Saturday, July 04, 2009

Let Freedom Reign! Happy July 4th!

As most New Zealanders will have completely ignored, today (our time) is American Independence Day -- and tomorrow (our time) it's their time.   If you see what I mean.

New Zealanders might like to ignore it, but the events that Independence Day celebrate are as important to us down here as they to those up there.  July 4 isn’t just a day to celebrate American independence, but our own as well.

What do I mean?  Why does it matter to us down here at the bottom of the South Pacific that a bunch of gentlemen over two-hundred and thirty years ago pledged their "lives, fortunes and sacred honour" to constitute the first government in history dedicated to the task of protecting individual rights -- as expressed in Thomas Jefferson's magnificent Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? 

Why should that matter to us?  As Michael Berliner explains, "Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit."  The principle of independence for which they fought is universal. 

The United States of America was the first and still the only country on earth to be founded upon the specific idea that human life and human liberty are sacred.  July 4th is that day when freedom's anthem is heard around the world!

Despite its occasional breaches in upholding the principle of human rights and human liberty consistently, it is nonetheless for this that we all celebrate (or should celebrate) Independence Day. That for the first time in human history a country was founded on the idea of human rights and human liberty; upon the notion that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are sacred; upon the intention to constrain government to act only in defence of those rights.

This was not just a unique event in human history, it also worked like all hell for nearly a century-and-a-half; it worked because protecting those rights gave individuals the moral space, the freedom, within which to act and to flourish. It was not just that this made America and the world freer and more prosperous (which it did); it was not just that this protection for liberty gave a platform to criticise and remedy the breaches of the principle (which it did, most notoriously the regarding of some human beings as the property of others); it is also the profoundly important illustration that a country founded upon reason, individualism and freedom works. That liberty is moral. That liberty is right.

In that very important sense, The Declaration of Independence that Americans celebrate today was made on behalf of every human being on this earth.

Said Thomas Jefferson in the last letter he was to write, reflecting fifty years later on the Declaration of Independence and the July 4 celebrations that commemorate its signing:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Amen. And let those thoughts be heard around the world! For as one commentator said on this day last year, July 4th is not just a National Day for Americans because the Declaration of Independence really is "freedom's anthem heard around the world":
Whenever you hear news of people fighting for democracy, pause and give thanks for the Declaration of Independence. I am thankful every day that by blind luck I was born in this country. I want the whole world to have the comforts and the opportunities that have so enriched my life. When they tear down a wall in Berlin, when an oppressed group is granted a right in Latin America, when a business is allowed to exist in China, a protest is allowed in a former Soviet satellite, a woman attends a school in Afghanistan or a purple forefinger is raised in Iraq, I think to myself, “the world may not know all the lyrics, but they are definitely singing our song.”

And he's right. America's creation was the great political achievement of the Enlightenment: the full political implementation of the concept of individual rights, with a government constrained to protect them. [What are individual rights, and why do they need the protection of government?  Ayn Rand explains.  What specifically was the nature of the government the American founding fathers tried to erect?  Ayn Rand explains that too.]

With the exception of just a few words, the words could hardly be bettered today (although some of us have tried):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A wonderful, wonderful anthem to freedom that rings down through the years. If only the real meaning of those words could be heard and understood. As David Mayer says:
To really celebrate Independence Day, Americans must rededicate themselves to the principles of 1776, and particularly to the absolute importance of individual rights – not the pseudo-rights imagined by proponents of the welfare state, but the genuine rights (properly understood) of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must also rededicate ourselves to the Declaration’s standard for the legitimacy of government – a government that is limited to the safeguarding of these rights, not to their destruction – and, with this, an acceptance of the principle that outside this sphere of legitimacy, individuals have the freedom (and the responsibility) of governing themselves.

If Americans are to use this day to re-dedicate themselves to the principles of 1776 as Mayer invites, then non-Americans might use it to take up Thomas Jefferson's challenge "to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded [us] to bind [ourselves], and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

Human liberty is the most sacred thing in the universe, and today is the pre-eminent day in which to celebrate it, and to salute the authors of America's Declaration of Independence.

To America's heroic founders, I salute you!

NB:  Some final July 4 snippets for you:

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Beer O’Clock: Tuatara refutes the decline of the Global Economy

Beer writer Neil Miller borrows a headline to pump a local favourite.

Wikipedia, the much maligned website so beloved of students writing last-minute essays and bar staff trying to settle pointless arguments between their customers, has this to say about the humble Tuatara:

tuatara02 “The tuatara is a reptile endemic to New Zealand which, though it resembles most lizards, is actually part of a distinct lineage, order Sphenodontia.  The two species of tuatara are the only surviving members of its order which flourished around 200 million years ago…  Tuatara have been referred to as living fossils.  This means that they have remained mostly unchanged throughout their entire history, which is approximately 220 million years.”

This means that, theoretically speaking, a mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex (if they still existed, which they don’t) could today go to a Police line-up and easily recognise a humble Tuatara (if the Tuatara had done something illegal, which seems unlikely).  The Tuatara is, in many ways, an eloquent rebuttal to the old adage “evolve or die” having seen many of its proudly evolutionary colleagues completely disappear (The Moa, The Dodo, Georgie Pie and Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition to name but four).

Fortunately, the Tuatara brewery is both evolutionary and very much still here.  It is indeed exciting times for the Tuatara team with a new beer (Helles), an expanded brewery (four times more power), the prospect of exporting (to Auckland and Melbourne), a website (finally) and a funky new outlet (the Wellington City Market).

Helles, by the way, was brilliantly covered in an earlier blog post.  Head Brewer Carl Vasta has also indicated that he is looking at doing some “big, special beers” in the coming months including possibly a stout, a nice American Pale Ale and even a bottle-conditioned Belgian triple.

He can afford to contemplate these new brews because recent extensions and upgrades have seen Tuatara Brewery’s capacity increase four fold.  Carl said that made them the same size as Mac’s Wellington.  With their new toys, Carl and Dion can produce 4,000 litre batches using multi-step infusion mashes.  Carl explains to me (in very small words) that the multi-step rests help the protein profile, get the best out of the malt and make the beers consistent.

Availability around town is improving also though the best place to enjoy a Tuatara around Wellington is still Malthouse, the Official and Spiritual Home of Tuatara, and around Auckland it’s either Galbraith’s or Hallertau (the unofficial while still quite spiritual pied-à-terres).  New Tuatara Global Distribution Manager Louise Matheson (Global including Levin, but not Auckland or Christchurch!), reports that stores and restaurants are really keen to give Tuatara a try.  She says that people love the fact that Tuatara is a local beer and Champion Brewery 2008 which means the beer really sells itself.  For the first time Tuatara is going national and, in a couple of months, should even be in select Melbourne bars.

Someone needs to ring Al Gore.  The internet is now complete - Tuatara has a website.  It’s not easy for a writer who has had broadband for exactly three weeks to get on his technological high-horse though.  The official site is a bit of a holding page but readers of this blog can get exclusive behind-the-scenes access and can have a sneak peak at the real deal

Finally, Tuatara has a regular stall at the new Wellington City Market which has been set up by Chef Martin Bosley.  Every Sunday, some of the region’s best food and beverages are on sale at the market.  I went there on the first day and had Tuatara Helles and Duck Rillettes.  Sunday mornings will never be the same.

Now, before alert readers flood Neil or myself with angry letters, emails and tweets, I am fully aware that later in the Wikipedia article on Tuatara it clearly states:

“However, taxonomic work on Sphenodontia [Tuatara] has shown that this group has undergone a variety of changes throughout the Mesozoic [period] and a recent molecular study showed that their rate of molecular evolution is faster than of any other animal so far examined.”

It just didn’t fit in with my introduction.

Cheers

Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
Malthouse Facebook Group
Tuatara Facebook Group

This post is cross-posted from The Malthouse Blog 

NB: Special prize to the first one to note from where and from whom Neil borrowed the heading.

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A very sad day at the MG restorers

This is very sad. The recession depression is affecting more than just the big American auto companies.  MG enthusiast John Twist of University Motors in Michigan, whose MG tips and tricks on YouTube have made him a popular figure with MG owners everywhere, is closing down his own business restoring and maintaining MGs after thirty-four years in the trade, due to declining economic conditions.  Below is the sad day when the signs come down.  And here’s the video of his sad announcement, which includes a neat look at the classic sports cars from right across the States he’s restoring as the shutters come down.

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Lesson for Aucklanders: Consultants say don’t believe consultants

In his latest newsletter, Owen McShane points to a crowd called the Cordillera Institute, “dedicated to promoting achievement in Local Government” – which sounds rather unpromising to me, unless by “achievement” is meant good things like “immediate redundancy.”

Nonetheless, the Cordillera Institute publishes a regular newsletter “read by municipal leaders on four continents” that Owen recommends, particularly the latest issue which “ focuses on the issue of local government mergers – or amalgamations.”

“We found the paragraph "Why the Difference between Predictions and Reality?" particularly interesting,” says Owen using the Royal ‘We,’ “and certainly provides some ‘lessons to be learned.’ The last paragraph – The Bottom Line – also seems to be packed full of common sense,” he says.  Here then, for supporters of Auckland’s amalgamation of bureaucrats, are the common sense lessons Owen mentions. Here’s the first paragraph:

Why the Difference Between Projections and Reality?
In theory at least, it would seem that the economies of scale and their resulting savings should be there. And, there have been many studies produced by reputable firms which project significant savings if mergers occur. The only problem is that these projected savings never seem to materialize. This is not a slap at the consultants who did the studies. As a former consultant myself, I understand how an exhaustive study that showed potential annual savings of $400 million could be used by others to promote a merger which, in fact, resulted in no savings. And, it generated transition costs which are said to have exceeded the amount of those projected savings. That example is the 1998 Toronto amalgamation. The reason for the 180 degree difference between the projection and the actual is the product of the decisions made by those – both elected and employed – charged with mandating the merger and those charged with carrying it out. Cost-benefit analyses are rarely able to quantify this factor. Nor do most terms of reference given to consultants even request that input. So, the most comprehensive and diligent studies can be rendered valueless if policy-makers and central planners follow a different script. In Issue 01.26, there are more explanations of why municipal mergers have failed to measure up. [
You can read the summary of that commentary here.]

There’s a very good lesson right there: when a consultant says don’t believe consultants, you know that for once the consultant might know what they’re talking about. 

Anyway, here’s the second paragraph mentioned:

The Bottom Line
Just because mergers have failed to live up to their billings doesn't mean that we should give up trying other ways to achieve economies of scale. The economies which seem to have eluded amalgamations are much more likely to be realized by sharing services and by other means of inter-municipal co-operation -- as long as these arrangements stop short of political union.
 

At this stage you might be thinking something like, “so what’s the point of political union then?” and if you are I will enthusiastically join with you in saying you might well have a point.  A very good point.

There’s no hope at all that the sophomoric fantasy of “taking power permanently away from the left,” which seems to be the wet dream of so many supporters.

There’s no plan to remove from the councils the “power of general competence” that minister Sandra Lee gave them to turbo-charge your rates bils.

Mayoral font-runner John Banks has already said he expects few staff to lose their paid sinecures.

And Rodney Hide has just today promised there is “no intention to privatise any asset as part of these reforms.”

So what the hell is the point?  While we might all hope that both these gentlemen are lying, as gentlemen in their profession are wont to do, we also have increasing compelling evidence that no local government amalgamation anywhere has achieved anything except higher rates for residents and increasing bureaucratisation of the centre.

So really, what the hell is the point?  As I’ve said before (and John Carter now appears to concede) there's nothing "super" about the Auckland super city. 

It will be fascist.

Wretchedly profligate.

Woefully inefficient.

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 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.

There endeth the lesson.

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Why are dentists such a pain in the wallet?

I_hate_dentists Deborah Hill Cone asks an obvious question in this morning’s Business Herald: Why are dentists so gosh-darned expensive?

I see a lovely dentist who “cares for cowards,” plays hot jazz and gives me nitrous oxide – it’s fabulous, like going to a pleasant nightclub where you can’t talk or dance because someone is fiddling with your mouth.  Until you get the bill.  Open wide, wallet. Last time it cost $3300 for a crown and a filling.

Ouch! 

I have tried and tried but I don’t understand why dentists are so expensive.  If I go privately to see another sort of medical specialist who has trained for a squillion years – a neurologist or a dermatologist, say – they are likely to charge me about $400 an hour.  Even factoring in the fact that the dentist has an assistant, a whizzy chair and more technology the, difference in fees seems startling.

Yes, it does – especially to one whose profession would kill to charge $400 an hour!

And dentists only have to tell people to floss, not that they have a brain tumour.

True. 

web Now, I have a confession to make. I’m a coward when it comes to dentists too – I blame a bad experience back at the school murder house many years ago at the hands of one of its badly-trained institutional torturers – and the twin pains of drill and wallet-ectomy have made me a very reluctant visitor to dentist’s offices since.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So here’s your chance to talk up your own favourite angel of dentistry: who can you recommend to readers like me who need their fangs fixed, but are reluctant to pay through the nose for another pain in the mouth?

And feel free to explain why all the others are so gosh-darned expensive.

Was Bernie that bad?

“Free Bernie Madoff,” says Jeffrey Tucker this morning.

Instead of rejoicing at his 150 years of captivity, he says, why not reflect instead that “those educated by the sociologists [are] forever soft on real crime but oddly tough on financial crime.”

And no fear arguing that Madoff’s actions were “unusually evil.”  As Tucker says,  they’re not that unusual at all.

In fact, the whole notion of paying off past investors with the funds of present investors is at the very core of the Social Security system. At least Madoff sought the consent of his investors who let him care for their money based on their own volition. And at least he didn't attempt to defend himself with the claim that he was conducting wise public policy.

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Treasury credibility [updated]

I’m not sure why it comes as a surprise that Treasury made an error in their figures.  After all, they’ve made an error every year for the last nine when they projected how much tax the government would collect, giving Michael Cullen an excuse not to deliver the tax cuts that were then (and still) so desperately needed.

They’ve made an error every year when they’ve “predicted” the country’s growth.  Or the effects of the Reserve Bank’s economic dictation.

So frankly, the very phrase “Treasury credibility” looks increasingly like an oxymoron -- their credibility is almost on a par with that of their colleagues in BERL who they were so recently beating up.

At least this time, for once, their error has caused some belt-tightening where it’s most needed.

UPDATE:  The inimitable Jamie Whyte, the NZ philosopher whose best-selling book Bad Thoughts: A Guide to Clear Thinking is around here some place, writes in the London Times on the effects of central banks’ economic dictation.

Rather than giving the Bank of England more powers as Bank of England governor Mervyn King is calling for -- just as every other central bank and central banker around the world is calling for more powers for their bailiwick --  they should instead be given less power, says Whyte, who’s clearly been boning up on the Austrian Business Cycle Theory.  Just like you should by reading his column: Strip the Bank of England of its power.

Quote of the day: Ayn Rand on “public financing” of elections

    The existence and rivalry of two parties, even such as they are, is the last protection of the (approximate) honesty of elections. It is obvious what sort of rigging would go on, if the government were given the power to finance elections. They call it "public financing," which means that you would be deprived of the right to decide which candidates you want to support, if any, and that the politicians would make that decision for you. . .  In today's situation, you'd better pray for the survival of plain, old-fashioned grafters: when they vanish, you'll get a Robespierre or a Hitler, both of whom were anti-materialistic and incorruptible.
    The solution, of course, is to eliminate both kinds of predators, material or spiritual, by eliminating their breeding ground: the government's power over the economy.”

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Bacchante & Infant Faun – Frederick MacMonnies

Bacchante

Intended for the 1886 Boston Public Library, the staid Bostonians told architect Charles McKim it was too racy for their conservative tastes.  “Vulgar” and “immoral” it was called.  “Drunken indecency” the Christian Temperance Union called it.

The bronze now finds a permanent home in the just re-opened American wing and sculpture court of NY’s Museum of Metropolitan Art.  Check out this video at the Nearby Pen to see more of this and many other great sculptures. (Photo by Trish Mayo.)

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sticks & stones will break my bones, but names might get me manslaughter

That is, “might get me off with manslaughter.” I refer, if you hadn’t guessed, to the chamber of horrors appearing on our TV screen every night direct from the Christchurch court house. I don’t know about you, but I feel disgusted every time that killer and his lawyers appear on my TV screen.

I’m as disgusted with the “defence” put up by his legal team as I am with their trawling through Sophie Elliot’s sexual history to find “provocation” – as I am disgusted with the law that allows such a defence to be run, and with the type of lawyers that would choose to run it.

He killed her. He slaughtered her. The defence for this piece of human filth is essentially that he killed her because she called him names – because she "made him do it" - so that she is somehow responsible for her own cold-blooded slaughter! This is a defence that wouldn’t even stand up in a school playground! Whatever names she called him – whatever “provocation” she might have offered – nothing, nothing at all, justifies taking a knife to her bedroom and stabbing her 216 times.

And there’s very little either to justify the media’s breathless sensationalising of the trial. If this is the best they can do in terms of news reporting, then all concerned should take a good hard look at themselves and their industry.

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Medical marijuana patients told to go to hell [update 2]

med mary Last night New Zealand MPs voted overwhelmingly against a law change that would allow patients to use cannabis for specific medicinal purposes.  They thought they knew the interests of these patients better than the patients and their doctors -- and knew the issue better than legislators in Canada, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and in fourteen states in the US, all places where medical marijuana is legal. They told those patients essentially to go to hell, because that describes the pain that some are in.

     The Green Party bill [says TV3 News] would have allowed doctors in New Zealand to prescribe cannabis for 22 approved illnesses and eligible patients would have been given an identification card allowing them to grow, possess and consume marijuana.
   
ACT MP Heather Roy says that the stance is supported by science.
   
"There's very good scientific evidence to show that some medical conditions are improved by the use of cannabis," she says.

Evidence that would have been presented at Select Committee, but 86 MPs, a clear majority said with their vote that they didn’t want to even hear.

ACT were all for, including their conservatives. So too were the Greens, whose bill this was. For Maori, all but one were against. Labour was split. And the Nats were all against – very revealing that as a conscience vote not a single Nat broke ranks for the bill. Not one apparently had enough of a conscience to even cross the floor.

5655_134687272456_625417456_3457679_3001116_n Here’s who Voted For:
Ardern, Jacinda      Labour Party, List
Beaumont, Carol      Labour Party, List
Boscawen, John      ACT New Zealand, List
Bradford, Sue      Green Party, List
Burns, Brendon      Labour Party, Christchurch Central
Chadwick, Steve      Labour Party, List
Chauvel, Charles      Labour Party, List
Cunliffe, David      Labour Party, New Lynn
Delahunty, Catherine      Green Party, List
Douglas, Roger      ACT New Zealand, List
Dyson, Ruth      Labour Party, Port Hills
Fenton, Darien      Labour Party, List
Fitzsimons, Jeanette      Green Party, List
Garrett, David      ACT New Zealand, List
Graham, Kennedy      Green Party, List
Hague, Kevin      Green Party, List
Harawira, Hone      Maori Party, Te Tai Tokerau
Hide, Rodney      ACT New Zealand, Epsom
Hipkins, Chris     Labour Party, Rimutaka
Hodgson, Pete     Labour Party, Dunedin North
Jones, Shane      Labour Party, List
Kedgley, Sue      Green Party, List
King, Annette      Labour Party, Rongotai
Lees-Galloway, Iain      Labour Party, Palmerston North
Locke, Keith     Green Party, List
Mackey, Moana      Labour Party, List
Moroney, Sue      Labour Party, List
Norman, Russel      Green Party, List
Pillay, Lynne      Labour Party, List
Prasad, Rajen      Labour Party, List
Roy, Heather      ACT New Zealand, List
Sepuloni, Carmel      Labour Party, List
Street, Maryan      Labour Party, List
Turei, Metiria      Green Party, List
Twyford, Phil      Labour Party, List

Metiria Turei, whose bill this was, wrote in support of her bill in a recent Free Radical.  Here’s what she had to say.

Medicinal Cannabis Vote Coming Soon!
by Metiria Turei, MP

med mary 2     Compassion for ill New Zealanders is a core New Zealand value. Many campaigns for legislative or policy change have been about supporting and protecting the ill. My campaign enabling doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients supports thousands of ill New Zealanders who may benefit from this option, relieving the pain of (for just a few examples) nail-patella syndrome, muscle spasms, phantom limb pain, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia and the wasting syndrome from HIV/AIDS.
    The world is increasingly recognising the value of medicinal use of cannabis. Fourteen US states now allow medicinal use, with similar systems in Canada, Spain and the UK. New South Wales is developing a four-year trial for medicinal cannabis. International health organisations supporting medicinal cannabis include the American Medical Association, US Institute of Medicine, Federation of American Scientists, the WHO and the UK Royal College of Physicians. All these jurisdictions and organisations base their support on evidence from highly regarded international medical research teams and institutions.
    There is a process for medicinal use in New Zealand which has never been used because it is simply unworkable. The application must be made by your GP, involving extensive negotiations with both the Ministry of Health and Customs. The patient must purchase the pharmaceutical version of medicinal cannabis, which is extremely expensive. One constituent, who has a very low tolerance for cannabis, was quoted a price of $300 per week for the pharmaceutical cannabinoid preparation Sativex. In effect, ill New Zealanders, especially those who have the least resources or are the most ill, are denied access to potential relief.
    My Bill proposes a system whereby patients grow their own cannabis and are registered with both the Ministry of Health and local police. It is the most accessible and cheapest model for ill New Zealanders. (There are other models that have greater and lesser degrees of control, many of which are used in other jurisdictions. I am open to the discussion on those other models.)
    My campaign enabling doctors to prescribe cannabis is based on medical evidence. Research from the UK, Israel, Germany, Canada, USA and numerous universities and medical associations demonstrates cannabis can provide relief to some patients where mainstream pharmaceuticals have failed. In New Zealand, the NZ Medical Association supports research into the benefits of cannabis for medicinal use, and the NZ Pharmaceutical Guild told the 2001 Cannabis Inquiry that it considers it perfectly possible to safely distribute legal medicinal cannabis.
    Our proposal adds cannabis to the tool box of medical interventions available to doctors. To hear more from the medical profession the Greens conducted a survey of doctors in 2003 to find out exactly what sort of professional support there is for medical use. The results were revealing, showing medicinal cannabis has been widely discussed or considered by doctors and/or patients. The potential use of medicinal cannabis is very high. Doctors were asked to rate their knowledge of medicinal cannabis: we found that those with a high level of knowledge were more likely to consider prescribing cannabis. 6% said that they have recommended their patients try cannabis; 10% said they currently had patients who would benefit from using cannabis; and 32% said they would consider prescribing cannabis if it were legal to do so.
    Thirty-two percent demonstrates a “silent epidemic” of ill New Zealanders searching for alternative relief that the pharmaceutical industry simply cannot provide. Their silence should be cause for shame amongst those who make decisions about laws that prohibits this relief. They are silenced because they fear prosecution – and it is a real fear. Our courts have sent to jail for cannabis use people with very serious medical conditions for which the jails are simply not equipped -- and because these people have no other form of relief, they are by their very nature repeat offenders, attracting longer jail sentences. Regardless of one’s view of recreational use of cannabis, medicinal use is clearly a question of compassion.
    There are a number of arguments against medicinal cannabis. Many are worried about the effects of smoking. Many are concerned about controlling dosage. And many are worried about enforcement of the law. Let’s address those in turn.
    There are concerns smoked cannabis will contribute to lung damage -- this was a real concern of doctors surveyed. But the health risks of smoking are meaningless for patients with terminal conditions, especially if the drug relieves suffering during the remaining stages of their lives.
    For non-terminal patients there are many different forms of ingestion with few negative health effects. One constituent of mine makes a tea; others use vaporisers, tinctures or even massage oil rubbed on damaged muscles or stumps. With good information, doctors can work through the various options for ingestion that work best for the patient. And in terminal cases, compassion has to be the dominant concern.
    As for the question of dosage, patients say they do not want the euphoric effects, but rather to simply be free of the perpetual pain that confines their lives. GPs work out dosage issues all the time with other pharmaceutical drugs, and with appropriate information can do that with medicinal cannabis as well.
    The third major concern is continued law enforcement against recreational marijuana use, a real concern that should be taken very seriously. Some are concerned about pharmacy break-ins, for example, but the NZ Pharmaceutical Guild say they can manage the storage and distribution of any legal medicinal cannabis product – and in this respect, medicinal cannabis can be compared to any drugs or medicines. The police already have systems for managing misuse of drugs such as barbiturates, sleeping pills, and pain medications such as morphine and anti-depressants, some of which – unlike the case with cannabis -- are fatal if misused.
    In New Zealand there is increasing research on medicinal marijuana. Otago University research for example explores the use of cannabis in minimising damage caused by strokes, as well as in pain relief. More New Zealand-based pharmacological research is one benefit of freeing up medicinal marijuana. If we can enable a doctor-directed process rather than a ministerial one, researchers will have greater incentives to engage in that research, and patients will have another treatment available to them.

What she neglected to say is that this is a clear-cut issue of personal freedom.

And what she neglected to do was campaign for her bill.  But now, with this vote, this issue of personal freedom has been put back years.

UPDATE 1: Plenty of reaction around the place, the pithiest perhaps being Russell Brown who says, “It's hard not to see MPs' rejection of Metiria Turei's medical cannabis bill as the result of a desperate desire to avoid talking about the issue, rather than a genuine exercise of conscience.”  It sure does.

UPDATE 2: Alright, this from Danyl at Dim Post is pretty pithy too:

It’s a measure of the hysteria about drugs that we can have ‘medicinal heroin’ (diacetylmorphine, or other morphine derivatives) prescribed by Doctors but medicinal cannabis would simply be beyond the pale! And with the highest rates of cannabis abuse in the world I think its safe to say the drug is already present in mainstream New Zealand society.

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Property rights for sure [update 3]

Now that the Foreshore & Seabed Act faces repeal, I don’t feel the need either to repeat what I’ve said over the last several years on the subject, or to change it.

What could possibly be wrong with recognising the right of people to claim the property in which they have a right?

What could possibly be wrong with the protection of property in which people can prove that right?

Isn’t that all that a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act will do?

I think this is a fantastic step forward for property rights. I think it’s a great way by which to privatise the commons. I just think there should be more than one race who has this right protected. As an individual right. You know, like One Law for All?

How ‘bout you?

UPDATE: BK Drinkwater rounds up reactions to the repeal report.

UPDATE: Chris Trotter is continuing to repeat the big lie that Don Brash is somehow to blame for Labour’s panicked introduction of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.  Journos such as Radio Live’s James Coleman, who I just heard taken in by Chris’s self-serving myth-building, should avail themselves of David Farrar’s timeline on the subject.  As David points out, Don Brash wasn’t appointed National leader until some 127 days after Labour’s panicked announcement; and the Orewa Speech (which Trotter cites as proximate cause for the panic in an attempt to diminish what was said there) wasn’t delivered for a full 218 days after Clark and Wilson went for the “nuclear option.”

UPDATE 3: It always starts with common law.  Readers who’d like to get their heads around this issue would be well advised to get to grips with the concept of common law, and the process by which common law can recognise long established use as a means by which to recognise a property right.  Two of those methods, which you can read about in any book of tort law (or, no doubt, in any decent Google search) are acquisition by prescription, and by ‘the doctrine of lost modern grant.’

That’s the simple process which Ngati Apa had initiated in Marlborough, success in which caused the panic in Helen Clark’s private dressing room.

You would also do well to realise that this process of rights acquisition cuts both ways; that is, it’s eminently appropriate for both property owners and property users – which is to say, in this case, it’s an appropriate from by which the rights of both the owners of the foreshore and seabed and those who desire access to it can be registered and protected. If I may quote myself:

    Common law. Common law has hundreds of years of demonstrated success in protecting property rights, as well as being practical and cost effective. It's common sense. [And it’s what Maori are asking for here.]
    Under common law, the right of access is just one of many 'sticks' in the bundle of rights associated with your land. Groups (or individuals) can only acquire such rights by either purchase, or by long unchallenged use (as per 'prescription,' or the doctrine of 'lost modern grant'). Such groups might for example be tramping clubs, angling organisations, hunting clubs, skiing clubs, botanical societies, canoe clubs etc. Such rights, if they exist, would be specific, clearly defined and circumscribed, and would appear on title deeds as a specific easement in favour of specific groups, which property-owners would know about when property was purchased. Common law is clear, certain, and protects your property rights (the exact opposite of the RMA, for instance.) And best of all, common law is simple, and thus doesn't require hoards of bureaucrats to administer it.

I invite you to explore the concept.

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NOT PJ: Form Fights Function

_BernardDarntonThis week Bernard Darnton pretends to get all fired up.

For millennia people have gazed into the fire and pondered. I ponder why we went to all the effort of inventing gas fires only to put fake ceramic logs in them.

The flame effect gas fires aren’t quite as naff as the “flame effect” bar heaters with the red lightbulb and rotating tin foil in the back that I remember from my childhood, but it’s still an odd thing to do.

Gazing into the flames, I realise that the attraction is gazing into the flames. But what irks me is that those flames come at a hefty price, namely that they stop the heater from heating anything. In technical terms: blue flames are hot, orange flames are not.

Fake-log gas fires aren’t quite as inefficient as real open fires but they’re as bad as you get down here, with Environment Canterbury (that’s marketing bollocks for “Canterbury Regional Council”) banning wood fires. They may be inefficient but it’s unfortunately rare to run into an old mate down at the pub who has a trailer-load of old electricity going spare.

Fire Our previous house had a much better gas heater. It wasn’t much to look at but it chucked out the heat like a Syrian nuclear reactor during an Israeli Air Force visit. Sadly, that house was afflicted by the fake log heater’s cultural cousin, the light fitting shaped like a candlestick, with all those little lightbulbs shaped like flames. Seriously – what sort of befuddled Jim Anderton think-alike looks at a lightbulb and says, “Bloody Thomas Edison. I wish we could go back to candles.”

A thing should do what it does well and good design should enhance that, not counter or cripple it. So many things are backwards-looking, ill thought out, or come from Korea and play silly tinkly tunes the moment they do anything, looking for praise like an attention deficient child, that it’s an absolute joy to see, hear, or touch something that has been well designed.

ipod-new However, even things that are famous for their great design have failings. My iPod for example: it has this desire to “shuffle” the tracks it plays, i.e. play them in whatever order it feels like. This is great if you just want music as background noise but it’s a pain in the arse when you’re listening to Teach Yourself Italian lessons. One moment you’re stumbling through “buongiorno!” and “arrivederci!” and the next moment all hell breaks loose: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura che la diritta via era smarrita. You what? You’re not the only one who’s lost.

For all the iPod’s cleverness in only having one button it could do with another “just do what I bloody expect you to” button.

Actually, the iPod design should stay just as it is otherwise it would end up looking like every other cheap knock-off MP3 player that needs a space shuttle licence to drive it. But you can’t please everyone all the time. Especially not grumpy buggers who like to rant about how crap everything is just to stay warm. If only I could download a flame effect program from the iPhone App Store…

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

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Quote of the day: Clive James on the world economic crisis

In view of the magnitude of the current world economic crisis, I still haven’t dared ring the bank to find out if I’m still solvent. . . . As I understand it, which is to the minimum extent compatible with earning a living, there is nothing inherently wrong with a market economy. As long as people make money by making things, and then invest the profit in making more things, an economy can boom forever. Trouble starts when people start making money out of money itself. Then the whole deal comes tumbling down and finally lands on the less well-off, which at this rate might effectively mean everybody less well-off than the Sultan of Brunei.”

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Empire State Building at twilight

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Peter Schiff on New Zealand [updated]

I don’t know about you, but every time Peter Schiff talks I’m prepared to listen, so when he talks about New Zealand, which he still recommends as a “commodities stock,” I’m fully prepared to sit back and listen very seriously.  Here’s what he says in his latest newsletter:

Featured Investment Recommendations
Australia and New Zealand: Investment Recommendations in Gold Mining (Aus) and Agri-Business (NZ)
 

We continue to like the fundamentals of Australia and New Zealand. While the global economic downturn has left its mark on every nation, we believe Australia and New Zealand retain better positioning than most developed nations of the West. First, GDP growth estimates, government balances and corporate valuations look to be better than peers. Second, higher interest rates and reasonable inflation expectations should continue to attract investors seeking a higher yield. Finally, both nations have significant exposure to natural resources and Asia Pacific nations, likely fostering growth in trade as the region experiences continued growth in export and consumer activities.

The Fiscal Outlook for Australia and New Zealand Remains Positive. 2009 GDP growth estimates for Australia and New Zealand, at -1.4% and -1.9% respectively, are certainly favorable in light of a global slowdown and when compared to other developed nations such and the US and United Kingdom at -2.8% and -4.1%, respectively. Further, Australia and New Zealand have maintained a positive government balance for the majority of the past five years and although they are expected to run a deficit in 2009 of -2.3 percent and -2.8 percent respectively, this is low compared to the US and United Kingdom at -13.6 percent and -9.8 percent, respectively. Finally, from a valuation standpoint Australia and New Zealand appear to remain attractive compared to other developed nations, particularly if a rebound in commodities happens before economists expect.

Interest Rates Support a Stronger Australian and New Zealand Dollar. While we believe recent comments from leaders in Australia and New Zealand, expressing worry over the rapid increase in their currency's valuations (up 26% and 29% against the US dollar since March 2009, respectively) increases risk that policy action may put a short-term lid on the currency's appreciation, over the long-term we believe fundamentals support further appreciation of the Australian and New Zealand Dollars. Current policy interest rates in Australia and New Zealand are 275 and 225 basis points higher, respectively, compared to the US, while at the same time the IMF expects inflation rates in 2010 to remain relatively equal amongst the three countries. We believe these higher interest rates will support an inflow of capital as investors seek greater yields, improving the valuation of the Australian and New Zealand dollars versus the US dollar over the long-term.

Australian and New Zealand Economies Should Benefit from Their Resources and Geographies. We believe Australia and New Zealand's exposure to natural resources and their close vicinity to the Asia Pacific region will serve both economies well. Any economic recovery will likely induce a renewed demand for natural resources, including coal, oil, natural gas and minerals. With both Australia and New Zealand having access to an abundance of natural resources, we believe a recovery in demand will have positive implications for both GDP growth and their currencies.

Figure 4. Recent Performance of Rogers International Commodity Index

We also believe that Australia and New Zealand's close vicinity to economies in the Asia Pacific region will be a benefit moving forward. Besides importing natural resources to fuel export growth, we believe Asia Pacific nations will also import more finished goods as the region experiences a secular shift towards increased consumer spending. In 2008, Australia and New Zealand sent 14.6% and 5.9% of their exports to China, respectively. Australia has recently renewed negotiations with China for a free trade agreement, while New Zealand and China signed an agreement in April of 2009. Further, Australia is currently negotiating free trade agreements with Malaysia, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) while New Zealand is negotiating free trade agreements with Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea and ASEAN. In addition to China, New Zealand has agreements in place with Singapore and Thailand. . .

Head to his newsletter for the recommended investments, one each for Australia and NZ.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in stark contrast, over at Bernard Hickey’s blog:

Two top financial analysts in Australia and America have highlighted New Zealand’s overblown house prices and high foreign debts in detailed criticisms of the structural imbalances in both Australia and New Zealand. One described New Zealand as “Australia’s Eastern Europe” . . .

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Don’t be a Dubai debtor

PD*25942451 Dubai has gone from one of the most exciting booms of recent  years to “its worst crisis since the UAE's founding 40 years ago,” with failing entrepreneurs now fleeing the country to escape debtors prison, with one back predicting “the city's 1.4 million population could shrink by almost a fifth.”

And yes, you read that right. Debtors’ prison.  "According to police there are 450 people in Dubai's central jail imprisoned as debtors which highlights how seriously the UAE authorities view bankruptcies,” says Nick White of Dubai-based Trowers & Hamlins.

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Quote of the Day: Jeff Perren on Obambi [updated]

Pragmatist or ideologue? That is the question being asked about Obama. Says Jeff Perren at Shaving Leviathan:

It certainly seems Obama is a pragmatist, given how he careens from crisis to crisis. Yet, there is an internal consistency to his positions — all of them hard Left — that suggests there is indeed a driving ‘ideology’ behind them.”

Evidence in abundance here.

UPDATE: Evil or stupid? That was the question Gus Van Horn was asking back in March. Now Drudge appears to confirm it's the former:

BEWARE THE OBAMA 'EVIL EYE'
Tue Jun 30 2009 07:43:56 ET
As the summer begins, White House watchers have spotted a new look by President Obama: The Evil Eye!
Staffers have joked about the menacing glance, which comes when the president meets with world leaders who are not aligned with his progressive view.
White House photographers have captured the "evil eye" in recent weeks, during sessions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Colombia's Alvaro Uribev.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got hit with the commander's malocchio last week in the Oval office.
And at least one White House reporter has been on the receiving end of the daggers during a press conference.

Developing...

Further substantive evidence [hat tip Gus Van Horn again]: Recently, Myrhaf successfully predicted that Obama would choose the wrong side in the so-called coup in Honduras and afterwards, Alan Sullivan commented that in explicitly aligning the US with Castro and Chavez "Obama’s true affinities are now exposed for all to see."

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Taxes, pay and blood money – you’d almost need a drink!

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

richardmcgrath 1. PM to ministers: Pay for spouses' trips yourself – John Key wants his MPs to pay the air fares of their dearly beloved when the latter accompany them on junkets. Similarly, the taxpayer will no longer be forced to pay for MPs’ hair cuts and gym memberships, but the Sky TV subscription will remain paid for with Other People’s Money.
    Well, it’s a start.
    Key feels pressured after Phil Goff pointed out that National have spent more than double what Labour did on ministerial travel in their first three months in office. Interestingly, now that the Mt Albert by-election is over, John Key admonishes his MPs, saying he doesn’t want to see ministers travelling for no particular reason. Of course, the cluster of high-ranking National and Labour MPs that found they had business in Auckland just before the by-election was purely coincidental.
    Despite all this anguish over abuse of taxpayer dollars, I can’t help thinking John Key has missed the forest for the trees. Most of his government departments could have their entire budgets slashed, if the National Party had the integrity to implement policies consistent with its core values, namely: individual freedom and choice, limited government, personal responsibility, competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement. I can only think of one party that would follow through on these values.

2. Pay Equity Protest At ParliamentI almost feel sorry for Labour and their trade union lackeys, protesting against the scrapping of a pay equity investigation and the disbanding of the pay and equity unit at the Labour Department [Well done, Mr Key - now disband the department itself, and allow the private sector to match people to jobs without bureaucrats getting in the way].
    Poor old Helen Kelly. She is fighting a lost battle, over an issue that is increasingly irrelevant in today’s changing markets.
    If one employee is more productive than another, an employer is likely (if he or she has any sense) to pay the more productive employee more. The way for women to gain ‘pay equity’ (which is a nebulous concept anyway), is for them to outstrip men in terms of productivity on average. Which means: individual women striving hard to match and surpass males doing the same job.
    Helen Kelly and her rent-a–mob need only look at her namesake, another Ms Kelly, the Westpac CEO, whose 2008 remuneration package can be seen on page 21 in this report: a rather nice $8.5M – nearly $3M ahead of the male in second place. The Acting CEO of Westpac NZ was getting a measly $1.1M.
    Women can make it in business – they don’t need help from politicians, however well-meaning. Kelly and her mob are asking for equal pay for all, regardless of productivity. I think they’re making fools of themselves.

3. Private hospitals get greater public roleWhile this might sound a good idea, and both ACT and National seem to think it is, I think it will backfire on the private sector and on the standards of health care.
    Private providers are being asked to jump into bed with politicians, and to accept blood money – extorted from New Zealanders by the IRD – for their services. Tony Ryall is cunning – he is looking to pick off private providers during the economic downturn, when their business is slow and they are looking for opportunities elsewhere. Unfortunately they may find the government screwing down the prices they are willing to pay, and wanting more and more control over how these providers operate. The distinction between public and private will become increasingly blurred, and before they know it some of these private contractors will wake up one morning to find themselves state servants.
    Don’t say you weren’t warned.

4. Alcohol prices to rise with tax hikes tomorrow – The new government agrees with old government that drinking, like earning money, is sinful and should be taxed in order to discourage it. Not so sinful, mind you, to ban alcohol from Beehive functions, but too much for the serfs to be able to use wisely.
    How patronising! Never mind the jobs that will be threatened when the price of alcohol to the consumer rises. I wonder whether, during a time of economic deflation, sin taxes would be lowered?
    Only one political party promises No New Taxes for New Zealanders: an end to GST (a tax which hits less well-off people the hardest), and people being allowed to keep the first $50,000 of income earned. In time, excise taxes on booze and cigarettes would disappear as well. How can this be done? Privatise those government departments and ministries that could serve some useful purpose, and dump the rest; stop paying no-hopers to breed; stop trapping people in welfare dependency; and stop penalizing those who work hard and create wealth. Common sense, really.

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

* * Richard McGrath’s DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S column appears every Wednesday here at NOT PC * *

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Anti Dismal back on deck

I don’t know what happened to Paul Walker’s Anti Dismal blog over the weekend, but for a while there it was sending messages like “This blog has been deleted.”  Very disturbing,

Fortunately, it’s back in business again, which means posts like the entire Economics in One Lesson on Video and musings on rational addiction are still safe.  Phew.

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Enviroschools – do you know what your children are being taught?

The government has cancelled the Enviroschools programme, for which they earn my belated congratulations.

It’s a first step in beating back the forces of darkness, and if my saying that sounds like hyperbole then just listen right up.  The intellectual warriors of the left have long known that the best way to start their “long march through the culture” was first to capture the schools.  (Or in Sue Bradford’s case, to start them.)  Capture kids early before they realise the statist noose they’re putting their heads into, that’s been the story.  As Australian Education Union president Pat Byrne said in an address to her union's conference, openly acknowledging the ideological bias that dominates the school system:

“We have succeeded in influencing curriculum development in schools, education departments and universities. The conservatives have a lot of work to do to undo the progressive curriculum."

Or, when it comes to the environmental indoctrination, as Michael Sanera and Jane S. Shaw say in their introduction to their book Facts, not Fear:

    Childhood was once supposed to be idyllic and carefree.  Children were allowed to be children. But today many schools are plunging our children into environmental activism.
    “Kids have a lot of power,” writes John Javna, author of 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, a best-selling book found in many [American] classrooms.  “Whenever you say something, grown-ups have to listen . . .  so if saving the Earth is important to you, then grown-ups will have to follow along.”
    We want out children to learn good citizenship [and, not incidentally, to read and write].  We don’t want them to be polluters when they grow up.  But often, instead of being taught information that will lead to intelligent choices in the future, they are being enlisted in trendy causes ands sent out to bring their parents “on board.”
    Environmental activism is the latest in a series of social reforms championed in our schools.  Schools are fighting the war on drugs, encouraging physical fitness, fostering self-esteem, teaching about sex [and about Te Tiriti] – you name it.  And now our children are supposed to save the Earth. The way these issues are taught shapes the way our children think.

Sure does.  And given the way they’ve been taught – and what their teachers are teaching them – it’s no wonder, as philosopher Stephen Hicks points out, that “results from a recent [American survey indicate] one in three schoolchildren fears that the Earth will no longer exist and over half believe it will be a nasty place by the time they grow up.” 

    All of this is aside from the issue of sorting out the complicated science. The issues here are the psychological set (negative emotionalism versus we-can-handle-it confidence) and the educational methods used (indoctrination versus informed critical thinking).
   On this very topic, my short Wall Street Journal article from some years ago about neither indoctrinating nor overloading children — “Global Problems Are Too Big for Little Kids” — is online in
text [pdf] and audio [mp3].

Hicks’ short WSJ article linked above is a brilliant demonstration of why the educational methods involved violate what educator Lisa van Damme calls “the single most neglected issue in education”: the Hierarchy of Knowledge.

    It’s a truism that you can’t teach calculus before arithmetic. In trying to convey their sense of urgency about the world’s problems, many teachers are committing an analogous error. 
   
Children are not able to deal with problems of international garbage disposal when they are still grappling with issues of personal hygiene. They are not able to put in context issues of international race relations when they are struggling with how to deal will schoolyard bullies and being talked about behind their backs. 
   
When students are overloaded, they become frustrated and frightened. When they think the problems they are being asked to consider are too much to absorb, they give up trying to understand. If the teacher persists, the student simply mouths the appropriate words to appease him or her. 
   
My college freshmen classes are regularly populated by young adults who are convinced that no solutions are possible and so it’s useless to try, or who are so desperate for answers that they latch on to the first semi-plausible solution they encounter and become close-minded. Both apathy and dogmatism are defense mechanisms against feeling that you are living in a hostile world whose problems are too big for you to handle.  And these are attitudes children often acquire early in their school careers. 
   
This does not mean educators and parents should pretend that problems do not exist. But many of these issues, by definition, are complex global issues—issues that many adults have difficulties dealing with intellectually and emotionally. We need to take extra pains to teach our children about the principles involved on a scale they can grasp. 

So having said all that, when you realise how successfully eco-fascists have taken over the education system – when you see what your children are being fed at a time when their brains are not yet even fully formed – when you see how brainwashed are the braindead graduates of the factory schools – chanting with heel-clicking blindness all the mantras they’ve been fed on “sustainability,” “protecting the planet,” and “saving the world” – “saving the planet” when they can’t even look after themselves yet – then you will know that cancelling the Enviroschools indoctrination programme is just one small step on the way to liberation from the grey ones.

No wonder the Greens are so upset.

The programme is not so much about educating children, but indoctrinating them – producing, as its website baldly states “a generation of innovative and motivated young people, who instinctively think and act sustainably [emphasis mine]” with all that such a thing implies, not excluding the dog whistle of politics

Watch that video again at the Green Party’s Frog Blog to see just what “a generation of innovative and motivated young people, who instinctively think and act sustainably” actually looks like.  They’re like a frog that’s been pithed before it’s even had a chance to become a tadpole.

So all this should now help you put in context The Herald’s announcement of the scheme’s axing:

Teacher aides who help children learn about recycling, saving water and growing their own food have been scrapped by the Education Ministry because those are not considered "core" skills for children to learn.
    A spokesman for Education Minister Anne Tolley said . . . the Government was focused on "core spending priorities" of raising literacy and numeracy and increasing the numbers of pupils leaving school with educational qualifications.
"This programme does not contribute directly to these priorities."

Bravo, I say.  Spend time and money on what schools should be doing, make the information on how they’re doing widely available instead of hiding it, and you’ll save taxpayers’ money and stop wasting children’s time – and stop endangering their future.

And bravo too for having a spokesman. If that’s another sign a sign that PC is being rolled back, then I could well become a fan.

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Capriccio . . . - Francesco Guardi

artwork_images_143920_346788_francesco-guardi

Guardi was a Venetian landscape painter of the sixteenth century, known for his ability “to structure space.”  The foreground is dark, but there’s an implied promise just out of sight . . .

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quote of the Day – Jeffrey Tucker on climate change

Climate change is the Left's War on Terror."

                       - Jeffrey Tucker, quoted by Bob Murphy

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SCOTUS sacks racial preference law

Black activists are hailing a US Supreme Court decision of which the likes of Pita Sharples and Willie Jackson should take note.  While these two morons were calling for preferential entry to university for unqualified Maori entrants, a group of black activists was taking to the Supreme Court a case that opposed all such race-based foolishness.

Speaking to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ricci v. DeStefano, which cascv, the members of the Project 21 black leadership network praised the result as “a step toward removing the racial trappings of a by-gone era and putting all Americans on equal footing.”

    ”It was clear to this Court that barring people from promotion because of the color of their skin is wrong. . .” said Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie. "True equality allows people to rise and fall on their merits. That's what this decision protects. How can one oppose such fairness?"

Beats me.  Try asking those two professional Maoris, Messrs Sharples and Jackson. 

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Recounting Iranian votes, discounting Iranian desperation

It was all too predictable what the recount of Iranian presidential votes was going to show. Hey presto, Allah kazah, Allah kazam: A Guardian Council recount of 10 percent of the vote confirms the June 12 election results.

So what?  The reason to support the Iranian protestors wasn’t because they were saying “Where’s My Vote?”  It was because they were also and much more importantly saying “Death to the Ayatollah!” It was because they were saying “We Want Freedom!” It was because they were saying "Death to the Government" to a government who urgently needs a bullet.

In the words of Glenn Beck, “This was not about votes.  It was about freedom.” Or if I may quote myself,

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.

That was true last week and it’s just as true today, even if the protestors have now been shot off the streets of Tehran (and are now being pursued by the more sophisticated brutality of the secret police), just as their protests have now been swept away in a recount as bogus as the original count.

And where was Obambi Obama?  As Debi Ghate says at the Voices of Reason blog:

As the protests in Iran begin to dwindle, and the usual accusations of “American interference” are launched by Tehran, I can’t help but wonder what today’s news would have been had America responded differently to the situation. I can’t help but wonder what a different message from President Obama would have led to.

The following is a fictitious speech. It is the speech that only a President acting on a foreign policy that properly defends the rights of its own citizens – a foreign policy of self-interest – could make.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am here to address events of great significance to the American people. Over the past few days, we have borne witness to the murdering, beating, silencing and intimidation of the Iranian people by a theocratic regime clenching its iron fist to retain power. I strongly condemn these unjust actions of the Iranian regime.

It is time for us to be unequivocal. It is time for America to recognize its past errors. It is time for the United States to make it clear that it does not recognize the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Its current Supreme theocratic leader and his sub commanders are not a legitimate regime. The fact is that Iran has not had a legitimate government worthy of our recognition for decades. The country has been ruled by a series of murdering clerics who seized power, outside of any legitimate political means. They were not chosen through any representative process. They are dictators of the worst kind.

Yet the Iranian regime deserves our immediate, uncompromising attention. This theocracy has repeatedly, for decades, declared itself an enemy of America and has openly acted in violence against our citizens.  It is a standard-bearer of Islamic totalitarianism, the movement that Osama bin Laden and others, avow to kill us, and themselves, for. We’ve known it of Iran since they took our embassy staff hostage in 1979. The regime in Tehran is the spiritual inspiration for the ideology behind the horrific attacks on our soil on September 11th. Americans have not forgotten those attacks and who is ultimately responsible for them. We have nothing to say to the Iranian regime except to say that we will no longer repeat our grave errors of the past. We know what you stand for. And we will never again forget what we stand for.

But we do have much to say to the brave men and women in Iran who have taken to the streets to voice their opposition to the self-appointed Supreme leader. We have much to say, and offer, to the people of Iran, who are now declaring to anyone who will listen that this regime does not represent them.

To those among you who have stood up in the face of threats and intimidation; to those among you who have said “We will continue to speak even if you, Supreme leader, claim that Allah forbids it”; to those among you who are saying that it is time for freedom in Iran—we say you have our support. You have our encouragement, and our sanction. We will help you – and we will offer you our moral and financial support. And yes, if it comes to it, we will offer you military support to the best of our ability. You see, we share your goal of ending the theocracy in Iran and of eliminating the threat it poses to freedom-cherishing nations, including our own. We have had the moral right to end it for decades; you not only have the right, you have the moral fortitude to finally end it. We will help you do what we were unwilling to do ourselves, for both of our sakes.

To those in Iran who genuinely, and desperately, seek liberty: you have the opportunity to fight for the creation of a freer nation, a nation founded on principles that protect the rights of each individual. As America once fought for its independence, so can you. Life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness: these are your inalienable rights and the time is now to fight for the creation of a nation that upholds these principles.

It will not be easy and our thoughts are with you as you face imminent danger and uncertainty. We know it will take courage and conviction. But to you, the true friend of freedom, we say that you have taken an important first step.  You have rejected the iron fist that smashes you down through religious rule. You have spoken; stand firm, and we will stand with you.”

Sadly, those words were never spoken.  While Iranians were chanting “We Want Freedom!” the putative leader of the free world was looking the other way; while they were shouting “Death to the Ayatollah!” apostle of “change” was still trying to talk to the apostle of Islamic totalitarianism; while they were saying, at risk of their own lives, "Death to the Government" he was seeking a way to appease that government – a government  responsible for brutalising its citizens -- and the rest of the Middle East

And now the opportunity of a “Tehran Spring” has gone, possibly for ever. Pissed away in the meek capitulation of appeasement.  A small, flickering light of liberty appeared in the east, was ignored, was snuffed out, and is now gone. Perhaps for good.

But in years to come when Iran’s ruling mullahs are rattling their nuclear sabre in the name of the darkness they represent, remember this moment when a small flame of freedom could have lit up that darkness, but you were too busy to notice and you turned away instead.

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