Thursday, 15 January 2009

Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009)

I've just learned, via Craig Ceely's blog, that actor/director/writer Patrick McGoohan, the creator and star of the classic TV series The Prisoner, has died.
I'm in shock.

Thank goodness the Free Radical magazine managed to interview him before his death.

Click to hear this important message from that first series:
"I will not make any deals with you... I've resigned... I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! My life is my own."
NB: Read a full obituary and tributes at

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A kerfuffle in a falafel food hall [update 2)

People should be tolerant, respectful, and mindful of other people's choices. They should favour persuasion over force. Hands up all those in favour?

So what about the case of Turkish-Invercargillian falafel shop owner Mustafa Tekinkaya who barred a group of Hebrew speaking Israelis from his Mevlana cafe? ("I have decided as a protest," explained Mustafa, "not to serve Israelis until the war [in Gaza] stops.") How does our foregoing proposition apply to him? Simple: Just note the words his cafe. That is, it's his shop, so it's entirely his business who he chooses to serve, or not. It's his business, not yours, so he's fully entitled to use it to make whatever protest he likes. It's his right -- specifically, his property right.

Remember property rights?

This means bossy boots bureaucrats desirous of prosecuting him for "discrimination" -- yes, I'm talking to you, Joris Bloody de Bres -- should butt the hell out and mind their own business.

This means that Israeli nationals Natalie Bennie and her sister Tamara Shefa, along with Mrs Bennie's two children Noah, 2, and Ella, 4, should shut the hell up and accept that as long as force isn't initiated against any party, then people are entitled to do what the hell they like on their own property, for whatever reason they care to name.

If you don't like Mustafa's decision, Mrs Bennis and Ms Shefa, then don't call for the use of de Bres's bloody bureaucracy to bombard him with directives; simply avoid Mustafa's place next time you're in Invercargill for a falafel.

And this also means that if you're sympathetic to the plight of Mrs Bennis and Ms Shefa, which they say has left them "shocked and hurt" (oh, the horror of being barred from a falafel shop), then you can always do the same.

That's what it means to use persuasion instead of force, you know: not to reach for the government's club when you disagree with someone, but to recognise the rights of the situation and to use the power of persuasion instead -- which means in this case to realise that no rights are breached, not one, when a businessman chooses not to serve someone on his own property, but they sure would be if the government forces him to do so against his will.

And to realise too that when it comes to persuasion, the kind of persuasion a businessman most understands is the kind that leaves his pockets emptier.

UPDATE 1: Thanks to the editors of the Herald on Sunday who ran a heavily edited version of this post as the Blog of the Week yesterday.

UPDATE 2: If you'd like to respond to a truck load of delusion on this very simple point -- that you're entitled to serve or not serve anyone you wish in your own shop, and be free to take the consequences -- then feel free to respond to a whole thicket of delusion over at Kiwiblog, including deluded fools comparing the freedom to make your own decisions in your own shop with the Turkish massacre of at least half-a-million Armenians early last century.


Not PJ: Pharmacy Floppy Flip Flop

Bernard Darnton boldly visits the pharmacy with his floppy in hand, an account of which you can efficiently and effectively peruse on this web log over an interconnection network...

It’s time for a change. Change we can be flabbergasted at. At the end of last year the Ministry of Health proudly announced that (some) pharmacies would now be able to lodge subsidy claims electronically. Instead of by posting in floppy disks.

For younger readers, a "floppy disk" is a square of stiff plastic with a delicate scrap of computer storage inside it. It’s like a fragile, error-prone memory stick but ten times the size and capable of storing 0.001 gigabytes of data. In iPod terms that’s like having as much as a quarter of a song in your pocket.

I remember berating one my clients five years ago about using floppy disks. I’d asked for some data and he came back to me bearing this square plastic thing. I lashed him with my bullwhip because I’m a software consultant, not a fucking archaeologist.

He’s no longer a client but I think I was making a valid point.

Until December every pharmacy in the country had to post a floppy disk to the Ministry of Health each fortnight. Which means that they also had to find someone who still makes the bloody things. And presumably every pharmacy in the country had to keep some decrepit fifteen-year old computer in service because you can’t buy a computer with a floppy drive in it any more. Just to cater to the Ministry’s prehistoric whims. (They could always not ask for government subsidies but that’s a different topic.)

I assume there was someone employed full time at the Ministry of Health to open the mail, find all of these floppy disks and then copy the data somewhere or other. My guess is that it was this same bumbling jobsworth who refused to let anyone submit their files by email. “Oooh, no, couldn’t possibly. There’s this policy manual see. Very important that procedures are followed. We do it this way for a reason, you know. More than my job’s worth to go breaking them rules. Now, where’s the tea lady. I need a cup of tea and a scone before my nap.”

A highly-placed source in the Ministry has revealed that their flagship information system for the twenty-first century, containing electronic records for the entire New Zealand health sector, is $200 million over budget with progress at a halt because the Ministry’s IT department has been placed under a preservation order by the Historic Places Trust.

Somehow, the new electronic claims system has staggered to fruition. Alan Hesketh, Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health’s Information Directorate, is very proud of this “initiative.” Apparently it’s “aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of health payment processes across the sector through a secure and reliable interconnection network.”

If the Ministry’s spin doctors are paid by the word I think I’ve just found a way to save millions from the health budget. A tip, Alan: I realise that back in floppy-disk land this “interconnection network” is probably very new and exciting but here in the twenty-first century people just call it “the internet.”

* * Read Bernard Darnton every Thursday on this web log. * *

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Super? Shitty! [updated]

Two retired bureaucrats and a retired High Court judge have decided that 1.4 million people in the Auckland region need a super-bureaucracy to keep them properly in check.

That's the only conclusion I can draw from the Herald's suggestion this morning that the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance will assuredly be recommending a new "super" city council to "govern" the region and to meddle in "the social needs" of the region.

Just what we need. A new super-bureaucracy to make the existing uber-bureaucracies of the region look like friendly examples of small-government delight by comparision, and to give the super-bureaucrats a jet-fuelled rocket-propelled career path. 1.4 million people to boss around and whose "social needs" can be attended to. A dream job of meetings, memos and "super" action plans that will tell people where and how they can live, and what they'll be allowed to do if they beg correctly . A 140km strip of the country that the super-planners can dictate from their eyries, which will become even more untouchable and unaccountable than they are now.

A utopia for bossy boots busybodies of every stripe.

The nature of such a "super" city -- which will be truly super only in the size of both the city itself and of the egos of the people who will be clamouring to rule it -- can be gauged by how the smaller borough councils changed when they were forced to merge under Michael Bassett's force amalgamation of the eighties: from small agencies you could talk to, to larger bureaucracies who talked at you.

Ironically, last I read Bassett is not a supporter of the current "super" city idea (and I write this with only limited internet connectivity, so I'm unable to properly check that memory), but new Minister of Local Government Rodney Hide is. With boots on.

So if the Herald is correct, then, you can expect then to see small government advocate Rodney Hide announce in March that he will be giving his blessing to the largest new bureaucracy to be created in Australasia since Canberrs was constructed in the back of beyond.

Not the sort of legacy, I suspect, that Rodney's small-government voters thought they were voting for when they choser to throw their vote in his direction.

UPDATE: Owen McShane's 2007 column on this is worth a re-read: Super City - or Mega Flop?

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Tuesday, 13 January 2009

First-of-the-New-Year Ramble [update 2]

Here’s what the boys at Brain Stab used to call a bunch o’ links; i.e., news, views and opinions around the web I’ve either picked up or been sent (for which much thanks) that you might be interested in too, most of which has appeared while I’ve been sunning myself in the Bay of Plenty.

  • Is this the biggest cheque ever?
  • What is Money? A video presentation recommended by RW.
  • Where there’s no carbon footprint, there’s no life. A timely reminder by Keith Lockitch.
  • Both the Wall Street Journal and Britain’s influential Spectator magazine are seeing strong parallels between the America and Britain of today, respectively, and the America of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, with scenes now playing out in reality that the WSJ says are “eerily similar” to those invented by Ayn Rand for her novel.
    If you’ve not yet read Atlas, then “now is a very good time to read it,” says the Spectator. Why? “Because … the reader [i.e., you] would find plenty of chilling analogies for the current economic collapse.”
    See 'Atlas Shrugged': From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years and Britain, by Ayn Rand.
  • And more on the economic collapse … Free Radical readers who enjoyed George Reisman’s insightful take on the collapse will surely appreciate his new “series of articles that seeks to provide the intelligent layman with sufficient knowledge of sound economic theory to enable him to understand what must be done to overcome the present financial crisis and return to the path of economic progress and prosperity.”
    The first in the series addresses “a disastrous economic confusion, one that is shared almost universally, both by laymen and by professional economists alike, is the belief that falling prices constitute deflation and thus must be feared and, if possible, prevented.”
    Read Falling Prices Are Not Inflation, but the Answer to Inflation.
  • And yet more. As D.W. McKenzie points out, The US Federal Reserve is pursuing a policy of monetary inflation out of an erroneous fear of deflation. The result is now negative real interest rates in most of the developed world which, as McKenzie points out, will necessarily lead to a cure worse than the disease – a disease, as you might recall, that was caused by the Fed’s earlier massive monetary inflations to stave off the bursting of earlier inflationary bubbles.
    Read Liquidity Traps versus Inflation Traps.
  • And yet more. Are you by any chance spotting a theme here?
    According to the flawed mainstream economic theory, when resources are idle, as they are in depressions, then governments urgently need to borrow and/or print money to put these idle resources back to work. It is on this basis that the likes of Bill English and Steven Joyce are now drawing up plans to spray $7 billion of deficit spending over the economy, and the backward economics of Barack Obama that presages the fantasy of his “green economy.”
    Austrian economist Robert Murphy attacks this flawed economic thinking head on: The notion is not only unrealistic, but “even if we conceded that the government could spend money in a way that only involved unemployed resources, the measure would nevertheless be harmful and would make the country poorer.”
    In other words, it’s a dumb idea.
    Read Does "Depression Economics" Change the Rules? to find out why.
  • As most of you are now aware, the leading symptom of the collapse both here and overseas was the housing bubble.
    A housing bubble that was pumped up by inflated credit, and exacerbated by restrictive building and planning regulations that has sent the replacement cost of new houses through the roof – a bubble that has burst, leaving (in New Zealand alone) a predicted 35,000 construction workers looking for new jobs this year, a sum only slightly larger than the net increase in jobs in the sector over the last five years of the bubble.
    A housing bubble that is clear enough to everyone now, but so few saw through when they were caught up in the hype. Hugh Pavletich, who was warning about the bubble since at least 2004, looks at the “housing bubble blindness” and those who were caught up in it, and what is most urgent now.
    And I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t pumping up bogus and unaffordable infrastructure projects that will only inflate the cost of building materials and building labour.
    Read Housing bubbles and market sense.
  • And my thoughts go out to the people of western Fiji and especially those from Sigatoka, with whom we spent a very pleasant few days just a few short months ago, and who are now suffering the effects of huge rains and massive flooding.
    A Fiji Relief Account has been set up at the ANZ Bank. You can donate at any branch.
  • Chair - MICHAEL NEWBERRY        Finally, in more cheerful news, artist Michael Newberry has moved from Brooklyn to Santa Monica, where he can enjoy “a flourishing community of friends, collectors, and successful ex- and new students” and where he opens his new gallery in March – and you can take advantage of the move at his Williamburg Studio Sale sale on January 24-25th, and pick up quality art works at reasonable prices.

Here’s more:

  • PJ O’Rourke’s speaking tour to Sydney, postponed through illness, is back on for April. Annie Fox has the links and details.
  • And speaking of Australia’s Center for Independent Studies, which is where PJ will be speaking, applications are now open for the CIS’s first Liberty and Society student conference of 2009, to be held over the weekend of 1–3 May. For more details and to apply please visit:
  • Craig Ceely has another offer worth jumping for. Says he, “Quite a few of us in the west supported Denmark during the big Muhammad cartoons imbroglio. Now, it appears, Denmark is paying us back. As the banner … says, "No Burka on Free Speech." Delightfully, there is no burka on anything in this Siemens commercial.” Head here to see what he’s talking about. Quite possibly the best use of Wagner in a TV commercial. And other delightful stuff. :-)
  • And Jeff Perren calls pseudo-economist Paul Krugman a village idiot in the sort of village Ibsen used to write about.
    Read Enemies of the People.
  • And calls Obama's economics guru Lawrence Summers for his “woozy-minded” editorial in the Washington Post, giving everyone “ample reason to hang on tightly to our wallets over the next few years. “
    “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” is Jeff’s summing up of the woozy-mindedness, “Unless perhaps it's the coming of Lawrence Summers.”
    Read The Newest Deal.
  • By the way, today in the US it’s National Delurking Day, “a day for blog readers to emerge from Lurkdom” and leave a comment on all their favourite blogs, which I’d like to think included this one. So say hello in the comments, huh?
  • And from the latest Objectivist Blog Roundup comes these next few beauties:
  • Guy Barnett presents Give Peace a Chance? posted at The Undercurrent, saying, "Doesn't everyone want peace? Can't we just put aside our differences and live harmoniously together? Find out the answer in this compelling blog post."
  • And check out Girls Gone Mild. "Virginity is all the rage these days,” says Guy Barnett, who clearly moves in different circles to mine. “This is partly [he says] because many people believe that the alternative to chastity is promiscuity. "Girls Gone Mild" analyzes this common false-alternative."
  • Doug presents How Hamas Brainwashes Children posted at The Rule of Reason.
  • Paul Hsieh points out that universal health care will create a "nanny state on steroids".
  • And Gus Van Horn presents Fascism Comes to Media saying, "Government 'bailouts' are already threatening freedom of speech."
  • And finally (and this time I really do mean it, I swear) if you’re looking for fun and relaxation next weekend then a little press release tells me the Legendary Raglan Mudsharks are having their 3rd Annual Mudshark Monday, Jan 19th 2009 in the Harbour View Hotel (garden bar), Bow Street, Raglan, 8.00pm start. The "legendary" line-up of Sid & Freddie Limbert (bass, vocals & drums), Dave Maybee (guitar & vocals), Midge Marsden (vocals & harmonica) & Liam Ryan (keyboards & vocals) promises to keep you entertained till midnight. The evening will also feature some special guests & friends of the band! As usual anything could happen, anyone could turn up (and will) so if you wanna 'shake, rattle & roll' or just 'sit back & cruise' you'll be in the right place!

salomepic UPDATE: Okay, my last note wasn’t the final one. Local opera buffs take note: A friend just let me know that there’s a whole new season of the Met’s operas-on-film now playing around the country at the Rialto cinemas.

First up is Richard Strauss’s Salome, playing at the unlikely time of 10am tomorrow morning!

So if necrophilic erotica, Biblical bloodlust and intense orchestration is what you want over your morning tea (and let’s face it, who doesn’t), then this will be the link you’ll be after.

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Welcome back

Howdie all, and welcome to another year – this one to be brought to you by economic chaos out of political grandstanding. 

I hope you all had a great break?  I know I did.  Just ourselves and around two dozen of our closest friends at the perfect bach right by one of NZ’s best beaches … it doesn’t get much better than that.  See what I mean:

a man on his log with his woman

Even if the occasional ‘bronze whaler’ did try to monopolise the swimming.
Bronze Whaler at Papamoa 

A big thank you to our host, and to those of you who helped make it the perfect holiday.

I’ll be posting a short ‘ramble’ later on this afternoon as I cruise around the ‘net catching up on news and views.  In the meantime, I’d love to hear how, if you had a break, your time away turned out for you.