Tuesday, 11 September 2007

World Trade Center (1973-2001) - Minoru Yamasaki

Six years and one day ago, these towers stood as proud and soaring things in downtown Manhattan.

One day later, war was declared, and barbarians brought them to the ground with 3,000 souls trapped inside.

Above you see the towers at sunset, as they were in all their stark glory.

At right is architect Minoru Yamasaki with his towers.

And here is what I wrote as I watched the horror unfold as (in the words of Christopher Hitchens)
from Afghanistan the holy order was given to annex two famous achievements of modernism -- the high-rise building and the jet aircraft -- and use them for immolation and human sacrifice... Faith-based fanatics could not design anything as useful or as beautiful as a skyscraper or a passenger aircraft. But, continuing their long history of plagiarism, they could borrow and steal these things and use them as a negation.

'Ban BZP Bill' still puts 'P' into BZP

I just heard a tremendous speech in Parliament from the Greens' Nandor Tanczos opposing Jim Neanderton's Ban BZP Bill. He began by saying, "This bill, as the Libertarianz have said, is about putting the P into BZP."

And that's just what it does.

UPDATE 1: Fair play to him, Rodney Hide's speech was also a corker. 'Big ups' to both of them, as the youngsters say. Two beacons of light, however, in a vast sea of darkness.

UPDATE 2: Nandor's speech is online here at Scoop.

UPDATE 3: And here's Rodney's.

UPDATE 4: Unfortunately, as we're all aware, these two fine expressions of liberty (so rarely heard in this or any parliament) were delivered on the losing side of the debate. Lindsay Mitchell posts an example showing the quality of 'argument' needed to be on the winning side: a recognition by the National Socialists' Jacqui Dean that prohibition will drive this industry underground used as evidence of the need for prohibition. There are Miss Teen USA contestants with greater smarts than this.

No property rights thanks, we're Tories

I recently challenged National Party supporters who swear their party is principled to tell readers the top ten ways in which Labour-Lite will roll back the state and promote freedom. I received a predictably tepid response.

So what are their principles worth? Are there any they'll stand up for? Any at all?

You can now definitely rule out property rights.

Their response to Gordon Copeland, promoter of a private members bill to include property rights in the Bill of Rights, demonstrates that property rights are still of no interest whatsoever to the party that introduced the Resource Management Act: Under Don Brash National supported the bill on its first reading, but under the mealy-mouthed flip-flopper they've now told Copeland they've changed their mind. Says Copeland, whose stand on this is worthy of respect and support:
“Even Sir Geoffrey Palmer, known as the father of the New Zealand Bill of Rights, has publicly stated that the omission of private property rights from the NZBOR was a mistake.”

“Until I was advised to the contrary this morning, I had repeatedly been assured by the National Party that they would be supporting the Bill. I am therefore very disappointed that they have whimped out in this way.”

“To rub salt into the wounds, they have the audacity to continue to claim that their Party ‘strongly support property rights’. Yeah right! Where is that Tui billboard ad?”
Comfirming then that John Key is happy to lend his support to enact Sue Bradford's private member's bill to ban smacking, "would not oppose" Cindy Kiro's proposal that the state monitor all children, but is not interested in any way at all in offering to back a private member's bill asserting the importance of property rights protection.

Roll back the state? Promote freedom? Don't make me laugh.

And how many of you reading this will still lend your support to the spineless, pink, pathetic Tory bastards. If you see a National MP today then spit in their face. It's all the bastards deserve.

REF: Copeland's original bill is here. The report from the Justice and Electoral select committee is here [pdf]. No friend of property rights, Idiot/Savant summarises what he somewhat broadly calls "Copeland's attempt to establish Libertarianism by stealth," and what Copeland calls more accurately "an issue of ... central important to the functioning of western civilisation":
The bill would have inserted two clauses into the BORA - one affirming a right to own property, and the other that no-one was to be deprived of the "use or enjoyment" of their property without just compensation. While being supportive of the idea behind the bill, the committee thought that it was vague, would have a profound impact on existing legislation, and impose unknown costs on central and local government. Which was of course the point...
UPDATE: What respect is there for property rights from NZ's two leading parties? Answer: zero. The National Socialists' backdown shows they have none. And Copeland demonstrates that in refusing their support, neither does the Clark Government.
Some of the Government’s opposition to my Bill stems from the belief that it could complicate the legal interpretation of property rights in relation to the Resource Management Act 1991.” [He sure got that right]

All of this represents a fundamental repositioning of the Labour Party which should concern all New Zealanders. Their interest now is in protecting the Crown against litigation rather than protecting the private property rights of the citizens of New Zealand against the intrusion of the State.
See Copeland's statement here at Scoop: Disappointment at Govt Stance on Property Rights - Copeland.

Fairy dust, fraud and eco-slavery -- all part of the world's new carbon market

While state-owned Meridian Energy touts feel-good carbon credits on Trade Me, another punter has offered up something no less useful: Carbon Zero Rated Fairy Dust. As the seller tells a punter down in the entertaining questions section, "as with other Carbon Zero Rated entities, in this case the Fairy CEO simply says its carbon zero rated so it is." [Hat tip Elliot Who?]

Actually, Fairy Credits seem far less toxic and far more honest than the other carbon credits so widely touted elsewhere. At least you get a laugh for your money with a Fairy Credit, but as a Financial Times investigation uncovered "widespread failings in the new markets for greenhouse gases," suggest some organisations are paying for emissions reductions that do not even begin to take place.

Widespread fraud is the very least of the worries with carbon zero rated fairy dust carbon credits; Brendan O'Neill points out at Sp!ked Online that European carbon credits are funding something out of a darker age: eco-slavery. "In offsetting his flights by sponsoring ‘eco-friendly’ hard labour in India," says O'Neill, David Cameron and his fellow wets have "exposed the essence of environmentalism."

"Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement," says O'Neill. Commenting on this vicious contemporary cocktail of eco-slavery and "guilt offsets," Luboš comments:
Do you feel guilty about your two-week break in Barbados, when you flew thousands of miles and lived up with cocktails on sunlit beaches? Well, offset it by sponsoring eco-friendly child labor in the third world!

O'Neill mentions that some people call the retailers of these extreme techniques "climate cowboys" but it is a misnomer because these methods are no exceptional excesses: they are a realization of the very essence of mainstream environmentalism, namely contempt for human dignity and technological progress.

The full Honiss

A good referee should barely be noticed. Not so Paul Honiss. Referee Paul Honiss is always noticed -- every damn game he's in. He enjoys the authority. He's the Cindy Kiro of referees. Rugby writer Chris Hewett at The (UK) Idependent noticed him and his bloody whistle in the W. Samoa v South Africa game, and he wasn't impressed. His performance, says Hewett,
plumbed depths previously unvisited by officials at a World Cup, including his good self. And he has a fair bit of history in this regard, does Honiss.
He does. He's a sawdust Caesar with a whistle. It's a pity he still disgraces the game.

War on ...

Six years to the day after war was declared on the west by means of terror and murder in Manhattan and Washington, Yaron Brook argues at The Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center that calling the present war in which the west is engaged a "War on Terror" is as foolish as calling the Second World War a War against Kamikazes, or a War on U-Boats. This is not a war against a tactic, he says; the west is at war with an ideological enemy and the conflict should be called what it actually is: a war on Islamic Totalitarianism.

See his short argument here:

The A-Team aren't

Back before it was renamed Libertarianz, founder Ian Fraser called the party The A Team; that is, 'A' for abolish. Now a young student team at Wellington's Victoria University have picked up the name and look worthy of your attentions [Alas not, see below]. Victoria's A-Team promises all students a $25 rebate, and says that
Given the embarrassing antics by the incompetent Muppets of recent years, the A-Team offers Victoria students a real, unified alternative. The A-Team offers an end to irresponsible financial practices, to the vandalising of student property, to 0900 scandals and to unfounded attacks on Salient magazine.
Perhaps one of them can explain, however, why they don't have a platform of voluntary student membership? If they're going to do the job properly, then why not get rid of compulsion?

UPDATE 1: I've yet to receive or see any worthwhile explanation of this A-Team's explanation of their apparently pathetic position on voluntary student membership (VSM). Would it be unfair, do you think, to suggest that they might be little different to the muppets they would like to replace?

UPDATE 2: Ah FFS, here's confirmation at the Salient site that the A-Team are no different to the other muppets. Removing the compulsion to join the student union should be a litmus test issue for any freedom-loving student politician, yet A-Teamer Ann Duggan confirms that
The A-Team is not an advocate of VSM. While we aim to improve the degree of
choice available to students in the services provided by VUWSA, we aim to do so within existing frameworks.
Fuck 'em. And if you're at VUW, don't vote for them. If at their tender age the A-Team doesn't understand that compulsion is wrong and freedom of association worth promoting, then they don't understand anything that's worth a damn. Barely twenty and already sold out. Pathetic.

Oh drought!

Al Gore told a US Senate committee and then anyone else who would listen that "droughts are becoming longer and more intense."

That's inconveniently untrue.
US researchers, led by Gemma Narisma, have now shown that, far from becoming more frequent in recent decades, serious droughts have in fact become rarer than they were a century ago... they identified the 30 most "severe and persistent" drought episodes of the 20th century. Seven of these occurred before 1920, seven between 1921 and 1940 and eight between 1941 and 1960, dropping to five between 1961 and 1980...
You'd wonder what he had to gain by making this stuff up, wouldn't you.

Howard or Costello?

Tim Blair offers a summary of the "civil war in right-wing [Australian] punditland" over whether or not John Howard should quickly step down in favour of Treasurer Peter Costello.
Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen believe John Howard - currently being mauled in opinion polls - should cede the Prime Ministership to Peter Costello ahead of the next election; Piers Akerman and Christopher Pearson think Howard should stay.

Put me in the Howard camp ... not just because I believe he can win, but because the argument that installing Costello would reduce post-election chaos among the Liberals presumes too much will remain static between now and whenever the election is held. It’s also defeatist and excessively tactical; you fight the battle in front of you, not the battle beyond. Besides, the debate is largely irrelevant. John Howard isn’t inclined to quit, and that extends to matters beyond domestic politics.
UPDATE: The Australian raises the possibility that today is the day. "Unconfirmed rumours have swept parliament house that two of John Howard's colleagues believe he should step down." And “something is on in parliament house.” [Hat tip Tim Blair again]

Brunnhilde's Immolation - Arthur Rackham

Brunnhilde's Immolation in the classic illustration by Arthur Rackham -- posted here in tribute to Margaret Medlyn's valiant performance of the piece with the NZSO in Wellington on Friday night.

The piece depicts Brunnhilde's immolation of the Gods (and herself) by fire, freeing the earth of the Gods' in the only way she can -- a somewhat Tuetonic form of the Prometheus myth: sending a flaming torch to tear down Valhalla's vaults, and bring on the Twilight of the Gods.

Musically, coming at the end and culmination of the four-day Ring cycle (four days of opera!) it feels as if a great cleansing wind is sweeping away the malignance of superstition and other-wordly darkness, leaving the beneficence of love and nature of the bounty of earth's promise -- an earth free for what humans can make of it. Heil der Sonne!

Thus ends a creation myth in which the Gods create humans to do their bidding, but human free will proves resistant to their meddling, eventually rendering them impotent and ultimately meaningless.

You might get some sense of it all from this 1982 Bayreuth production at YouTube. Turn your speakers up to eleven!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Michael Jackson has died.

Michael Jackson, Beer Hunter, has died. Gus Van Horn pays tribute to the man who did more than most to introduce the world to great beer.
Beer ... is not, as it turns out, simply a cheap way for numbskulls to get drunk. It is an endless adventure for the senses, a proud Western tradition, a gift produced by the happy union of art and science, a pleasant accompaniment to good conversation, and many other things besides. I have Michael Jackson to thank for making me properly acquainted with a drink that is both the product of the efforts of thinking men and a fitting reward...


It's telling, isn't it, that when the media belatedly discover Commisar Kiro's plan to nationalise NZ's children, they prefer to spend their time instead asking questions about a bloke who plays in the parliamentary rugby team. Does this say everything we need to know about NZ's media?

"Giving the Devil the benefit of law"

I'm impressed to see the Greens' Russel Norman enjoying a very good standard of film on the weekend, and plucking out of it the very best exchange. There's probably hope for him yet. ;^)

UPDATE: I've have had loads of emails (well, one) asking me about film versions of Robert Bolt's great play. My very favourite is this one with Roy Kinnear, which makes it as plain as possible who the "man for all seasons" is. Here's a clue: It's not Thomas More.

Postmodern Osama

Doesn't Osama Bin Laden's latest message to the world look familiar. Railing against capitalism, multinationals, global warming; praising Chomsky and talking about 'blood for oil'...

He could be another post-modern academic, couldn't he -- one that embraces death as we embrace life.

UPDATE: I've been told I should have posted a link to a postmodern academic who embraces death instead of Osama's own putrid expression of wish fulfilment, so here's a link to one poxy professor I posted here last year, the Ebola loving Dr Eric Pianka, who wishes for a dose of his favourite virus to be visited upon ninety percent of the human population.

Makes Osama look positively benevolent by comparison, doesn't he. "We're no better than bacteria," says the pustulent Pianks. Speak for yourself, buddy.

What a weekend

What a huge weekend of top sport! World Cup and NPC rugby, US Open tennis, a new world record for the 100m, the first week of AFL finals, and even rumours and controversy about Stephen Fleming's captaincy. (And I believe the five-tackles-and-a-kick game had some finals as well.)

So many highlights, so little time. Best for me was Justin Henin's clinical US Open victory -- achieved without dropping a set -- and of course Geelong's record thrashing of North Melbourne. On to the preliminary final!

And wasn't it great to see the All Blacks start strongly and win without (further) injury, and England struggle against the US. With Wales, Ireland and France also struggling (the first two against against poor opposition), it's going to be a long month for northern hemisphere teams.

A long month ahead too for TV3 viewers with Hamish McKay's braindead rugby commentary inflicted upon us -- an insightful expert comments team is left chained to a grinning moron.

UPDATE 1: I understand that some fans and coaches of the five-tackles-and-a-kick game are suggesting they use the AFL finals system for their own sport. Conveniently, the AFL have a succinct summary here of their present system and the reasons for adopting it.

UPDATE 2: Real Footy's assessment of the Geelong-Kangaroos game is enough to warm the cockles of a Geelong fan's heart: Cats' Demolition Job Widens Gap to Rest to a Gulf.
GEELONG was too good. More ominously for its remaining finals competitors, it is too good. At this stage, it appears that nothing less than an injury disaster or an epidemic of some description will stop the Cats from claiming their first flag in 44 years.

Stalinist Cindy's promise: An apparatchik in every home

A surveillance system of New Zealand parents proposed by 'Surveillance Cindy' -- the Stalinist Children's Commissar -- will see clipboard wielding Stasis examining every family in the country against criteria set by Cindy Kiro and her children's commissariat.

This is fully consistent with the mentality that "we" are to blame for parents who kill their kids. According to this view it takes a village to kill a child, and it takes 'Surveillance Cindy' and her fellow Commissars to ignore the killers and instead unleash upon good families an avalanche of apparatchiks bearing a presumption of guilt and a clipboard -- delivering a welfare cheque on every plate, and an apparatchik in every home.

The apparatchiks would assume you're mistreating your children, unless you could prove otherwise. Show them the "wrong" video games, the "wrong" books, or discipline them the "wrong" way, and you go on report.

As Liberty Scott reports it's disgraceful that it's taken the mainstream media all of eleven months to notice Surveillance Cindy's Orwellian plan. Says Scott,
I reported on this atrocious proposal in October LAST YEAR. It's not NEWs, it's just that the standards of journalism in NZ are often shockingly low.
And what's the headline in the Dominion Post? "$5m-a-year to save our our children" [sic]. I don't care if it is $5 million, $50 million, $5 billion or $50 - THAT isn't the story Keri Welham.
The headline should be "Shades of Orwell in plan to cut child abuse."
I was heartened to see yesterday's response from Mitch Lees, the organiser of last year's anti-anti-smacking rally, and now the CEO of Lindsay Perigo's Sense of Life Objectivists:

SOLO Slams Commie Kids Commissioner: "The suggestion that EVERY baby's home must be checked is an indication that Commie Kiro has no idea – or is willfully ignoring – where the real problem lies. Monitoring every home ... promises to be a gigantic waste of taxpayer funds. Funds that would be far better spent on preventing, punishing and sterilising the Kahui twin killers of this world," says Lees.

"Child abuse in New Zealand is not 'our' problem, it is the problem of the few unspeakable trash who commit and permit the abuse. Focusing on the whole population only serves to muddy the waters as to who is responsible for these disgraceful actions, allowing more innocent children to be killed in the meantime..

How can you hope to solve a problem, if you can't (or won't) even identify its cause?

"Instead of unjustly assuming that every parent is a criminal in a desperate attempt to not call a spade a spade, authorities need to concentrate their resources on preventing the real threats to children. Taking $5million of taxpayer's money and using it to brazenly intrude on our privacy serves as a strong indication that it is time for Nanny to accompany the child killers to the gallows."
Given that Plunket have been doing for years Kiro claims to be doing with her Stasi scheme, but doing it efficiently and voluntarily and largely on a user-pays basis, it now becomes obvious why the Clark Government's have chosen to have Plunket gutted.

This isn't about good parenting, it's once again about increased state control. I reminded you before that Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill was about more than just smacking; as Cindy Kiro has indicated clearly enough, their programme hass always been about nationalising children.

When will you wake up?

UPDATE 1: Who's coming out swinging on this? Bob McCoskrie, who says Children's Commissioner Promotes Nanny State. Leighton Smith. Whale Oil. Crusader Rabbit. Lindsay Mitchell:
Can we have some perspective here. Most mothers already willingly let Plunket into their homes. Forcing those who don't to accept state interference is enough to make them go underground.
And here's Libertarianz' Peter Osborne:
"Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro has again shown that her position exists not to defend child wellbeing, but as a mere political tool," proclaimed Peter Osborne, Libertarianz Social Welfare Spokesman.... "

"As with the anti-smacking bill, this recommendation will do nothing to stop people from abusing their children. People must ask, 'why have such abusive or apathetic adults given birth in the first place? And why in such large numbers?' The reason is because Nanny State forces us all to subsidise such families. She has also regulated our everyday lives to such an extent that opportunities to provide the means for self-sufficiency have become almost impossible to find. Unbelievably, New Zealand keeps voting for the status quo!"
Spineless appeasers John Key and David Farrar, meanwhile, both have a bob each way.

UPDATE 2: I'm pleased to hear Willie Jackson and John Tamihere come out in their afternoon show against Surveillance Cindy's proposal for universal monitoring, albeit somewhat tepidly. Rather than the one-size-kicks-all nannying proposed by Commissar Kiro, Willie and JT suggest "targeting" the nannying. A caller to the show points out the reason neither Cindy nor the Clark Government would go near the idea of targeting: it's the brown question again, isn't it; the knowledge that the child abuse that Cindy claims to be countering is overwhelmingly happening in brown households (as Lindsay Mitchell reports, "the rate of abuse for Maori children is around three times higher," while pointing out that "child deaths due to maltreatment are decreasing.")

So that is the real elephant in the room that Cindy and her supporters and most of maoridom refuse to recognise, and that targeting would highlight.

UPDATE 3: Cactus Kate proposes some targeting of her own:
It makes far more sense to visit the homes of beneficiaries to make sure they aren't having sex.
UPDATE 4: An important new announcement from Dr Zen Tiger:
The NZ Government today signed off sponsorship for a $30 million dollar NGO titled the CFC. The Commission for Commissioners is charged with maintaining the well being of all people serving as Commissioners in this country. The Director of this newly funded organisation, Dr Zen Tiger, said:
"New Zealand has taken a major step forward in human rights by ensuring advocacy for Commissioners. It is a fact that some Commissioners do not have the same advantages as others, but this is not always obvious. Therefore, I have launched a plan that will ensure EVERY commissioner has a lifetime plan, with life time monitoring."
Dr Tiger's full plan is detailed here: Leave No Commissioner Behind.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Culture, conservatives and the defining of art

Conservatives are funny people. Challenged to define art, 'Zen Tiger' at the NZ Conservative blog avoids the question for most of a very long page before banging on instead about marriage, homosexuality, and the threat the latter poses to the former.

Conservatives are funny people.

In reiterating the challenge, Paul L spots something Zen hasn't, "I was merely hoping that somebody might say something nice ... about something they enjoyed. That is the problem with conservatism; it is always opposed to everything."

NB: If the question really was a genuine one, and it's more important than the conservatives in the debate seem to realise, then I offer what I think is a pretty good stab at defining art in this post: Art: There's More to it Than Just Meets the Eye - Not PC.

UPDATE 1: It occurs to me that the argument neatly demonstrates what Objectivism calls the instrinsicist-subjectivist divide. What's art? Says, the conservative, "Whatever God says it is." Says the subjectivist, "Whatever we say it is." Exploding the dichotomy, the Objectivist points out that like everything else in existence art has a nature, and the nature of art is neither defined for us by God or by our feelings (nor by the feelings of a committee), but instead by the the nature of art, by the nature of human consciousness, and by the relationship between the two.

UPDATE 2: Great to see the debate engaged here in the comments section. Since I don't wish to interrupt the debate, rather than enter the fray myself may I again invite commenters simply to visit the links I've already offered, in which I point to what I think is the best definition of art so far, explain why definition is so important, and outline what gives art the power to move us so profoundly.

"Art is the technology of the soul." "Art is a shortcut to philosophy." "Art is the concretisation of metaphysics." "Truth is beauty, beauty is truth..." Clearly art is more than just decoration; something that has the power to effect us so profoundly can't be causeless (well, most of us -- Alan Gibbs excluded it seems).

It must be possible to provide an explanation for something that does this. What in the nature of art that give it this power? How does it effect us? That's what these links try to explain:

Britain's die-while-you-wait health system

Contract cancer in Eastern Europe or the UK, and your chances of survival are less than half. Contract cancer in the US -- the most evil, greedy, selfish nation on the planet -- and your chances vault up to nearly two-thirds. The reason Brits are more likely to die?
Cancer experts blamed late diagnosis and long waiting lists.
Looks like the UK has the same die-while you wait health system we do. The new study "demonstrates what opponents of socialized medicine have been saying for years," says Don Watkins: "socialized medicine kills." Consider that in the US alone, 1.4 million people will be diagnosed this year, and you realise the numbers involved. As Watkins makes plain, people are dying for the sake of the failed ideology that is destroying Venezuela:
Researchers attribute Britain's dismal numbers primarily to late diagnoses and lengthy waiting lists for treatment. But long lines and waiting lists are necessarily endemic under socialized medicine. Just as a "free" grocery store would not be able to keep its shelves stocked, a "free" health care system necessarily lacks sufficient resources to adequately treat all those seeking care. The result is thousands of unnecessary deaths—and millions of grief-stricken families.
See: UK Survival Rate Lowest in Europe - Telegraph,
and: Socialized Medicine Kills - Principles in Practice blog.

Islam v Christianity: Let the Daily Show decide

Christianity or Islaaaaaam! Which one is right? Whose god is greater? How do you decide?

The Daily Show hosts The Great Debate on this era defining question. As Ed says, "This three-minute clip pretty much summarizes the nature of religious debate." It's Jewlarious!

Socialism still stinks in Venezuela

Readers of the last Free Radical will remember Jeff Perren's cover story depicting the socialism of Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, and its consequential and inexorable slide into dictatorship, penury and a place where people boil up stones for soup -- all this on the back of an unprecedented oil boom.

Two recent articles depict the further slide, first the economic slide and the prospect of "the macroeconomic house of cards" hitting the wall: Chavez Economy Unravels as Venezuela Currency Weakens - Bloomberg.

The second offers another example of the destruction of free speech: a new law requiring permission from the government for your baby's name, and the banning of names "that invite ridicule, are extravagant or hard to pronounce." See: What's in a name? If lawmakers have their way, it won't be anything unusual - AP.

The Tomahawk Kid comments:
Soon no-one in Venezuela will be allowed to say anything president Chavez disapproves of, even if they could find the means, as he has nationalised (taken by force from its rightful owners) energy, telecommunications, radio and TV stations, who are forced to interrupt their programmes to broadcasts speeches by Chavez.
There is nothing new in his actions though - it has all been done before! First they nationalise industry, then they censor all opposition, and then slowly the people starve - and by that time, there is no-one left to speak out against the horrors. For those with eyes, and minds, Venezuela is just the latest tragic example.
Socialism stinks. It stinks everywhere it's tried. If you haven't seen socialism destroy a country before, then watch Venezuela and learn -- and make sure it doesn't happen here.

"There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion"

Would-be pundits such as Brian Gaynor et al who offer their opinions on the collapses and troubles in finance houses might want to add to their researches the subjects "creative destruction" and "malinvestment" (a misallocation of resources often following a period of artificially excessive credit)-- two concepts without an understanding of which no punditry could be considered informed -- and the story of the 1970s bailout of Britain's "secondary banks" should be another topic worth reading [hat tip Elijah].

Writing in 1949, Ludwig von Mises might have been talking to today's pundits:
There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as the final and total catastrophe of the currency involved.
If only the pundits were listening. There are no shortcuts to the inevitable. Tell failing finance houses "Screw up and we will bail you out," and what do you think that will do to the number of screw ups, and to the amount of extra risk the screw-ups take with your money?

Electoral Finance Bill

Submissions on the Electoral Finance Bill close at 5pm today. This is the Bill described in parliament yesterday as produced by "a fascist tyranny, and anti-democratic." The commenter was too kind.

In the Libertarianz submission on the Bill, Bernard Darnton -- whose suit against the Clark Government for misappropriating public funds to pay for their electoral advertising led to Clark and co. passing so called "validating" legislation to legalise the theft, and set in train the moves towards this Bill -- makes clear he "opposes this Bill in the strongest possible terms."
It is an unprecedented assault on free speech and violates the trust between citizens and the government that undergirds a peaceful and prosperous country.

Vendors in third-world markets often start by making an outrageous offer and then haggling their way down to the price they actually want – a price that would have seemed outrageous if it had been offered initially. Those selling third-world political ideas should not be allowed to get away with the same trick.

This Bill is beyond repair. It cannot be fixed. We urge committee members not to make the mistake of meeting its authors half-way and declaring a successful compromise. This Bill cannot be watered down; it must be drowned...

The stated intentions of this Bill include the maintenance of public confidence in the administration
of elections and the promotion of public participation by the public in parliamentary democracy. In
1946 George Orwell wrote, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder
respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

We propose that, in the interests of honesty, the wording be changed to
3 (a) deflect attention from the public's lack of confidence in the administration of elections in the wake of the misappropriation of public funds to pay for electoral advertising and the subsequent validation of such misappropriation.
(b) deter public participation in parliamentary democracy and limit political expression to approved parties.
The hard-hitting Libertarianz submission can be found online here: Submission on the Electoral Finance Bill - Libertarianz.

UPDATE: David Farrar has info on how to make an online submission. Do it NOW!

Broken Men - Rudyard Kipling

FOR things we never mention,
For Art misunderstood—
For excellent intention
That did not turn to good;
From ancient tales’ renewing,
From clouds we would not clear—
Beyond the Law’s pursuing
We fled, and settled here...

God bless the thoughtful islands
Where never warrants come;
God bless the just Republics
That give a man a home,
That ask no foolish questions,
But set him on his feet;
And save his wife and daughters
From the workhouse and the street!

Excerpts from Rudyard Kipling's poem, 'Broken Men.'

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Farewell Pavarotti

With news that tenor Luciano Pavarotti is in his final hours at his home in Modena, time to remember just how tremendous the maestro was.

Here at YouTube is Pav in Paris in (or close to) his prime, singing Nessun Dorma under conductor James Levine with a voice of pure gold.

Farewell Luciano.

UPDATE 1: Malvina Major and Lindsay Perigo discuss Pavarotti's life, art and voice with John Campbell on TV3's CampbellLive. See Campbell Live Remembers Pavarotti - TV3.

UPDATE 2: Perigo's radio tribute to Luciano this morning is here.

Muslim enlightenment?

IN SYDNEY ON HER recent visit, Ayaan Hirsi Ali didn't cause the whole city to shut down, but she did appear in a roundtable discussion on the nature and future of Islam that would have shut down Tehran if they'd heard it.

She argues in the latest Free Radical that the Muslim world can achieve an enlightenment of ideas in far less time that it took the West: she explains in this video of the Sydney roundtable discussion why and how that's both possible, and urgently necessary:
Enlightening Islam - Ayaan Hirsi Ali, CIS [video].

Going "nucular" In Sydney

It's highly amusing seeing what Lindsay Perigo calls Sydney's harem of hacks without a whole brain among them coming out in conniptions at Dubya and Howard capturing the APEC conference agenda with the eminently sensible point that if you're serious about the environment and about climate change, then the only way to go is what Bush calls "nucular."

They're not the first to make the point -- even gormless Gaian James Lovelock recognises that "we have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger" and "Nuclear power is the only green solution" -- but it's delicious to see all the braindead worthies in and about Sydney clutching their egos about them as the unspeakable is so loudly and (almost) clearly spoken when instead they were there to report the usual banalities.

UPDATE: Tim Blair has a giggle at the harem of hacks and their anti-Bush obsession.

Xenophobic simpletons befoul this country

Xenophobia, n. hatred or fear of foreigners. xenophobe, n. xenophobic, adj. [Greek xenos strange, stranger]
Two events in recent days demonstrate for me one reason this country is fast becoming a pathetically provincial authoritarian backwater.

The first is the knee-jerk xenophobia that has forced Dubai Aerospace to withdraw their $2.6 billion offer to purchase a controlling share in Auckland airport -- a story that appeared in the Herald opposite another story quite coincidentally pointing out that in order for New Zealand to grow it needs investment, and one that won't be lost on other investors who may have been considering venturing into this bigoted backwater.

You reactionary phobic fools who opposed those nasty foreigners doing business with us on the offchance we might catch diseases from them like the pursuit of wealth and the enjoyment of hard work will no doubt be happy with that outcome.

The second event that raised my bile is the primeval, almost antediluvian, foreigner-hatred exhibited by most of you in airily dismissing any notion or any argument that a human being might deserve a home here in New Zealand (in fact without even addressing the arguments), and instead insisting simply that he be sent back to the mullahs in Iran to be killed. The only words you have for someone like Ali Panah who wants to make a life and home here are "Fuck Off." Those of you expressing that view on this thread here disgust me.

You xenophobic bigots befoul the world and this country by being in it. You do not speak for me.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


TWO OF THE BRAVEST AND most controversial figures of our times are former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Danish newspaper editor Flemming Rose. As editor of The Free Radical, I'm enormously proud to publish interviews with both of these inspirational heroes.

Hirsi Ali (pictured left on that striking cover) outlines why she damns Islam, and why nonetheless the Muslim world can achieve an enlightenment of ideas in far less time that it took the West -- and Flemming Rose tells Lindsay Perigo about the lessons learned from his commissioning the series of Danish cartoons that sent Islamists berserk, and moral relativists running for cover.

These two interviews kick off an issue that infidels everywhere need to have on their coffee table, in their briefcase, and in their gift bags to business and personal friends. Just look what's on offer inside the 'Infidels' issue:

  • AS IT BECOMES increasingly clear that global warming skeptics are made infidels not so much for their scepticism of the threadbare warmist science but more for their refusal to accept the warmist political agenda, The Free Radical asks: What would a freedom-lover do about global warming? How could a freedom-lover use contemporary hysteria to drive the debate upwards to freedom, instead of down towards the ant heap of totalitarianism?
  • WHAT WOULD AYN Rand's "Party X" do in opposition to today's environmental hysteria? In seven punches to the green jaw, we show that capturing the debate for freedom need not be difficult if you know a little judo. As Bernard Darnton explains, socialism and central planning are unworkable at seventeen degrees. What makes anyone think things will be different at nineteen degrees?
  • WHAT'S THE CAUSE of the present worldwide turmoil in money markets – and what’s the likely outcome? George Reisman has the answers -- and a solution.
  • IF AN OPERA singer without a voice for it can go round the world in less than eighty days, then why can't freedom lovers use the same technique for the freedom message? Darnton and Cresswell spot an opportunity.
  • AFTER MODERNISM CAME post-modernism. What now for post-postmodern art? Stephen Hicks explains how and why art went to the dark side, and why it now has the chance to head towards the light.
  • SOLUTIONS TO THE serious problems with housing affordability are offered by National's John Key and Nick Smith, and summarily dismissed by Peter Cresswell.
ALL THIS AND MUCH, MUCH MORE in this latest issue, including a fan's review of the Harry Potter series and a non-fan's review of Ian Wishart's feverish best-seller; a beer enthusiast's review of American beer and a romance enthusiast's opinion on the risks of passion in California; the story of the child's mathematical mind and how James Bond and John Galt shave ... all this and more in Free Radical 77.

SUBSCRIBE NOW! Or buy your digital copy here shortly, or your hard copy in any one of these stores here from Monday.

Peter Cresswell
**Politics, Economics & Life as if Freedom Mattered**

Howard chooses sport over friend Bush

I'm impressed by Australian Prime Minister John Howard's decision to avoid meeting US President George Bush when he flew into Sydney last night and instead attend the NRL's Rugby League Awards Dinner. "You gotta get your priorities right, said Howard, "no disrespect to my very good friend - but it's rugby league, after all."

I agree with his decision, not because I'm a fan of rugby league, and nor because I think Bush deserves to be be snubbed, but because choosing sport over politics is a pointer to a more rational world when politicians are put in their place behind those who actually get on with running the world.

In a more rational world, we'd read newspapers and watch TV news not to see who's killing whom or to read what political insanity had been inflicted on us today, but instead to see which team won, and how your shares are doing. In a more reasonable and self-aware world, you'd read blogs like this one not for the evisceration and lampooning of politics and politicians, but for the architecture and the jokes.

In the meantime, blogs like this one will continue to work towards making that more rational era possible, and applauding politicians like John Howard who sometimes show they understand their place in the universe.

Onya John.

A challenge for National Party supporters: What are the top ten ways in which your party promotes freedom and rolls back the state?

As authoritarian as the present government and their coalition colleagues are, is there any assurance that the main alternative on offer would be any better? The truism is that governments aren't elected -- it's their opponents who are thrown out.

So it's a fair question to ask: if and when this lot do get thrown out, how much better will the other lot be?

If talk was action, we'd seem to be a whole lot better off. At last month's National Party conference, for example, John Key told his troops, "we believe in the principles of the National Party. We believe in individual freedom and individual responsibility. We believe the government should underpin our society but not dominate it." Sounds good, doesn't it. And blogger and National Party cheerleader Insolent Prick insisted here at Not PC the other day that "National believes in reducing the size of the state, and encouraging private enterprise."

Now, I'm naturally pleased to hear noises like these, and to hear at least one National supporter with his heart on his suit's sleeve affirming what are supposed to be his party's principles.

I'm pleased, but (given the appallingly statist performance last time the Nats were near the levers of power) I really wonder if a word of it is really true?

At the time he made that statement, I invited Insolent Prick and and any other National Party supporters reading that thread if they could list for me the top ten most substantive ways in which National proposes to reduce the size of the state, and encourage private enterprise.

I got no response.

Assuming he overlooked the challenge, I figured I'd issue it more openly, right here on the front page. Specifically,
what are the top ten most substantive ways in which National proposes to . In what ten ways does the party whose principles promote greater freedom and increased personal responsibility actually plan to roll back the state, and to actually promote greater freedom and reduced coercion?
Feel free to post and let me know, since I'm sure there are readers here as curious as I am to hear what those top ten policy planks are -- or even if there are ten.

And here's a second related challenge:
just how many of the Clark Government's scurrilous attacks on freedom have they clearly and openly pledged to overturn?
I suspect the answers to both challenges will be published on a very small postcard, but please feel free to correct me. I promise to publish all substantive and provably correct answers here on the front page as they appear.

[NB: If any other party supporters wish to promote their own party's policies as judged by the same criteria, then please do feel free. I assume we can take it as read that Libertarianz is one party at least that fits the bill.]

UPDATE: David Farrar offers his contribution to the challenge (about which I'll make no comment at this stage). First, the Nats' top ten planks to reduce the size of the state, and encourage private enterprise:
  1. Lower Taxes
  2. Allow state house tenants to buy their state house
  3. Partial privatisations of some SOEs
  4. Enable private/public partnerships for new roads
  5. Greater subsidies for private schools, allowing more poorer families to attend
  6. Tax Deductions for childcare so parents can choose public or private without discrimination
  7. Use private hospital capacity more in health sector
  8. Move government assistance from universal to targeted in some areas
  9. Reinstate private management of prisons
  10. Allow private sector competition for accident insurance
And the list of scurrilous attacks on freedom brought into law by the Clark Government that the Nats have pledged to overturn:
  1. Repeal the Electoral Finance Act!

Nothing more destructive for finance sector

Brian Gaynor's value as an economic commentator is limited by his apparent ignorance of some economic fundamentals.

One such was displayed this morning. The Reserve Bank, he told radio programmes this morning, should act as a lender of last resort to troubled finance houses.

This is utterly absurd.

Gaynor's thinking is shockingly short term. Not only is it not the taxpayer's job to bail out poorly managed finance houses, not only would it all-too frequently throw good money after bad, but in the final analysis nothing would be more certain of increasing the number of risky lenders in the long term than the guarantee given on a plate to them that the backstop to their riskier activities is the power of the government to make the taxpayer their involuntary guarantor.

Having the Reserve Bank as a lender of last resort would reward the riskier lenders, and invite all lenders to take equal risks to keep their place in the market.

The proposal is absurd.

The best solution to the existence of the riskier lenders is to get them out of the market forthwith, so they're unable to consume any more of their investors' wealth. This is the "creative destruction" about which intelligent economists have spent so much time trying to educate their less informed colleagues.

I recommend some study of the topic to Mr Gaynor and his colleagues.

Formaldehyde scam exposed

I notice mainstream news were reporting yesterday on the news of the Target programme's disgracefully irresponsible formaldehyde scam (if only there were a TV programme that protected us from such scamsters, eh?)

Good to know that Not PC readers got this news here last week. Stick with me, folks, I'll see you right.

PS: I look forward to mainstream news catching up on news of the exposure of Auckland councils' contaminated soils scam reported here at Not PC two weeks ago ...

No spam please, unless you're from offshore

It's impossible to express my joy at another well-thought through government law coming into force this morning to protect me from people's unwanted attentions, and to make life for the organisers of legitimate email lists more difficult.

Its exciting to think that, if only ninety-seven percent of spam didn't originate from offshore, that we'd now have a law to deal with it.

Among a retinue of useless, valueless and ineffective law written onto NZ's law books in recent years, is this perhaps the most derisory of all? I'll still have invitations in my inbox to send money NOW to Nigeria and to pay ten dollars for ten extra inches, but I'll have a problem receiving (for example) regular technical updates from the likes of manufacturers and suppliers of building materials and systems that I need to run my business efficiently.

The NZ Government: making life easier for NZ business.

Smith House - Robert Green

The Smith House, by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Robert Green (1935-2003).

Monday, 3 September 2007

Non-toxic toys

Brendan O'Neill has something for parents, toy importers and headline writers: "the good news is that Chinese toys are not killing our children."

So why all the scary stories, then? Says O'Neill, don't underestimate "the role of Western irrationalism in driving the toxic toys scare." See: Toxic Toys: Is China Poisoning YOUR Child? - Brendan O'Neill, Spiked.

Free Ali Panah

In my oft-declared view, the presumption with immigration should always be on the side of would-be immigrant. Unless your would-be immigrant is either a criminal, a terrorist or has proven infectious medical condition, and is prepared to sign a waiver to any claim on the welfare state (as long as such a thing still exists), then the right thing to do is to let people cross borders freely.

It's now good enough for money to cross borders freely (after many long years when that wasn't the case); it's time that the same thing be made true for people.

The hunger-striking Ali Panah is the latest high-profile local case in which people are treated like cattle by a system in which coercion and brutality are so carelessly and bureaucratically inflicted on human beings who are simply seeking a better life. Frankly, I think Blair M. has the situation nailed:

Bad news from Marseille; better news from Melbourne

The worst news so far this morning is that Keith Robinson's calf is still injured, and will be for at least two more weeks.

I'd hate to be forced to watch Reuben Bloody Thorne taking the field in every bloody game.

UPDATE: Better news from Melbourne for fans of the world's most libertarian sport, and of the AFL's best team.

Firstly, 2007 saw record crowds at AFL games:
[the final round] attendance figure of 289,440 took the 2007 season total to 6,475,521, eclipsing the previous record mark of 6,283,788 spectators, established in 2005. “The 2007 season clearly affirms the AFL as the No.1 spectator sport in Australia,” [AFL CEO Andrew] Demetriou said...

The final attendance figure for 2007 represented a rise of 4.38 per cent on the 2006 numbers. More than two millions fans attended matches at the MCG, with 2,123,400 fans at the ground seeing an average match attendance of 47,187.

Telstra Dome averaged crowds of 36,396 this year, with 1,674,219 patrons going through the gates for matches at the ground.

Sort of makes the numbers showing up at rugby league games looks pretty sad, doesn't it: 2,880,987 fans showing up to 2007's games at an average attendance of just 15,658 per match [ref Wikipedia]. A fair reflection of the difference in quality out on the field, I'd say.

So the second piece of goood news is that in finishing in top position with 18 wins out of 22 matches, Geelong look the goods :
the AFL finals begin on Friday night with most pundits agreeing on one thing - the premiership is Geelong's to win or lose.
With World Cup and AFL finals, it's going to be a busy sporting September ... and hopefully one to remember!

Victims compensation long overdue

I'm right behind the call by the Sensible Sentencing Trust to compensate victims of crime, but surprised at how little compensation they're after on victims' behalf.

"Compensation" is a bit of a misnomer, suggesting that what's proposed is money from taxpayers, when what they're proposing is that just ten percent of a criminal's fines are directed to the victims of crime to help them put their lives back together again. Ten percent? I'd be calling for one-hundred percent! It's not a debt to society or the state they need to repay, it's a debt to the people they've injured.

The principle in setting fines should be that criminals should never be able to gain a value from their crimes, and should to the fullest extent possible be forced to make restitution for their crimes to their victim(s). If setting the figure at ten percent is the only way to set those particular balls rolling, then I'm all for it.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

New Free Radical -- out soon!

Sorry not to have blogged this weekend; I"m afraid there's just been too many other things going on to have time.

I've spent most of the weekend putting the finishing touches to the latest Free Radical magazine, which should be at the printers very soon, and had two delightful evenings with friends -- martinis on Friday night, and a session last night watching Pavarotti in La Boheme and Domingo in Tosca.

So (with that preamble out of the way), here's the new Free Radical cover. All going well, subscribers should see it appearing in their letterboxes by the end of the week. Salut!

PS: If you subscribe now, you can be assured of your letterbox being in the first round of mailouts this week.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Beer O’Clock: The second Tui Book

Neil Miller from Realbeer and the Society for Beer Advocates (SOBA) reviews the second book of Tui Billboards, this one titled “Yeah right, again.” (This review originally appeared in Salient.)

Using the very simplest of formats, the Tui “Yeah, Right” billboards have reached iconic status in New Zealand because of their constantly changing and always slightly skewed take on New Zealand life and current events.

The second tome in this series gathers together over a hundred of the best billboards from recent years. As you would expect in a book about billboards, there is not a lot of text and it only takes about 15 minutes to read. The good news is that it is 15 minutes well spent.

For me, the topical billboards are the cleverest. These range from the political (“Changing the law makes it ok”), to the cultural (“NZ Idol: Ticket to stardom”) and the gastronomic (“Honestly, it was the same wine”).

Tui plays it safe and has a footnote explaining the context of the topical billboards. After all, “One cable should do the trick” is not particularly funny unless you know it is mocking Aucklanders stuck in the dark.

Other slogans will ensure you never look at everyday items the same way again. The hook here is that you suddenly realise how often you see these signs (“We apologize for the inconvenience”) and those emails (“FW: This is so funny”).

Finally, the clever people at Tui show a self awareness about their own publicity efforts with a number of billboards lampooning themselves: “I came on the tour to see how the beer’s made,” “We don’t sponsor rugby to sell beer,” and “Waiter, how many carbs are in this jug?”

Sure there are a few clichés in there (I don’t need a map, I never get lost”) and a couple of tired male/female stereotypes (“Here honey, you have the remote”) but overall, the words to laughs ratio is very high.

I’m sure this will be the last book in the series. Yeah, right

Cheers, Neil

Muldoon comparison "unfair" - Perigo

Lindsay Perigo suggests this morning that Mike Moore's comparison of Helen Clark with Robert Muldoon is unfair. It's very unfair to Muldoon.

Muldoon used to occasionally ban journalists from attending government press conferences, but Clark is much worse. She wants to outlaw any substantive criticism of government for one third of a government's term.

Which is worse? Says Perigo:

Sir Robert, as a WW2 vet, had way too much respect for the freedom of speech for which men fought and died ever to entertain an abomination like the Electoral Finance Bill. He never harboured the incipient desire Helen Clark has for perpetual rule in a one-party state...

LINK: Text and audio of Lindsay's comments here: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall - Lindsay Perigo.

Drug hell?

Shock! Sensation! Drug shame! After being picked up in London with one tab in his pocket -- one pill -- he shamefacedly confessed to Thursday night's Footy Show not just that he had intended to consume it, but that he had consumed many more before that over the last ten years or so. "Joey's twelve year drug hell," screams the headlines. "Some players should look at the humiliation and embarrassment this has caused not only to myself but more my family," says Johns.

But I have to say, why the "shock"? Why the "sensation"? Although some might cruelly suggest you only need half the brain to play league you do for most other sports, consuming the occasional pill had clearly never affected the league legend's game, or his off-field relationship with his fans and employers. The drug had never caused him to run amok.

So why the hand wringing?

Is it not possible to get this in perspective? If a grown man were to confess on live television that he'd had a glass or two of whiskey over the years -- oh my God! just imagine! -- then who (apart from the obvious killjoys) would be in shock? Where would be the shame or the humiliation? Confess to liking a whiskey or a vodka or a beer or three and sane people are likely to say "so what," but confess to ingesting an ecstacy or two -- which a study published in Lancet suggests is less harmful than ingesting both tobacco and alcohol -- and the world's headlines close in on you.

The harm (if there is any) lies not in the drug, but the hysteria caused by the illegality of the drug.

Perhaps sane people could stop and think about that? As Judge James P. Gray said of Robert Downey Jr.'s 2001 drug conviction, "How is actor Robert Downey Jr.'s problem with drug abuse any different than Betty Ford's problem with alcohol abuse? Why is it appropriate to send Robert Downey Jr. to jail but send Betty Ford to treatment? Shouldn't drug users who cause harm to others raise different questions, and answers, than users such as Downey who do not harm anyone but themselves?"

Stop! Nanny's anti-obesity red light's on.

Nanny's anti-obesity campaigners have unveiled a new way to get in our face: forcing food producers to put "traffic lights" on their food packaging. In a topical TV appearance, Harry Binswanger from the Ayn Rand Institute makes a fundamental point that needs to be tattoed upon the shrivelled souls of every one of nanny's groupies. Says Harry:
It's not the responsibility of the state to pass laws to fix people's personal problems...
And that's the whole argument right there, isn't it. Debating a woman championing government regulation of business advertising to "help fight child obesity" (a woman who's a US version of Sue Kedgley), Binswanger makes another obvious point:
Parents should show … some backbone, and not give in to whiny kids, and not expect the government to send the police force into the advertising studios to substitute for their own lack of will power...

Advertisers have a right to broadcast whatever message they choose, as long as it isn’t fraudulent…It’s up to parents to decide what their children can watch and what they can eat.
He's right, isn't he. Police in the advertising studios. Police in the packaging plants. It's time to just say "Sod off!" If we're going to see traffic lights applied anywhere, then it should be a red light to nannying busybodies.

See: FTC Subpoenas - Harry Binswanger on CNBC.

UPDATE: But the 'traffic light' system proposed is "voluntary," you say? Nanny's camp follower Jordan Carter makes plain just how "voluntary" all such schemes are:
The health of New Zealanders is more important than ... ideological hatred of regulation. If companies won't cooperate voluntarily with making our food safer, then they must be forced to do so.
Jawohl, Herr Carter!!

Frederick Edwin Church

Niagara Falls by Frederick Church (1826-1900), an American landscape painter who captures the majesty and grandeur of existence.

Thursday, 30 August 2007


There's a chap at YouTube who's developed a loathing for Helen Clark. Clearly a discriminating chap.

Finance company: Reinvestment reliance killed us

Five Star Consumer Finance has collapsed, the seventh finance company in recent months. A comment attributed to the board of directors is revealing:
The board of directors says it has serious concerns about the state of the debenture market and the ability of the company to attract new funds and retain existing investments. The board has decided that Five Star is unable to operate in such a market.
As Elijah points out,
The owners and managers are [effectively] saying "The rate of reinvestment has been cut to zero and that is why we are going under." I find this absolutely shocking!
Me too. As he suggests, a finance company that requires continual reinvestment to keep its head above water is nothing more than a simple pyramid scheme,
with total reliance on using the money of new investors to repay existing ones ...with a tacit endorsement from Lianne Dalziell about this being standard business practice! Had these companies been more prudent in their lending and management there would have been no problems with redeeming investments as they fell due.

An extreme blonde moment...

As Paul says, the video speaks for itself...

What's wrong with copycat policy-making?

I've heard pundits say quite frequently that National is doing the right thing by playing what Mike Moore called "a vacuous political air guitar" -- refusing to release policy until much closer to the election for fear of what blogger Insolent Prick calls "copycat policy-making from the government in retreat."

This is a
view that freely promotes the notion of peddling all sizzle and no sausage, just in case someone steals your sausage.

I have a question for those who share that view:
What the hell's wrong with copycat policy-making?

What's the point of political activism? You're either there to change country for the better (in your view); or you're there to get a comfortable berth, a job for life and your feet under the Treasury benches.

If you're genuinely in politics to change the country for the better, then having another political party pick up your policies is a good thing, right? If you do have policies and you genuinely believe they are great for the country, then you'd be only too pleased if they're picked up, by others right?

But that's only if you're not just there for reasons of politics and power lust. It's only entities such as this who would complain about "copycat policy-making," isn't it?

Consensus? What consensus?

Science is not a popularity contest. The success of a scientific theory is not judged by how many scientists support it (just ask Alfred Wegener, the scientist behind the theory of plate techtonics and continental drift which as Wikipedia notes was "widely ridiculed" in his day), but in how successfully it integrates the evidence and explains appropriate causal factors.

Nonetheless, we hear repeatedly that there is a scientific consensus on the existence of man-made global warming, defined as "humans having at least some effect on global climate change." History professor Naomi Oreskes' frequently cited and much argued about research on which this claim for consensus is based has recently been updated to reflect recent research, and Naomi (and headline writers) will be surprised at the results.

Using Oreske's own methodology,
Medical researcher Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte examined all scientific papers published from 2004 (when Oreske's research was published) to February 2007:
Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."

The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the "primary" cause of warming, but it doesn't require any belief or support for "catastrophic" global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.

These changing viewpoints represent the advances in climate science over the past decade. While today we are even more certain the earth is warming, we are less certain about the root causes. More importantly, research has shown us that -- whatever the cause may be -- the amount of warming is unlikely to cause any great calamity for mankind or the planet itself.
See: Survey: Fewer than Half of Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory - Daily Tech.

Take the Global Warming Test

It will take you only five minutes, so take the quick online multi-choice test about what Al Bore calls "the most important issue facing the world today" and see how much you know.

My favourite answer appears in the question about the cause of the Little Ice Age; possible answer: "Global cooling occurred as a result of the Renaissance Period." Of course. Those blasted Florentians and their smog. ;^)

Link: The Global Warming Test.

Formaldehyde with your trousers?

"Formaldehyde with your trousers, sir?"
"Uh, no thanks."

In fact, "No" seems to be the actual answer to the question, "are your trousers full of formaldehyde" Worry not.

Despite the recent hysteria when TV3's Target programme "revealed" skin-scratchingly high levels of the chemical in Chinese-made clothes, the Importer's Institute points out that the only scandal here is one of shonky science:
It all started when the TV3 show Target announced that it had commissioned from AgriQuality tests on clothes imported from China. The show's producer, Simon Roy, said the results were so astounding the AgriQuality scientists thought they had made a mistake...
Headlines ensued, Sues Bradford and Kedgley spoke out, and even Judith Tizard was seen to puff her cheeks portentously. However, science and prime time TV are perhaps not ideal bedfellows, and all good hysteria comes to an end...
When the AgriQuality scientists said that the results were so astounding they thought they had made a mistake, they were on to something. It turned out that had, in fact, made a mistake. A big mistake. They tested using a method that measures a garment's total formaldehyde. This produces far higher figures than tests for free formaldehyde...
The Government has now ordered more tests - to be done properly, this time - from the same laboratory. The Importers Institute says that TV3 and AgriQuality owe New Zealanders an apology for promoting a consumer scare based on nothing more than shonky science.
The story mirrors the "contaminated soils scandal" (which councils quietly admitted recently revealed to be equally without merit), as does the moral, something Owen McShane describes as an "unfortunate pattern."
Premature science is used to scare people witless, and the news media have a field day. But when the science finally proves the fears to be totally without foundation there is no attempt to set the record straight.
Any bets as to how soon and how loudly you'll see this reported on the front pages of those papers whose headlines screamed the mistaken news? And how likely it is you'll see retractions from those politicians?

UPDATE: The Herald has the story online this morning, and the news that AgResearch has tested more than 50 garments from New Zealand clothing companies for free formaldehyde since Target aired, of which only garment exceeded 20ppm, with a reading of 50ppm. Very far from "a reading 900 times the level that actually causes harm" as the Target programme fatuously claimed.