Saturday, December 08, 2007

Bad week?

If you've had a bad week at the office, this YouTube video will help you feel better...

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New blog

A fine young man called Kasper Kulak, whom some of you will already know, has just started blogging over here.  He intends his new blog to be "a place where people are invited to discuss Ayn Rand's philosophy in regards to Art, Ethics, Reality, Epistemology and Politics." It is his hope, he says, that some interesting discussions will occur.  Help make it so, and head over there and wish him well (and do mention that missing apostrophe to him...).

Cold water on hot temperatures

Here's some Science Reading for delegates sunning themselves on Bali's beaches between sessions at the IPCC's latest talk-fest that will have them spluttering into their daquiris.

One of the IPCC's earliest blunders was the promotion of the so called "hockey stick" temperature graph -- it was the most dominant graph in the first three IPCC reports and in all their scare stories -- a graph that ramped up late-twentieth century surface temperatures and obliterated the medieval warm period, producing a hockey stick-shaped graph for the temperatures of the last millennia, with a large, scary uptick at our end of the line saying to productive human beings "It's All Your Fault!". 

Steve Mcintyre and Ross McKitrick between them put the hockey stick out to pasture, demonstrating that poor methodology and reliance on unreliable tree ring data rendered the IPCC's favourite graph meaningless: they showed that any figures run through the algorithm producing that hockey stick shape would have produced that hockey stick shape.  Any figures at all, from the incidence of cancer in rats to Britney Spears' fluctuating panty size.

The IPCC quietly dropped the hockey stick (and here's how the figures look now).  But the IPCC now has a new star in their apocalyptic firmament: a new graph -- the very first graph in the IPCC's latest official pre-Bali "synthesis" report on climate science (a report summarised here) -- a graph that as Terence Corcoran describes in the National Post "purports to show temperatures soaring over the last 25 years. The recent jump, the IPCC says, is 'very likely"due to man-made carbon emissions."

But research by Ross McKitrick and Patrick Michaels suggests this baby should also be put to bed: their research suggests the land-based temperature record on which the IPCC's new baby is based is irretrievably contaminated.  Summarises McKitrick,

In a new article just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research -- Atmospheres, a co-author and I have concluded that the manipulations for the steep post-1980 period are inadequate, and the [IPCC's] graph is an exaggeration. Along the way, I have also found that the United Nations agency promoting the global temperature graph has made false claims about the quality of its data...

The IPPC has tried to brush away concerns for years about data having been contaminated by unreliable surface station management (which appear to have been collecting temperatures of the world's car parks) and increasing industrialisation and urbanisation around many of the world's temperature collection stations.  Michaels and McKitrick charge that these concerns have been inadequately and even dishonestly addressed, and their new research confirms them as real.  Writing in Canada's National Post, McKitrick concludes:

Our new paper presents a new, larger data set with a more complete set of socioeconomic indicators. We showed that the spatial pattern of warming trends is so tightly correlated with indicators of economic activity that the probability they are unrelated is less than one in 14 trillion. We applied a string of statistical tests to show that the correlation is not a fluke or the result of biased or inconsistent statistical modelling. We showed that the contamination patterns are largest in regions experiencing real economic growth. And we showed that the contamination patterns account for about half the surface warming measured over land since 1980.

In other words, we have confirmed, on new and stronger grounds, that the IPCC's global surface-temperature data is exaggerated, with a large warming bias. Claims about the amount of surface warming since 1980, and its attribution to anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions, should be reassessed using uncontaminated data. And governments that rely on the IPCC for advice should begin asking why it was allowed to suppress earlier evidence of this problem.

The ball appears to be back in the court of the IPCC -- and it looks like they might have been aced.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Beer O'Clock: White Cliffs Mountain Lager

White_CliffsA friend for whom I'd done a wee favour dropped me off four bottle of White Cliffs organic Mountain Lager earlier in the week.  By crikey, the favour must have been appreciated because this is a cracking drop.

It comes out of the same Taranaki brewery who've produced the international award winning Mike's Mild Ale for twenty years (reviewed here by Stu).  First brewed in 2004, the Mountain Lager uses Nelson hops and organic malts from Germany, "traditional lager yeast" and "pure New Zealand water" from  "the North West."  Not sure where that is, but that's what White Cliffs' website boasts.

Mountain_LagerIt looks and tastes like a local version of everyone's German favourite, Schofferhofer Hefeweizen, with the slightly citrus biscuity notes so evident in the German beer, and an even fluffier head and the sort of subtle roasty flavours for which Mike's Mild has become so popular, but perhaps just a shade drier and a touch thinner in taste.  It's not quite there, but  it's still a delicious afternoon drink , and an ideal session beer.

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Not PC's pics on line...

Picasa_AlbumI just discovered that all (or most of) the pics I've posted here at Not PC have been filed at Picasa: I've had a web album there all this time and I didn't know it.  How 'bout that.

Seeing it's a public web album, it looks like you're welcome to visit and browse.   This one here seems to be the album up to April this year...

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If Telecom grew a pair ...

Telecom could do with someone in their top seat with the balls of the man in the top seat of Telstra Australia.  While Telecom meekly comply with the diktats of Broadcasting Obergruppenfuehrer Herr von Cunliffe (tugging their forelocks in obeisance to He Who Runs the Show as they scramble to dismember themselves as commanded and  make their network available to all comers) Telstra's Sol Trujillo (left) openly derides Kevin Rudd's election-promised "partnership" to build an across-Australian broadband network, calling it a "kumbaya, holding hands" theory.  It might have been an election promise, but looks like no- one stopped to ask the company supposedly being partnered.  Says Trujillo: "We are only going to participate in the things that we own and control."

Mr Trujillo, firmly backed yesterday by chairman Donald McGauchie, said Telstra was happy to invest $4 billion or more of its own money rather than the taxpayers' - but only on its terms and pricing.

Perhaps it's appropriate that Trujillo was brought up in the country in which the word 'cojones' was invented.

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Determining who can buy an election

Jim Hopkins compares two high profile thefts, and finds a connection: 

Anyone at Waiouru contemplating the theft of national treasures need only have looked to the leaders of the land to find others whose behaviour offered both justification and vindication.

For it surely must be more than coincidence that Parliament is passing a bill which will steal our right to free speech in the very same week that other thieves have been roundly condemned for stealing the medals awarded to those who once defended it.  There's an awful symmetry here, an apposite meeting of motives that is too obvious and poignant to ignore... 

What our politicians are doing this week is not preventing people from buying an election. They're actually determining who can buy it. And they've very sensibly decided it should be them. While deftly wrapping a gag of red tape around everyone else's tongue, their bill specifically exempts parliamentarians from its provisions.

When Hopkins gets to the point, he can be awfully direct.  "What our politicians are doing this week is not preventing people from buying an election. They're actually determining who can buy it."  Print that out and hang it from the nearest flag pole.

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RESERVE BANK: Cry havoc, and let slip the printing presses of doom

I wrote yesterday that Labour's housing ministers appear like King Canute, believing that by power of decree alone they're able to repeal the laws of supply and demand -- something for which a second year economics student would be failed.

This morning we learn that the government's foremost economist, on whose shoulders responsibility for what Hayek calls the country's nationalised money rests, has similar aspirations. For some reason, he thinks he is able to repeal the laws of supply and demand that have increased world prices of food and oil and the domestic prices of energy and housing and labour, and somehow fight these price rises by adding another one of his own: the ongoing cost of nationalised money.

It's moronic.

The law of supply and demand is not to be flouted in that way, and the danger of trying to flout price signals as Bollard wants markets to do is that price signals are telling us something we need to know -- and two things we need to know with all those prices at present is that on the one hand there are good reasons to enjoy the prosperity coming from increasing and solid demand causing higher commodity prices; and on the other hand it's government meddling of various sorts that have been raising them (not least government meddling in the name of 'the environment' -- see here, here, here and here for example). But Bollard just doesn't want to know, either about the good reasons or the bad.

Instead, to dampen down wage pressures to keep up with a genuine rising cost of living, he's keeping the cost of housing high by an artificial imposition (and at a time when housing is already one of the highest costs of living ). He's making things worse, not better.

And in the name of an illusory price stability, which in itself leads to instability, he's keeping the cost of borrowing high on all producers -- and this at a time when, as ANZ economist Cameron Bagrie argues, what's driving genuine inflationary pressure is in part NZ's low rate of productivity.

Note that among the chief reasons for NZ's low rate of productivity are the high cost of local capital, government meddling adding to the compliance costs and uncertainties for producers, and a high exchange rate making things tough for exporters. Bollard intends to make all these pressures worse, denying (in the name of an illusory price stability) a chance at genuine prosperity. It's worse than moronic, it's deluded.

The reason that Bollard and other mainstream economists are willing to continue nailing our economy to this deluded cross of price stability is that they look at inflation precisely backwards.

They see price rises that are driven by good market reasons -- for the most part at the moment it's the market reacting to the meddling of governments and growing prosperity in India and China-- and they cry " Inflation!" and let slip the dogs of interest rate doom. Yet at the same time they watch the Reserve Bank, under Bollard's direction, inflating the money supply by around fifteen percent year on year, and they pretend that this currency inflation is part of the inflation fight!

Talk about a vicious and moronic circle.

Let's all remind ourselves once again that inflation is always and everywhere is a monetary phenomenon, and its only as a monetary phenomenon that it should be fought. Sadly, with Bollard and his ilk, inflation as a monetary phenomenon is the inflation that dare not speak it's name. Inflate the currency and he's applauded; let slip the printing presses and he's applauded; stamp on producers and exporters and mortgage-payers ... and he's applauded. Deny prosperity by misunderstanding inflation, and he's applauded.

What on earth does it take to see the light?

And just look who's doing the applauding? Morons who see the fight the same way he does. Other mainstream economists who begin by ignoring inflation as a monetary phenomenon and end up endorsing the Reserve Bank's flight from reality -- Cameron Bagrie for example who endorses it with the unintentionally ironic observation that "common sense needs to prevail." An odd way to characterise a complete flight from common sense, you would think.

Bagrie, who's no doubt representative of his breed, compounds the stupidity by calling for a "growth sacrifice" now [audio] to avoid worse down the track. "We now have a real inflation problem," says Bagrie. "That means there is going to be a sacrifice to get the inflation genie back in the bottle." If we could only get this deluded idea about price stability back in the bottle and silence the Reserve Bank's thundering printing presses, we might well avoid the need for any sacrifice at all.

In fact, strip the Reserve Bank of its monopoly powers, cut the govt's apron strings from the currency altogether, and let the market rip, and that would remove the need for sacrifice altogether. Denationalise money, and at a stroke leave exchange rates, producers and price signals free to operate as they need to.

Can I get a Hallelujah?

UPDATE:   Are tax cuts inflationary?  Many commentators have focussed on Bollard's apparent green light for the non-inflationary impact of tax cuts, at least within the guidelines set.  I've argued before that tax cuts aren't inflationary  -- essentially they just change who gets to spend your money-- and as Phil Rennie points out  "The important point about tax cuts is that they are actually less inflationary than government spending.". Eric Crampton explains why:

Even if you start from Bollard's premises, his worries about tax cuts seem odd. If the government has the money, it either saves it or spends it. If it spends the money, it tends to hire people. Hiring people also requires buying office space to put them in. What have been the two big components of inflation? Wages and non-traded goods (housing/buildings). When government spends money, it spends it in the areas most likely to push prices up.

If it provides a tax cut, people either save the money or spend it. If individuals spend money, a fair bit of that goes to buying imported goods which have zero inflationary effect. Price inflation in the tradeables sector has been pretty much zilch for the last year: we're a small player in the grand scheme of things, and our importing more stuff has no effect on prices.CPIandGovtj
I just don't see tax cuts winding up being highly inflationary.

The chaps at The Befuddled Monkey explains these two points graphically (figures are for the USA):

  1. "When government spends money, it spends it in the areas most likely to push prices up.
  2. "...a very sizable proportion of New Zealand’s goods are being made in Asian countries (who are essentially exporting deflation).."*

And you don't need to be a genius to note the difference that meddling makes...

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IPCC in Bali: Garbage Out, Garbage In

Fifteen thousand or so people have flown to Bali to talk up global warming, blowing out about 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide to fly to the talk-fest and be air-conditioned for two weeks. This gives delegates a combined carbon footprint equivalent to a wet October in Pittsburg. (And as the chap who did that carbon calculation says, "One wonders how many people would have gone if the conference had been held in a wet October in Pittsburgh.”)


That's a carbon footprint of 110,000 tonnes for a conference seeking to impose greater restrictions on the carbon footprints of everyone else -- the credo seems to be 'virtue for thee, but not for me' -- and all while conference-goers seek to maintain their cushy sinecures courtesy of the taxpayer by scaring the bejeesus out of those who make up their pay packets.

On this basis alone it's hard to take anything emerging from Bali with any degree of seriousness. Too much hypocrisy and self-contradiction to even begin to take seriously the garbage that will come out of it.

Going into Bali, the reading de rigeur for every delegate is the UN/IPCC's "Synthesis Report," (you might call this document the 'Garbage In' part of the whole equation) which was released in November to "synthesise" the four "Working Group" reports produced over the course of the year -- or at least the summary thereof was released, because once again the politicised summary is released before the science that is supposedly summarised therein. Go figure.

Joel Schwartz, who's helped produce a preliminary analysis of the IPCC Synthesis Report[pdf], says the whole sorry schmeer "should be taken with several chunks of salt."

The summary itself is a political document that downplays assessments of uncertainty from the scientific reports written by the main body of the IPCC, which themselves are far more subjective than the IPCC would have one believe.

Equally important, both the IPCC's summaries and main reports omit much contrary evidence. In several cases, the Synthesis Report disagrees with the reports on which it is based, and it fails to take account of cautionary publications in the scientific literature that were available early enough to have been incorporated into the Synthesis Report.

Climate change and climate policy are key issues for future human welfare, but that concern should translate into sober analysis and actions that are likely to do more good than harm. The people of the world should not let themselves be steamrolled by a report that reflects the IPCC's interest in promoting climate change fears, rather than in conveying the weight of the scientific evidence.

Read the whole 7-page analysis here: 'Politics Posing as Science: A Preliminary Assessment of the IPCC’s Latest Climate Change Report,' [7-page PDF] and begin to understand why many people like myself view this whole process with overwhelming scepticism.

** On a related note, and as an example of runaway scaremongering of the sort to expect over the next week or so as a result of the Garbage Out part of the Bali equation, you might also be interested in Schwartz's analysis of a climate change editorial in yesterday's Sacramento Bee. According to the Bee's editorial writers, the IPCC's reports suggest rising seas are likely to submerge California's cities. Unfortunately, the Bee left out a few pesky details--including contrary evidence within the IPCC reports themselves...

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Hayden Planetarium - James Polshek


The Hayden Planetarium, designed by architects Trowbridge & Livingston, opened in 1935 in midtown Manhattan.
UPDATE
: Oops. The planetarium shown here is the new one, not the one opened in 1935. It was the original that was designed by Trowbridge & Livingston. The stunning building in the photos was designed by James Polshek, and apparently "conceived in his mind" in 1993.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Roger Douglas, 70 not out

The seventieth birthday of Dodger Rugless prompted many people to send him their regards, and to point out that the economic golden weather we've been enjoying in recent years is in many ways due to the reforms instituted by both Rugless and Ruth Richardson (reforms which have been left largely untouched by the Clark-Cullen Government). Cactus points out, for one, that "Without his reforms people like myself would be working overseas to send money back to our poor New Zealand families, Samoa, Philippines and Island style."

True enough -- but it's not quite enough. Reflecting on Douglas achievements from 1984-88, Douglas' former colleague Michael Bassett called the Lange/Douglas reforms "a revolution of sorts," but
even if a new generation of activists has apparently been sold the line that a revolution was what was had back then, it's time to be reminded that it wasn't one at all.

Recall for instance that when Lange called for his famous 'cup of tea and a lie down,' Douglas had just announced both a Flat Tax (which everyone now remembers) but also an accompanying welfare scheme called the 'Guaranteed Minimum Family Income,' which everyone now would like to forget -- paricularly Douglas supporters. It would have done for New Zealanders what Helen's 'Working for Familes' has only just done - made most New Zealanders into welfare moochers. If this was a revolution, it's no wonder it was one that today's Labour ministers were able to buy into.

Lindsay Perigo, who as the country's foremost interviewer at the time was front and centre for that whole era, rejects absolutely any idea that it was a "revolution," even "of sorts." Talking to an American audience ten years ago about the myth of revolution, Perigo explained how the various reforms have ultimately failed — and describes the philosophical revolution it will take for liberty to succeed":
When I first spoke on a similar topic to an [American Objectivist] gathering in 1995, I said that New Zealand was a nation reformed by Hayekians, run by pragmatists & populated by socialists. The editor of 'Liberty' magazine, Bill Bradford, quoted that line in his March 1997 'Liberty' article, 'Revolution in a Small Country,' a glowing account of the nature, scope & future of New Zealand's economic reforms...

In a fit of ridiculous hyperbole, Mr Bradford implicitly likened New Zealand's revolution to the Industrial Revolution itself; he called it the "one occasion in the twentieth century when the Leviathan State has been successfully challenged," and described its architect, Sir Roger Douglas, as "the most effective libertarian politician of this century" who "slew the statist dragon."

Well, I hate to be a party-pooper, but Bill Bradford was wrong on all counts. The Industrial Revolution analogy is self-evidently fatuous; the Leviathan State in New Zealand is as invasive and pervasive as ever — indeed, more so; and Sir Roger Douglas, effective politician though he undoubtedly was, was and is most assuredly no libertarian. What the New Zealand experience affords, is — an intriguing object lesson in how far one can go, in a democracy, in making economic changes without a proper philosophy, without a popular mandate, and therefore, without accompanying attitudinal changes.
As the man says, I commend it to your attention: 'In the Revolution's Twilight.'

And as I've said myself before, if it's a revolution you really want, then the place in which to start is with that attitudinal change -- getting a revolution going on inside New Zealanders' heads.

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What's wrong with "big money"?

I hear all the time that "minorities" should be protected. "Minorities" need the protection of law. Minorities need to have their voices heard. This is widely considered today to be a moral principle of a very high order.

Yet as the spin around the Electoral Finance Bill demonstrates, this defence of minority "rights" is applied by this government and its allies in a most discriminatory manner: it is applied only to racial minorities.

There is one minority however who this government thinks should sit still while the law removes their voice and taxes them to hell; who should remain silent their right to speak freely is muzzled; who should keep quiet even while this government goes through their pockets to pay for views which they oppose.

The one minority whom this government has chosen not to protect but instead to do over, are people who have earned their own money. The rich. The wealthy. This "ownership class" it seems is the one minority that deserves not protection, but out and out political persecution.

Why?

Why shouldn't people be entitled to advertise their own views with their own money, just as long as all are free to do the same thing? Why should people be required to stay silent while they're forced to fund views they oppose? What's actually wrong with "big money" and those who've earned it? Why should the speech of producers be rationed, while they're forced to fund the speech of the unproductive?

There is nothing more cancerous or corrosive than to vilify the most productive members of society.

There was a time last century when those who didn't own property were excluded from voting. one could be forgiven for thinking that those fomenting the present feeding freezy would like to bring about that same situation in reverse.

Perhaps you think the word "persecution" too harsh? Consider this*:
If a small group of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group, regardless of the issues or circumstances involved, would you call it persecution? If this group were always made to pay for the sins, errors, or failures of any other group, would you call that persecution? If this group had to live under a silent reign of terror, under special laws, from which all other people were immune, laws which the accused could not grasp or define in advance and which the accuser could interpret in any way he pleased -- would you call that persecution? If this group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements, and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty -- would you call that persecution?

If your answer is ''yes'' -- then ask yourself what sort of monstrous injustice you are condoning, supporting, or perpetuating. That group is the [world's] businessmen. . . .
Any good reason they deserve to be silenced?

* * * * *
* From the introduction to Ayn Rand's 1961 article 'America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business,' reprinted in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

UPDATE: A graphic from a reader at Kiwiblog makes plain the difference between "big money" and "government money" under the Electoral Finance Bill:

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Maryan Street: Making housing unaffordability worse

Another day, another move by government to make life worse.

After years of deliberating over what, if anything, to do about rapidly increasing land costs, compliance costs and the unaffordability of housing (in major NZ cities it's now officially seriously unaffordable) former housing minister Chris Carter demonstrated back in May that he wasn't just illiterate when writing emails, but he was also economically illiterate.

His solution to the affordability problems caused by earlier regulations making housing seriously unaffordable was to be new regulation forcing developers to build affordable homes on land made unaffordable by earlier regulations. Brilliant!

Before handing over the reins of his ministry to Maryan Street, he prepared a bill along those lines which she is now peddling with even less understanding of the issues that cause housing unaffordability than Carter had. It deals with the serious problems that are causing rising house prices by making things worse for those building houses; by insisting that developers who are already hamstrung by rising costs simply be forced to build cheaper houses, and on land often worth far more than the houses they'll be forced to build.

King Canute could have done no better.

The bill purports to foster a method by which more affordable housing can be built: it does so by making life impossible for the builders and developers who will deliver them.

On top of all the regulatory hurdles already in place for those building new homes, this bill adds one more: the decree that developers, whose margins are increasingly slim, will have to add so-called 'affordable housing' to their developments -- low-cost housing on high-cost land; land made more expensive by the meddling of planners -- leaving any profits to be made from these homes to the purchasers who subsequently onsell them (which may happen relatively quickly). As I said when this nonsense was first proposed:
This will not result in an increase in affordable housing: it will result instead in developers' margins becoming even slimmer, and their ranks as a consequence becoming even fewer. Fewer developers with ever-slimmer margins will do nothing to decrease galloping demand, but it will help to even further decrease supply (and to demonstrate once again that the laws of economics are not be be repealed even by the decrees of a minister).

Carter has learned nothing from Canute, or from history -- or from the Law of Unintended Consequences. The history of government controls is like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes in reverse: New controls are added all the time in order to fix the problems caused by previous controls, but no one is listening to the little boy who is saying, "Why not just take off the controls altogether, and then you won't need to make up new ones." Why not just get governments both central and local the hell out of the way altogether?

Ever-increasing and ever-higher interest rates designed to squelch booming housing prices; the mortgage levy; the de facto cartelisation of NZ's 'big five' banks; now a decree that more affordable homes be built ... all measures desperately calculated to fix the symptoms of exploding housing costs while ignoring the regulatory causes.
As long as the regulatory causes of galloping unaffordability are ignored, unaffordability will continue to increase, and the working lives of builders, designers and developers made more onerous. But don't just believe me. The same scheme has been a disaster in all the countries in which it's been introduced, from Ireland to Britain to Canada to the US. The US figures (described by Owen McShane) are representative:
Over a ten year period, in US markets where the mandates had been applied, supply reduced, on average, by ten percent and house prices increased, on average, by twenty percent. This does nothing to make housing more affordable and indeed only makes things worse. Also, the restraints on resale actually made those "lucky" enough to acquire a "below market" house ended up much worse off than the rest of the population.
McShane's comments are backed up by research presented at a recent conference in San Jose. Economists Tom Means, Edward Stringham, and Edward Lopez presented Below Market Housing Mandates as Takings: Measuring their Impact a draft chapter from a book on "takings." The three economists have updated their 2004 findings and present more rigorous and detailed statistical analysis. "Their conclusions," says McShane, "should kill off any thoughts of forcing developers to provide a percentage of below market priced housing in return for development consents." These three University economists conclude:
Over a ten-year period, cities that impose a below-market housing mandate on average end up with 10 percent fewer homes and 20 percent higher prices. These results are highly significant. The assertion by the Court in "Home Builders Association v. Napa" that “the ordinance will necessarily increase the supply of affordable housing” is simply untrue.
Don Brash, now Chairman of McShane's Centre for Resource Management Studies, supports these findings, saying
We have been warned, and before any government forces New Zealand home builders and land developers to provide houses at below market prices someone will need to demonstrate why these findings regarding supply and price will not apply in the housing markets of New Zealand.

That will be a difficult task because both papers are based on the simplest and most firmly established economic principles linking supply, price and demand."
We know that Labour cabinet ministers have no interest in repealing law. I wonder then why they think they are able to repeal the laws of supply and demand and price?

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Christmas message

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Cue Card Libertarianism: Political Spectrum

A repost of an always necessary 'Cue Card':

Political Spectrum, n. ie., that on which libertarians are not!

Because of the abysmally low capacity for intellectual abstraction among philosophically illiterate politicians, journalists and political science graduates, however, it is seemingly impossible to shake off the label “right wing” even when irrefutable evidence is offered that the label is wrong. Therefore, it becomes necessary to point out periodically that “libertarians are neither left nor right wing.”

Leaving aside its historical origins, the spectrum as commonly understood nowadays is a one-dimensional line that places communism on the extreme left (out to the west), fascism on the extreme right (out to the east), with gradations of democratic versions of each in between -- something whose usefulness is close to zero, except for those with minds as one-dimensional as the left-right spectrum itself.

Libertarians maintain that all philosophies on this one-dimensional spectrum sanction coercion; that the differences are merely of degree not of principle; that it matters not whether coercion is initiated by a majority or by a dictator – it is still coercion, to which we are opposed in whatever guise it is practised. In short, the traditional one-dimensional spectrum fails because it excludes from discussion the full spectrum of political freedom. (And this is perhaps one reason for the spectrum's continued popularity.)

To lump libertarians in with the extreme right – with fascists, xenophobes, religious bigots etc. – is just as ignorant as it would be to call libertarians communists.

Another division of ideologies sometimes suggested is to place the total state on the left – communism and fascism – and the total absence of the state – anarchy, on the right, with gradations of statism in between. Thus: Communism/fascism democratic socialism/welfare state/mixed economy capitalism/limited constitutional government/individual freedom anarchy. But even this division is artificial, since anarchy also permits coercion without legal restraint, and must inevitably lead to some institutionalised form of it.

If you really must simplify everything in this fashion, then a more meaningful arrangement is to make the traditional spectrum two-dimensional rather then one-dimensional by placing another line across the existing left-right one that goes north-south, heading down to authoritarianism at the bottom pole and up to freedom, sunshine and libertarianism at the top pole. At the four points of the compass then you would have Lenin, Mussolini and Winston Peters to the south; left-liberals like Gandhi, Ralph Nader and Nandor Tanczos to the west; and conservatives such as Margaret Thatcher, Rush Limbaugh and Ian Wishart to the east. Libertarians of course join Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and P.J. O'Rourke at the top of the world.

In the New Zealand context, the resulting diamond-shaped spectrum would look like this.

However and all in all, to paraphrase W.C. Fields, libertarians would rather be in Philadelphia. In 1776. And since the view of the state-citizen relationship expressed in the US Declaration of Independence doesn’t seem to have a comfortable place anywhere on the conventional Left-Right spectrum, it behoves us to leave those on it to quibble over who is to coerce whom, to what extent and why, while we get on with the business of promoting freedom – accepting with reluctance that in the meantime we shall undoubtedly have to put up with ignoramuses calling us “right wing.”

By their ignorance may ye know them.

LINKS: Left? Right? A plague on you both - Peter Cresswell
NZ's political spectrum - Peter Cresswell
Just how solid is that center? - Washington Post
Nolan Chart - Wikipedia
Cue Card Libertarianism - Introduction - Not PC

TAGS: Cue_Card_Libertarianism, Politics, Libertarianism, History

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'Gobhai Mountain Lodge' - Nari Gandhi

This was architect Nari Gandhi's first project after returning to India in 1964, a jewel-like exercise in geometry, siting and simplicity. Featured in this month's 'Friends of Kebyar' magazine, editor Michael Hawker explains, the design responds to specific conditions of the site.

Roof beams are set at 30-degrees while roof panels are perpendicular to the walls, setting up dynamic rhythm inside, while the two geometries themselves develop from the nature of the two distant views, the Rajmachi hilltop Fort and the Valvan Lake below, which the verandahs overlook. The roof on the east face is "pressed down" to redirect the air flow of the prevailing southwest winds.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

EFB debate at 'The Standard'

** Against my better judgement, I've just made a substantial contribution to the debate over at 'The Standard.' I'll be interested, though not surprised, to see where the debate goes.

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Presidential debates enmired in middle ground

You could take some time and watch the YouTube Republican presidential debates, or you could let bloggers like Myrhaf and Gus van Horn do the heavy lifting for you. Myrhaf for one was "appalled" by the debaters:

The Republican Party is in trouble. The candidates are all mixed economy mediocrities, with the possible exception of Ron Paul, who is out in left field. None had specific, courageous answers about what Thompson called the "entitlement tsunami" headed our way. By all indications, the presidency of any Republican except Paul will be an extension of Bush's policies. [A Paul presidency would be both different and worse. --GvH] Some made general statements about cutting spending, but only Paul gave specifics. The rest are too terrified of offending the legions of Americans who now suck off the federal teat...

The only two candidates who sounded like they had integrity were the libertarian antiwar candidate and the Christian big government candidate. The rest are the kind of middle-of-the-road hacks you would expect among Republican politicians. The candidates are in a welfare state bind: the only way to look principled is to risk angering some pressure groups full of voters; but being controversial is the quickest way to marginalization. It is impossible in today's America to be honest and principled about getting the government out of our lives and remain a serious candidate. I don't think I've ever been so depressed after a debate.
Notes van Horn, Given Myrhaf's previous analysis of what makes Hillary Clinton a weak candidate, the idea of a "Huckabee vibe" -- or other similar superficialities that supposedly inspire voters -- is frightening.

And a note to myself on that same depressing state: It is equally impossible in today's New Zealand to be honest and principled about getting the government out of our lives and remain a serious candidate. As the politically compromised Deborah Coddington observed recently, and just a trifle hyperbolically:
On one side, the state-worshipping collectivists, with thought processes which go something like: state-owned equals good - privately owned equals bad. They apply this same argument to education, health, security, transport, television, radio, and even water for heaven's sake.

On the other side, those vehemently opposed to anything run by the state except for the protection of life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness, call themselves the Libertarianz Party and look for cupboards in which to hold their annual conferences.
Just for the record it was a cupboard the size of a brewery in which the last conference was held. The point however remains depressingly the same: the middle-of-the-road hacks and the state-worshipping collectivists continue to flourish even as nanny's spending binge continues, her list of useless ministries, departments, agencies and quangoes and her bossiness both increase exponentially, and her infrastructure collapses around us.

Yes, it is depressing sometimes.

UPDATE: The Independent explains the last-man-standing reason the folksy Huckabee even has a "vibe."
How did it come to this? Mainly because all his better-known rivals have defects. Mix Romney's money and managerial acumen, John McCain's honesty and military record, Fred Thompson's southern charm and Rudolph Giuliani's toughness – and you'd have an Identikit candidate to bowl over every Republican in the land. On the other hand, if you blend Romney's Mormonism, McCain's age and support of the Iraq war, Thompson's plodding indolence, and the liberal social views and messy private life of Giuliani, you'd come up with a candidate who might not win a single vote from Christian conservatives, so important a part of the Republican primary electorate.

Enter Minister Mike.
Galt help us.

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No welcome

Former father of two murdered children Chris Kahui can't find a welcome either inside prison (he's been in solitary for his own protection) or outside prison. Cactus is suitably sympathetic.

Infinity pools

Mrs Smith has some superbly focussed architectural advice on infinity pools. Go and read it.

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Capital Coast: Not just a die-while-you-wait health system

Following the death of a one-day old baby after her and her mother were released from Wellington hospital just six hours after giving birth, details have now been released under the Official Information Act showing that up to one in eight patients at Wellington's hospitals "is the victim of a medical accident, error or mishap," and up to twenty-three patients of Wellington's Capital Coast Health were either killed or endured serious harm through inattention, incompetence and bungling.

Radio NZ story here. Dom Post story here.

The information describes the standard of care at Capital Coast Health as "a shambles." An independent November audit stated that "crisis management was the normal operating environment at Wellington Hospital." And all while government spending on the government's health system has rocketed. The answer is clearly not more of our money.

The reaction to these revelations suggests the answers won't be forthcoming from the administrators and senior clinicians of Wellington's Capital Coast Health either, nor from apologists for the state's die-while-you-wait health system, all of whom seem to consider this an acceptable level of failure. A "shambles" is apparently all we should expect from state health care.

I agree with them. That is all we can expect.

CCH apologists argue that "these problems occur everywhere," and of course they do: they occur everywhere the state attempts to handle the lion's share of a country's health care.

In Britain, for example, studies suggest these serious or "sentinel" events as they're called regularly affect up to one in ten patients, and that this figure is normal for a bureaucratically driven state-run hospital system. One in ten. Think about what that means for a moment. It's a level of incompetence that is life threatening for one in every ten patients that enter the portals of a government-run hospital.

Think about that next time it's you or a loved one entering that hospital.

Frighteningly, this is a level of failure -- of failure that leads to death -- that state health apologists consider acceptable. Indeed, if the representatives of the Wellington's Health Board are to be believed the very worst part about the release of this information of incompetence, bungling,and inattention being released is that it might "discourage clinicians" being open in remedying future problems.

But there's no evidence that there's ever been any motivation to remedy future problems -- indeed, the more excuses for failure we hear, the more it's clear just how much failure has come to be accepted as normal. The apologies and excuses offer no comfort at all that any motivation even exists to rememdy the bungling that killed twenty-three people, and will go on killing up to one in ten patients who enter state care.

It's not just a die-while you wait system. These figures show there are good odds you'll die if you get there as well.

Perhaps that's why fifty-six percent of New Zealanders surveyed told the Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey that the country's creaking health system needs "fundamental change." This isn't time to sit around and make excuses. It's not time to simply change the administrators and keep the same failed system. It's time for radical action.

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Husain: "Moderate muslims" must "end the madness"?

Yesterday's Herald had a piece by Ed Husain, culled from the Observer, that looks at exactly the same recent incidents around the Muslim world I canvassed yesterday -- the floggings, the hangings, the calls for execution -- and takes an almost identical position to the one I took in yesterday's post, except that Husain calls on so called "moderate Muslims" to make a stand against Islamists to "end the madness."
Last year, it was the Danish cartoons. This year it is a teddy bear. What next? And why this repeated madness? For me, it is not about the possible offence taken at perceived negative portrayals of Islamic symbols, but the repeated calls for death, lashings and stoning. The medieval, literalist mindset that fails to comprehend the inhumane nature of these brutal and barbaric acts, often carried out against the defenceless, is the crux of the matter.
And so it is. But where Husain starts well by observing the barbarity, by recognising that "The Western media are right to hold a mirror to educated Muslims by highlighting these outdated practices," by asking "the ubiquitous question ... where is the voice of the Muslim majority?" he still falls some way short. Since he still maintains that there is a moderate Islam with a "benign face" he comes up without any real solution to those Islamists who truly believe that "No one shall live who insults the prophet."

This medieval, literalist mindset is the face of Islam, and I'm certain Husain himself knows that, which leads to him simply hand wringing instead of taking a proper and potentially more productive stand.

"More than ever," he says, "Western Muslims need to stop viewing the world through bipolarised lenses and assert our Western belonging." True, but. The "but" is that Islam itself is built on a barbaric heritage: it was a creed born by force, filled with bloodshed and spread by the sword. It's true that it subsequently enjoyed a golden age of wealthy secularism, but the realisation that the secularism was in no way compatible with the Koran led to a swift and decisive rejection (by Islamic philosophers such as al-Ghazali) of the this-worldly focus that had preserved Aristotle and Euclid and Archimedes and built the Alhambra in Spain -- the rejection resulted in a thousand-year plunge into the Dark Ages. Islam is still there, and until it can find a philosopher to reverse al-Ghazali's disastrous rejection of reason and this world, so it will remain.

It will take more than a simple assertion of "Western belonging" to reverse that, more than just the intention to "build a home together" -- it will take the realisation levelled at Husain by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and which he notes as a challenge to himself: That the very essence of Islam is barbaric, and must be rejected; that to make of Islam a religion of peace will entail excising the very essence of Islam, and rejecting what the Koran maintains is God's law; that thinking must be liberated from its role in the Muslim world as the handmaiden of theology, and focussed instead on this life, and this world.

The extent of what is needed can be judged by the nature of al-Ghazali's rejection (on behalf of Islam) of thought itself, and his embrace of the Koran as the Muslim's sole source of knowledge. "If it's already in the Koran we don't need it," al-Ghazali proclaimed. "And if it's not in the Koran, we don't want it."

It would of course need a new Enlightenment, and leave behind it a religion that was nothing but empty ritual and saintly noise -- something like modern Anglicanism, but with better hymns. That's hard. Harder than Husain seems to realise, or even recognise that this is what his call of necessity entails.

Husain had the courage to put a career as an Islamic fundamentalist behind him. He still has some way to travel -- and so too do his mainstream moderate Muslims. Let us hope he and those few others like him have the courage to continue speaking their mind.

UPDATE: Wafa Sultan explains the barbarism that inspired her to begin her fight Islam, here at YouTube [hat tip Sandi]. "Islam has never been misunderstood," she says. It is "a brainwashing machine... [it is] exactly what the prophet did and said."

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Ludeken's House - Jack Hillmer


The 1952 Ludeken House by San Francisco architect Jack Hillmer,which has since been "marred by unsympathetic renovations." (These photos by Ezra Stoller supplement the post I made of the house a few months back.)

A profile of Hillmer in SFGate tells you a bit about the man:

Hillmer's use of natural materials helped define the Bay Region Style in the years after World War II... Hillmer also earned a reputation as a perfectionist, and by 1960 Architectural Forum summarized his career as "20 years of practice (that) have produced few buildings but very expressive ones." All told, Hillmer produced fewer than 10 finished homes -- but they have had an inordinate influence because of their purity and beauty, even spirituality.

"My approach to architecture was as an art," he says. "The approach of most other architects is as a business. I never really thought about how much money I was getting."
Note his ingenious use of light and and of raw, natural materials, even down to the delightful wooden basins ...

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Giz a job

I wood lyke to applie for the job as minister of ejukayshun az, eye undastand here Chris karters job might be up for grabs' coz he kant spell proper like me

eye have a good guvamint skool ejukayshun an passed all my exams an left skool last week.
i am 25 yearz old.

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Something in the wind on the Electoral Finance Bill?

Remember how the National Party opposed Sue Bradford's Anti-Smacking Bill, and how National Party MPs stood up on the steps of Parliament and told protestors against the Bill how vehemently they opposed it? Do you remember what happened just a week later, when John Key did a deal and those same MPs crossed the floor to vote for the Bradford/Key Anti-Smacking Compromise?

We had demonstrated to us as plainly as its possible to have something demonstrated that these people had no spine and are not to be trusted. I'm talking about National Socialist sell-outs like Bob Clarkson and Chester Borrows and Shane Ardern and Tau Henare and Maurice Wimpianson and Judith Bloody Collins who stood there on the steps of Parliament and told an audience passionately opposed to the Bill that they were too ... and who then showed with their pathetic acquiescence that their assurances and their promises are one-hundred percent worthless. As they are. As is their spineless, deal-making leader.

Guess what?

It could be happening again with the Electoral Finance Bill as the Government offers 11th hour talks on Electoral Finance Bill. I hope I'm wrong, I do hope I'm wrong, but keep your eyes peeled for signs of tongues becoming forked once again.

UPDATE 1: The Clark Government has just tabled a whopping 150 amendments to the Electoral Finance Bill -- an unprecedented sign of contempt for what is fundamental constitutional law! Says David Farrar:
Do you remember Helen claiming the Bill was great now it is out of select committee? So great, it needs 150 amendments. Could you imagine the outcry in most countries if suddenly one has 150 amendments to the constitution, a couple of hours before they get voted on? Mickey Mouse is too generous a term for it. I’ll blog the substance of some of the changes as I work through them.
UPDATE 2: David's started this morning looking at the deluge of amendments and what they might mean. Here's his first post.

UPDATE 3: From the 'I Damn Well Hope He Means It' files, here's John Key last night in the Electoral Finance Bill debate [hat tip Whale Oil]:
The rights of hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who want to participate no longer count...

New Zealanders are sick of being told what to do. They are sick of having Labour control every part of their life and they are sick of being told whether they can participate in an election or not.

I say to Labour Party members, pick up the New Zealand Herald, read the editorial, for once in your lives recognise that you are not bigger than the people of New Zealand.

I make this promise to New Zealanders: when Labour is gone at the end of 2008 the first thing National will do is repeal this legislation. It's gone.

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Don't save rail

There's talk that after buying back the rail track some years back for the princely sum of one dollar -- yes Virginia, excluding salvage value that was all the country's extensive network of steel tracks were worth -- the Government might now also buy back the whole operation from rail operator Toll Holdings. Herald story here.

The threat to buy comes about through negotiations over the "track access fee" -- that's the toll Toll pays to use the Government's track -- and in what looks like a backroom bid to have the whole operation renationalised, the Government has been playing hardball. They want to charge more; Toll wants its subsidy increased.

Whether the operation is nationalised or not, the taxpayer loses either way. We're already paying to subsidise a failing operation, renationalising it won't stop it losing money. Renationalising rail will make the socialists in cabinet feel good, but it won't change for a second the transparent fact that, as Liberty Scott points out, "it's a dud investment. Something socialists are good at finding."

There's a point to make here that should by now be obvious to all but the most braindead socialist, but which even supporters of privatisation seem to have overlooked. The argument used when the NZ Rail dinosaur was hocked off was that private business would run rail more efficiently. This was given as the justification at the time for all the morally necessary privatisations done in the late eighties and early nineties, but in truth efficiency was only ever one part of the economic story; only one of the strings in the privatisation bow.

The full economic argument included the urgent necessity to find out what these industries were really worth -- something only able to be established by private ownership in an open market. In the case of rail, the real value of the rail network was found to be abut a dollar. Without the ongoing subsidy courtesy of the taxpayer (ie., money down the drain), looks like the rail operations might be worth about the same. Hardly what you'd call "vital infrastructure" -- more an expensive, arthritic and completely futile waste of precious resources.

Liberty Scott has more analyis here. And No Right Turn keeps the red flag flying.

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World chucking record

Normally here at Not PC I like to celebrate achievement; I like to praise heroes. So in the normal course of events when a bloke knocks off Shane Warne's record-breaking achievements to take the record for the number of batsmen dismissed in world cricket, a record that's unlikely to be challenged any time soon, that should be a chance to praise the world's most successful bowler -- a guy South Africa's Daryl Cullinan says, "was the only bowler I faced where you felt he could get you out every single ball."

Except he's not, is he. That is to say, he's not really a bowler. As English fans like to sing when he steps up to deliver the ball: "Throw, throw, throw the ball, gently down the seam, Murali, Murali, Murali, Murali chucks it like a dream." For the non-cricket readers, what this means is that in cricket the bowler is required to use a straight arm in his delivery of the ball, whereas what Murali does is ... something different.

That said, Warne himself is on record as saying Murali's not a chucker. Case closed?

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Don't send stupidity to college

Very pleased to hear that Auckland University is taking what's been reported to be the unusual step of applying entrance standards to the people wishing to enter their hallowed portals to study arts, education, science, theology and first-year law. It's not exactly applying a standard of excellence to run the rule over entrants before they rock up and start filling your lecture halls, but it might at least be the beginning of a move towards one.

I'm sure many people were surprised to hear that few practical standards have been applied up to now in selecting entrants for these courses -- that "open entry" is considered the norm. I'm sure however that many people won't have been surprised to hear the bleating that has accompanied this announcement.

"We are shutting the door on the potential students and achievers of the future," said Auckland University Student Association education vice-president David Do, for example, demonstrating in a stroke why entrance criteria need to be raised to exclude those like Mr Do without even the brains they were born with: It is obviously beyond the wit of Mr Do to realise that those who fail to achieve the bare minimum necessary to enter a university are unlikely to be sort of material from which potential students and achievers of the future are made -- not at least in an academic environment -- or to notice that graduates with theology degrees are hardly likely to be setting the world on fire in any case (this is perhaps one course where entrance standards could be set so high as to exclude all entrants. But I digress.)

And John Minto illustrates PJ O'Rourke's point that earnestness is just stupidity sent to college, demonstrating in one short self-contradictory press statement that entrance standards excluding the stupid should have been applied more rigorously in Minto's day: the whole country and Minto himself would surely have been better off if the man had become a panel beater.

Libertarianz Education Spokesman Phil Howison summarises the position perfectly:
"The sad fact is that with lower standards and a general 'dumbing down' of academia, degrees are worth much less than they used to. Higher entrance standards will benefit all Auckland University students, by improving the reputation of the institution," Mr. Howison pointed out. "The role of the NCEA should also be mentioned. It is this assessment system which often leaves tertiary institutions and employers befuddled when attempting to assess a candidate's ability."
I look forward to this more rational admissions policy taking hold in other groves of academe throughout the country.

UPDATE: Oops. Looks like the mandarins at Auckland University are already running scared at being tarred as, gulp, "elitists"! Deputy Vice-Chancellor for the Braindead Professor Dalziel this morning rejected the suggestion that the proposal could "risk a slide to elitism" -- an unfortunate metaphor, really, since it would be the only slide in Christendom with a trajectory pointing upwards. In any case, the Braindead Vice-Chancellor confirmed that "special entry schemes" for the braindead, the retarded and those with IQs approaching those of Mr Minto's and Mr Do's already run in courses with restricted entry and "it was envisaged similar arrangements would be used."

So there you go. Standards schmandards, says Uni. If you really want standards, then perhaps panel beating school would be better.

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November site stats

Some site stats for November. Top ten posts for the month:
  1. Beer O'Clock: Good News, Bad News.
  2. Comrade Trottersky exposes the real EFB issue.
  3. Raise your voice against democracy rationing.
  4. Amazing inventions.
  5. "Very disturbing activities" in the Dom.
  6. Tax is theft.
  7. PUBLIC NOTICE: Stop democracy rationing.
  8. The litmust test for "social justice."
  9. No property rights, thanks, we're National.
  10. Elliot Tower - Gordon Moller.
Top six search terms being Googled and landing here:
  1. broadacre city
  2. "nanny state has gone berserk"
  3. early book history online
  4. "they're valuable and longterm supporters of ours"
  5. russell watkins
  6. breakup songs
And (Google/Yahoo aside), here are the top six sites referring readers here. Thanks everyone. Cheques are in the post.
  1. Kiwiblog
  2. The Libz site
  3. SOLO
  4. Whale Oil
  5. Tumeke!
  6. Crusader Rabbit

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'Metro Shoes' Bungalow - Nira Gandhi

A house nicknamed the 'Metro Shoes' Bungalow after the trade name of its owners - masterfully designed and built by Nira Gandhi in Tungarli, Lonavia, Maharashtra, India, in 1990-93.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

In the dock

Mallard goes where all MPs should be: in the dock.

Story here. [Pic courtesy Kiwiblog]

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Quote of the Day, from Rowan Atkinson

The casual ease which some people move from finding something offensive to wishing to declare it criminal - and are then able to find factions within government to aid their ambitions - is truly depressing.
Story here [hat tip Eric Olthwaite].

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"No one lives who insults the prophet."

Peaceful Muslims are out on the streets again observes the New York Daily News:
Like the avengers who vowed death to novelist Salman Rushdie for his affront to Islam, like those who slew Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh for his, like the mobs who ran mindless riot across Europe in protest of cartoons they deemed offensive to their prophet, now tens of thousands of Sudanese Muslims are demanding the execution by firing squad of British schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons, who made the mistake of letting her 7-year-old charges name a teddy bear Muhammed.
Al Jazeera reports that hundreds of protesters marched through the Sudanese capital Khartoum demanding death for the British school teacher "convicted of insulting Islam," chanting "No one lives who insults the prophet." Said one of those demonstrating in support of his stinking sub-human superstition, "It is a premeditated action, and this unbeliever thinks that she can fool us? What she did requires her life to be taken."

This is of course just a fortnight after a Saudi woman was sentenced to 90 lashes for the "crime" of being gang raped (and a further 110 lashes for complaining), and just weeks after Iranian officials confirmed that their Islamic state upholds the death penalty for homosexuals.


All hail this religion of peace.

And can't you just feel the silence from the liberal left ... it's a silence that's almost palpable.

UPDATE: Elan Journo argues that this attitude of half-arsed appeasement of evil is the very reason Pakistan is now in turmoil -- Washington blinded itself to the "creeping Talibanization of Pakistan" he says, all the while insisting that "we needed Pakistan as an ally, and that the alternatives to Gen. Musharraf's military dictatorship were far worse."

If the administration was right about that (which is doubtful), we could have had an alliance with Pakistan under only one condition--treating this supposedly lesser of two evils as, indeed, evil.

As with all such appeasement, the result is the strengthening of the enemy and an increased danger to the freer world, potentially leaving the Islamists with, as Journo points out, "a new staging area in Pakistan from which to plot attacks on us (perhaps, one day, with Pakistani nukes)."

It doesn't get much more frightening than that. Read Journo's complete piece here.

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Nash not for Napier

The oily Stuart Nash has been beaten out for Labour's Napier nomination, and says he will now go for a place on Labour's list. [Some history here.] He's the sort of chap who would prefer a free ride anyway, I suspect. A perfect MP.

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Gagging justice

The Attorney General's threat to gag Herald reports on earlier details of the man accused of murdering Emma Agnew highlights again the disturbing trend to hide what's going on in our courts, just as it was highlighted in the orders for name suppression and evidence suppression in the recent 'Urewera 16' bail hearings.

In recent years New Zealand's courts have admitted TV cameras, but at the same time have more and more frequently enforced orders suppressing information about what's going on inside those courts. We can see pictures, but we're not allowed to know who's on trial, and what the evidence against them is. Picture but no sound. We're being treated like children, and there's little justification for it.

Name suppression, evidence suppression -- these recent high profile cases in which the media have been gagged from reporting details that would help we the people ( in whose name the courts are operating) to judge for ourselves whether justice is being done have highlighted this unfortunate predilection for gagging orders.

I've argued before that "It's unfortunate that our courts seem to have forgotten the crucial principle that underpins their work: that justice must not only be done must must be seen to be done. When justice is kept under wraps, all sorts of nonsense appears in the vacuum... Why do the courts consider us so immature that we can't handle hearing the evidence for ourselves in media reports, instead of hearing only the nonsense that its absence has generated?"

Stephen Franks blogs a robust discussion of this "recent fad to elevate privacy and possible embarassment over substantive justice" that's worth considering:
The Attorney General is telling the Herald to suppress its old stories on the man accused of murdering Emma Agnew. I hope the Herald tells the Attorney General to stand up for a change for freedom of speech and open justice.

The law around pre-trial contempt of court (and sub judice) is based on the theory that the risk of biasing judges and juries outweighs freedom of speech, including open disclosure of what is known and obtainable by insiders, or those determined to find out.

I am not aware of any balance of evidence to support [this] fear... Indeed the attempt to treat juries like computers, cleansed of any pre-knowledge, and sheltered by evidence exclusion rules from anything a judge patronisingly considers prejudicial, turns upside down the original justification for a jury of your peers.
When justice comes with gagging orders, then justice is neither being done, nor seen to be done. It's time to reconsider their popularity.

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CD launch

I enjoyed a delightful evening last night at the launch of a CD of Wagner's piano music by New Zealand musical legend Terence Dennis, a chap who's accompanied every major New Zealand vocalist from Kiri Te Kanawa to Donald McIntyre to Simon O'Neill, and for whom this is his first commercial recording.

Terence played a huge role in mentoring Simon O'Neill and a whole generation of NZ singers, and Simon was on hand last night to pay tribute and then pin us to the wall with a thunderous rendition of Siegmund's 'Ein Schwert werhiess mir der Vater' from Wagner's Die Walkure, before rushing off to catch a plane to New York to take the starring role of Siegmund in the Met's new Ring Cycle. The boy is in demand at all the world's opera houses, and it's easy to hear why!

Terence's CD is playing now on my stereo, and is on sale now at Marbeck's. [NB: Marbeck's picture shows the wrong CD, but fear not, their excellent staff will ship you the right one.]

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