Friday, March 07, 2008

Popular NOT PC

Just so you know, here's the top six most popular posts here at NOT PC this week, as voted by everybody who's visited ... posts on O'Bambi, O'Jesus and oh so many other past and future luminaries, and re-linked here today because who's got time to read everything first time round, right?

  1. Pathetic Authoritarian Backwater
  2. Reading Lists and Reading Lists, 2
  3. Where's Jesus?
  4. Stealing Policies
  5. What Will They Say When Obama Loses?
  6. Global Warming Jumps the Shark

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Beer O'Clock: When is that pale lager a Pilsner?

pc_pilsner [Posted by Stu, from SOBA]   So, you're sitting back drinking a lovely pilsner tonight? Think again. I love a good pilsner, yet it's a very rare event when I actually drink one and rarer still when I get he chance to drink one in great condition.

Pilsner is the possibly the most misappropriated term in beer (up there with either 'ale' or 'lager', both of which are used with reckless abandon). Although most major macro-brewers are careful to avoid the use of the term 'Pilsner' in their premium lager names, they certainly don't go out of their way to educate the public about style. I regularly hear people asking for, or talking about, 'Pilsner' when they actually mean light lagers such as Heineken, Stella Artois, Steinlager, Corona or Fosters. All of the aforementioned beers fall into a category of beers I know of as light lagers (or pale lagers). A category that is actually closer to carbonated water than Pilnser. These beers are usually crisp, clean and refreshing - devoid of any flavours that might bring a consumer to proclaim "too malty" or "too hoppy". They are often full of cheap fermentable non-malt adjuncts such as rice, corn or sugar and are so balanced (and devoid of malt or hop flavours) that I actually find them quite hard to enjoy (like that 'ex' that we all have in our past that was far too "nice" to keep you interested).

A real pilsner, contrary to the so-balanced-it's-bland light lager, is rich in malt character, firmly bitter, and bursting with a fresh and well-rounded combination of floral and/or spicy hops. They are a joy: complex, yet easy to drink, moreish and refreshing. Pilsners were the original clear pale beer, and come in two main styles - Bohemian and German - though a rare third (American) exists, and a fourth (New Zealand, or 'new-world') is begging to be recognised. Netherlands-based beer judge/writer Derek Walsh was so blown away by New Zealand Pilsners on a recent trip here that he was tempted to lobby for an entirely new beer-style: New Zealand Pilsner. He described them in a recent Beer and Brewer article as a "beer that has Pilsner and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers reaching for the same glass."

Try a Pilsner when you next get a chance or, even better, try one up against light lager and experience malt and hops.

Too see why Walsh waxed so enthusiastic, try one of these New Zealand Pilsners:

  • Emerson's Pilsner - a truly world-class triumph of New Zealand hops: bittersweet and overtly fruity.
  • Invercargill Biman - the most firmly bitter of all the New Zealand pretenders, with a fruity nose and a long bitter finish.
  • Moa (red label) - intensely dry, champagne-style beer with a hint of fruit and flint on the palate.

Comparatively, for a more conventional-style pilsner, try:

  • Pilsner Urquell (Bohemian) - a superb showcase of old-world brewing technique (in its decoction brewing process). Still one of the most impressive combinations of grain and hop character that I've ever tasted, even after its long trip to NZ.
  • Czechmate Pilsner (new-world Bohemian) - a near traditional in style and the BrewNZ best-in-class Pilsner two years in a row (against some very stiff international competition).

As for the light lagers, just make sure it is always local and fresh - nine times out of ten I'd choose NZ-brewed Stella Artois, thanks to its fresh flourish of balancing hops. Remember that pretty much all of these beers deteriorate from the day they leave the brewery and 4-6 weeks in hot shipping container certainly don't do them any favours - stewed fruit and cardboard are sure signs that you've been had.

Here's to Pilsner - traditional and new world...

Slainte mhath!  Stu
Society of Beer Advocates (SOBA)

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What happened to the surplus?

As always Bernard Hickey cuts through the chatter, and gets straight to the heart of the relevant figures.  The reason for the disappearing surplus is not so much failing investments or falling revenues.  The reason, he points out, is galloping government spending.

The really interesting stuff is on the other side, where spending is up 9.7% on the previous year at $32.126 billion. The biggest movers are health, up 9.8%, and core government services (bureaucrats in Wellington), which were up 33.8% at $1.7 billion.

Government spending is growing at a rate of 9.8%, which was more than twice as fast as revenue growth at 4.5% and twice as fast as estimated nominal GDP growth at around 5%. The government is eating the economy.

So can we afford tax cuts?  Hell yes -- we can't afford not to have tax cuts.  We can't afford not to have our own money back so we can invest it and use it productively instead of having it thrown down the government's various political black holes -- we can't afford not to reduce the theft the political classes exact upon us every year -- and given the combined inflationary effect of exploding government spending, of forthcoming emissions trading costs, and of an explosive year-on-rear rise in the quantity of money administered by the Reserve Bank, we can't afford not to get the government the hell out of the way just as soon as we possibly can. 

As all honest politicians realise (there's an oxymoron for you), you can't honestly cut taxes without cutting spending too.  This should be seen as an opportunity, not a problem.

Time for tax cutters to say where they're going to cut.  Here's a short list to start with.

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Socialists are bad neighbours

Venezuela-APC From intimidating his citizens he's now spreading his wings to intimidate his country's neighbours.  Hugo Chavez is not just a bloward, but as Clint Heine succinctly summarises the just-sparked border conflict between Colombia and Venezuala, he's yet more proof that as an ideology ineluctably based on violence, socialism is bad both for the places that adopt it, and for their neighbours too.

Chavez's newfound foreign belligerence, which includes funding and training terrorism against his Colombian neighbours and now sending thousands of conscripted troops to sabre rattle along Colombia's borders, demonstrates again that the statism of Chavez and his ilk is what lies at the root of all wars.  Ayn Rand explains:

Statism—in fact and in principle—is nothing more than gang rule. A dictatorship is a gang devoted to looting the effort of the productive citizens of its own country. When a statist ruler exhausts his own country's economy, he attacks his neighbors. It is his only means of postponing internal collapse and prolonging his rule. A country that violates the rights of its own citizens, will not respect the rights of its neighbors. Those who do not recognize individual rights, will not recognize the rights of nations: a nation is only a number of individuals.

Statism needs war; a free country does not.

Hugo Chavez: providing lessons in bad governance since 1999.

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Hone's history's horrible

He can deliver the worst of lines, and the best of lines.  After delivering a stonkingly good speech decrying Jim Neanderton's nonsensical legislation banning party pills (and it's well worth reading the speech in full), Hone Harawira then  "warned other parties to tone down their rhetoric on abolishing the Maori seats, in case they compromised any potential post-election arrangements."  In other words, any coalition deal stitched together between Hone and John Boy come December will involve the retention of parliamentary seats based on race, and another policy flip-flop from the by now double-jointed Flip Flop Boy

So much for One Law For All -- and just one more reason that National is not the answer.

Hone's 'reasoning' justifying retaining the seats he intends will be his party's sinecure is itself as venal as it is historically inaccurate. "It took us 150 years for our voice to be heard in the halls of power," says Hone, "and our people won't stand for anyone trying to take it away again." 

150 years!?  Really?  Has he never heard of Apirana Ngata, deputy prime minister in the twenties, or his colleagues James Carroll, Peter Buck or Maui Pomare -- some of the finest men of any race to grace NZ's parliament?  His is knowledge of history really that bad?  Or perhaps when he says "our people" has he for once forgone talking about race, and instead perhaps referring to that group of people who like to make their fortunes by mooching off the honest industry of others.  In that respect, those voices have been in parliament for almost all of 150 years, and counting.

But perhaps it's neither ignorance nor another cry for paternalism, since the representatives of the Maori Party have never been backward in rewriting history, have they.

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Hillary's out

0,1020,1115358,00 Jonathan Alter  at Newsweek online [hat tip Russell B] reminds us that no matter how much she and her supporters cheer her results in Texas and Ohio, and no matter how hard she works over the next few months (or even how many Rush Limbaugh supporters get out and vote for her) there is just no way Hillary Clinton can win the Democratic nomination. 

Forget the latest results, says Alter, "She could win 16 straight and still lose."  It's all there in the maths and the Democrats' proportional representation system: even if Clinton wins 75-25 in all the remaining primaries, she still can't pull back Obama's lead in already pledged delegates.

Clinton aides say [this week's results] will be the beginning of her comeback against Barack Obama. There's only one problem with this analysis: they can't count.

I'm no good at math either, but with the help of Slate’s Delegate Calculator I've scoped out the rest of the primaries, and even if you assume huge Hillary wins from here on out, the numbers don't look good for Clinton...  no matter how you cut it, Obama will almost certainly end the primaries with a pledged-delegate lead, courtesy of all those landslides in February.

So there it is -- all over bar the shouting, screaming and all too predictable tantrums.  You wouldn't want to be sharing a breakfast table with her when she eventually works it out.

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What's a railway worth?

Here's a question that's launched a thousand dinner parties: how much is your house, car or railway line worth? Well, maybe the first two questions anyway.

The short answer to "How much is something worth?" is "As much as someone is willing to pay for it on the open market" -- "someone" in this case being the willing buyer who reaches agreement with your willing seller. That explains why your house is worth less than your friend's house in a more popular area, and why your other friends' rarer and more sought after car just sold for a higher price than your run-of-the-mill old bomb.

All things being equal, the value of things on the open market is the price that a willing buyer is prepared to pay a willing seller.

This explains why the government was able to buy back the railway lines from the previous owner for the princely sum of one dollar: on the open market, that was all the rail lines were really worth as rail lines.

In fact, the lines would have been worth far more as real estate, but as a network of steel rails carrying near-empty trains around the place it's likely that the lines were worth even less than one dollar, and reinforcement for this view comes from the fact that only a government was even interested in picking up the tab for them -- since governments have a sure eye for a losing proposition, it's a fair bet that we're talking about something that's worth less than nothing.

So government bought back the rail lines. And now the Government is talking to the owner of the rail rolling stock about buying that back too -- all lock, stock and rusting old rolling stock of it. Why are they interested when no other buyer is? Simple. As Liberty Scott said when these negotiations first began, "it's a dud investment. Something socialists are good at finding."

Rail owner Toll Holdings wants seven-hundred million of our dollars in return for handing over the whole train set. The government has offered half-a-billion dollars of the money they've stolen from us. No one else is likely to offer one cent, which is a sure sign the whole train set isn't worth even that much. So what happens to half-a-billion dollars of the money that's been stolen from us if the government does 'invest' it in rail? Answer: within a very short time the whole railway -- all lock, stock and rolling stock of it, will be worth less than one cent, which is what our investment will then be worth. Only a government or Hugh Fletcher could destroy so much value in just one investment.

Half-a-billion dollars is roughly the amount New Zealand's sheep farmers earned last year for exporting sheep meat. Half-a-billion dollars invested productively could be worth roughly double that in ten years time -- that's what free enterprise can do, and it's how country's make themselves rich. Instead, in ten years time, the government will have turned the equivalent of New Zealand's entire sheep meat revenue into something equivalent to the value of a rotting carcass -- which I'm afraid pretty much describes New Zealand's railways.

Whether the whole operation is nationalised or not, the taxpayer will still lose either way. We're already paying to subsidise a failing operation, and renationalising it won't stop it losing money. Renationalising rail will simply make the socialists in cabinet feel good, and pose yet another problem for John Boy's will-they-wont-they non-policy makers, but it won't for a second change the all-too transparent fact that this is going to be a dud investment.

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

The full economic argument for privatisation includes the urgent necessity to discover what government-run industries are really worth -- something that can only be established by private ownership in an open market -- and then to invest industry and capital to make them worth that, and more. In the case of rail, the real value of the rail network was less than a dollar, and on the open market the rest of the train set looks to be worth little more. In fact,without the ongoing subsidy courtesy of the taxpayer (ie., money thrown straight down the rail corridor), rail operations would have ceased long ago, except perhaps for the three or four lines able to keep their heads above water -- indicating that in this day and age the real business of rail is not transporting things and people, it's farming subsidies from governments, and that the country's 'rail network' is far from being "vital infrastructure" -- more like an expensive, arthritic and completely futile waste of precious resources.

UPDATE: Naturally, when the discussion is on planes, trains or automobiles, one needs to check out what Liberty Scott has to say today. He's not just better informed than Jeanette Fitzsimons, he's better looking as well.

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'Mont Blanc: Lines Written in the Vale of Chamonix' - Percy Bysshe Shelley (last stanza)

           mont_blanc 


Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:--the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind's imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?


(Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1817.  Full text is here.)

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Fisking the forthcoming Party Pill ban

The government is now one step closer to putting party pills in the hands of criminals while turning  consumers of party pills onto possibly harder alternatives -- all because legislation outlawing the active ingredient in party pills passed its second reading in Parliament last night.   Comrade Jim Neanderton spoke on behalf of the War on Drugs.  Guest poster Mike Earley fisks Neanderton's rhetoric for sense, and finds him waging an equal War on Common Sense [MikeE's comments on Neanderton's speech are in italics]:

This Bill removes the legal market for what are called 'party pills'.

[And creates an illicit one, run by criminals.]

I'm pleased that after looking at the Bill the Health Committee has recommended it should proceed without amendment. The Health Committee has worked hard in its consideration of this legislation and I would like to thank all members of the Committee for their valuable work.

[And the health committee ignored 80% of the submissions to the select committee, including the one that noted the clear breech of the NZ Bill of Rights Act, the health select committee also ignored the overwhelming evidence against the level of harm they claim for BZP.]

It is helpful to go back to the origins of the Bill to explain what these amendments do.

In June 2005 this House passed a Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act that made it an offense to supply BZP to anyone under the age of 18, to give away products containing BZP and to advertise BZP.

[This was suggested by the industry, as a measure of self regulation and harm reduction, this had a support of the majority of the industry, and the community at large, along with most interesting groups.]

Those controls were introduced so that there were some controls on BZP while research was carried out into the drug.

[Some of the research was cancelled due to flaws and bias; the rest could not conclude any major level of harm higher than other legal substances.]

The fear was that it could be harmful and parliament took a precautionary approach while we sorted out the facts. Parliament should always make decisions on the basis of the best evidence available.

[This fear proved to be unfounded, and the precautionary approach proved to be unnecessary, with over 26 million pills sold, no deaths, and very little adverse events, all caused by irresponsible use, and mixing BZP with legal and illegal drugs. By comparison, alcohol is responsible for approximately 3% of all adult male deaths in NZ.]

Last year, the Ministry of Health received more evidence, and it brought us to this Bill today. The Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs advised that the independent research which this government commissioned showed BZP and related substances pose a moderate risk of harm.

[A moderate risk of harm, is harm lower than that of Alcohol and cigarettes, and considerably lower than the level of harm of a prison sentence which would be given to those who do consume BZP. A moderate risk of harm constitutes a hangover, and an incredibly small risk of adverse events]

This is not the assessment of politicians: It is the assessment of experts on the panel we appoint to give us the benefit of their expertise. Once this House is advised that there is a risk of harm, what is it going to do with that information?

[The panel is politically motivated, as mentioned the risk of harm is incredibly low, especially when compared to the punishment, and the harm caused by other socially acceptable and legal substances enjoyed by New Zealand politicians, many of whom would receive donations from liquor companies and the like.]

Just over a year ago, on 20 December 2006, I publicly released the committee's advice and began a consultation process on classification. The consultation closed in March and the submissions were analyzed

[almost 80% of these submissions were disregarded and ignored]

The expert committee met again in May with more up to date evidence and again advised a majority view of EACD members that BZP posed a moderate risk of harm.

[Again, a moderated risk of harm is less than that of beer, something which is enjoyed legally by many New Zea landers without threat of a prison sentence.]

This Bill puts the committee's recommendations to me into effect.

It will classify BZP and related substances as Class C1 controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

It will set a threshold for presuming possession for supply at 5 grams, or 100 tablets or pills, each containing some quantity of BZP and related substances.

[This threshold, for a product less harmful than Beer, is the same as of drugs such as Heroin and Pure amphetamine Does the minister consider BZP to be of the same harm to society as these dangerous substances.]

It will remove BZP from Schedule 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2005 so it can no longer be sold as a restricted substance

[Instead BZP will be sold illegally, and a monopoly for supply will be given to criminal gangs, this is in essence a subsidy, by the government to criminals. Either this, or consumers will turn to other illicit drugs as a substitute.]

It also provides for an amnesty period of six months for possession and/or use of less than the presumption for supply amount of 5 grams or 100 tablets.

[This presumption for supply is ridiculously low, and is the same as heroin or amphetamines]

I want to briefly deal with some of the issues raised at the Select Committee.

[These issues were raised and largely ignored.]

Some submitters claimed that the expert committee relied on incomplete or non peer reviewed information when it made its recommendation that BZP poses a moderate risk of harm.

Their claims do not stand up to scrutiny. After the expert committee provided its advice to me the Ministry of Health arranged for key studies to be peer reviewed. These peer reviews - and researchers' responses to these peer reviews - were considered by the EACD in May before it re-affirmed its recommendation to me to classify BZP as a class C1 drug.

[The MP is either lying, or unaware of the facts; it is clearly documented that the MRINZ study referred to by the EACD did not stand up either to scrutiny or to peer review. The documents relating to this were released under the Official Information Act.]

I have thought carefully about other concerns, and especially the concern that a classification of BZP might lead some people to other, potentially more harmful drugs.

[Which anecdotal evidence suggests it will do, and studies by Massey University and SHORE support.]

Those sorts of choices are always, to some extent, influenced by both personal and environmental factors.

I am convinced that a large number of people use BZP because it is legal and readily available.

[This is true, but banning it will reduce supply, not demand, the MP is clearly aware of even the basic principles of economics.]

There is an analogy with alcohol. Alcohol is easily New Zealand's most damaging drug. But that is not because it is our most intrinsically harmful drug; It's because alcohol is both legal and easily available.

[Alcohol is however more harmful than BZP].

If we remove the legal market for BZP-based party pills, large numbers of users will stop using the substances they are made from. These are substances that experts consider pose a moderate risk of harm.

[Instead it creates an illegal market for BZP, while some will stop using BZP others will continue to do so illegally, or move to other illicit or legal substitutes which are potentially more harmful instead.]

I know this issue is a concern to the Green party. I find it extraordinary that a party that campaigns against breakfast cereal and coca-cola, wants to liberalise the availability of something experts say poses a moderate risk of harm.

When it comes to GMOs, the Greens advocate a precautionary principle. When it comes to fisheries protection, the Greens advocate a precautionary approach. When it comes to a drug - assessed by experts as harmful - suddenly the Green party appears to throw caution to the winds.

How can you be against Coca Cola, and in favour of party pills – even the regulated kind?

[Fair point, but this pulls apart the Greens' argument against Coca Cola -- it doesn't support his argument against BZP.]

How can you be against fishing companies, chicken farmers and pig farms and in favour of psychoactive drug manufacturers and suppliers?

[As above]

Where there is money to be made, unfortunately, some people will take their opportunities and party pills are no exception. The existence of party pills didn't stop manufacturers trying to find other products to bring to market - just as apples don't keep oranges off the market.

[And there is nothing wrong with manufacturers making money off BZP, that is unless you are anti business. The incentive now is for manufacturers to find a new product, which may or may not be as safe as BZP, only time will tell.]

So the only responsible and precautionary approach is for the Ministry of Health to monitor substances and weigh up the facts as they become available.

[The precautionary approach suggests regulation, not a ban.]

Already the Ministry has advised that any product which contains substances it believes are controlled drug analogues are illegal.

[Which is likely to be against the bill of rights as well as it presumes guilt until proven innocent, rather than innocence until proven guilty, it also does nothing to reduce harm.]

Police have already taken action against one such product, and it has since been withdrawn from sale.

[This was EASE, which Jim Anderton allowed into the country and allowed to be sold until EACD changed their mind about it]

In other words, the law is working as it was meant to do.

[If this is the case, then why does the law need to be amended?]

Not only that, but the Ministry of Health is working with the Law Commission to develop a 'reverse onus of proof' to ensure controls around substances entering the market are tightened up. It is my view that psychoactive drugs should have to be proved safe by their manufacturers before they are put on sale – not by government agencies afterwards.

{A reverse onus of proof may also be against the bill of rights act]

I also acknowledge concern about the potential to criminalise 'party pill' users. It's to avoid punishing people unfairly that the Bill has a six month amnesty period for possession of less than 5 grams or 100 tablets. The amnesty ensures there's enough time between this Bill taking effect and users of party pills facing prosecution.

[This makes no sense, if BZP is so bad, why allow an amnesty, how is consuming BZP now ok, but in 6 months its not. The amnesty is senseless if the Government truly believes that BZP is so harmful that people should be criminalised for its use.]

Manufacturers and retailers of the drug will, under a Supplementary Order Paper drafted to amend the original enactment date of 18 December 2007 which was not able to be met, have 7 days after this Bill receives Royal Assent to stop making and selling BZP and related substances. As most of them anticipated this bill coming into force in December, I don't foresee any problems

[He obviously doesn't have an understanding of commerce -- as the bill didn't come into force in December, then no one knew when it would come into force.].

I know the Green Party and the Maori party believe regulation of BZP is preferable to classification.

I have considered that point carefully. But the advice of the expert committee is clear - these substances are harmful enough to warrant classification.

[No they are not, they are less harmful that substances that are available legally and enjoyed by large amounts of the community]

Ignoring clear, evidence-based, expert advice is tantamount to voting for more harm to be caused to more people.

[The Health select committee has ignored almost all evidence that there is against a ban, they went into the select committee process with the intentition of a ban, and were not interested in any evidence to the contrary, this was a political decision, when it should be, as our drug policy states, be about harm reduction]

I suggest to those parties that their support for an approach which experts say will harm people is morally indefensible. When we are presented in this house with evidence, and when we can help prevent harm, that is what we should do.

[The MP is correct, however he doesn't realise why. BZP is less harmful than a prison sentence, people who support an approach that harms people against their will is morally indefensible, criminalising BZP users does just that.]

Let's be clear about the people those parties are saying they want to harm:

One in five New Zealanders aged thirteen to 45.

[This bill will potentially turn one in 5 New Zealanders aged 13 to 45 into a criminal simply for what they choose to put in their body.]

New Zealanders as young as thirteen - even when the drug is regulated for over-18s. As long as the drug is lawfully distributed, thirteen year olds, and fourteen year olds, and fifteen years olds are fare too easily going to get it.

[This is already illegal, so irrelevant to the argument, also these kids can get illicit drugs easier than they can get alcohol After all illegal drug dealers don't ask ID]

They will have no trouble when their friends and brothers and sisters can go into gas stations and dairies and buy the pills, as they were doing.

[Then the existing law should be policed.]

When they take the drug, it has an effect on them similar to an amphetamine.

[Without the level of harm that amphetamines have.]

That is why experts consider it a moderate risk of harm.

[Which is lower than that of drinking Alcohol.]

I believe party pills will virtually disappear from New Zealand as a result of this classification.

[Just like Alcohol disappeared during the prohibition period, cannabis has disappeared with prohibition, P has disappeared, MDMA has disappeared, Cocaine has disappeared ...  and the list goes on.]

New Zealand now has an extensive body of evidence on BZP and related substances. The evidence shows it will be a good thing for the drug to disappear from New Zealand.

[none of the evidence supports this]

This legislation will remove legal access to BZP and related substances.

[And instead create an illegal market, increasing the risk of BZP harm when it is mixed with unknown substances.]

It will allow the Police and Customs to prevent these substances being imported and marketed and therefore causing the moderate risk of harm experts have identified.

[It will instead waste police and customs time, which could be spent on preventing crime, and protecting our borders.]

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Brit Libs

lpuk_head3

  Britain's new Libertarian Party now has their Manifesto online.  [Hat tip No Minister]

I must say, I think the idea of The Political Class page is an excellent one, and in many ways better than some of the policy pages.

This, for example, is great:

Snouts In The Trough

Not all politicians are corrupt, but it often seems that way. What's going on?

... Politicians of all flavours, and our politically controlled mass media, suggest that it is the great burdens of office and duty that cause 'public servants' to behave in dishonest and self-serving ways; "he is a good man, and his heart was always in the right place, but..." is the line that they typically take.

All of this is, of course, complete and utter rubbish.

It is not true that power corrupts—rather that the prospect of power leads those already corrupt to pursue it, for their own ends.

Which is way better than this, from their Manifesto -- "We will undertake a thorough review of planning laws to facilitate a speeding up of the planning process" -- which sounds more like acquiescence than abolition.  Contrast it with this, for example.

Perhaps the British Libs have never realised that "the planning process" itself needs to be removed from the hands of the state?  Of the power of the market and of British Common Law to between set a rational and objective framework for development?  That as long as the productive have to go cap in hand to the unproductive in order to seek permission to produce, then the state remains as the ultimate arbiter of all human activity, and the culture will continue to be stuffed?

That said, their Abolition of Income Tax policy is always a welcome policy addition to any party's manifesto.  Would there were more of it here in New Zealand, instead of pathetic sops like this proposal to "cap government spending" and then "inflation-proof that figure."  "There's no need to cut government spending" says the sop. Sheesh!

UPDATE: Liberty Scott explains why New Zealand's Libertarianz actually proposed the opposite of the UK Libs' plan to abolish income tax but keep VAT -- NZ's Libz instead intend to abolish all other taxes first (including the 'stealth taxes' of GST, alcohol, tobacco and fuel taxes) before slashing and finally abolishing income tax once nanny government herself was abolished.  Scott has links to Libz Alternative Budgets which explains how and why this can (and should) be done.

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"Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate" - NIPCC

ny08webAd You've no doubt heard about the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change -- the IPCC.  The IPCC is a group of government-approved scientists convened to provide a UN-approved examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of man-made global warming.  Their reports and their 'Summaries for Policymakers' of these reports are widely reported and, according to a new group of scientists called the NIPCC, highly selective.

The NIPCC is an international coalition of scientists under the title of Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, who met recently in New York in the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, concluding the conference by issuing the Manhattan Declaration which declares "'Global warming' is not a global crisis,"

That world leaders reject the views expressed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as well as popular, but misguided works such as “An Inconvenient Truth,” [and]

that all taxes, regulations, and other interventions intended to reduce emissions of CO2 be abandoned forthwith.

The NIPCC was "convened to provide an independent examination of the evidence available on the causes and consequences of climate change in the published, peer-reviewed literature – examined without bias and selectivity. It includes many research papers ignored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), plus additional scientific results that became available after the IPCC [last] deadline of May 2006."  The NIPCC scientists argue that "The IPCC is pre-programmed to produce reports to support the hypotheses of anthropogenic warming and the control of greenhouse gases."

The 1990 IPCC Summary completely ignored satellite data, since they showed no warming. The 1995 IPCC report was notorious for the significant alterations made to the text after it was approved by the scientists – in order to convey the impression of a human influence. The 2001 IPCC report claimed the twentieth century showed ‘unusual warming’ based on the now-discredited hockey-stick graph. The latest IPCC report, published in 2007, completely devaluates the climate contributions from changes in solar activity, which are likely to dominate any human influence.

The foundation for NIPCC was laid five years ago when a small group of scientists from the United States and Europe met in Milan during one of the frequent UN climate conferences. But it got going only after a workshop held in Vienna in April 2007, with many more scientists, including some from the Southern Hemisphere. The NIPCC project was conceived and directed by Dr. S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.

The NIPCC's Summary for Policymakers was released at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change held in New York, and can be downloaded here: 'Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate' (pdf).  Chapter headings offer a fair summary of the contents:

  • Most of modern warming is due to natural causes
  • Climate models are not reliable
  • The rate of sea-level rise is unlikely to increase
  • Do anthropogenic greenhouse gases heat the oceans?
  • How much do we know about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
  • The effects of human carbon dioxide emissions are uncertain
  • The economic effects of modest warming are likely to be positive

MSM coverage of the conference can be found at these sources:

Natural Forces, Not Man, Causing Global Warming, Scientist Says Crosswalk.com, VA
Cool View of Science at Meeting on Warming New York Times
Hundreds of experts assert 'alarmists' in climate debate 'have had ... WorldNetDaily
Global Warming Skeptics Insist Humans Not at Fault Washington Post
Analyze this, ye warming believers: Peter Foster National Post
Hundreds of experts assert 'alarmists' in climate debate 'have had ... WorldNetDaily
Courts Confront Climate Change Hawaii Reporter
Amazing Climate Predictions Revealed—Climate Models Reviled Reason Magazine

And from some of the blogs there's Voices of Sanity on the Climate from Power Line, and of course The Reference Frame, whose author Lubos Motl is one of the authors of the NIPCC Summary.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What will they say when Obama loses?

Now that Obama has won Vermont and looks all but certain to either or both of Ohio and Texas -- and with either of these he wins the Democratic candidacy for Election 08 -- perhaps the most important question about Obama's candidacy is not going to be his inexperience, or what he actually stands for apart from opposition to war and free trade, or what connection he really has to the Chicago communist party, or just how much of a flake he really will be when it comes to dealing with foreign aggressors, but something much, much more important than all of these.

The most important question, says Jason at Save the Humans is this: what excuses will his supporters have when he delivers the worst result for the Democrats since George McGovern lost to Richard Nixon?  For your answer, see: 25 Reasons Democrats Will Give if Obama Loses the Presidency.

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Hartley out, Wall in

706652 With a losing election already staring her in the face, Louisa Wall (right) was sworn into parliament today as a Labour MP, giving her a shorter shelf-life than week-old yoghurt.  She replaces Ann Hartley who is returning to a sinecure on the North Shore City Council.

In honour of Ann Hartley then, I'm reposting a cartoon from The Free Radical that is certain to offend the humourless.  It appeared when Hartley enjoyed the role of mayor of North Shore City Council ...

                           North Shore

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Stealing policies

David Farrar has posted a list of former National policies adopted by the Clark Government --  a list  that as we all know complements an equally lengthy list of Clark policies not so quietly adopted by National (a list Bryce Edwards promises to compile and post very shortly).  Farrar's list (derived from the Keeping Stock blog) is intended to imply two things to the reader. 

The first is that the charge of Labour-Lite directed at Flip Flop Boy and his mates is undeserved, since it's really Clark and her mates that are 'stealing' policy from National, and not the other way around.   But it's impossible to ignore National's many retractions from formerly principled policy positions, or the number of policy positions on which both parties now agree, or the frequency with which  National politicians opposing a Labour measure go quickly silent when asked if this means they'll repeal the measure when or if they're in power (and if you heard Bill English and John Key yesterday wriggling when asked if they'll repeal Michael Cullen's 'No Bloody Foreigners' legislation, then you heard Labour-Lite warming up for another flip flop).

It's also impossible not to notice that since both parties are so close to each other -- and most of the policies in the list are fairly limp anyway -- there's no way in hell National can honestly represent themselves as a genuine alternative.

The second implication of the list is that National should refrain from releasing too much policy too far out from the election for fear that Labour will continue to take it over.

As I've said before however, what's wrong with having your policies stolen?   if John Key's Labour-Lite really represented a genuine alternative,and they genuinely thought their policies were best for the country then rather than wringing their hands every time the Red Team picked up one of their policies and introduced it, they'd be overjoyed that the direction of the country was changing, and that they were helping to bring it about.

That's if they were genuine. 

If they really were genuine then they wouldn't worry about their policies being 'stolen' -- in fact they'd want their policies to be stolen, all of them -- because if they are and they really were genuine about changing the country's direction, then they'd know that they'd just done that, even from the opposition benches. They'd cheer every time a policy was stolen, they'd congratulate the Red Team on their good sense, and then they'd get on with releasing their next batch of policies that could now go even further towards the goal of changing the country's direction. 

That's what you'd do if you were really genuine -- or if you truly represented a genuine alternative.  National are not.

"Have a happy period"

I've been sent this hilarious letter purporting to be an actual letter from an Austin, Texas woman sent to Proctor and Gamble regarding their feminine products. (It's discussed here at Snopes.) It's reportedly PC Magazine's 2007 editors' choice for best email letter.

Dear Mr. Thatcher,
I have been a loyal user of your 'Always' maxi pads for over 20 years and I appreciate many of their features. Why, without the Leak Guard Core or Dri-Weave absorbency, I'd probably never go horseback riding or salsa dancing, and I'd certainly steer clear of running up and down the beach in
tight, white shorts. But my favorite feature has to be your revolutionary Flexi-Wings. Kudos on being the only company smart enough to realize how crucial it is that maxi pads be aerodynamic.  I can't tell you how safe and secure I feel each month knowing there's a little F-16 in my pants.

Have you ever had a menstrual period, Mr. Thatcher? Ever suffered from the curse'? I'm guessing you haven't.  Well, my time of the month is starting right now. As I type, I can already feel hormonal forces violently surging through my body. Just a few minutes from now, my body will adjust and I'll
be transformed into what my husband likes to call 'an inbred hillbilly with knife skills.' Isn't the human body amazing?

As Brand Manager in the Feminine-Hygiene Division, you've no doubt seen quite a bit of research on what exactly happens during your customers monthly visits from 'Aunt Flo'. Therefore, you must know about the bloating, puffiness, and cramping we endure, and about our intense mood swings, crying jags, and out-of-control behavior. You surely realize it's a tough time for most women. In fact, only last week, my friend Jennifer fought the violent urge to shove her boyfriend's testicles into a George Foreman Grill just because he told her he thought Grey's Anatomy was written by drunken chimps. Crazy!

The point is, sir, you of all people must realize that America is just crawling with homicidal maniacs in Capri pants... Which brings me to the reason for my letter. Last month, while in the throes of cramping so painful I wanted to reach inside my body and yank out my uterus, I opened an Always maxi-pad, and there, printed on the adhesive backing, were these words: 'Have a Happy Period.' Are you ****ing kidding me? What I mean is, does any part of your tiny middle-manager brain really think happiness - actual smiling, laughing happiness is possible during a menstrual period? Did anything mentioned above sound the least bit pleasurable? Well, did it, James? FYI, unless you're some kind of sick S&M freak girl, there will never be anything 'happy' about a day in which you have to jack yourself up on Motrin and Kahlua and lock yourself in your house just so you don't march down to the local Walgreen's armed with a hunting rifle and a sketchy plan to end your life in a blaze of glory.

For the love of God, pull your head out, man! If you just have to slap a moronic message on a maxi pad, wouldn't it make more sense to say something that's actually pertinent, like 'Put down the Hammer' or 'Vehicular Manslaughter is Wrong', or are you just picking on us? Sir, please inform your Accounting Department that, effective immediately, there will be an $8 drop in monthly profits, for I have chosen to take my maxi-pad business elsewhere. And though I will certainly miss your Flex-Wings, I will not for one minute miss your brand of condescending bullshit. And that's a promise I will keep. Always.

Best, Wendi Aarons
Austin , TX

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'Sweeping Aside the Ancient Wall of Conformity' - Michael Newberry

    Conformity - NEWBERRY          

Part of a series of charcoal drawing the artist is exhibiting shortly called 'Cast the Light,' this piece is  Sweeping Aside the Ancient Wall of Conformity (2008, charcoal on Rives BFK, image 19 x 26").  Explains artist Michael Newberry, "the show is a series of charcoal nudes in hand painted oil frames, the color mixed uniquely for each image, uv glass or uv plexi glass, and 8-ply acid free mat.  Each of the works plays off the visual metaphors of cast light."  Of the series' conception, he says:

the idea of the shadow as an alter ego has crept into my conception of this new series of drawings...  I hope you will enjoy seeing these works. And I hope you will take a moment to reflect on how these visual images express ideas and feelings. Perhaps you will see your inner self in them as well.

You can see details of the the 'Cast the Light' Exhibition online here, including the rest of the drawings in the series.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Reading List

I've been asked way, way, way too many times to suggest a reading list for those who want to get a better handle on the ideas we discuss and promote here at NOT PC.

So here it is. I suggest you either start with the articles and work up to the books, or if you want to save time then just start your own reading with Atlas Shrugged.

1. ARTICLES:

2. FURTHER READING

Subscribe to 'The Free Radical' magazine and read NOT PC, and head to your library to pick up:

FURTHER READING ON ...

**PERSONAL FREEDOM:

**ECONOMIC FREEDOM:

  • 'Banking'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • 'Economics'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • 'Inflation'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • 'Laissez-Faire' - Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • 'Money'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt [PDF]
  • Economics for Real People - Gene Callahan [PDF]
  • Austrian Economics: A Reader - ed. by Richard M. Ebeling
  • Government Against the Economy - George Reisman
  • Eat the Rich - PJ O'Rourke
  • Economic Sophisms - Frederic Bastiat
  • Prosperity Denied: How the Reserve Bank Harms New Zealand - Bob Jones
  • Look What They've Done to Our Money - Murray Rothbard
  • The Power to Destroy: Shocking Revelations of IRD Harassment and Abuse - Rodney Hide
  • 'Great Myths of the Great Depression' - Lawrence Reed [sixteen-pages in PDF]
  • 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' - Mark Skousen
  • 'Zoning & Other Land-Use Controls' - Norman Karlin (in Resolving the Housing Crisis, ed., by M. Bruce Johnson)
  • 'The Economics of Building Codes & Standards' - Peter F.Colwell & James B. Kau(in Resolving the Housing Crisis, ed., by M. Bruce Johnson)
  • Land Use Without Zoning - Bernard Siegan
  • The Denationalisation of Money - FA Hayek
  • Antitrust: The Case for Repeal - Dominic Armentano
  • Human Action - Ludwig von Mises
  • Socialism - Ludwig von Mises
  • Capitalism - George Reisman

**ENVIRONMENT:

**INTELLECTUAL SELF-DEFENCE:

**HISTORY:

  • "For the New Intellectual" in For the New Intellectual - Ayn Rand
  • The God of the Machine - Isabel Paterson
  • The Noblest Triumph: Property & Prosperity Through the Ages - Tom Bethell
  • Commanding Heights - Daniel Yergin
  • Jefferson - Albert Jay Nock
  • The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution - Bernard Bailyn
  • Modern Times - Paul Johnson
  • From Dawn to Decadence - Jacques Barzun

**LAW:

  • 'Common Law'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • 'Constitution'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • The Law - Frederic Bastiat

**SOCIAL FREEDOM:

  • 'Welfarism'- Cue Card Libertarianism, NOT PC
  • Generosity: Virtue in Civil Society - Tibor Machan
  • A Life of One's Own - David Kelley
  • Vision of the Anointed - Thomas Sowell

**ENTREPRENEURIALISM:

  • Prime Movers - Edwin Locke
  • Full Circle - Bob Jones
  • The Zulu Principle - Jim Slater
  • The Predator's Ball - Connie Bruck
  • Chocolate Wars: Inside the Secret Worlds of Mars and Hershey - Joel Glenn Brenner
  • Barbarians At The Gate - Bryan Burrough
  • Richard Branson's autobiography
  • The Kid Stays In The Picture - Robert Evans
  • Return to Go - Jim Slater
  • Billionaire - Ivan Fallon
  • Tiny Rowland: Rebel Tycoon - Tom Bower
  • Education of a Speculator - Victor Niederhofer
  • The Prize - Daniel Yergin
  • Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand ("one of the most influential business books ever written" - New York Times)
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal
by Ayn Rand et al

Read more about this book...
The Virtue of Selfishness
by Ayn Rand

Read more about this book...
The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution
by Ayn Rand

Read more about this book...
Philosophy: Who Needs It
by Ayn Rand

Read more about this book...
Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society
by Peter McWilliams

Read more about this book...
Antitrust: The Case for Repeal
by Dominick T Armentano

Read more about this book...

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Clubs Day at Auckland Uni

LOC005I nipped down to Auckland Uni to help out at the Libz on Campus Club Days stand -- although I confess like most in the quad I was momentarily distracted by the enthusiastic and delightful gyrations of the half-naked samba girl.  University life certainly has attractions now that it didn't when I were a lad.

Photos right and below show Daniel, Elah and Megan giving it some -- and below right a shot of the only other political party to set up their stall in a damp and rainy quad.LOC002

If you want to get involved or for more information about Libz on Campus anywhere in the country, email libzoncampus@gmail.com.

 LOC007

Pathetic authoritarian backwater

airport_6 In the most basic sense, a country becomes wealthy by setting capital to work.  The more capital that can be put to work, the more productive labour is, and the wealthier workers and investors become.  The primary source of capital in New Zealand comes from overseas by means of foreign investment -- people with money to invest who look at what New Zealand has to offer and decide its worth investing it here.

Too many New Zealanders don't like foreigners, however (or investment, for that matter).  We think we might catch nasty diseases from them -- things like hard work and being enterprising.

On behalf of all those xenophobic pygmies, many of whom seem to believe that foreigners buying local property will be shipping large swathes of local land offshore, Michael Cullen has just announced that foreign investment in assets he considers strategic will now be squashed, and local shareholders will have their property rights trampled on.  He's essentially telling local investors they can't do what they wish with their own property, and sending a message to foreign investors considering investing in Zealand along the lines of this: "Don't bother."  The widely read Bloomberg News service has already got the message.

You may judge from that how foreign investors are likely to view this pathetic authoritarian backwater, and what chance New Zealand has of ever seriously lifting its wealth game, or of arresting our slide down the OECD's gurgler.

UPDATE  1 [4:20pm]: In a similar reaction to the announced nationalisation of Telecom's lines, which immediately shaved about a dollar of Telecom's share price, shareholders in Auckland's airport  saw their shares drop from 2.48 down to 1.99 after Cullen's announcement of the 'We Hate Foreign Money' legislation (a drop of about twenty percent)before coming back to 2.20, where it is at present.

UPDATE 2:  Any chance is there, do you think, of National promising to repeal this 'We Hate Foreign Money' legislation?  Is there hell.

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Henry V: Act III, Scene I (excerpt) - Shakespeare

Courage personified:

In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

"Choices are bad."

Paul Walker has the Stand-Up Economist's hilarious take on Greg Mankiw's 'Ten Principles of Economics. Notes Paul, you will never look at stage one economics the same again.

Yes people, this is economists' humour -- something rarely seen in the wild.

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Reading lists

I'd like a wee bit of help here, if you'd be so kind.

I was discussing with an economist friend the other night one of the main reasons for any genuine freedom party, which I maintain is to do whatever one can to help bring about the cultural change necessary for a free society.  In other words, to help foment the necessary revolution inside people's heads.  One means among many by which a genuine freedom party can help effect this change, I argued, is to light a flame for liberty's luminaries in the country's reading public by using the platform politics gives for publicity to promote heroes like Rand, Mises, Bastiat and Jefferson. My friend asked what he should read to get himself on the right track and I naturally told him to start with Atlas Shrugged -- if that doesn't persuade you, I said, nothing I can say ever will.

"But that's fiction," he protested, with the horror only an economist could muster for books that are chock full of good stories instead of charts and equations.  What can I read in non-fiction, he asked -- something shorter and easier and simpler for someone like him on which to get started?

Naturally, I had plenty of suggestions -- just as you will, dear reader -- and as I was making a list for him he pointed out that one simple thing Libertarianz can do is to post a reading list at the Libertarianz site to get people started on their own individual road to intellectual liberation.  At that my own light-bulb finally came on.  Of course!  What a great idea!

So here's where you can help.  What particular intellectual ammunition do you think should be included in such a list?  I've got my own ideas that I'll be recommending to the Libertarianz webmaster, but what books, articles or blog posts would you suggest be included there as a necessary part of any newbie's principled libertarian reading list.

Let me know your suggestions in the comments, and I'll start posting the bare bones of a worthwhile reading list later this afternoon or early tomorrow.  Just to get you started, here's a reading list for would-be Objectivists suggested by the Ayn Rand Institute -- many of which should be included -- and here's a reading list for "New Age Tories," most of which should not.

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Freedom to starve?

More freedom, less government.  Yes, you hear me banging on about that very thing every day here at NOT PC, so it's occasionally worthwhile to pause and ask what freedom actually means.

Freedom means one thing and one thing only: being free from physical coercion.  It's that simple.  Freedom both from criminal coercion - which is why we have governments in the first place, to protect us against aggressors -- and freedom too from political coercion.  This last is harder to achieve, since while many governments fall down in their duty to protect their citizens from criminal coercion, most are assiduous in ensuring at least a minimum of political coercion.

So much, so simple to define. 

The forces of coercion never sleep, however.  They are forever alert to any new ways by which to inject their toxicity into the body politic.  One very successful form of poison is the gradual redefinition of the word 'Freedom' -- one whose currency rose at that same time as did that of the modern big government liberal.  No coincidence.  This view baldly declares that a starving man isn't free, that the only freedom that matter is freedom from want --  and that big government is the only means by which 'freedom from want' can be guaranteed.  Thus, by the stroke of a a redefinition, was classical liberalism transformed into big-government liberalism.

The cunning thing about this more recent illegitimate formulation that astute readers will already have recognised is that it altogether wipes out the earlier legitimate idea, as Ben O'Neill explains at the Mises blog,

This conception of liberty conflates two very different types of freedom: freedom from coercion by other men and freedom from the personal requirement of satisfying our own basic survival needs. While these are presented as two parallel requirements of liberty they are, in fact, mutually exclusive. So long as man exists he will have material needs, and the only way that he can escape personal responsibility to satisfy these needs is to impose this responsibility on others. If this imposition is undertaken by others voluntarily then both the libertarian and the modern liberal are in agreement — both condone voluntary charity. But this is not what modern liberals propose. Rather, they impose this duty to help the needy by force of law under the auspices of the welfare state. Under this system, all are forced to contribute to the cost of providing for the needs and alleged needs of others.

Despite any rhetoric to the contrary, this welfare state established by modern "liberals" does nothing to reconcile the contradiction between freedom from men and freedom from nature — it merely sacrifices the former in an attempt to obtain the latter.

As I've characterised it before, the difference between the two views is stark: one seeks to bar the initiation of physical force from human affairs, while the other declares that force is necessary in order to secure the means of survival of one person (the starving man), at the cost of enslaving another (the man whose food must be taken to help the starving).  One sense of freedom is to live free from aggression; the other is to seek to live free from the laws of nature, and at someone else's expense.

The latter bogus view of freedom wipes out the former legitimate and vitally important concept of what freedom is, and why it is necessary.

I recommend reading Mr O'Neill's piece in its entirety in order to defend yourself against the sophists of political argument who redefine the idea of freedom only in order to destroy it, and to reflect again on the point succinctly summarised by Ayn Rand:

Freedom, in a political context, has only one meaning: the absence of physical coercion.

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