"I challenge anyone to find a case where section 59 has excused a real bashing that left a child injured."

As anyone with a brain knows, parents who do beat their children aren't going to listen to Bradford's anti-smacking law change any more than they listen to the laws that already make beating illegal. As lawyer Michelle Wilkinson-Smith says in today's Herald,
I say the repeal of section 59 is unnecessary because in my experience it is just that - unnecessary. I never lost a case which I prosecuted on the basis of section 59... Of course there will be the occasional case where section 59 has excused parents who overstepped the mark, but these are not cases where a child has been thrashed or beaten or injured. I challenge anyone to find a case where section 59 has excused a real bashing that left a child injured.
Wilkinson-Smith points out that Bradford's Bill will affect those in custody disputes and divorce battles and those against whom someone else bears a grudge -- those who are the least powerful, and those whom Bradford claims to represent -- and it ironically grants power to those she trusts the least:
Sue Bradford doesn't trust the New Zealand public so I find it amazing that she has so much faith in both the police and the justice system. She is proposing to give a huge amount of discretion to individual police officers... Most police are honest and upstanding and we are lucky to have them. Some are not. Some get caught up in a "means to an end" approach to criminal law. Some will use this legislation - and the discretion it gives them - for the wrong purpose. It won't be me or people like me who suffer this. It will be the very people Sue Bradford has fought for in so many other ways.
There is already sufficient law on the books to prosecute your child beaters, and you all know that.

This is not about smacking. It is not about stopping child beaters, since
parents who do beat their children aren't going to listen to Bradford's law change any more than they listen to the laws that already make beating illegal. My opposition, and that of principled opponents to this Bill, is to the Nannying intrusion into New Zealand families; to the increased role of the state as parent, and a decreasing role for parents as parents.

Tomorrow, marchers on Parliament will have a chance to make their opposition known to those within -- to those wavering Labour MPs in marginal seats, to the Maori Party MPs who are hearing from their constituents opposed to the Bill, to the NZ First MPs threatened with demotion, to the whole damned Parliament who need to realise that nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders want Nanny to butt out.

Tomorrow's march starts at noon from the Civic Square -- and note that there will be a counter-protest at the same place and same time --
and at least five speakers when the march reaches Parliament's steps: Bob McCoskrie, Heather Roy, Larry Baldock, Christine Rankin and Lindsay Perigo (though not the first Perigo to have their say on this issue -- see Update 3 here). A few other MP's have also been invited. Please feel free to emphasise this request by e-mailing/calling them yourself.

UPDATE: I'll remind you of Luke's recent post where he covers one of the "prime examples" often raised in response to this challenge:

One of the prime examples is a Christian woman who punished her son with a ‘horse whip’. That’s the version we hear on the radio. But if we look a little closer, the ‘whip’ was actually a short riding crop, and the boy had attempted to smash his stepfather in the head with a baseball bat. This was not child abuse, it was sorely needed corrective discipline. In fact, the incident with the ‘whip’ was discovered after the school asked about the improvement in the boy’s behaviour!

So this wasn’t a failure of Section 59. It was a triumph of, firstly, parental discipline, and secondly, the New Zealand justice system, which managed, as usual, to find the correct verdict based on the evidence. The reality is the complete opposite of the political spin...
As I've said before, if you need to spin to make your point, it suggests you don't have a real, credible argument to make.

RELATED: Smacking, NZ Politics

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Gore-stradamus on the Hill

Former Senator Albert Gore talking to the Senate Environment Committee last week got the Daily Show's John Stewart laughing through his nose.

Watch 'Welcome Back, Hotter' at 'The Daily Show' site and see the Goremonger explain to Congress that babies aren't flame retardant -- and watch the start of Stewart's new one-man show, 'Al Gore has Gained Weight.'

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Welfare cheats

I'm concerned this morning about welfare cheats, but not the cheats that are normally meant by that term.
GRAPH: Numbers of New Zealanders on core benefits through four successive governments, 1976 to 2006 (produced by combining figures from graph produced by the Social Policy Journal, Nov. 2006 [ref.Lindsay Mitchell]). Thick red line shows TOTAL core benefits.

The Clark Government have hung their hats on their "achievement" in reducing unemployment, it is one of the signal successes of their two terms. In the 2005 election, Clark was crowing that her "popular and competent" Government had achieved "the lowest unemployment in the Western world"; David Benson-Dope boasted last year that "unemployment is at a twenty-year low... This big drop in the number of unemployed," he said, "has been a driver in the overall reduction in the number of people receiving benefits." The shameful truth as that graph above shows is that they can only crow about low unemployment by carefully shuffling the unemployed under the statistical carpet.

These bastards aren't stupid; they think you are. The fact is that after an unprecedented burst of economic growth, fifteen per cent of working age people -- over 300,000! -- are still on welfare, and they've been there since 1990!

In a country of only four million people, this is nothing to boast about.

Have another look at the graph above, and in particular that thick red/brown line that represents the combined figure of all core benefits, and contemplate the fact that those proud and election-winning boasts are all spin -- unemployment may be low, but the total number on core benefits is still up there in the stratosphere, and growing every time a new tranche of unemployed are transferred to another benefit -- and those figures exclude the new middle class beneficiaries sucking off the state tit courtesy of the Welfare for Working Families bribe).

In boasting as they do, Clark and co. are welfare cheats.

The tragedy is that tragedy is that no ruling party either red or blue comes out of this with any credit. In their seven years of rule the Clark Government has pissed away the economic golden weather they inherited, and they've helped delivered a whole new generation into welfare -- and they have lied about it.

But over thirty years, successive governments have produced two generations of human waste ... and as long as they can get that news away from the headlines, they really just don't care. They'd rather just boast about their sleight of hand.

RELATED: NZ Politics, Welfare

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Hillside Villa, Nocero, Salerno - Sarno Architetti

A villa under construction in Salerno, another fine example of organic architecture. The architects Sarno Architetti describe it this way [I've changed just a few words as translated]:
Generated naturally from the synergy of inhabited function and environmental morphology, this villa reflects with simplicity and evidence the principles of Italian organic architecture. Has a complex shape of triangle-polygonal folded surface that is born from the land, and that creates an articulated space where interior and exterior "converse" with a variety of perspectives and feelings, amplifying the evocative location. The roof garden helps harmonise the villa with the context in an appropriate way. Above all, this villa confirms the importance of the creation of an organic space to the life of man, for one life understanding participation, integrity and freedom.
The picture above shows a computer generated image of the house and site, and the lower two pics show the house under construction. The architect's website can be found here.

RELATED: Architecture

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Monday, March 26, 2007

British servicemen capture is part of wider Tehran strategy

Walid Phares has some thoughts on Teheran's capture of British servicemen. In a sentence: "The regime "need" an external clash to crush the domestic challenge," and "The regime plan is to drag its opponents into a trap." Read on here.

UPDATE: Phil Goff has said that the Clark Government will follow new UN sanctions on Iran, brought in because of Iran's refusal to stop enriching uranium. Notes NBR in reporting this news:
The new sanctions block Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of individuals and companies involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programmes.
As usual, Cox and Forkum make the appropriate point:

RELATED: War, World Politics, Cartoons

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What Al Gore wants; what he really, really wants!

What does Al Gore really want? Robert Tracinski has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth:
Gore's exaggerated scientific claims are just cover for his real agenda.

Most reports on his testimony [to the US Senate last week] have neglected to mention the most important thing Gore said. Here is my transcription of the crucial passage, starting about four minutes into Gore's House testimony:

America is the natural leader of the world, and our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill, and I know it's a challenge to the moral imagination to see and feel and understand that the entire relationship between humanity and our planet has been radically altered. [Emphasis added.]

Get that? The real issue here isn't about carbon dioxide or global temperature readings or coal-burning power plants or federal fuel efficiency standards. It's about mankind's relationship to nature...

Gore's real agenda, as he's said clearly enough and often enough, is a moral one: he wants to set in concrete the ethical notion that man, whose very survival depends upon adapting nature to himself, needs to change this relationship, placing himself in a position of subservience to nature. As we've discussed before at 'Not PC' (here, for example, or here), this position is hardly tenable if either human happiness or human prosperity -- or even human survival -- is a value.

Tracinski argues, "Gore's global warming hysteria is really just a rehash of the old 'population explosion' scare," combined with "a second factor that requires us to alter our relationship with the earth," the very fact of our powerful technology and our ability to live well -- "our enormous, unprecedented prosperity" -- this is the reason we have to fear that we are doing "unintended harm." Concludes Tracinski:

This, then, is the essence of Gore's complaint: there are too many humans and they are too well off.

Gore can fix that.
And so can any other politician. To paraphrase an old joke: How do you get a country full of vibrant small businesses? Answer: Take a country full of vibrant large businesses, and get a politician to make it "carbon neutral."

UPDATE: Oops. Right on cue the Greens release their solution to make NZ a country of small businesses. An elegant solution, Russel calls it.

LINKS: What Al Gore really wants - Robert Tracinski, Real Clear Politics
A new environmentalism: Putting humans first - Not PC

RELATED: Global Warming, World Politics

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Two graphs tell one story

Unemployment down? Then why are the numbers of sickness and invalid beneficiaries up?

Lindsay Mitchell has two graphs that between them tell a story about political manipulation of figures.

RELATED: NZ Politics, Welfare

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Religion of peace?

As some commentators have already noted, the religion of peace has struck again: Secondary school pupils in north-eastern Nigeria have killed a teacher after accusing her of desecrating the Koran, police say. In Indonesia, perpetrators are jailed for beheading schoolgirls. And in Pakistan, lovers are stoned to death. "It was a case of honour killing," said the local police chief.

As Stephen Hicks comments, "File these items under 'All cultures are equal and worthy of respect'."

RELATED: Multiculturalism, Religion, World Politics

A pass for the bypass?

The new Wellington bypass opened yesterday, and it gets its first test today. Tom Beard comments:
Well, it's done. The changeover to the southbound leg of the bypass happened without incident at just after 6 this morning, and while it's hard to tell for sure, there don't seem to be any major snarl-ups around town. Tomorrow will be a bigger test, once commuters hit the new layout in force, but we'll still have to wait for a while before we can see whether it achieves what it set out to do. Of course, the original proponents of the project are proactively covering their arses on that point, just in case.
Let's check back in twelve hours or so and see how the first day went.

UPDATE 1: The Dominion says twenty-four hours after its first rush hour: There was the odd moment of traffic chaos, but Transit said drivers coped well with the opening of the second half of Wellington's inner-city bypass.

UPDATE 2: Meanwhile, Liberty Scott says Bypass My Arse:
Today I am starting the story on the Wellington Inner City Bypass, it is a tale of high ambitions and persistence, which pitted on the one hand roading engineers and visionaries, and on the other hand local opponents to any new road construction, and more latterly the anti-road movement of the Greens.
RELATED: Wellington

'The Great Global Warming Swindle'? "I haven’t seen it. I’ve only got a D in physics.”

David Miliband, the British politician driving the UK global warming bandwagon -- the Environment Secretary who is pushing the Climate Change Bill to strangle British industry (it "straight-facedly" demands a 60% emissions cut in carbon emissions by 2050), and who wants to put Al Bore's propaganda in all British schools -- told the BBC's Today radio programme that he hasn't seen the anti-Bore film 'The Great Global Warming Swindle,' and in any case "I only got a D in physics."

That's a better mark than Al Bore got, but as John Aizlewood says in The Times, "As excuses go, it was a mealy mouthed mixture of ignorance and confessional stupidity." [Hat tip, Marcus]

RELATED: Global Warming, UK Politics

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European bureaucracy celebrates fifty years of stifling enterprise

Today in Europe (March 25) is the birthday of the European Union (EU). What began as a force for peace in a Europe ravaged by two enormously destructive wars - the Union's founders firmly believed that by pooling their sovereignty, France and Germany could avoid a fourth war inside a century -- it started out simply enough as a coordinating organisation for coal and steel production in the six member states, and for a short while became a promoter of free trade within Europe (based on the idea, as summarised by Frederic Bastiat, that "if goods don't cross borders then armies will"), then just as rapidly morphed into the illiberal poster-Nanny that it is today for protectionism, mercantilism and rampant and faceless uber-bureaucracy.

Pacific Empire has a short summary of the Brussells-based bureaucracy. The Times calls it a "birthday to forget." The Telegraph says there were "smiles, but EU's party can't hide divisions," and notes that, the EU is "unloved and mistrusted, even by the French."

RELATED: World Politics, Bureaucracy

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Feilding & Nelson anti-Nanny rallies today

Noon today sees two opportunities to tell Nanny to bugger off.

People near Nelson can gather on "The Church steps"; further north, in Feilding, you should gather at the Clock Tower (story here in the local press)-- both marches/rallies start at noon. It's suggested you wear "a black armband," and bring your anti-Nanny banners.

Reports suggests the Rangiora march last week "went well," as did the Masterton march on Friday.

Let's keep the pressure on before what looks to be the day of decision on Wednesday.

UPDATE 1: Muriel Newman says, "New Zealand is being conned over the so-called anti-smacking bill."
Touted as being the way to prevent child abuse, this bill is part of an international movement designed to undermine parental authority and increase state control over children. While a dozen or so countries have succumbed to the pressure of the anti-smacking lobby and the United Nations, the overwhelming majority have not (see 'Smacking Laws in other Countries' at BBC News Online)
Read on for a good summary of the issues and the politics, including a few myth-busters.

UPDATE 2: John Key says in this online TV3 interview that the urgency over the anti-smacking Bill is "an abuse of power," one that "the public won't forget." Fine words, but that's all they are since nowhere does he say, and nor has he said anywhere, that a National-led Government would repeal this legislation if passed. Mr Bob Each Way wants to rail against an unpopular Bill while sitting on the fence and giving himself a sore crotch. As an 'ally' he's as much use as a chocolate frying pan.

And given that he labels the legalisation of prostitution and the Civil Union Bill as "social engineering" -- both moves which allowed people the freedom to make their own decisions about their own lives -- it's clear that not for the first time he doesn't have a bloody clue what he's talking about.

As someone once said of Neville Chamberlain, "is there no beginning to his talents."

UPDATE 3: Both Feilding and Nelson rallies report attracting 200-300 punters. The report from the Feilding rally says: "The Mum who organised it gave a passionate speech, saying precisely whatmost mums would say to Bradford and Clark: Get a life!'"
One protestor for the other side. She didn't even know what Section 59 says when we got talking to her! Yet she retorted that she wouldn't talk to people with no brains like us anymore. So she talked to the media instead...they were keen to talk to her.
And that one woman was ... Lindsay Perigo's mum.

UPDATE 4: And presumably you've now heard the news that the move for urgency on the anti-smacking legislation has (apparently) been abandoned. "Too much pressure" is given as the reason -- not pressure on parents or on voters, but pressure on politicians, the poor dears.

RELATED: Smacking, NZ Politics

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Saturday night with Sylvain

Anybody else here go to see the great New York Dolls show last night? Someone from 84 Tigers did:
How many rock’n'roll shows have you seen where between-song banter includes references to existentialism, Schoepenhauer, and Hegel? Did Syl Sylvain really get a facelift and breast implants in Staten Island? Does Sami from Hanoi Rocks wake up every day wondering if he really is the bass player for the New York Dolls or whether he’s slipped into a parallel dimension where his dreams hold sway? How can David Johansen last a whole show without a cigarette? And why did people go see that Tommy Lee Super Idol band on a Saturday night instead of this?
Can't answer that one, I'm afraid. Their loss, I guess. As Graham Reid said a couple of weeks back, "Even if you’ve never heard a note they made, if the notion of ballsy and uninhibited rock ’n’ roll has any appeal at all then you will be there, down the front, for this one." A damn fool you are if you weren't.

SUNDAY READING: Honour thy ... oh, wait...

It's said that the New Testament morality supersedes the Old.

Me, I'm not sure which is worse.

LINK: Cartoon by Russell's Teapot
How should parents be treated? - Skeptic's Annotated Bible

RELATED: Religion, Cartoons