Tuesday, 22 September 2009

AFL Grand Final Week Countdown. Finals Day Minus 4: The Rules!

ablett3 Since it’s Grand Final Week for the world’s most libertarian sport, I figured I’d do a post each day to help you understand the great game of Australian Football a little better, so you can really enjoy Saturday’s AFL Grand Final between the St Kilda Saints (that’s their captain Nick Riewoldt below, in red and black) and Geelong Cats (Go the Cats!)

St Kilda player Nick Riewoldt heads deep into attack with a long kick. West Coast defeated St Kilda at Telstra Dome, AFL Round 21, 24 August 2007. Image: Derrick den Hollander

Today, the rules – or some of them.

Now, it might surprise you to know that Australian Football does have rules, but it does and they’re simple enough so that even Collingwood fans can follow them – mostly – rules designed around three basic principles: to keep the game going, to protect the guy going for the ball, and to stop blokes initiating force against other blokes . . .  at least while anybody's looking. You see why I call it a libertarian sport?

And these simple rules work very well; so well, in fact, that in a two-hour game of footy, you actually have two hours of footy. Unlike other codes of footy, there’s no time in this game to get cold.

Someone observed once that the Ten Commandments was supposedly written on one piece of stone, the US Constitution on ten pages of parchment, but that European Union regulations on bananas are smeared across four volumes.  The rulebook to play AFL is barely 30 A6 pages, with almost two thirds of that detailing how tribunals and national bodies are constituted, and grounds are marked out. The book is small enough to stick in your pocket - so that even white maggots and Collingwood fans have no excuse for not knowing the rules.

The guts of it all is the section headed 'Spirit of the Laws' which contains barely fifty words – all you need to keep the game going, and to discourage umpires to grandstand. (In fact, most Australians would be hard pressed to name an AFL umpire. They refer to them simply as: 'white maggots'.) The rules are pretty simple.  There’s no off-sides; no throwing the ball (you have to ‘handball’ it); and no stopping for a ‘knock on’ or an injury (so don’t bother rolling around grabbing your ankles while looking pointedly at the maggot: you won’t impress anyone).  Kick a ball through the outside posts (a “behind”) and you get one point; kick it through the middle and it’s six; at the end of the afternoon it’s the team with the most points who gets bragging rights for another year. (And now you see why Australians are generally very good at arithmetic to ‘Base 6.’

The ‘Spirit of the Laws’ includes the following nuggets:

  • “ The player whose sole objective is to contest the ball shall be permitted to do so.”
    This means that the joker going for the ball will have the protection of the umpire, but other blokes milling around are entitled to bump, shepherd and shirt-front everyone within five metres or so of the ball – just as long as they keep their eyes on it.
  • “The ball shall be kept in motion.”
    Any joker falling on the ball to slow things down or kicking it out on purpose is going to get pinged.  And booed. Loudly.
  • “The players whose sole objective is to contest a mark shall be permitted to do so.”
    Catch the ball on the full after another joker’s kicked it, and you’ve taken a “mark,” and you’ll be given a free kick for it.  Catch it while standing on another joker’s shoulders and you’ve taken a hell of a good mark – a screamer – and you’ll get loud applause from both sets of fans, and commentators saying things like “that’s the mark of the year!”
    And by the way, just because you’ve been awarded a free kick, there’s nothing in the rules to stop you playing on. . .
  • “ A player who is tackled illegally while in possession of the ball will be awarded a free kick.”
    Don’t tackle above the shoulders or below the knees, and don’t whatever you do push the other joker in the back – not at least while anybody’s looking.
  • “ The player who has possession of the ball and is tackled correctly by an opponent shall be given a reasonable time to kick or handball the ball or attempt to kick or handball the ball. The player who has possession of the ball and has had an opportunity to dispose of it and is then tackled correctly by an opponent must immediately kick or handball the ball.”
    In both codes of rugby your job is to run into other blokes. In AFL however your job is to run around them – try running through them however and get caught with the ball, or drop it when you’ve been tackled, and you’re going to hear the blast of the umpire’s whistle and more loud booing from your fans (most of them yelling “Ball!” at the top of their voice!.
  • “ After a mark or free kick has been awarded, a 50-metre penalty will be awarded against the opposing team which unduly delays the play or abuses an umpire.”
    Don’t slow the game down.  Give the ball back immediately. If you bugger it up, then the free kick you just gave up will be 50m closer to your goal -- and your fans and team-mates are going to be very pissed off.

And that’s about it as far as what the white maggots can do to help you.  Everything else is down to how good you and your team mates are.

ablett_marks_a And finally, see that little bloke on the right showing his adoring girlfriend his medal?  That’s Gary Ablett Jr. from the Geelong Cats, who last night won the 2009 Brownlow Medal – the supreme individual award for an Aussie Rules football player.  (Onya Gazza!) And that’s him in action up there on the left. If you don’t know anything about him, then just be thankful he doesn’t play rugby for Australia.

svMEDALABLETT_wideweb__470x298,0And don’t worry if you don’t know anything about him, because I’ll tell you more about him, his champion club, and his famous Dad tomorrow. 

That’s his Dad at the top of the post, by the way, taking a one-hander back in his prime.  Back when he answered to the name of ‘God’ . . .

GUEST POST: “No Blacks - No Dogs - No Mokos!”

Susan’s busy this week, so coming off the bench today as a replacement we have Suzuki Samurai with a little something to offend everyone.
NoBlacks Imagine the consternation, wailing, and gnashing of teeth a sign like this on the right would cause these days.
Geez, just look at the hullabaloo over the moko’d guy that was refused entry to a Christchurch bar. Have New Zealanders become more pathetic over the years? - so sensitive that adults, at the first sign of hurt feelings, run off to tell on each other to the media, or Fair Go . . . or their mums?
What’s happened  over the years is that, bit by bit, there’s been a corruption of what we understand by “individual rights.” At every turn we’ve seen a cultural shift towards becoming a nation of grizzlers demanding a “right” to everything from everyone else – towards an “entitlement” culture – towards the idea that everyone is owed a living at the expense of everyone else.  There is no such right. There is no such entitlement. This moko nothingness is all about the so-called right to not be offended, the so-called right to enter private property uninvited – regardless of the reasons you’ve been locked out. To make it easy for you (i.e. without having to go into a thesis on why no such rights exist), just think about the consequences of taking these rights to their natural conclusion – a place in which everyone is legally obliged to what every anyone else insists they do.
Is that the New Zealand you want to live in?
Now, no doubt you’ll be saying, “...but banning people from places, or not giving someone a job because of an aversion to someone’s race, age, religious persuasion, culture, gayness, choice of T-shirt is wrong, and should be illegal”. While I agree that most of these phobias are irrational, that doesn’t mean that holding these phobias should be illegal. Why not? – because phobias are ideas, not force; and therefore constitute nothing but a state of mind.
How do you make a state of mind illegal while holding to the values of the right to free expression & free speech? You can’t! While you may disapprove of someone else’s ideas – regardless of how awful those ideas are – that someone has a right to be wrong; your only right is to persuade them of their error or stay the hell away from them – that’s it, nothing else!
The point of law protecting free speech is simply to make the world safe for reason and rationality. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find it under rock you overturn.
Which leaves us with some pretty clear conclusions. That the property owner in Christchurch who’s been made the fall guy here is, as I said, quite rightly at liberty to decide who he serves in his bar.  That the moko’d one in question is quite at liberty to go somewhere else. That, in that way, everyone keeps their real rights intact. And that, if the Human Rights Commission were to penalise this bar owner, then that in itself would be a breach of free speech and free expression – and as such the only thing here that must be banned.
Freedom to be irrational. If you want to be free to be reasonable, then you have to expect some nonsense to be legal as well.  So get over it.

Cotton Wool

Look, let’s be frank here: it’s possible to be sympathetic with a parent who’s lost their child and at the same time realise they’re wrong about the lessons they think need to be learned from their death.

Emily Jordan’s death in a riverboarding accident in the Kawarau River was a tragedy, no question.  Her death, and the deaths of other adventure tourists like the Elim College students killed while “canyoning” looked on the face of it to be the result of some serious incompetence, that’s true.

But for her family to insist that all of this country’s adventure tourism operators be tarred with the brush of  other’s incompetence is an unjustified step too far – and their insistence that all of this country’s adventure tourism operators immediately be required to adopt the standards of British adventure tourism operators is frankly stupid.

As everyone knows who’s spent any time there, British folk grow up so enmired in safety regulations that it’s akin to spending life in cotton wool, with safety somehow “guaranteed” by government fiat. It doesn’t stop accidents happening, however, often because it’s always assumed that all risk has been removed – an assumption that itself creates a risk (as Eric Crampton’s masthead ‘points’ out), especially when you get into a place that hasn’t got a safety fence protecting every steep drop in the country.

And it’s this absence of risk in the regulated modern world that makes risky adventures so popular, isn’t it – and adventure tourism in unspoiled New Zealand so much fun.  So much time spent in cotton wool increases the need for risky holidays in wild and “un-tamed” locations – to have a bungy-jumping, paragliding, river-boarding, jet-boating, canyoning, skiing, kite-surfing, adrenalin-pumping blast of a time that’s utterly different to the grey cotton wool of your every-day-- but not quite the ability to handle all of the risk involved in these adventures, or to properly assess it.

As they say, the net effect of forbidding folly (or trying to) is to fill the world with fools.

You’re not going to solve that with more cotton wool.  You’re not going to bring back self-responsibility with more regulation. What you will do however is produce an even greater false sense of security than there is now, and destroy the very innovation and self-responsibility that produced most of these adventures that people love to leap into.

AJ Hackett didn’t turn a death-defying Melanesian ritual into the safest adventure sport in the world (over 2,000,000 jumps without a single death) because regulation told him how to do that.  He did it because he wanted to earn money doing something he loved, and an adventure company with a reputation for not killing people does that better than any licence you can buy.


The number of people locked up inside NZ’s prisons is at a record high: a record 8,509 New Zealanders are imprisoned for doing things they shouldn’t have (compared with around 5000 in 1996/97, and up from 8493 on September 7), and folk are starting to ask questions like: “Where are they all going to go?”

Fair question, but it’s leaping ahead a little.  Here’s a question it might be worth answering first: What’s the primary purpose of the prison system?  I ask that, because to answer it is to solve the overcrowding problem.

So what is the primary purpose of the prison system? Answer: It’s not rehabilitation; if that happens, and it rarely does, then so much the better – but it’s not the primary purpose. And it’s not punishment; sure, we don’t want to see anybody gain from their crimes against others, but “an eye for an eye” solves nothing, does it – except perhaps as a deterrent.

And how effective has the deterrent been? With record numbers incarcerated, you’d have to say that’s going pretty bloody poorly.  And a fixation on taking eyes does leave everyone blind to what prison is really about.

So what is the primary purpose of the prison system then? Well, it goes back to the very purpose of government:

    “Every individual has the right to use force for lawful self-defence. It is for this reason that the collective force – which is only the organised combination of the individual forces – may lawfully be used for the same purpose; and it cannot be used legitimately for any other purpose.” (Frédéric Bastiat)
    “If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.
This is the task of government–of a proper government—it’s basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why mean do need a government.
    “A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—ie., under objectively defined laws.”
[Ayn Rand]

So what does that mean about the primary purpose of the prison system?  It means that its primary purpose is to protect us from those who’ve enacted force or fraud against others.

If some folk demonstrate that they’re prepared to take away a victim’s rights, then ipso facto their own rights should be equally forfeit.  That’s fair, right?  And if they’re prepared to make that person a victim, then we’re entitled to ensure they don’t take other victims as well.

So the primary purpose is protection.  We lock them up for our self-defence.  But how does this solve the overcrowding problem?

The question really answers itself. If you draw a distinction between people who’ve been locked up simply for doing things they “shouldn’t have” and people who’ve done things to other people that they shouldn’t have, then you have a group (the former one) who deserves to be released.  That is, draw a distinction between those who’ve committed crimes with actual victims and those who haven’t – i.e., those who need to be locked up for our self-defence, and those who don’t – and release the poor folk who’ve committed no crime other than one arbitrarily so defined by the government.

Even the most conservative figures suggest that group includes around ten to twenty percent of the present prison population. Find them, release them, and you can can stop talking about overcrowding for another electoral cycle – and you can begin to take those victimless crimes off the books so that people guilty of nothing other than hurting themselves don’t start filling up those places again.

Do it.

'Two Tramps in Mud Time' – Robert Frost

Over a few drinks in Raglan this weekend, we agreed while smoking cigars and staring out at the sunset that a necessary skill to have on such occasions is to reach into your memory and pull out a poem for recitation.

Or to call on two or three that you’ve committed to memory at some stage.

James K. Baxter’s ‘Lament for Barney Flanagan’ is popular with one friend [for which, head here and scroll down a lot], and Coleridge with another.  Limericks and Irish rebel poetry (and songs) are popular with others. “Grooks” are fun. But the job is to remember them when they’re needed – when you’re two drinks down with more to come, and the sun’s just slipping down over the horizon.

So here’s one I’m resolving to remember: Robert Frost’s 'Two Tramps in Mud Time,' for which this is the last stanza.
...But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Roast him [updated]

Whale Oil has a new Political Maxim: “Politicians are innocent until politically expendable,” by which I take it that the present Finance Minister has no friend in the Whale, who intends to baste, roast and flay The Dipton Douple-Dipper over a hot blog.

And talking to friends who are National Party supporters (which despite my best efforts I’ve been unable to shake off) they feel the same.  English (who is still considering inflicting a Capital Gains Tax on NZ home-owners at the same time as he’s defending have taxpayers help him to maintain an income stream and Capital Gains on his own home) has few friends among his own team – even if Labour would prefer the gutless wonder to stay there.

Why wouldn’t they want Mr 21% to stay there?

Which makes me wonder how long it will be before Mr “I Wuz Entitled” is invited to fall upon his sword and head off for a decent spell on the back benches.  And whether, if that were to happen, there’s anyone in the National Party caucus who wouldn’t be a worse Finance Minister than Beneficiary Bill.

Could there be anybody worse?

Is there one there at all that hasn’t worshipped at the same failed altar of bullshit and phony wisdom?

UPDATE: Is this really the sort of person you National supporters want as your Finance Minister?  One who preaches recessional “austerity” while loosening the fiscal purse strings – and who talks about belt-tightening for you while sending you the bill for him to let out his.  One of the country’s most highly-paid beneficiaries with morals to match. Watch The story Bill English doesn’t want you to see and decide.

Kanye could

Would someone call security and please escort Kanye off my blog? [Filched from Pharyngula]

So, how dumb are you? [update 2]

Over the last ten years, there’s now doubt we’ve all got dumber – and by “we” I mean “all of us on average.”  To put it as simply as I can, you and I  just haven’t been sufficiently bright to raise the average that the newly minted dummies pouring out of schools and university are relentlessly bringing down.

We’re dumb all over. “18 per cent of New Zealanders had a Bachelor's degree in 2007, up from 9.2 per cent in 1997” says Deborah Hill-Cone, meaning “the proportion of people with degrees has doubled over the past 10 years. “During that time,” she says however, “I suspect we've actually got dumber.”  I suspect she’s dead right. Universities and degree mills have sprung up like gorse across a Taranaki farm, but too few of their degrees mean a damn thing. 

Hill-Cone’s gripe, “unfashionable in these days of righteous self-improvement, is that there are far too many students and far too many universities… and when you graduate these days you're getting a Degree Lite.” Bang on. Most students are dumber when they leave university than they are when they enter (and when they enter pitifully few are able even to do anything more than write their own name successfully).  One glance at what now passes for university work is enough to see how unchallenging it is; and one conversation with a graduate will tell you that it’s not independent thinking that’s valued but regurgitation – and in most cases regurgitation of nonsense. (The Attorney General reckons, for example, that  “too many lawyers practising at the bar are incompetent” and their university courses were “a joke.” The leaky homes saga tells you all you need to know about the quality of architect’s education. And just talk to a graduate from a New Zealand philosophy department and you’ll see the closest thing you’re going to see to a human being who’s been pithed.)

But we’re dumb all over, it’s not just here in EnZed.  In the States they’re talking about the failure of socialist studies courses to deliver on their promise “to promote civic competence.”  “A social studies education encourages and enables each student to acquire a core of basic knowledge…” So how’s that working for them? The Jay P. Greene Blog takes up the story [hat tip Powell History]:

“The Goldwater Institute gave a version of the United States Citizenship Test to Arizona high school students, only to learn that they were profoundly ignorant regarding American government, history and geography. Only 3.5% of Arizona public school students got six or more questions correct, the passing threshold for immigrants, [and] the passing rate for Oklahoma high school students was 2.8%. They somehow underperformed Arizona’s already abysmally pathetic performance.”

So despite indoctrination almost since birth (“Kindergarten through Grade 12”) these high school students

    “wouldn’t do much worse if the pollster asked them questions in Sanskrit instead of English. The pollster would say ‘I am going to ask you some questions about American civics in Sanskrit. Answer as best you can.  Question 1: संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् संस्कृता वाक् ?’
    “There is some small chance they would answer ‘George Washington’ after all.”

Now despite EnZed high school students generally being dumb as a bagful of rocks (and their university counterparts being twice as bad), I’m prepared to bet that EnZed students would do better than the Americans even in the American Citizenship Test (but maybe not in Sanskrit). And that NOT PC blog readers would do even better.

In fact, let’s see what the average result for self-selecting NOT PC blog readers is for the following ten questions. Answers are here (scroll down).

  1. What is the Supreme Law of the US?
  2. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
  3. What are the two parts of the US Congress?
  4. How many justices are on the US Supreme Court?
  5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
  6. What ocean is on the east coast of the United States?
  7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
  8. A US Senator is elected for how many years?
  9. Who was the first President of the United States?
  10. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

To start you off I got ten. But then, I saw the answers first. :-)

UPDATE 1: And now for education that’s completely different!  Friday night along with around 300 Montessori parents and teachers I attended neuropsychologist Steven Hughes’s “highly visual, rapid-paced and entertaining talk” in which he

“describes how Maria Montessori's brain-based approach to education provides an unparalleled foundation for the development of academic, social, and executive functions critical for advanced problem solving and lifetime success. He shows how Montessori education parallels what we now know about brain development and fosters the development of advanced cognitive functions, social cognition, and such higher-order competencies as empathy and leadership.”

In other words, Montessori education uniquely follows what the human brain needs as it develops. Don’t worry if you missed it: You can watch this talk and many others like it at Hughes’s website GoodAtDoingThings.Com.

CLICK HERE to go to Hughes's website

Why does he call his website GoodAtDoingThings.Com?  Simple: Because that’s the purpose of education, right?  Mastery.  As Ayn Rand says in The Fountainhead, “before you can do things for people, you must be the kind of man who can get things done. But to get things done, you must love the doing, not the secondary consequences.”  Montessori education teaches how to get things done, and how to love doing it.

UPDATE 2: More from the same “How Dumb is Dumb” files comes news of Lincoln University students who attended a Nazi-themed drinking party over the weekend – students who, says an excuse-monger on their behalf, “were first years and may not know have known what the ‘holocaust was all about’.”  As if knowledge of the Holocaust is only delivered in advanced history lectures. [Read 'Ignorant' students' Nazi shame.]

But ignorance like this should really be no surprise, should it, since any number of advanced history graduates themselves are happy to wear that murderer Che Guevara on their chest – and to relax at the Lenin Bar and the Havana cafe.  And numerous qualified journalist types who rightly call Lincoln’s idiots “ignorant” are happy to join them there. Oh ignorance, thy name is ‘Graduate.’

Friday, 18 September 2009

Beer O’Clock: American beer is like making love in a canoe

Your (ir)regular beer correspondent Neil Miller cross-posts from Wellington’s famous Malthouse Bar:

Any mention of the United States these days polarises people.  It does not seem to matter whether the discussion relates to foreign policy, hip-hop music or beer.   If you put the word “American” in front of a topic, it suddenly becomes controversial.

Me, I love America.  It’s big, it’s fun and it’s the land of the free.  As Laurence J Peter once said, “America is a country that doesn’t know where it is going but is determined to set a speed record getting there.”  Liking America is not the same as liking all Americans.  I find Oprah Winfrey more annoying than Steve Urkel and there are reasons why Canadians go to such great lengths to avoid being mistaken for southern neighbours when travelling overseas.

Talk of American travellers reminds me of an epic visit to ‘The Shakespeare’ some years ago.  Here is what I wrote at the time:

“I share the dining room with four Americans who have that amazing ability to make it sound like there are a dozen of them all talking at once through toy megaphones.  The four of them drinking OJ somehow manage to be louder than the six Canadians seriously drinking beer at the bar the night before.  One of the girls was actually called Britney and one of the guys felt it was acceptable to use ‘y’all’ a lot in everyday conversation.”

American beers have an appalling reputation internationally based on the fact that 80% of them are, in fact, nonsense on stilts.  This was certainly the reputation that Monty Python was lampooning in the line which now serves as the title of this blog post. However, that same accusation of mainstream mediocrity can be levelled at a number of countries around the world.  Often a nation’s most popular or most famous beer is hardly their best offering.  Both those generalisations apply fully to New Zealand.

I have to confess that I did try Bud Light during my stay in America.  Somewhat reluctantly, I had a taster glass of the stuff at my hotel.  Robert the Rather Excellent (Malthouse) Barman commented that this was the first time he had ever poured a tasting glass of Bud Light.  It had a faint, distant nose of apple, a watery thin body, hints of apple juice and virtually no bitterness at the end.  It was the very epitome of insipid. 

Robert agreed with every word of my tasting notes and explained that was precisely why he liked Bud Light so much.  Deep down, we all have friends like Robert.

If you move beyond the big three American breweries (Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors Brewing Company and Pabst Brewing Company), American regional, craft and micro-breweries are amongst the best and most innovative at the world. 

sierra-nevada-pale-ale1 One of the first examples of American brewing prowess to force me to re-examine my prejudices was the classic Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (5.6%) from the pioneering microbrewery in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, west of the Rockies.  Fragrant, luscious, bursting with fruit and brimming with bitterness, after one sip I could never honestly say all American beer was awful again.

It is still a special beer and is once again available at the Malthouse (and at other special places around New Zealand).  Joining it for the first time are a number of its Sierra Nevada stablemates including the decadent Stout, spritzy Summerfest and the wholly hoptastic Torpedo IPA. This big 7% beer uses whole cones of Magnum, Crystal and Citra hops for added intensity.

As for the punch line to the canoe joke, well, if you don’t know you will just have to look it up.  This is a family blog after all (although you wouldn’t know it sometimes).  The line is funny, but fortunately it’s not universally true about American beer any more.



Beer Writer
Real Beer New Zealand 
Beer and Brewer Magazine

Friday Morning Rhamble [updated]

Hhello, good morning and whelcome. And a special whelcome to the good folk of W(h)anganui. Time for your regular Friday morning ramble ‘rhound the best of the net.  Plenty of good rheading here (courtesy of my certified Twitter collection device) that you can bookmark today and come back to over the wheekend.

  • Blogger Ryan Sproull and I cooked up a great idea at the Bloggers’ Drinks last night at Galbraith’s.  Well, it seemed like a great idea at the time . . .
    Read” A plan so cunning.
  • Stephen Hicks takes a rational look at "The 13th floor and other superstitions" and asks, isn’t it time to give it up?

  • Unethical businessmen are the result of the ethics taught at business schools – but not in the way that you’ve been told:

  • “Rockstar” economist Peter Schiff announces he’s running for the Senate in Connecticut. “At this time last year I could not have imagined that that I would be making such an announcement today,” he said in announcing his run. “I had never intended to become a candidate for public office. But these are extraordinary times. Our economy is falling apart in front of our eyes and Washington seems intent on making the wheels come off even faster. At a time when we desperately need adult supervison, the economically illiterate are running the show. As I love my country, it now seems clear that I must try to do something to help. The emotional and material support I have received from across the country has made the decision much easier.”
    See Peter Schiff Announces Run For Connecticut Senate Seat

  • English comedian Russell Brand has a field day on The View – hosts struggle to keep up.
  • What is it with conservatives and their miserable view of human nature, asks Gideon Reich:
    Conservatives vs. Idealism

  • Something that always comes up on nearly every well-run comments thread: people asking “how do you know what you know.” Which in the end comes down to: “How do you know induction works?”  Roderick Fitts continues his investigation of induction at his blog Inductive Quest with these two thoughtful posts [hat tip Objectivist Roundup]:

  • There’s no ‘I’in team? Maybe not, says Michael Jordan, “but there’s ‘I’ in ‘win’.”
    Michael Jordan Scores One For "I"

  • Johan Norberg has a new book on the global financial crisis, called Financial Fiasco: How America's Infatuation with Homeownership and Easy Money Created the Economic Crisis. “This is essential reading for everyone who cares about our economic future,” says Harvard Uni economist Jeffrey Miron, “but especially for those who are still not sure what caused the crisis. As Norberg makes clear, private forces jumped willingly on a runaway train, but it was government that built the train and drove it off a cliff."
  • What  do these three things have in common? Hugo Chavez's red carpet junket to a Venice film festival; Van Jones's recent claim that he was the victim of a "smear campaign"; and recent comments made by Obama related to his push for a government takeover of the medical profession?  The answer is at The Rational Capitalist, who says these three seemingly disparate events “demonstrate the philosophy that is destroying the world." [hat tip Objectivist Roundup]:
    Chavez, Jones, and Obama: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions and Red Carpet
  • Atlas Shrugged is More Than Relevant for Modern Times says Ari Armstrong.
  • Here’s A Simple Principle for Politics: “ we need to re-adopt the principle of individual rights."  Good idea, I say.
  • Seen in the Washington Mall last week, perhaps the best Tea Party sign yet: A picture of George Washington with a word balloon saying "WTF?" [hat tip CordairGallery]

  • The it for tat tariff war between the US and China has started under the ObaMessiah’s tutelage. Obama's started by raising tarrifs on imported tyres. Chinese respond with threats to ban US chicken imports. Customers lose out, and economists start to raise dread spectre of Smoot Hawley . . .
    http://tinyurl.com/phot4cabout 18 hours ago from Flock

  • Despite what you’ve heard, the US health system is already collectivist. “By the time Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965, this view of health care as an economic product--for which each individual must assume responsibility--had given way to a view of health care as . . . an unearned “entitlement,” to be provided at others’ expense. . .  The resulting system aimed to relieve the individual of the “burden” of paying for his own health care by coercively imposing its costs on his neighbors.
     Why Are We Moving Toward Socialized Medicine? By Yaron Brook
  • President Obama, in an effort to sell his socialized health care plan, has said that what America needs is not a free market in health care, but a “uniquely American” government-controlled system. But what would such a plan really look like? “A ‘uniquely American’ government health care plan is a contradiction. In an America true to its founding principles, no aspect of any individual’s life is planned by a bureaucrat in Washington.”
    A “Uniquely American” Health Care Plan

  • A free market in money? : Anthony Evans of the The Guardian has it right.... [hat tip Mises Economics Blog
    [hat tip http://bit.ly/15bZEC

  • Best motivation video ever?
  • “Education reform has long been a popular buzz phrase. But too often it's proven to be a hollow call as the education establishment kills off common sense reforms even while we watch districts struggle with failing schools and low graduation rates.”
    Indianapolis Tests Out Education Reform: A confluence of factors favors school choice—for now.

  • The Radler trademark story hits the UK:

  • Americans must prepare for deepening unemployment says Peter Schiff:
  • Inflation as we know it pretty much begins with the creation of the Fed.

  • New York's Standard Hotel has a great recession-busting idea for hotelliers with the necessaries: Get Naked!
  • 'Buy a House, Get a Green Card,' says Ayn Rand Boss, and you kill two birds with one stone.

  • What Would Ayn Do?

  • Illegal downloading: "It’s Not Stealing Because I Don’t Want It to Be." Yeah right.

  • Margaret Thatcher has disappeared -- from UK Labour's heroines, anyway.

  • 45% of doctors would consider quitting if the ObamaCare plan passes.

  • Ludwig Von Mises: The Prophet of the Great Depression.

  • Rose Wilder Lane, Isabel Paterson, and Ayn Rand: Three Women Who Inspired the Modern Libertarian Movement.

  • Sneering nonsense about Ayn Rand at The Dim-Post. Feel free to chime in. I have.
    Alissa Rosenbuam

  • Queensland teenager faces 7 years in prison for breaking archaic anti-abortion laws.

  • How in hell can you send 2,300 texts in four days?!

  • If it tries to move, stop it -- when it stops moving, subsidise it. The Auckland Regional Council follows Reagan's rule to a ‘t.’

  • "Government should be limited to the protection of individual rights. Everything else was—and is—beyond its scope'."

  • Austrian 'Macroeconomics' is the answer economists are looking for: it’s the successful "middle ground" between the failures of Keynes and 'modern macroeconomics' :-)!

  • Another Look At the Remarkable Life of Norman Borlaug, R.I.P.

  • Hey New York Times, the reason Penn & Teller said that about Norman Borlaug was that it is true.
    http://tinyurl.com/pok84u R.I.P.
  • The pointless "live cross" from the news desk – Simon Pound does it better. http://blog.simonpound.com/...9:19 AM

  • Credit shrinks at Great Depression rate:
    US credit shrinks at Great Depression rate prompting fears of double-dip recession

  • A Tale of Two Shortages: “With his people clamoring for their caffeine fixes, Chavez has expropriated his country's two largest coffee roasters . . .”

  • Ellen DeGeneres is sued for copyright violation. When asked why licenses weren’t purchased for the more than 1,000 songs played during the "dance over" segment of the show, her producers said they didn't "roll that way."
    "As sophisticated consumers of music, Defendants knew full well that, regardless of the way they rolled, under the Copyright Act, and under state law for the pre-1972 recordings, they needed a license to use the sound recordings lawfully," the suit states.

    Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/10/ellen-sued-for-thousands-_n_282861.html

  • Vote now to shoose your ideal “sustainable” world.  says Tim Blair: "I choose World 1 mainly because World 3 has too many wind turbines and a fish that’s larger than Japan."

  • Premature Detonation: Ordnance saved, terrorists wasted:

  • Labour’s Leanne Dalziel has called for a A Commission for Social Inclusion. Bugger that.  Opinionated Mummy would prefer quite another commission altogether: A Commission for Social Exclusion;

  • Is there anyone else who’s well over the media' fawning attention to the govt's Snail-Trail Folly? http://tinyurl.com/r8zt5w

  • "...a film where Germans are attractive, Americans sadistic, Englishmen effete, & Jews cold-blooded murderers." Why would you want to watch Tarantino’s gore-fest?  http://tinyurl.com/o63e8w

  • Did you see Tyler Cowen's review of Inglorious Bastards? Scathing. [hat tip Eric Crampton]

  • "During the Great Depression limited government was sacrificed, & its principles compromised beyond redemption." Is history repeating itself?

  • Bye-bye Dubai?: Dubai is where the last signal downwards was given by the Skyscraper Index.

  • Jim Rogers: "Letting Lehman Fail Was Perhaps The Only Thing Governments Have Done Right"!

  • Jim Rogers: "How can the solution for debt and consumption be more debt and more consumption?" Can't be, can it.
  • Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Pay subsidies, get bludgers. Home insulation subsidy is another ‘cash for clunkers.’

  • Read: Fijian corruption, vote rigging, prostitution & blackmail orchestrated by deposed PM Qarase & his cronies. http://tinyurl.com/o9pu9m

  • "The case for legalising all drugs is unanswerable."

  • "A Republic, if you can keep it," is how Benjamin Franklin described the political system deliverd to the young nation by the Founding Fathers. America is not a democracy, and was never intended to be.
  • To address pre-existing medical conditions, restore free markets :

  • Stephen Hicks's 4-page essay with pictures on "Post-postmodern Art" is re-posted. It’s a beauty! http://bit.ly/167O0Z8

  • Is Paris the pervert capital of the world?

  • Anatomy of an Economic Ignoramus.

  • "The unshakeable faith in [climate] computer models ... would be the envy of any religious sect in the world. "

  • "A beautiful way to make a point." Fortunately, no longer a point that needs to be made in NZ. http://tinyurl.com/lwumgu5

And finally, can he do it?


‘The Glistening Playground’ - David Gallup


An award winning painting by Californian artist David Gallup.  Check out his website for more great work. [Hat tip Michael Newberry]

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cool machinery of the day: ‘Robobuilder!’

A few weeks back I posted a 3d-printer that can print out a 3d architectural model.  That’s already old hat.  Here’s a ‘concrete-jet printer’ that prints out real concrete houses, “using what is essentially inkjet technology, except on a larger scale and with concrete”! 

Never mind Robocop, this is Robobuilder! [Hat tip Oswald Bastable]


Yep, nearly time for the impromptu mid-month Blogger’s Bar Bash at Galbraith’s – starting around 5pm this ‘evening.’   Which gives me the ideal excuse to post this cartoon I’d been saving for tomorrow – but it’s just too tempting:


Quote of the Week: WSJ on Borlaug on exploiting the earth

    Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.
    “In later life, Borlaug was criticized by self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put them athwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back, warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremists against synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and genetically modified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation while damaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone."
[emphasis added.}
……………………………………………………Wall Street Journal on Norman Borlaug, who died this …………………………………………………..week [hat tip Liberty Scott]

Questions on piracy, lying, racism and more

  1. To repel the increasing numbers of pirates threatening to board them, ships plying the world’s oceans these days are often armed. Is anyone else a little disappointed that the ship heading into Tauranga and illegally boarded by idiots wasn’t?
  2. Since shouting “you lie” at President Zero, Congressman Joe Wilson a stern rebuke from the Congress – and cash and support from across the country. And since even Zero has now issued “a clarification” of his speech, is there anyone who doesn’t agree that he was doing just what Wilson said he was?
  3. Does anyone really believe that millions of people are showing up at Tea Party protests across the US because they’re all racist?
  4. Does anyone really believe that taxpayer funding for Maoris to insulate their home isn’t?
  5. Does anyone really want to be taxed to hell just so they can download porn faster?
  6. Does anyone really believe that illegally downloading and passing around copyrighted material isn’t stealing?
  7. Since socialists never admire profits, how come they’re always so eager to steal them?
  8. Since people hate gangs and criminals so much, then how come those same people keep rejecting evidence that prohibition only fuels them – that it puts them (fatally) in charge of the quality of supply – that legalisation doesn’t -- or in other words, that the War on Drugs is Immoral Idiocy and "the case for legalising all drugs is unanswerable"?

NOT PJ: A Nobel Endeavour

This week Bernard Darnton wonders who’s the best, and hosts a Nobel Peace Prize laureate smackdown.

_BernardDarnton Obituaries for Norman Borlaug, in the words of The Wall Street Journal “the man who defused the population bomb,” have made for inspiring reading. He applied a powerful intellect and ferocious hard work and saved hundreds of millions of people from hunger. He was truly one of humanity’s heroes – and yet in 1970 he won a Nobel Peace Prize.

This made me wonder: what fraction of Peace Prizes goes to heroes and what fraction goes to fu- … let’s just say non-heroes.

The obvious reason that I’m dubious about the Nobel Peace Prize is the 2007 award to Al Bore. I simply don’t understand how nagging people about their heated towel rails contributes to world peace. Also dubious is his Oscar. Regardless of whether you think it would be a good idea to invest in beach-front property in Tuvalu, you have to wonder what the Academy was smoking when it decided to give the Best Documentary award to a PowerPoint presentation. That’s like awarding a Michelin star to the Wattie’s factory.

1994 marked the Peace Prize’s low point, when it was shared by Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat. The award was for “efforts to create peace in the Middle East.” So that all worked out then. Arafat spent decades running an organisation committed to shooting people. If you can get a medal for stopping shooting people, where are all the awards for those of us who never started shooting people in the first place?

To be fair to the committee that dishes out the awards, the relevant criterion in Nobel’s will is “the holding and promotion of peace conferences.” Arafat, having run out of cash to blow people up after the Soviet Union collapsed, certainly went to a peace conference or two.

Another former terrorist to get the Peace Prize is Nelson Mandela. Here we’re getting back into the realm of the good guys. Mandela is definitely the world’s favourite ex-terrorist. His armed struggle was arguably defensive and his bombs weren’t aimed to kill. He gained worldwide sympathy while spending twenty-seven years in jail; however, with the alternative being living with Winnie Mandela, Robben Island may have seemed like paradise.

Bringing apartheid to an end peacefully is certainly deserving of a medal, even if his ANC colleagues have regularly bollocksed up the running of the country since. South Africa’s banning of the New Zealand Māori rugby team on the grounds that it’s racially selected is deserving of another medal.

One of the other good guys on the awards list is Muhammad Yunus. He founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and popularised microcredit, the lending of small sums of money to the very poor. Critics of microcredit say that loaning the poor money to start or expand businesses and lift themselves out of poverty allows governments to cut back on welfare programmes. Supporters say the same thing. Give the man a medal.

Contrary to my initial reflexive thoughts, there are good and brave people on the Peace Prize recipients ‘roll – Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa, and Aung San Suu Kyi. There are also a similar number of warmongers whose waning powers were confused with efforts for peace. But neither group forms the longest list.

The biggest fraction of prizes goes to bureaucrats and quangoes. Most years the Nobel Committee falls back on the “holding and promotion of peace conferences” clause – the organising of talkathons – to find its laureates. The Borlaugs and Yunuses are rare jewels who achieved lasting benefits for humanity. If only we could find one person a year of their calibre.

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

Westcott House - Frank Lloyd Wright (1910)



Check out the Westcott House website for more.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

It’s not racist, but . . .

It looks like  racist election bribes have started two-and-a-half years early:

Taxpayer to insulate Maori homes under ETS deal – NZ HERALD

Isn’t that nice of the Taxpayer.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Maori, Megatron and the Money-go-round

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

1. Key Under Pressure On Tobacco Price Hike - The Maori Party, brown wing of the Nicotine National Socialists, want to hurt the people they purport to represent via another increase in taxes on cigarettes. They also want a select committee to “bring these bastards from the tobacco companies out in the open.” Never mind that until the 1970s these same “bastards” used to provide New Zealanders with jobs. Never mind that many people still enjoy a smoke without hurting anyone else.
    Tariana Turia needn’t worry – although the Sunday Star Times article I’ve linked to claims the Key administration has an aversion to moves that could be seen as “nanny state,” John-Boy’s government is steaming ahead with an Emission Trading Scam and a capital gains tax (profit is such a filthy word, John - stamp it out as fast as you can).
    Tariana is fuming however that tobacco companies dropped their prices (as a lot of businesses do in a time of recession), and wants to punish them for it. One of ASH’s Obergruppenfuhrers, Ben Youdan, admits upping taxes would be a “revenue-booster” for the government. Thank you for your honesty, Ben. That’s what sin taxes are all about – stopping people enjoying themselves while gouging consumers. ASH, the Maori Party and John-Boy are a bunch of fucking morons. Don’t they realise that if Joe Average can’t afford to buy cigarettes legally, he will grow his own, or (more likely) buy some from a private “black” market source (which, of course, is illegal). And who will supply this contraband tobacco? Why, the same lovely people that supply people of all ages with cannabis, methamphetamine and other illicit drugs. The gangs. That’s it!
    Tariana must be gunning for the gang vote in 2011.

2. One in Six Now Born Into Poverty – The NZ Council of Christian Social Services delivers some chilling statistics – 20,000 more children on the welfare rolls over the past year; waiting lists for food parcels; families disintegrating under financial stress. One in six children now born into “poverty.” Unemployment trebling in the past year.
    John-Boy has the power to reverse these alarming trends, liberate the poor from welfare addiction and help them into jobs. Do it now, John: abolish GST, a tax that unfairly hits the poor hardest; make the first $50,000 of income tax-free (that way you could scrap Welfare for Families, the Labour Party’s ploy to lead middle class people to the trough and invite them to drink their own blood until they beome addicted to it); and end minimum wage laws. In other words, economic deregulation – as per Libertarianz Party policies from the 2008 election. Feel free, John – steal our ideas, we don’t mind.
    Those children who are not yet sucked into the public welfare system’s vortex of despair and misery may one day thank you for it.

Hide01 3. Hide: The Minister For Constitutional Change – What a disappointment Rodney Hide has been since he and his party joined the government benches. Supercity – one noose for the people of Auckland. Instead of scaling down and strangling the powers of the existing Auckland local bodies, Rodney Hide creates a bigger and more dangerous monster - Megatron, which will crush any resistance from ratepayers as it chews up their money.
    For 2010, Rodney proposes a Taxpayer’s Rights Bill – tying government spending increases to the rate of inflation and population increases – presumably the two multiplied together. Not cutting taxes on people who own real estate, but guaranteeing to increase these taxes. A Taxpayer’s Rights Bill is akin to a Rape Victim’s Rights Bill that doesn’t prosecute the rapist, but promises him a bigger and better violation next time.
hood01     If this is the best ACT can do, they are doomed in 2011. Rodney, you are on a suicide mission. From the ACT website, among the first four ACT “plans” are cutting government waste, reducing taxes, limiting the scope of local government and reducing bureaucracy. How the hell do Megatron and the Tax-Rape Victims Rights Bill achieve the above?
    For the first time - and I never thought I would do this - I am publicly calling for Rodney Hide’s replacement as leader of ACT. It is disappointing to see Rodney abandon principles the Libertarianz Party have always espoused, but from which ACT have departed under their current leader.

4. Public money spent on shopping – shades of Tuku Morgan, but worse; chief parasite at the Hutt Valley Youth Health Trust (Vibe) spent $21,000 on clothes about which she initially lied, saying they were for clients to wear to job interviews. Not only that, but her staff paid their children $70 an hour as cleaners. Not only that, but large wads of taxpayer money were transferred electronically (i.e. stolen) and placed into accounts belonging to the said parasite and her friend. And not only that, but money already extorted from productive people by the IRD, then handed on to bureaucrats and finally to Vibe, was not returned to the IRD fast enough by Vibe, who failed to file a declaration (“tax return”) in order to allow the IRD to estimate how much pre-stolen money they should re-steal from Vibe. The result: penalties for filing late tax returns, so that even more pre-stolen money ended up being re-stolen.
    Oh well, I guess the IRD were going to get it all eventually, anyway. Meanwhile, the chief parasite and her co-parasites were meeting in cafes, attending gyms, showering each other with gifts and throwing parties, with the money that Bob Russell (IRD’s head bloodsucker) took from you and I because we were too successful. Chief parasite’s husband says she has been “punished enough”. Apparently, “she was just hung out to dry by the board,” poor darling. Am I the only one who thinks this conniving, thieving scumbag should be sacked immediately, her name and photo circulated to every private employer in the country, and be forced to pay back every cent she stole, plus interest?                                   

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

Quote of the Day: George Reisman on Emissions Trading Insanity

    “No matter what the assurances of scientists and engineers, based in every detail on the best established laws of physics — about backup systems, fail-safe systems, containment buildings as strong as U-boat pens, defenses in depth, and so on — when it comes to atomic power, the environmental movement is unwilling to gamble on the unborn children of fifty generations hence being exposed to harmful radiation. But on the strength of a weather forecast, it is willing to wreck the economic system of the modern world — to literally throw away industrial civilization…
    “The meaning of this insanity is that industrial civilization is to be abandoned because this is what must be done to avoid bad weather. All right, very bad weather. If we destroy the energy base needed to produce and operate the construction equipment required to build strong, well-made, comfortable houses for hundreds of millions of people, we shall be safer from the wind and rain, the environmental movement alleges, than if we retain and enlarge that energy base. If we destroy our capacity to produce and operate refrigerators and air conditioners, we shall be better protected from hot weather than if we retain and enlarge that capacity, the environmental movement claims. If we destroy our capacity to produce and operate tractors and harvesters, to can and freeze food, to build and operate hospitals and produce medicines, we shall secure our food supply and our health better than if we retain and enlarge that capacity, the environmental movement asserts.
    “There is actually a remarkable new principle implied here, concerning how man can cope with his environment. Instead of our taking action upon nature, as we have always believed we must do, we shall henceforth control the forces of nature more to our advantage by means of our inaction…
………………………………. – George Reisman in ‘The Toxicity of Environmentalism,’ written, ……………………………………remarkably, in 1990.