Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Perigo on Beck’s “God thing”

Glenn Beck galvanized hundreds of thousands of patriotic Americans to show up in Washington for his 'Restoring Honor' rally, observes Lindsay Perigo. That’s the good part.

_Quote Though [Beck] was obliged to play down the political implications of the gathering, there is no doubt that this was the Tea Party out in force, giving The Anti-American President the message that his socialist agenda will soon be consigned to the ashcan of history.


_Quote As Sarah Palin so succinctly put it, the task is not to transform America but
restore it.

Um, not so yay. Why her? And what exactly do she and he mean by “restore”?

_QuoteThe alarm bells of liberty-lovers from sea to shining sea should be ringing from every mountainside at Beck [and Palin]'s sloppy exhortation to 'try the whole turning back to God thing.'

Oh. So that’s what they mean!

_Quote_Idiot"Let's try the whole turning back to God thing and see what happens," said Glenn Beck [again] on Fox News Sunday.

No, says Perigo.  "Let's not."

_QuoteThe greatness of America lies precisely in its constitutional separation between church and state. Though Beck denies he has a theocracy in mind, and claims to respect the right of atheists to their (dis)beliefs, it's hard to imagine that part of the Religious Right that does want a theocracy not being emboldened into pushing for one as part of a 'whole turning back to God thing.'

The ‘God thing’ and Americathe ‘God thing’ and freedomthey just don’t mix well.

Everything you always wanted to know about Afghanistan that one lone humorist could tell you after a 72-hour visit [updated]

What do you want to know about Afghanistan, past, present, or future?  After a 72-hour visit, PJ O'Rourke has  everything you always wanted to know about Afghanistan, but didn't want to have to wade through WikiLeaks to discover.

It's far from as flippant as you'd expect from an article about the Afghanistan war containing quips about what Scotsmen wear under their kilts.

Take this, for example, explaining both the continuing appeal of the Taliban, and the mire in which well-meaning armies have found themselves.

_Quote Someone in Afghanistan must think the Taliban on the other side are good for something too. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an “Afghan issue.”
    The Taliban offers bad law—chopping off hands, stoning desperate housewives, the usual things. Perhaps you have to live in a place that has had no law for a long time—since the Soviets invaded 31 years ago—before you welcome bad law as an improvement.
    An Afghan civil society activist, whose work has put him under threat from the Taliban, admitted, “People picked Taliban as the lesser of evils.” He explained that lesser of evils with one word, “stability.”
    A woman member of the Afghan parliament said that it was simply a fact that the Taliban insurgency was strongest “where the government is not providing services.” Rule of law being the first service a government must provide.
    The member of parliament who laughed at the clash of civilizations laughed as well at what had passed for rule of law in Afghanistan. “Sure Afghanistan is unruly,” he said. “Afghans don’t like rules. No one likes rules. And that is what we have been—ruled. We have been ruled, not governed.”
    A journalist for Radio Azadi said, “Afghans were happy in principle that Americans brought peace and democracy. But when rival tribes began to use the U.S. to crush each other, the attitude of the Afghan people changed.”
    Afghans think Americans have sided with the wrong people. It’s not that Afghans think Americans have sided with the wrong people in a systematic, strategic, or calculated way. It’s just that we came to a place that we didn’t know much about, where there are a lot of sides to be on, and we started siding with this side and that side and the other side. We were bound to wind up on the wrong side sometimes.
    We’re outsiders in Afghanistan, and this is Occam’s razor for explaining the Taliban…

Read it all here: The 72-hour expert: Everything you always wanted to know about Afghanistan, by PJ O’Rourke.

_QuoteAustralian aid to Pakistani flood victims is being distributed at a camp funded by the banned Pakistani group Jamaat ud Dawa. The group was linked to the Mumbai terrorist attacks and has been black listed by the US, Pakistan and the United Nations.

But, the UN World Food Programme is distributing aid, including some donated from Australia, at a camp which receives funding from Jamaat ud-Dawa.

As Andrew Bolt observes, it’s not just an explanation “why donations from the West are slow” but also “more proof that the UN can’t be trusted with our cash, either.”

IPCC Climate Science Chief Gets Good Advice, Finally

Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

IPCC Climate Data Fudger-In-Chief Rajendra Pachauri gets a mild spanking from some real scientists, the sort who haven't yet completely lost their scientific integrity.

_Quote "Qualitative probabilities should be used to describe the probability of well-defined outcomes only when there is sufficient evidence," said the review group, which was supported by the academies of science from the United States, Netherlands, Britain and other countries.
Good advice (although I'm not altogether sure what a "qualitative" probability would look like). Think he'll take it? Nah, me neither.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Turkel House, Detroit – Frank Lloyd Wright


Frank Lloyd Wright always had an intense interest in low- and moderate-cost homes. One solution was his Usonian Automatic—a system of special owner-built concrete blocks, unique to each house, woven together to make a home—just the sort of thing that NZ’s Building Code now makes illegal—of which the Turkel House in Detroit, Michigan, is a recently restored example.Turkel02

Head here to the Hour Detroit for the story of the restoration, and many more pictures.Turkel03

And head  to the owners’ own website for more of the story.Turkel04 Hat tip Prairie Mod.Turkel05

Facebook in history

If Facebook had been around for several centuries, here’s what some famous updates might have looked like. If Ben Franklin ever said “Booyah.”

FacebookHistory  Click the pic to see it all. [Hat tip Geek Press]

Oh yeah, and here’s Abe Lincoln’s original Facebook page.

‘ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE’ MEET-UP: Capital & its structure

Sorry it’s short notice … but the next meeting of the Auckland Uni Economics Group is tomorrow night, and it’s going to be a goody. Once again, it couldn’t be more topical, explaining in simple terms how something that even most economists have never heard about was part of the cause of the present crisis.

UoAEconGroup-chalkboard summary

All welcome, from students of economics to students of life.

See you there!

PS: Here’s the “official” announcement for the evening:

_Quote The UOA Economics Group is coming back online for the second part of the year.  Overseas travel and study and work commitments have meant that we had to take a longer break than we had wanted, however we are now back with an interesting and challenging programme for the remainder of the year.  We will be bringing you more meetings over the coming months as we get to grip with some complex topics.
    Economic ideas, as we have seen, change the world and any student of economics must be familiar with the range of ideas that exist. This is especially important as economists struggle to explain what has happened in recent years to the world's financial system.
    We have looked at The Broken Window Fallacy, Division of Labour and Say's Law. We will now continue looking at Capital and its Structure.  This will be crucial in understanding why things have gone so wrong recently as we later examine business cycle theory and apply this to the recent financial crisis.  The theory of capital lies at the heart of economics which we will introduce in the next seminar.  Capital is a large subject but this should whet your appetite for some interesting conversations and more talking points to get you thinking. 
    Look forward to seeing you...

Hubbard’s SCF: Too big for govt not to create another big balls up

Talk has now turned from the Serious Fraud Office’s Kafka-esque harassment of to Aalan Hubbard and his other companies to a government “bailout” for the company he founded and chaired, South Canterbury Finance (SCF). 

“Too big to fail”?  Surely that should mean “too big for taxpayers’ money to be wasted.” What it means, however—and I say this with much sadness—is that it’s too big for governments to ignore.  And you know what that’s going to mean, don’t you. Another balls up.

Consider the foolishly offered government guarantee scheme for failing finance companies, without which talk of “bailout” would even be talk.  Or shouldn’t be.  As many sane and sober folk were saying when Michael Cullen and John Key agreed to the scheme, “The big banks didn't need it, even at the height of the crisis, and sure don't need it now, and its only function was to prop up risky finance companies that should have failed.”  Now a big one has, and with the combination of imminent collapse and Bill’s foolishness the taxpayer now finds him-and-herself on the hook for several hundred million dollars. Thanks Michael.  Thanks John. You dickheads.

Consider too the harassment of South Canterbury Finance’s founder and chairman Alan Hubbard by the Serious Fraud Office—an investigation over issues in another company which are still not clear, which have been deliberately left vague, and which have been used as a stick with which to blackmail Mr Hubbard into handing over the keys to this company—an investigation done so poorly and so publicly that it all but guaranteed any chance of South Canterbury Finance finding another funder to make up its capital reserves was effectively extinguished. (We’ll never know whether SCF did have a chance of saving itself, but the jackboots rendered that possibility null.)

What the government should have done was not what it did. Risking taxpayers’ money with this sort of guarantee was unconscionable; putting it at risk with the Keystone Cops’ persecution of the company’s chairman was intolerable. To compound both errors now by pouring taxpayers’ money down what looks like a black hole would be beyond irresponsible—which is what it will probably happen.

What it should do now is allow liquidators to the clean out the dead wood as quickly and effectively as possible so that resources tied up in this debacle can be set free for other entrepreneurs to find a better use for them, ASAP—to use them as fertiliser for new ventures, unencumbered by whatever meddling strings the government would like to attach .

Since that’s the most logical thing to do, however, we can be almost certain that it won’t be done. Expect instead to see South Canterbury Finance effectively nationalised, using the money you were thinking of using on home improvements, debt repayment and educating your children to be used instead to prop up a zombie company that was doing moderately well until the jackboots came through the door.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Republicanism, Rand and the Right

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

This week: Republicanism, Rand and the Right…

1. DomPost: “Pharmacist, 70, jailed for supply of P ingredients
    In my work as a part-time medical officer at a drug and alcohol clinic I have a particular interest in reducing the harm to individuals, and to the greater community, caused by the health and legal problems associated with drug use. The legal problems associated with drug use include individual acts of violence and neglect related to the procurement, sale and consumption of drugs; as well as problems caused by the criminalisation of the choice to trade and/or personally use certain neuro-active substances.
    Support or opposition for drug laws is a political litmus test which distinguishes the conservative ("right-wing") attitude on drug use from the libertarian view.
    Conservatives believe the state owns your body, and can therefore make the rules as to what can and can't go into it, in order to stop you from making mistakes that could harm you.   
    Libertarians believe you own your body* and can thus determine input and output. 
    Conservatives treat adults as children; libertarians tend to treat adults as adults.
    Currently, the state tolerates self-regulation of alcohol and nicotine intake in adults. These two drugs cause a well-documented and well-known range of negative health outcomes.  
    While permitting the use of these substances, our government forbids the use of many others.
    This prohibition causes immense harm by arbitrarily turning peaceful people into nominal criminals, in many cases incarcerating them and labelling them as real criminals for little more that ingestion of substances of which the state presently disapproves.
    Prohibition often does turn previously peaceful people into real criminals (i.e. initiators of violence against other people or their property). It tends to make the illicit substances traded much more concentrated (and therefore more dangerous), less reliable in terms of quality (has Consumer magazine ever ranked the best suppliers of cannabis?) and far more expensive. The vendors of illicit drugs are often far less scrupulous than vendors of legal substances (witness stories of illicit drug dealers flogging their wares outside schools, for example, compared to where party pills used to be sold).
     The demand within our community for stimulant drugs such as amphetamine, and the state's determination to stop adults being able to buy it, has spawned the P industry—a marketplace that is dominated by criminals and gangs, and is supported by the politicians. The biggest nightmare for P manufacturers and dealers would not be further criminalisation of drug use in adults, but legalisation. Profits would simply go through the floor.
    The Libertarianz Party endorses drug legalisation, because it is consistent with improving individual freedom. Supporting drug legalisation is not an election-winning strategy, but as I said before, but it is a litmus test. Those who attack the Libertarianz Party for raising the issue are always reluctant to say where they stand on it.
    It is a matter of freedom. The thought of people Morris dancing in their own homes, or at Green Party conferences, repels me—but outlawing it would not stop people wanting to do it. The activity would be driven underground, to less salubrious environments run by nasty violent people, at much greater cost to all involved.
    The septugenarian pharmacist jailed for supplying methamphetamine substrate to P manufacturers is a victim of our drug laws. Locking him up will not stop people wanting to self-medicate with stimulants, it simply makes less salubrious the places and suppliers with which they have to do business.
    And anyone who claims that no-one should need stimulants should first check whether they themselves drink coffee. And how they would feel if coffee was outlawed.

2. NZ Herald: “Cullen: New Zealand should be republic
Whether or not Michael Cullen delivers his anticipated call for establishment of a republic, comments contained in speech notes indicate he has done an about-face on the issue. 
    At the time he held a cabinet post he opposed republicanism, describing himself as the last cabinet’s  "token monarchist." I guess he must have “token” vales as well.
    I abhorred Cullen during his years in parliament. Fuelled by a childhood resentment of wealth and success, he and his ilk spent their entire political careers harassing and intimidating the productive people who funded their jobs and perks. Cullen's war cry, his battle chant—“we won, you lost, eat that”—perfectly summarises his snark, biting the hand that fed him like the ungrateful parasite he was. 
    However, I come not to bury Cullen, but to praise him—faintly, and in passing mind you—for rekindling the republicanism debate. For it has long been Libertarianz Party policy to replace the current system of democratic representative government under British monarchy with a system of constitutional republicanism similar to that of the original United States. The important point is not so much the replacement of Betty Battenburg as our head of state, but an overhaul of the form of state governance itself.
    Libertarians believe government should not only be small, it should be tied up with a very short (constitutional) leash, and beaten with a very long stick if it gets ideas above its station. To ensure this, there should be separation of government powers: administration of the state bureaucracy (the executive function) should be separate from law-making (the legislative function), which in turns  needs independence from dispute resolution and law enforcement (the judicial function).
    History professor Paul Moon correctly points out that we are a de facto republic already, with a Queen that does not interefere in the political process. And, of course, with abandonment of recourse to the Privy Council, the judicial system has freed itself of all ties to Britain. Herald columnist Garth George, despite a silly title to his article, uncharacteristically gets things exactly right:

        “We might have our own Supreme Court but we need to remember that
    Parliament remains the country's ultimate court.

          “It can, the way we have it set up, pretty much do what it likes. There are
    insufficient checks and balances as
things stand, opposition parties and triennial
    elections notwithstanding. Irreparable damage can be done in three
years by
    self-interested politicians, as we well know.”

3. NZ Herald: “Matt McCarten: Death throes of the soulless party of self interest
    Every time I bring up the subject of the ACT Party, its defenders and apologists are quick to rush in and point to the Libertarianz Party's lack of electoral success. ACT, if one cares to remember, was the baby of two high profile ex-cabinet ministers from the best government New Zealand has had in the last fifty years. It received massive publicity and tens of thousands of people, myself included, voted for them.
    Over time, and especially under the leadership of Rodney Hide, its medium-term future has looked increasingly uncertain. Not the least of its problems is abandonment its found principles, the leadership style of Mr Hide, his highly embarrassing perk-lusting behaviour after years of perk-busting rhetoric, and the ongoing lack of any statement of core values on ACT's website. I'm sure they used to have some.** They were probably similar to these ones, http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/principles/,from which come these policies: http://www.libertarianz.org.nz/policies/.
    But bizarrely, it now seems ACT is being tarred with the same brush with which their own followers try and daub Libertarianz.  Look at this, for example, from McCarten:

        “The [ACT Party] cultists worship at the altar of their prophet, Ayn Rand, and delude
     themselves if everyone only
focuses on getting what they want, then somehow this
     is good for everyone.”

    Heaven forbid ACT should ever endorse anything from Ayn Rand! But if it isn’t individualism and rational self-interest that underpins ACT party policy and provides intellectual fuel for its electoral candidates, then what the hell does?  Or did?
    Anything at all?
    Of course, the person throwing these accusations of self-interest at ACT MPs (as if that was an insult) is a woefully ignorant apologist for a totalitarian political movement that has been such an economic failure wherever it was tried that its luminaries murdered and starved tens of millions of people to fit them into into its straitjacket. Matt McCarten and his fellow travellers care not one iota for these facts, nor that a person's brain, his or her thoughts, and the products that derive from these thoughts and action, and the right to trade these products and to prosper thereby, are the vary basis for improvements in human standards of living.
    However, even this well-known political waka-jumper and apologist for murderous totalititarianism can point to Rodney’s Super-Sized City Council as a reason to question just where ACT is heading.
    I find it increasingly difficult myself to reconcile the megalomaniacal concentration of bureaucratic power that Rodney Hide has engineered in Auckland with the vision of smaller government and the devolution of services that ACT seemed to stand for in its earlier days. ACT’s dwindling number of supporters must be feeling equally confused.

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

* More accurately, your body is you. – Ed.
** They certainly did. The party’s founding principles were stated in two short sentences. And we have a prize on offer to any ACT supporter who can say what they actually were—and who wrote them. – Ed.

PJM Article: The Fragility of Statist Socieities

Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

Another of my articles has been published at Pajamas Media: The Fragility of Statist Societies.

Here's an excerpt:

"The ultimate justification for a free society rests on moral principles. Individuals have inherent rights — to life, liberty, and property — that governments are always wrong to violate, no matter the (temporary) benefits to others. But even on their own terms, the pragmatists who argue that coercion works are mistaken."
Your comments are invited, here and there.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, 27 August 2010

The next Great Depression has already been YouTubed. See… [update 2]

In a more rational world, the world would have been out of economic depression in February last year.  That would be the sort of world in which those alleged economists whose theories either caused the crash (or blinded them to what was about to happen) would have been kicked to the kerb in short order. Alleged economists like the morons laughing at Peter Schiff three years ago…

Sadly, that hasn’t happened. Instead, those economists who shouted a warning that the first crash was coming—like Peter Schiff & Thorstein Polleit & Robert Blumen—are still being ignored; and all the failed economists who caused that crash are still in the van helping to cause the next one—just as they did in the first Great Depression*.  As Tom DiLorenzo and Steven Kates and Caroline Baum explain…

It’s still not too late to stop the next crash, but it will take a radical overhaul of both economics and government to avert it. As George Reisman explains…

But unless that radical overhaul happens—and even if they begin to realise that they themselves are the problem, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking any mainstream economist or politician will get the hell out of the way so it will—unless it happens, a “double dip” recession is all but inevitable, the depth and rapidity of which will be measured by the extent to which the mainstreamers are given power to continue making it worse.  Just as they did in the first Great Depression. As Peter Schiff explains,

_Quote [They] are not going to let our economy restructure. [They] are going to destroy it. [They] are going to drive it into the ground. [They] are going to wipe out everybody...[Those] are the politics...That is why I remain so negative on my outlook on the United States.

And as they say,when the United States catches a cold…

And since the alleged economists are providing no rational foundation on which non-economists can parse their own future (“they do not understand what it takes to create jobs ... and are flummoxed by their experiment in Keynesian economics not working”) many sane and rational folk are instead finding real economists to listen to—like those I link to above—and doing their own thinking about what’s coming. People like the normally relentlessly upbeat Tony Robbins, who (while still accepting some of the consumerist myths peddled by mainstream economists) begs his followers to get themselves informed about the coming Crash.

That’s the sort of advice you ought to at least listen to…

As they also say—or should—it’s time for even the alleged economists to stop worrying and learn to love depressions. Especially when they do so much to cause them.

* Back in October 2008, before the last election, I warned that all the remedies bandied about by all the alleged economist would be the cause of another crisis, just as they were when the likes of Hoover and Roosevelt used them to extend the 1929 correction for another fifteen years.

When  markets need to correct, when real savings are being consumed on malinvestments that urgently need to to closed off, then here's what you can do to make sure the necessary correction won't happen:

  1. Prevent or delay liquidation by propping up shaky businesses and shaky credit positions. (Better to flush out the malinvestments quickly, so recovery can get under way.)
  2. Further inflate the money supply, creating more malinvestments and delaying the necessary correction. (Better to maintain the currency’s purchasing power rather than dilute it.)
  3. Keep wage rates up --or keep money wages constant when prices start falling (which amounts to the same thing) -- which in the face of falling business demand is a sure recipe for unemployment. (Better to take your cut now, and give your business a chance to restructure.)
  4. Keep prices up (by means of the likes of green-plated building regulations) or add new costs to struggling businesses (such as the dopey Emissions Tax Scam), delaying the necessary corrections that will make businesses profitable again. (Better to let prices fall to the new level they need to post-crash. Trying to help recovery by artificially re-inflating prices is like backing over someone you’ve run over in your car, hoping that it will make the patient better.)
  5. "Stimulate" demand by spending on "infrastructure" projects just to make it look like the government is doing something -- when what that something actually does is to take money from profitable businesses in order to bid resources away from struggling businesses. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without competing with struggling businesses and raising the prices of now-much-scarcer resources.)
  6. Discourage saving and investment by increasing government spending (all of which is consumption spending) and maintaining high tax rates. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without taking now-much-scarcer resources away from struggling businesses.)
  7. Subsidise unemployment with make-work schemes paid out of money from profitable businesses that bid resources away from struggling businesses, delaying the shift of workers to fields where genuine jobs would otherwise be available. (Better to abolish all minimum-wage laws, so everybody who wants to work can work—and work in a job that pays its own way.)

As Murray Rothbard points out in America's Great Depression (from which I draw the above seven points) when you list logically the various ways that government could hamper market adjustments and hobble the adjustment process, you find that you have precisely listed the favourite "anti-depression" arsenal of government policy.

I said in 2008 all these variants of stimulunacy would be used, and would fail. And as Tom DiLorenzo explains above, each of them was and did—just as they were in the First Great Depression. Expect to see them all used here.  Again.

UPDATE 1: And you thought I’m being pessimistic?  Check out Egon von Greyerz from Matterhorn Asset Management [hat tip Foundation for Economic Growth]:  “There Will Be No Double Dip

_QuoteNo, there will be no double dip. It will be a lot worse. The world economy will soon go into an accelerated and precipitous decline which will make the 2007 to early 2009 downturn seem like a walk in the park. The world financial system has temporarily been on life support by trillions of printed dollars that governments call money. But the effect of this massive money printing is ephemeral since it is not possible to save a world economy built on worthless paper by creating more of the same. Nevertheless, governments will continue to print since this is the only remedy they know. Therefore, we are soon likely to enter a phase of money printing of a magnitude that the world has never experienced.  But this will not save the Western World which is likely to go in to a decline lasting at least 20 years but most probably a lot longer…

UPDATE 2: A couple of readers emailed asking me about some reading I might recommend to help them get informed.  Here’s some web articles:

  • ‘The global financial/economic crisis: causes & solutions’ – David McGregor
  • 'Great Myths of the Great Depression' - Lawrence Reed [sixteen-pages in PDF]
  • 'Saving the Depression: A New Look at World War II' - Mark Skousen
  • The Dangerous Return to Keynesian Economics’  - Steven Kates
  • ‘Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Returned After the War - Robert Higgs
  • ‘Economic Recovery Requires Capital Accumulation, Not Government "Stimulus Packages"’ – George Reisman
  • ‘Production vs Consumption’ – George Reisman
  • Is Deleveraging Bad for the Economy?’ – Frank Shostak
  • ‘Lord Keynes & Say’s Law’ – Ludwig Von Mises
  • More articles at the Mises Institute’s Bailout Reader
  • More articles at the Ayn Rand Center’s Response to the Financial Crisis
  • And here’s some books (linked, where possible, to online editions):

    Special Techniques Reveal Greek Statues' Original Appearance

    Guest Post by Jeff Perren.


    A technique called ‘raking light' has been used to analyze art for a long time.

    A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious.

    On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

    Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. ...

    Our image of Ancient Greece is inescapably colored, pardon the pun, by having grown up with the austere appearance of its white marble buildings and statues. The technique reveals just how colorful their culture truly was.

    Read the rest.

    Thursday, 26 August 2010

    The world’s best man-caves.

    These “fourteen famous man rooms” were selected by the Art of Manliness blog to show where great men went to collect their thoughts, to do their work --“a study where they would retreat to think, read, and write … a garage or workshop where they would tinker and experiment …  places a man could call his own.”

    From Ernest Hemingway to Thomas Edison to Frederick Douglass to Thomas Jefferson to Charles Darwin, the blog showcases some great work and withdrawing spaces in which some great men have found inspiration. These are my favourite two, the Oak Park Drafting Room of Frank Lloyd Wright—with the upper mezzanine storey hung on chains above the workroom below—and Mark Twain’s Writing Hut, in which he completed Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finntwain2 Describing his eyrie to a friend he talked of it “perched in complete isolation on the top of an elevation that commands leagues of valley and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hills.

    _Quote It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it.

    twain1 Wright’s aim was inspiration. And experiment. And production. This was the workspace he created when he set up on his own , and in which over the next twenty years he and his assistants produced 125 structures the like of which the world had never before seen.frank1 Visit the Art of Manliness blog to read about the importance of man spaces, and to see the other dozen places in which world-beating work was done. They might inspire you to do your own. [Hat tip Gus Van Horn]

    PS: I couldn’t resist adding this picture of Wright, below, at work (many  years after leaving Oak Park) in his writing office in Taliesin, Wisconsin.  It’s one of my favourites. FLW-TaliesinStudy

    The brains of peaceful people … and murderers

    The experience of early childhood education suggests, and brain research confirms, that they way you think effects the way your brain develops. The process of myelinisation in a child’s early years (i.e., the process whereby the brain grows a fatty sheath around developing nerve fibres to better transmit its neural pulses) almost literally cements in the child’s way of thinking, and the “filing system” his brain is developing as he grows and explores his environment. This development of the brain doesn’t cease at five or six, it continues right up until we’re twenty-four or so.

    It’s a two-way process. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, We build our brains, thereafter they build us.

    California neuroscientist James Fallon studies the brains of psychopathic killers; people with badly built brains—who almost literally have got something missing. But what he also discovered was something “about libertarians that—just might—keep them peaceful.”

    And oddly, the part that might keep them peaceful is precisely the part that neuropsychologist Steven Hughes and Montessori researcher Angeline Lillard identify as the very part that Montessori education builds up (and that nannying and “helicopter parenting” discourages): the executive function.

    How ‘bout that.

    James Cameron—a Titanic lack of balls [update 3]

    ChickenLittleWallpaper1024 Director James Cameron is famous for a movie in which you can spend two hours watching people drown (Titanic) and for the first movie in history about war between aliens and humans in which we’re meant to barrack for the aliens (Avatar). He also famously issued a challenge to climate skeptics, saying in a much-discussed March interview he wanted “to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads."

    So Ann McElhinney, the co-writer and co-irector of Not Evil Just Wrong, accepted immediately—telling Cameron she’d “even drive herself to your Camegigantic gated Malibu double mansion to shoot it out.” So did Marc Morano of the popular Climate Depot website.  And new media mogul Andrew Breitbart.

    So Cameron accepted the challenge. “His people” set it all up. He agreed to a debate this week at a conference in Colorado. And then, bit by bit, he just kind’a chickened out, as Ann McElhinney describes:

    _Quote As the debate approached James Cameron's side started changing the rules.
    They wanted to change their team. We agreed.
    They wanted to change the format to less of a debate—to "a roundtable." We agreed.
        Then they wanted to ban our cameras from the debate. We could have access to their footage. We agreed.
        Bizarrely, for a brief while, the worlds most successful film maker suggested that no cameras should be allowed-that sound only should be recorded. We agreed
        Then finally James Cameron, who so publicly announced that he "wanted to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out," decided to ban the media from the shoot out.
        He even wanted to ban the public. The debate/roundtable would only be open to those who attended the conference.
        No media would be allowed and there would be no streaming on the internet.  No one would be allowed to record it in any way.
        We all agreed to that.
        And then, yesterday, just one day before the debate, his representatives sent an email that Mr. "shoot it out " Cameron no longer wanted to take part. The debate was cancelled.
        James Cameron's behavior raises some very important questions.
        Does he genuinely believe in man made climate change?  If he believes it is a danger to humanity surely he should be debating the issue every chance he gets ?
        Or is it just a pose?
    The man who called for an open and public debate at "high noon" suddenly doesn't want his policies open to serious scrutiny.
       I was looking forward to debating with the film maker. I was looking forward to finding out where we agreed and disagreed and finding a way forward that would help the poorest people in the developing and developed world.
        But that is not going to happen because somewhere along the way James Cameron … has moved from King of the World to being King of the Hypocrites.

    And after cancelling the debate? “Cameron still went to the conference where he called climate skeptics ‘swine,’and sniffed that the skeptics weren’t “of his stature in society.”

    Make that King of the Fucking Hypocrites.

    JamesCameronatHighNoon (1)

    UPDATE 1: Says Climate Depot’s Marc Morano, “Cameron let his friends in the environmental community spook him out of this debate," When he was warned that he was probably going to lose and lose badly, he ran like a scared mouse.”

    UPDATE 2: Cameron busted on his stated reasons for withdrawing. Emails show the real story.

    UPDATE 3: Meanwhile, a founder of warmist site Real Climate demonstrates at Wikipedia how intellectual honesty is done in warmist circles, leading the charge as the most prolific climate information gatekeeper at Wikipedia.  If he can’t argue his case, he simply bans it.

    Things are good. Things are very good.

    Despite all the doom and gloom about things, despite even the present recession, now is still a very good time to be alive.  The human environment has never been better. The author of The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley, reckons human beings are far better off now than in the past--and make significant advances when free exchanges of ideas and trade flourish. “When our species invented exchanging, it was as if ideas started having sex…” [Hat tip Vulcan’s Hammer]

    Notes from a Google Barcamp: The something-for-nothing brigade

    Guest post by Paul van Dinther
        THIS WEEKEND I PRESENTED some of my PlanetInAction.Com work at a Google Barcamp here in Auckland discussing various Google Technologies, and people’s reactions to it.
        The day started with a topic on so-called “net neutrality,” the idea that ISPs should not be able to favor some types of data over others. Almost to a man and woman, the attendees disapproved of Google’s proposal to prioritise certain types of traffic on its own new wireless networks.  The key claim was that airwaves and frequencies are in “public ownership.” Yet not a single person in the room recognised the simple fact that Google is proposing to do something on a network that Google itself owns!
        Google knows wireless data has a constrained capacity. Profit is the motivation that drives them to shape a service that has the potential for maximum return, thus enabling them to invest and sustain a profitable and usable level of service. A fact that was totally lost on a large part of the audience who simply wanted a say in property in someone else’s property.
        SO WE MOVED ON TO NZ government plans to block copyright offenders’ access to the internet.
        This time a mixed response. Some said "Yes" because it enabled offenders to be dealt with permanently, while others said "No" because it would make it impossible to access the internet for learning. "You mean porn?" someone inevitably intervened.
        Once again, nobody entertained the idea of keeping the government out of it altogether. I suggested that ISPs set their own terms and conditions in accordance with the law and, if those terms are broken—for violating copyrights, for example—then the ISP can and should cut you off. However, other ISP's should be free to open an account with you. No government meddling needed.
        Someone in the audience asked: "What if none of the ISP's want you anymore?" My response: "Well then you are screwed, no more internet for you." A teacher objected that "Internet access is a human right." Lot's of agreeing nods. The reasoning was that people “need” the internet for their education. (Need, apparently, being used as a claim on others.)
        I asked them if they were aware that in manufacturing this “right” they intended to impose a duty on someone else to deliver that right. Well that was easily solved for these people: government should play a bigger role in imposing that alleged duty.  Their “need” was that important, apparently.
        I pointed out that, since the government’s announcement that billions of taxpayer dollars would be poured into fibre infrastructure, many potential network investors had simply closed their wallets in response—resulting in less overall investment and far less diversity and choice, and with the government’s hands on the internet faucet.
        THE TOPIC SHIFTED TO privacy with regard to Google Maps and Google Earth—my area of expertise. I showed the audience how data from both Google Maps and Google Earth is contributed from many sources, such as the old historic aerial photography from 1963 of the North Shore. Someone suggested that Google would soon own all our information. It needed pointing out that Google collects, stores and distributes such information but does not own it, any more than a publisher does when he publishes someone else’s photos. Just as in a book, the old historic aerial photographs remain under the ownership of the original owner, in this case Land Information NZ, on whose website those same images can be found.
          "Google Street view invades our privacy" was the next fatuous whine, the whiners oblivious to the fact that all data in Street View is public information easily obtainable by anyone walking down a street.
        SO, A BIG DAY for the whiners.  But who exactly were these people? Well as it turned out there was a large contingent of school teachers among the audience.
        Why was I surprised.


    Paul van Dinther

    Wednesday, 25 August 2010

    ‘Bather Arranging her Hair’ - Renoir

    renoir42 Bather Arranging her Hair, 1893
    92.5 x 74 cm, Oil on canvas

    Every nude is striking. Renoir’s more so than most.

    But what makes this—or Praxitiles’ Aphrodite of last night—a nude rather than just being naked?

    Kenneth Clark used to say that nakedness is you or me getting out of the bath, whereas a nude is altogether more stylised. Nudes are “ideal forms of art,” he maintained, while naked bodies are just their embarrassing, real-life counterparts. But Kenneth Clark was a prude.

    William Blake chose his words carefully when he said “Art can never exist without naked beauty displayed.” He meant that in every sense. An artist sees all of reality naked, and then paints it.  The nude is one very important, and delightful, part of that.

    Thank goodness.

    St John of Aotearoa

    Following the advice of Imperator Fish, I did check out Bloomberg's hagiography of our Prime Minister, St John of Aotearoa—complete with endorsements of his miracles by both his party’s biggest backer, and his government’s biggest beneficiary.

    Unfortunately, I had just eaten…

    DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Inflammable Material—Alcohol & ACT

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

    This week:  Alcohol and ACT - both flammable.

    1. NZ HERALD: Australia ‘should follow NZ on alcohol’ – expert
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: Can you believe Simon Power wants to enact 126 new regulations to tighten how other adults can drink – because he doesn’t think people have the knowledge, or right, to determine how to do so in way of which he approves. Now a fellow control-freak from Australia, Maree Teeson doesn’t feel these 126 new edicts (out of the 153 recommended by Law Commission Wowser-in-Chief Geoffrey Palmer) are anything close to enough, describing them as “lightweight” and “feather-like.” People like Maree Teeson, the sort of we-know-best-what’s-right-for-you guardians that nobody needs, is the living, breathing face of Nanny. Such people are the living, breathing raison d'ĂȘtre for the Libertarianz Party.

    2. NZ HERALD:Govt proposes new adventure tourism rules
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: All risky tourism ventures will have to be registered (read: taxed) and pass a safety audit (read: taxed + bureaucrats). Sigh. Yet more, not less, Nanny State from the party that promised to roll back the oppressive weight of government after the 2008 election. Because 39 people died in New Zealand in the course of 6 years doing “outdoor activities” (some of these, presumably, from underlying medical conditions that were unrelated to the activities), 1500 commercial operators are now under threat of yet more regulation. Nothing like using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat. (Pun intentional.)

    3. NZ HERALD: Alcohol clampdown unfairly targets dairies, owners say
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: This got so far up my nose I could feel it tickling my frontal lobes. So.. in response, the Libertarianz Party have put out a press statement calling for Simon Power to stop bullying shop-owners:

    Libz Defend Dairy Owners' Rights
    Libertarianz Party leader
    Richard McGrath described Simon Power's proposed legislation to restrict the sale of alcohol at dairies and convenience stores as a "clumsy, racist, attempt to impose his Victorian attitudes on young people." Dr McGrath urged dairy owners to vote Libertarianz at next year's election, "in protest at the National Party's attempts to interfere in their businesses."
    "Once again, Simon Power shows a scant regard for the wishes of communities and the livelihoods of honest traders," he said. "His bullying of dairy owners is a pointed attack on the ethnic groups that own a disproportionately high number of these shops, and the consumers that purchase their wares."
    "As for the Minister's desire to restrict access to alcohol for all under-20-year-olds in response to the actions of a minority: will his next edict be a mandated bedtime regime for 18 and 19 year olds? After all, if they can't be trusted to drink in moderation, how on earth could they possibly get themselves to bed at a decent hour?"   
    Dr McGrath urged New Zealanders to embrace common-law solutions to the problems of underage drinking. "Dairy owners should be able to sell whatever they like to other adults, subject to mutual consent. Parents should be held accountable for the actions of their children. Therefore, if minors are harmed through alcohol use, their parents or guardians should be questioned and possibly prosecuted. In turn, parents should be able to launch civil action against anyone who gives or sells their under-age children alcohol."
    Furthermore, he said, those who commit crime against property and other people should be held responsible and liable for any damage they cause. "Victims of crime committed by those under the influence of intoxicating substances should be compensated in full by the offenders."
    Dr McGrath reminded business owners that they had the full backing of the Libertarianz Party in being able to defend themselves from robbers and burglars with appropriate levels of defensive weaponry. "Anyone who tries to rob a dairy or shop deserves to be neutralised rapidly, as the situation warrants."
    "The scapegoating of dairy owners, as exemplified by Simon Power's proposed laws, is consistent with the National Party's war on small businesses. The Libertarianz Party, on the other hand, believes in slashing income tax, abolishing GST, opening ACC up to competition, ending liquor licensing laws and repealing the Resource
    Management Act, in order to to make the establishment and operation of small businesses simpler and easier."

    4. STUFF: ACT’s Heather Roy under pressure to quit Parliament
    THE DOCTOR SAYS: ACT party hack Hilary Calvert has been flown up from Dunedin and is now circling like a vulture over Heather Roy. However, in breaking news, Rodney Hide’s “leadership” is being challenged by former ACT board member and list candidate Peter Tashkoff. In a highly damaging broadside which adds fuel to the flames of ACT’s self-destruction, Tashkoff (who was beaten in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate in 2008 by the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party candidate) said Hide was a “failure” and a “liability”—and he was so disgusted at Hide’s handling of the Roy saga that he would challenge the leader’s candidacy in Epsom.
        Hide, the former perk-buster, whose chops were busted when he milked taxpayers and used the very same perk for his girlfriend that he had formerly railed against.
        Hide, who has done irreparable damage to the cause of freedom by his behaviour inside and out of Parliament.
        Hide, who has set back the cause of liberty with his determination to fit the necks of Auckland regional ratepayers into one Super-Sized Noose.
        Rodney Hide needs to go, and ACT themselves needs to either return to their core values (if they have any - they don’t appear anywhere on ACT’s website) or disband.

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

    David Bain has a job

    “Did you hear that David Bain has finally got a job? He now has a paper run in Fielding.”

    Just another David Bain joke to add to the list.

    Save the Whale

    Today’s the day that Whale Oil appears in court to defend his challenge against the use of name suppression to protect the guilty, and the well-connected—especially when those two are the same.

    Whatever you might think about Whale himself, aka Cam Slater, his is a legitimate form of principled protest.  Of civil disobedience. Breaking the law, on principle, and taking your lumps for the breach is an appropriate way to protest unprincipled law. But it’s activism that comes with a price. A big one.

    So if you agree with his protest against the law and you’re able to help an impecunious blogger make it, head here to learn how to make a deposit to his fighting fund—or click on that “Chip In” widget up there on my right sidebar.