Monday, 21 December 2009

Is Christmas too commercial?

Is Christmas too commercial? Hell, no!

For many retailers this year, Christmas isn’t commercial enough.

And according to at least one sane person, Commercialism Only Adds to Joy of the Holidays.  “It's the season for earthly pleasures,” says Ayn Rand enthusiast Onkar Ghate, “and embracing the spectacle is no sin.”

Complaining about the “commercialisation” of Christmas pretty much misses the point anyway, because Christmas is the most benevolent and frankly commercial holiday in the catalogue. It was designed that way.

“Christmas as we know it, with its twinkling lights, flying reindeer, and dancing snowmen, is largely a creation of 19th-century America. One of the most un-Christian periods in Western history, it was a time of worldly invention, industrialization, and profit. Only such an era would think of a holiday dominated by commercialism and joy and sense the connection between the two.”

As Ghate says, Christmas is a time of unabashed earthly joy. Like philosopher Leonard Peikoff says, at Christmas time we don't say "sacrifice and repent," we say enjoy yourself and thrive!  And we do, whatever the economic climate. We get together with workmates, friends and loved ones, celebrating the year with gusto; we give gifts to people we value, whose friendship and company we want to celebrate. Toasts are made and livers threatened. Boats full of happy people cruise the harbour; laughing diners fill restaurants; shops overflow (well,most years) with people buying gifts to make people happy who make them happy; and glasses full of enlivening liquids are raised the heavens to celebrate life here on earth. 

So what's not to like about Christmas being commercial?

Here’s the drinking song from Verdi’s Otello, sung by an unusually ebullient bunch of Laplanders*. The loose translation is ‘Wet Your Throat,’ but you hardly need an ace translator to work out what they’re singing about (even if the outcome for one of the drinkers is rather unfortunate).

* Well, almost.

Why men shouldn’t write advice columns

column writer

Phonics farm gets well-deserved Christmas cheer

171209NZHPEFARM2_460x230 Hey, great to see that the Reading for Rascals programme at Windy Ridge Boys Farm, run by the heroic Graham & Joan Crawshaw, has won a donation to help upgrade the camp—and that the Herald has featured them this morning.

Sure, it’s only a small donation, but Graham and Joan (right) are people who can do an awful lot with very little.

In the forty-five years they’ve been running reading & adventure camps for troublesome boys, armed ‘only’ with passion, reason, good reading strategies and barely a shoestring to rub together, they’ve put literally thousands on the path to a better life.

If you’re looking for a place to make a donation this Christmas, then Graham & Joan’s Arapahoe Bush Camp Trust gets my seal of approval.

John Key’s ETS: Why the rush? [update 4]

So why was John Key’s National-led government so gosh-darned eager, just like Kevin Rudd was, to get that Emissions Trading Scam through parliament before Copenhagen? 

You thought it was all about looking good before other world leaders? Think again. As Michelle Grattan now  makes clear in The Age, the Copenhagen collapse (featuring the sweet sound of exploding watermelons) exposes the real reason for the rush.  For “Rudd” read “Key”; for “Australia” read “New Zealand”:

    “Rudd so hyped the need to get his scheme through before Copenhagen that, now the conference has ended with only a weak ‘accord,’ people will be inclined to say, ‘So what was the hurry? And why rush now?.’
    “The need for hastening the Australian legislation, which both Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull understood, was because of just what’s happened. If Copenhagen delivered little, it was always going to be hard to get the wind back into the emissions trading sails here.”

And here.

UPDATE 1: Where’s Phil?
[Pinched from Andrew Bolt]

Phelim McAleer, maker of the brilliant documentary Not Evil Just Wrong, scours Copenhagen for Dr Phil Jones, the most infamous of the Climategate scientists. If he doesn’t find Jones, he sure finds the mindset that both produced and protects him.

UPDATE 2: Speaking of emissions trading scams, take a look at this rent-seeking bastard, the beneficiary of his own multi-billion dollar links in and around the climate industry: the chairman of the IPCC, Engineer Pachauri. Read Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri [hat tip Owen McShane].

Hell, if it’s okay for Al Bore to lie for a billion-dollar living, why shouldn’t smaller fry try to make a buck the same way?

UPDATE 4: Australia’s ABC network started an opinion blog for their presenters, and were shocked to discover them expressing opinions.  Well, some opinions, goddamit.

Meanwhile, here in GodZone, the news networks simply had hyperbolic opinionising to the main news broadcast.  Here, for example, was the flatulent hot air TV3 used to announce the abject collapse of warmist hopes at Copenhagen. Balanced? Fair? True? What do you think of alleged news shows peddling propaganda?

GUEST POST: ‘Global Warming: The Heart of the Matter’

I posted a link to this article over the weekend, but it’s so good I asked to have it here as a guest post. Robert Tracinski’s piece is much more than just a fisking. It's the most revealing thing about the global warming scam, and its strongest adversaries, as you're going to read this week.

Maybe this year—and the next.

* * * * * 

Capping Our Carbon and Crushing Our Spirits
by Robert Tracinski.

British global warming activist George Monbiot last week wrote probably the single most important column on the issue of global warming. He goes straight to the heart of the matter and makes clear that the deeper controversy underlying the fight over global warming has little to do with science and everything to do with one's view of human nature and man's place in the universe.

What was really going on at Copenhagen, he tells us, was "a battle to redefine humanity." If this makes you cringe--if you think the 20th century saw quite enough blood-soaked attempts to "redefine humanity" to fit some scheme dreamed up by Platonic intellectuals--than you have an inkling of what comes next.

   _quoteThis is the moment at which we turn and face ourselves. Here…humankind decides what it is and what it will become….
     "The meeting at Copenhagen confronts us with our primal tragedy. We are the universal ape, equipped with the ingenuity and aggression to bring down prey much larger than itself, break into new lands, roar its defiance of natural constraints. Now we find ourselves hedged in by the consequences of our nature, living meekly on this crowded planet for fear of provoking or damaging others. We have the hearts of lions and live the lives of clerks.
    "The summit's premise is that the age of heroism is over. We have entered the age of accommodation. No longer may we live without restraint….
    "This is a meeting about chemicals: the greenhouse gases insulating the atmosphere. But it is also a battle between two world views. The angry men who seek to derail this agreement, and all such limits on their self-fulfillment, have understood this better than we have….
    "There is no space for heroism here; all passion and power breaks against the needs of others. This is how it should be, though every neuron revolts against it.

Monbiot is right about the big question, even if he's on the wrong side of it. The goal of the environmentalist movement is not anything so trivial as capping our carbon. It's about crushing our spirits. It's about breaking the ambition of man the achiever-the explorer, the adventurer, the discoverer, the builder-and replacing him with man the meek, a modest little paper-shuffler constrained to live a small, inoffensive existence. 

atlasshruggedMonbiot is also right about who is on the other side. He talks about a "new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere" that "will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially by environmental restraints." And he's right about our choice of literary and philosophical inspiration: he describes us as "clutching their copies of Atlas Shrugged."

I am clutching my copy of Atlas Shrugged, because it has never seemed more relevant than it is now. But in reading Monbiot's column, another Ayn Rand novel comes to mind: The Fountainhead, Rand's classic portrayal of the struggle of the independent creator against the grey conformity of collectivism. With a few updates in his ideology-environmentalism in place of socialism-Monbiot gives us a creditable audition for the role of Ellsworth Toohey, the manipulative intellectual who seeks to crush the human spirit in order to make men submit to his influence and control. 

Late in the novel, Toohey gives a private confession to one of his victims in which he names his methods and his real goal. Some of it should sound familiar.

    _quoteMake man feel small. Make man feel guilty. Kill his aspiration and his integrity…. This is most important. Don't allow men to be happy. Happy men are free men. So kill their joy in living…. Bring them to a state where saying "I want" is no longer a natural right but a shameful admission….
    “Let all sacrifice and none profit. Let all suffer and none enjoy. Let progress stop. Let all stagnate. There's equality in stagnation.”

People say Ayn Rand's novels are unrealistic, so why does real life seem so compelled to imitate them? Monbiot even has the kind of last name Ayn Rand would have given one of her villains. Ellsworth Toohey, Wesley Mouch, Claude Slagenhop, George Monbiot. It just fits in.

Monbiot's message is the same as Toohey's. He describes his opponents as "angry," but his whole column seethes with resentment at the independent man who defies social conformity-who the hell does he think he is? To dress up this ugly motive, Monbiot keeps saying that we need to be "restrained" in order to keep us from "trampling on the lives of others." But isn't trampling on our lives exactly what he advocates? He offers a scheme for universal control, not just of the economy, but of the human spirit itself. Behind everything he says is the motive Toohey confesses as the goal of his crusade against the independent man:

_quoteI don't want to kill him. I want him in jail…. Locked, stopped, strapped-and alive…. And he'll obey. He'll take orders. He'll take orders!"

This attitude is not new, even if it is cloaked in a new ideology and given a new pseudo-scientific rationalization. This is the big story of the last millennium: man's heroic rise from the poverty, dirt, ignorance, and oppression of the Middle Ages to the point where we have discovered, at last, the full extent of our potential for achievement-only to face resentment from those who want to throw us back into the Medieval mire. 

You can see this from the beginning of the Renaissance itself. There is no more potent expression (or product) of an un-restrained view of human potential than Michelangelo's David, an image of man as a giant who can achieve the seemingly impossible. But even then there were men who didn't like it. At the height of Florence's golden age, the ascetic monk Savonarola led a reactionary movement that briefly took over the city, smashing its magnificent sculptures and heaping priceless paintings onto the "bonfire of the vanities." Back then, it was God who was supposed to be offended by man's limitless ambition for worldly achievement. Now it's the planet. 

In this same dawn of human potential, Galileo started modern science on its quest to unlock the secrets of the universe-only to be struck down by those who demanded human submission. Galileo's inquisitor, Cardinal Bellarmine, is supposed to have inscribed on his tomb the epitaph: "With force I have subdued the brains of the proud." Perhaps Monbiot could suggest this as the official slogan for the Copenhagen conference. 

But the achievements of the Michelangelos and the Galileos and their successors eventually broke the power of the Medieval church. The Enlightenment brought us a Scientific Revolution and an Industrial Revolution that made good on the promise of the Renaissance. Monbiot describes the achiever as a Neanderthal brute, a clever and aggressive ape. But in actual history, the cantankerous individuals who have moved humanity forward have been its thinkers, artists, scientists-and industrialists. As Ayn Rand put it in her notebooks for The Fountainhead, "it is not the big capitalists and their money that Toohey opposes…. He says that he is fighting Rockefeller and Morgan; he is fighting Beethoven and Shakespeare." In actual history, the men Monbiot opposes are the ones who created new art, ideas, and industries out of nothing. The achievements of these unrestrained men led us to a world in which ignorance has been driven out by knowledge, universal poverty is being replaced by universal prosperity, and unlimited opportunity is becoming the normal condition of human life. 

A few intellectuals, particularly Ayn Rand, have grasped what this implies about man's potential for unlimited achievement. But the Savonarolas and the Bellarmines are still around; they've just become secularized. In the past century, they were the collectivist intellectuals on which Ellsworth Toohey was based, who argued that the extraordinary individual was a dangerous illusion and that the ideal is to meld into the anonymity of the crowd. Since the fall of Berlin Wall, these reds have reconstituted themselves as greens, but their hostility to individual achievement has not abated. Just as the reds concocted a pseudo-economics to justify their attack on economic production, the greens have concocted a pseudo-scientific rationalization to justify their attack on modern industry and technology. 

And what do they offer us as an alternative? According to Monbiot: "All those of us whose blood still races are forced to sublimate, to fantasize. In daydreams and video games we find the lives that ecological limits and other people's interests forbid us to live." Can't you just visualize George slouching on his couch watching 300 and dreaming about what it would be like to have sculpted abs and to roar his defiance against tyranny--and then meekly taking his empty cup of non-fat soy chai latte to the recycling bin, because he might have to pay a fine if he doesn't sort his trash. There you have the environmentalists' ideal man: Walter Mitty. Talk about making man feel small. 

Monbiot's column is environmentalism's real-life equivalent of Toohey's confession, and it indicates that what is at stake in the fight over global warming is much more than economics. Today's "progressives" have become the supreme reactionaries. They stand athwart history--the history of man's ascent from the cave to the stars--yelling "stop!" What is at stake is the survival of the human aspiration to achieve--and that is what we have to save from the environmentalists.

* * * * *

Robert Tracinski writes daily commentary at He is the editor of The Intellectual Activist and His article appears here by permission.

The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand
Read more about this book...

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Capping Our Carbon and Crushing Our Spirits [update 4]

When the ClimateGate scandal broke, one of the few on the warmist side who emerged with any integrity was British environmental noise-maker George Monbiot. Looking clear-eyed at the evidence, he wrote in the Guardian:
"Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into
denial. . . Pretending the climate email leak isn't a crisis won't make it go
away. . . There is no helping it; Phil Jones [the source of most of the emails]
has to go, and the longer he leaves it, the worse it will get."

Monbiot saw well before his colleagues that that the revelations of Climategate were a threat.

And now, Robert Tracinski reckons in his recent writing Monbiot is also unusually clear eyed about the stakes of global warming--his writing making it abundantly clear it "has little to do with science and everything to do with one's view of human nature and man's place in the universe."

Monbiot also knows his adversaries, as Tracinski's latest post reveals.

Read Capping Our Carbon and Crushing Our Spirits by Robert Tracinski. It is much more than just a fisking. It's the most revealing thing you'll read this week.

UPDATE 1:  People are talking about conspiracies.  Is there really a conspiracy to put global warming over on us, as some people insist skeptics are saying?
Well . . .
"The implication [of them saying that] is that the only way the whole edifice of global warming science could be a distortion of reality is if there was a huge, secret conspiracy perpetrated by a fiction-like cabal of mad scientists, hidden away in some smoke-filled room plotting the destruction of the world economy.

"Well, the fact is that there is a 'massive international conspiracy'—only, it’s not of the secret, smoke-filled-room type. The conspirators are united not by a secret plot, but by a shared philosophy that they promote openly and self-righteously: the philosophy of environmentalism."
Read ClimateGate: A Green Conspiracy.

UPDATE 2: Copenhagen climate summit: 'most important paper in the world' is a glorified UN press release

"When your attempt at recreating the Congress of Vienna with a third-rate cast of extras turns into a shambles, when the data with which you have tried to terrify the world is daily exposed as ever more phoney, when the blatant greed and self-interest of the participants has become obvious to all beholders, when those pesky polar bears just keep increasing and multiplying – what do you do?
"No contest: stop issuing three rainforests of press releases every day, change the heading to James Bond-style “Do not distribute” and “leak” a single copy, in the knowledge that human nature is programmed to interest itself in anything it imagines it is not supposed to see, whereas it would bin the same document unread if it were distributed openly.
"After that, get some unbiased, neutral observer, such as the executive director of Greenpeace, to say: “This is the single most important piece of paper in the world today.” Unfortunately, the response of all intelligent people will be to fall about laughing; but it was worth a try – everybody loves a tryer – and the climate alarmists are no longer in a position to pick and choose their tactics."

UPDATE 3Andrew Bolt summarises the final result of the Copenhagen Hug-In, cobbled togther at a last-minute smoker:
"Hot air, no fixed targets, promises of a vast transfer of wealth from the West and everyone flies back home thinking they’ve been warriors for mankind.
If the report is true, it’s almost as much as a sceptic could hope for."
 Says Anthony Watts: "Just in time for Obama to announce it, and it only cost the USA 100 billion dollars. Thanks Hillary."

UPDATE 4: Chavez's words to the HopenChangin' Love-In Hug-In needed an image, and cartoonist Blunt works fast:

Friday, 18 December 2009

‘Tis (still) the season to be drinking . . .

. . . so here’s another drinking song.  In fact, here’s two: one up, one down.
First, Spike Jones’ ‘Cocktail For Two’ celebrating the end of Prohibition—it’s frankly bizarre.

And maybe less festive, but probably more potent, is Tommy Johnson’s classic  delta blues ‘Canned Heat Blues’—bewailing the cheap “alcohol substitutes” people resorted to during Prohibition, once safer drinking alternatives were banned. “Canned Heat,” by the way, was a popular cooking fuel of the time . . .

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Top Ten Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years

Every bullfrog and his leg-rope is posting their top tens for 2009 and their best-ofs for the 2000s.  The Onion has over-leapt them all, and  posted The Top Ten Stories of the Last 4.5 Billion Years [hat tip Stephen Hicks].

Beat that!

My favourites: Women Domesticated, and Just Four or Five Guys Carried the Whole Frigging Renaissance!


All Blacks and Black Caps today whimper about pressures, burnout and their problems with the coach. They should be grateful they never had to endure a harangue from AFL coach Ron Barassi back in his prime.

Today, he’d probably be up on a charge.

Christmas funnies [updated]

While Australian pants are in a knot over a suggestive Toyota ad, tits are all a’tangle locally over a simple billboard image outside a church.


The church is St Mathews in the City, over the road from the casino. I’ve got to say, good on them.  I’m not their target market, but I laughed when I saw it. I think they pinched the punchline from the screamingly funny panto Christ Almighty!, currently running just around the block from the church, but it’s funny—and what’s wrong with that?

And if you titter at this, then you’'ll laugh yourself stupid at Christ Almighty! If you get a chance, head along. Boating “an abused donkey, an alcoholic archangel, a shepherd who fancies both sheep and angels (angels have needs too),” an inadequate husband and an innkeeper keen to make a buck, it’s bound to tickle your funny bone—if you’ve got one. And add the Sexy Recession Cabaret to another evening’s revels. You’ll have a ball at both, I guarantee it.


But be quick, both finish soon.


(DISCLAIMER: Unlike David Farrar’s occasional theatre promotions, these plugs are not based on being given free tickets—sadly—but because thee shows are bloody good. So get out there and enjoy them!)

UPDATE: From the unintentionally-funny file (or at least I hope it’s unintentional) here’s a song from (shudder) Bob Dylan’s new Christmas album.

Agreement in Copenhagen [update 8]

Apparently there is some agreement coming out of Copenhagen:
Agreement Reached in Copenhagen...
The U.N. Shouldn't Be in Charge of Climate Change Policy

    “After waiting hours in [sub-zero temperatures] with intermittent periods of snow on Monday and Tuesday in unsuccessful bids to get into the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, many of those who have long-supported a strong global response to the threat of global warming began questioning the wisdom of leaving these decisions to the United Nations.”
No comment needed, really. Watch the poor saps freezing on this video report.
UPDATE 1: Tim Blair reckons it’s the Gore Effect that’s freezing off journos’ toes.
UPDATE2: Meanwhile, in other CopenHuggin news, there are “signs that talks among major nations are at an impasse.” How disappointing for the luvvies.
UPDATE 3: Says The Foundry Live at Copenhagen: Great news - Copenhagen is a disaster, and there’s a simple reason:
    “Despite all the people turned away from this UN conference, it looks like one unwelcome intruder made it in - reality. Stringent energy rationing provisions in the name of fighting global warming are more trouble than they are worth. We will know for sure by Friday, but Copenhagen could spell the beginning of the end to the failed Kyoto approach.”
UPDATE 4: Speaking of reality, looks like there’s yet more evidence the earth’s alleged climate scientists were trying to fake it.  Claims today from Russia that CRU’s scientists manipulated Russian temperature data to falsely show warming—cherrypicking records from the few stations that did fit and discarding records from the majority of the stations that didn’t, in the place which represents fully one-eighth of the world’s land mass!
That’s precisely how big this story is.
Add these the evidence of other fakery from Darwin to Alaska to Mauna Loa, and points in between, and you’d surely have to agree with James Delingpole that, taken all in all, “What the Russians are suggesting here, in other words, is that the entire global temperature record used by the IPCC to inform world government policy is a crock.”
If it’s real, why do they have to fake it? Looks increasingly like one of the few honest things the alleged scientists were saying was that the warming was man-made—just not in the way we had thought.
UPDATE 5: From reader Mark Hubbard:
    “Christopher Monckton just did a brilliant slot on Leighton Smith's NewstalkZB show. Listen in here from about 13:00.”
UPDATE 6: Sadly, there is one other point of agreement coming out of CarbonHagen: the agreement to shovel truckloads of money in the direction of the third world’s dictators to assuage western guilt for  . . . something.  It’s The Great Climate Shakedown! The poor people of the richer countries forced to give money to the rich dictators of the poor countries—as if that’s ever been a solution for anything.
UPDATE 7: Al Gore’s been busy writing more fiction.  Says Andrew Bolt:
    “Yet another Gore whoopsie, this time on extra “tree motality” thanks to global warming. At what stage can we call this fraud a bare-faced liar? It’s odd that not one of his many, many mistakes errs on the side of calm.”

UPDATE 8:  Andrew Bolt summarises the final result of the Copenhagen Hug-In, cobbled togther at a last-minute smoker:
"Hot air, no fixed targets, promises of a vast transfer of wealth from the West and everyone flies back home thinking they’ve been warriors for mankind.
If the report is true, it’s almost as much as a sceptic could hope for."

Analysing the burst Dubai bubble

PalmJebelAli Fernando Ulrich takes an Austrian-economists’-eye look at the meltdown in Dubai and sees a classic credit-driven boom.  Where did all the money come from to fund the extravagance?  Look ye to Dubai’s central bank, which pumped up the money supply by around thirty percent a year from 2006 to 2008.  And all that new money has to go somewhere, right—and where it went was to into fuelling the bubble. Into new office space with no tenants and new apartments with no renters, both of which were making paper gains (as long as the punch bowl kept being topped up) sucking in even more credit from overseas. 

In other words, the lion’s share of new credit went into malinvestments—”investments” that looked good only as long as the money supply was being inflated:

    _quote Loans extended to the construction sector grew 41.7% annually from 2006 to 2008. In 2008 alone such loans increased a whopping 80.7% over the previous year. With all this funding, new projects were being launched constantly. Nevertheless, with all this supply, where was all the demand coming from?
    “In this regard, banks also ensured there would be enough demand available through the usual means, credit.
    “In 2006, mortgages to residents climbed 80.1%. During 2007, the increase was 82.1%. Finally, 2008 ended with $18.9 billion worth of additional loans, 122.8% growth over a year.
    “It can hardly be argued that this demand was real. The United Arab Emirates' population stood at 4.76 million by the end of 2008, an approximate increase of 277 thousand in comparison to the year before.
Dubai001     “Taking into consideration that a disproportionately large part of the population are blue-collar workers (mainly from the Indian subcontinent), of whom the vast majority reside in labor camps, one may conclude that mortgages were concentrated in very few hands, suggesting the demand was indeed due to investment rather than ownership.
    “If there had been no credit expansion, people would not have been able to buy on this massive scale. Without the potential buyers, developers would not have been able to launch so many projects. Likewise, if credit hadn't been readily available for developers, they also wouldn't have been able to fund so many projects. So did credit to consumers lead to more credit to contractors, or was it the other way around?
    “Instead of trying to solve this conundrum, it suffices to conclude that credit expansion exerted a drastic force in promoting unviable projects.

Like someone hooked on hard drugs, credit expansion is the “easy fix” that leads to one shitload of a come down later.  Because whether created by pharmaceuticals or monetary inflation, both artificial “highs” have to be paid for sometime. Mainstream economists have no conception of the full range of dangers created by rampant credit expansion—all they see is the danger of price inflation.  It is Austrian business cycle theory that has had to point out the obvious: that the creation of counterfeit capital creates no new resources, it simply shifts them from truly profitable activities into activities that look profitable, but only as long as the artificial credit expansion continues.

    “[The fact is] production takes time and labor. The creation of additional money out of thin air does not add to the available amount of goods and services in the economy. If more credit is extended to construction companies, it does not mean there will be enough steel, cement, etc. — certainly not at prices that make the developments profitable. As soon as each company starts bidding for the same resource, it will tend to increase in price, rendering some projects unviable.
Dubai002     “Resources are scarce. Printing more money can never alter this fact.
    “With extremely low nominal interest rates and negative real interest rates (inflation is estimated at over 10% for 2007 and 2008), the rational behavior was to borrow and invest wherever it is possible. A booming real-estate market seemed to be the obvious choice most of the time.
    “Under these conditions, everyone becomes a brilliant businessman. Entrepreneurial errors seem seldom while credit is abundant.
    “Psychology clearly plays a role in stimulating a bubble, but only monetary inflation enables it. It is difficult not to succumb to the temptation of profiting astronomic amounts in a short period of time. Resistance is even more difficult if the means to engage in the bubble are easily available at the nearest bank.
Dubai003     “In the case of the housing sector, people failed to understand that demand for real estate is only sustainable if the ultimate reason for purchasing a property is to actually reside in it. . .
    “Dubai's false boom, its unreal prosperity, was based on the illusion of cheap money. It was based on the illusion that credit expansion generates wealth — that money is wealth. Following the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle, one could clearly see that the emirate's boom had to come to an end.”

The punch bowl is now empty, the empties are strewn over Dubai’s sands, and many of the party-goers have gone, leaving their cars abandoned at the airport as they fleed their debts. And the last signal downwards was given by Mark Thornton’s Skyscraper Index.

It was all a hell of a lot of fun while it lasted, but it was all an illusion.  Real resources were being consumed, instead of increased. And unfortunately, all the real resources consumed in unprofitable lines in the boom now have to be replaced, and then reallocated into more profitable lines—and the pool of real savings (which was consumed unnoticed) must be built up again.

That’s not the sort of thing that gets the headlines Dubai was attracting, but it’s the sort of sensible sustainable growth that’s needed.  But that takes time.

Toyota titillates

Toyota Australia says it's "sorry" this hilarious online ad has "caused offence" and has had it pulled. So  to speak. [Hat tip Spare Room]

‘Tis the season to be drinking

Another drinking song for drinking week, this one from Sigmund Romberg’s Student Prince, sung by some chap called Mario Lanza. ;^)

This is the shortened clip, from the film. For the full three-minute drink, click here.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Gore’s gaffe, guns and government battery-schools

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

1. “Schools set sights too low – Even the government has had to admit that its holding pens are dumbing down the children held captive within. The government-created ERO, another bureaucratic black hole for taxpayer money, is biting the state hand by admitting that some schools are setting the bar at ground level. Some principals are hiding the abysmal results of testing done on students from the boards of trustees to whom they are supposed to be responsible. The only shock in this story is that Miseducation Minister Anne Tolley is shocked to learn about it. Others had been observing and predicting this state of affairs for years.

The report noted that many (one in three!) teachers have no idea of the importance of literacy (numeracy doesn’t warrant a mention). Could this have anything to do with the teachers’ training factories that churn out graduates who themselves went through the same intellectually crippling school system before entering university?

One sentence in the ERO report sums up the situation nicely: “In these classrooms, learning opportunities to motivate, engage or extend children were limited.” This is the legacy of nine years of teacher-friendly Labour Party rule, and good reason to end state interference in the education industry.

2. “Gore’s ice-cap claims disputed “– The man who says he invented the internet told the world yesterday that the Arctic polar ice could be gone in five years. Clearly, this useful idiot is becoming an embarrassment to the warmist movement as he tries to outdo everyone else’s doomsday predictions. Even scientists who back the AGW hypothesis are calling his pronouncement an exaggeration, and admit that the Goracle’s dire prediction has no basis in reality. Of course, when the polar ice doesn’t melt, as seems likely, Goracle will no doubt hail this as victory for the Copenhagen climate warriors. Sheesh.

3. “Gun lobby shoots holes in US laws” – Anything that strengthens the Second Amendment’s constitutional protection of individual rights has got to be good. Unfortunately, the NRA persists in cuddling up to the state by accepting the concept of government-issued permits to law-abiding people. The anti-self-defence lobby protests in its usual hysterical manner, its representatives shutting their minds to the evidence presented years ago by John Lott that gun law liberalization leads to less violent crime. Pity the media always look to the NRA as the defenders of gun ownership rights, when the JPFO and GOA do it so much better.

See y’all in two weeks! I’m taking leave next week.
Doc McGrath

CopenHuggin, where the wheels are coming off the dog and phony show

I must confess I was very disappointed to read the Herald’s four big news items out of Copenhagen this morning, very disappointed indeed.

It’s all so disappointing, isn’t it. Just fancy if they can’t get any serious disagreement there this week.

Just imagine if the headline on the London Times article is true: that 'Copenhagen Stalls Decision on Catastrophic Climate Change for Six Years.'

Oh dear. How sad. Good bloody job.

How disappointing is to hear reports streaming in that are are oh-so-carefully-spun (there are more spin doctors per square metre in the Bella Center now than anywhere else in the world), but reveal nonetheless that the wheels are coming off the whole dog and phony show. It had all seemed so easy before ClimateGate, hadn’t it . . . yet we now have even Tony Blair admitting (as the ClimateGate emails revealed) that the figures on which the UN’s IPCC’s reply are “fudgeable.” Says Jane Jamison:

    “To hear a former head of state and global warming proponent finally admit to the ‘fudge factor’ of this discredited climate catastrophe theory is remarkable.
    “’Fudgeable’ figures are what the past twenty years of scientific furor is about. In the past weeks, the evidence showed conclusively that leading global warming researchers had e-mailed each other about removing certain results and changing others to achieve the desired "hockey stick" rise in global temperature predictions. They have refused to divulge their original data to experts for peer review.”

They have played fast and loose with science, and they’re now being bitten in the arse just when they most needed to be. Let’s hope for all our sakes that, as Jane Jamison puts is, this really is ‘Climategate TKO in Copenhagen.’

“The good guys may have won. Deep breaths, everyone. We won't know for sure until Friday.”

Drink, drink drink!

Fill your pockets with cash tinkling
‘Tis the season to be drinking . . .

So in honour of the season, another drinking song to add to yesterday’s. Let’s drink, let’s drink from this chalice of joy!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Quote of the day: On ‘trading’ by compulsion

_quote When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your society is doomed.”
                                                  - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

_quote When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”
                                                  - PJ O’Rourke

The return of the street-level anti-capitalists

We haven’t seen this level of irrationality since . . . Seattle, probably.

But come ye to Copenhagen, currently warmist central, where protesters protest about capitalism & global warming by planning to invade the very conference that promises to shut down capitalism in the name of global warming, and whose methods of debate are as peremptory as theirs.

And some people claim warmists are somehow the apostles of reason?

Contrast the nihilism with the gentlemanly street-level politeness of Christopher Monckton in the face of snotty-nosed braindead goon squad, and ask yourself who genuinely favours reason?

Can good art be political art?

I’ve enjoyed reading the debate over this painting below that I posted here last week, and I’ve been very careful (though tempted) to wade in myself.

I haven’t, but I will now.

The painting was done by the Soviets’ leading figurative painter, showing Russian fighters defending the Soviet city of Sebastopol from Nazi invaders. The question I posed when posting it was: does heroic art like this supersede the politics it celebrates? In other words, is good art didactic, or something else?

While you’re considering that yourself, add this sculpture to your mix if you like, a piece of Soviet agit-prop called ‘A Cobblestone Is the Weapon of the Proletariat,’ which got no comment at all when I first posted it:

Or this piece of music (part one of three). It was said to be Hitler’s most-loved piece—by the composer most-played by the Nazis—and played over German radio the day of his death.


So does painting, sculpture and music such as this supersede the politics it celebrates (or in the latter case was used to celebrate)? Simon contends it can’t, especially (as he contends with the painting above) if the art was done by a slave to celebrate a slave state.  He says, “Generally some knowledge of the subject matter is helpful in that you might understand the art better.” That’s true, it’s helpful – especially if there’s some obscure symbolism or something going on. But I agree with other commenters in saying with good art that while it’s helpful to know more, it’s certainly not essential.

Because a piece of art stands on its own. What we see with that sculpture above, for example, is primarily the theme of determined resistance. The young man’s brows are furrowed, his eyes focussed on his goal, his whole (slightly lumpen) being coiled into one super-human action. He could just as easily be resisting Czarist cossacks, Soviet tanks, British redcoats or Iranian militia – the key qua art is that he is resisting.  And not without hope. In essence, the piece says that goal-directed resistance has power in our universe.

That’s a theme that transcends ideology, and even politics. (Compare it with the look in the eyes and face of the Michelangelo and Bernini Davids, however, two other examples that could be used here, to see a very different conception of where human goal-direction starts.  Do you see it?)

Anyway, that in a nutshell is why good art transcends its politics—and why so much purely “didactic art” is so bad; why so much so-called didactic “art” is generally more the former than it is the latter.  As Ayn Rand concludes:

_quote Art is not the means to any didactic end. This is the difference between a work of art and a morality play or a propaganda poster. The greater a work of art, the more profoundly universal its theme. Art is not the means of literal transcription. This is the difference between a work of art and a news story or a photograph.”

A piece of art stands on its own. If it’s good art that expresses its theme superlatively (which is the job of every artist, no matter his theme) then it says to the observant viewer that this is what the artist sees as essential in the universe, as fundamentally “metaphysically” important—and it’s on that basis that you respond. Either with a “values swoon” (if you agree), or with loathing (if you don’t).

In this context, Painter Michael Newberry argues that the important point in understanding a painting, for example, is to grasp that “the canvas is the universe”:

_quoteIn art criticism one should analyze the artwork without outside considerations. This means that the theme of a painting, for instance, should make its message clear without any prior knowledge of what the painting is about. We have to be like detectives and look for clues within the painting itself.”

For help in seeing what he means, and in detecting value judgements in paintings without any prior knowledge of the subject itself, you can’t go past Michael’s own excellent piece ‘Detecting Value Judgments in Painting,’ which is chock full of examples, and itself stands on its own as the best practical description of the skill that I’ve seen.



Monday, 14 December 2009


Distilling the essence of the past, which is experience; and
connecting it to the future, which is opportunity.”
- Ron Manners

Heroic MisadventuresI’m really enjoying reading Ron Manners’ memoirs at the moment—a record of the failures, success and thoughts of a remarkable West Australian and “an inspiring story of the power of ideas, combining a wealth of entertainment, wisdom and practical advice and an eloquent and compelling defence of individual freedom.”

Adventurer, miner, money-launderer and entrepreneur, the head of (among others things) the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation, his book Heroic Misadventures is subtitled ‘Australia: Four Decades - Full Circle.’ Why? Essentially because the woes endured here are really no different in The Lucky Country, and those woes been returning:

    In the 1970s we saw Australia’s Federal Government doing stupid things. Future generations regretted that damage to our Australian economy as we paid the ongoing price.
    “Now, following a period of prosperity where industry and entrepreneurship was encouraged, we see our debt (over-stimulation) and damage (ETS) and the resultant costs and uncompetitiveness being passed onto future generations.
    “We are also forced to listen to political incompetents who claim that ‘governments create jobs’ as they gamble with our future.
    “Equally appalling is the sight of ‘big business’ lining up like pigs at a trough to collect the taxpayer-funded subsidies as their prize for demanding ‘certainty’ as the ETS inflicts another tax on anyone who produces or has the courage to engage in productive activities.
    “My book Heroic Misadventures is not entirely about such Shakespearian tragedies, it is mainly a collection of stories on how resilient individuals can rise above political nonsense, in their efforts towards survival and self-sufficiency

It’s a great and irreverent book, and a great stocking stuffer for the favourite resilient individual in your life. Ron has the tremendous ability to tell a colourful down-to-earth tale while slipping in a moral before you’ve even realised it. Even simple stories like this one about the ongoing opposition of compliance versus creativity, offered to graduating students at the WA School of Mines, which could be the theme of the 2025 Task Force:

    _quoteSo, what of the future?
    “Why am I an Optimist?
    “Well, I was thinking about that this morning when I realised I felt more adrenaline flowing from having dinner last night with our own management team of 20 executives [in his family-owned company] than I did from spending last week in Queensland at the Australian Institute of Company Directors’ Annual Conference, where 500 of Australia’s captains of industry were gathered.
    “Why was that?
    “I think that Australia’s corporate captains feel that they have already reached the ‘dizzy heights,’ and are preoccupied 90 per cent of the time with compliance issues with only 10 per cent devoted to creativity.
    “With our team, we are still on the way up, with much more yet to achieve, so we focus 90 per cent on creativity issues and only 10 per cent of our time on compliance.
    “. . . If you let compliance with the the myriad of regulations . . . take over, then nothing will be discovered or produced. . .”
    “Don’t let the detractors deter you from your productive challenges.  Anyone without a clear vision of their future ceases to live. . . Henry David Thoreau once said:
_quoteYouth gets together the materials for the bridge to the moon, but later the middle-aged man decides to make a woodshed with them."
     “As you embark on your careers, don’t let lesser people turn your ‘bridges to the moon’ into any ‘old woodshed.’ 
    “Let your visions shape your destiny, and if anyone like this gets in your way—run right over the bastards!”

Nearly at the two-million mark!

I should probably tell you that this blog is almost officially at the two-million mark. 

As I write this, my trusty Statcounter tells me that NOT PC has just had its 1,997,136th “page load” since Statcounter was first installed in April 2005, meaning that in the next day or so this blog will tip over into 2,000,000-plus hits.

Feel free to clap—but maybe wait until the milestone is passed before you actually throw money.  :-)

Making opposing commenters disappear? [updated]

I’ve been appalled to visit the comments section of Kiwiblog and FrogBlog recently. Not because of the standard of the comments, which hasn’t changed, but because both now boast a new system in place by which regular readers can rate each other’s comments, and by so rating make them either become more prominent or disappear. 

It’s fair enough, I guess, that comments rating well with regulars get a highlight that makes them more prominent, but a feature that hides all the comments that don’t rate well makes me distinctly uncomfortable.

The Standard (unusually) captures how I felt about seeing that particular innovation:

_quote This type of innovative hiding of comments based on anonymous voting . . . removes all level of personal responsibility for what is effectively a ban. It significantly reduces the feedback that follow-up comments by other commentators or moderators would give. As such you’d have to question its value . . . You’d have to say that this system, while low maintenance in terms of moderating effort, is very good at stifling robust debate on Kiwiblog to a relatively small cohort of possible opinion sets. . .  Before, there was at least a chance the uniformed might glance at ‘non conforming’ comments on their way to have their prejudices reinforced. Now they can be made to disappear . . . ”

And I’m not sure I like that, especially if it’s going to be a growing trend. 

Sure, we all know the problems with trolls, and every blog has their own way of dealing with (and defining) them. But I really hope other blogs I frequent don’t pick up this particular innovation.

I like the cut and trust of healthy, open debate on a blog—rather than the quiet concealment of views to which a blog’s particular “goon squad” are opposed, on whom a blogger with such a system might be expected to vote for censure at appropriate moments.

Better, it seems to me, to answer opposing comments than to pretend they don’t exist.

In effect, the enforced conformity of such a system is a variant of what Ayn Rand called The Argument from Intimidation. Commenters at both Kiwiblog and The Standard should enjoy her observations on the phenomenon:

    _quote This method bears a certain resemblance to the fallacy ad hominem, and comes from the same psychological root, but is different in essential meaning. The ad hominem fallacy consists of attempting to refute an argument by impeaching the character of its proponent. Example: ‘Candidate X is immoral, therefore his argument is false.’
    “But the psychological pressure method consists of threatening to impeach an opponent's character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate. Example: ‘Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X's argument is false [and therefore needs to be hidden].’
    “In the first case, Candidate X's immorality (real or invented) is offered as proof of the falsehood of his argument. In the second case, the falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily… offered as proof of his immorality [and used to conceal his point of view].
    “In today's epistemological jungle, that second method is used more frequently than any other type of irrational argument. It should be classified as a logical fallacy and may be designated as ‘The Argument from Intimidation’ . . .
    “In our political life, the Argument from Intimidation is the almost exclusive method of discussion. Predominantly, today's political debates consist of smears and apologies, or intimidation and appeasement. The first is usually (though not exclusively) practiced by the liberals, the second by the conservatives.”

Feel free to comment. :-)

UPDATE: A few people suggested David Farrar might have switched the system off over at Kiwiblog. Not so, as David clarifies in the comments below:

    _quoteNot switched off but I keep adjusting the thresholds so you now need 50 negative votes to be hidden (not removed).
    “It is an experiment and not a very successful one at the moment as there seem to be around 40 or so people who vote on every comment.
    “The highlighting of very high scoring posts is working somewhat ok. Can be useful in a long thread.
    “I may keep adjusting the hide threshold upwards so no one can ever be hit with it. It is being abused too often.”

As it always will be. All new is not always all good.

“Champagne for my real friends . . . ”

RealPain Health news today that says your Christmas celebrations might be good for you, if you take Cactus Kate’s advice and stick to champagne and lots two glasses of it.

_quote We have found that a couple of glasses a day has a beneficial effect on the walls of blood vessels – which suggests champagne has the potential to reduce strokes and heart disease," Dr Jeremy Spencer of Reading University told the Observer. "It is very exciting news."

Sure is.  Just make sure those glasses are large ones!  Because it’s entirely self-evidence that flourishing and being happy about it is good for you. If it doesn’t make you live longer by pursuing eudemonia then it certainly seems like much longer if you don’t—and you hardly need a scientist to tell you that.

So as Tom Waits once said, “Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.”

And to celebrate this great news, here’s the Champagne Song from Die Fledermaus: “It’s not how much you drink, it’s what you drink.  A toast to King Champagne!” (The toast, by Kiri te Kanawa, starts about 2:00 in.)

Conflict of interest? Not when you’re a climate alarmist [update 4]

The hacked ClimateGate emails “don’t support claims that the science of global warming was faked” says a thorough word-by-word study by . . . Seth Borenstein, one of the very journalists whose cosy relationship with warmist “scientists” was exposed by the emails themselves.

And not only that, his dismissal of the oceans of hacked data and more than 2000 emails was based in large part on “reactions” from so-called “moderate” scientists, which those emails themselves showed not to be moderates at all but “full-fledged warmists.” As Andrew Bolt says, “Borenstein is sure the Climategate emails don’t amount to much because he asked global warming believers if they now admitted they were wrong.”

So much for journalistic integrity.

D’you think The New Deniers – who are legion – even understand the concept of conflict of interest? Or integrity. Or the first thing about confronting the real facts? Let me give them some advice. In fact, let George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian, give them some advice:

_quote Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. . . Pretending the climate email leak isn't a crisis won't make it go away. . . There is no helping it; Phil Jones [the source of most of the emails] has to go, and the longer he leaves it, the worse it will get. “

And AP’s science reporter Seth Borenstein has to go as well – if not from his job at AP, but at the very least from the pages of the Herald where his bullshit is being peddled.

Why not write and tell them so? It only takes a minute.

UPDATE 1: Andrew Bolt reports a similar theme from Aussie journos:

The ABC’s chief science reporter, Robyn ”100 metres” Williams, writes nearly 1000 words to dismiss the Climategate emails as a storm in a teacup. Of all those words, these are all you need read:

So what do the emails reveal? I hesitate to pronounce. I haven’t read them.

UPDATE 2: And Paul Walker reckons things haven’t changed much in sixty years.  Here’s peer-reviewed science circa 1945.

UPDATE 3: Maybe local journos are doing better than we think, at least at Newstalk ZB.  Petra Bagust, (yes, Petra Bagust!) put together the two scientists that Mark Sainsbury should have had on his Close UP programme recently: Jim Salinger and Bob Carter, over two hours last night.  Here’s the first hour, which was mostly Salinger, and here’s the second. (Scroll past the news at the start of each hour.)

And Kerre Woodham spent part of her Sunday programme harassing Jeanette Fitzsimplesimons. Good stuff, apparently. The interview starts around fifteen minutes into this this audio.

UPDATE 4: They faked the Siberian tree figures. They put their CO2 measuring meters next to volcanoes and exhaust systems. They warmed up the data in Wellington. They warmed up the data in Darwin.  They warmed it up in Alaska and Orland. And now they’re warming it up in Antarctica.

Crikey, it’s almost as bad as Bob Jones’ satirising The Beards in his novel Full Circle, in which a ship full of hookers parked up at the Pole for the winter to keep the Beards company raised weather temperatures to record levels by dumping hot water on the thermometers.