Saturday, September 26, 2009

AFL Grand Final Week Countdown. It’s Finals Day!

0,5001,6976421,00 It’s Finals Day in the AFL ‘Nuff said.  Eight hours from now Geelong and St Kilda square off in what’s going to be a cracker of a contest between two teams running hotter than any two teams have run before. There’s not much more to be said --- but still plenty of places to go for all that last-minute analysis if you want more.

And wherever you are in the world, you’ve got no excuse for not tuning in to watch the most anticipated Grand Final in years. To find out when and where it’s on at your place, head to the official AFL website and hit the “TV & RADIO” link (yeah, it’s a  bit hard to locate but do persevere), and then the “International Viewing Guide” button.  And just to make it easy for you (with “Week 4” meaning Week 4 of the Finals series) . . .

AFL-NZ This for the UK:
AFL-UK
And this for the U.S.:
AFL-USA As for me, I’ll be down in Manurewa watching the game at the old Mountford Park clubhouse on Dr. Pickering Avenue – and you’re more than welcome to join me. Main game starts on the big screen at 4pm, with a curtain raiser out on the park at 1pm between North Shore’s Tigers and the Manurewa Raiders.

Oh, and by the way, the pre-match betting is all going Geelong’s way , but I suspect the game itself is going to be be  a whole lot closer.  It’s going to be a cracker!

Go the Cats!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Beer O’Clock: Hail to the Chief!

george_washington  When George Washington retired from the Presidency after two terms and, like Cincinattus before him, went back to his plough – setting a two-term precedent for future Presidents unbroken until FDR’s four-term power-grab one-hundred and sixty years later – it wasn’t just time behind the plough and his wife’s great cooking he had in his mind’s eye.

You see, George wasn’t just a great general, a great statesman and a great man – he was also one of history’s great drinkers.  The BarAmerica blog has the lowdown:

mount-gay-rum-holiday-egg-nog     “Records show that the father of [America] especially enjoyed a cocktail of sorts known as 'flip,' a drink made from beer, rum, cream, sugar, and eggs. As a general, he was sure to keep his soldiers content and supplied with plenty of fresh beer. As a politician, he reportedly once publicly gave away 75 gallons of free rum to reward the voters that elected him to Virginia's House of Burgesses.”

And unlike what might happen today with such a gift, this was after his election, not before.  And out of his own money, not that of his electors.

    “As a homebrewer too, he was known to cook-up up a batch or two of stout on occasion. Washington was certainly was not alone among the founding fathers as a lover of spirits; he wrote that after the constitution had been framed, "the business being closed, the members adjourned to the City Tavern."
    It's no surprise to us here at BarAmerica that alongside rugged individualism and a passionate commitment to freedom and free trade, enjoyment of strong drink was, and remains to this day, an integral part of America's proud national heritage.”

Unfortunately however, there was another legacy too that Washington  left drinkers. Persuaded by his Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to tax whiskey to pay off the National Debt – although Hamilton confided to friends he’d proposed it “more as a measure of social discipline than as a source of revenue" – Washington imposed a tax an all distillers, including a larger tax on all small distillers which at the time included himself.  The tax was all but uncollectible however, inspiring not “social discipline” but the Whiskey Rebellion, a tradition of bootleg corn liquor in Kentucky in Tennessee, and (although this particular impost failed to take hold and was eventually abandoned) the beginning of a tradition of “sin taxes” that continues today.

And after it was all over Washington was said to have voiced the opinion that the rebellion had at least roused Americans once again to resist the tyranny of a nanny government – the same resistance they showed in the era of Prohibition, when Americans began “drinking on principle” in the face of government efforts to stop them.

Something to think about as today’s wowsers (bit by nannying bit) seek to reduce our our own alcoholic pursuit of happiness.

Have a great weekend despite them – or even especially to spite them.

Cheers
PC

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Key on Letterman

For American readers bemused at the appearance of what looked like John Boy Walton on your normal evening broadcast of The Late Show last night, that was in fact (and I hang my head in shame as I say this) New Zealand’s Prime Minister.

TVNZ has a rundown of the appearance, which included Key presenting David Letterman with an Indy-500 champion Scott Dixon t-shirt (yep, folks, not all NZers are as bumbling as Bret McKenzie and John Boy), and Key’s recitation of this top ten list.

John Key's top 10 reasons for visiting New Zealand are:
10. Auckland airport now has Cinnabon (a chain of American baked goods stores and kiosks)
9. We have the loosest slot machines in the Pacific rim
8. It's only a convenient 20 hour flight away
7. It's like England, without the attitude
6. Leno's on at 9 o'clock
5. Get the whanau together, stay in a bach, crack open the chilly bin and slap on your jandals
4. Visit in the next 30 days and I'll pick you up at the airport
3. 70% of our energy is generated through renewable sources - they don't all have to be jokes
2. We drive on the left side of the road, like the British and Lindsay Lohan
1. Unlike most of the world, we still like Americans.

Jokers, clowns and psychos. Just another day at the UN then. [updated]

Muammar Qaffafi’s insane rant at the UN, which included the suggestion that swine flu was “a tool of destruction engineered in U.S. laboratories,” and questions about Israeli and U.S. government involvement in the Kennedy assassination, made me think of this classic 1982 cartoon from the book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.  Things have changed a little since 1982 , but – especially in the rants of Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro and Qaddafi – and (what's worse) the speech of Barack Obama -- not much.  Except perhaps that America’s president

UN-Quiche

UPDATED:

The U.N. is Fundamentally Flawed – AYN RAND CENTER
    WASHINGTON, September 24, 2009--Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s recent 90-minute tirade, and the anti-semitic ranting of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both at the United Nations general assembly, are yet two more reminders of what’s fundamentally wrong with the United Nations.
    “The fundamental feature of the U.N. is its policy of opening membership non-judgmentally to all nations--whether free or oppressive, peaceful or belligerent,” says Elan Journo, a fellow with the Ayn Rand Center.
    “The U.N.'s policy of neutrality accomplishes precisely the opposite of its putative effect; it actually protects and bolsters vicious regimes. . .

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Bye-bye Bradford [update 3]

How disappointing it is to hear that Sue Bradford is leaving Parliament in October to go “back to the grassroots,” a decision that all New Zealand families should celebrate.

Disappointing?  Hell no. It’s worth celebrating! With both her and Cindy Kiro gone from power, your children are safer now than they were yesterday – unless of course they end up at her Kotare indoctrination centre, which I imagine is the sort of thing she means by “grass roots.” (Here’s part two of Trevor Loudon’s info on the place.)

So shall we try to say something nice about her now she’s going?

Nah.  Every single thing she’s done has been an attack on your freedom. There’s nothing to respect in that.

She joined the Green Party to further her own Maoist agenda, assisting in the “reverse  take-over” of the Greens by the Alliance party’s fellow travellers – the party was was “ripe for taking over” she said (read Phil U.’s account here at Update 3 of Bradford and Catherine Delahunty, fresh from Matt McCarten’s NLP) -- and New Zealand’s electorate was ripe for the Greenwash she and her comrades were able to peddle after that take over.

Her legacy is not just her anti-smacking attack on New Zealand’s parents, but the hijack of environmentalism by the ‘watermelon’ politicians of that party, and their cementing in of that ruse.

Sadly however, her resignation doesn’t denude the Greens of MPs since there’s another loser like her in the wings, a Mr David Clendon, who’s been feeding from the RMA trough all his career -- with a CV which has him morphing from “Resource Consultant” to lecturer in the RMA, ie., from parasite to brainwasher.

Choice, huh.  “What really motivated me” to stand for the luddites said the really unmotivating Clendon at the Greens conference last year, is "the ability the Greens have, and I think it's unique, to be able to identify complex problems and to see solutions." What’s unique about the Greens, of course, is nothing more than their combination of authoritarianism and  ludditery – with a a caucus composed almost entirely of the intellectual remnants of the Socialist Workers’ Party they’re little more than a bunch of  authoritarians with a marketing wing – a problem that Clendon’s CV would indicate won’t be changing with his induction.

So farewell then, Sue Bradford.  Don’t let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

And if you’re concerned that there’s no-one left in Parliament now to really despise, then don’t forget you’ve still got Keith Locke.  And Nick Smith.

UPDATE 1Farrar looks at the personal politics:

“It’s basically because she lost the co-leadership election to Metiria Turei. Things are obviously not that happy in the Green camp. More later. “

UPDATE 2: From Home Paddock:

Kathryn Ryan interviewed RadioNZ National’s  chief reporter Jane Patterson who said the decision was prompted by Bradford’s loss of the contest for co-leadership to Metiria Turei. The interview will be online here soon  is now online here.

UPDATE 3: “Now is the chance to get out the Green broom and sweep the Red dust out of the party,” says a Greens supporter over at the Frog Blog resignation thread.  He’s right, you know.

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: A weekend in Wellington

Susan Ryder spent last weekend in Wellington – and it was so good she’s only now put finger to keyboard to tell you about it.

There are few places more glorious on a good day than Wellington. And there are few places more atrocious on a bad day.

Luckily, I struck the former last Saturday night when I was persuaded to take my two nephews and their best mate to the test at the Cake Tin with their other aunt, who flew in from Sydney for the occasion. It was her bright idea to shout them for this year’s birthday presents, with a night at a four-star hotel thrown in for good measure. Even though they’re well-behaved, she didn’t want to be solely responsible for three pre-teens in a big crowd which is how I came to be there, too.

And sometimes, the planets just all seem to line up beautifully.

We arrived early in the afternoon to watch our elder nephew’s Kapiti team, of which he was captain, beat Hutt (2-0) for the Wellington primary boys’ hockey title at the National Hockey Stadium in Newtown, before bursting with pride at his terrific acceptance speech at the trophy presentation – and grinning to ourselves that few in the NRL could have matched it, let alone done better. That’s the groovy thing about being an aunty or uncle: you can go on about your niece and nephew’s successes in a manner that parents never can.

I’d never been to the Wellington Stadium before, so I was excited to be finally doing so. Everything was terrific: its location, the organisation, the staff and the facilities. Even the weather was perfect with not a breath of wind.

It’s an easy 20 minute walk from downtown through the train station where all staff we encountered were polite, friendly and helpful. They were particularly good with the kids, who were all proudly decked out in their supporters’ gear.

My little nephew’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when he spotted Luke McAlister wandering along Lambton Quay, much to the disgust of the two older 12 year olds who, in walking ahead of us for reasons of essential coolness, were too busy being cool and missed him … and then double-bogeyed in missing Andrew Mulligan from Prime TV’s The Crowd Goes Wild after the game, whom they also like. Sometimes you really can be too cool for the room …

We were surrounded by great people all out for a great time and the atmosphere was fantastic. My sister immediately started chatting with two old chaps from Napier who were already on a high from watching Hawkes Bay thrash Otago that afternoon. The three of them discovered a shared dislike for a number of individuals including referee Wayne Barnes and Chris Rattue who writes for the New Zealand Herald, so got along famously in their mutual non-admiration society – so much so that when Cory Jane crossed the line she was startled to be offered a swig from their hip flask. “Go on, dear! You picked it; you deserve it!” to which she thought “Oh, what the hell!” and took a slug. So much for the bag search for illicit alcohol that takes place on the way in, age and experience being way too smart!

The kids took it upon themselves to lead the chanting in our section; their efforts praised and applauded generously by the good-natured folk around us. They were beside themselves when they spotted a brave lone Aussie decked out in green and gold sitting near them and gloried in persecuting him ruthlessly. How the poor bugger got out with his sanity, let alone both eyes intact in his proximity to their exuberant flag-waving remains a mystery, but he was a good sport throughout. I suspect that his being very drunk was a great comfort in that respect and Lord knows there was little his team was doing with which to be thrilled.

I can’t comment on the food selection as we’d been warned of its general expense, so fed the kids earlier at the nearest fast food outlet which, unsurprisingly, was Macs that turned out to be feeding half the test crowd as well. We’re not cheap; far from it; but boys invariably have stomachs without a memory and besides, they were easily bought off with promises of room service later that evening, the prospect of which generated much excitement and discussion as to menu choices. When the hotly-anticipated moment arrived though, there was some expressed disappointment that the lady didn’t announce “room service” and wheel it in like they do on films …

The house-bar and pay-TV channels were firmly off-limits, but the obsession with food continued with breakfast the next morning and the varied selection thereof. “Hey! There are six different cereals!” and “I’m having bacon AND sausages!” It’s great to see things through kids’ eyes again and rediscover – and enjoy - the little things in life … such as a good pork sausage!

Even the man at the train station in helping me with information for the stunningly scenic coastal trip up to Paraparaumu couldn’t have been more courteous and helpful.

It’s a shame the capital is home to so many bureaucrats. Because there really are few places more glorious on a good day than Wellington.

* * Susan’s column appear here at NOT PC every Tuesday – except
when she’s getting over a great weekend.  :-) * *

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AFL Grand Final Week Countdown. Finals Day Minus 2: The Stars!

Two days to go to Grand Final, and here’s another update you won’t be getting from the brain-addled,  local sports media – the only mention I’ve seen of AFL in Grand Final Week was the news that some dickhead punched Hawthorn star Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin in the toilet of a Perth restaurant.

Hardly the stuff of legend when the most eagerly anticipated finals of all time is now just two sleeps away. That should be the story you’re hearing from your talking heads:  that two teams playing some of the best footy ever seen on an oval are about to go head to head to make history.  Two days to go, and both teams will be trying to think about it like it’s just another game – and neither team will be succeeding. It doesn’t get bigger than a Grand Final – and it’s unlikely to ever get bigger than this one.

Geelong have transformed the game with their high speed, high skill rapid passing game over the last three years. St Kilda this year won twenty-odd games straight playing footy that was beautiful to watch, demolishing almost all before them. Their one meeting this season ended up in a one-goal victory for the Saints in a game that could have gone either way. But the Cats had men out injured that day – and on Saturday they’re all back.

Who gets to lift the trophy will depend crucially on how these two play: St Kilda captain and centre-half/full forward Nick Riewoldt (left, below), and Geelong’s Brownlow medal winner Gary Ablett, Jr – seen here evading Sydney’s Adam Goodes.

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 GALL_CATS_SS1_wideweb__470x296,0

For their respective teams to win, they each need to fire. That’s a necessary condition for victory. Which means the men tagging them have it all to do.  The Cats’ Harry Taylor will likely line up on Riewoldt; who gets to tag Ablett is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably the Saints’ Clint Jones.  Jones has the most thankless task in footy.

If his man gets away and Geelong can start playing their high-risk, ‘full-speed through the centre corridor’ footy, then the Saints are going to have a game on their hands – no matter how much “Saints Footy” they put together.  But if they do then the Cats will need to kick their goals – that’s what lost them (okay, us) the final last year against Hawthorn. And to kick them they (okay, we) are going to have to navigate St Kilda’s tighter-than-a-duck’s-arse zone defence, and kick straighter than they have been.

I reckon they’re gonna do it, and in just two days time will be lifting the trophy for the second time in three years. Go the Cats!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Haere Ra, Howard!

Lindsay Perigo farewells Howard Morrison, NZ’s Outstanding Beige Entertainer.

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“Hurrah! We’re round the corner at last!”

From the learned MacDoctor comes what looks to me like  more wisdom on this “the-recession-is-over” nonsense than you’d see in an idiocy of economists (“idiocy” is the collective noun for economists, right?):

    “Economists are bouncing up and down with glee saying that the recession is over. I view all of this buoyancy with a great deal of skepticism, not it the least because few economists seemed to be able to predict the derivatives disaster that brought us to this pass. It would be nice if they are right, but the MacDoctor observes that the words “dead”, “cat” and “bounce” could be applicable here.
    “One of the hallmarks of the depression was that people kept thinking it was all over – and then things took a turn for the worst again. I am no economist, as I have repeatedly said, but it does not seem to me that the amount of correction that has taken place so far is anywhere near as large as the amount of imbalance that needed to be corrected. This is purely a subjective gut feel, but this just feels like the eye of the storm brought to you courtesy of Obama-nomics, Gordo-splurge and Ruddistribution. . . “

Sound about dead right to me.  And reminds me of a well-known cartoon from 1935 showing Prime Minister Forbes and Finance Minister Coates …

Coates_Corner And remember, New Zealand was one who emerged first from the Great Depression.

The letter for this quarter is ‘W’ – which describes the shape of the charts economists draw to show where things are going (and we’re only at the bottom of the first trough). 

You see, despite what you’ve heard, it’s the recession itself in which recovery actually happens, or is supposed to – the time when losing propositions are reined in, the malinvestments liquidated, cost structures rationalised, and resources entrepreneurially redistributed to more profitable pastures.

But none of that can happen successfully when the Stimulunacy of Obama-nomics, Gordo-splurge and Ruddistribution has been doing all it can to stop it happening.

No, the letter for some time to come is ‘W.’

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A troll

We’ve unfortunately been invaded by the Rodbeater Troll virus this morning, so to fend off the deluge of abject drivel with which Mr Russell Fletcher of Tauranga has been trying to flood the comments sections here, I’m temporarily turning on moderation – which means, I’m afraid, that your comments will sometimes take a while to appear (depending on how long it takes me to see them and okay them), but when they do appear they will at least be published in threads unpolluted by Mr Fletcher’s abject stupidity.

Don’t blame me, blame the troll.

And rest assured that as long as you’re concise and on topic, then your comments will be welcomed. But grandstanding bone-headery won’t be.

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NOT PJ: Unwanted penetration

There’s a lot of filth on the internet, notes Bernard Darnton. For example, government plans on how best to spend your money.

_BernardDarnton Lower unemployment and higher wages have been promised by governments for years. Now Communications Minister Steven Joyce is promising lower pings and more frags.

If you’re among the 99 percent of people who can’t tell a ping from a frag you might not be sure what you’ll get out of the government’s Broadband Investment Initiative. You’ll have even less of a clue if you read the MBA-speak blather about “competitive advantage” in “innovation and global reach.”

For those who aren’t geeks or management consultants, this all means that the government will be laying new internet connections to your house. Actually, what the government is paying for is “dark fibre,” which is the internet equivalent of a pub with no beer. It’s like a party political broadcast with all of the bullshit removed.

Once the government has built the pub, the private sector will provide the beer.

“Fibre to the home” will provide “ultra-fast” broadband to the doorsteps of 75% of New Zealanders. It will supposedly provide all sorts of benefits for productivity and research for those of you who conduct cutting-edge bioinformatics research in your garage.

Thought not. Perhaps people want streaming video in their garages for other reasons. Build it and they will come.

And all of this will be provided via an ultra-fast connection to my wallet.

One thing we should be thankful for is that New Zealand’s scheme is less grandiose than stimulus plans overseas. Australia is spending four times as much per capita on broadband but then they have a lot more empty desert to provide “global reach” to. The United States is spending an unknown amount on broadband on the theory that if they print money fast enough no one will spot that it’s no longer worth anything.

The American plan involves expanding broadband networks so that the denizens of Appalachia can download The Jerry Springer Show in high definition on demand. The trouble is they don’t want to.  A recent Pew Internet survey shows that only four percent of Americans lack broadband because they can’t get it. The report suggests that putting in new connections is a waste of money and that improving the speed and reliability of existing connections is far more valuable. In other words: never mind the penetration; feel the bandwidth.

But even our comparatively modest and less poorly thought out plan has its flaws. The main one being that when the government spends $1.5 billion on something that’s $1.5 billion-with-a-B that’s not being spent on something else. And, given that people aren’t voluntarily paying hundreds of extra dollars each for broadband internet, that “something else” is probably more valuable than what the government will be dishing up.

Undoubtedly some sectors will benefit. The “cabinet-ministers-in-hard-hats photo opportunity” sector will boom.

Technology cheerleaders like Rod Drury think that broadband is a silver bullet. He thinks that with faster internet hordes of “knowledge workers” will descend on New Zealand to take a 50% salary cut because there are no mountain bikes in California. State subsidised internet connections will surely help out Drury’s software-as-a-service business venture and perhaps many like it. Surely, then, if the idea is such a sure-fire winner, Drury – a man of not insubstantial means – could pay for his own internet connection.

If it was such a stunning investment you wouldn’t need to steal the money to pay for it.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column here every Thursday * *

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AFL Grand Final Week Countdown. Finals Day Minus 3: The Thrills!

Okay, it’s now just three days to go until AFL Grand Final Day – played on the last Saturday of very September at Melbourne’s great Cathedral of Sport called the MCG.

image002 Around 100,000 punters are likely to show up for the spectacle. They always do. 

Unlike the other codes,  crowd numbers at AFL games are always high – even for bottom of the table clashes between local clubs it’s not unusual to see 40-50,000 show up. 

Samoa v NZ And over the course of a season, around seven million fans show up to yell their teams home.

AFL clubs get more people to their training nights during the finals month than NRL clubs get to their games. And around the world it’s fastest growing team sport with competitions in 16 countries ( including  New Zealand), and internationals being played regularly between Pacific (left), European and North American countries ( a few of which I’ve played in myself). So why do more people show up for AFL games than any other? Simple: because they’re so frigging exciting to watch live.

Every game is a four-act drama of tension and excitement.  Each player spends all of those quarters trying to dominate his opponent, both mentally and physically. They take no quarter. Some players run nearly two-thirds of a marathon during a match – that’s running flat out – before heading out back to throw up from exhaustion. 

These guys are fit, they’re fast, they’re agile – and they have to be thinking on their feet all the time.

No wonder crowds get passionate – this is the strongest hardest, highest, fastest game on the planet:

They watch it for the goals.

They watch it for marks  that make All Black Cory Jane’s effort against the Wallabies look like a schoolboy’s.

They watch it for the big hits.

They watch it for the skill and agility.

They watch it for the tradition – this is one of the oldest codes of football on the planet.

And mostly, they watch it because it’s so damn thrilling!

Aussie Rules?  I’d like to see that.  :-)

Keep an eye out tomorrow night, when I’ll tell you about some the game’s great players.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

“I’m entitled!”

There’s a certain irony, don’t you think, in  a politician from a supposedly low-tax party getting the taxpayer to bankroll his latest vanity publishing effort – which includes speeches on the subjects, I’m sure, of the benefits of lower taxes and a decreased burden on the public purse.

Read Douglas publishes, public pays.

And ask yourself just what the hell is going through the head of these “I’m Entitled” moochers. Does something happen to these bastards when they take up the job of Finance Minister?

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Former champions serve Tennis NZ a richly deserved rocket

history_parun Speaking after the latest Davis Cup debacle, former NZ tennis champion Onny Parun (right)  is dead right: the Augean stables of Tennis New Zealand desperately needs a cleanout.  “Parun sees no change ahead unless there is an overhaul of the sport's administration as he believes the people at the helm do not know what they are doing,” reports Newsalk ZB.

The people he is talking about are the same ones who decided that Chris Lewis, a Wimbledon singles finalist in 1983, ands a former coach of Ivan Lendl (World # 1) and Carl Uwe Steeb (World #14), should take coaching direction from a former Australian bowls player.  Lewis got the message, and left instead, but not before pointing out where the blame for Davis Cup failure lay: squarely in the laps of the pink-gin drinkers.

Parun’s message was supported today by local coaches like John McMahon, who decries what I would call Tennis New Zealand’s “coach by numbers” insistence.

    “McMahon says if a player or coach is offside with Tennis New Zealand life can be very difficult . . . Tennis New Zealand is trying to be too controlling and does not leave it up to the player and the parents of the player and individual coaches to decide what is best for the player.”

Tennis New Zealand is hardly looking good for New Zealand tennis, is it. So with no Davis Cup success on the horizon and no NZ man playing at a grand slam tournament for nine years, it’s looking high time to clean out that stable. It’s starting to smell.

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Blog rankings

Tim Selwyn’s released his Top 20 rankings for August for the local political blogosphere, and there’s a hell of a lot of movement.  Biggest movers from my perspective are Cactus Kate, whose shenanigans with the Gotcha! blog thrust her above me in the rankings (congratulations Cactus); and Labour MPs’ Red Alert blog which deservedly shot up to number five, putting it just below me.

Which makes me wonder how long the Sub-Standard can hold its place at number two – why would you read the monkeys when you can read their organ-grinders at Red Alert directly?

UN climate forum “a propagandistic exercise” says Czech President Vaclav Klaus [updated]

Vaclav Klaus gets it When you get the largest gathering of the world’s political leaders in all history, what are the odds of hearing anything sensible? Czech President Vaclav Klaus has just bucked those odds.

Speaking to the collection of international frauds gathered at the home of international fraudulence, the UN, Professor Václav Klaus used his time at the podium [in the words of Luboš Motl]

“to teach his students, other politicians, something about the society, economics, politics, and their interactions with science, taking the global warming hoax as the main example. But most of them are bad students so they were far too distracted by thoughts of climate porn so they didn't learn almost anything.”

As Klaus told his audience of politicians, as they are heading further and further towards “consensus” on global warming, scientists are heading in the other direction.

"It was sad and it was frustrating," said Klaus, one of the world's most vocal skeptics on the topic of global warming. "It's a propagandistic exercise where 13-year-old girls from some far-away country perform a pre-rehearsed poem," he said. "It's simply not dignified."

UPDATE: Before the beanfest Klaus gave an interview to the Washington Times, in which he

    “repeated his view that global warming was ‘humbug’ and ‘nonsense.’
    “He spoke a day before attending a summit in New York about climate change, which most other nations and politicians view as a significant threat to the environment and human and animal life.
    “’This is a undefendable position,’ Mr. Klaus said. "I am convinced of the nonsense of global warming’.”

Earlier in the week he spoke at the National Press Club, where he told America’s political journalists”

"The current [economic] crisis has not been caused by capitalism and definitely not by too much capitalism. It was caused by the lack of capitalism, by suppressing its normal functioning, by introduction of policies that are not compatible with capitalism, of policies that undermine it. In a standard economic terminology, we witness a government failure, not a market failure as some politicians and their fellow-travellers in the media and academia keep telling us."

And he delivered these two gems:

"Markets cannot be constructed they must evolve."

"Communism wasn't defeated...it melted down."

He speaks at the Cato Institute this morning.  Oh to be a fly on that wall.

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More piracy please, says court

Off the African Coast and in parts of the South China Sea, piracy can get you a serious lead poisoning, courtesy of the armed guards on board.

But board a ship unlawfully in New Zealand’s waters, as fifteen Greenpeace lunatics did last week on their unilaterally declared act-like-a-pirate day, holding up the ship’s business for a day, and in eleven of fifteen cases all you’ll get is “diversion.”  As Ports of Tauranga corporate services manager Terry James says, “We are disappointed. It does nothing to deter future demonstrations of this type.”

Sure doesn’t.

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Driving while aroused?

Opinionated Mummy puts drink driving laws into perspective after the arrest of a recidivist drink-driver for driving several times over the “legal limit.”

She  notes that the the only problem mentioned in reports of the arrest was “was that the young driver had a substance in her system. There is no mention of bad driving, no destruction of property, no lives were taken or recklessly endangered. The crime was simply to having the wrong amount of a substance in her system while driving a car.” 

So why is that a crime? While you think about that, here’s her last few thought-provoking paragraphs:

    “Yes, I know the preferred, acceptable (knee jerk) reaction is drunk driving has to be illegal because the chance of causing an accident rises dramatically when you drink. But, as I said earlier, we have a legal limit, so clearly a little bit of alcohol in our body is deemed to not be dangerous. Why is a legal framework dealing with chance?
    “The law should deal with a person's actions as they damage a person or property. Leave the issue of "chance" to insurance companies to determine as their competitive point of difference. The effect of the substance in the system is something that is perhaps more relevant for the sentencing judge. . . “

That’s true.  Driving dangerously causing an accident while under the influence should be at the upper end of sentencing.  It should get the book thrown at you. But driving safely, no matter how much you’ve ingested, should not.

    “[I acknowledge] that there is enough evidence to suggest that a person's driving ability may be impaired by substances, but that there are many other factors that can cause a person to drive poorly, such as fatigue or emotional distress.  Will there come a point where the law imposes legal fatigue or distress limits?”

If you accept the principle of laws against alcohol-impaired driving (that the chance of crashing is higher) then logically you should also support laws against driving while tired -- or while emotionally distressed, intellectually challenged or sexually aroused.  And how do you answer Lindsay Mitchell’s question: “Should a man with a predictable propensity for domestic violence when inebriated be charged for getting drunk whether or not he beats the missus?” Not so clear now, huh.

    “You had a choice as to whether or not you read this blog, do please do not post a comment calling me insensitive because your mother/brother/friend etc was killed by a drunk driver. Any person responsible for killing someone else is guilty of manslaughter or murder and should be punished accordingly. My issue is that we are criminalising and punishing people because of a level of substance in their body, not because of a true crime that harms/kills people or damages property. Anyone driving is capable of causing an accident, whether they are drunk or sober. Some drivers can drive with substances in their body and not cause any accident at all. How can we make a judgement call through law that they, and the people around them, were just ‘lucky’?”

Worth a thought, huh

Q: Which Founder are you?

See, this is why you do silly online quizzes; it’s to find out stuff like this:

Founder

So from now on, you can just address me as “Mr Washington,” okay. Find out here which Founder you are. [Hat tip 3 Ring Binder]

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BSA backs chiropractic quackery [update 2]

A complaints board, on which sits the likes of Tapu Misa, has decided that a doctor and medical researcher may not go on television to point out that chiropractic is quackery.  Apparently, it’s not okay to attack the quacks – even when they get the right of reply.

Back in March medical researcher Dr Shaun Holt appeared on Breakfast to say that chiropractic, isn’t worth the research it is printed on.

Naturally, chiropractors complained – like they always do.  (Like the Scientologists, they famously substitute legal muscle for rational discourse). And the Broadcasting Standards Authority – a fancy name for four self-important numb nuts – has now judged Dr Shaun Holt’s scientific evidence of  chiropractors’ pretensions, and decided that they, these amateurs, don’t find the doctor’s evidence persuasive.

The basic finding handed down on the scientific evidence by this gaggle of  journalists and bureaucrats is that:

  • Both sides have presented evidence
  • There is therefore a range of opinions
  • Therefore one side cannot claim that they are right.

This is post-modern bullshit of course and the answer is hardly worth saying....it is the quality of the evidence on each side that determines who is right. Scientific evidence on which journalists and bureaucrats are unqualified to comment.

[NB: You can download the full twelve-page decision here.  It’s worth reading to see how far radical skepticism has infected basic discourse.]

UPDATE 1:  The well-respected international science website site DC's Improbable Science is now covering the story.   After reviewing the evidence they reckon that, if anything, “he was over generous to chiropractic.” And of the BSA itself they say:

The BSA consists of four people, two lawyers and two journalists. So not a trace of scientific expertise among them. Having people like that judging the claims of chiropractors makes as much sense as having them judged by Mr Justice Eady. They seem to be the sort of people who think that if there is a disagreement, the truth must lie half-way between the opposing views.

One of the BCA members, Tapu Misa, has used her newspaper column to quote approvingly the views of the notorious Dr Mercola web site on flu prevention “Your best defence, it says, is to eat right, get lots of sleep, avoid sugar and stress, load up on garlic, Vitamin D and krill oil”. (Snake oil is said to be good too.)    There are some odd attitudes to science in some of her other columns too (e.g. here and here). Not quite the person to be judging the evidence for and against chiropractic, I think.

In fact the TV show in question was more than fair to chiropractors. It adopted the media’s usual interpretation of fair and balanced: equal time for the flat earthers.

    “The BSA consists of four people, two lawyers and two journalists. So not a trace of scientific expertise among them. Having people like that judging the claims of chiropractors makes as much sense as having them judged by Mr Justice Eady. They seem to be the sort of people who think that if there is a disagreement, the truth must lie half-way between the opposing views.
    “One of the BCA members, Tapu Misa, has used her newspaper column to quote approvingly the views of the notorious Dr Mercola web site on flu prevention “Your best defence, it says, is to eat right, get lots of sleep, avoid sugar and stress, load up on garlic, Vitamin D and krill oil”. (Snake oil is said to be good too.)    There are some odd attitudes to science in some of her other columns too (e.g. here and here). Not quite the person to be judging the evidence for and against chiropractic, I think.
    “In fact the TV show in question was more than fair to chiropractors. It adopted the media’s usual interpretation of fair and balanced: equal time for the flat earthers.”

Ouch!

I recommend their whole post on this for a farebetter summary and analysis of this than you’ll be allowed to get from our local media.  Read: Two lawyers and two journalists squash criticism of chiropractic on TV.

UPDATE 2: Shaun Holt stands by all his comments, and he reckons the non-scientists on the Broadcasting Standards Authority have been “:manipulated” by the non-doctors on the Chiropractors Association.

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Tuesday, September 22, 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’ . . .

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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.






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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.

Prison

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)
    Or:
    “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.

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'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.

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Monday, September 21, 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.

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Kanye could

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

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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.’

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