Thursday, April 09, 2009

NOT PJ: Am I a rubbish lover?

This week Bernard Darnton gets dirty.

I like to think that I’m not a rubbish lover – as, no doubt, does everyone. But I’m being urged to become one.

At Mrs Darnton’s behest we recently moved to Christchurch. What really strikes you about Christchurch is the wheelie bins. Like a plague.

“And there came a grievous swarm of wheelie bins into the house of Pharaoh, and into his servants’ houses, and into all the land of Egypt: the land was corrupted by reason of the swarm of wheelie bins.”

The fad for washing your rubbish and putting the shiny bits in one bin and the slimy crap in another bin – something I was familiar with from previous cities I’ve lived in – is considered passé in Christchurch. We are exhorted to Love our Rubbish. Here, every house has been issued with three hulking great wheelie bins. On certain days the city looks as if it’s been invaded by legions of the daleks’ retarded kid brothers.

You can hear the metallic voices of their overlords emanating from the Council chamber: “Expropriate! Expropriate!”

Along with the bins came strict instructions about what goes in which. Cardboard in the red bin, food scraps in the green bin. Get it wrong and you’ll never have your rubbish collected again. People have been paralysed by indecision, oscillating between their bins holding cheese-encrusted pizza boxes.

The pizza box problem is easily solved by following another Christchurch City Council suggestion, building a worm farm. Worms eat cardboard and food scrap – problem solved. The only hard part is finding part of your garden that isn’t covered by a fleet of wheelie bins.

Actually, there is another hard part and that’s that worms won’t touch onions, orange peel, or chicken tikka masala – the fussy buggers – and so you need two bins for food scraps if you’re going to be a hardcore rubbish lover.

Other instructions are confusing too. I can put meat into my organics bin but not dead animals. Does a dead sheep count as meat? What about half a sheep? A rib? Where do you draw the line? If I were Vietnamese could I chuck my dog away? If I were a National voter would dead rats count?

Worse than the classification quandaries, not every bin gets collected every week. The bins also came with a spreadsheet to calculate which days which bins go out. The idea is that you stick this chart on your fridge to jog your memory, an idea presumably inspired by the success of the Ministry of Health fridge magnets in preventing a bird flu pandemic. The difference is that the bird flu ones contained no information and so were very easy to understand. The details on becoming intimate with your refuse require a degree in discrete mathematics – a tall order when 25% of state-miseducated high school graduates can’t read a bus timetable.

Where once the rubbish was something kept in the corner and discreetly disposed of it’s now a central feature of everyday life. I don’t want to love my rubbish but it’s forced itself on me anyway.

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On the rubber chicken circuit in Melbourne

Melbourne's a funny old place.

If the front pages of Melbourne's biggest newspapers are to be believed, the biggest issue facing the world over the last two days is a rubber chicken sex scandal.

This is red hot stuff. Several North Melbourne football players made a film in which a rubber chicken has "sex" with a frozen chicken carcass and then . . . well, that's it, really, but it's been enough to push everything else off the front pages and out of dinner party conversations here.

As the middle pages of one Australian newspaper remembered, it was former US Supreme Court judge Earl Warren who said he read the sports pages in the morning to read about man's triumphs, and the front pages to read about the failures.

Melbournians -- or at least the Melbournian media -- are suffering a failure of perspective right now right on their front pages. A non-incident has been elevated to major news by virtue of the news media itself inviting everyone to be outraged about nothing. All very amusing really, but it seems to me there are far more important issues to be talking about.

Brad Ottens' knee for instance. With Brad Ottens damaged knee keeping him out of the game against Collingwood tonight at the MCG -- and seeing him limp around Kardinia Park yesterday, it's going to be a few weeks before he's mobile again -- it's going to be a much closer game than it might have been.

Still, I agree with Geelong fullback Matthew Scarlett, who told us he expected to win by four goals. I think he's right. And yes, I am name-dropping -- if you're one of the six people reading this who know the name I'm dropping. :-)

Talk to you tomorrow. And Go the Cats!

(For those interested, here's a match preview.)

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The strongest, hardest, highest, fastest game on the planet

As you read this I’m just about to jump into a plane to Melbourne, for a weekend watching the strongest, hardest, highest, fastest game on the planet.

edm_1

If we've planned it right, we’ll get four games in.  :-)

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Obama grammared

I'm pleased I scored so highly on the silly old Facebook grammar quiz, since educator Lisa VanDamme reckons you need good grammar to make yourself understood -- and it looks like the ObaMessiah himself don't have no grammar.

Turns out the Great Communicator doesn't know grammar any better than Dan Quayle knew how to spell, making the common blunder of inverting "me" and "I."  Doesn't matter?  Says VanDamme, mastery of the rules of grammar add great precision both to your thinking and your communicating.  And it may avoid scandal, for example:

    Rather than the innocuous, "President Bush graciously invited Michelle and I," what if President Obama had said, "Michelle likes President Bush better than I." Is this a mere difference of opinion about the former President, or a scandal? The ambiguity is resolved with a universal understanding of the rules of grammar.
    "Michelle likes him better than I," as my grammar students can tell you, contains an elliptical adverb clause with "I" as the subject, and means, "Michelle likes him better than I like him." On the other hand, "Michelle likes him better than me," contains an elliptical clause with "me" as the direct object, and means, "Michelle likes him better than she likes me."
     So, if you whose children are gaining a thorough mastery of the rules of grammar have ever asked yourselves, "Does my child know grammar better than me?" the answer is no, he should know you better. And by the time he graduates, he will know better than to ask the question like that.

Straightforward, huh.

And these students of whom she speaks, by the way, are Year 4 at her school.  Like I said, she's an educator.

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One man who won't be voting National again

Who? Barnsley Bill,  that's who:

If Michal Cullen is good enough to be given a highly paid job by the government we elected to remove him, then why the fuck did we bother voting for National in the first place?

If I'd voted Tory, I'd sure as hell want to know too.  Although perhaps the correct question is, why in Galt's name did you vote National in the first place?

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'Super' city, uber state: "Just say NO!" [updated]

There's nothing "super" about the proposed Auckland uber state.

It will be fascist.

Wretchedly profligate.

Woefully inefficient.

Racist.

Anti-choice.

Monopolistic.

Bureaucratic.

Governed by ego-driven noddies.

A boot camp for left-wing politicians.

It will take the 'local' out of local government.

Be expensive to integrate.

And be opposed to the way NZers most want to live.

One city, one neck, one noose.

Absolutism limited only by inefficiency.

We don't need council expanded, we urgently need it contained. We don't need more centralisation. more central planning: we urgently need less. We don't need to make it easier for uber-planners to 'plan' the city, we need much greater freedom so we can plan our own lives for ourselves.

Instead, you will face more co-ordinated attacks on your private property rights. More focussed regulation of your business. More council competion with your business. More, and slicker, propaganda. Even more demands on your pocket, and more meddling from the planners. All of this, and (under Nick Smith's RMA reforms) you get even less say.

You don't even get a say on whether you get to live in an uber state. The good people of W(h)anganui get a vote on whether or not their local council gets to add an 'h' to its name; but we the people of Auckland will have no say at all on whether we get to add a whole new level of bureaucracy to the city.

It's all just madness.

As Owen McShane concludes,

this Government would be ill-advised to burden itself with a remnant of the last Government which was so committed to central planning and interventionism.

The economy and our people are under considerable stress and should not be tempted by the false fruit of fascism.
It will lead us down the road to serfdom and to ruin.

There is no need, no need at all, to conform to the value judgements of the Clark Government, who set up the Royal Commission, or of the big-government worshippers who sat on it. The right thing to do is to reject the built-in presumptions of their inquiry, and to throw out the conclusions they've drawn.

What Rodney Hide should do is cap real rates, repeal the Local Government Act 2002, remove the power of general competence from councils, and so limit the power of planners and local bureaucrats to push us all around. Won't it be remarkable if Rodney Hide becomes responsible for establishing the first Fascist State in NZ instead.

UPDATE: The announcement is out, and you can find all the sordid details here at the Government's official "Making Auckland Greater" website (oh, the pun!). And it must be true, it must be "great," because it says so right here on the label.

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Balance the budget, Bill

Balance the budget, BillBernard Hickey reports that Bill English wants bureaucrats to accept a pay freeze during a time of recession, saying that with debt already up from $30 billion to $45 billion, any rises will endanger NZ's credit rating. 

That's a good reason, but it's nowhere near reason enough: In the absence of plans to sack most of the 38,000 or so bureaucrats who infest Wellington and drain our wealth, prudence dictates that at a time of economic stress they at least accept pay cuts, and that English moves urgently to cut that $45 billion debt, not just wring his hands over it.

And no fear saying such a thing couldn't happen. There are excellent historical precedents.

During the Great Depression, NZ's Forbes Government cut bureaucrats' salaries by ten percent, and moved to balance the budget rather than just minimise debt.  So too, as Steven Kates points out, did Australia's Scullin Labor Government -- "adopting the 'Premiers’ Plan' which sought a cut in public spending, a return to budget surplus and cuts to wages" -- and so too did the United Kingdom, where as Kates reports the Chamberlain Government adopted "a full-scale 'classical' approach.

A policy of balancing the budget and the containment of expenditure was adopted. By 1933, the budget had been balanced and it was from 1933 onwards that Britain emerged from the downturn of the previous four years.

So too did New Zealand and Australia. 

Under the profligate policy settings of the 'Great Engineer' Hoover and then the Great Phoney Roosevelt however, who both encouraged wages and price rises and treated balanced budgets like a Catholic treats contraception, America's depression continued for at least another decade.

The reason the 'classical' approach worked was simple: cutting costs when prices are low allows producers to do more with less.  Cutting government spending cuts taxes, and cutting debt leaves credit markets unmolested by government -- doing both means that, instead of the government hoovering up cash and credit, those twin pilllars of recovery are available instead for producers.

Roosevelt began his presidency saying that the only thing America had to fear "was fear itself."  Not true.  Not even poetically. What it needed to fear was the anti-recovery policies of him and and his predecessor.  As Neville Chamberlain said in one of the few fine moments of his career,

At any rate we [in the UK] are free from that fear which besets so many less fortunately placed, the fear that things are going to get worse. We owe our freedom from that fear largely to the fact that we have balanced our budget.

To that same fact they owed their recovery from the Depression.  Would that the historical lessons were learned by our present generation.

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: Flat Earth Hour

Susan lights up over lights out.

susanryder Yes, it was a week ago, but sheer nonsense deserves to be scorned and Earth Hour (or Flat Earth Hour as I prefer to call it) deserves to be super-scorned, such is its silliness.

I was first alerted to FEH whilst in Australia this time last year. I was browsing through the Sydney Morning Herald when I saw a full-page advertisement heralding the event, incorporating a mass-gathering in a city park to which the public was encouraged to attend, for the following Saturday evening. “What’s all this about?” I asked my brother-in-law. “Don’t know” he replied, looking equally mystified. “First I’ve heard of it. That ad must have cost a fortune, though!”

You can say that again. I know nothing of SMH rates, but a similar request to The New Zealand Herald about 15 years ago produced a quote well in advance of $20,000. So pick a figure and make it a big one.

Back to the story. I started to read the ad. I hadn’t finished the first sentence before my eyes were rolling and by the time I’d finished, they’d done a full 360. I learned that in the name of all that was Green and Good, the power being turned off in the first world was going to save dwindling resources which would preserve the planet and help the third world. Hallelujah!

I guessed that I was meant to feel that warm glow of collective responsibility, basking in the happiness that I would be doing “my bit” toward planet security and the public good. All I needed was my state-supplied shovel and I could have been that smiling worker looking out over abundant crops, so beloved by the Kremlin. (Only the crops weren’t abundant, the workers had bugger all to smile about and here in New Zealand, the state-supplied shovels were mainly used to lean on!). But I digress.

I skipped the warm glow and went straight to cold fury. The rhetoric and sentiments expressed were pure sophistry, with the architects eschewing progress and reason. In essence, they were thumbing their collective noses at civilisation itself.

I decided to forget about it. Well, I was on holiday. Saturday rolled around and we spent a gorgeous day at the northern beaches. After getting home we decided to grab some takeaways for dinner, so jumped in the car to drive five minutes to the Thai place in the next suburb. Well, that was the plan. It was 7pm.

To our annoyance the city-bound traffic (our direction) was barely moving. We were going nowhere fast through ordinary residential streets, while the opposing traffic sailed by unimpeded.

The penny dropped. Rudd’s useful idiots were all hightailing it into town for the communal love-in, albeit that they were ‘turning off’, rather than ‘turning on.’ But being the affluent northern suburbs, the traffic overwhelmingly consisted of 4WD’s belching out fumes for, well, Africa actually!

Evidently, celebrating the love-in and all it stood for didn’t include the chardonnay socialists embracing “green” public transport to get there! I loved the irony of causing traffic jams and carbon emissions to protest traffic and carbon emissions! And they undoubtedly suffered a delayed trip home, too. Ha!

It wasn’t until I came home a few days later that I learned that FEH had been a global event -- well, automatically excluding the people who would love to have access to electricity, that is. It screamed the UN and its fellow travellers and I thought no more about it, until the ads for this year’s event started to appear a few weeks ago.

The usual suspects jumped in to show their solidarity, although I noticed that organisations made sure it didn’t adversely affect themselves personally. For example, while some were calling for power off, TVNZ repeatedly reminded us to “turn the lights off”, as opposed to the power itself which would naturally include your television. I can’t imagine they wanted to lose an hour of valuable advertising revenue, especially given the current economic circumstances. Well, I’ll be. It seems that people have differing ideas as to what’s “good” for the planet, after all!

As for me, I’ve made a decision to avoid patronising any commercial hangers-on, those entities that spout their “Greenness,” their “carbon-friendly” this and “reducing their carbon-footprint” that. I have no time for Johnny-come-lately bandwagon-jumping in that I’ve chosen to practise a green lifestyle for years. My refuse is minimal by recycling everything I can – and I don’t just mean council recyclables which may not necessarily be viable anyway. I like to shop locally and support local merchants and none of my household products contain any harmful chemicals, meaning that nothing poisonous goes down my drains. I wonder how many Green party MPs and supporters can say that?

Perhaps the last word belongs to somebody very close to me, an avid football fan. “Earth Hour? Load of crap! The only people I know who turned off the lights during Earth Hour were the bloody Warriors against the Broncos!”

Give that woman a beer! And make it a cold one straight from the fridge!

* * Read Susan Ryder every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

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Die Frau am Fenster - Caspar David Freidrich

frau-am-fenster-unvollendet

A “here and there” painting.

An interior looking out to an exterior.

An insider observing an observer looking out.

According to Helmut Borsch-Supan, who reckons Friedrich’s work is full of cultural symbolism,

The figure seen from the back represents Friedrich’s wife Caroline, and the room is the studio that Friedrich used after 1820. The view extends over the River Elbe to the opposite shore, which symbolizes paradise. The cross-like shape formed by the supports dividing the window pane becomes a Christian symbol, and the dark, close interior represents the terrestrial world.

And if you go even further, to real natural symbolism -- to form expressing feeling -- we might recognise as Jay Appleton does “the importance of the immediate foreground and the ‘themes of frustrated longing, of lust for travel or escape, which [run] through romantic literature’” and through so much of western art – expressing what Appleton says is “ a ubiquitous and enduring ecological process” which is expressed here too in a poem translated from the German:

The stars were shining with golden light
as I stood alone by the window
and listened to the distant sound
of the posthorn in the still countryside.
My heart became inflamed in my body,
and I thought secretly to myself:
Ah, if only I could journey with them
into that magnificent summer night!
- J. von Eichendorff, Sensucht

And you thought it was just a nice picture.

In good art, you see, nothing is accidental.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Are we really all Keynesians now? [update 4]

Maybe not.

According to Wikirank over the last ninety days interest in Ayn Rand has been some 132 times more than it has been in the failed economist.

And at Amazon, Rand's fifty-two-year-old ode to reason, egoism and capitalism is at #15, while Keynes's seventy-year old paean to big government, statism, and illogic is at number #1,777,580

So it would be more truthful to say we're all Randians now?

Or perhaps just those of us who live outside the realms of big government.

UPDATE 1: Crampton says no. Using Google Search Insights for worldwide rankings Marx still beats Rand, and so so does John Maynard. But only just. But for the USA and India, things are not so clearcut.

And it's easy to see where all the Keynesians live in New Zealand.

UPDATE 2: After correcting for inclusion errors, Crampton says "Maybe."

UPDATE 3: Edward Cline puts Atlas into historical perspective:

In a dramatically telescoped way, Ayn Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged, is experiencing the same rediscovery in the 21st century [as Aristotle's rediscovery after the Dark Ages]. . . Although its sales success has been steady and almost without precedent since its publication, until now the novel was ignored, relegated to the cultural sidelines, and deprecated by the cultural establishment. . .
It has taken little over half a century for men to rediscover it and the significance of Rand’s mind and work. . The parallels between the events in the novel and those in the real world have become too obvious for even the novel’s detractors to ignore. They still hurry to denigrate it, but their protests sound peevishly feeble. . . The catalyst for the rediscovery is the current moral and economic crisis for which government actions are only the symptom. What men will do about it remains to be seen.
In an intellectual and philosophic sense, the works of Aristotle acted as a “prime mover” of human culture and civilization. Without them, no Renaissance and Enlightenment would have been possible. Their rediscovery and advocacy by the men of those periods accelerated human progress in terms of a mastery of the physical world, which manifested itself in the Industrial Revolution. But, as Rand herself so succinctly and eloquently observed in her numerous articles and speeches, the Aristotelian influence went only so far, because the skeleton hands of the philosophy of altruism and unreason remained clutched firmly to men’s notion of morality and men did not bother to throw them off. They believed that microwave ovens and cars could coexist with a morality that condemned the ovens and cars, as well as themselves.
Also in an intellectual and philosophic sense, Atlas Shrugged is acting as a “prime mover,” reemerging from behind its curtain of unrecognized existence as something to fear or to reexamine. Men are learning now that the philosophy which made possible their earthly well-being is irreconcilable with its antipode, which makes possible their recurring moral crises. . .
UPDATE 4: See Atlas Shrugged and the Tea Parties:

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The four 'drivers of crime'

Another week, another local talkfest. Last Friday it was the 'Drivers of Crime' talk fest, which predictably produced "a rambling of predictable, ineffective hot air," said Libertarianz Social Welfare Spokesman Peter Osborne, but nothing at all that looked directly at those drivers.

And the talk fest ended with predictable calls for more govermment intervention, ignoring just as carefully as conference-goers had the elephant in the talk-fest's room: that it is existing government intervention that is the primary driver of crime.  Osborne notes the top four:
  • Institutionalised welfare, particularly paying no-hopers to breed
  • The government's factory schools, which promote illiteracy, deny children real knowledge, and block the growth of youthful independence
  • The War on Drugs, which gives gangs an income
  • No explicit right to self defence, which gives every NZer a 'kick me' sign that even criminals can read: "Come get me, I'm defenceless."
The first two created the underclass; the second two give them the freedom to pillage.

The problem of is simple: too little clear-eyed thinking, and too much Government Cheese:


http://www.youtube.com/?v=t-HiXqqUItM

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"Words must mean something."

"Words must mean something," said The Obamessiah in Prague.

Yes, except when said by a politician.

When the Messiah says he doesn't want to control the car industry, that doesn't mean he doesn't want to dictate what that industry does, and who sits on its boards of directors.

When he says he doesn't want to control the banking industry, that doesn't mean he wants bank's bailout money back -- much more difficult to control them then.

When he talks about freedom and liberty, it doesn't mean he wants them, any more than Tehran or Pyongyang mean it when they say they want "peace."

Or, even when he says anything about anything, it means he has a frigging clue what he's talkng about -- as even the Guardian has realised by now.

Although when Helen Clark, according to her husband, says she "felt NZ rejected her," that doesn't mean she isn't right. She was. Comprehensively.

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Messiah logic [update 2]

We've heard of Modal Logic, Boolean Logic and Fuzzy Logic.  Apparently there is also Messiah Logic. Herewith a sample, from Prague:

The fact that North Korea just fired a missile over Japan "underscores" the need, says the Obamessiah, for the US to unilaterally disarm.

If you can make that make any sense at all then you have grasped Messiah Logic, and are ready to be saved.

UPDATE 1
: Free Radical contributor Luboš Motl reports on the coming of the Messiah to Prague, "the new capital of peace and capitalism."
UPDATE 2: By the way, the North Korean missile currently under development has a reported range of some 8000km.  Putting a fair swathe of the planet in what blogger Tim Blair calls the Dong Zone.

Adelaide, Amsterdam, Ankara, Apia and Athens are all around or just slightly over 8000km from Pyonyang.  Brisbane, Beirut and Berlin are closer still.
Auckland is 9784.2.

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Will gold and rank incompetence save the world? [updated]

Three minutes before Daniel Hannan now famously tore Gorgon Brown a new arsehole in Strasbourg twelve days ago, MEP Nigel Farage  took the Gorgon to task for his incompetence as Chancellor:

"We have not heard an apology. Your Government has apologised for the Amritsar massacre; you have apologised for slavery; you have apologised for virtually everything. Will you please apologise for what you did as British Chancellor.
"

"
As far as the economy is concerned, you have told us that somehow you are the economic guru," said Farage, that "you are the man who can save the world.

"Well, I remember very well your first big act as Chancellor when you sold 400 metric tonnes of gold on the worlds exchanges at USD 275 an ounce. At todays valuation, that would be USD 10 billion higher. It was not just the fact that you got it wrong, because we can all get it wrong. It was the fact that you announced in advance how much you were going to sell and on what day you were going to sell it. It was an error so basic that the average A-level economics student even in these educationally devalued times would not have done this."

"
An error so basic that the average A-level economics student even in these educationally devalued times would not have done this."  In fact, an error so basic that only the IMF and the world's leading politicians would do it -- because this is precisely what the IMF is about to do at the behest of the G20.

Apparently only rank incompetence can
save the world.

UPDATE
: Something good to come out of Strasbourg: Daniel Hannan's incendiary Euro Parliament Speech garnered 2M+ British Viewers.

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New browser: Flock

On the recommendation of a friend, I'm trying out a new Mozilla-based browser called Flock that offers lots of bells and whistles, including the promise of much easier and more stable blog posting.

I'll let you know how that goes.  In the meantime, you can try it out yourself: Flock.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quote of the Day: Fu Ying

It’s been a very long time indeed since we’ve heard words like these from a politician, said by the Chinese Ambassador to the UK in response to suggestions earlier in the week that China should use its own huge cash reserves to produce “a fiscal boost for the world”:

"[China's] reserves are not the money of the government. The Premier cannot write a cheque on it. It's the money of the Chinese people and the Chinese businesses who left it in the safe-keeping of the central bank..."

Like I say, it’s been a long time since we’ve heard words like these from a politician.  The last time I can recall was in 1887, when President Grover Cleveland vetoed an appropriation to help drought-stricken counties in Texas, saying:

I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds. ... I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution.

Cleveland was almost certainly echoing James Madison, who in 1792 when Congress appropriated $15,000 to assist some French refugees he wrote disapprovingly:

I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

Seems one modern politician at least has some idea of whose money it is that’s being spent.

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