Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Unhappy hipsters

unhappyhipsters1_1 You’ve seen them everywhere, in architecture magazines on every coffee table in every hipster’s apartment—those sterile, uninhabitable medal-winning places that look like a neutron bomb just hit them.  That lounge.  And which, in those magazines, will usually be found bearing captions along the lines of “In the living room, Adams relaxes on a chair by designer Scot Laughton while Fleming plays banjo,” which was the original caption for the picture below.Catnip Only, the website Unhappy Hipsters has gone and taken those photos out of the magazines, and they’ve added different, more appropriate captions. Like these:

Wishing hard for a scandal

I mentioned Ian Wishard in the post below this one about a beat-up appearing at the Sub-Standard this morning.

As it happens, a classic Wishard beat-up also appeared around the traps this morning, fresh from its appearance in the latest copy of Inwishtigate magazine, where the hero of tin-foil journalism delivers a series of the “astonishing” revelations amounting to little more than the “news” that senior members of the former Labour Cabinet once made the acquaintance of a fourteen-year old boy.

Simply astonishing. Who would have thought.

Like I say, this is classic Wishard.  Once again he delivers not so much as a smoking gun as a cloud of reeking smoke, amongst which readers are invited to set their own fire.

3 strikes law will . . . do something, says report

The Standard is aghast, “3 strikes law could increase murders – Nats’ secret official advice” screams the headline.

    _quote While they have been telling us that three strikes will reduce serious offending, the Government has been warned by its own officials that its three strikes policy may lead to people being murdered…”

Cue intemperate comments, blood-stained pictures on their front page and a nice public pat on the head by their  hero Mallard.

Murder! Secrets! Suppression!  It almost sounds like Ian Wishard has been let loose in the Sub-Standard’s editorial decision-making process.

Eric Crampton however has let facts intervene with the scare story.  A careful, rather than cursory, examination of the report would have shown … what do you think … that the more accurate headline would have been,

"Three strikes law could have increased murders among third strike offenders had they not changed the proposed legislation back in December, but now there's really nothing to worry about on that front so do carry on...".

Politics, as he says, remains the mind-killer.

CUE CARD ECONOMICS: Mathematical economics

Open any contemporary economics textbook or journal, and you’ll find the pages inside littered with charts, graphs and mathematical formulae—all of them pretending to a precision that the alleged economists drawing them up simply don’t have.  These people, remember, were so busy in recent years looking at the results of their psuedo-economic equations and hypothetical mathematical models that they didn’t notice that the real economy outside was about to collapse in a way that showed their models to be so much useless garbage. Elaborate castles in the air broken on the incoming tide of reality.

Mathematical economics has several strikes against it underpinning its abject failure to do the job it purported to do.

First off, the formulae themselves are garbage.  They are not derived in the way a physicist or an engineer of materials derives his formulae describing real   scientific and engineering phenomena. Instead, they are merely hypothetical expressions of hypothetical relationships using either hypothetical or already irrelevant data.  And as Henry Hazlitt points out, “the mathematical economists . . . tend to forget that out of a merely hypothetical equation or set of equations they can never pull anything better than a merely hypothetical conclusion.” 

Or to put it more simply: Garbage in, garbage out.

KRIS SAYCE: Goldman Sachs Charged With Fraud [update 2]

_Kris_Sayce_headshot_thumb[2] Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia reckons the frauds for which Goldman Sachs are being charged are the almost inevitable result of so-called “financial engineers” playing with the counterfeit capital created out of thin air by the banking system…

You may have seen the news reports over the weekend. As the US Securities and Exchange Commission puts it on its own website:
    “SEC Charges Goldman Sachs With Fraud.”
This comes as no surprise to your editor. In our opinion the entire banking system – including the central bankers – should be up before the beak on fraud charges.

The Bandini House – Greene & Greene


The brothers Charles & Henry Greene first began work in California, but their first genuine California house came through the 1903 commission from Arturo Bandini, who ordered from them,
“a simple bungalow [as Thomas Heinz describes] that would express the charm of the central courtyard arrangement found in the early adobe structures that represented Bandini’s family roots…
    “The Greenes’ solution was a series of spaces, one-room deep, arranged around three sides of a spacious central court resplendent with trees, flower beds, footpaths and a central pool and fountain lush with sounds of running water.”

Monday, 19 April 2010

Maggie the warmist?

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA 6a00d83451586c69e200e55030d3b58834-800wi The Greens’s Frog Blog linked this morning to a video suggesting (among other things) that the science-trained Margaret Thatcher would deride the views of her former science adviser Christopher Monckton because, unlike him, she was a warmist.

The implication of this, of course, was that being science-trained herself she would clearly repudiate Monckton’s sallies against warmist nonsense.  The evidence presented for this was a number of speeches made by Maggie back in the 80s, before she left office. 

And, since the 2007 film The Great Global Warming Swindle also made much of Thatcher being the prime mover in setting up the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the organisation upon whom the world’s governments now lean so heavily when implementing environmental shackles on their producers, I figured—since the eighties are a long time ago, and an awful lot of carbon has gone under the bridge since then—it would be interesting to see what Thatcher’s views are now.

Fortunately, that is not too difficult since her 2002 book, Statecraft “devotes ten pages to the subject of ‘Hot Air and Global Warming,’ which Iain Murray at the Property & Environment Research Center (PERC) comments on here:

    “Thatcher is quite clear [in her book] that she feels things have gone in the wrong direction since former British ambassador to the United Nations-turned-global-warming- campaigner Sir Crispin Tickell convinced her to tell the Royal Society, "it is possible . . . we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself." She notes that the doomsters' favorite subject today is climate change, which "provides a marvelous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism" (449).
    “Thatcher's critics might claim that she has--to use a fashionable term--flip-flopped on the issue, but that is not necessarily the case.
    “First, she stresses that she was initially skeptical of the arguments about global warming, although she thought they deserved to be treated seriously. She points out that there was "rather little scientific advice available to political leaders from those experts who were doubtful of the global warming thesis" (451). However, by 1990, she had begun to recognize that the issue was being used as a Trojan horse by anti-capitalist forces. That is why she took pains in her Royal Society speech in 1990 to state: "Whatever international action we agree upon to deal with environmental problems, we must enable our economies to grow and develop, because without growth you cannot generate the wealth required to pay for the protection of the environment" (452).
    “In fact, Thatcher makes it clear that she regards global warming less as an "environmental" threat and more as a challenge to human ingenuity that should be grouped with challenges such as AIDS, animal health, and genetically modified foods. In her estimation,"

    ‘All require first-rate research, mature evaluation and then the appropriate response. But no more than these does climate change mean the end of the world; and it must not either mean the end of free-enterprise capitalism.’ (457)  
…. Thatcher's environmentalism is founded on Edmund Burke's conservative view of our inheritance as being worth defending. Yet that view is tempered by her classical liberal belief that human wealth and progress are crucial.”

Which, to be fair, is a far more important point than whether or not she would support Christopher Monckton, but enough nonetheless to be fairly clear that she would.

Copying is theft [updated]

I commented on two local blogs recently on the subject of copyright—a hot issue, what with the latest round of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks just having concluded in NZBoth blogs at which I commented posted the same saccharine piece of agit-prop declaring that “copying is not theft,” to which I replied, in essence:

    “Copy­ing is not theft,” you say?
    Well, if you’re copying someone else’s creations without permission, yes it is.
    My ideas are my prop­erty. Steal the form in which my ideas are expressed or made con­crete, and you’re a thief.
    Since creation is a livelihood for artists, writers and inventors, stealing the form in which their creations are made is theft of their intel­lec­tual prop­erty–which means a theft of their livelihood. And since intellectual property rights are at the heart of all prop­erty rights, the pop­ulist attack on intel­lec­tual prop­erty rights is just the latest and most fun­da­men­tal front in the attack on all prop­erty rights.
    Abol­ish­ing copy­right pro­tec­tion favours theft over thought.
    You say-or, at least, your saccharine ditty says, that no-one is worse off if copy­ing is allowed?
    Well yes, we all are. We are worse off by the lack of new ideas pro­duced and made con­crete in the form of a book, or a CD, or a patentable invention.
    With­out copy­right pro­tec­tion, you load the cost of pro­duc­tion onto musi­cians, writ­ers, artists and inven­tors, while all the ben­e­fits that would have and should have accrued to these pro­duc­ers go to instead to the thieves.
    Copy my new kind of bicy­cle with­out my per­mis­sion, for example, and you take away from me all the ben­e­fits I’d hoped to derive from the inven­tion of my new bicy­cle. Take away all the ben­e­fits that all the inven­tors of new bicy­cles hoped to derive from their inven­tion, and pretty soon you have no new types of bicycle at all–-and, if the process con­tin­ues across all fields of endeav­our, even­tu­ally no new inven­tions at all, and no more technological progress.
    Why would any­one con­tinue to pro­duce new music, write new books or invent new things under such a set-up? Why would any­one sup­port such a set-up–unless they wished them­selves to steal?
    Lud­wig von Mises explained this point:

[I]t is obvi­ous that hand­ing down knowl­edge to the ris­ing gen­er­a­tion and famil­iar­iz­ing the act­ing indi­vid­u­als with the amount of knowl­edge they need for the real­iza­tion of their plans require text­books, man­u­als, hand­books, and other non­fic­tion works. It is unlikely that peo­ple would under­take the labo­ri­ous task of writ­ing such pub­li­ca­tions if every­one were free to repro­duce them. This is still more man­i­fest in the field of tech­no­log­i­cal inven­tion and dis­cov­ery. The exten­sive exper­i­men­ta­tion nec­es­sary for such achieve­ments is often very expen­sive. It is very prob­a­ble that tech­no­log­i­cal progress would be seri­ously retarded if, for the inven­tor and for those who defray the expenses incurred by his exper­i­men­ta­tion, the results obtained were noth­ing but [gifting benefits to others while earning nothing oneself for one's creations].”

Make no mis­take, copy­ing with­out the per­mis­sion of the owner is theft–-no mat­ter how many sappy sugar-coated dit­ties you hear to the contrary.

So what’s wrong with what ACTA proposes?  Simply this:

The way ACTA proposes protecting intellectual property–by going through people’s bags, laptops and MP3 players at airports; by holding ISPs responsible for what their customers do; etc.–-is hardly in accordance with the principle of property rights they purport to be upholding.

That is the copywrong part of ACTA’s copyright proposals.  What is proposed violates the very principle they want to protect.

Distinguish, people

An embryo is not an adult.  A foetus is not a child. A human cell is not a human being. And a human being is not a cracker—although with some nuts you’d sometimes be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Biologist PZ Myers at Pharyngula takes to task people who lack the simple ability to distinguish one thing from another—and advertise this fact by hoisting billboards around the place to show it.

    “There are groups that are actively blurring the line between embryos and human beings, and I consider them just as wicked as the howling haters lined up outside women's health clinics — they use mistruths to foment attacks on people to defend non-people. One of the biggest, noisiest, and most dishonest is Pro Life Across America, which puts up billboards all across the US; we have a similar outfit here in my state, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.
    “Their work is easily recognizable. They have one theme: fetuses and babies are exactly the same. All of their signs feature cute baby pictures coupled to factoids about development, and they thoroughly enrage me — I see them all along the roadsides on my drive in to Minneapolis. They are basically generating false associations about development.”

Read on here to see some examples, and some skilful debunking: Sunday Sacrilege: an embryo is not a person

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Because we need to be reminded occasionally . . .

_quote A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.”
        - Thomas Jefferson.

Friday, 16 April 2010

FRIDAY RAMBLE: The Whitewash Edition

Much to talk about in this week’s ramble, so let’s get started.

  • There’s much to be said about Telecom’s fall and fall and further fall since David Cunliffe began dismembering while Theresa Gattung pandered.  The complaisance of Gattung while Telecom burned and Cunliffe plundered is a case study in (amongst other things)  how appeasement leads to destruction just as surely in business as it does in foreign affairs.
    Despite the self-serving cant of her biography, Gattung was Telecom’s Neville Chamberlain.  Yesterday’s fall in Telecom’s share price is her legacy, and Cunliffe’s.
  • While everyone was getting off on slapping each others back at the success of Obama’s ‘lets-all-get-along’ bunfest in keeping nukes out of the hands of terrorists, the country who is the world’s biggest sponsor of world terrorism was getting on with their nuclear programme.  “Iran's bomb [say analysts at the Gloria Center] will change the strategic balance, inspire revolutionary Islamist movements, lead Arab and Western states toward appeasement, and thus shift power in the region decisively toward Tehran.” So no wonder Obama didn’t want them there.
    Listen to the Two Best Arab Journalists Warning What A Nuclear-Armed Iran Means [hat tip Nevil Gibson, NBR]
  • Does Obama’s arms control tie America’s hands?  You betcha. The primary importance is not reducing the number of nukes from many thousand to several thousand, but properly identifying your enemy.  Obama’s evasion of Iran’s belligerence (and Bush’s war on a tactic) indicate neither Administration has yet grasped that.
    The Non-Nuclear Option: Does Obama's Arms Control Tie America's Hands?  - PAJAMAS TV
  • John Cox comments. And now a word from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
    MA And recommends Charles Krauthammer’s “sharp and insightful piece on the signing of the arms reduction treaty that examines how rogue nations just may benefit from this agreement.”
  • The first fruits of Obama-style engagement?  “The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria has transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah.”
    The Fruits of Obama-Style Engagement - POWERLINE
  • Don’t worry about Obama’s re-plunging popularity.  He’s going to win the 2012 election the same way Franklin Roosevelt won the 1936 election at the same time in the Depression cycle: He’s going to buy it.
    FDR - Obama, Another Ominous Parallel – SHAVING LEVIATHAN
  • Okay, what’s this?
    pornfortheblind-300x210 If you answered, “a pornographic magazine for the blind,” then you get the prize.
    Pornographic magazine for the blind launched - TELEGRAPH
  • Britain is now enduring its own Tweedledum and Tweedledummer election.  Liberty Scott tries hard to see any difference between the Conservative and Labour Party manifestoes.  He’s not entirely successful.
    New Labour - Trust us, we know how to spend other people's money. – LIBERTY SCOTT
    Conservative manifesto - less worse than Labour but where is the freedom? – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Samizdata shares similar sentiments:
    Dave Cameron's bold vision - more of the same... renamed – SAMIZDATA
  • But Tim Evans from the Adam Smith Institute thinks different. Brian Micklethwait interviews Tim, who is “in opposition to those who say that Cameron is a waste of space and heading for disaster, of one kind or another, electoral or Prime Ministerial.”
    Tim Evans talks about David Cameron – BRIAN MICKLETHWAIT’S BLOG
  • And how did those leaders’ debates go last night.  Says Guido Fawkes, “Spin is cheap, punters put their money where their mouth is, currently the punters on Political Smarkets rate the chances of victory for the leaders in the debates thus:
            16:45 David Cameron 55%  Nick Clegg 48% Gordon Brown 29%
            18:30 David Cameron 65%  Nick Clegg 48% Gordon Brown 20%
    And check out Guido’s ANTI Spin Room
  • Here’s three “highlights,” one from each of the people wanting control over British pockets:

  • And here they all are pandering to bigots:
  • Watch that last one again, and you’ll see what Chris Mounsey of the new Devil’s Kitchen means when he says:
                “Oh wow! It's only taken about ten minutes for the three Big Party leaders to
            attempt to outdo themselves in how unpleasant and draconian they are going to
            be to immigrants.
                “Any minute now, the camera will pan up and we'll see Nick Griffin [from the
            British National Party] holding the strings on three puppets. That must be the case.
                “Because surely Brown, Cameron and Clegg cannot possibly be this authoritarian
            and unpleasant, can they?”
    Um, yes they can.  And are.
  • The “scientific” report is out on the alleged scientists at the centre of the Climategate scandal and, surprise, surprise, it’s a whitewash.
    • ”The whitewash has been applied so thinly, you can still see the scandal poking through,” says Iain Murray.
      Whitewashing is quick work! – DAILY CALLER
    • “In short; trust us, we’re an inquiry.”
      A stuff-up but no conspiracy – CATALLAXY FILES
    • “I’ve read blog posts longer than this report,” says Anthony Watts of the Oxburgh committee’s 200o-word whitewash of Phil Jones and the East Anglian Climate Research Unit. The Global Warming Policy Foundation of London has this to say about it:
              “ The Panel worked by interviewing and questioning staff members of CRU, but
          failed to interview critical researchers who have been working in the same field
          for many years. The Panel even ignored, as it admits, to properly review their
          written evidence.
              “We welcome the acknowledgement by the Panel that the Urban Heat Island
          effect on surface temperatures records in and around large cities is important but  
          poorly understood. We also welcome the admission that the IPCC ignored the
          expressions of uncertainty in CRU papers.
              “We also note, in the context of the long-term temperature record, its comment that
                  ‘the potential for misleading results arising from selection bias is very great in
                  this area. It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been
                  involved in  this work.”
      In general, the report is being politely kind to CRU, but in essence rather
          critical of the disorganised and amateurish use of statistics….”
      Read Another Unsatisfactory Rushed Job
    • Steve McIntyre, the researcher responsible more than any other for bringing the Climate Research Unit to book, was just one of many the Oxburgh committee failed to speak to. Says McIntyre of the inquiry:
              “Without specifically mentioning the famous ‘trick …to hide the decline,’
          Oxburgh subsumes the ‘trick’ as ‘regrettable’ ‘neglect’ by ‘IPCC and others.’
              “But watch the pea under Oxburgh’s thimble.
              “The Oxburgh Report regrettably neglected to highlight the fact that CRU
          scientists Briffa and Jones, together with Michael Mann, were the IPCC authors
          responsible for this ‘regrettable neglect’ in the Third Assessment Report. They
          also regrettably neglected to report that CRU scientist Briffa was the IPCC author
          responsible for the corresponding section in [the IPCC’s Fourth Report] AR4….”
      Read Oxburgh’s Trick to Hide the Trick – STEVE McINTYRE
    • However, “After incompletely whitewashing the Climategate scandal, a member of the Oxburgh committee mentions in passing that the notorious ‘hockey stick’ may have been a crock::
      All clear, expect for one or two big exaggerations
  • ipcc-mwp-hockey-stick-globalwarming-graph-wuwt_thumb Meanwhile, following multiple revelations of slipshod, shoddy and less-than-scientific work in the IPCC’s much-vaunted reports, on which the world’s governments and Nick Smith are relying to do us all over,  a “citizen’s panel” of 40 auditors in 12 countries has taken it upon themselves to audit the quality of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) against the standards for peer review the IPCC say that they follow—and it turns out they’re rarely, if ever, followed at all.
            “21 of 44 chapters in the United Nations’ Nobel-winning climate bible earned an F
        on a report card [released] today. Forty citizen auditors from 12 countries examined
        18,531 sources cited in the report – finding 5,587 to be not peer-reviewed.
            “Contrary to statements by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
        Change (IPCC), the celebrated 2007 report does not rely solely on research published in
        reputable scientific journals. It also cites press releases, newspaper and magazine
        clippings, working papers, student theses, discussion papers, and literature published
        by green advocacy groups. Such material is often called ‘grey literature.’
            “We’ve been told this report [by the IPCC] is the gold standard. We’ve been told it’s
        100 percent peer-reviewed science. But thousands of sources cited by this report have
        not come within a mile of a scientific journal.
            “Based on the grading system used in US schools, 21 chapters in the IPCC report
        receive an F (they cite peer-reviewed sources less than 60% of the time), 4 chapters
        get a D, and 6 get a C. There are also 5 Bs and 8 As.
            “In November, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri disparaged non-peer-reviewed
    Read IPCC AR4 also gets a failing grade on 21 chapters, and send a copy of this report to your MP.
  • While climate scientists continue to be a disgrace to the last word in their job description, a real scientist has had a court victory in Britain over some real quacks—the Scientologists of medicine, the Chiropractic Association.
    Victory for Science over Quackery – WHALE OIL
  • So to celebrate, here’s a kitten with an iPad [hat tip Roar Prawn]
  • You think if “miracles” aren’t explicable you should fall down on your knees and pray?  Then you need to read this:
    The Skeptical Homeopath – DAMIAN PETERSON
  • China is "the world's greatest anti-poverty program of the last few decades," says Alex Tabarrok.  That’s a great way to think about it,
    The future of cooperation -- and economic growth: Exclusive interview with Alex Tabarrok – TED
  • VonMises Turns out Barney Frank knows his Ludwig von Mises better than most Republicans. “On Feb. 24, 2004, Rep. Frank took to the floor of the House and expressed amazement that many of his Republican colleagues, who had professed to believe in the free-market principles of Ludwig von Mises, were arguing for larger agricultural subsidies. Bravo! Although he himself opposes free markets, Barney Frank knows that Mises never would have advocated subsidies for a special interest. “
    And turns out, sadly, that many people know Ludwig von Mises better than the Mises Institute which, says Mark Hendrickson, should be re-named "The Rothbard Institute,"  something I’ve suggested myself before now.
            “I think [says Hendrickson] Mises would be disappointed that the institute named after him would be known as
        a center of anarchist thought.”
    Ludwig von Mises: Setting the Record Straight - Mark W. Hendrickson, BROOKE’S NEWS
  • Twenty-two years after the Basel I Banking Agreement that essentially told banks around the world that loans to buy house would rank better as reserves than loans to businesses (cue low capital growth and the slow inflation of a worldwide housing bubble), the Basel bankers are economics03back with Basel III, “advising financial engineers how to model the cat we’ll swallow to catch the bird that is catching the spider that is catching the fly. The West Germans told us to swallow the fly 22 years ago.”
    The First Basel and a Doofus from West Germany – MIKE KONCZAL
  • Who knew?
    Greenspan and His Fed Were Wrong 90% of the Time  - DAILY RECKONING
  • And what about his successor? “If Bernanke admits the forecasts made by himself and other economists are equatable to a weather forecast, why are they making them so far out into the future and why aren't we being told they are essentially guesses"?
    Bernanke's Economic Predictions and Unpredictability of the Future -  TODD SULLIVAN
  • Economists, listen up, and repeat after me: “the purpose of economic models isn’t prediction.”
    I can’t hear you . . .
    Economic models – THE VISIBLE HAND
     Mankiw is right – this time on prediction  - THE VISIBLE HAND
  • Time for another reminder that you can stick on your wall and show folk:
  •          "If it were possible to calculate the future structure of the market, the
          future would not be uncertain. There would be neither entrepreneurial
         loss nor profit. What people expect from the economists is beyond the
         power of any mortal man."

                    - Ludwig von Mises (1949)
                      Human Action: The Scholar's Edition, p. 867.

  • In all the most disastrous economic fallacies, the Broken Window Fallacy is the most egregious, the most widespread, yet the easiest to debunk. Tom Palmer and Austin Petersen from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation offer the latest debunking (hat tip Anti Dismal):
  • The Association of Private Enterprise Education went to Las Vegas, and all we got were reports of this great debate between Jim Otteson and Yaron Brook over the defenses of capitalism offered by Ayn Rand and Adam Smith.  “This was one of the best conference sessions I've ever been to,” says Art Carden. “I (and others) suggested that Jim and Yaron should take the show on the road or, in the spirit of the meeting's location, get a theater in Las Vegas.”
    So who’s got a link to?
    The Association of Private Enterprise Education is Decadent and Depraved: 2010 Edition – DIVISION OF LABOR
  • If you believe in miracles, then you’re ripe for exploitation.  And there are charlatans willing to exploit you.  Here’s the final in an online contest to find the biggest charlatans in the Christian universe.  The competition is fierce—and hilarious—and that’s without including the Pope and his cardinals.
    CMMI Championship: New Mystics vs Cancer Pastor – SCOTTERIOLOGY [hat tip Damien Peterson]
  • It’s the most famous epitaph in history:
                ‘I am just going out and may be some time.’
    But did he really say it? Or do we have to take
    Scott's word
  • Motella has a whole collection of motel signs that don’t quite make it . . .  including these two

  • Dim Post showed up to bitch about mainstream TV news, and stayed around long enough to discover they’ve improved.  A bit.  He has a pie chart.
    That went well/badlyDIM POST
  • Imperator Fish is not so relaxed.
    A Good Old Fashioned Rant At The MediaIMPERATOR FISH
  • Still, we have a “cycling superhighway.” 50 people gathered to enjoy the taxpayer’s boon. I bet it was still cheaper than the “information superhighway” that’s currently quoted at $1.5 billion, plus cockups.
    The Cycling SuperhighwayPUBLIC ADDRESS
  • At least one of the New Atheists is starting to understand that if morality doesn’t come from God that doesn’t mean there isn’t any morality at all—or that we have to examine our feelings to find it.  Sam Harris makes the case that morality comes from realityAlmost sounds familiar, doesn’t it.
  • Stephen Hicks is still posting his Philosophy of Education lectures online at his website . Recent posts: ‘The Argument from Design,’ ‘The Value of Reason,’ ‘Obedience Experiments,’ ‘Education’s epistemological mission’ and ‘What Epistemology Is.’ 
    All good stuff.
  • And speaking of education, Chapter One of Angeline Lillard’s superb book Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius is now online at Angeline’s site, along with a truckload of articles and op-eds., including how ‘Students Prosper with Montessori Method’ from the ‘Scientific American.’  Great stuff.
    Montessori: The Science behind the Genius, Chapter 1 (PDF)
    Articles at Montessori-Science.Org
  • While we’re still speaking educatin, Charles Anderson has taken a look at the price of American state schools compared to the best private alternatives, and discovered that with state education you really do pay more for less.
    I’m pretty sure a look at NZ education would show something very similar, the utter waste of money spent on sinkhole schools teaching nothing but indoctrination to students made illiterate by their teachers--not to mention the many hundreds of thousands of dollars wasted buying homes in school zones so parents can  get their offspring into the few good state schools remaining.  So who’s up for doing that research?
    The Public School Scandal – OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST
  • And speaking even more about education, it’s time to “rid our schools of junk history,” says historian Niall Ferguson.  Actually, I think it was time several decades ago, but a start now would be good.
    Niall Ferguson: 'Rid our schools of junk history' - GUARDIAN
  • What’s “the most influential work of academic political philosophy in the last half-century”?  If you named John Rawl’s execrable ‘A Theory of Justice,’ then you got that prize—and one answer to why so much of academia is such junk. 
    So here’s an antidote, what Stephen Hicks describes as “an excellent overview and critique”:
    “Blind Injustice” – ERIC MACK
  • And now, a public service announcement for intelligent folk who might be short of a dollar: The Objective Standard’s First Annual Essay Contest, with over US$3000 in prizes!
          Topic for 2010: The Moral Foundation of Capitalism
    Few people who advocate capitalism know fully what this social system is, and even
          fewer are able to defend it on moral grounds. What is capitalism? What are its
          distinguishing characteristics? On what moral principles do they depend? And why are
         so few people able to name and uphold these principles?
    Write and win!
    The First Annual TOS Essay Contest – OBJECTIVE STANDARD
  • Need help with your writing?  Then if you want to get into intellectual activism, you could do a lot worse than take some writing tips from the now-widely published Paul Hsieh (hat tip Thrutch).
    Tips for getting published – NOODLE FOOD
  • Who knew that the witty British “television legend” Clive James has a neat website full of his interviews and reviews
    If you’ve never come across him before, start with this interview with the author of Wild Swans and Mao, and go from there.
    INTERVIEW: Jung Chang, writer – CLIVE JAMES
  • The Tea Parties, then and now (courtesy of the Heritage Institute, and hat tip Noodle Food)
  • The Rational Capitalist reminds today’s Tea Partiers of their legacy, and the ideas behind that legacy, in his latest speech.
    A Message to the Tea Party – THE RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • Here’s a beer to play with your sensibilities: a beer called ‘Fucking Hell.’  True story. Honest.
    German Firm Wins Right to Make Beer Called 'Fucking Hell'  - DER SPIEGEL
  • When do you think this was written:
  • You must know that the world has grown old, and does not remain in its former vigour. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun’s warmth are both diminishing; the metals are nearly exhausted; the husbandman is failing in the fields, the sailor on the seas, the soldier in the camp, honesty in the market, justice in the courts, concord in friendships, skill in the arts, discipline in morals...
    The person who said "in the third century AD" wins the prize. Yep, today's pessimists and are pikers compared to the doom-makers of the third century.
    More mining please – NOT PC, Aug 2006
  • I missed my blog birthday here last week.  It was five years ago on the 5th of April that this blog began taking flight, and I’ve been blogging here regularly ever since.
    Here’s a look back at that first week of blogging, which included an attack on Don Brash and the Nanny State, praise for The Herald, some salutations to the Pope, posts on music, art and Frank Lloyd Wright . . . much the same as this week, really.  So you can’t say I haven’t been consistent.
    The Very First Week of NOT PC
  • coffee poster And now, some good news.  Coffee isn’t just good for mornings, it’s good for life!  “The enhanced learning, memory, and speed of information processing caffeine delivers has been well documented scientifically. New research published on-line in the current issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, reports that coffee can also ward off some effects of aging on the brain.”
    The Fountain of Youth in a Cup of CoffeeNATURAL REMEDIES THAT WORK
  • Always wanted to ring someone up and impersonate Tiger Woods?  Slate’s Tiger Woods Soundboard makes it easy for you.
    (Hat tip Sport Review)
    The Tiger Woods Crank-Call Generator – SLATE
  • And also courtesy Sport Review, here’s something you don’t see every day: a Formula One car played on electric guitar.  Yes, you read that right.
    Fernando Alonso Bahrain 2010 lap on slide guitar – YOU TUBE
  • And finally, when they say the wedding brought the house down, this wasn’t what they meant.  (Hat tip Tim Blair).  To paraphrase Billie Holiday. “Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little pole dancing can do to you…”

Have a great weekend!

Eagle Feather – Frank Lloyd Wright


A striking ‘desert stone’ and timber house for the Malibu coast—towards which the soaring balcony was thrust—this was designed for film-maker Arch Oboler, credited with being the progenitor of 3-d films.

Oboler and Wright shared a similar sense of humour.  Chasing Wright for plans which he’d promised, Oboler wired, “Still waiting for plans you promised three weeks ago. Should we plan for house on cliff or in heaven?”  Wright wired back, “Have been busy saving you from living in Hell. Ready for builder to come at once.  FLlW.”

Despite much enthusiasm on Oboler’s part, he only succeeded in building a retreat for his wife Eleanor, and the Gate House, which eventually grew to become a fully-fledge house in its own right.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

“Pompous fart” faces jail time

doughos_300x2001_thumb[2] Since the announcement the other day that former Minister in Charge of Treaty Capitulations Douglas Montrose Graham, KBE, KCMG, LOMBARD faces charges and fines for alleged indiscretions in his directorship of a failed finance company, leaving around 4000 investors around $127 million worse off, the Securities Commission have now preferred criminal charges against him and his fellow directors, who now face potential five-year jail terms.

As I said other day, I can think of few people who would deserve it more.

Perhaps it’s time to recycle a song we used to sing in his honour from out of The Great Libertarianz Song Book, sung to the tune of ‘How Great Thou Art’ . . .  (here’s the original, sung by the late Horrid MaoriSong). The revised lyrics begin thus:

Oh Lord Montrose,
When I look back at all your blunders,
Consider all, the taxpayer’s done for you…

Before heading to this lusty chorus:

Oh, you’re corrupt,
Your thieving knows no end.
Where do we start?
You pompous fart.

Never could lyrics have been more appropriate.

I must dig out one of those Song Books to get the full lyrics. Since I suspect we’ll be singing it many times over the next few months, I’d hate to get any of them wrong.

No to private prisons

Given what you read here every day, you’d probably expect to see me overjoyed at the government’s  announcement of a private prison in Wiri.

Well, I’m not.

You could only think I’d be overjoyed if you haven’t read me closely. Delivering prisoners to private enterprise to incarcerate is an unconscionable mixing of the dollar and the gun that can only lead to disaster.

It’s telling that the only privatisation contemplated by this Labour-Lite government is the only privatisation that should not be done.

But rather than repeat what I’ve already said before on this topic, let me just direct you there instead:


One of the first lessons children learn as they grow up is that they can’t have everything they want.  Reality just isn’t built that way. Sadly, too many people forget that when they reach adulthood.  Some of those people become planners or, worse, politicians, who think a mere wish is the same as a promise to deliver.

But resources are not infinite. If they’re being used for one thing, they can’t be used for another. Children know this.  Planners (and politicians) still don’t.  Nonetheless, there is a prodigiously fertile means by which a market easily and simply puts resources to their best, most highly-valued use—just as long as people are left free to exercise it.

The mechanism is known by the name “price signals.”

In a dispersed division-of-labour economy, price signals are the preeminent form of conveying important information right across a market: for those who are alert to them they convey the information, from moment to moment, of what is most highly valued by buyers—and they offer the extra profits that encourage more sellers to supply more of what is most demanded most, and less of what is demanded less.

Put simply, fewer buyers chasing more goods or services push those prices down; and more buyers chasing fewer goods or services push those prices up. And the extra profits made in selling the higher-priced goods pays producers to shift their resources to producing the most highly-valued goods and services.

In that respect, there is a beneficent “self-levelling” that happens within a free market of self-interested participants—pushing more production to where it is demanded more, and removing it from where it is demanded less—that couldn’t be replicated by one grandstanding politician or a whole army of central planners.

This is  the “prodigiously ingenious mechanism” of spontaneous order by which people's wants are supplied and great cities are fed and watered, a process which to some people still appears to be a miracle. If it is, it’s a miracle that is the product of human action, not of human design.

Richard Cantillon explained the elegantly simple process of self-correction as far back as 1755:
    _quote For if some of the farmers sowed more grain than usual on their land they would have to graze a smaller number of sheep, and have less wool and mutton to sell.  Then there will will be too much grain and too little wool for the consumption of the inhabitants.  Wool will therefore be dear, which will [require] the inhabitants to wear their clothes longer than usual; and there will be too much grain and a surplus for next year… the farmers … will take care the next year to have less grain and more wool, for farmers always take care to use their land for the production of those things which they think will fetch the best price at market.  If, however, next year they have too much wool and too little grain for the demand, they will not fail to change from year to year the use of the land until they arrive at proportioning their production more or less to the consumption of the inhabitants.  So a farmer who has adjusted more-or-less his output to the demand will have part of his farm in grass, for hay, another part in grain, another in wool and so on, and he will not change his plan unless he see some considerable change in the demand…”
People often say that without planners there is no planning.  The truth is quite the opposite.  Entrepreneurs allocate their resources on the basis of what price signals tell them about demand, adjusting their plans to meet the plans and desires of buyers.  Thus do buyer and seller fall into a natural harmony.
"The consideration of prices is what integrates and harmonizes the plans of each individual with the plans of all other individuals and produces a fully and rationally planned economic system under capitalism" - George Reisman, Capitalism, Pg. 137
As Frederic Bastiat used to say, It is not so much “planning” as the natural process of harmonisation of interests that occurs when people are left free.

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GUEST POST: Safety legislation, and how to practice it


By Barnaby Perkins

Barnaby  Perkins-1 When it comes to the burgeoning industry surrounding health and safety legislation I am, like the chorus in T.S.Eliot’s play ‘The Family Reunion’, ‘afraid of all that has happened, and of all that is to come’.

In our age, H.S.E. (Health, Safety and the Environment) practitioners, legislators, auditors, and general gurus, have become like the high priests of some new religious faith or cult. They permeate every area of our lives, impinging on and infringing our personal liberty and dampening down the human spirit. They dog each move we make in a society, becoming evermore concerned with how we manage our own individual, and our civilization’s, ‘safety.’

Just like the many things that arrive in our lives and ‘sit at the door, as if they had been there always,’ so has the legislation in this area arrived on our doorstep, like an amorphous black blob, providing a multitude of reasons to hobble us in our day-to-day activities.

‘Sorry – it’s against health and safety regulations’ has become a watch cry, the overarching excuse for anyone who can not, or will not, be bothered to exercise the freedom of the human spirit in the general public anaesthetising of our times.

St Jerome - Caravaggio


With Caravaggio comes an unsurpassed ability to convey three dimensions with paint.

It’s not so much what he painted, which is almost always a subject less than admirable, as the way his subject was presented.  He didn’t present his subjects so much as project them.

See how the figure of St Jerome emerges out of the darkness almost as a hologram—as a fully-rounded figure with a fully noble presence--that’s the imagery Caravaggio managed to convey in a two-dimensional canvas.

He had an unmatched talent put to a less than admirable use.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

British billboards

It seems a long time since there was a British election in which voters were offered a fundamental choice—perhaps the most stark was the ‘Winter of Discontent’ election of 1979 when Britain was offered the same full-on socialism that had led Britain to bankruptcy in just three decades, or Margaret Thatcher.

Sadly now, when its government’s deficits are once again at South American levels (and climbing), all that Britons are offered as an alternative to Gordon Brown’s print-and-hope policy is David Cameron--Britain's smile-and-wave leaderette in the wings.


But despite the often paper-thin differences between the main parties, their political advertising has always been brilliant. Being much easier to attack than to present the non-existent positive qualities of their own party, they’ve always gone for the jugular in attacking their opposition.

 The Telegraph has a gallery of some of the more memorable, including a few from elections where there really was a stark difference.  These are some of my own favourites, in roughly chronological order:

NoFuture Kinnock ShameAboutThePillocksInFront BlairKohl



DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Meths, death & forgiving a dead Beatle

_richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: Meths ban mooted, Wellington ratepayers hammered, and a dead Beatle forgiven.

1. “Meths drinking on the increase – What a surprise. Did the politicians, who regularly increase the taxes on booze and cigarettes, and the wowsers who celebrate hysterically every time they do so, really think there would be no consequences in this?
    If you price something off the market, people will look for cheaper alternatives. Such as methylated spirits instead of ethanol-containing beverages. Of course, when there is an unintended side effect to sin taxes, the knee-jerk reaction is to reduce the availability of whatever has sprung up in place of the taxed commodity. But people never learn. Wayne Temple, from the National Poisons Centre at Otago University, now wants to ban methylated spirits. Does he really think that will be the end of the matter and that no-one will poison themselves with intoxicating alcoholic compounds?
    How about a new approach to the problem of health problems related to the use of intoxicatants? Why doesn’t the government just assume for a moment that adults should be permitted the freedom to put whatever they like into their bodies, as long as they remain financially and legally responsible for their actions before and afterward? People would not turn to crap such as meths if it were cheaper to purchase less harmful alternatives. Have the wise heads forgotten (or never learned) the Iron Law of Prohibition?   

2. “Wellington City Council convicted over driver’s death – Can you imagine what would happen if a truck driver working for a private firm died in a crash at work? The directors and shareholders of the company would suffer significant financial penalty, someone would probably wind up behind bars, and Matt McCarten and the authors of The Sub-Standard would demand all CEOs be hanged. But when a city council employee dies, the council receives a fine less than a quarter of the maximum, CEO Gary Poole announces that managers will receive extra training, and it’s back to business as usual. And of course Wellington ratepayers will pay that fine, thank you very much. Looks like the Council’s roading engineers failed to adhere to guidelines on the recommended gradient for the road, allowing drivers to take trucks down a wet 42 degree slope. Yet no-one is held responsible, and the CEO doesn’t have the integrity to sack those responsible for placing council employees at risk of death - and then offer his resignation, as he should.
    Why should Wellington ratepayers have to keep funding a bureaucratic empire that is so blasé about killing its employees? At the very least, property owners should have the option of using other companies for their roading maintenance, rubbish collection, water supply and other utilities, instead of having to use the Wellington City Council.

3. “Vatican forgives John Lennon – How gracious of them. Only took 44 years, after initially condemning Lennon for his observation that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” and for claiming that Christianity will “vanish and shrink.” Turns out of course that Lennon was right on both counts--perhaps that’s why he was forgiven! Congregations have been shrinking for decades as the left-wing political tendencies of the churches become more apparent and churches continues their absurd attacks on the wrong people--such as a Catholic archbishop’s decision to excommunicate doctors who performed an abortion on a nine year old girl who was fifteen weeks pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather. Was the stepfather excommunicated? Apparently not. Neither have priests in the Catholic church who have been systematically raping children entrusted to their pastoral care for decades.
    The perpetrators of these sex crimes should be brought to justice, and those who have covered up their activities and given them opportunity to re-offend should be exposed. The decision to forgive John Lennon for voicing an opinion which today seems quite reasonable, but which was controversial at the time, is a bizarre distraction from the huge task the Catholic Church must confront--rooting out the paedophiles that lurk within its ranks and assisting in their prosecution under common law.

“When the people fear the government, there is
tyranny - when the government fear the people, there is liberty.”
- Thomas Jefferson