Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hail to The Stig

Just because we wanted Michael Schumacher to be The Stig, doesn' t mean he always was The Stig.

David MacGregor: Iran, Freedom & Revolution

David McGregor is the head of Sovereign Life and the author of what is still the most popular post here at NOT PC (Google global+economic+financial+crisis+causes++solutions and you’ll see what I mean).  Here are his thoughts on the tinderbox in Iran:

NoSurrender The protests in Iran are dominating the news online and off - and rightly so.

Although I have no proof, it would appear that significant voting irregularities have occurred, and been a catalyst for people disenchanted with the way things are to get out on to the street and protest.

What’s amazing though, is the way people from all over the world have warmed to the Iranian cause - and perhaps for the first time seen Iranians as human individuals like the rest of us, rather than simply robotic extensions of a theocratic system.

Hopes are high. The cry for freedom is universal and watching those brave young people stand up and defy their rulers is something to celebrate for sure. However, it is at times like this that clarification of purpose and reading between the lines is required.

While many people are quick to use the words “democracy” and “freedom” in the same phrase, as if they were identical, I would caution against treating them with equal reverence.

What the Iranians, and all of us, want and need is freedom - not democracy. Democracy is fraudulent freedom - something we already have far too much of in the “free” world. I would urge Iranians to demand the real thing - true individual freedom.

How do you define freedom? I would define it simply as this: freedom is that state of being where you are fully in control of your own life and property. And a free society is one in which such freedom is enjoyed by everyone - equally. No “ifs” and no “buts.”

By that definition no country on earth is fully free - being ruled by an elite political class representing the “state”, and under a system in which control over one’s own life and property is systematically undermined, negated and wilfully abolished.

Of course, some countries are freer than others. But as long as democracy casts a veneer of respectability over an otherwise totalitarian impulse, one needs to take care in distinguishing between nationalist illusions and facts on the ground.

Believe me, no matter what country you live in, you are nowhere as free as you think you are. And if you don’t believe me - consider just how many ways rightful control of your own life and property is violated by the state, as a result of “fair” and democratic elections!

6a00d83451c45669e201157140b4f5970b-500wiThere are two likely outcomes to this crisis. One is that the theocratic state will do what states always do - and bring out the guns, big time.

Another is that calmer heads will prevail and a vote recount will be allowed - thereby acting as an escape valve for seething emotions. Either way, the theocratic system is unlikely to disappear any time soon - so perhaps the best Iranians can hope for is to have the noose around their necks loosened a little. And I do not denigrate such loosening, as it is an essential first step to demanding and acquiring even more freedom.

Whether Iranian, American, Brit, German, Australian or a citizen of any country, people need to understand that under the present rules of the game (democracy) true freedom can never arrive. Why? Because the nature of democracy (morality by numbers) allows voters to use the power of the state to undermine and abolish the freedom of others - to legislate away the right of individuals to 100% control of their own person and property.

475945531But there’s more to this Iranian street “revolution” than meets the eye. At its base, it’s a challenge to the existing order. The Iranian state has switched off text messaging, blocked websites and expelled foreign journalists - yet it still cannot stop powerful stories and emotive images from appearing around the world. Such stories and images are the “gift” of freedom- enhancing modern communications technology - technology created by free people, not tyrants.

Twitter, Facebook, mobile phones and cameras are being mobilised by individuals to get the news and images out - even in the face of what appears to be insurmountable odds. This is good news indeed. And while the political leaders of various countries feel compelled to reflect their own citizens’ enthusiasm for such assertions of freedom - and praise the Iranian protestors for their actions - surely, deep in their totalitarian hearts they must be trembling.

To see the state’s powers of censorship, violence, intimidation and control openly challenged in this way is an inspiration to freedom lovers everywhere - and will surely have repercussions down the track.

The events in Iran are opening a window into the soul and essence of totalitarianism - whether of the theocratic, democratic, fascist, communist, socialist or militarist variety - and revealing the nature of the beast for all to see. The contrast between self-appointed mullahs and their armed guards and those hopeful, enthusiastic, life-affirming individuals swarming through Tehran’s streets, stands as a testament to the power of ideas. And mark my words, the idea of freedom is much more compelling than the idea of slavery.

Viva the revolution!

Yours in freedom
David MacGregor

UPDATE: The ObaMessiah has made what newspapers are calling “his strongest comments to date” on the street revolution in Iran, urging the Iranian government "to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people." Hardly the resounding clarion of freedom that desperate people yearning to breathe free want as fuel!  Lindsay Perigo writes the speech that should be loaded up on Obama’s teleprompter:

My Fellow-Americans
    As I speak to you tonight, there is hope that the most evil regime on the face of this earth is about to collapse.
    The theocratic dictatorship that rules the Islamic Republic of Iran is a regime that has actively sought to discredit and destroy America since its inception thirty years ago. It calls America "The Great Satan," routinely calls for "Death to America" and openly despises the freedom and prosperity we take for granted. It seeks nuclear weapons. It seeks the destruction of Israel. It sponsors terrorist organizations. It fomented the insurgency that began after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It has supplied the wherewithal for the roadside bombs that have killed so many of our soldiers in Iraq. Within its borders, it stones women to death. It arrests and tortures women if their headscarves do not fully cover their hair or their clothes show their figures too clearly. It hangs gays for being gay. It forbids lovers to hold hands in the streets. It brutally suppresses dissent and non-conformity, and enforces adherence to the most savage tenets of its religion.
    But the spirit of man, it seems, is indomitable. Even in the face of such barbarism, Iranians, cheated of an honest election result, have spontaneously surged onto the streets, risking their lives for their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Some, it's true, may be hoping for an even stricter theocracy; we have reason to think, however, the vast majority are young folk yearning to be free.
    Brave Iranians, go for it. America is behind you. We're all Iranians now. . .

Read on for the full text, and reflect that platitudes, smooth words, and timidity never won a true victory anywhere.

If this is ‘not so bad,’ then what have you got for afters? [updated with audio]

The headline says “Economy not doing as bad as some feared.”

But the article reports “One thousand people a week are joining the dole queue as the recession bites.”

Peter Conway of the CTU suggests this morning on Nine to Noon the number unemployed is currently about 115,000 with more than 1200 people added per week, and getting worse [audio here].

And the Herald reports that numbers on the dole represented only around 32 per cent of the officially unemployed in New Zealand [hat tip Lindsay Mitchell].

If this is ‘not so bad,’ mate, then I’d hate to see what you’d be calling tragic.

The first step in conquering disaster is facing up to reality. Roger Douglas quoted Ayn Rand recently on this point, saying:

“When a man, a business, or an entire society is facing bankruptcy, there are two courses that those involved can follow: they can evade the reality of their situation and act on a frantic, blind, range-of-the-moment expediency – not daring to look ahead, wishing no one would name the truth, yet desperately hoping that something will save them somehow – or they can identify the situation, check their premises, discover their hidden assets, and start rebuilding.” - Ayn Rand

As a nation, [responded Douglas] New Zealand faces a choice over which course of action we adopt. So far, it seems as if New Zealand is following the first course of action. . .

Headlines like this ne above seem to underscore his point, don’t you think?

PS: Perhaps for an exercise you could ask yourself what effect a raise in the minimum wage law would have on the numbers joining the dole queue? A fall? Abolition of the minimum wage law? Please send your working to Peter Conway and his fellow unionists, who still insist on raising the legal minimum wage in the face of rising unemployment.

Smack go the courts

Last week I quoted John Key’s now infamous comment on the Bradford/Clark/Key anti-smacking law that “To date I have not seen any evidence that it is not working.”

I quoted MacDoctor, who says the real damage is “being felt in family dynamics, not in law enforcement. There is considerable fear, uncertainty and doubt about the new law and what is really acceptable.”

Lindsay Mitchell offers further evidence today that the real damage lies in both quarters – that “the police can and will prosecute any degree of force on hearsay” and use the full weight of this non-objective law* to sow uncertainty, doubt, disorientation and dejection.  Read her story and weep with her.
                                                                                       * * * * * * * *

* What do I mean by non-objective law?  Among other things, Objective law requires that folk “know clearly, and in advance of taking an action, what the law forbids them to do (and why), what constitutes a crime and what penalty they will incur if they commit it.”  Only a fool could suggest that the Bradford/Clark/Key anti-smacking law fits that bill, as the case reported by Lindsay Mitchell highlights. An entry on this topic in the Ayn Rand Lexicon describes the future for family dynamics under such a law:

When men are caught in the trap of non-objective law, when their work, future and livelihood are at the mercy of a bureaucrat’s whim, when they have no way of knowing what unknown “influence” will crack down on them for which unspecified offense, fear becomes their basic motive . . .  Non-objective law is the most effective weapon of human enslavement: its victims become its enforcers and enslave themselves.

And at this point we’re back to MacDoctor’s argument that the real damage is being felt in family dynamics, not in law enforcement – in this light we can now see the damage in the former is due to the non-objective rent in the latter.

LIBERTARIAN SUS: Assaulting adults

Susan Ryder smacks a few politicians wriggling amid bogus ambiguity.

Last Sunday marked the second anniversary of what is commonly known as the Anti-smacking Act, (ie the amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act), just a few days after the announcement of the upcoming referendum on the Act by postal ballot.

A lot can happen in a few days and it did. Hell seemed to break loose. Seemingly every man and his dog pronounced the referendum question “confusing” and “ambiguous”. The cost of the referendum popped up, too. Oddly enough, the people in that camp were opposed to any law change. “The law is working well!” they cried. “Nobody’s been criminalised! “It’s not an issue anymore!”

All that huff and puff demands a good look at the question:
Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?
Because you’re confused, children – er, adults – I’ll explain it to you. You have two choices of response: Yes or No.

Yes, it should be a criminal offence, (or)

No, it should not be a criminal offence

So far, so good; not a lot of confusion there. And as for any ambiguity, if anything it favours the Act’s supporters whom we’ll call the pro-Antis, for the hell of it.

The cost of holding the referendum is estimated at approximately $8 million. Comparatively, the estimated cost of the proposed national cycleway is $50 million. Well, the Greens like bikes so no problem there. And a whopping $550 million was buried deep within the recent budget as being earmarked for ‘climate change’. Whatever that entails, it’s reasonable to believe that the Greens won’t be averse to it. The state-worshipping pro-Antis – never ones to worry about taxpayers as a rule – will have to come up with a better reason than expense.

Having said that, it is worth remembering that the referendum wouldn’t have cost an extra cent had it been added to last year’s general election voting papers as suggested at the time. But Helen Clark was quick to quash that suggestion as being “too confusing”. I have no doubt that, based on every poll taken prior to the Act’s passing, the result of ..
“Do you approve of Sue Bradford’s Anti-Smacking Act – yes or no?”
.. would have been a virtual smack for both Helen Clark and John Key. And we know that politicians of any colour cannot bear to lose face.

Speaking of colour, in its press release last Sunday, the Green party said that the law was working well, giving “children the same legal protection from assault as adults”.

I think we should send a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 to the Greens. They appear to need a reminder of the dangers of Orwellian Newspeak, ie language revision. They have forgotten that assaulting children was always a crime. They have forgotten that those parents who used section 59 in defence of their actions were always in danger of having to explain themselves in a court of law. They have forgotten that a smack on the hand is not synonymous with brutality and never has been. And in their self-importance to proclaim their role in protecting the ‘chooldren’, they miss the irony in their blatant assault upon parental rights to child discipline within the bounds of the law, as it stood for so long.

It is also worth recalling the original intention of Sue Bradford’s private member’s bill: to ban smacking outright. This aim is in keeping with her Marxist philosophy of state control in all facets of life. The bill was controversial from day one, with polls overwhelmingly opposed.

According to a Family First press release from last week, John Key said this at the time:
"The Labour government [said Key] has shown utter contempt for New Zealanders and the democratic process with its plan to railroad the anti-smacking bill through Parliament. The Labour-led Government knows the measure is deeply unpopular, so it plans to act against the wishes of the majority of Kiwis and ram the bill through under urgency. This is a deeply cynical abuse of power as Labour tries to clear the decks on the controversial issue. Helen Clark has refused to let her MPs vote the way they really think on this bill. To ram it through under the cover of urgency shows just how out of touch her government has become."
That was what John Key said then. Then National MP Chester Borrows jumped in with a proposed amendment. Bradford saw red – appropriately – and swore to “pull” her bill if any amendment was forthcoming. What happened next was pure politics with quiet deals being done and before you could say ‘flip-flop’, the Borrows amendment was adopted, Bradford was buttoned and Clark neatly shifted the argument to being one of “stopping the heinous abuse”. The bill’s passing was all but guaranteed when John Key bought into it, ignoring his prior rhetoric.

Two years down the track and the abuse has not stopped, mongrels having little time for the law. And political mongrels show no sign of altering welfare laws that pay people to have children they neither want nor care for.

It is crucial to note that those opposed to the Bill are not necessarily in favour of smacking children as a form of discipline, nor are they necessarily promoting smacking as a form of discipline.

The issue here is one of state interference and what it can lead to. As such, I remain staunchly opposed to this Act and shall be voting NO in this referendum.

Those who believe in the virtue of limited government can only do likewise.

* * Read Susan Ryder's column here every Tuesday at NOT PC * *

Ennis House – Frank Lloyd Wright

flw0034 Ennis_House_2_small

ennis_house_8 Filmgoers will know it as “that Blade Runner house; Frank Lloyd Wright enthusiasts will know it as the 1924 Mayan-inspired Ennis House, built of cast concrete “textile'” blocks; and Los Angeles realtors and would-be owners will know it as a $15 million opportunity for someone.

ennis houseThat’s right, it’s for sale.  And that price sticker is $i5 million plus repairs: it still awaits the completion of repairs after Los Angeles’ 1994 earthquake and subsequent disuse and dilapidation, repairs that have been begun but will likely cost a further $5 million or so to be completed. Story here. Find out what you get for your money here at the house’s official website.

  And don’t forget you’ll be buying a legend. As Frank Lloyd Wright said in a letter to The Ennis’ in 1924: “You see, the final result is going to stand on that hill a hundred years or more.  Long after we are gone it will be pointed out as the Ennis House and pilgrimages will be made to it by lovers of the beautiful from everywhere.”  And so they have.


Monday, 22 June 2009

New blogs

One new blog, and one that’s new to me – both of them helmed by good people.

First of all we’ve got Messages from Inner Space by Joy Faulkner, long-term advocate for the rights of smokers. Her main reason for blogging, she says, is to take on the nico nazis, “and I am not going to be frightened off because I may offend.”  Never seen her frightened off yet.  Except by spiders.

Her most recent post is right in character: I Have A Chimney On My Head.  Welcome to the blogosphere, Joy.  :-)

Ands second there’s Paul van Dinther’s Planet in Action, a blog for lovers of Google Earth.  He tells me that visitors are overwhelmingly not from round here, so see what you can do to fix that.  In fact, there’s a place right here you might like to take a look at if you’re a local.  Maybe even put it up for sale.

The country's highest-paid beneficiaries: well overpaid

David Farrar has been assessing the amounts that some of the country's highest-paid beneficiaries pull down.

The results are startling.

Early childhood crisis very easy to fix

Nick Smith started it.  Trevor Mallard continued it. And now education minister Anne Tolley appears blithely unaware of what they both started, and what early childhood education centres are now enduring because of them.
The problem created by Smith and Mallard, and by the ministry that captured them both, has finally made the front pages of the Royal New Zealand Herald.  “Preschools face loss of top teachers,” screams their front-page headline. “New qualifications target threatens experienced staff,” says the subheading. And in the body of the piece there is this:
    Early childhood centres will have to sack some of their most experienced teachers next year because they have not completed a specialised course. . .   The qualification move come as the Ministry of Education estimates centres will be short of between 1500 and 2600 teachers next year.
    Early Childhood Council chief executive Sarah Farquhar said the ministry's stifling qualification requirements were exacerbating the chronic teacher shortage.
Sarah Farquhar is dead right.  At a time of increasing demand from parents there is a chronic teacher shortage. And it’s dead easy to deduce the cause:
When you see problems of such a magnitude, you have to suspect a government's involved. And when you witness a crisis that anyone with half a brain could see coming years ago, you'd have to suspecta government might have created it.
And you'd be dead right in your suspicions.
Only a government would want to see experienced teachers with education degrees sacked at a time of shortage’. 
Only a new government minister would be unaware that the shortage was government created.
Only a teachers union would celebrate the shortage.
Only a government ministry would happily shut down schools in which children are thriving and their parents are happy – shut them down because they don’t fit the ministry’s one-size-fits-all model.
And only a teachers union and a ministry combined would celebrate the shortages as bringing “quality” to the business of educating three to six year old children.
The sackings are about to happen because of a “forced retraining” scheme first announced by former National education minister Nick Smith, and finally re-announced by Labour’s education minister Trevor Mallard – a scheme that told early child education teachers that it didn’t matter what experience you had or even what qualifications you held: if you didn’t have the uniquely PC local early childhood degree or diploma, which takes three to four years of head-nodding and indoctrination to “earn,” then after a certain date you couldn’t run a school or (starting in 2010) even work in one.  
Advocates of the sackings insist that all early childhood practitioners having precisely the same degree or diploma -- all of them indoctrinated in the same feelgood mush of wall-to-wall waiatas and the prevailing culture of illiteracy and failure worship -- is supposed to deliver “quality,” instead of a cooky-cutter, one-size-fits-all mediocrity   But as a vigorous opponent of such a culture once said, don’t bother to examine such an obvious folly, just examine what it’s intended to achieve.  What it achieves here is control:
  1. It removes from the profession those who disagree with the prevailing orthodoxy, increasing the ministry’s power over what was once a healthy and diverse industry but is now so wringing wet and one-size-fits-all that it has no time for genuine diversity and real education, and too much time on Treaty issues and group-think.
  2. There’s no way that a bureaucrat can ever divine the quality of a school in the way a parent can, so the issue of qualifications is being used as a proxy – while destroying the diversity and the quality early-childhood teaching that really did exist not so long ago.
This is not about quality at all – as anyone who has ever seen a graduate of one of these courses could attest.  It’s not about quality, it’s about control – and the ministry is about to achieve complete control over a compliant sector that once among the most innovative in the country. But instead of being innovative, if they had a forelock early childhood sector professionals would now be tugging it. As Sarah Farquhar’s predecessor Sue Thorne said a few years back, early childhood education centres are now  "too bogged down in rules to be innovative."
The rules are not being relaxed, and the entirely predictable collapse of early childhood education is under way. Thousands of good early childhood teachers have already left this profession in the wake of this requirement; dozens of once excellent early childhood centres have either closed or reduced their standards; sectors of the industry such as Montessori and Steiner schools have been ravaged – their growth stalled and their standards shot to pieces --  and the problem is only going to get worse.
I say that the crisis was entirely predictable and I meant it.  I don’t claim any special knowledge – apart from knowledge of the bleeding obvious – but it was clear enough to me at least nine years ago that this wasn’t going to end well.  Here’s what I said in June 2000 in the 72nd issue of The Free Radical, which I post here unchanged:

Athens v Sparta

“The purposeful, disciplined use of intelligence is the highest achievement possible to man: it is that which makes him human. The higher the skill, the earlier in life its learning should be started�Just as the child is the father of the man, so the nursery school is the father to the university.”
Ayn Rand
    It is our minds that make us distinctly human. It is our very means of survival, & our chief glory; it is the human mind that is responsible for a Beethoven symphony, a Shakespearean sonnet, an Aristotelian treatise (& the glories of dark ale & red wine). As a bird teaches its young to fly, & a lioness her cubs to hunt, so too must we humans teach our infants to think - to use the mind they are born with.
    Teaching is not necessarily schooling, but it is generally to schools that we send our children to learn. Historically, there has always been an uneasy tension between public & private schools, & between authoritarian -- often religious -- schools & others of a more relaxed, or secular outlook.
    This tension was first felt in classical Greece, between the very different societies of Athens & Sparta. Athenians enjoyed schools run as private enterprises, with parents free to choose among available teachers at a price they could afford. That it was successful in producing the first flowering of a truly human civilisation can be judged by the literature, art, science & philosophy that we still enjoy & learn from today.
    The Spartan model was very different; here was big brother in the classroom writ large.    Schools were “educational boot camps” -- with all that implied about the Spartan way of life --their task to produce warriors, automatons, to follow orders & serve the state "as one herd." As one writer notes: “every aspect of child rearing which in Athens was the right & responsibility of parents, was in Sparta the prerogative of the govt." Unlike Athenian culture, we do not today enjoy the cultural outpouring of Sparta for one very simple reason: There was none.
    None, except that is for a culture of authoritarianism & unrelenting state worship.  Democratic Athens was eventually crushed by militarist Sparta, leading Plato for one to praise the brutal “efficiency” of the Spartan system which had trained the mindless herds. He essentially replicated it in the authoritarian society he proposed in The Republic, concluding that "family training cannot be trusted; the god of the state demands public control of the breeding, nursing & training of children."
    The lessons of Sparta & Plato were not lost on authoritarians & collectivists of every hue in nearly every century. State schools in Prussia, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia &; revolutionary France, & religious schools run by English Anglicans, German Lutherans & French Jesuits, all learned from Spartan methods & doctrines. Indeed, the Jesuits, eager to produce youngsters displaying “blind obedience to the Pope” made famous the doctrine: “Give me the child until he is seven, & I will show you the man." They recognised the crucial importance of the early childhood years in forming a child’s mind.
    So too did influential state school advocate James G. Carter in 1830s America, who argued that govt should “seize the reins” of flourishing American tuition-charging schools "for its own self preservation. . .  If the Spartan could mould & transform a nation to suit his taste by means of an early education," he argued, "why may not the same be done at the present day?"
    It is. Today’s battlefield in is in NZ’s early childhood education centres; it has long been over in primary & secondary schools where the combined forces of the Ministry, NZEI, PPTA, & NZQA have gained power by stealth when they could not do so openly. Much of the parental choice that Plato & the Spartans both abhorred so much has long disappeared from these schools. The recent removal of bulk funding is but another step down a road already dark.
    But early childhood education has long been a holdout to this process. It is an industry with 4,000 schools & 8,000 teachers, responsible for nearly 200,000 children. Of these schools, 41% are private fee-paying schools. At present, a de facto voucher system operates which has encouraged a flourishing of diversity. Steiner, Montessori, Playcentre, Kohanga Reo, Froebel, Kindergarten, state maintained schools, private schools, community owned & run schools - all coexist quite happily, & parents take advantage of the diversity & choice on offer. It is this very diversity that is one of the great strengths of early childhood education in this country.
    Sadly, it is because of that diversity that it is now under threat. At a 1999 election meeting Helen Duncan & Liz Gordon (both now on the Education Select Committee) confessed that they regarded the existence of private profit-making early childhood centres “with concern,” but frankly confessed they were “not sure” what to do about it.
    They do now.
    The statists have found a way to storm the early childhood centres, & they are doing it in the name of “Quality”! Instead of seizing the schools, they have instead hit on the idea of seizing the teachers, & forcibly retraining them. Minister Trevor Dullard has mandated that all – all -- persons responsible for an early childhood centre must have a three-year state diploma by 2005, no matter what other qualification they might already hold. This, Dullard says, "will improve the quality of education [that] children attending early childhood services receive."
    The Early Childhood Council (ECC) representing independent centres estimates this will affect 60% of industry professionals, many of them already holding degrees, diplomas, & even doctorates. Many have successfully run schools for years, with happy children & parents to prove it, but they do not hold a three year Early Childhood Diploma. ECC describes the diploma as often "weighted heavily with academic & not practical requirements, providing little information on infant/toddler age range or on management issues & generally poorly matched to the competencies actually needed by supervising teachers in services."
    Challenged at an Auckland public meeting to explain what will happen to a small school whose owner & head teacher must leave to undergo three years of forced re-training -- after twenty years of successful teaching -- Dullard admitted, "I don’t know". I do, & so too did that teacher - so probably do the parents of children at her school, & so do the many others being herded into retraining: It will be a disaster. Many early childhood teachers will simply leave the profession, or will leave the country for saner pastures abroad.
    I predict in two years time that the number of early childhood centres will have markedly diminished, &; those remaining will be struggling to find teachers with significant experience. There will be both a teacher shortage & a school shortage. In a pattern only too familiar to those who watch the growth of the state it will be at precisely this time that we will hear there has been a “market failure” & that the govt must step in & pick up the pieces.
    And Sparta will have won again!
I wrote that back in 2000 about the crisis being so obviously set up. Nothing has changed to avert it. The current crisis is tragic, it was predictable, and yet it is entirely simple to remedy: with the stroke of a pen education minister Anne Tolley can remove the forced retraining requirement, sack the ministry bureaucrats who promoted it, and return schools to the regime that existed prior to its introduction.     
    Ms Tolley doesn’t need “officials to work on options.”  She doesn’t need to blindly follow what Messrs Smith and Mallard so destructively set up.  She can’t just delay the inevitable crisis for a year or two and leave the problem for a successor.  If she had the courage, she could sort it out for good in an afternoon.
    I invite her to do what’s necessary to spike the Spartans’ guns.  Or step down.

“High standards”! Who’re you kidding, Rodney.

Making “off colour remarks” to women!  Crikey, who would do that? 

And what sort of woman would be so easily offended? When did working women become so precious?  Such shrinking violets?  Sure ACT’s David Garrett is an odious prick, but why not just tell him that to his face instead of running off to nanny like a tell-tale tit.

And this idea that MPs are “held to a high standard”?  Who the hell is Rodney kidding?  MPs are held in even lower esteem than lawyers.  Any lower and they’d be able to crawl under a snake.

This is obviously just a story for a slow news day about an MP who has a brain function to match.  Nothing to see; nothing really to talk about.  Move along.

UPDATE: Cactus Kate reckons “Garrett is a tad mental, however he is ACT's quota for the mentally infirm.”

Container architecture – hardly inhumane, say architects [update 2]


412077688_c340118112 Lawyer Peter Williams is a piece of work. He has that uniquely lawlerly ability to talk in detail, colourfully and at length on subjects he knows precisely nothing about.

This morning he was talking volubly about the "inhumanity" of using shipping containers to house criminals.

They’re not designed for it, says Peter.

They’re not fit for humans, says Peter.

No one could live in them, says Peter:

If the ordinary person applied to the local council for a permit to live in a shipping container I don't think for a moment that they'd have any chance of that being granted. And why? Because it lacks sanitation, it lacks warmth, it's not waterproof, it's not adequate, it's not designed for human habitation . . .

container5 Really?! Well here’s at least ten international architects who’d call you a liar, Peter. Here’s another. And another. Here’s a good source on shipping containers used for architectural purposes: the Shipping Container Architecture Information Database. Here’s an article on the popularity of shipping containers, from disaster-relief housing to a media school. “Costing around $1,500 to $2,000,” says the article in The Architect's Newspaper, “they are economical, structural, mobile, and increasingly more aesthetic ways to design.” And here’s a couple of locals who like them. The one pictured above and at right is Ross Stevens’s Wellington house. (Check out a slide show here.) is an industrial design lecturer at Victoria University. He’s very happy about his house.lt_mdu1

Here’s an architectural firm who specialises in the things (pictures right). They call themselves Lo-Tek.

The place pictured below is a hotel in Uxbridge, West London made out of shipping containers – which is about as attractive as Uxbridge gets. Punters seem to like it. More hotels made of shipping containers are planned to help accommodate visitors to the 2012 London Olympics.

lt_mdu3 Which just goes to show, once again, how little Mr Williams needs to know before opening his mouth. It seems to me he’s lied for a living for so long, he’s forgotten what facts even look like.

Peter, get a life. Get some knowledge. Try learning a little something, just once, before opening your bloody mouth and letting your wind blow your tongue around.

And consider that even in the unlikely case that you were correct – which must be a very rare occurrence – the discomfort of living in a container cell is still a whole lot safer than sharing a double bunk room with a twenty-stone prisoner called Bubba.


UPDATE 1: Audrey Young agrees.

I have two words about the fuss over putting prisoners in converted containers - Wai Iti.
It is a rustically beautiful beachside retreat in north Taranaki. As well as having classic kiwi baches dotted on hills overlooking the Tasman sea, the old camping ground has a whole lot of extremely pleasant cabins or "compartments" as they are called, converted from old shipping containers. . .
They are lined. They have windows cut into them and decks attached to them for G and T at sunset. And people pay to stay in them. They are very cute and a testament to Kiwi ingenuity and , I'm sure many people would think, far too good for prisoners. . .
What is instrinsically "inhumane" about shipping containers?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Thought for a Friday

Thought for a Friday: Perhaps if fewer women went to university, there’d be  more room for Maoris?

Harry Enfield starts the argument:

Step 2 of a nine-step programme: Denial.

Ah, so that’s what’s going on.  Defending his firm’s study on the costs of alcohol that a thorough criticism concluded had "few redeeming features" – a study that overstates “the annual social cost of alcohol abuse” by around thirty-three times, just as its sponsors wanted – Ganesh Nana from BERL said that he and his critics obviously have “a different world view.”

Sounds like Mr Nana is living in a different world altogether.  A world of denial.

Quote of the Day – F.A. Hayek, advice to central bankers

Writing from the very depths of the 1930s depression, Friedrich Hayek offers advice for the central bankers responsible for this one.

    "Instead of furthering the inevitable liquidation of the maladjustments brought about by the boom during the last three years, all conceivable means have been used to prevent that readjustment from taking place; and one of these means, which has been repeatedly tried though without success, from the earliest to the most recent stages of depression, has been this deliberate policy of credit expansion. …
    To combat the depression by a forced credit expansion is to attempt to cure the evil by the very means which brought it about; because we are suffering from a misdirection of production, we want to create further misdirection—a procedure that can only lead to a much more severe crisis as soon as the credit expansion comes to an end. … It is probably to this experiment, together with the attempts to prevent liquidation once the crisis had come, that we owe the exceptional severity and duration of the depression.”

- Hayek, ‘Monetary theory and trade cycle.’ Quoted in Tom Woods’ article, ‘Unnatural Disaster: How the Fed Creates Booms and Busts.’

The Lord of the Flies - the Keynesian edition [updated]

Remember Lord of the Flies?  This is from the little-known rejected first draft [hat tip Jeffrey Tucker].


UPDATE: Today the issue is still Keynes versus Hayek, says Mario Rizzo, just as it was in the Great Depression.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Filipinos, Foreign Aid and Five-Year-Olds

In which Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes his regularly irreverent look at some of the past week’s headlines.

  1. Taxpayers Get Bill For MPs’ Campaign Trips – Productive New Zealanders have just funded seventeen Molesworth St parasites to visit Mt Albert during the recent by-election campaign. These cockroaches attended sham meetings and conducted “parliamentary business” in Auckland so that you and I would be forced to pick up the tab for their hotel bills, taxi fares and electioneering. Jonathan Hunt would be proud of them. National’s party whip says all MPs acted within the rules. Time then, I say, for an immediate overhaul of those rules. Let’s make political parties self-funding. Why the hell should I be forced to fund Phil Goff or John Key, when the policies they espouse turn my stomach? Quote of the week has to be Parliamentary Services general manager Geoff Thorn who in a moment of psychosis described MPs as “honourable people.” Honourable people who don’t hesitate to spend other people’s money in the pursuit of power. At least the Libertarianz Party were honourable enough to refuse taxpayer funding for television advertising during the 2008 election campaign. In addition, they were not allowed to fund their own television advertising, thus closing that door as a means of putting their message across. I say it again: why should an individual be forced to fund campaigns for organisations whose ideas and policies are diametrically opposed to his own? It’s high time we abolished restrictions on political advertising, and stopped public funding of political parties.
  2. ‘Give Maori Free Access To Uni’ – Pita Sharples insults Maori students with his call for tertiary institutions to lower their entry standards for a favoured minority group that he considers incapable of entering university under their own steam. Sharples presumably wants not just equality of opportunity in our universities - which Maori people already have now - but equality of outcome. How on earth does he think someone who has failed to achieve at secondary school could march straight into university and succeed? If Dr Sharples is so worried about the absence of Maori in mainstream education, why not get rid of “mainstream”? What’s wrong with a bit of diversity in our education system? Why not make it easier for interested parties to set up new educational facilities, including ones who gave free access to everyone regardless of school achievement? Or even race-based ones, as preferred by Dr Sharples. Just don’t ask me to fund race-based universities, because I have other priorities for my money – such as educating my own children. In fact, get the state right out of education. If Dr Sharples is so concerned about the lack of Maori participation in universities, why doesn’t he petition the tribes, with their billions in Treaty settlement pay-offs, to fund their own private universities, with their own entry criteria?
  3. Don't repatriate Filipino workers, pleads consulThousands of workers from the Philippines plan to outstay their work permits. Their consul-general here has asked that these people be allowed to stay, as many of them have sold everything they own back home to come and work here. I say: why not let them stay? Get rid of minimum wage laws, so that they can all find work; and stop them from claiming taxpayer-funded welfare, so they don’t become a drain on the rest of us. Let’s make these Filipinos the recipients of “foreign aid” by giving them jobs here. Once they find employment, give them a vote. Equally, remove the franchise from native-born sickness, invalid and unemployment beneficiaries. Give people incentive to be self-supporting, instead of rewarding non-production.
  4. Fury As Five Year Old Told To Clean Toilets – A five year old who hit another child in the face with a ball is not smacked but instead is told to clean toilets at the child care facility he attends. This has apparently caused damage to his mother’s ‘mana’ and trampled his spirit. Well, diddums. This child has been directed into some work that will benefit other children. I say well done to the caregivers responsible for turning a negative into a positive, and exposing this child to a work situation early in his life. Too many children in situations of intergenerational welfare dependency never learn what work is, and survive (if they are lucky) in squalid filthy conditions, looked after by dope-addled criminals. And here’s the kicker: the five year old’s mother is now seeking advice from Annette Sykes - the same Annette Sykes who rejoiced when Islamic terrorists killed thousands of innocent people on September 11, 2001. A real expert on human rights, our Annette. Wonder if she thought for one second about the mana and spirit of those who perished in the World Trade Centre?

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

* * Read Richard McGrath’s column every Wednesday here at NOT PC . . .  except when when you read it on a Friday * *

‘A Cobblestone Is the Weapon of the Proletariat’ – Ivan Shadr


To those who are astonished at the appearance here at this blog of a well-known work of 1920s Soviet Art, I say it’s often astonishing how successfully the message of powerful art can transcend political ideology.

The theme here is resistance, determination, the sheer will to overcome with whatever the tools at hand. Sculptor Ivan Shadr (real name Ivan Dmitriyevich Ivanov) might have put his talent to work in the service of Soviet Art, unfortunately, but what he produced is no less powerful for that – not at least when his theme is so universal.

The young man here could just as easily be resisting Czarist cossacks, Soviet tanks or Iranian militia – the key qua art is that he is resisting.  And not without hope.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

The oxymoron that is local government transport planning

Proponents of Rodney Hide's template for Auckland's mega-council insists it's absolutely necessary to amalgmate Auckland's six council into one in order to "integrate city planning."

Which is to say, to integrate "planning" by council planners (while, incidentally, making private planning more difficult).

Which is to say, to give more power to morons like this one, Mr Chris Darby, North Shore City's representative on the Regional Transport Committee, to make your life more difficult and his ego more shiny.

Why do I call him a moron? Because Mr Darby is a tranport planner who doesn't like roads. Worse, he's an Auckland transport planner who doesn' t like roads. Even though 86% of commutes in Auckland are undertaken by car, and only 7% by public transport (and of those more than half are by buses, which use those same roads) Mr Darby, North Shore transport planner objects to 76% of Auckland transport funding going on roads.

"An absolute time warp to the 1950s" this moron calls that decision. "It fails to provide against dwindling oil supplies," he says. "It will be a long-time liability," he insists.

Why do we want to give morons like this any power at all, let alone more? As Liberty Scott says, in giving this rate-paid liability a thorough fisking, "Mr Darby is another commodity speculator who doesn't actually risk his own money on the assertion that oil prices will go sky high. . . Why should he have any say at all? He doesn't represent users, he doesn't represent producers, he represents planners."

And central "planners" are the lowest of the low. We don't want their kind of planning "integrated," we need it abolished.

Quote of the Day: Art Carden on charity

On the occasion of Te Ururoa Flavell's bill seeing the light of day, here's some wisdom from Art Carden:
"Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat forever. Protect his private property rights to fish and he'll feed the world."

PUBLIC NOTICE: Help wanted

Beer writer, Real Beer blogger and (ir)regular NOT PC contributor Neil Miller is trying to determine, once and for all, which is the oldest pub in New Zealand to help sort out this “stoush” described here.

Can you help?

Any theories?  Any stories? Any facts?

Clint Heine has a couple of long-held thoughts.

No more confiscation!

What a shame that one the same day Maori Party leader Pita Sharples was disgracing himself, his colleague Te Ururoa Flavell was presenting a bill before parliament that does him enormous credit.

His bill aims to return Maori or general land confiscated from property-owners under the Public Works Act and never used – or at least to give them first right of refusal – to compensate owners for that theft, and to ensure that no more Maori land is confiscated under the Public Works Act.

For that, I give Mr Flavell and his party a nine out of ten, and great kudos for being the only party in Parliament who wants to protect property rights.

But can you see why I’ve taken one point off?  It’s obvious, isn’t it: there’s no reason at all, is there, that the protection of the last of those three points shouldn’t be extended to all property-owners, regardless of race.  As we’ve said here several times, there’s no need to confiscate property for projects when it can all be done voluntarily.

But if it can start here, with Mr Flavell’s bill, then we’re at least going somewhere better.

Race-based racist foolishness

Q: What do you get when you cross a race-based party and a government education system? 
A: You get headlines like this one: ‘Give Maori Free Access To Uni’

It would be nice to think that racism was dead in New Zealand.  But it’s not.  It’s alive and well and thriving in Pita Sharples’ proposal for preferential entry to university for unqualified Maori entrants.

The “affirmative action” system admitting under-qualified Maori has been so “successful” – and only an entity occupying a race-based seat could call lowering standards based on race a success – that this numb nut wants to have it extended to Maori with no qualifications at all.

Dr Sharples, who is also Associate Education Minister, said allocating Maori places regardless of their qualifications would boost Maori participation at higher levels of study.

Well, yes it will.  It will but it will hardly earn them greater respect if they fail when they get there, or are coddled through their courses – and it will hardly endow them with respect for their courses or for their own learning.

It will not raise the educational standards of Maori; it will only lower educational standards for everyone.

Now it’s true that students can enter university and succeed without any substantive secondary success – I know this because I know students who have.  But this says more about the already appallingly low standard of New Zealand’s secondary and tertiary courses (there’s too little real learning being delivered at secondary level, and too few courses at tertiary level that truly necessitate it), and a lot about the courses these students choose. It’s possible for example to achieve a Bachelor of Arts or Education without any original thinking and any prior learning (that is to say, a Bugger All or a Bed, neither of which are worth much more than the paper on which the degrees are printed). 

In fact in most of the humanities faculties a working brain is a positive disadvantage.  But there other areas of learning where a student does need to have prior success and previous learning on which to build. Engineering and medicine are just two. It’s all but impossible to achieve a genuine medical degree or Bachelor of Engineering without some real hard graft, and genuine prior knowledge – impossible, that is, without the preferential coddling of students on the basis of race.

And as Thomas Sowell writes, "The dirty little secret about affirmative action is that it doesn't work."

    An even dirtier secret is that virtually no one really cares whether or not affirmative action works to advance minorities or women.
    It works politically to put its supporters on the side of the angels. It works for ethnic or feminist "leaders" as a rallying cry to mobilize support. For the mushy minded, it works to make them feel morally one-up.

And for politicians, it helps them get a headline.  So that worked well then.

Does MG maketh the man?

PC_Waterfront-sm_A Turns out my car only turns heads when I’m not in it [hat tip TWR].

In some surprising findings commissioned by popular SBS TV show Top Gear Australia, researchers measured changes in the brain responses of women towards a range of men depending on the car they drove. The study tested the reactions to a luxury sports car, a ute, a 4WD, a hotted-up street car and a vintage classic. . .  In one of the biggest surprises, the classic MG Roadster was viewed favourably when empty, but failed to impress the minute a man was seen in it.

Maybe it depends on the man? Maybe it makes me look better?

    The experiment, conducted by Neuro Insight, aimed to explore the argument, "does the car maketh the man."
    "Pretty much every car made the family guy look better", Peter Pynta from Neuro Insight said. But he had this advice for the good-looking guys. "If you're a good looking bloke, don't even worry about it," he said.

So the question is, do I need to sell my MG?  Careful how you answer, now.  ;^)

NOT PJ: A Report into the Costs of Harmful Economic and Other Social Policy Analysis

The government’s pet analysts at BERL will be needing a stiff drink, says Bernard Darnton, after being eviscerated by Not PC reader (and Canterbury University economist) Eric Crampton.

Alcohol was on the menu at a Law Commission breakfast in March, when Geoffrey Palmer floated the idea of yet more government busy-bodying and higher taxes based on a report on the social costs of alcohol conducted by economic analysts BERL at the behest of the Ministry of Health and ACC.

The BERL report estimated the social costs of alcohol – whatever that might mean – at $4.79 billion. That’s a significant fraction of the New Zealand economy that’s supposedly missing or broken because we’re all too hungover to go to work and drunks keep breaking windows and each other’s bones.

I’d be the first to admit to occasionally having such a good time that I forgot to go to work the next day. Sadly the work I missed didn’t just evaporate like evanescent sambuca flames; I just had to catch up later. No lost productivity there (bugger it). Likewise, health costs: Anyone who’s been into Dunedin Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department on a Friday night knows that there are no health costs. You get given a 12-cent photocopy of a leaflet called “So You Think You’ve Broken Your Nose” and told to bugger off.

The analysts at BERL, however, won’t accept my reminiscences as a valid criticism of their cost/benefit analysis. Fortunate, then, that Canterbury University economist Dr Eric Crampton has helpfully produced an arse/elbow analysis of their report.

Economists’ language is usually dry – dryer than Charles’s eyes at Diana’s funeral – but Dr Crampton and collaborator Matt Burgess have trouble restraining themselves. BERL’s estimates of costs are “grossly exaggerated.” They use a “bizarre methodology” and make “very strange assumptions … without any reason or evidence.”

Translating from Academic into English, this is saying that they’re mad. Batshit Crazy. Crazier. Crazier than the shit of vampire bats who’ve been feeding on mad cows and rabid dogs. He’s saying that to believe their conclusions you’d need to have lost more marbles than the Greek Antiquities Commission.

One of the subtle methodological flaws that Crampton and Burgess pick up is that the cost/benefit analysis contains no benefit analysis. My favourite paragraphs in academic papers are the ones that begin, “Astonishingly, …”

The BERL economists assume that anyone who consumes more than two drinks in a session (not that they ever use the word “session”) is irrational and derives no pleasure or other benefit from this activity. Remind me never to go to the BERL Christmas party.

Of course alcohol has benefits – otherwise I wouldn’t buy it. And I buy loads of it so the benefits must be huge. This column, for example. Then there are the sensuous pleasures: the earthy bouquet of a Central Otago pinot noir, the perfectly balanced palate of a Gisborne chardonnay. And don’t forget the immense pleasure to be had masturbating in public – verbally of course, about the earthy bouquets of Central Otago pinots and perfectly balanced palates of Gisborne chardonnays.

Dr Crampton’s critique goes on to dissect the haphazard accounting, the bad economics, the frequent use of misleading language, the lack of transparency in calculations, and many other crimes against logic committed by the report’s authors. He struggles to keep a straight face while referencing Karl Marx (“students of economic history will recognise … a theory discredited”) to explain some of BERL’s reasoning.

He goes on to point out the vast mass of literature on the subject that BERL completely overlooked, presumably because they didn’t look in any actual economic journals, instead copying a similar study done in Australia – one panned for the same faults. The authors of the Australian study that this one was based on were then called in to provide an “independent” peer review. (Apparently they thought it was smashing – “couldn’t have put it better myself.”)

Dr Crampton advises in his accompanying press release that “the Law Commission should give no weight at all to the findings in the BERL report.”

If Crampton and Burgess are anywhere close to right, this report is so shoddy that the only excuse could be that its authors were drunk.

The only non-sinister excuse, that is. Conclude Crampton and Burgess: “A year-long study commissioned by the Ministry of Health and the ACC at a cost of over $135,000 must surely have some purpose. We leave it to readers to consider what that purpose might be.”

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

Wisdom supporting liberty - Jules Dalou, 1889

Peace--protesters-maleWhen liberty has never needed the support of wisdom so desperately, it's a pleasure to discover gems like this, from back when the French knew how to do sculpture and the world knew how to appreciate it, posted at blogs like The Aesthetic Capitalist -- where you can go to learn much more about this small 24" wonder.

As Keats said, "Truth is beauty...

PS; The revolution in Iran is still being twittered here and here – and aggregated at Andrew Sullivan’s. Two recent “tweets” offer both insight and hope.

  • “Only [the pro-government] baseej militia and Etellaat are following orders – and they cannot contain country without Army.
  • “140 characters [the maximum length of a Twitter post] is like a novel when you’re being shot at.”
  • As opposition protest continues in post-election Iran, Revolutionary Guard announces websites and bloggers must remove any materials that 'create tension' or face legal action.
  • Revolutionary Guard targets social media http://tr.im/oMcx
  • "One if by land, two if by sea... and three if by Twitter."
  • Check out the photoshopping on the pro-ahmedinajad rally pictures http://twitpic.com/7m1vd
  • “Confirmed by MOUSAVI - Thursday march in memory of those killed - location tbc - sea of green.”

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Muddling while Tehran yearns [updated]

The sound of freedom is still ringing around the streets, houses and souks of Tehran, even if that sound hasn’t yet reached the White House or the man within it.

While the people of Iran cry out for change from their fearful oppressors, the ObaMessiah who once promoted such a concept as something you could believe in is struggling to avoid any believable stand at all.  The policies of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi are practically the same, says President Zero, all but wondering what the big deal is here.

The big deal, you big oaf, is that freedom is breaking out where hitherto we might have least expected it. Mousavi is hardly Thomas Jefferson, but that’s hardly the point – and it rather makes the perfect the enemy of the good, doesn’t it. Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal explains the point well,

    Just as in Hungary in 1956, a popular uprising has coalesced around a figure (Imre Nagy in Hungary; Mir Hossein Mousavi in Iran), who had once been a creature of the system. Then as now it was buoyed by inspiring American rhetoric about freedom and democracy coming over Voice of America airwaves.
    And then as now the administration effectively turned its back on the uprising when U.S. support could have made a difference. Hungary would spend the next 33 years in the Soviet embrace. One senses a similar fate for Iran, where Mr. Ahmadinejad's "victory" signals the ultimate ascendancy of the ultra-militants in the Revolutionary Guards Corps and the paramilitary Basij, intent on getting what they want and doing as they please even in defiance of their old clerical masters. Which means: Get ready for a second installment of the Iranian cultural revolution.
[Thanks to Shari for the link.]

On top of that, President Zero and his cardboard cut out Vice Biden look to the god of democracy as the balm that will fix all, ignoring some simple advice that rings down through history, advice that the people on the streets of Tehran might pass on to Obama – if he would but listen and if they weren’t banned from communicating by any means other than Twittering: That even if the majority did vote for Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t make it right.

As  Walter Williams reminds us,

Democracy and majority rule [can] give an aura of legitimacy to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny.

Principled government is not built on majority rule, but on individual rights.  Hanging your hat on the verisimilitude of a vote is not the way to bring freedom to Iran, or to anywhere.  Freedom is not a popularity contest, it’s a human birthright.

Meantime, the sounds of freedom continue to ring out around Tehran and the peaceful demonstrations continue, even in the face of brutality by the pro-government militia (the Basij) and from the Hamas and Hezbollah ring-ins trucked in to take the place of the Iranian military who are reportedly refusing to fire on the protestors. Andrew Sullivan posts this quote below from a women protestor that gives some context::

    Ahmadinejad called the opposition as a bunch of insignificant dirt who try to make the taste of victory bitter to the nation. He also called the western leaders as a bunch of 'filthy homosexuals'. All these disgusting remarks was today answered by that largest demonstration ever. Older people compared the demonstration of today with the Ashura Demonstration of 1979 which marks the downfall of the Shah regime and even said that it outnumbered that event. The militia burnt a house themselves to find the excuse to commit violence. People neutralized their tactic to a large degree by their solidarity, their wisdom and their denial to engage in any violent act.

It worked in the Philippines when Marcos was overthrown and in Portugal with the “Carnation Revolution.” It worked in Prague’s Velvet Revolution and the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the later “Colour Revolutions” when the cracks within those society finally and peacefully opened up.

Let us hope it happens here in Tehran too, with or without the help of a President who can apparently only muddle while Tehran burns.

UPDATE: Michael asks in the comments what Obama should do, just as if the poor chap had nothing to work with. 

“If you were Obama, what would you do? Sure, he could point all that out about it being wrong, but would would it actually achieve?”

Well, there are several tangible things he could do to help.  After all, he has no compunction about meddling in the affairs of Israel, or of the world’s tax havens, so the problem is clearly not one of reluctance to meddle in another country’s internal affairs – and in this case (as Scott says) it’s akin to “your next door neighbours saying "mind your own business" when you witness their kids bruised and bleeding after hearing them screaming saying ‘stop’.” And Obama’s troops over the border in Iraq are practically neighbours, and since Iran is the world’s primary sponsor of world’s terrorism ending the Ahmadinejad regime at a time when it’s already weakened would be within its ambit.

But even that may not be necessary.  Yet.  Moral courage is sometimes enough, even if it is about as rare as an honest lawyer.  It was enough when Ronald Reagan stood up in Berlin and said “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”  And eventually, the logic of that was accepted and Mr Gorbachev did.  And it was enough when Reagan spoke out in support of striking Polish workers, who took the moral courage from his words and used them as fuel to overturn the oppressive regime of Soviet puppets that was stifling their freedom.

And we know that while Obama very rarely has anything to say, we know as well as we know anything that he sure as hell can talk when he wants. If only he could say anything approaching what Reagan said when the Soviets began crushing the Polish Solidarity uprising, it might be enough:

We view the current situation in Poland in the gravest of terms, particularly the increasing use of force against an unarmed population and violations of the basic civil rights of the Polish people.

Violence invites violence and threatens to plunge Poland into chaos. We call upon all free people to join in urging the Government of Poland to reestablish conditions that will make constructive negotiations and compromise possible.

... The Polish nation, speaking through Solidarity, has provided one of the brightest, bravest moments of modern history. The people of Poland are giving us an imperishable example of courage and devotion to the values of freedom in the face of relentless opposition. Left to themselves, the Polish people would enjoy a new birth of freedom. But there are those who oppose the idea of freedom, who are intolerant of national independence, and hostile to the European values of democracy and the rule of law.

Two Decembers ago, freedom was lost in Afghanistan; this Christmas, it’s at stake in Poland. But the torch of liberty is hot. It warms those who hold it high. It burns those who try to extinguish it.

Would that the current President had either the courage or the understanding to say what’s needed.  It would assuredly save a lot of future heartache, and undoubtedly avert a lot of present bloodshed.

Quack go the chiropractors

In resorting to legal action against their scientific critics, chiropractors are showing they have no more claim to respect than Scientologists, who famously substitute legal muscle for rational discourse.

That is the only conclusion one can draw from a Chiropractors Association complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about comments made against them on Breakfast TV by Dr Shaun Holt, and a recent court action in London brought in an attempt to silence another prominent critic. (News on both here. See Holt’s comments and the chiropractors’ on-air response here.)

Keeping his cool, Dr Holt says he is “disappointed” about. the complaint.  “Scientific debate shouldn’t be settled by legal muscle,” he says, “but rather through open discussion in medical and mainstream literature.”  Quite right.

If people have disagreements with the credibility of a treatment, which [in this case] is chiropracty, shouldn’t they be settled by producing evidence and references to good scientific literature and research, rather than getting settled through the courts?

One may draw their own conclusions from chiropractors’ preference for the courts.

You’ll never get poor promoting the government line

A bullshit study promoting wowserism has been completely overturned by economists Eric Crampton and Matt Burgess. 

Produced by tame economic consultants BERL in order to promote the party line on alcohol, it looks like nothing more than a report whose conclusions were paid for in advance.  The report on so called alcohol abuse is over-egged, the results are over-exagerated, and the consultants are clearly overpaid.

As Burgess says, “At one point BERL makes accidental (we think) use of the labour theory of value, which we discuss on page 35. Never a good look when Marxism makes an appearance in your economic analysis.”

You and I paid $135,000 for this study but because of its, shall we say, “unusual methodology and poor execution” it looks to be suitable for nothing more than filling up a landfill – the work of people paid for lying to order.

Here’s Eric and Matt’s polite summary of its errors:

Reported costs of alcohol abuse "grossly exaggerated" according to economists

A widely publicised $135,000 government report on the cost of drug and alcohol abuse has been slammed by two economists, who say the report’s findings are grossly exaggerated.

Economists Eric Crampton and Matt Burgess have released a research paper which examines the report, by Wellington economics consultant Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL), after Law Commission President Sir Geoffrey Palmer cited its findings in support of proposed new regulations on alcohol.

“What we found shocked us. BERL exaggerated costs by 30 times using a bizarre methodology that you won’t find in any economics textbook,” Dr Crampton said.

The BERL report was commissioned in 2008 by the Ministry of Health and ACC, and put the annual social costs of alcohol at $4.79 billion. Crampton and Burgess said the net social costs instead amounted to $146 million – 30 times lower than that calculated in the report.

“BERL has virtually assumed its answer. The majority of the reported social costs rest on two very strange assumptions which BERL has asserted without any reason or evidence,” said Dr Crampton said.

“The report assumes that one in six New Zealand adults drinks because they are irrational; that is, they are incapable of deciding what is good for themselves. BERL further assumes that these individuals receive absolutely no enjoyment, social or economic benefit from any of their drinking,” Dr Crampton said.

“These assumptions allowed BERL to count as a cost to society everything from the cost of alcohol production to the effect of alcohol on unpaid housework. That’s bad economics.”

Among other serious flaws, Dr Crampton said the report’s external peer review was done by the authors of the report’s own methodology, important findings in academic literature that alcohol had health and economic benefits were ignored, BERL did not properly warn readers about the limitations of its methodology, and used language in the report that was frequently misleading.

The BERL study caught the economists’ attention when it was cited by the Law Commission as the basis for supporting proposed new taxes and regulations on alcohol.

“Our research paper is not commissioned work. We’re doing this because we don’t want to see legislative decisions being misguided by bad research. In our view, the Law Commission should give no weight at all to the findings in the BERL report,” Dr Crampton said.

You can read Eric and Matt’s full demolition of BERL’s mercenary nonsense here.  The BERL report is available from: http://www.berl.co.nz/874a1.page .

Smacking referenda

In the wake of John Key effectively rejecting in advance the results of the forthcoming referendum on smacking, I’ve been inundated with emails from folk calling for NZ to embrace the concept of “binding referenda.”  The latest such missive

If politicians are going to take referenda seriously . . . they should also be considering the right of citizens to have their will enforced, and make all referendums binding. If they are not binding they are not worth the paper they are written on.

I have a couple of problems with hanging my hat on that idea.

The first objection goes to motive. The enthusiasm for binding referenda is rooted in the feeling that politicians don’t listen to us – which is true.  But since I don’t see any sign of politicians presently taking binding referenda seriously, not at least as long as the two-party capture of the body politic remains in place, I’d suggest that persuading them that they should take the idea seriously becomes about as difficult as persuading turkeys to vote for Christmas – and if you have that sort of persuasive power then you’d hardly need binding referenda to make your voice heard.

The second objection is more substantive. It’s that binding referenda do not represent an increase in freedom. Not at all.

In fact, the idea behind binding referenda is that the will of the majority should always be enforced; that unlimited majority rule is always right.  Nothing could be more dangerous, or more destructive of real freedom. It’s not just that the majority is not always right, but that unlimited majority rule puts in danger every “minority” who disagrees – and the smallest “minority” is the individual. As the ghost of Socrates might tell you, in any battle between an individual and the community under such a system, it’s the individual’s life that is forfeit.

And as the people of Iran might presently tell you, even if the majority did vote for Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t make it right. As  Walter Williams reminds us, "Democracy and majority rule [can] give an aura of legitimacy to acts that would otherwise be deemed tyranny." Principled government is not built on majority rule, but on individual rights.  Hanging your hat on the verisimilitude of a vote is not the way to bring freedom to Iran, or to anywhere (are you listening President Obama?).  Hanging your hat on a system of constitutionally protected individual rights would be.

That said, I’ll still be voting in the forthcoming referendum on smacking.  And I’ll be voting “no.” Even if the politicians refuse to listen to the result, which by their hysterical reactions over the wording of the referendum we can pretty easily predict, the overwhelming message is going to be hard to ignore.

And parents deserve to have their children back from the clutches of those so abjectly ignorant as to be unable to distinguish between smacking and beating, between assault and reasonable parental force

You might object, as John Key does, that “To date I have not seen any evidence that it is not working” – that there have been no court cases indicating the law isn’t working, no good parents being criminalised, no police resources wasted on fruitless inquiries, no children snatched from their parents’ hands by uncaring state monitors.

But that completely misses the point, doesn’t it.  The anti-smacking law hasn’t stopped parents beating and killing their children, has it, even though Sue Bradford insisted it would. And as MacDoctor says however, hanging this particular hat on some very short-term outcomes rather misses the more important point.

    The problem is, as I have blogged before, that the effects of the repeal of section 59 are actually being felt in family dynamics, not in law enforcement. There is considerable fear, uncertainty and doubt about the new law and what is really acceptable. Listening to someone like Bradford, one would assume that a smack on the bottom is the equivalent of true child abuse , on the scale of Nia Glassie. The net result of this uncertainty is a reduction in the use of smacking – a result that the advocates of the repeal applaud. Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of this is that some parents will lack the skill-set to use some other form of discipline, resulting in the use of no discipline at all.
Thus the true consequences of the repeal of section 59 will not be seen in 2 years, but in 15 years time when undisciplined children become undisciplined youth. But you can already see some of the consequences already. Noticed an increase in very unruly children recently? It is very noticeable in my consulting rooms. There have always been inquisitive kids and some downright hyperactive ones, but there is now an obvious flurry of toddlers who wander round the consulting room utterly unsupervised, barring an occasional protest from the parent. My observation is purely anecdotal, of course, but I am willing to bet that doctors reading this blog know what I am talking about. I am also willing to bet that other readers have noticed an increase in badly behaved children in public places.
Let me be clear. I do not think that smacking is a particularly effective form of discipline. I do not subscribe to the idea that “spare the rod and spoil the child” means “beating your kids is your duty as a parent” (the rod in that passage is a rod of authority, not a weapon). But I think other forms of (non-violent) discipline require considerably more skill as a parent than smacking. It seems to me that a more measured way of reducing smacking in our society is to assist parents by improving their skills in other disciplinary forms, rather than removing the only form of discipline to which they have access.

I agree completely with that. How' ‘bout you?