Friday, August 15, 2008

Best of NOT PC -- your chance to catch up

Missed out on your daily fix of NOT PC this week? Don't worry, so did your host. But to catch up on what you missed, then based on based on the number of readers, here are the best few posts for the last fortnight:

  1. Nude Olympians
    Who'd have thought so many readers would want to appreciate the beauty of today's Olympians?
  2. Lobotomising young minds
    Have you ever noticed that when formerly intelligent people go to university, they frequently emerge knowing less than they did when they went in? The reason for the phenomenon can be explained in just two words ...
  3. Child abuse needs urgent action
    After a wave of brutality since the start of this year, Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro says "It is time something is done." She's right of course. Something must be done. Urgently. Here's three things.
  4. The "warming glow" of bureaucracy
    I was appalled to hear that bureaucrats are paid on average twenty percent more than non-bureaucrats, and for the most part are described as happier -- happier, they say, because of the "warm glow" they garner from a belief that their work is "useful to society..." But their work doesn't serve the public -- with few exceptions their job descriptions involve coming to work every morning to devise ways of getting the hell in the way of the public. Their work is destructive of everything that is useful.
  5. Change you can *really* believe in -- and help make happen
    If you really want to change the world for the better, to make it safer for reason, individualism and capitalism, then here's a proven plan you can get in behind.
  6. No RMA reform that's worth a damn
    National promises to "reform" the Resource Management Act "within the first 100 days of our first term." Really? Do they want to put protection of New Zealander's property rights at the heart of the Act? Or take power over your property away from planners and council bureaucrats? Or make it easier for you and I to get things done? Of course not.
    All they really promise is to make it easier for them to "Think Big" -- borrow money and steamroll over people's property rights to push through projects that would make Muldoon happy. They don't want to protect your property rights, They just want to extend their own power.
  7. Nose to nose with bullshit
    What has Tuhoe got to complain about? Sure, land was confiscated, crops were burned, people were starved ... but that's hardly the whole story, is it?

And of course there's been a whole fortnight's worth of great art, including some very, very special Olympians. Enjoy!

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Beer O'Clock: The new and improved Moa

34423 A friend dropped round the other night to consume a few martinis, and paid me back with a few delightful beers from the Moa range, bought at the local New World: a bottle each of Moa Original, Moa Wheat Beer, Moa Harvest, Moa 5 Hops Winter Ale, and a Moa Belgian Style Tripel.

Now that's a deal where both sides win. They were delicious, even better than when I'd last tracked one down. My own favourites were the Winter Ale, which stood up to the competition provided by an Epic Pale Ale from the depths of the fridge, and the Harvest, made with locally caught cherries!

I'm looking forward to consuming the last of the bottles tonight, the St Joseph's Tripel. Geoff Griggs from the Marlborough Express lets me know what to expect:

Made in the style of a Belgian abbey style tripel and weighing in at a hefty 9.5 percent, Moa St Joseph's is exactly the sort of beer [brewer Dave Nicholls would] never have had the opportunity to create at a larger brewery.
Fermented with an imported ale yeast reputedly the same strain used by the Trappist brothers at the Westmalle Abbey in Belgium and refermented in Moa's distinctive 375ml champagne bottles, St Joseph's requires careful decanting.
I recommend serving it only lightly chilled, at about eight degrees, and preferably in a tulip-shaped stemmed glass. A large red wine glass is ideal.
St Joseph's pours a bright golden hue beneath an attractive pillowy white head. The aroma is sweet, spicy and very "Belgian", with suggestions of raw sugar, white pepper, bubble gum, vanilla and clove.
Given the potency, it is notably well balanced in the palate, with sweet malt cushioning the alcohol and hops right through into the long, sappy finish.
For the brewery's first attempt at a revered Belgian style, Moa has produced a very smart beer indeed.

I'm looking forward to it.

What's on your beer menu tonight?

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Who's Christine Caughey?

And why should you care? Simple answer is this: She's the silly bint who stood for council on the twin issues of NIMBYism and lowering rates, then thrown out when her success in the former was partly responsible for her failure in the latter.

She's the same silly bint who wants Wikipedia and Google "regulated ... to control the type of use of the internet for political/campaigning purposes." including for council elections, which are about as small-time as one can get. That is, she wants the internet "regulated" -- from little old New Zealand! -- to stop bloggers and internet sites saying nasty things about self-important small-time busybodies like herself.

And she's the same silly bint who's just been appointed to a plum sinecure on a national roads board. So as a time-serving busybody, she's certainly up there with the best of them.

So, when you're asked at the next pub quiz which small-time NZ time-server wants to censor Wikipedia and Google to stop people picking on her, the answer is this: Christine Caughey, blowhard. Here's her Wikipedia entry. The 'edit this page' tab is up towards the top of the page.

Loudon is back ...

... and lefties with hidden history tremble. See here why he's been away so long.

Emissions trading scams

Here's two piece to help you understand how emissions trading scams work:

  1. Of Tulip Bulbs and Tooth Fairies [hat tip Leighton Smith].
  2. Explaining 'cap-and-trade': "Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement"

As you read them, bear in mind David Evans's comment quoted here yesterday:

"On global warming, public policy is where the science was in 1998. Due to new evidence, science has since moved off in a different direction."

Turning around politicians is like trying to turn around an aircraft carrier, particularly when they sniff increased political power in staying their course.

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'Efficiency' is not generation

Michael Cullen says this morning [audio]that National's energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee fails to understand the crucial importance of "efficiency" in measuring the extent of generation required to meet New Zealand's needs.

Bullshit.

"Efficiency" is not generation. " 'Conservation' ," as George Reisman points out, "is not a source of energy. Its actual meaning is simply using less. Conservation is a source of energy for one use only at the price of deprivation of energy use somewhere else."

With Gerry Brownlee's announcement of National's energy policy, and particularly the lifting of the ban on new thermal power stations, it almost looks like there's finally a politician who understands that New Zealand's politicians have been enfeebling us of electrical energy for years, leaving us prey to power crises every year we sun shines for more days than average.

Shame he's talking bullshit too.

He says we need more generation capacity, but in the same breath he's promising to introduce an emissions trading scam within nine months of taking office -- a scheme that that will "cap" carbon emissions, and make all new thermal power stations an unfathomable amount more expensive to construct.

He's telling us we need more thermal power stations to provide reliable baseload generation capacity. But in the same breath he's ruling out building new power plants burning coal, of which New Zealand has an abundance, and allowing only power plants burning gas, of which New Zealand now has a limited supply.

This meddling in what are properly decisions for businessmen, not politicians, and the poor quality of the thinking behind that meddling demonstrates that National is unchanged from the bad old days when meddling was Rob Muldoon's middle name, or from the sad old days when it first introduced the RMA.

And on this last point, his promise to "reform" the RMA, Brownlee is talking even more bullshit. The only "reform" the RMA needs is to place the protection of New Zealanders' property rights at its heart -- which would be the legislative equivalent of a stake through its heart. That's a "reform" that is urgently needed. But the only "reform" promised is to make New Zealand safe once again for Think Big -- which means that in the figure of Brownlee and his new energy policy, we see personified the fusion of bad old National with sad old National.

In other words, there's nothing new to see here, move along.

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Tragedy on the mountain

When breaking news came through last night that there'd been a tragedy in Helen Clark's group out tramping near Tekapo, I'm sure I wasn't the only one hoping for good news. After all, there were cabinet ministers on this trip too.

Sadly, it turns out the thunderbolt missed all those who deserved to get it, and took out what must have been the only decent person in the party -- well-respected mountain guide Gottlieb Braun-Elwert -- which is a tragedy twice over, really.

Big Government, Big Oil and the Big Russian Bear

NBR's Nevil Gibson skilfully joins the dots between the war in Georgia, Russia's renewed imperialism and envy-ridden attacks on 'Big Oil.' "Western consumers," he says, "are likely to pay a heavy price because of politicians beating up on Big Oil."

For years, the privately owned multinational oil companies have been a soft target for anti-capitalist politicians, including those in New Zealand. They have even promoted inquiries into alleged cartel pricing – none of which prove anything contrary to consumers’ interests.
The result has been, since World War II, a huge shift in control of oil resources from the private sector to state-owned companies, many of them hostile to Western interests, again including New Zealand.
The bulk of the world’s oil resources – if not yet supply – is now controlled by governments.
An increasing number of these governments, using “convenient idiot” politicians in the West, are using their oil power to work against Western interests – Venezuela and Iran are just two that come to mind.
All this is a lead-up to the most egregious example: Russia, which this week had everyone in lather over beating up Georgia.
Yet this is just follows on from earlier events, which have seen most of the major oil companies – Shell, BP, Chevron and the like – having their interests seized.
The anti-Big Oil politicians had nothing to say when these companies - owned by western shareholders - were effectively expropriated without compensation.
Russia equates its interests with turning its state-owned oil resources into political power in a new twist on the old Cold War.
Russia is not afraid to use this power to put the screws on wannabe democratic countries – such as Georgia and Ukraine – that want to join western institutions such as the European Union and Nato.
Opponents of the Big Oil companies have made the Russians’ goals that much easier.

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Pop pap

PAMJjustinkyle3-770692 I like this observation from the blog The Gods of the Copybook Headings (great name too):

Lovers of classical and jazz divide themselves by styles and artists, much less so by eras. The reverse is largely true of pop music...
The listener of one decade finds the music of the following decade unfamiliar and unintelligible, though its basic form might be the same. It's a type of chronological balkanization... A present tense culture's present tense music, unified only by its anti-effort delivery system. It's froth with nothing beneath it, like the celebrity culture its "creators" inhabit.

Read the short piece here, and feel free to argue the point either here or there. The difference between jazz and classical on one hand, and pop on the other, is that for the former you actually have to listen, whereas the latter "requires little focus and has all the nutritional value of bubble gum." We're talking 'music' that's literally untouched by human minds. It is 'grasped' and regurgitated instantly, just like the fast food with its empty calories that it so much resembles. Justin Timberlake Kylie Minogue Britney Spears ABBA Avril Lavigne The Jonas Brothers Snoop Dogg

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'Yes!' - Danielle Anjou



A singe slender figure of victory embracing the whole world ...

You might like to compare it to her piece 'Gratititude,' to see how subtle changes in pose evoke very different emotions.

(And as always, you can buy Danielle Anjou's work at the Cordair gallery.)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am Winston, hear me blog

Winston Peters has started a blog site "so he can speak directly to New Zealand voters."

I wonder if he'll enjoy the feedback he gets?

I suspect that the New Zealand voters who are likely to vote Winston First are most likely mostly offline, while those who loathe Winston and the few things he stands for will be eager to let him know what they think, and why. Go to it.

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Both big parties appeasing the warmist witchdoctors

While National confirms that it will be introducing its own anti-industrial emissions trading scam within "the first hundred days of taking office" -- gee, like that's a reason to get excited about the Blue Team taking office -- Labour has reconfirmed its ban on the construction of new thermal power stations (you know, like those thermal stations on which we've relied this winter to keep the lights on) insisting that "we must rely on renewables."

Yet at the same time as insisting we "rely on renewables," they're proposing a new ban on new power stations whose construction would not be "reversible." This would, incidentally, ban the construction of any new hydro station the only reliable renewable energy source there is.

They're either stupid, or frigging stupid. What "renewables" do these bozos reckons we're going to use to keep us warm in coming winters? Wind? How on earth is that going to provide the 150MW per year of new generation this enfeebled nation needs to keep us in power? Like the corrupt "Pickens Plan" for energy in America, this answer would leave us all just blowing in the wind.

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Georgia on our minds

It's as difficult to know what's going in Georgia -- have Russian troops stopped fighting? or are they pushing on to Tbilisi? -- as it is to untangle the causes of the conflict.

Nonetheless, Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili insists in the Wall Street Journal that "The War in Georgia Is a War for the West":

Ostensibly, this war is about an unresolved separatist conflict. Yet in reality, it is a war about the independence and the future of Georgia. And above all, it is a war over the kind of Europe our children will live in. Let us be frank: This conflict is about the future of freedom in Europe.
No country of the former Soviet Union has made more progress toward consolidating democracy, eradicating corruption and building an independent foreign policy than Georgia. This is precisely what Russia seeks to crush.

And this is precisely what Czech president Edvard Beneš said in 1938 when he sought the support of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain against Hitler's plan to annex the Sudetenland supposedly protect ethnic Germans -- and as Lindsay Perigo notes, the scam used by Vlad Putin in Georgia is markedly similar to Hitler's (he's making Ossetia "safe" for ethnic Russians), while the reaction of Bush has proceeded along the same lines as Chamberlain's.

Frankly, it's hard to know whether Georgia is worthy of support, and whether or not Russia is reverting to imperialist type. Writer Robert Tracinski however is unequivocal:

Georgia's attempt to reassert its control of South Ossetia was not an act of "provocation." It was a desperate, last-ditch attempt to push back a creeping Russian takeover.
Georgia is too small to hope to defeat the Russian army in an all-out war. President Saakashvili apparently hoped that a military action against the separatists in South Ossetia would serve as a warning to the Russian government, which might be afraid of inviting the world's condemnation by escalating the conflict.
Instead, the Russians have shown no shame. Like Al Capone at the height of Prohibition, Russia's new gangster nomenklatura is flush with cash—from oil instead of alcohol—and drunk with a sense of regained geopolitical power. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, still openly wielding the full power of the state, despite his supposed replacement by figurehead President Dimitri Medvedev, gave a
brazen speech in which he accused [the U.S.] of having a "Cold War mentality" and declared: "The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing—the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims." If ever there were a study in psychological projection—attributing your own vices to others—this is it.
In fact, all of the statements from Russian commanders or political leaders give no sense that they genuinely regard themselves as victims somehow forced into a conflict they wanted to avoid. The actual character of Russian statements about Georgia is a conspicuous gloating. They are invading Georgia because they can. They are the larger country with the bigger army, so who is going to stop them?

If not, then who's next?

The invasion of Georgia is a warning about Russia's designs on Ukraine, a much larger and more strategically important country, closer to the heart of Europe, which also has a large ethnic Russian population that Putin would like to draw under his control.

So, what's to be done?

In response to this crisis, we must immediate speed up Ukraine's absorption into NATO, including plans for placing NATO bases and other Western military assets there as a direct deterrent to a Russian takeover. The nations Russia regards as the "near abroad" it wants to dominate, we should regard as the West's buffer zone to protect us from Russian aggression.
Above all, this crisis is a warning that we have to stop treating Russia as a civilized nation, a "partner" that recognizes common interests. We have to realize that Russia is once again our enemy, though thankfully a smaller and less dangerous enemy than in the 20th century. We are in a new Cold War with Russia—call it Cold War Lite—and we need to recognize that fact.

I'd suggest it's less Cold War than Old War -- this is the same familiar imperialist Russia that goes back to Peter the 'Great' -- but on ever other point, Tracinski's warning should be well taken. And while the parallels with the onset of the Second World War can hardly be missed, it should not be forgotten either that the small spark that set off the conflagration of the First World War began with one of the many ethic conflicts in the Balkans -- like the Caucasus, another patchwork of generational hatreds. (You can read the whole Tracinski piece online here, but do be aware the blogger at that location has posted it without attribution, apparently to present it as his own work.)

UPDATE: Brendan O'Neill offers an opposing view:

The problem with the fairytale script that is being cut-and-pasted on to the horrendous massacres of people in South Ossetia and Georgia ["a straightforward tale of a plucky independent republic (Georgia) standing up to a ‘bully wreaking havoc’ (Russia)"] is that it is almost entirely wrong. Georgia is no free-spirited, democratic republic, but an increasingly authoritarian regime that bans overly critical media outlets and criminalises opposition parties. Russia is acting not from an imperialist, expansionist standpoint but out of desperation, behaving recklessly because it feels its sovereign authority challenged by numerous ex-Soviet republics.
And, most importantly, far from Western involvement being the solution in Georgia, there has already been far too much of it: Washington’s arming, goading and cajoling of former Soviet republics has intensified instability across the Caucasus and Central Asia and around the rim of one of the most populous, powerful nations on Earth: Russia.
The bloodshed that occurred over the weekend, as Georgian forces bombed the breakaway territory of South Ossetia and Russia responded by attacking Georgia, can be seen as the destructive outcome of Washington’s increasingly hungry and erratic foreign policy. What is missing from much of the Western morality tale of Georgia vs Russia is any serious assessment of Washington’s role in militarising former Soviet republics and giving a green light to their anti-Russian posturing. From the Ukraine to Uzbekistan to Georgia, Washington has backed a string of dodgy ruling parties and dictatorial leaders as they have upped the ante with their former rulers in the Kremlin. The end result has been more authoritarianism in the East and unpredictability in world affairs.
Georgia, like many of the former Soviet republics, is a state with no real reason to exist...

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"Sea level is not rising"

Vincent Gray reckons it's time to feel sorry for warmists, since "their most cherished beliefs are under threat," poor dears.

The "Globe" is not "Warming", alas, and all they can say about is that "There is a warming trend."

And:

The sea level is not rising.

SealevelPacific1 No wonder the warmists are getting more shrill. They've been out in force, notes Gray, to combat a recent Australian study in the Pacific that confirms that, as the chart shows, "since about 2001 there has been no change in sea level whatsoever for any of the islands studied, including Tuvalu which every global warmer knows is sinking as an act of religious faith... the most accurate recent figures show that Tuvalu, and 11 other Pacific Islands, are not sinking. The sea level is almost constant."

Read Dr Gray's article for more, including more on the "the steady retreat from the peer review system which is supposedly sponsored by the IPCC, provided they can control it, but abandoned as soon as they wish to evade unexpected criticism."

As Australian scientist David Evans points out, ""On global warming, public policy is where the science was in 1998. Due to new evidence, science has since moved off in a different direction."

For more evidence on this score keep an eye on the two anti-industrial "emissions trading schemes" proposed by both Labour and National, neither of whom are resiling from schemes that will destroy the parts of the economy that Alan Bollard hasn't already, despite the science having already passed them by.

UPDATE: By the way, if you'd like to see how poorly the predictions of NASA's James Hansen, warmist-in-chief, are panning out, take a look here.

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'The Diver' - Danielle Anjou

'Diver,' by contemporary French-Canadian sculptor Danielle Anjou. You can buy her work at the Cordair Gallery.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lip-synching? So what.

So the little girl who sang at the Olympic opening was lip-synching, and some of the fireworks we say on screen were computer generated. Story here.

So what? Why the indignation? These actions "do do real damage," says David Farrar and a whole host of commentators. What utter garbage. We're talking about lip-synching and CGI fireworks here, not about buying elections or other rank corruption.

Looks to me like just another excuse to go China-bashing, for which Sp!ked has the antidote.

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A piece I'm going to hate to write

There's not much that's much good when a good friend has a terminal cancer, except perhaps that one gets the chance to pen moving tributes to them before they're gone when they can still (we hope) appreciate them.

I haven't yet sumoned up suffcient focus to write my own tribute to good friend Anna Woolf (aka Annie Fox), but Lindsay Perigo has. Read 'Going out in Style,' which title to Anna's enormous credit describes her realism, her honesty and her courage. As John Newnham comments based on what he's gleaned from Anna's blog, "Grace in life, and courage in the face of death." If that's true for Annie Fox's blog, it's even truer for Anna Woolf in person.

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Dial-up hell

I'd forgotten just how bad it is to have no broadband. Note the past tense. I had forgotten. For various sad and bureaucratic reasons involving Vodaphone, iHug and the other users of my network, I'm now being reminded -- and for another two weeks will continue to be reminded.

That's one reason posts here have been short in recent days; it's hard to point you to great stories and articles on the internet when I can't read them myself.

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Stop playing with Alan Bollard's YoYo

For nearly twenty years the Reserve Bank has pursued a policy of so-called 'price stability' -- setting interest rates at a level they think will keep the 'general level' of prices stable.

It hasn't worked.   There is no such thing as a 'general level' of prices, and the pursuit of general price stability has created just the opposite of stability.

Take the price of the New Zealand dollar. Go on, take a look.   Has this price been stable in recent time?  Not on your life.  In recent times it's been as high as eighty cents against the US dollar (making life difficult for exporters), and as low as sixty-four cents (making it difficult both for importers and for producers reliant on imported factors for their own production).  The YoYo-ing of the NZ dollar does little to help producers plan ahead with confidence, and little to help drive the prosperity of which we're in somewhat short supply.

So as the NZ dollar now starts to slide below seventy cents again, it's clear if we've had price stability anywhere it hasn't been in the price of the NZ dollar.

Let's take another example.  How about the price of borrowed money, so crucially important in driving prosperity -- has this price been stable?  Not half it hasn't. Since 1992, interest rates too have gone up and down like a YoYo -- up to 7.5% and down to 4.5%, up to 10% and back down to 4.5%, and then back up to 9.5%.  Meanwhile mortgages, the price you pay to repay your house, have been down to 6, up to 11.5, down to 6.5, up to 9, down to 6, up to 9.5 ...

So much for the 'price stability' of borrowed money (you can see a graph of the money madness here if you like that sort of thing).  The Reserve Bank's pursuit of the 'price stability' of a nominal 'basket of goods'  -- which is a fiction that mainstream economists use as a proxy for the non-existent 'general price level' -- has led not to rampant instability in the prices that are central to both production and prosperity.

Is this sensible, do you think?

In fact, the Reserve Bank-created YoYo, the result of their gormless fight for a nominal 'price stability,' has created instability in every important aspect of the economy. 

And when you look at some of the biggest ticket items in our own personal 'basket of goods,' which is very real to each of us, we can see that the Reserve Bank's intervention has either made the prices in our own 'basket' either more unstable, or has had no effect at all.

Take house prices, for example.  Would you call them stable?  Not only has the price you would pay for a house gone up and down like a YoYo in the last two decades, so has the price you pay to borrow the money to pay that price.  This instability is almost entirely the result of the Reserve Bank's pursuit of stability.  Go figure.

Take the price we pay to governments both central and local for the job they do in keeping us down.  These have been going up like a rocket in recent years, yet about these the Reserve Bank maintains a monastic silence, while tinkering in other areas to maintain their monetary model.

Take the prices of food and oil.  Have these been stable recently?  Stupid question, of course, but in trying to squelch the effect of these -- something even Alan Bollard should realise is something about which the New Zealand Reserve Bank can do absolutely nothing, and which have no impact on 'inflation' anyway -- Alan Bollard has been very stupid.  His tinkering to bring stability to prices over which he has no control has led to rampant instability in the prices over which he does have some control.

Thank goodness that for all the tinkering to keep prices 'stable,' some real prices are actually falling.  The price of things like cars,computers and clothing -- your basic consumer goods, have mostly been getting cheaper (mostly because of imports from places like Japan and China).  This has helped offset the price rises of the likes of food and oil, but according to the mantra of the Reserve Bank even falling prices are an affront to the grand goal of price stability.

It's just madness, isn't it?  If prices rise for good supply-and-demand reasons, the Reserve Bank moves to squelch these important price signals.  And if prices fall for good production reasons, they move to squelch those boons as well.  We can only 'win' on those rare occasions when increasing production equals increasing shortages.  Dumb, yes?

Fact is, the pursuit of a fictional 'price stability' has led to instability in every important price that you and I pay for goods and services.

No wonder that the real result of of Reserve Bank intervention is not stability, but boom and bust.

Here's my advice for Alan Bollard and his destructive YoYo: just leave us alone.  Or in French, Laissez Nous Faire.

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'Athlete III, ' By Stella Shawzin


Another fitting sculpture this for Olympic fortnight, a truly astonishing piece of work (above), but about either sculptor or sculpture I know nothing other than what I glean from this site by a bronze caster and this from an exhibition of her work, and from viewing the magnificent greater-than-life-size bronze itelf.

It's this last that says all you need to know. It's bursting with energy and larger than life in every way (the other much smaller sculpture seen with it above is by an unknown artist).

There are people who think that urinals or inflatable dog turds can somehow be 'art.' Such pieces as Shawzin's above are not for the likes of them.

I'd love to see more of her work, or even more of this one.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

'Discobolus' by Myron



By definition the very opposite of either modern, post-modern or even romantic art, the Discobolus of Myron is a Roman copy of a fifth century Greek original of 'the perfect athlete.'

It's 'classical' sculpture not so much because it's so old, but because it strives (and achieves) perfection; because it eschews movement and instead evinces harmony -- depicting that point in the athlete's swing when when rotation is at its maximum and release is imminent, when backswing and release are in equilibrium; creating the classical ideal: a single rhythmic pose of a movement without freezing the motion.

There used to be a copy of the Discobolus on the stairs inside the Auckland Museum, which made a huge impression on me as a youngster, but now unfortunately the sculpture inside is mostly junk.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Ayn Rand on the Welfare State

Every commentator and his best friend is discussing National's welfare policy, yet not one is addressing the fundamental morality of the Welfare State itself -- unless of course you count the likes of Sue Bradford claiming "the policy would lowers parents' self esteem and takes away their rights" [italics mine] -- an oversight I'd like to redress right now. Here's Ayn Rand on the nature of the Welfare State, making it precisely clear whose rights it destroys:
Since the things man needs for survival have to be produced, and nature does not
guarantee the success of any human endeavor, there is not and cannot be any such
thing as a guaranteed economic security.
The employer who gives you a job, has no guarantee that his business will remain in existence, that his customers will continue to buy his products or services. The customers have no guarantee that they will always be able and willing to trade with him, no guarantee of what their needs, choices and incomes will be in the future.
If you retire to a self-sustaining farm, you have no guarantee to protect you from what a flood or a hurricane might do to your land and your crops. If you surrender everything to the government and give it total power to plan the whole economy, this will not guarantee your economic security, but it will guarantee the descent of the
entire nation to a level of miserable poverty—as the practical results of every
totalitarian economy, communist or fascist, have demonstrated.
Morally, the promise of an impossible “right” to economic security is an infamous attempt to abrogate the concept of rights. It can and does mean only one thing: a promise to enslave the men who produce, for the benefit of those who don’t. If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those
others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor. There can be no such thing as the right to enslave, i.e., the right to destroy rights...
Morally and economically, the welfare state creates an ever accelerating downward pull. Morally, the chance to satisfy demands by force spreads the demands wider and wider, with less and less pretense at justification. Economically, the forced demands of one group create hardships for all others, thus producing an inextricable mixture of actual victims and plain parasites. Since need, not achievement, is held as the criterion of rewards, the government necessarily keeps sacrificing the more productive groups to the less productive, gradually chaining the top level of the economy, then the next level, then the next. (How else are unachieved rewards to be provided?)
There are two kinds of need involved in this process: the need of the group making demands, which is openly proclaimed and serves as cover for another need, which is never mentioned—the need of the power-seekers, who require a group of dependent favor-recipients in order to rise to power. Altruism feeds the first need, statism feeds the second, Pragmatism blinds everyone—including victims and profiteers—not merely to the deadly nature of the process, but even to the fact that a process is going on.
Contemplate that truth when Sue Bradford tells you the National Party's timid policy will "lower parents' self esteem and takes away their rights." Consider yourself whose rights are actually taken away, and the evasion required to overlook that fact. And as you read the details of National's policy itself, notice first which group of people is excluded from the entire discussion, ie., those who pay for it all, and then observe National's own evasion of the fundamental issue that must be addressed by any honest commentary on the Welfare State: that at its heart is the morality of theft -- taking from the productive by force to distribute largesse to the unproductive.
No, I don't expect the National Party either to announce or to contemplate a policy abolishing the immoral, parasitic structure that is the Welfare State. But I do at least expect them to realise the nature of that which they support:
It is true that the welfare-statists are not socialists, that they never advocated or intended the socialization of private property, that they want to “preserve” private property—with government control of its use and disposal. But that is the fundamental characteristic of fascism.
Discuss.

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Back to the bad old days

As if to confirm that New Zealand is heading back rapidly to its Dark Ages, the re-nationalisation of NZ Rail is followed hard on the heels by a traditional Cook Strait ferry strike. News here.

Ah, New Zealand's antediluvian past, where every holiday New Zealanders huddled round the Cook Strait ferry terminii awaiting the cooks and stewards to grant them the boon of holiday travel. Those weren't the days.
Not good to see we're heading back there, powered mostly by fear of the unknown future.

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Olympian Goddesses

Chantelle_Michell Who wants to see nude female Olympians? No? Then how about partly dressed Olympian goddeses?

Don't be prudish, now. The pictures are stunning, the links are mostly safe-for-work (just make sure you keep your balls on the fairway and out of the rough) -- and, as the historians in the audience will recall, the Ancient Olympic games were always conducted in the nude.

So as long as the nudity isn't that of Bulgarian wrestlers, what's not to be admired?

Pictured left is Australian diver and Athens gold medallist Chantelle Newbery. Now that's some goddess.

Sp!ked journalist Brendan O'Neill reckons there's only one genuine Olympic value on show every four years: win, win, win . I think however there's one more: athletic beauty.

No wonder the Olympics is still so popular.

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Topping up your DPB

There's no reason that parents of school-age children can't go to work. In fact, most of them do. Many parents on the DPB do too -- it's just done under the table. Is there a problem with forcing all DPB parents to do that, and make it all out in the open?

Yes, there might be.

If National's scheme to allow DPB beneficiaries with school-age children to work up to fifteen hours without affecting the benefit we're paying them, then we -- you and I -- will still be paying parents of children over six for their broods (when would we stop paying them?), we'd be paying for more bureaucrats to administer the scheme (and bureaucrats don't come cheap), we'd be regularising the idea that beneficiaries are entitled to this money as a top-up (and can you imagine how honest part-time workers with school-age children are going to feel when they realise that they're paying to keep their work colleagues in food and nappies?), and we'd be be encouraging 'career beneficiaries' to go out and breed again to avoid having to earn some honest money.

In short, it will do nothing either to lessen the entitlement culture, or to stop the process of paying no-hopers to breed. In fact, it might even encourage no-hopers to breed even more children they don't really want, to avoid the work they don't really like.

So National's proposal is not even a halfway house to stopping the out-of-control DPB benefit culture, or to put a stop to 'career' DPB beneficiaries. A more effective halfway house might be to limit the number of children for which one can put one's hands in the taxpayer's pocket. This is a measure that will achieve nothing, and cost much.

Why would you bother offering it?

UPDATE 1: Liberty Scott has a decent four-point plan that you'd think even National Socialists could support:

    1. Anyone currently on the DPB can claim no more benefit for any additional children while they're on it.
    2. DPB becomes same as unemployment benefit when youngest child reaches school age (almost got that one).
    3. 1 year warning that no DPB will be granted to anyone unwilling to name (accurately) other liable parent.
    4. No one convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence entitled to receive any welfare benefits whatsoever.

Makes sense as a first step towards decent reform: outright abolition after three years.

UPDATE 2: And Lindsay Mitchell comments timidly -- at least until she's heard the full speech. You might like to know that "the percentage of recipients caring for a child aged 6 or under is 60.8%.," and "36 percent have been on the benefit for between one and four years ... 'this time'."

UPDATE 3: Now she's head the full speech, Lindsay M. is right on the money:

National's plan to deal with the huge DPB problem is tired and gutless...
If DPB recipients want to avoid work-testing when their youngest turns
six there is an obvious solution. Make sure their youngest is always under 6.
Children are already added to existing benefits at the rate of around 5,000 a
year. This policy further encourages people to have children for no better
reason than to allow the parent to avoid work.
Even worse, National's approach does nothing to stop very young women being enticed on to benefits. The teenage birthrate has been increasing since 2002 with most young mothers going on welfare. Up to half of current DPB recipients started on welfare as teenagers. A period of six years before having to think about a working future is a long time in the mind of a teenager.

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Nothing to gain from territorial conflicts

WHEN THE SOVIET UNION FELL in 1990 and the Slovakian half of former Soviet satellite Czechoslovakia wanted to secede, they agreed to go peacefully.  Both halves flourished, and peaceful relations maintained.  This was a god thing all round.

A swift perusal of history (and of the Balkan conflict that erupted at the same time further south) will demonstrate how unusual this is.  A check of today's headlines from Georgia and South Ossetia, and the pictures of death and destruction that are the result of this conflict, will reinforce the point.

Arguing with guns, tanks and planes over the sovereignty of small patches of ground leaves nobody the winner, and everybody involved either a loser, or dead.  Nobody won in the wars that were fought over the likes of Alsace-Lorraine, Port Douglas and the Amur River.  Whatever gains that were hoped for by either side were wiped out the in the resulting death and destruction, and by the materiel and manpower expended in the conflict.  That lesson should be learned by the two nuclear powers of India and Pakistan in their decades-long sabre rattling over Kashmir -- any conflict over which will leave both belligerents many times poorer than anything they can possibly gain from sovereignty of Kashmir.

The latest lesson in that vein is now being given in Georgia.  Nobody will gain from it anything that was worth the expense, or the carnage.

THE SOVEREIGNTY ARGUMENT BETWEEN Georgia and the Ossetians has been bubbling for decades, but it too erupted in 1990 with the collapse of communism and the end of Soviet rule. While the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed to break up and achieve prosperity peacefully, the two sides of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict continued to spar, seeking some deluded form of prosperity from sovereignty of this province. 

Once again, the result is death and destruction and waste.  The lesson of the likes of Czechoslovakia's 'Velvet Divorce' is obviously too clear for the belligerents in these various brushfire conflicts to take.  Instead of pouring money and manpower into military materiel to assert some conflicted sovereignty, all sides have more to gain from applying that energy more productively.

D'you think that lesson will ever be learned?

UPDATE: If you want to understand why the Caucasus is riven with inter-tribal conflicts that go back for centuries, have a look at the patchwork quilt that is the ethnic makeup of the area.  Like the Balkans, another patchwork of generational hatreds, it is beset by tribalism (which as Ayn Rand points out "is the best name to give to all the group manifestations of the anti-conceptual mentality") and like all of the sadder parts of the world benighted by such 'balkanisation' is, as Rand says, "a long history of caste systems, of national and local (provincial) chauvinism, of rule by brute force and endless, bloody wars ... [of] nations, which are perennially bent upon exterminating one another over minuscule differences of tradition or language."

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