Saturday, August 14, 2010

Something to live for

The Chief Coroner's call for debate on the media's reporting of suicide has got people talking about suicide, and why it is that teenagers especially elect to end their lives just as they’re about to blossom.

At a time when they’re just beginning to ask life’s big questions, why is it that oblivion seems to so many a more desirable alternative than life on this earth, with all its madness, laughter, delight, possibilities and joy?

Why do they throw their young lives away so lightly?

In one sense, it’s a hard one to answer, since no-one can ever really tell us why they’ve done it.  But surely one major answer is that when they come to ask those big questions, they’re finding no answers to them that make sense.

Those “big questions” are the ones that, by definition, philosophy is supposed to ask and answer. But modern philosophers can’t, and don’t. Instead, if they listen to philosophers at all, they tell youngsters there are no absolutes, life has no meaning, and not to bother asking about it. Why wouldn’t thinking teenagers ponder that message of destruction and wonder what to do about it?

They’re told from every screen and in every school room that their species is evil and destructive, and is going to kill the earth.  Why wouldn’t serious teenagers take that message seriously and begin to damn themselves and existence?

They’re given religion as an answer to life’s big problems, which tells them to renounce their own happiness on this earth for a “life” in some other damn place; to place other’s faith over their own reasoning mind; to live for others instead of themselves. Is it any wonder they end up in doubt, confusion and ready to be easily led? Ready to damn achievement and success?

lewis Tennis ace Chris Lewis (right) calls this 'the crab-bucket mentality,' the hatred of achievement with which so many young folk shackle themselves and damn their more successful brothers. And why wouldn’t they? Instead of real values for living life on this earth, they’re given only nihilism or slop.  Says Chris about a youngster’s need for fuel to impel themselves forwards from within,

_Quote …in a world where the predominant trend is toward anti-achievement & anti-success, motivational fuel is something that we all need from time to time to propel us toward our goals. Which is why I would like to commend to your attention a book that provided me with a tremendous amount of motivational fuel very early on in my tennis career.
   The book is entitled The Fountainhead, by the Russian/American novelist Ayn Rand. In the introduction to her book, she tells us,
        "Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by
     imperceptible degrees & lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it ... Yet a few
     hold on & move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it
     shape, purpose & reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek
    a noble vision of man's nature & of life's potential. There are very few guideposts to find.
    The Fountainhead is one of them."
    At a time when, as a seventeen-year-old, I was just setting out to conquer the tennis courts around the world, an attempt that demanded excellence & achievement every step of the way, it was The Fountainhead that helped to inspire me in the face of discouragement from the "crab bucket mentalities" who told me I was wasting my time.
    For anyone who believes in the importance of achieving his or her values & goals, who believes that happiness is the end result of such achievement, & that happiness is the norm when independence, in thought & action is promoted, encouraged & pursued, The Fountainhead comes with my highest recommendation.

picture-2 Lindsay Perigo (right) expands on the theme in a piece he wrote a few years ago in response to a how-to piece on suicide in Craccum. (One of the “high points” of the editorship of Martin “Bomber” Bradbury, as I recall.) Called “Affirming Life,” I post it here in its entirety.

    Yesterday's furore about the Craccum "How to commit suicide" article … set me to thinking about the time I appeared on 'The Ralston Group' when we panellists were asked our explanations for the high rate of youth suicide.
    I stated my own suspicion that the problem came down to a failure of philosophy. Youngsters were taking their own lives at precisely the time one asks life's big questions & searches for ideals to guide one's conduct. Religion, to which one traditionally repaired for answers, was discredited & had not been replaced with a viable secular alternative - leaving a values vacuum, leading to despair. What youngster would be inspired by the jaded cynicism so manifest in so many once-thoughtful adults?
    But is a viable, secular alternative to religion possible? Can life have meaning without an after-life? If there is no god to inspire ideals & prescribe values, can there be any other source? Can man discover it? Theologians & philosophers alike have answered these questions with a resounding, No! Many professional philosophers revel in proclaiming their discipline irrelevant to the conduct of everyday life. The moral status of benevolence, they say, is no different from that of malevolence, creativity from destructiveness, honesty from deception, etc., and a belief in any of these values over their opposites is merely an arbitrary preference, with no objective validity. Ethically, it's deuces wild.
    The current subjectivist/relativist/nihilist morass may seem unappetising, they concede, but that too is an arbitrary judgement. There are no grounds for seeking anything better - there *is* no "better."
    The Russian/American novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand begged to differ. It is reality itself, she argued, that confronts man with the need for morality - a code of values designed to facilitate the process of living - because it confronts him with alternatives amongst which he must choose (he has no choice about choice). At the most fundamental level the choice is: life or death. If one chooses death, there is nothing more to be said; if one chooses life, the book of morality opens, & one must fill in the pages oneself, making one's choices in the presence of alternatives to the ultimate value of: life.
    To the nihilist's gleeful 'coup de grace,' 'Ah! But why should one value life in the first place?' Rand replied: The question is improper. The value of life need not & cannot be justified by a value beyond life itself; without the fact of life, the concept of value would not be possible in the first place. Value presupposes life; life necessitates value.
    To the existentialists' lament that without something beyond life, life itself has no meaning, she responded similarly - the very concept of meaning can have meaning *only* in the context of life. Ultimately, the meaning of life, if one wants to use that terminology, is ... *life* - one's own life, since one cannot live anyone else's - & what other or better meaning could one conceive?
    A creature endowed with immortality, denied the alternative of life or death (& their barometers, pleasure & pain) would have no need of values & could discover no meaning in anything since nothing would be of any consequence to it. It is man's nature as a living, mortal entity, unprogrammed to survive, constantly facing alternatives, endowed with a conceptual/volitional consciousness, that simultaneously makes the need for morality inescapable and the fulfilment of that need possible.
    For a human being, "is" is fraught with "ought"; "ought" is an irresistible aspect of "is" - the traditional dichotomy between them is false. The task of ethical philosophy is to prevent their being artificially sundered. A successful outcome - a morality derived from and consistent with the facts of reality - is, by virtue of those very characteristics, *not* arbitrary (disconnected from reality) but objective (consonant with reality).
    Rand went on to argue that a reality-based, life-affirming morality would concern itself not merely with survival, but survival proper to the life of the sentient, conceptual being that man is. While life might be the *standard* of morality, *happiness*, she argued, was its *purpose*. "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."
fountainhead     In Rand's novel The Fountainhead, a young man fresh out of college, looking for spiritual fuel for the journey ahead of him, is wheeling his bicycle through a forest, when he encounters the architect Howard Roark, contemplating some breath-taking new structures - his own - in a nearby clearing. "Who built this?" he asks. "I did," Roark replies. The boy thanks Roark & walks away. "Roark looked after him. He had never seen him before & he would never see him again. He did not know that he had given someone the courage to face a lifetime."
    To all this country's young people, happy & unhappy alike, I would repeat what I said on 'Ralston': Read this book - & the philosophy that produced it. You have nothing to lose but your doubts; you have your dreams to win. I repeat that advice today.

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald & Mercer Ellington.  Something to Live For.

PS: If you agree with the prescription that Chris and Lindsay outline here and you’d like  to offer to a new generation the inspiration to face a lifetime that reading The Fountainhead has given some of us—then why not help out with our Fountainhead Essay Contest, and put the ideas in this life-changing book in the hands of more young New Zealanders.  (Here's what one participant in the ARI's American competition has to say, and here's the winning 2002 New Zealand essay.)

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Friday, August 13, 2010

More red tape for builders, not less

It’s astonishing how much spin and how little real improvement one ridiculously incompetent and ill-informed Building Minister can make.

Yesterday’s press release from the Pakuranga Clown Maurice Wimpianson led with talk of “reducing red tape,” “red tape being snipped out of the $5.7 billion house building sector,” “cutting the red tape associated with building a house,” and other promising noises.

Unfortunately, all these “noises” about cutting red tape are bullshit, yet since they’ve been embraced by the industry’s noisiest cheerleaders and lapped up like mana by the ignorati in the press, I’ll need to explain why.

It’s all about the small print.

“Reducing red tape?”  The only red tape that’s been reduced is “allowing” you, yourself, in your capacity as home-owner and D.I.Yer, to erect a small porch, a fence or a small retaining wall on your own land, or add a heat pump or shade sail to your house. Isn’t that nice of nanny? (Make sure you tug your forelock appropriately as you nail home that last fence paling.)

But when all’s said and done this is something you can do already, and have quite properly been allowed to do since Adam was a lad. (Whose bloody land is it anyway, for Galt’s sake?!)  All that’s changed today is that the government’s thrice-announced plans to take that right away have been changed.  Slightly. For the moment.

Oh, and if you do want to “do it yourself,” even to the small extent allowed by Nanny, you might just need your D.I.Y signed off by a builder. Ahem, by a “licensed building practitioner.” To whom you will need to tug your forelock, because (whether you like it or not) the law will require them to take responsibility for what you have just done.

So much for making the chain of responsibility clearer.  That’s as much a lie as Labour’s new brochure claiming that all 15% of the Government Slavery Tax is due to National
(Q: Does the new announcement take councils out of the chain of responsibility? A: No.
Q: So that still leaves ratepayers responsible for the failures of building inspectors required by law to take responsibility for things in which they have no ability? A: Yes.
Q: So if you’re relying on insurers to protect home-owners for some parts of the building process, why not remove ratepayers’ risk altogether and allow insurers to cover it all?  A: ? )

And so much for “reducing” red tape. Because not only is this not a real relaxation, what was also “announced” yesterday was a new requirement adding a whole new truckload of paperwork to “every job over $20,000” (which, these days, means every job) requiring that every home-owner and home-builder use Nanny’s contracts to have their homes built or renovated. Because Nanny knows best.

And with it too was announced yet again, just to remind us all, the same announcement that’s already been made several dozen times before over the last five years: that everyone from plumbers to builders to house designers will have to become a “licensed building practitioner” by 2012 or be forced out of the industry—a “license” being a proxy for quality and reliability that has and will fail abjectly to achieve either. (If you doubt this, just look how many leaky homes were designed by registered architects and built by master builders.) 

A “license” has no more ability to guarantee quality than a stop sign has to stop a speeding car (or a ban on drugs has to keep drugs out of prisons).  Nonetheless, every current practitioner will soon be forced to bend their current practices and methods to fit those of the people who were, by and large, most responsible for designing and building those leaky homes—to either change their ways, conform, or get out.

“Reducing red tape?” Sounds more like anti-competitive regulation to me, so it’s no surprise that everyone from the Master Builders Association to the Certified Builders Association came out of their woodwork to throw up their hands in celebration.  Can you think why that was?  If you answered: “For the same reason that large taxi companies were celebrating the compulsory requirement for security cameras in cabs,” then give yourself a large tick. It’s because these rent-seekers understand that this anti-competitive move will help to exclude their smaller more nimble competitors from the market, and probably send many more of them offshore. Simply put, by enforcing the flaccid practices of behemoth organisations on everybody, registration of builders and designers is a great way of preventing competition from new rivals.

So much for either “raising standards” or “reducing red tape.”

It’s a pity that none of the media commentators realise that.  But they don’t.  Instead, they’re busy selling this already oft-announced announcement as both a “new” announcement and a reduction of red tape, which tells you once again just how little these commentators bother to do anything other than repeat the self-serving press releases that get sent to them.

As I listened to all the nonsense and all the “practices” of all the dinosaurs that we will all soon be required to follow (either follow or leave the industry), I couldn’t help thinking of this observation by Frank Lloyd Wright (who was never “licensed” anywhere, nor even “qualified,” and under this current regime wouldn’t be allowed near a hammer, let alone a drawing board):

_QuoteThe building codes of the democracies embody, of course, only what the previous generation knew, or thought they knew, about building...

The codification in law of fluid and ever-changing practices is the first step in their calcification, and to the inevitable exclusion of innovation and new competition.  Not that anything of that would bother either the people collecting their members’ dues at the Master Builders Association and the Certified Builders Association, or this Minister of Building--whose only relationship to the industry is being milked quite happily by the current team rebuilding his home at his great expense in Farm Cove, Pakuranga.

But as I listened to all the nonsense, and to all the new restrictions being announced as a removal of red tape, I thought back to a simpler time when regulations were simpler, home-owners actually had rights, and men who would one day become Prime Ministers would happily and without any hindrance from Nanny erect their own houses right from right down to making their own concrete blocks. I thought, in other words, of the house that Big Norm built could no longer build, and of the National Party Minister who only four years ago opposed, in the name of Big Norm, what has just been announced by his colleague:

_Quote Has the Minister visited the Kaiapoi home of former Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk—in the Minister’s electorate—that he built with his own sweat and toil, including making his own blocks, a feat now outlawed by the Minister’s complex licensed building practitioner regime, which would have required Norm to have a licence for concrete work, a licence for blocklaying, a licence for roofing, a licence for carpentry, and a licence for external plastering; why does the Minister want to destroy with his politically correct red tape the proud New Zealand tradition of Kiwi battlers being able to build their own homes, when there is no evidence that the leaky homes problem was caused by DIY builders?

That’s the measure of how much real “red tape is relaxed” today. Answer: None.

By the way, it won’t surprise you to know that the surname of the National Party Minister with the forked tongue is Smith, and his first name is Nick.  The dick.

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A sporting dilemma

cmrfu-crest-embossed Here’s a sporting story with both a dilemma and a moral. And a Ranfurly Shield.  Let’s start with the dilemma.

But first, some history.  Once upon a time in a land to the south of Auckland there was a small and plucky team from the south of Auckland called Counties, who attracted the support of folk like me who liked to support their local team, and liked to support a battler.  They gave us a lot of fun over the years (NPC win in 1979; two Grand Finals in 1996 and 1997) , and also a lot of heartache (demotion; relegation; last-minute Ranfurly Shield losses) but never a Ranfurly Shield win.

And then, at the start of the professional era, our team was taken away from us.  The dismemberment began between that Grand Final of 1997 and the Super 14 final of the next year, when the Auckland Blues played Canterbury’s Crusaders, a final which ended with eight Counties players on one side and seven on the other, and a stand full of Counties fans with no idea who to cheer for—a metaphor for what was to follow as our players were quietly hoovered up by the Rugby Union’s more favoured teams, and by other teams around the world: Joeli and Jonah to Auckland; a clutch to Waikato and Canterbury and Otago; and Tony Marsh to France. (About eight internationals emerged first at Counties before being snaffled up by others.)

So when Counties were finally demoted in 2001 after a season when even Northland beat us, many Counties fans began to feel our team had been taken away from us, the game was being changed into something else in any case, and and we began to quietly give up on the game altogether.  Go Counties. Yeah right.

And then in just three short weeks this year something changed. First they knocked off Otago; then they knocked off Wellington. And now, from the top of the first-division table, Counties all of a sudden gets to play Southland for the Shield—with a definite chance to win it for the very first time!

Woo bloody hoo!

So what’s the dilemma? Well, it’s this. How do you go from bitching and whinging and finally giving up on your team, to all of a sudden yelling for them again without making yourself like a prize dick.  Answer is:  you can’t. So fuck it, I’m a dick. 

Go Counties.

So have you guessed the moral by now?

It’s this; as Winston Churchill once said,

_Quote Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in...

Even as a fan: don’t give in, and don’t give up on your team. Even if your team is taken away, even if the region’s main paper can’t be bothered reporting them properly (so what’s changed), even if the Rugby Union tries to kill them off, never, never, never give up on them.  Because they might just turn around and surprise you.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

“View of Bonnières” – Paul Cezanne

CZANNE~1

Why am I posting this painting? Because I was fascinated by a discussion of it in one of Bernard Levin's columns I was re-reading.

_Quote The problem of Cezanne, which we who only want to feast on his pictures can happily leave to the experts, is how to classify him. To start with, was he an Impressionist at all? He said himself that his aim was ‘To make of Impressionism something solid and durable. . .‘, which suggests that he was not altogether at home in a world where everything dissolves, and if he was the true precursor of Cubism, that would further distance him from the ‘true’ Impressionists, though his Cubism was all his own, and it didn’t last long anyway. A fig for all this taxonomy; go to the Academy and stand in front of No. 17, ‘View of Bonnières’. Better still, get yourself a camp-stool and sit in front of it. If you stay there long enough you will see the picture change before your eyes, first becoming Impressionist, and then sliding imperceptibly into Cubist. What you are watching through these metamorphoses is Cezanne becoming Cezanne — no, Cezanne making himself Cezanne, wrenching his genius apart to see how it works and how it can be put back together and remade.
Click on the pick to enlarge, and then spend some time in front of it on your camp-stool. Can you see it?

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To dream the unsustainable dream

While Obama dreams of electric cars, reality bites in Spain…

Spain’s plans to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010 have been dealt a blow as figures showed just 16 have been soldIn April, the government said it would invest 590m euros ($775m; £490m) in the production of electric cars.

And in Britain…

Sales of electric cars have fallen by more than half this year, according to figures released two days after the Government’s climate change advisory body predicted a huge increase. Only 156 electric cars were sold from January to October, compared with 374 for the same period last year.  [Hat tip Andrew Bolt.]

Moral of the story?  “Sustainable” is just another euphemism for unrealistic, unprofitable, and unaffordable. Which means “sustainable” really means unsustainable.

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KRIS SAYCE: How to Pay Off Your Debt–US Government Style

Guest post by Kris Sayce

We look at the market this morning, and what do we see?

Oh mamma, we see trouble a-brewing!

Quite frankly we don’t get why others can’t see the same problems.

To us it seems obvious. But anyway, seeing as no-one else is game to show you, if we’ve got space today we’ll reveal all. If not, we’ll hold the rest of it over until tomorrow…

First let’s get the crazy stuff out of the way. The US Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee met this morning and decided to keep the US Fed Funds Rate on hold at 0%-0.25%.

No surprise there.

But there was something that did surprise us. Although it apparently didn’t surprise the folks on Wall Street.

We were surprised because – naively – we didn’t think it was possible for Dr. Ben Bernanke and his buddies to be any more stupid than they already are.

But they can. Here’s what caused your editor to apply the palm of our hand to our forehead in a slapping motion:

_Quote_Idiot To help support the economic recovery in a context of price stability, the Committee will keep constant the Federal Reserve’s holdings of securities at their current level by reinvesting principal payments from agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in longer-term Treasury securities.

What it simply means is that all the money the Federal Reserve created at the press of a button last year and the year before isn’t going anywhere. It’s going to hang around like a bad economic smell.

The idea that the Fed would contract its balance sheet has gone up in smoke. Even though that was the unwritten promise the Fed and it’s mainstream cheerleaders said would happen.

“Don’t worry about the increased money supply, the Fed understands this and will start to take money back out of the system at the right time” was the general chorus. Yeah right.

Of course, we always suspected that the Fed would have no intentions of reducing the size of its balance sheet. Not while there was the prospect of price deflation still around.

And sure enough they’ve done what we feared they would do.

Here’s how it works. In order to bail out the banks and housing market, the Federal Reserve bought a whole bunch of securities. It bought them using money it just created from thin air.

The money didn’t come from savings, because there wasn’t any. It didn’t come from tax dollars, because tax receipts had fallen. And it didn’t come from selling bonds to investors, because the investors couldn’t afford it because they had invested in the very crap that the Fed now wanted to buy!

So, the Fed just clicked a button and voila! There’s a cool trillion or so dollars.

Well, naturally enough, when you buy securities that have a maturity date, more often than not they mature, and the holder of the bond – the Fed – gets to receive the face value of the bonds on maturity.

Which is roughly where we are today.

The money that it created from thin air and then paid out to the likes of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, to take the bonds off them, has now found its way back to the Federal Reserve.

Now, this was the chance the Fed had to reduce its balance sheet. It could make all that phony money go away. All it needs to do is hit the ‘Delete’ key, and poof, the money it created would just disappear.

But no. That would be too sensible. And more worryingly for the Fed and the O’Bama administration, it would probably bring forward the inevitable economic depression.

“Not on our watch”, they’ve clearly said. “Some other sucker can wear that one. Hilary’s gonna run for President in five years right?”

So, rather than taking the hit now and allowing the economy to purge itself of all the crap that’s still poisoning it, the Fed opts for the easy way out – easy for them and their taxpayer-funded jobs that is. Tough for everyone else.

But in this instance it’s not the banks or the car firms or the insurance companies that are in line for a massive bailout. No, this time it’s the US Federal Government that will enjoy the lion’s share of the inflated dollars.

Look, this isn’t the first time the Fed has bailed out Uncle Sam. Last year when the Fed started its quantitative easing (QE), or money printing programme, it bought up a whole bunch of US treasury bonds.

But today’s announcement from the Fed has just made things a whole lot worse.

In effect, the Fed has crossed the Rubicon. How so?

Simply because this one statement has now institutionalised central bank money printing as a means to pay off government obligations.

We’re not just talking your common-old-garden fiat-currency and fractional-reserve banking type of money printing. That’s the kind of money printing that goes on under the cover of darkness.

No, in this case it’s brazen printing money from thin air without even the charade of backing it with anything.

This decision by the Fed has in effect done for money printing what the consumer price index (CPI) has done for price inflation.

You see, the creation of the CPI is probably the single biggest contributor to higher prices. The adoption of an inflation target by central banks such as the Reserve Bank of Australia has institutionalised rising prices.

The brainwashing has been so effective that economists, commentators and even the general public view rising prices as a good thing. Even during an economic downturn! They can no longer see the conflict of supporting price inflation while at the same time lamenting the rising cost of groceries.

Hats off to the Keynesians and the inflationists for successfully spreading their economic evil. The rats.

But that could all be nothing compared to today’s announcement by the Fed.

Take a look at the chart below that we’ve reproduced from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland:

Summary View
Click here to enlarge
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

You see the large brown area (that’s appropriate) that suddenly emerged in early 2009. That’s the Fed’s holding of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities.

Agency debt by the way is debt issued by, well, agencies of the US federal government – such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a bunch of other QUANGOs.

Also note the yellowish area that started to grow in the early months of 2009. That’s US government debt. Long term and short term government bonds.

Well, what the Fed has decided today is that the total size of its balance sheet – around USD$2.25 trillion according to this chart – will be maintained at the level. Only the composition of it will change.

In other words, as the Fed starts buying up longer term treasury bonds we can expect to see the yellow area expand and the brown area contract. And as it does so, more newly printed money will flow into the US and global economy, and the greater the impact it will have on monetary inflation.

The focus on longer dated treasuries is the key point. The Fed knows the government can’t pay back its obligations, that’s why it’s going to load the balance sheet up with longer term debt.

Debt that won’t need to be rolled over for ten years.

If the US economy manages to struggle on for that long, the Fed will do just what the government has done in the past. It will use the money it’s been “repaid” by the government in order to buy more debt, plus print more money to keep the balance sheet at an inflation adjusted level.

Soon enough the Fed balance sheet will balloon out of all proportion just as the US debt clock has.

And just as the US Congress votes to increase the debt ceiling just as it’s about to be hit, so will the Federal Reserve vote to increase the size of its balance sheet in order to fund that ever increasing US government debt.

As I say, if it gets that far. Odds are the final collapse into economic depression will happen before the ten years is up.

Either way, the printing presses will soon be working harder than they’ve ever worked before.

Cheers.
Kris Sayce
For
Money Morning Australia

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- Fernando Botero

plaza-esculturas-botero03

Painter and sculptor Fernando Botero is like a Colombian Beryl Cook.  Called “the Beloved Artist of the Americas,” he’s clearly a man with a well-developed sense of humour, and sense of life.

1095180349_f83aa3d67d His paintings and sculptures of lustful fat folk grace squares and plazas all over Colombia—and attract people like flies to honey.

plaza-esculturas-botero15 Just like all good sculpture should.

[Hat tip to reader Julian D.  Photos courtesy Babau, and Travel Adventures]

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY: What happened to ghost towns?

I liked this comment over at Australian blog Catallaxy Files, just as relevant here in the wake of the debate over how welfare has changed over the last few generations.  Seems like what would once have become ghost towns these days become bogan towns instead…

_Quote Why do ghost towns exist? Because the economic activity that once supported them dried up, so the people upped and moved to someplace else.
    We don’t seem to be creating ghost towns any more...  [Instead], economically dead places are being supported by indirect government handouts, like the dole.

Anyone who just said either “creative destruction” or “rustbelt” to themselves while reading that earns a point.

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Instructions for people who suck at everyday life

The major idea of Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom was identifying the way communities use processes like privatisation and “informal norms and cultural rules” to combat the Tragedy of the Commons. [Hat tip Anti Dismal]  It’s the same point made in Larry David’s lesson to Christian Slater (above) about eating all the caviar. (A principle he then embarrassingly breaks himself.)

At a party, Larry David spots Christian Slater, who, considering his career lately, is indulging a little too heavily in the caviar. As Slater goes over his "allotment," Larry David tells him: "We have unwritten laws in our society... You take a little bit, and then you step away for twenty minutes, see what kind of action there is. If nobody's taking any, maybe take a little bit more. Step away again. So forth and so on.

If this advice to a caviar hog sounds pretty basic, it is. That’s because it’s advice to someone who sucks at everyday life. Just like Larry himself. Just like all these Instructional Diagrams for People Who Suck at Everyday Life:

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Organic bullshit, Dr Gorgon & some fairy-tale romance

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

This week: Organic bullshit, Dr Gorgon & some fairy-tale romance…

  • “Athfield attacks heritage rulesWell, well. Following on from the story from last week of the assault on John Buck’s property by the Historic Places Trust, a story emerges that the architect who designed Buck House – Ian Athfield – once found his own house under threat of being stolen (a.k.a. “listed for its heritage value”) by the Wellington City Council. He came up with an ingenious, suitably post-modern solution: he told the council the house had “organic heritage,” which meant he could change it as he wished. What better way to deal with council scoundrels but to throw their own namby-pamby weasel words back at them? The council accepted this, and everyone went home to their families.
        But hang on. It turns out Mr Athfield is a board member of – what else! – the Historic Places Trust. Yes, you’re reading that right. He is at the top table of an organisation of those same busybodies who collude with city and district councils to effectively seize property owned by other people. All fine and well until it happens to you, Mr Athfield; whereupon your property becomes a special case, and suddenly develops unique “organic heritage.”
        Wow. I wonder if Mr Buck can now use this same clause to free himself from the predation of Mr Athfield’s gang of thieves? Surely his property, which closely resembles that of Mr Athfield, must also ooze “organic heritage.”
        I think I can see where this is heading: in the not too distant future, for a fee, Mr Athfield and the Historic Places Trust will bestow “organic heritage” on your property in order to keep it safe from the clutches of the Historic Places Trust. Or am I just becoming cynical?
  • “Gareth Morgan: Our Approach To Booze Has Been Pathetic – Frankly, Gareth Morgan’s approach to individual liberty has been worse than pathetic. His solution to the broken-down public health system, for example: more state taxes and bullying. For example:
                “Again the solution is simple [says Mareth Gorgon] tax, education and stigma.
            Impose excise duties on low nutritional food (use the revenue to subsidise whole foods
            if you like), play dramatic ads of grossly obese people stuffing their gobs and scoffing
            diet drinks (whose ingredients simply stimulate appetite), and like smokers, have them
            go outside to eat.”
        Dr Morgan then launches into GPs, in his ignorance not realising that they are no longer paid a subsidy for an open-ended number of patients, but a fixed yearly capitation payment regardless of how many times a patient is seen.
                “Taxpayer subsidies to GPs who aim to see as many patients as they can each day is
            a totally perverse approach to effective primary
    healthcare, that conflict of
            interest standing in the way of effective prevention. Better to directly pay those most
            at risk to improve their self-management than waste the money on pseudo-
            entrepreneurial GPs.

        Not only is Dr Gorgon ignorant of how actual doctors work, he’s ignorant of what the govt is already doing to their market. If a patient enrolled with Dr X then sees Dr Y while on holiday in another part of the country, Dr X then has part of his subsidy transferred across to Dr Y. And, to cap it off, if doctors want to increase the fee they charge patients, they have to justify their price increase to a state-appointed board of bean counters! In other words, we already have price fixing in place, worthy of the most despotic and economically backward Third World banana republic we are becoming.
        Dr Morgan dances around the concept of rationing health care, without mentioning the only viable and just method of delivering services: a free market. Nowhere in his spiel does he advocate a free market in health care, surely the answer to the mess in which our crumbling public hospitals and disappearing primary care workforce find themselves.
        But as the returns of his govt-subsidided Kiwisaver company make clear, Dr Morgan knows nothing about free markets.
  • nealpat “Patricia Neal: A life of drama on screen and off – I had occasionally wondered if this actress was still alive, and saw that she had died just this week. Sixty years ago she played a stunning Dominique Francon, opposite the Howard Roark played by Gary Cooper, in a film directed by King Vidor.  Based on a novel by a man named Lear (no, wait, a woman named Ayn Rand) it was something called The Fountainhead--as relevant today as it was in 1949.
        Rand herself once described the character played by Neal, Domnique Francon, as “herself in a bad mood”—a role Neal played to perfection.
        The sexual tension between Roark and Francon in the book was transferred to the screen by the actors, and spilled over into real life…
  • To finish, a libertarian fairy tale for the guys: 
            Once upon a time, a Prince asked a beautiful Princess: “Will you marry me?”
           
    The Princess said “No.”
           
    And the Prince lived happily ever after and rode motorcycles and went fishing and
        hunting and played golf
    and shagged women half his age and drank copious amounts
        of beer and scotch and had tons of money in the bank and left the toilet seat up
    and just did
        whatever he fucking wanted.
            The End.

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

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Less taxi competition. Thank you, Mr Joyce.

National’s Nanny Steven Joyce yesterday imposed himself on the taxi industry, introducing regulations requiring that all taxis, without exception, carry cameras. Economist Eric Crampton has rewritten NBR’s story on the new regulation to make clear the unspoken motivation behind this, and every other regulation.

Taxis in cities to get cameras less competition
NZPA | Tuesday August 10, 2010 - 01:02pm
    Taxis in large towns and cities will be fitted out with security cameras from next year in an effort to improve safety restrict entry by new cabs during periods of peak demand, Transport Minister Steven Joyce says.
    The cost of installing and operating the cameras will fall with taxi companies and drivers., ensuring that large operators enjoy a differential advantage over small independent owner-operators and ensuring that jitneys fail to come into the market during the Rugby World Cup

Read it all here, and reflect that this outcome is inherent in all regulation.

Still, good as it is, this sort of writing can be dangerous stuff. Eric warns, “You can't write satire anymore.”

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Blue Sky Mausoleum – Frank Lloyd Wright

CLICK HERE FOR SITE

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1928, the utterly unique Blue Sky Mausoleum was built in 2004 at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

And (music aside) this 3-minute video presents it beautifully.  Make sure you open it to full-screen. [Hat tip Prairie Mod]

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The “safety net” is actually a hammock [updated]

Greece’s bankrupt welfare state should have been a recent wake-up call for everyone that state-enforced largesse is neither benevolent, nor affordable. NZ’s ever-growing state welfare monster has finally had a microscope applied—by a team led by former Commerce Commissar Paula Rebstock no less--though not yet any kind of scalpel. The hope, a vain one perhaps, is that the former might engender the latter.  We shall see.

The welfare state itself is unsustainable. That much should be clear to any serious student of politics. In its current form it is a fairly modern invention —the “mature” welfare state and the mechanisms of finance and banking on which it relies are barely six decades old, and on the scale now involved barely half that—and any honest commentator would have to say it’s an experiment that’s failed.

It is a political ruse by which one group of people—”the needy”--seek to make themselves wealthy at the expense of another by means of that great fiction, the state. It is a ruse based on a moral subterfuge—that one person’s need is a claim on another’s life and production. But like every other ruse, it can’t last.

“There are two kinds of need involved in this process: the need of the group making demands, which is openly proclaimed and serves as cover for another need, which is never mentioned—the need of the power-seekers, who require a group of dependents in order to rise to power. Altruism feeds the first need, statism feeds the second, Pragmatism blinds everyone—including victims and profiteers—not merely to the deadly nature of the process, but even to the fact that a process is going on.” *

The needy and the greedy—one needing largesse; the other greedy for political power—both feeding parasitically from the group who keep them both afloat, the producers, who never figure in their thoughts except as anything more than the owners of wallets ripe for plucking.  The needy and the greedy, in both of whom is engendered the disease of Entitle-itis.

“There is only one institution that could bring about [this kind of dependency}: the government—with the help of a vicious doctrine that serves as a cover-up: altruism. The visible profiteers of altruism—the welfare recipients—are part victims, part window dressing for the statist policies of the government.” *

When Germany’s military dictator, Otto Von Bismarck, first began the welfare state on which all others were first modelled, he at least knew what he was doing.  He knew it was a means by which citizens could be turned into subjects.  Those today who still go along with it, thinking mistakenly that extracting wealth from one group and giving to another is somehow a kindness, fail to see either the moral cannibalism on which the system is based, nor where such a corrupt system will end up.

“So long as the power-seekers clung to the basic premises of the welfare state, holding need as the criterion of rewards, logic forced them, step by step, to champion the interests of the less and less productive groups, until they reached the ultimate dead end of turning from the role of champions of ‘honest toil’ to the role of champions of open parasitism, parasitism on principle, parasitism as a ‘right’ (with their famous slogan turning into: ‘Who does not toil, shall eat those who do')” *

As a system, it is both morally and economically corrupt.

“Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale. …
”The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which -- through a complex series of steps -- the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets…” *

As you can perhaps now understand, the very process of government money creation, which just brought the world to its knees, is itself based on having a welfare state against which the Reserve Bank may issue its paper money.

“The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves… Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth.” *

One might have thought that former Commerce Commissar Rebstock might have understood some of this, or even mentioned how minimum wage laws and youth rates make many people effectively unemployable at those rates, but sadly neither her remit in this inquiry nor the comments in her report go that far.

For perhaps the first time ever, however, a report has been issued that actually looks at some of the problems involved in a state welfare system in which one in eight adult New Zealanders is ensnared, and the facts it outlines are so stark it seems few wish to confront them.

  • In 1960, one in fifty adult NZers were taking a benefit. The proportion is now one in eight adult NZers, and one in five children.
  • Of these present 356,000 adults in name only,
    • nearly half have spent more than half of the last five years spending other people’s money;
    • only 20 percent have any sort of work expectation;
    • only a handful actually attend the “training programmes” in which the likes of PIta Sharples, Phil Goff and Paula Bennett place so much stock.
  • The majority of disabled people are actually in paid work. So much for primary moral justification of the welfare state—that it is necessary to help those who can’t help themselves because of a physical infirmity.
  • Only one in three mothers with dependent children is in paid work, and only one of every two solo mothers.
  • Most children who grow up with a parent on a benefit end up one themselves in their adult life. That’s a big unsustainable “tail” being built up.
  • Half of the 16- & 17-year olds who receive a benefit spend half of their next decade on the mooch—perhaps a result of intergenerational emulation.
  • Even during the boom period of 2004 to 2007, when one in ten adult NZers were receiving a benefit, employers were still finding it difficult to find staff—making it clear that this is not an “unemployment” problem in the sense understood by any of the mainstream commentators.

Written by the unlikely hand of former Commerce Commissar Paul Rebstock, this report on NZ’s unsustainable, unaffordable, iniquitous and destructive welfare system barely scratches the surface of the welfare state’s real problems, but even what it does say is far too much for NZ’s juvenile media to handle, apparently.  Because as Lindsay Mitchell points out, they aren’t up to even understanding it, let alone discussing it intelligently. Says Lindsay Mitchell,

_Quote The paper is titled Long-term Benefit Dependency: The Issues. Author Paula Rebstock said yesterday that it is not about the unemployment benefit which has actually been operating quite well over recent years. The focus is on the DPB, sickness and invalid's benefit… the report is about long-term welfare dependency and what drives it - the type of dependency that persists during good economic times.”

Yet as Lindsay points out, not only did TV One’s alleged news show lead by carefully crunching numbers that failed to address the core points of Paula Rebstock’s report, all of which they could have easily got from the report’s fact sheet, we had to suffer morons like Sue who can’t see past their own noses insist this are all about “a lack of jobs,” fools like Phil Goff and the Labour Party bloggers at The Double Standard wheel out the line that the government has “manufactured a crisis.”

Which is certainly true, but emphatically not in the sense that either Fool Goff or his fellow fools at the Sub-Standard meant.

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Darren rattles our chains—with the PM’s sanction

Nanny has reared his ugly head again.  Momentarily and uncharacteristically knocked last week (at least temporarily) by National’s Nanny Steven Joyce, the miasma of wowserness has now passed across the aisle to the son Helen Clark never had, Darren Hughes—whose member’s bill to nearly halve the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers was last night given the tacit support of Prime Minister Smile & Wave.

Quite apart from all the other points we canvassed last week, the success (if any) of this “Daddy State” bill looks like another case of rewarding policing failure and drawing our own chains ever tighter.

Nannies like chains. Puritans like Darren and Steven seem to like rattling them. Puritans’ greatest pleasure, observed H.L. Mencken, is preventing we simple folk from enjoying ourselves.  They’re motivated by the frightful idea that someone, somewhere might just be enjoying themselves in a way of which they haven’t approved.

Frankly, that’s about all the argument there is for this New Puritanism in this latest manifestation.  That people are drinking, so therefore we have to stop them.

The “argument” given for nearly halving the limit is that “drunk drivers are still killing people” so “we” have to get them off the road.  So how has that worked so far?

Well, since it’s drivers well over the current allowed alcohol figure of 0.08 mcg/ml of blood—those utterly bladdered—who are the drivers doing the damage, that argument doesn’t work very well at all. In the last year, only one driver aged over 25 who died in a car crash had a blood-alcohol content between 0.05 and 0.08—i.e., in the net that Darren Hughes and Smile & Wave would like to cast over us—whereas drivers well over the current legal limit were the ones much more heavily involved.

In other words, drivers who are already illegal under current laws are doing the damage, or at least involved in it; and in response Darren and Daddy would like to punish the rest of us, who aren’t.

That’s not intelligent government—that’s just bloody wowserism.

The problem is not those of us who are safely driving between 0.05 and 0.08, who Young Darren would like to ping. It’s those driving dangerously—and those already well over the existing government-imposed limit. And they’re often “the same driver,”—and the existing laws don’t bother them, and Darren’s new one won’t touch them: Recidivist drink-drivers are two a penny on the roads, and they infest all the courts.  So they’re still driving.  And still getting slapped on the hand for it.

So despite the idea that it’s all as simple as setting a “limit,” that hasn’t worked at all.  So much for setting a “limit” and thinking it will, by magic, somehow stop drunk or dangerous driving.

So why not just do the sensible thing and stop this obsession with alcohol, and just penalise bad driving. Have your police on the roads stopping bad and dangerous drivers when they see them, regardless of what they’ve drunk, instead of obsessing about pointless random stops and quotas. (In fact, take them off the random stops and they might even have time to do it.) Why not penalise bad driving, penalise dangerous driving highly—and punish dangerous driving causing death even higher. Why not sentence even higher those who’ve made themselves irresponsible and dangerous through their imbibition—recognising that this makes them more culpable, not less.

In other words, make people responsible for the actual damage they themselves do to others, not for actions you would just like to stop—and then remove them physically from being able to do it again. That’s what law is supposed to do,not to penalise those who’ve inflicted no damage on anyone else.

The point of good law is not to inculcate a New Puritanism. It’s not to stop people innocent of aggressive action from enjoying their lives in whatever way they wish. The point of good law is to protect innocent people from aggressors. Darren’s lemon sucking won’t do that.  Actually targeting objectively dangerous driving could, and would.

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"Fascism strikes the US Auto Industry"

Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

I’m having a purple patch with my writing. Another of my articles has been published at Pajamas Media: “The GM Volt: Fascism Strikes the Auto Industry.” For my loyal readers here at NOT PC, here's an excerpt:

_Quote Whether the American taxpayers get their money’s worth out of the investment, which they won’t, is beside the point. The precedent has been set for a massive public-private partnership in the auto industry, which can easily spread to other industries (and already has).
    Granted, Chrysler gets partial credit for that precedent, owing to its $1.5 billion loan in 1980. Giving credit where it’s due, Chrysler’s loan did get paid back. But several things are different now that raise the Volt fiasco to a new level.
Your comments are invited, both here and there.

Thanks,
Jeff

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H.C. Price House – Frank Lloyd Wright

S378 Price Residence 10

There’s not much of it to be seen from the street, above (although it’s rumoured there’s a better view from the golf course), and since today’s owners of the 1954 Harold Price house in Paradise Valley, Arizona, are very private, it’s fortunate there are still some places where this unusual example of Wright’s desert architecture can still be seen.

PriceResidence372

One of those places is Daniel Soderberg’s blog, which recently posted some vintage photos and an article about house, the original owner, Harold Price—who also commissioned Wright to design the 19-story Price Tower in Bartlesville, Oklahoma--and the subsequent owner, “Mr U-Haul,” and what looks like one hell of an ungrateful family. [Hat tip Prairie Mod]

PriceResidence394

Photos from AvO and Daniel Soderberg’s blog.

Price01

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Monday, August 09, 2010

The bomb that ended the war

Friday marked the 65th anniversary of the bomb that ended the Pacific War against Japan—a war that cost four years, 400,000 men and almost the entire economic production of the western world to bring to a successful close.

But talk of the bomb that ended the war almost always comes these days with a whole lot of tut-tutting—mostly because the blessed absence of world wars on that scale for sixty-five years has allowed us to forget a whole other context that usually gets dropped when history’s sanitisers start talking about the war and the two bombs that ended it: first, the nature of the enemy we were fighting, and that would have kept on fighting without it; and second, (as Robert Tracinski notes) “all of the lives that were made possible because of that bomb,” including both Allied and Japanese. “That's what Paul Kengor does in the perfectly guilt-free article below.”

"Grateful to Harry," Paul Kengor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 4
Truman's decision to drop the A-bomb saved millions -- Americans and Japanese
    This week marks 65 years since the United States dropped the atomic bomb…
    Truman's objective was to compel surrender from an intransigent enemy that refused to halt its naked aggression. The barbarous mentality of 1940s Japan was beyond belief. An entire nation had lost its mind, consumed by a ferocious militarism and hellbent on suicide. Facing such fanaticism, Truman felt no alternative but to use the bomb. As George C. Marshall put it, the Allies needed something extraordinary "to shock [the Japanese] into action." Nothing else was working. Japan was committed to a downward death spiral, with no end in sight.
    We had to end the war," said a desperate Marshall later. "We had to save American lives."
    Evidence shows the bomb achieved precisely that, saving millions of lives, not merely Americans but Japanese. The Japanese themselves acknowledged this, from the likes of Toshikazu Kase to Emperor Hirohito himself. Kase was among the high-level officials representing Japan at its formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri. "The capitulation of Japan," Kase said definitively, "saved the lives of several million men."
    As we mark the anniversary of this period, we should first and foremost think about those boys—our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, uncles, brothers, some now in their 80s and 90s—who lived lives of faith and freedom and family because of Truman's decision. I've met many of them. Any time I find myself in conversation with a World War II vet, I ask where he was when the first bomb hit.
    “I'll tell you where I was!" snapped George Oakes of Churchill. "I was a 22-year-old kid on a troop transport preparing to invade the Japanese mainland....”

Read on here.

RELATED POSTS & ARTICLES:

  • The Moral Lesson of Hiroshima, John Lewis
        “The bombings marked America's total victory over a militaristic culture that had murdered millions. To return an entire nation to morality, the Japanese had to be shown the literal meaning of the war they had waged against others… 
        “Americans should be immensely proud of the bomb. It ended a war that had enslaved a continent to a religious-military ideology of slavery and death.
        “There is no room on earth for this system, its ideas and its advocates.
        “It took a country that values this world to bomb this system into extinction.
        For the Americans to do so while refusing to sacrifice their own troops to save the lives of enemy civilians was a sublimely moral action. This destroyed the foundations of the war, and allowed the Japanese to rebuild their culture along with their cities, as prosperous inhabitants of the earth. Were it true that total victory today creates new attackers tomorrow, we would now be fighting Japanese suicide bombers, while North Korea-where the American army did not impose its will-would be peaceful and prosperous. The facts are otherwise. The need for total victory over the morality of death has never been clearer.”
  • “Gifts from Heaven”: The Meaning of the American Victory over Japan, 1945 – John Lewis
        “The victory over Japan remains America’s greatest foreign policy success. Today, we take for granted a peaceful, productive, mutually beneficial relationship with the Japanese people. But this friendship was earned with blood, struggle, and an unrepentant drive to victory. The beneficent occupation of Japan—during which not one American was killed in hostile military action—and the corresponding billions in American aid were entirely post-surrender phenomena. Prior to their surrender, the Japanese could expect nothing but death from the Americans.
        “If there is one historical event that every American should study, beyond the American Revolution and the Civil War, it is America’s victory over Japan in World War II…”

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Welfare “reform” that socks employers

Lindsay Mitchell comments on the government's latest welfare-reform that isn’t.

_Quote I see that the welfare working group is preferring to focus on promoting insurance for sickness and disability.
Paula Rebstock has prioritised this for the media since the group was created.

    “Employers may be asked to pay part of the costs if their employees have to go on sickness or disability welfare benefits under an insurance-based reform of the welfare system flagged in a new report today.”

    Insurance is fine. But employers can't be expected to stump up for sickness insurance and pay tax for the state-provided sickness benefit as well (not to mention ACC). Or are we looking at another of the National private/public partnership ideas?
    I can hear struggling employers all over NZ groan as they read this latest bright idea which essentially tells them the government is going to punish them if their employees get sick.

Welfare “reform” that socks employers.  That should help them recover.

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Too little context in two-part Tuhoe report [updated]

Part Two of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report into the history of government actions against Tuhoe has just been released.

_Quote At 1000 pages, it … is weighty reading…. The report … describes … sweeping confiscations, … and how … land was removed by fraudulent methods. And it describes unjust war too, highlighting a series of engagements from the end of 1865 to May 1866.”

But there’s something missing, as one local commentator mentioned on Friday What the Waitangi Tribunal’s sanitisers historians “neglect to do,” said that commentator, “is set those dreadful deeds in the context of the equally dreadful deeds that preceded them.”

That writer is Chris Trotter, who I’m both pleased and astonished to see has joined me in helping to indicate some of that context, and some of those dreadful deeds, without which any judgement about “injustices” committed by the government are moot.  “Tuhoe picked the wrong side in the war to decide what sort of country New Zealand would become,” concludes Chris.  And so they did.

Read:

UPDATE:  “Conveniently one-eyed” Lew at KiwiPolitico calls this insistence on context-keeping--by insisting on knowledge of the full context of Tuhoe’s history, he says, both Chris and I “seem to be of the view that the Crown would have been entirely justified in leaving not one stone upon another, not one man, woman or child alive.”  Go figure. I wonder what he’d say about the bomb that ended the War in the Pacific.

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Public-Private Fascism

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Columbia President Lee Bollinger's advocacy of “blending” public and private media shows the same problem inherent in all such “partnerships” between the dollar and the gun:

_Quote In short, [Bollinger]  prefers yet another ‘public-private partnership,’ the now-familiar progressive corporatist model that met with such success in Italy in the 1920s. Odd, how the ‘private’ party in that arrangement always turns out to be the junior partner. And yet he maintains that ‘state support does not translate into official control.’ He seems not to have learned the popular phrase: he who pays the piper calls the tune.

My article discussing this very thing was just published at Breitbart's Big Journalism site.  Your comments are invited, here and there.

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Norman Rockwell models hold reunion

Guest post by Jeff Perren

PC has run features with Norman Rockwell paintings on a few occasions, so his legion of fans might enjoy this curious piece of news:

_Quote Rockwell left Arlington in 1953, and many of his child models grew up and followed suit. But on Saturday, dozens returned for a celebration of Rockwell, a reunion of grown models in the small town that set the stage for some of his most iconic works...

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