Saturday, October 06, 2007

Visitors

Since David Farrar has posted the locations of his most frequent visitors for the last month, I thought I'd compare his list of visitors to mine, below. It's not just the numbers that are different...
Barclays Capital 250
Ernst & Young 199
Bell Gully 113
Cash Handling Systems 86
Auckland University 85
University Of Kansas 63
Ministry of Social Development 59
Christchurch College Of Education 58
Nelson Marlborough Institute 44
Trinity College Dublin 37
IBM New Zealand 37
International Monetary Fund 36
Massey University 28
Treasury 27
Landcare Research 26
Massachusetts General Hospital 21
Haagse Hogeschool, Amsterdam 20
(Note that this list won't include those of you who aren't using a company or work ISP.) Now, since I'm getting a kick out of seeing from which offices and universities people read this blog, let's see some of the other visitors as well, those six < visits < twenty:
Harvard University
Ministry of Economic Development
UNiversity of Oklahoma
ANZ Bank
auckland university of technology
Columbia University
NZ Trade Development Board
Pennsylvania State University
SUNY, Buffalo
University of Florida
Air New Zealand
Princeton University
Cornell University
NZ Ministry of Health
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The Boeing Company
university of california davis
university of chicago
university of toronto
university of wisconsin madison
yale university
auburn university
bank of america
contact energy limited
ministry of agriculture
morgan stanley group inc.
national aeronautics and space administration
general electric company
georgia department of education
television new zealand
texas a&m university
the university of melbourne
u.s. environmental protection agency
wilson & horton ltd
british broadcasting corporation
calgary board of education
colorado state university
danish network for research and education
University Of Washington, Seattle
University Of Illinois
Bentley College, Boston
Purdue University, Indiana
SUNY, Brooklyn
University Of Minnesota
Brigham Young University, Hawaii
Iowa State University
University Of Maryland
Duke University
New Zealand Trade Development Board
Algorithmica Research Ab, Stockholm
McCann-Erickson Inc, NY
Universita' Degli Studi Di Salerno
Chalmers University, Gothenburg
York College, Pennsylvania
Tennessee Board Of Regents, Nashville
St. Louis University, Connecticut
Indiana University
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, San Francisco
United Nations World Food Programme
Dutch Organization For Applied Scientific Research
Morgans-independent-advisors, London
USDA Office Of Operations, Missouri
California State University Northridge
California College Of Arts And Crafts
Autodesk Inc
VUW, Wellington
Stanford University
North Dakota State University
Seoul National University
East Lothian Council
Pinacle Bank, Indiana
Tampere University Of Technology, Finland
United Technologies Research Center, Massachusetts
MIT, Massachusetts
The Economist, London
UCLA
St. Francis Regional Medical Center, Tennessee
Universal Studios, California
Southern Illinois University
I really do get a kick out of seeing where my blog posts get to. Thank you all for visiting, wherever and whoever you are. :^)

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Saturday morning ramble - #23

Another Saturday morning ramble through just some of the many attractions on offer around the internet...
  • "The nine most terrifying words in the English language," observed Ronald Reagan, are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help'." When Christchurch businessman Dave Henderson was set upon by government, in the form of the IRD, he resolved to fight back. He not only fought back; with the help of Rodney Hide he fought and he won and he changed the thuggish, overbearing culture endemic to the Infernal Revenue System. And then he bought their building. The whole story is now on film, and ready for release in early November. The website for the film is here: 'Here to Help.' Check it out.

  • John Boy visits Porirua market. Nobody wants to talk to him. Poor John.

  • "It seems that every generation has its Shylock," says Yaron Brook -- "a despised financier blamed for the economic problems of his day. A couple of decades ago it was Michael Milken and his “junk” bonds. Today it is the mortgage bankers who, over the past few years, lent billions of dollars to home buyers." See The Morality of Money-Lending: A Short History to understand why the scapegoating of moneylenders is "is unjust but not new."

  • "Saving banks. Ruining money." Not just the recent reaction to the worldwide credit crunch, but a reaction most governments across history have made when they've been able to meddle with the currency. "The bank was saved but the money was ruined." So says William Gouge (1796-1863), one of the best political economists of the American 19th century. He is speaking of the panic of 1819, but his sentence could sum up the whole thesis of his marvelous book, A Short History of Money & Banking, now back in print, and reviewed here.
  • "Imagine an egalitarian world in which all food is organic and local, the air is free of industrial pollution, and vigorous physical exertion is guaranteed. Sound idyllic?"

    But hold on… Life expectancy is 30 at most; many children die at or soon after birth; life is constantly lived on the edge of starvation; there are no doctors or dentists or modern toilets. If it is egalitarian it is because everyone is dirt poor, and there is no industrial pollution because there are no factories. Food is organic because there are no pesticides or high technology farming methods. As a result, producing food means long hours of back-breaking physical work which may end up yielding little. There is – or at least was – such a place. It is called the past.
    Daniel Ben-Ami explains "why we must tackle the critics of economic growth, and finish off the war against scarcity." See: Towards an Age of Abundance - Sp!ked.

  • I bet you didn't know that Google Earth has a flight simulator. I didn't either until now, but it does, and it's great. Marco has all the necessary instructions.

  • Carbon trading is fatuous, unfortunate, and unfortunately almost upon us. Says Nicole Gelinas:
    Carbon trading, the increasingly accepted answer to global warming, will cost far more than we’re being told.
    See: An Inconvenient Solution - Nicole Gelinas.

  • How does your ethical philosophy compare to the efforts of the great (and not-so-great) thinkers? Find out here at The Ethical Philosophy Quiz.

  • Why would today's political activist want to read Brad Thompson's Antislavery Political Writings? Lin Zinser explains why you'd be foolish not to:
    If you want to understand how abolitionists brought slavery to the forefront of American thought in less than 10 years; if you want to study how a good, moral political movement changed the world in 30 years; if you want to get involved in political action today, but you want to do it in a principled, moral way -- this is the book to read, understand and study.
  • But what about the roads? How many times is that question asked of libertarian political activists! Qwertz takes on the question again for all of the so called 'natural monopolies' that theorists insist can only be taken care of by government. He insists that public safety requires that governments not be allowed anywhere near the controls of infrastructure at all. The Road to Ruin, he says, is paved with intervention.

  • Frustrated with postmodern nonsense? With pomo-wanking, with slippery "discourse" about the certainty of uncertainty, of militant agnosticism and armchair multiculturalism? Then check out Stephen Hicks' interview on The Postmodern Assault on Reason.

  • The most succinct explanation yet given by Frank Bainimarama for his coup is contained in his recent speech to the UN. Read it and decide for yourself whether his demonisation is deserved. As he says, "the international community needs to understand the full context of the Fiji situation." Crucial to understanding that context, about which you'll rarely if ever heard expressed in either Australian or NZ media, is that:
    Fiji started its journey as a young nation on a rather shaky foundation, with a race-based Constitution, one which rigidly compartmentalised our communities. The "democracy" that came to be practised in Fiji was marked by divisive, adversarial, inward-looking, raced-based politics. The legacy of leadership, at both community and national levels, was a fractured nation.
  • Read how one art show in 1913 changed the word for ever. Paul Soderbergh issues a "storm warning" to today's art world challenging the notions presented in that 1913 show.

  • More on 'Atlas Month' -- the fiftieth 'birthday of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged: The real significance of 'Atlas,' says Robert Tracinski, is that it is the only novel in all literature to come to grips with the most significant event of the last two-hundred years. "She was the first thinker and artist to fully grasp the meaning of capitalism and the Industrial Revolution and to give them expression both in literature and in philosophy." That artistic vision was so revolutionary, and so benevolent, most critics are still unable to understand it to this day. See: The Historic Significance of Atlas Shrugged - Robert Tracinski.

  • It seems if you bash businessmen, you'll always have the support of the morons in the press gallery, as this disgraceful puff piece in praise of Clayton Cosgrove demonstrates.
    He calls a spade a spade - and then uses it to pummel his opponents with it. I sat through a press conference with Cosgrove earlier this year as he trotted out line after line about how he was going to drag “land sharks” kicking and screaming into the spotlight and “drop the hammer” on them. Seriously. The media loved it. He has been equally tough against dodgy builders and developers...
    Never underestimate how much the media likes a thug.

  • NBR points out why the NZ dollar remains popular with the "carry trade." No amount of Reserve Bank wriggling is going to change that.

  • With the exception of a Boobs on Bikes post which still gets hits from people who have apparently never seen breasts before, the post with the highest reader-to-word ratio ever on Not PC debuted this week. With just twenty-eight words and readers totalling over 1100 and still counting that makes about four readers per word. Go figure. Who would have thought a debate about Cate Blanchett's waste products was so interesting.
  • I see that the former minister for rhyming slang John Banks has announced he is flatly opposed to multi-storey buildings on Auckland's future Tank Farm precinct, and that Banks supporters think this anti-development appeasement is a good thing.
    Wankers.
    The tank farm precinct offers an ideal opportunity for an intensely urban harbour-side precinct unique in New Zealand. What we're more likely to see however is another bloody suburban tract infesting downtown, mandated by council's time-servers and by political appeasers like John Wanks.
    Just another reason to bin your voting form. Don't vote, it only encourages bastards like this.
    Or if you really do insist on voting, then you could follow the advice of a friend: just vote for those bastards who haven't already had their feet under the table.

  • Here's the essay by Robert Bidinotto that won him a 2007 Folio "Eddie" Gold Award for Editorial Excellence: entitled Up From Conservatism, it simply explains the intellectual chaos so characteristic of conservatives.

  • Not that socialists are immune to intellectual chaos either. If "income equality" is one of their primary goals, asks Pommygranate, "then why does Freedom (free trade, capitalism, deregulated markets) correlate so perfectly with Social and Income Equality?" Time for some people to check their premises, it seems.

  • Businessmen and entrepreneurs worldwide deliver the goods and services that keep us alive and flourishing.
    Intellectuals who study the free society have, in the fields of economics and politics, a good understanding of what makes this possible,
    says Stephen Hicks: individualism. It's time to turn this same spotlight on ethics, says Hicks, the head of Rockford College's Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. For too long, he says, the conduct of business has been viewed by mainstream theorists as either amoral or immoral. Following Ayn Rand, Hicks makes a strong case for business activity as a moral act. See his essay 'Ayn Rand and Contemporary Business Ethics.' [26 pages, PDF]

  • Lisa Van Damme says about her school: "I have often been told that, when asked what was special about their VanDamme Academy education, graduates say, "We always understood why we were learning what we were learning." She explains how that process starts from the very first day in teaching history, and grammar, and literature.

  • Have a look at what passes for modern architecture in Britain: Landmark Houses by top British architects invited "to speculate on the architectural poetics and ecological considerations for the design of a 'landmark house'" within the context of a rural site in the Cotswolds.

  • It's worth noting that building on a rural site in Britain -- let alone building anything inventive -- is next to impossible, and has been for a very, very long time. I remember, for example, former Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice (and collaborator on his plans for Baghdad) Nezam Kazan telling me that it was pointless even trying to produce cretive architecture for the English countryside since the English countryside had long since been turned into a museum by planners. James Woudhuysen at Sp!ked argues that the worldwide housing affordability crisis means this presumption to urban containment and rural mediocrity should be urgently overturned.
    If New Labour is serious about making homes more affordable, then it should allow members of the public to buy land and build homes where they please,
    he argues -- a point that the writers of NZ's uber-restrictive District Plans need to take to heart as well. See: This Land is Our Land - Sp!ked.

  • Since Al Bore was offered the opportunity (in person) to facilitate serious debate on the underlying science of global climate change, 1 year, 9 months, 1 day, 21 hours, 52 minutes, and 37 seconds have elapsed. He's still dodging. In this YouTube mash-up, DemandDebate.Com shows why the Goracle might be so reluctant.

  • "What is it about climate change that attract's charlatans?" asks The Australian's Janet Albrechtsen, and why do the serious claims for catastrophe bear no relationship to the cuddly cures proposed by politicians? "They tell us breezily we can have it all, no worries. Where is the probing, sceptical media when these sorts of porkies are told?"

  • A fabulous resource you might want to bookmark as ammunition against the charlatans is The Anti "Man-Made" Global Warming Resource. The most comprehensive bunch o' links on this topic on the planet.

  • If you've had trouble keeping up with the ongoing investigation of the surface stations that are responsible for producing the temperature record, Anthony Watts slide show here is a great introduction to the standards adopted when the phrase "good enough for government work" is your guide.

  • Environmental hysteria is nothing new, of course. Amy Kaleita and Gregory Forbes hav produced a comprehensive guide of several centuries of hysteria, from how we're going to kill all the animals; how we're all going to freeze to death; how we're going to cook ourselves; how we're going to turn the planet into a starving wasteland; how we're all going to overcrowd the earth ... there's nothing new when it comes to hysteria. See Hysteria's History: Environmental Alarmism in Context. [30 pages, PDF]

  • You'll often hear it expressed that "environmentalism is a religion." Not so, corrects blogger Noumenal Self. "Environmentalism is NOT a Religion," he says.
    [Environmentalism] is a manifestly naturalistic philosophy, concerned with the status of the natural world (for better or for worse). This is my chief objection. Perhaps there are ways in which environmentalism is like religion. But it is not literally a religion, and this has important implications... Understanding why environmentalism is not a religion helps to understand why the threat it poses will be relatively short-term... Frankly, I think that the "environmentalism is a religion" charge originated among the religious, particularly those on the right, who saw environmentalism as a competitor.
  • More on the 'Religion in America' debate. Christopher Hitchens points out to those who refuse to take the point that America's founders were skeptics about religion. "It is quite astonishing," he says, "how irreligious the Founders actually were." He cites the founding fathers' famous constitutional 'wall of separation' between church and state, and concludes: In a time when the chief declared enemy of the American experiment is theocratic fanaticism, we should stand together and demand, "Mr Jefferson: Build Up That Wall!"

  • Hitchens fans will enjoy his one-hour talk at Google's headquarters on why God is not great, and how religion poisons everything. You Tube has the somewhat smug vid: Authors@Google: Christopher Hitchens.

  • An interesting aspect of the 'Religion in America' debate is pointed out by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph: God Takes Back Seat on Campaign Trail says the Telegraph. Facinating.

  • And finally, a question that's plagued anyone who's ever spent any time on the internet: just how much are those nice women paid to do all those delightful things that regularly appear in pictures set to my inbox? Kink.Com has the list of rates for all the diverse atrocities it's possible for consenting adults to be photographed doing. If you'd like to get rich by doing what you enjoy, then "training of female bondage slaves by male dom" looks to be the most lucrative.
That's about it for another weekend ramble. I'm off now to prepare for a weekend watching the departure of the northern hemisphere teams from the Rugby World Cup. Bring it on! [And if you haven't yet got TV3's schedules for all the games to come, here's their schedule of live games and of replays. Enjoy!]

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Beer O'Clock: BrewNZ Beer Awards

Neil Miller from Realbeer presents further results, recommendations and reflections from the recent BrewNZ Beer Awards.

The lovely city of Wellington recently hosted possibly the world’s most important awards ceremony - the BrewNZ 2007 Beer Awards. A panel of international and local beer judges sipped and sampled their way through over 180 entries from around the world. They bestowed 81 medals including 17 prestigious golds. Here are the results and some personal recommendations from the awards:

Class 1: Classic hybrid New Zealand style beers
Best in class - Mac's Gold
One to try – Harrington’s Finest Lager

Class 2: Amber and dark lagers
Best in Class – Black Magic from Sunshine Breweries in Gisborne
One to try – Moa Noir

Class 3: International golden lager styles
Best in Class - Limburg Czechmate Pilsner
One to try – Vailima from Samoa Breweries

Class 4: French and Belgium style ales
Best in Class – Emerson’s JP
One to try – Tuatara Ardennes

Class 5: New World/American style ales
Best in Class - Cock and Bull Monk's Habit
One to try – Epic Pale Ale

Class 6: UK and other European style ales
Best in Class – Tuatara IPA
One to try - Admirals India Pale Ale from KEA Breweries in the Hawke’s Bay

Class 7: Stouts and Porters
Best in Class – Three Boys Oyster Stout (made with real oysters)
One to try – Pitch Black from Invercargill Brewery

Class 8: Strong ales and lagers
Best in Class – Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale
One to try – Haagen Gold

Class 9: Wheat (and other grain) beers
Best in Class – KEA Admirals Weisse Beer
One to try – Redback Original from the Matilda Bay Brewery in Australia

Class 10: Fruit, spiced or herbed beers
Best in Class - Smokin' Bishop from Invercargill Brewery (a smoked bock)
One to try – Emerson’s Taieri George (tastes liquid hot cross buns)

Class 11: Packaging Award
Best in Class – The quite stunning Renaissance bottle range:
The judges did not award any medals in the low-alcohol/experimental class this year. Finally, some awards that should have been given but weren’t:

Best beer name - Squatters Chasing Tail Ale from the Utah Brewers Cooperative, USA
Hardest gold medal to believe – my beer nemesis Ginger Tom from the otherwise excellent Dux de Lux brewpub
First beer to run out – Epic Mayhem

Try them all – now!

Cheers, Neil
Realbeer

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Ill Blogging

Sorry everyone, I'm not feeling too well, so there's unlikely to be too much if any blogging today.

Feel free to go at it in the comments section.

Allez les noirs!

PS: You used to ring in sick; you can now text in sick; would this be a blogging in sick?
PPS: Although, personally, I'll be doing whisky and hot lemon, I can promise you a Beer O'Clock post later.
PPPS: Feel free to send me any guest posts you think need flying up the flag. If they look any better than half-decent, I'll give them an airing.
PPPPS: If you're in need of a rational fix, you could do a lot worse than head over to the 12th Objectivist blog carnival and check out some of the posts....

Brion Cemetery - Carlo Scarpa



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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Cox and Forkum are bowing out

Oh no! Cartoonists Cox and Forkum are bowing out. Allen Forkum explains some of his reasons in this interview. Nick Provenzo says it for me:
...when Cox and Forkum arrived upon the cartooning scene, [for] the first time in my adult life, there were editorial cartoons that defended my values—and did so with intelligence and aplomb. In the time that the pair were active, Cox and Forkum's cartoons served as a brilliant and wholly original beacon of light in the dull gray world of American politics. They heaped criticism on those who deserved it. They stood up and fought for the good like few others. They, like their ubiquitous Uncle Sam character, beat the drum of freedom and American pride with a sharp mind and an obvious glad heart.
I'm sure I'm not the only one here who will want to wish them well for the future, but who is going to miss their sharp and incisive humour.

For those like me who will miss their Cox and Forkum fix, you might like to know that John Cox will be continuing to post his own art and cartoons over at his own site. Says he, "be assured.....I'm still kickin'. I've got lots to do here and you haven't seen NUTHIN' yet....."

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Last chance for articles, reviews, columns and words of praise

It's not only 'Atlas Month,' it's also nearly time for me to hunker down and start putting together the next issue of The Free Radical. Last call then for anyone wanting to submit articles, reviews or columns for the November issue -- and in particular for any Atlas fans who'd like to join in the Atlas Month celebrations with a few hundred carefully chosen words of praise.

Send contributions to me at pc@freeradical.co.nz. Thanks.

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Passchendaele

I've just heard a fascinating account by historian Glynn Harper about New Zealand efforts in the battle for Passchendaele Ridge in 1917, and I've seen several other accounts of the battle in recent days to commemorate ninety years since this First World War battle that saw 2,800 New Zealand soldiers listed as killed, wounded or missing.

A "heroic failure" was how Harper decribed it.

It seems to me with all these accounts, however, that there's a great deal of context left out, leaving listeners and readers struggling to see what British and Commonwealth forces were trying to achieve in what's known as The Third Battle of Ypres. "Since 1917 Passchendaele has been a byword for the horror of the First World War," says the NZ History Online site. So what was it all for.

Mud, blood and horror there certainly was -- there's nothing like war for horror -- but writing in Mud, Blood and Poppycock, Gordon Corrigan gives some of the necessary context to understand why the battle was fought, and he arguesit should be seen as a victory rather than a failure -- a victory that helped turn the war.

First of all, it's necessary to be reminded that the battle on the Western Front began in 1914 when the Central Powers invaded Belgium and France. German and Austrian troops were sitting on occupied terrritory, threatening European ports, and they needed to be thrown out, necessitating a series of summer offensives by Commonwealth forces to try and do so. New armaments, however, threw the advantage the way of the defender (the Germans) making mobile war almost impossible, requiring new tactics for a new more defensive military age.

The 1917 campaign had the advantage of having learned about this new kind of war over two previous summers, but faced the serious disadvantage of mutinies in the French army that left it almost ineffective as a serious fighting force, and an October with only seven days without rain.

After the New Zealand Division's capture of Messine and the Australian and British capture of Messines Ridge on 6 June, 1917, Commonwealth forces were forced to sit on their hands due to political interference, and concerns over the French mutinies. This allowed German forces to prepare themselves and their defences. Over the next five months, however, Commonwealth forces pushed back the German invaders to the Passchendaele ridge, giving them well-drained land overlooking the German lines, and taking the heat away from the fractured French forces. Corrigan sums up the conditions, and the result of the Thd Battle of Ypres as September arrived:
While the pressure on the Germans was kept up all along the line, no major attacks were launched for three weeks. As the weather improved, the ground began to dry out and the troops trained and rehearsed. On 20 September two Australian and four British divisions attacked either side of the Menin road, and once more the British tasted considerable success. Further advances culminated in the capture of Polygon Wood on 26 September.

The British were now consuming German divisions faster than they could be replaced…At the Battle of Broodsemde on 4 October the British advanced one and a half miles and captured Poelkapelle, Zonnebeke and Broodseinde. There followed a series of frenzied counter-attacks, all beaten off with heavy German losses, and then the British advanced again. Ludendorif described 4 October 1917 as ‘the black day of the German army’.”

The British were now poised to take Passchendaele, the last ridge before the plains and the last line of German defences around the salient. The chances of a breakthrough and breakout were now recognised as remote; but if the Passchendaele Ridge could be captured before winter set in, the Britich Expeditionary Force (BEF) would have good, well-drained land for their front lines and — for the first time in the Ypres salient — it would be they, and not the Germans, who would hold the commanding heights.

At this point, however, the weather broke again. In the entire month of October there were only seven days without rain, and they were overcast with no opportunity for the ground to dry. Rainfall for the month was only just over four inches, which may not seem much; but in a low-lying area where the drainage was bad and the water-table high at the best of times, and when the rain was continuous rather than delivered in short, sharp bursts, it had an increasingly adverse affect on operations.” While lurid tales of men drowning in mud are mostly fiction (although it did happen, and wounded men who fell into waterlogged shell holes had to be pulled out quickly), the degeneration of the ground slowed everything, from the delivery of rations to the moving-forward of guns, to the speed at which infantrymen could cover open ground.

Had things on the Western Front been normal — whatever that may be in a war — Haig might well have decided in early October that his men had done enough, and closed the offensive down. His main task, however, was to keep the Germans away from the French, and Pétain still needed time before the French army could be fully operational again. Between 4 and 12 October Tyne Cot was captured across a sea of mud, but it was another three weeks before Passchendaele was taken by the Canadians on 7 November; three weeks of fighting in appalling conditions with tem peratures rarely above fifty degrees Fahrenheit (but, contrary to received opinion, never below freezing).’

With the taking of the Passchendaele Ridge the Third Battle of Ypres ended. Now the French mutinies had stopped, courts martial of the ringleaders were in full flow, conditions had been improved, and the French army was once more ready to play its part in the war, although morale remained brittle until the end.

Third Ypres cost the BEF a quarter of a million casualties, of whom around 53,000 were kified, and gave rise to the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world, with 12,000 graves. That more was not accomplished on the ground was due to political dithering, delay after Messines Ridge, and the weather, but there was genuine achievement.
Considerable ground was gained, and the British were in a far better position after the battle than they had been before it. The Germans saw it as an unmitigated disaster for their army. Third Ypres pulled in eighty-eight German divisions, over half the total on the Western Front, and all … were severely mauled. They could not move any divisions eastwards to face the Kerensky offensive, Russia’s last attempt to fight in this war. Their butcher’s bill was enormous, far higher than that of the British, and it was this savaging, coupled with the knowledge that the American army was coming on stream, that persuaded Ludendorif to chance all on the ‘Kaiser’s offensive’ of 1918 — a decision that cost Germany the war.

But more important than anything else, by launching the Third Battle of Ypres, and by continuing it in the face of political opposition, mounting casualties and appalling conditions, Haig and the BEF kept the Germans away from the French. The French front was untroubled through out the British offensive, and this gave the French generals the time they needed to reconstitute their army. For this reason, if for no other, Third Ypres had to be fought and had to be persisted with, whatever the cost to the British [and their allies].

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"What’s going on in National at the moment?" - Espiner

Colin Espiner is confused about National, and is asking for help:
But seriously, what’s going on in National at the moment? The party has gone from walking on air to flailing in quicksand within the space of ten days. Suddenly, National doesn’t seem to know what it stands for or what its policies and principles are. Key has gone from sure-footed and confident to bumbling, shifty, and evasive in a matter of days.
As someone once said, when you encounter an apparent contradiction, then it's time to check your premises.

I'd suggest Espiner and his press gallery colleagues would be far less confused about John Boy being bumbling, shifty, and evasive now if they hadn't previously been so eager to portray him as so sure-footed and so competent.

His limitations have been obvious enough to the rest of us for some time...

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Casa Romanelli - Angelo Masieri


Casa Romanelli by Angelo Masieri, who died tragically in 1952 while working in the United States with Frank Lloyd Wright. The house, in Filzi, Italy, was begun by Masieri, and completed by Carlo Scarpa and Bruno Morassutti in 1955.

More photos here at the Carlo Scarpa site.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Environmentalism with Dr Feelgood is all bad

"If it feels good, it must be good for you," say some. Not true, says Callum McPetrie.
Basic knowledge teaches us otherwise. Drugs, for instance, feel good, but the effects are not necessarily so. To a serial killer, murder can also feel good-but murder is hardly a good thing.
One needn't even cite serial killers and drugs to find that feelings alone aren't reliable guides to action. An evening in a karaoke bar is sufficient to establish that simple fact. Fact is, emotions are not reliable tools of cognition -- for that, we need reason. Reason tells us that acting only on our feelings is foolish. That's why we frequently wake up after our evening in the karaoke bar hoping no-one was there that we know.

What about other foolish, faddish feel-goodisms? What about environmentalism, for example? Is that good for us? Well, only in small doses. And only if taken reasonably and rationally -- but that's hardly what we see with modern mainstream environmentalism, is it. The appeal of modern mainstream environmentalism (which I would characterise as putting nature before man) is not to our faculty of reason, observes young Callum, but largely to the emotions of the unthinking:
One of the main reasons why Environmentalism is so popular, [a reason] rarely discussed in political circles, is that it is a feel-good system.

The reason for the whole feel-goodism of Environmentalism is that people are falsely made to believe that the movement is actually something good. For many young university ideologues, for instance, what could be better than going out and saving the whales?

But the feel-good Environmentalists fail to see beyond that. They think that, because it feels good, it must be good.
And in the absence of reason, they'd be quite wrong, wouldn't they. Completely wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.

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Italian heroes

It's not just Atlas month, it's also Italian-American Heritage month, and thirty-one great Italians are being honoured for their contribution to America and the world -- one for each day of the month -- including Maria Montessori, Arturo Toscanini, Mario Lanza, Christopher Columbus, and the two Enrico's Caruso and Fermi.

Today's hero is Guglielmo Marconi (right), known as the Father of Radio for his experiments with long distance wireless transmissions.

Head here for the full list. [Hat tip Lindsay P]

Saluto gli eroi. Bravo!

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The case against Nanny

Don't smoke. Don't drink. Don't drive fast. Don't eat fatty foods. Don't climb tall ladders. Don't make bad decisions at intersections. Don't fall down stairs. Don't take pills unless Nanny says you can. Wear your seat belt. Wear your helmet. Wrap up warm when you go out ...

Where would we be without government exhortations to look after ourselves? Answer: much better off. Treating citizens like subjects and grown adults like fools -- all with the citizens' own money -- is conducive neither to safety, nor to liberty, nor to a robust good health.

As Herbert Spencer said, "The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools." Given the electoral base of NZ's ruling party(s), that is perhaps the intention.

More and more it seems that the way to a subject's heart is through hysteria, and anti-smoking hyperbole is merely the most prominent of Nanny's hysterics. ARI's Don Watkins puts the case for Nanny's prosecution as a corrupter of morals, especially of independence:
The government's war on smoking--a coercive campaign that includes massive taxes on cigarettes, advertising bans, and endless multi-billion dollar lawsuits against tobacco companies. This war is infecting [individuals] with a political disease far worse than any health risk caused by smoking; it is destroying our freedom to make our own judgments and choices...

Implicit in the war on smoking, however, is the view that the government must dictate the individual's decisions with regard to smoking, because he is incapable of making them rationally. To the extent the anti-smoking movement succeeds in wielding the power of government coercion to impose on Americans its blanket opposition to smoking, it is entrenching paternalism: the view that individuals are incompetent to run their own lives, and thus require a nanny-state to control every aspect of those lives...

But contrary to paternalism, we are not congenitally irrational misfits. We are thinking beings for whom it is both possible and necessary to rationally judge which courses of action will serve our interests...

By employing government coercion to deprive us of the freedom to judge for ourselves what we inhale or consume, the anti-smoking movement has become an enemy, not an ally, in the quest for health and happiness.
Great points all. Read the whole piece here: Anti-Smoking Paternalism: A Cancer on American Liberty.

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Atlas Month in Wellington

A Library of Congress survey found it the second-most influential book after The Bible; the New York Times called it "one of the most influential business books ever written"; and author Ayn Rand described it as her challenge to the culture of the last two-thousand years: Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged hits most readers like a bombshell. Said Onkhar Ghate in a recent piece,
With the 1957 publication of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand became the most remarkable of individuals: a moral revolutionary. For anyone interested in ideas, it's a book that deserves to be read and re-read.
And it is. With more copies being sold now than at any time in history (it reached #29 on Amazon's best-seller lists recently) Atlas Shrugged celebrates its fiftieth birthday in style, which is exactly what is planned in Wellington to celebrate the conclusion of 'Atlas Month.'

Join myself, Dave Henderson, Lindsay Perigo and a host of other enthusiastic Atlas readers in a celebration of this life-changing novel in Helengrad, the heart of darkness, on the evening of Saturday October 27, at a venue to be announced.

Start making plans to be there now, and keep watching this space for details. [And read all Not PC's stories on Atlas Shrugged here.]

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Monticello - Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello did much to bring Palladio to the New World -- both for good and for ill. Sited on the very brow of its Virginia hill so as to overlook and be a part of the space below (a brow unfortunately now far too overgrown in the photo below), and yet to spill onto the plateau on which it is sited - in a similar manner to Palladio's Villa Rotonda on which it was modelled - Monticello encapsulated the Enlightenment ideal of being both above and a part of nature (and filled with innovations, some of which worked) and in all its flawed genius it shows us what a home of, by and for an Enlightenment-era Atlas might be like.

You can explore the house in 3d on your computer at the Monticello website.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Labour-lite

Labour-lite continued its 'strategic' policy of outflanking the ruling party on the left this afternoon with the release of some defence policy. Rather than putting forward a genuine defence policy however, it confirms instead that the defence policy of both major parties is now best summarised by the title of our national anthem: 'God Defend New Zealand,' 'cos we sure can't be bothered. Summarises Colin Espiner,
National might as well have scrapped the 18-page document – fairly slim already for a position paper on foreign affairs, defence, and trade – and replaced it with a single sheet of paper with the words “we’ve lost the argument’’ in bold type...

National has discovered that New Zealand is too small to defend itself, can’t own every type of military hardware, can make only a “token contribution’’ beyond the South Pacific, and needs an independent foreign policy. It won’t change our “iconic’’ nuclear free policy, agrees relations with the United States are getting better, likes free trade agreements, and wants to increase our level of exports. Oh, and Key says National could work with Winston Peters as Foreign Minister. That’s lucky, because Winston could have written this document himself. With a little help from Defence Minister Phil Goff.
Lucky we live in an incredibly benign strategic environment, huh?
[All posts on Defence here]

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New blog

Comrade MOT, who visits here occasionally, has a new blog 'Communism is a Religion.' See if you can work out in which part of my sidebar it should be.

Bush wrong on rights

Great letter in the New York Sun on rights and responsibilities, and how a misunderstanding of both affects foreign policy.

President Bush's speech at the United Nations on Tuesday betrayed a deep misunderstanding of the nature of rights and the proper role of the U.S. government [See, "U.N. Role Reversal for Bush, Sarkozy," September 26,2007].

According to Mr. Bush, everyone "has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care." Also, according to Mr. Bush, the American government has a duty to provide for those needs, whether in America or anywhere else on the planet.

But Mr. Bush's vision of an American paternalistic state with duties towards the world's needy is in direct opposition to the vision and ideals of America's founders.

Contrary to the president and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is no such thing as a "right" to a given standard of living, to food, clothing, housing, medical care, or any other value. In other words, there is no such thing as a right to the values created by others. What individuals do have is a right to work to produce those values free of coercion by their neighbors or by the state.

Contrary to Mr. Bush, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not "a landmark achievement in the history of human liberty"--it is a perversion of the true meaning and purpose of individual rights.

DAVID HOLCBERG
Irvine, Calif.

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Murder in Myanmar

Here's the end effect of Mao's infamous dictum on political power: Power, he said, comes out of the barrel of a gun. He might have added that murdering authoritarian thugs will only reluctantly cede such power. The Burmese are the latest to feel the force of that dictum. Reports the Daily Mail:
Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.
Murdering bastards.

UPDATE: Says Christopher Hitchens at Slate, "Burma's foul regime depends on Beijing," and is perhaps a warming that the benevolence of the Beijing Government can be too easily overestimated, as is the benignity of religious resistance in Rangoon.
Some people write to me [says Hitchens] to say that I must be mistaken about religion, because the opposition to the gruesome dictatorship in Burma is led by Buddhist monks. This seems to be wrong twice because a) the photographs of the demonstrations also show large crowds of Burmese wearing ordinary civilian garb; and b) the dictatorship is itself Buddhist and has expended huge sums on building temples to witness to the fact. It's fine by me if monks join the opposition... One is not hoping for a future Buddhist republic in Burma but for a country that is emancipated from totalitarianism in all its forms...

I thought President Bush was quite correct in listing his least favorite regimes during his address to the United Nations last week and in trying to ramp up the international pressure on the goons in Rangoon. The governments that he singled out were the uniquely repellent ones that consider the citizen to be the property of the state and the uniquely boring ones that have remained in power until their citizens are positively screaming for release. I do not need to specify these senescent gangster systems individually, except that they all have one thing in common. They are all defended, from Cuba to Zimbabwe, by the Chinese vote at the United Nations.

Those who care or purport to care about human rights must start to discuss this problem in plain words. Is there an initiative to save the un-massacred remains of the people of Darfur? It will be met by a Chinese veto. Does anyone care about Robert Mugabe treating his desperate population as if it belonged to him personally? China is always ready to help him out. Are the North Koreans starved and isolated so that a demented playboy can posture with nuclear weapons? Beijing will give the demented playboy a guarantee. How long can Southeast Asia bear the shame and misery of the Burmese junta? As long as the embrace of China persists. The identity of Tibet is being obliterated by the deliberate importation of Chinese settlers. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a man who claims even to know and determine the sex lives of his serfs (by the way, the very essence of totalitarianism), is armed and financed by China...
A warning, perhaps.

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CRIME: You gotta get up to get down

Crime stats are up. "Good news!" shrieks crime minister Annette King. A situation summarised in Whale Oil's headline: Violent and Family Crime going up, King encouraged in which he concludes:
How you can turn a 32% increase in violent crime since Labour came to power into a situation where you are encouraged by the figures shows she and her department have more spin than an Indian cricket team.
Lindsay Mitchell takes a more cynical view.

UPDATE: David Farrar on the spin:

The spin is that the increase in violent crimes come from more work on domestic violence. Well domestic violence tends to be minor assaults, so how did assaults increase in the last year:

  • Minor assaults up 2.2%
  • Serious assaults up 4.8%
  • Grievous assaults up 10.0%

Speaks for itself.

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Help Kill the Bill

The 'Kill the Bill' boys have just set up an Image Wall -- something like a petition opposing the Electoral Finance Bill, but more visually powerful.

It's a collection of pictures of people opposing the Bill with their mouths taped shut, which is exactly the effect of this Bill's speech rationing.

For one-third of your life, this Bill will effectively silence dissenting political speech.

Head over there now and add your boat race to their blog, and help Kill the Bill!

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Explaining 'cap-and-trade': "Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement"

IT'S SAID THAT THE government's cap-and-trade scheme is a market-based system.

What nonsense.

As you'll see when you understand the nature of the cap-and-trade system, it's a way to deliver socialism under the guise of the market.
The essential point of the cap-and-trade system is not that 'emissions' are tradeable, but that the level of industry production is capped by government, and wealth is redistributed. Let me use a couple of analogies to explain how the cap-and-trade system works to "redistribute" wealth and throw a red blanket over business. (It will also help explain where your money will be going when the cap-and-trade nonsense starts kicking in, and what happens when politicians promise to "cap emissions by fifty percent by 2050.")

LET'S SAY THAT YOUR school or university were to determine that in marking assignments or exams that there are only so many marks to go around -- this is the "cap" part of the whole deal. We need to use the mechanism of the market, the argument would go, to lower the emissions of high marks -- to "trade" marks in order to efficiently redistribute the right to emit high grades.

Under a cap-and-trade system for students, those who have earned high marks and who want to have them awarded would have to buy the "right" to high marks from those who haven't earned them. They'd have to pay for the sin of studying hard and being successful. In other words, the school or university would determine who has the "right" to high marks in the first instance, and money would then change hands in order to purchase these "rights," passing from the hands of those who are using their brains to their fullest capacity to those who barely bother to turn their brains on in the morning, all in return for these "rights. From each according to their ability, to each according to their need, you see.

OR LET'S SAY THAT the cap-and-trade system were used at the Rugby World Cup. Let's suppose that the IRB took time out from changing the rules to make the breakdown even more confusing and from stopping Tonga wearing green hair and decided instead to put a "cap" on the number of tries teams are allowed to score so that teams like England who score their points more "efficiently" (ie., in a manner divisible by three) were rewarded rather than reviled.

Teams who produce their points by scoring tries would need to pay those who can't score tries for the right to have their points awarded. Let's say for example that the "cap" on tries per game is set at four tries. In order for the All Blacks to have their twelve tries against Romania awarded, they'll need to buy that "right" on the open market from teams who can't score tries. Scotland, for example. Or Ireland. Money will change hands, passing from those who have the ability to score tries (and who need these "try credits") to those who haven't that ability but have their "try credits" to trade.

Instead of heading home as losers, sooks like Brian O'Driscoll (left)whose teams have trouble crossing the try line would instead become major players on the world cup "try credit" market. Rugby played as a method of distributing alms.

YOU CAN SEE WHY the socialists love the cap-and-trade system. This gives governments complete control over what Lenin called the commanding heights of production, giving them the power to limit producers that they haven't had since Brezhnev was a lad. Not only that, it gives them the power to force producers to redistribute profits from those who've earned them to those who can't. From each according to their production ability; to each according to their need for cash.

And it does this all to the loud applause of the world's markets! Using the market to introduce world socialism. What could be more ingenious?

I HOPE YOU'VE FOUND these analogies useful in seeing the nature of the cap-and trade system. But there's more. We're now in a position to see where all your money is going.

We've already been told that when the cap-and-trade system kicks in that the price of fuel and power (and everything that uses fuel and power) is going to rise dramatically. That money isn't going to government to lower other taxes. Oh no. It's being paid by the productive to those who are unproductive. On the "international carbon market" these are called "carbon credits" -- as Brendan O'Neill argues, these are "rights" bought by producers with money that is delivered to those who "keep brown people in a state of bondage."

"Welcome," as he says, "to the era of eco-enslavement."

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Global warming: Kids' stuff

Two new books on global warming have been written just for kids, reports Steven Milloy.
One [he says] is designed to reduce anxiety among children; the other is designed to heighten it. So which is better? That depends on how you like your facts — right or wrong.
See his review of both books here at Junk Science.

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Villa Spezzotti - Marcello D'Olivio

The 1957 Villa Spezzotti in Lignano Pineta, Italy (on the coast between Venice and Trieste), designed by Marcello D'Olivio, one of the co-founders with Bruno Zevi of the APAO, the Italian Organic Architecture Association.
[You can see a brief biography of D'Olivio here at Sarno Architettiti, and translate it here using Babelfish]

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Monday, October 01, 2007

'Hollow Men'?

As you might now realise, there are two sets of popularly named Hollow Men: those whom Nicky Hager undeservedly dubbed 'Hollow Men,' and the successors to that crew who are doing their level best to live up to the term.

Of the former group, I agree with Elijah's characterisation of the fuss that became a book that became a drama (one that Deborah Coddington reviews):

One thing which I have never been able to understand the fuss about the Hollow Men, and my response to the hysteria was ..."So what?"
Prime Minister Brash would seek to implement his policies...."So what?"
Brash had a meeting with some religious people...."So what?" Brash hates left wingers ..."So what?"
National would privatise certain health services ..."So what?"

When you see Brash's successor shivering in fear of taking up any policy position that hasn't already been deemed acceptable by the ruling party, you realise just how vigorously "So what!" should have been shouted when Hager's trash first hit the sewers of the mainstream.

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How much respect for religious texts?

Gus Van Horn has an interesting discussion on how politely one should treat religious texts in intellectual discussion, offering both fors and againsts for treating sacred texts with respect, and suggesting (if I may summarise) that we should treat them as seriously as the implications of these texts are for those who follow them.
Religious texts [he says] are an important vehicle by which certain philosophical ideas are handed down from one generation to the next, providing people with guidance for how they are to live their lives. In doing this, these works have real-world consequences through the actions they sanction as good and call on the religious to perform.
Those consequences should not be forgotten in a misbegotten sense of courtesy or respect for the undeservedly sacred.

You can probably already tell which view we generally take here at 'Not PC.' On this point I agree with Richard Dawkins that there's no reason for privileging religion over any other system of thought, that we should treat religious idiocy the same as every other brand of idiocy -- and in my case, I like to treat idiocy with as much derision as I can muster. Dawkins quotes Douglas Adams on this point in concluding:
"When you look at it rationally there is no reason why [religious] ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us they shouldn't be."
... In the light of [the] unparalleled presumption of respect for religion ... I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid gloves to handle religion any more gently than I handle anything else.
Seems like a good policy to me.

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"Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism is back" - Forbes

America's number one business magazine is excited about what the New York Times recently called "one of the most influential business books ever written," and about its author, Ayn Rand. "Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism ... is back," says Forbes magazine.
Even leading Objectivists don't know the whole answer, but one thing is sure: A quarter century after her death, and half a century after the publication of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand is back.

The autobiography of former Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan, in which he credits her for his development, just got published with big fanfare. In recent weeks, both The New York Times and The L.A. Times have run articles about her work. Atlas Shrugged has been featured prominently in a recent episode of AMC's hit series Mad Men. A movie version of the book, starring Angelina Jolie in the main role, is slated for release next year.

Meanwhile, sales of Ayn Rand titles have tripled since the early 1990s--in fact, more are being sold now than at any time in history.
This great news comes with a fair summary of the contemporary Objectivist landscape, including a summary of what marketers Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak suggest as the chief ways by which to grow the market for Objectivism, and this assessment by ARI's Yaron Brook of the reasons for the "recent surge in interest" in Rand and in Objectivism:
"Today's left doesn't have anything positive to offer to young people. When they were socialists, there was at least something they were fighting for, and they believed in a right and a wrong. Today's leftist agenda is negative and nihilistic--focused on stopping industrialization, capitalism and even Western civilization. But young people want positive values. That's why religion is so strong today, because many view it as the only thing that promises a brighter future."

According to Brook, this gap between liberalism and religious conservatism goes far to explain the surge in interest. "Ayn Rand is the only voice that offers a secular absolutist morality with a positive vision and agenda, for individuals and for society as a whole," he says.

See the whole article here: Atlas Shrugs Again - Forbes.

Just to put all this in perspective, Atlas Shrugged now celebrates its fiftieth year since publication -- that's nearly fifty years in the best-seller lists! Lindsay Perigo offers this tribute.

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Internet

Internet here horrendously slow today, making it very difficult to post. (Anything requiring links takes an age to open and check out.)

Anyone else having trouble with their iHug connection?

Bulk-funding backdown shows bureaucracy-worship trumps principles

Another day, another backdown. Friday it was Health. Today it's Education: Promoting its policy of bulk funding schools last election, National said they trust schools to spend their budget as they see fit, without needing central government bureaucrats to dictate spending for them.

That was then. Now, with Katherine Rich's announcement that they've backed down on their bulk-funding policy, they've changed their mind on that: According to Labour-lite, schools do need central government bureaucrats to dictate to them.

And this is a party that claims to stand for maximum freedom and the avoidance of unnecessary controls?

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Another weekend of great sport

Another great weekend of fantastic sport, topped for me with Saturday's fantastic victory by Geelong in the AFL Grand Final.

Best of the weekend was Fiji beating Wales and Argentina beating Ireland, and both victors going through to the quarter-finals -- Southern Hemisphere rugby giving the Europeans a lesson. Sadly, Tonga looked like they were playing one match too many against a disciplined England, didn't they, but with just half of the 'home nations' through to the quarter-finals (and that only because Scotland had the easiest of draws), maybe it's time for the British Isles teams to club together as the Lions if they're going to be competitive at future World Cups? And for the Pacific Islands and Argentina to be taken more seriously when playing schedules are drawn up?

And let's talk about that amazing Geelong victory again. The world's second oldest football club in any football code (can you name the oldest?) thrashing the second-placed team in their competition by the highest margin ever recorded in a final! And doing it playing a wonderful brand of running play-on football! What a game. What a result. Melbourne's Herald Sun gives some context:

Five times since 1963, the [Geelong] Cats had gone to the Grand Final well and drawn only bitter defeat.

As a low, grey sky settled over the ground, the fear that this day might see another disappointment was unspoken but palpable. "I couldn't sleep last night. Oh, Christ, we have to win," said a young bloke to his mates. It was more prayer than blasphemy, and his plea would soon be answered.

Port were flat-footed from the bounce, unsure of themselves and growing more wobbly by the minute as Geelong posted the first goals of the deluge to come. By not much after half time, the team that only a week earlier had bowed and strutted and high-stepped on its own turf while destroying the Kangaroos had sunk to a level beneath despair.

If Port's players had been horses, the stewards would have hauled out the canvas screen and put the whole sorry lot out of their misery. Not that Geelong had much sympathy for the foe as the home team cake walked toward a record-winning margin.

It was fantastic to watch. The absolute highlight of a hard-fought fightback and a whole year of stunning Geelong performances -- this really was The Year of the Cats -- and of another great weekend's sport. You can lap it all up at Real Footy , the Herald Sun Finals wrap-up, and at The Cattery.

Oh yes, did anyone even notice the Ranfurly Shield changing hands? Or that five-tackles-and-a-kick game last night? (Or the huge hold-up on the Kopu Bridge about rush-hour on Friday night? If you were wondering which arse-hole caused the traffic to back up to Totara on one side and nearly to Highway 27 on the other, then here's your answer ... it was me.)

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