Friday, 15 October 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The miner miracle edition

Friday, thank Galt it’s Friday—and time for another ramble ‘round the ‘net.  And with the miner miracle yesterday in Chile and the minor miracle on the netball court in Delhi, it’s the end of a week with much to celebrate.  But first, there’s more to be said about Simon Power-Lust ‘s wish to “regulate” the “Wild West” of the internet….

  • Eric Crampton is incensed. “I moved to NZ taking less money for more freedom. National is reneging on the deal. Somebody punch Power for me.”
    MacDoctor explains the point for Simple Simon: “There is a word for regulation of opinion: censorship. New Zealand is a free society precisely because I can call you an idiot, Mr Power, and not be shot at dawn by your goons.”
    Go Fer Yer Guns, Power! – MACDOCTOR
    Regulate What?PUBLIC ADDRESS
    The Thought Police are Mobilising – OSWALD BASTABLE
    Cry “Power-Lust” and let rip the censorship of the blogosphere – NOT PC
  • God gets none of the blame for getting the miners trapped, but all of the credit for them getting saved? Does that seem fair? Especially when it was capitalism that saved the miners. “The profit = innovation dynamic was everywhere at the mine rescue site.” [Hat tip Ari Armstrong]
    Capitalism rescued the miners – Daniel Henninger, WALL STREET JOURNAL
    Where Was God when the Miners Needed Him? - SOLO
  • Why is the Royal NZ Herald going so hard to sell Ian WishHard’s new book? A “story that fills the entire front page … a story about an unsolved murder committed forty years ago, a story prompted by the reaction of the victims' daughter after reading a book by Ian Wishart, a book which puts the blame on a man who is now dead and which offers no new evidence.” Why?
    Second that emotion – Paul Litterick, FUNDY POST
  • Len Brown’s been dreaming the Think Bigger dream—an Auckland train set bigger than any ever seen before in these parts. The simple truth however is that his ideas will (at best) benefit only a tiny percentage of commuters at a cost of thousands of dollars for every other Aucklander.
    Len's boondoggle – LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Do we really need to have several years effort and $1.7 billion (plus cockups) of our money spent on a new motorway between Puhoi and Wellsford, when with a little tinkering, a quarter of the time and just one-tenth of that sum the existing road could be made to work?
    “Operation Lifesaver” – a better solution for Puhoi-Wellsford – AUCKLAND TRANSPORT BLOG
  • bigmac Oh yeah, the Big Mac Index is out this week, “a clever, if simplistic way” to measure the purchasing power of the world’s currencies—and potentially very useful as currencies begin their race to the bottom.
    The Big Mac Index is Out – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL
  • And because you’re bound to ask, according to the Big Mac Index, the NZ Dollar is undervalued by 4% according to this measure. 
    Big Mac Index 2010 – ANTI DISMAL
  • More on moron Bernard Hickey.  And there’s something strange when the Business Editor at left-leaning Scoop, for goodness sake, has to explain free markets to someone who claims to have been a one-time supporter.
    SMELLIE SNIFFS THE BREEZE: What future for Smellsianism? – Patrick Smellie, SCOOP
  • Pakistani jihadists are insisting that American aid to the benighted state should have all the branding deleted because it offends them. Delete the branding? You know what, says Pamela Geller, why not just delete the aid?
    Perhaps we should just delete the aid – ATLAS SHRUGS
  • John Lennon would have been seventy this week. In a land that had forgotten what music sounded like, it’s easy to remember how refreshing his music was.
    It’s Johnny’s Birthday. . . – RATIONAL JENN
  • Margaret Thatcher was eighty this week.  In a grey, fey socialist seventies, she truly was a real breath of freedom and fresh air.
    Happy Birthday, MaggieLIBERTY SCOTT


  • Now this is cool, especially with your speakers up to eleven: Obama can’t Gymkhana [hat tip Marcus B]
  • There are a thousand reasons for procrastination—and a thousand ways to do it—but (as Austrians could have told you) Time Preference has a lot to do with it.  And Victor Hugo might have had the best way to avert it. [Hat tip Amy P]
    Later: What we can learn from procrastination – NEW YORKER
  • A recovering anti-plastite confesses.” Plastic is a good thing. Why did I let the Luddites infect my thinking for so long? (Warning: this post is a rant, and only a rant.)”
    Don’t Be a Plastic Bashing Luddite! – Amy Mossoff, THE LITTLE THINGS
  • "Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing!” Some members of the Nobel committee are wondering if they might have made a blunder with the award to Mario Vargas Llosa.
    "Don’t give him the Nobel – he’s right-wing! – SPIKED
    Mario Vargas Llosa wins the Nobel Prize despite having abandoned the Left – Daniel Hannan, TELEGRAPH
  • Here’s a few simple solutions to every country’s immigration problems.
    How Should the US Reform its Immigration Policy? – MOTHER OF EXILES
  • “Global warming is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life.”
    brGlobal warming fraud: the tide begins to turn – James Delingpole, TELEGRAPH
  • Carbon dioxide is bad for the planet? Hell no, Carbon dioxide makes plants grow.  Latest evidence of the bleeding obvious:
    Warmer, wetter climate helping US farmers grow more crops – USA TODAY
  • Long delays, usurious costs, and messy decision-making means High Court litigation cases are in “a death spiral,” with most potential litigants plumping instead for arbitration, mediation and other initiatives to resolve disputes rather than go to the main courts. The collapsing of the courts has been in full plummet for some years…with the result that many enterprises are not willing to do any business at all in New Zealand because of their lack of confidence in the courts.
    ”Meanwhile, down at The Northern Club, members mourn – after 70-odd years of coining it at the estate’s expense - the hasty settlement in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.”
    Why 'private courts' are booming – NBR
  • Today’s sage advice is that older women are always better.  They don’t tell, they don’t smell, they won’t yell, and they’re always grateful as hell.  Apparently Benjamin Franklin understood this 230 years ago!
    On affairs with older women – STEPHEN HICKS
  • And you thought you knew how to make a pencil?  It’s a little more complex than you might have thought…

  • Reuters picks the world’s top ten sexiest building.  They only score five out of ten by my count, but any list with both Calatrava and Wright is my kind of list. (Make sure to click on the slideshow at the top right.)
    Top 10 sexiest buildings – STUFF
  • You want to know what the world of online communities looks like?  Here’s an online map.
    Online Communities 2 - XKCD
  • Dear friend,
    Do you want to learn how to use Web 2.0 Social Media to become a millionaire overnight? How would you like to increase your Twitter followers by eleventy-billion in 3.68 seconds? Do you want to use Twitter to make a gazillion dollars through affiliate marketing and multi-level marketing schemes? Do you use the term "Twitter Coach" to describe yourself?
    Great news! You're well on your way to becoming a Social Media DouchebagTM already!
    Now with more Web 2.0! – SOCIAL MEDIA DOUCHEBAG
  • The Onion has caught up with a script that’s been floating around Hollywood for at least 75 years. It’s had more than 250 stars and 300 directors attached, and been rewritten 600 times, but backers swear this time it’s a go.
    Script Has Been Floating Around Hollywood For 75 Years – THE ONION
  • MaxAndHarry Cult hero Max Rooke announced his retirement this week from Australian football—not even Geelong’s Man of Steel can last forever—prompting #MaxRookeFacts to immediately become the top trending Twitter topic in Australia. Sample “facts”:
        * Max Rooke once participated in the running of the bulls. He walked. The bulls ran away.
        * Godzilla is a Japanese rendition of Max Rooke.
        * Max Rooke faked his 2009 concussion to allow Joel Selwood a few moments to experience what it's like to be Max Rooke.
        * BREAKING NEWS: RAAF unveils new weapon consisting of Max Rooke and his mate Harry (right)
        * I've just got word from the International Chess Rules Committee... They have renamed the Castle piece the "Max Rooke"
        * Aus $ surging for parity against US$ due to Australia being a safe haven – it’s protected by Max Rooke.
        * E.T. only went home because Max told him to.
        * Max Rooke has refused to be in the next series of 'Underbelly'...he wanted something tougher.
        * Retiring after Max Rooke is like going on stage after Elvis.
        * Max Rooke didnt retire because his body wont hold up, he was worried about the body of every other player.
    And from his former captain, Tom Harley:
        * A-Gift-to-My-ChildrenI just told Max about #maxrookefacts. He said "What's twitter?" I'm closing my account because what Max doesn't know, isn't worth knowing.

  “Beware of all politicians everywhere.
They excelled at recess
when they were in school but
have excelled at little since."
             - investor Jim Rogers, from his new book A Gift to My Children

  • fed-spending-krugman But the US government needs to spend more, says Paul Krugman!!  Open your eyes, Paul, it already has been.
    Yes, Paul Krugman, Spending Has Steeply Increased – HERITAGE
  • When the US sneezes, we catch a cold.  So when the US gets pneumonia … Doug Reich has a great summary of where the US is now. Economic illiteracy. Bailout crack. Capital strike. A “race to the bottom” for the world’s currencies. New ways for the govt to get into your pocket.  Yes, Virginia, it’s all bad.
    What I'm Thinking #1 – Doug Reich, RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • It happened this way with the Roman Empire too, you know.
    Inflation and the Fall of the Roman Empire – Joseph Peden, MISES DAILY
  • When you can see economic disaster from the air, you know a country is really stuffed. Here’s the Florida housing bust from the air. “The images of half finished (and barely started) developments are strangely beautiful, with a geometric symmetry that belies the state of human misery these developments represent: Lost deposits, bankruptcy, misallocated capital.”
    Aerial Footage: Portrait of a Housing Bust -  Barry Ritholtz, THE BIG PICTURE
  • Even devotees of Austrian Economics have debates about Fractional Reserve Banking—to what extent it’s part of the problem, and how it might be made not. John McVey suggests talking a little bit of Fractional Reserve Banking is like taking a little bit of radiation…
    Historical data in the fractional reserve banking debate – JOHN McVEY
  • Former chairman of BB&T Bank John Allison—who during his 2o years at the helm saw it expand to thirty times the size it was when he took over—and who ensured it was one of the few to successfully weather the present financial storm—has a few things he wants to tell you about the financial meltdown. And when Allison talks, it makes sense to listen. [Hat tip Stephen Hicks, who’s linked all eight clips in the series together for you]

  • The week before he was in Sydney talking to us, Yaron Brook was in Guatemala talking to the only institution in the Americas dedicated to freedom.  A busy man before a receptive audience.  And guess what, people: not everybody is a “utility maximiser.”
    Ayn Rand: Radical for Capitalism – Yaron Brook, UNIVERSIDAD, FRANCISCO MARROQUIN
  • Eric Crampton has made his debut in Sydney on the Mont Pelerin stage (something Yaron can’t do until next year) with a presentation arguing that nannying is bad economics—i.e., “that paternalism is far less beneficial and far more costly than voters expect.”  As a public choice economist however, he is unfortunately silent on the morality of minding your own damn business.
    Address to the Mont Pelerin Society - OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • Pssst. While the danger still exists of the American Tea Party movement being commandeered by religionists, it’s worth reminding ourselves of a bit of history.
    America is a Monument to Reason, not Faith – RULE OF REASON
  • I’ve said it before. A love of good art is essential to human cognition.
    The Cognitive Function of Art – ROBERTO SARRIONANDIA
  • Induction is at the root of all knowledge. And Francis Bacon is at the root of virtually all induction. So wouldn’t you want to know what he had to say about it?
    Bacon’s Theory of Induction as Presented in the Novum Organum Part 1 of 2 – Roderick Fitts, INDUCTIVE QUEST
    Bacon’s Theory of Induction as Presented in his Novum Organum, Part 2 of 2 – Roderick Fitts, INDUCTIVE QUEST
  • Pretty much every Objectivist in the world wants to know what’s going on between Leonard Peikoff and John McCaskey, and what it means for Objectivism. The Doctors Hsieh do their best to get to the bottom of it all.
    The Resignation of John McCaskey: The Facts – NOODLE FOOD
  • An online US College advice blog has a list of the 30 best blogs for exploring Objectivism. A few strange ones there (Kinsella, FFS!), but a good start.
    30 Best Blogs for Exploring Objectivism – ACREDITED ONLINE COLLEGES
  • And an Objectivist blogger is volunteering to do for Objectivist blogs what Tim Selwyn hasn’t had time to do with NZ blogs since December—to rank them all.  Big job.
    Who’s Actually Getting Read in Objectivism (Online) – DANIELLE MORRILL
  • How does drug prohibition affect current violence in the U.S. and Mexico? How do you think.
    Prohibition Déjà vu – THE UNDERCURRENT
  • To mark what would have been Beatle John Lennon’s birthday this week, here’s his best song from their second-best album:
  • And to mark the passing of Australian soprano Joan Sutherland this week, here she is in the very scene of the very opera that first brought her fame, and which she and her husband brought back to the stage: the Mad Scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. First a short one, then the full scene (complete with a very strange intrusion from the TV show on which it appeared)

Have a great weekend!
And keep an eye out for those possums on Great Barrier.


When the possum hits the island

The Hauraki Gulf paradise of Great Barrier Island is mercifully free of possums. 

That is to say, it was mercifully free of the pests … until now—until the arrival this week of an Auckland City Council roading gang, who showed up to play around on the roads armed with a truck, a crane and a barge.  And a possum.

The possum came in hidden somewhere around the crane, locals surmise, and once the barge nosed up to the island the possum swiftly identified its chance and made its bid for freedom.  Successfully, as it happens.

Naturally, the local (fully-staffed) Dept of Conservation (DoC) office sprang immediately into action. They looked at each other for a few moments, brewed up several cups of tea, wrote thesmelves a report, then sent a memo to Head Office calling for reinforcements.

This is how things are done in the local (fully-staffed) DoC office.

So now the small island has several extra trappers, many extra DoC staff, many new cars zooming about the roads with sirens wailing … and one small possum happily making itself at home in its new habitat.  And there’s at least one eagle-eyed local who’s prepared to swear it’s a pregnant female…

Which reminds me of an old joke told around DoC office water coolers:

Q: How do you wipe out possums?
A: You give DoC the job of protecting them.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

The Man Exalted (aka, God Releasing Stars Into the Universe), by Michael Newberry

emStars (1) The Man Exalted (aka, God Releasing Stars Into the Universe),
oil on linen, 7' x 5'
Michael Newberry,1993-2000

Here’s something that makes concrete the exaltation I’m sure we’re all feeling at the rescue of the miners, and with the Silver Ferns’ last-second win in Delhi.

Stephen Hicks describes the work:

_Quote This is a big composition that is in transition from black and white underground painting to color overlay. The subject is a man on his outspread knees, with his eyes and mouth open wide, and his outreaching hands extended in an ecstatic gesture. The man is releasing a current of fantastic light that weaves and curves through the night space. There are rocks in the foreground and underneath him. In the background there is indication of mountains to come. The artist is only beginning to apply color to his black and white underground work but the vibrations of light and shadow are already perceptible.
    The man is naked, unaffected, pure. And he becomes one with the energy. The man is a physical catalyst for the expression of the light; the light is the man’s nature.

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Cry “Power-Lust” and let rip the censorship of the blogosphere [updated]

While most eyes here and round the world were on the miner miracle in Chile, a speech in the House by Simon Power-Lust this afternoon signalled (if anyone were looking) that things ahead are looking ominous for bloggers.

Cameron Slater’s tilt against name suppression did eventually earn him a partial victory. But as I said when Cameron, aka Whale Oil, was given his lumps earlier by Justice Harvey, that decision was very much not a victory for free speech—because in his bewailing the lack of official “oversight” of the blogosphere, Harvey was floating a trial balloon to which Power-Lust this afternoon gave motive power by asking Jeffrey Palmer’s inveterately lemon-sucking Law Commission “to review the adequacy of regulations around how the internet interacts with the justice system.”

In other words, to begin drawing up plans for full regulation of the blogosphere by bureaucrats like Jeffrey—who has never seen a committee, board or tribunal he hasn’t wanted to join.

We may continue to post what we like and what we think. For the moment.  But all that will stop when Jeffrey Palmer and Simon Power-Lust—men who look at the freedom of the blogosphere and see only a “Wild West” that needs manacles—men between them who have a face that needs punching and an ego that needs puncturing—bring in the very shackles on we bloggers that Justice Harvey’s 70-page decision presaged.

This is how easily censorship comes to a country.

Who now will rise up in protest?

UPDATE: Question answered. Voices already raised in protest among those about to be shackled:

  • FIGJAM dreaming if he thinks he can control us – Cam Slater, WHALE OIL
    ”Instead of embrac ing freedom, FIGJAM has decided to go all 1984 on us. He will succeed in regulat­ing me and my fellow bloggers like Andrew Williams succeeded in winning re-election. I’ve been looking for a new target and I think I just found one…”
  • Government looking at further regulation of speech on the Internet – Thomas Beagle, TECH LIBERTY
    ”These is no mention in the press release of the freedom of expression guaranteed to New Zealanders in the Bill of Rights Act. Nor is there any recognition that many forms of old media such as leaflets, posters and books are also unregulated…”
  • Eff Off, Power! – CRUSADER RABBIT
    ”…this, in a socialist country where the MSM are no more than lickspittles pushing government propaganda and recycling handouts!  No wonder this little statist creep wants blogs to conform to the same standards’.”
  • High Noon – ROAR PRAWN
    ”…who in tarnation advised him to set about making the bloggers and online community the enemy?”
  • From The Hood : Absolutist Simon Power Corrupts Absolutely – Lyndon Hood, WEREWOLF
    ”Simon is so powerful nobody’s allowed to argue with him..”
  • Internet no wild west – lawyer – NBR
    “I don’t agree internet is the Wild West,” Rick Shera told NBR…

While other voices are raised just to clear their own throats and say “on the one hand…”

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More worthless degrees please - Cabinet

Cabinet this week decided to take $55m of your money out of training new apprentices to instead create more undergraduate places in worthless degrees. Why worthless? Just think about this simple attempt at barter—a great way by which to measure real value:

I want an electrical engineer and computer programmer and a automechanic to make me a laptop, and I-Pad and a car, and in return I will give them "sociologicizing," a "lecture on women's studies," and a dissertation on deconstruction."

Is there any way in which that would be any kind of a bargain?

[Hat tip Small Dead Animals]

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NZ is unaffordable [updated]

With ballooning debts and interest payments of a quarter-of-a-billion a week – and NZ’s elderly population set to double in the next 40 years --  it’s obvious even to ratings agencies who failed to spot the coming of the global monetary crisis that NZ’s current system (whence one group steals from another using govt as intermediary) is long-term unsustainable.

More old people, combined with a declining working age population, could escalate pressures on New Zealand's long term fiscal position, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services says
    "Without further reforms to address these mounting spending pressures, increasing net general government debt over the period may weaken New Zealand's long-term credit quality," he said.
    The increasing trend was in line with global findings, with S&P projecting that the government debt burdens of most advanced economies could reach unsustainable levels of more than 300 percent of GDP in the next 40 years, without fresh measures to address long term age-related spending trend.

There is only one sure-fire way to address the rise and rise of Borrow-and-Spend—which even at today’s record low interest rates is imminently unaffordable: Stop borrowing; stop spending.

In other words, stop the moral cannibalism of thinking an ever-growing group of people can live at the expense of everyone else.

How do you begin that? Simple, says my colleague Dr McGrath, taking a deep breath:

The government should immediately take transitional steps toward a privatization of health, welfare, education, accident insurance, scientific research, sport, broadcasting, the arts, charities, aviation, housing, environmental property rights, fisheries, consumer research, trade, electricity generation, sewage services, rubbish collection, water reticulation, gas supply, railways, land information, transport, roading, agriculture, the maritime industry, the fire service, earthquake and fire insurance, the blood service, artificial limbs, forest research, food quality rating, gambling, postal services, symphony orchestras, walking, tourism, deer hunting, apartheid, land ownership, children, disabled people, drugs, property valuation, banking, superannuation arrangements, fishing, business mergers, Maori people, Pacific Island people, motor vehicles, women, weather forecasting, welfare, widgets and juveniles.
    Our credit rating is heading toward junk status, our currency sinking next to the Australian dollar. New Zealand is fast becoming the new Greece. There will be riots in the streets when our debt level leads to cuts in welfare benefits and pensions. This can be avoided if our government acts now.

That’s what a responsible government would do—or at least contemplate. Instead, Smile-and-Wave will keep on spending his time apologising for things TV hosts might say, while continuing to Borrow and Spend.


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Ayn Rand, by Bosch Fawstin _Quote Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage ... Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.
            - Ayn Rand

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Helen’s Puppet, and Winston’s Antidote

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

This week: Helen’s Puppet, and the Antidote to Winston Peters

** (NZ HERALD) “Carter Tells Council: I’ll Dish Dirt On Senior MPs: Expelled ex-Labour MP Chris Carter threatens to not only throw the toys from the cot, but burn the whole house down…”

Professional victim/invalid Chris Carter declares war on the Labour Party establishment after he is chucked out for dissing Phil Goff. Now we wait to see whether Carter’s threats are hot air, or whether he can actually do further damage to the red socialists. If Carter’s  bluff is called and he is found to be the Hollow Man most of us think he is, I’m sure he’ll need another two months of sick leave.
    Chris, I’m sure you were thrown out of Labour because you’re gay. Go on, there’s still some mileage in that. Never mind about all the other gay people in the Labour Party. You’re special. You were always Helen Clark’s favourite lapdog. One has to wonder if the Great Painter herself, now busy running the lives of people in other countries with the UN, might have a hand in the shit-fighting going on in the red camp.
    Meanwhile, I can only cheer on Chris Carter from the sidelines and encourage him to rip the Nanny State Party to shreds.
    The blue socialists will also be watching with a broad smile on their fat little Tory faces.

** (CHRISTCHURCH PRESS) “Is Foreign Ownership Of Land So Bad?University lecturer Stephen Hickson challenges the xenophobic racists who only want people who look and sound like New Zealanders to own land here. Or rest homes…”

I agree with the arguments Stephen Hickson makes in favour of free trade and foreign investment, questioning petty demagogues like Winston Peters who shun foreign investment in New Zealand and who would prefer if we pulled down the shutters and became the North Korea of the South Pacific.
    (Poor old Winston Peters. On the comeback trail, he plays shamelessly to his constituency of those older folk taxed into poverty by the red and blue socialists (with the help of enablers like NZ First, the Maori Party, the Alliance and ACT) yet these poor impoverished folk keep voting their own thieves back into government.  Winston doesn’t want ownership of rest homes falling into the hands of foreigners (read: Asians). Does he know that ‘foreigners’ have bought up large swathes of the funeral directing industry?)
    Much of what Hickson says is good common sense. For instance:

        “The pool of savings in New Zealand is too small to fund this expansion and so we
      use the savings of people overseas who are willing to invest in a great place with
      great prospects.”


        “To increase our savings is very simple - as a nation we just need to consume less.
      Of course the reality is never as simple as all that.”

Hickson gets a bit wobbly here though:

        “Are we prepared to reduce expenditure on health and education in order to save
      more? Remember the Government is a consumer and a saver as well. Are we prepared
      to reduce our standard of living in some other way?”

He seems to assume that the state is the best (?only) provider of “quality” health care and education. In fact, the record shows again and again that state provision of services is inefficient, coercive,and leaves people harmed.
    But he gets back on track later in the article:

        “New Zealand is a small trading nation in a much bigger world. That bigger world has
      a lot to offer us and every time we restrict foreign ownership we also reduce our access
      to the best know-how that the world has to offer.
        “For every foreign buyer looking to buy there is a New Zealander looking to sell.
      By restricting or preventing foreign ownership we are preventing a fellow New
      Zealander from selling what they themselves own for the best that they can get.”

And later:

        “When it comes to private businesses, assets and land it is odd to think that "we" own
      them. On the day before a New Zealand farm is sold to a foreign owner, I didn't own it
      and I had no right to say how that farm should be used.
        “The day after it is sold I still don't own it and I still don't have any rights to say how
      it is used.
        “The new foreign owner is also subject to the laws of the land just as much as the
      previous owner. If a piece of land is important for, say, access to a river or beach then
      that should be written explicitly into the title of the land. Who owns it is then irrelevant.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. Bravo, Stephen!  For the record, my Party welcomes foreign investment in New Zealand,  and the jobs and prosperity such investment would without a doubt create.                

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


Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose - John Singer Sargent


Anybody can paint a sunset.  And virtually everybody who can hold a brush and paint straight has painted “the innocence of childhood.” But only an artist of the calibre of Sargent could combine the two to create this unforgettable scene, evocative of our own summer childhoods when snatching that last moment of daylight seemed so precious, and so important.

The skill it takes makes me proud to be a long-lost, distant, relation.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

It’s not every day you meet a real-life hero [updated]

A small but very loud enthusiastic New Zealand contingent flew over to Sydney to hear and meet up with Yaron Brook, who’s been doing a fantastic job as head of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Sydney-Brook 04We’re the excited-looking bunch around him. Yaron’s the nervous-looking one in the middle. 

Keep your eyes and ears peeled for some very exciting plans afoot for Australasian Objectivists—about which, more soon.

UPDATE:  No matter how many times you’ve visited Sydney, it’s impossible not to enjoy it. It’s a great city in which to be a tourist.



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R.I.P La Stupenda

La Stupenda, aka Joan Sutherland, Australia's greatest-ever soprano, has died at 83.  Lindsay Perigo has two ear-shattering memories.

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Overhauling the urban planning process, to make life easier for whom?

Once again, this National-led Government is on the move.

Seizing the opportunity of Auckland’s new super-sized bureaucracy, Environment Minister Nick Smith has leapt into the public eye to announce he’s going to free up the rules of the Resource Management Act to make life easier for … for … for whom?

Will he be freeing up the rules so that property-owners can build on and develop their own properties without first jumping into the maw of a bureaucracy now made much bigger?

Hell no.

Will he be getting rid of all the rules and regulations that mean you sometimes have to wait years and pay thousands of dollars just to build a bigger garage?

You’ve got be joking!

Will he be removing the restrictions on using urban land, so that land prices might finally have a chance to be affordable again?

Nothing could be further from Nick Smith’s small mind.

What he proposes is not to make life easier for home-owners, property-owners and would-be home-builders. The people he wants to make things easier for are the planners. The busybodies. The unproductive aresholes to whom you already have to go cap in hand to ask permission to produce. The gorgeous bastards who have already got your property by the balls.

This, according to this government, is what it means to “overhaul the urban planning process”:

_Quote The Environment Minister has launched a plan to overhaul urban planning and development policies to speed up the planning process.
    Nick Smith and new Auckland mayor Len Brown released a discussion document on Tuesday night on changes to how approval is sought for land use, transport and public works in cities.
    The proposals include changes to the Resource Management, Land Transport and Public Works acts…

Changes that will allow planners to write bigger and more bossy planning documents, and to give their infrastructure-building colleagues greater and greater ability to slip all the regulatory leashes that will still bind everybody else.

This is what this government still thinks is “simplifying and streamlining” the planning process.

_QuoteDr Smith says current planning systems are cumbersome and inefficient. He hopes a bill will go before Parliament early next year…

NickTheDickIt’s sure as hell true that “current planning systems are cumbersome and inefficient”—not to mention iniquitous—but once again we see confirmed that the focus of this government is not on making life easier for the ordinary New Zealanders who actually keep this country moving. They want instead to make the country safer for big government. They want to make our lives harder, while making it easier for all the bastards who get in our way.

And Auckland’s super-sized bureaucracy has just gone and made it all worse. 

That’s worse for you and I. But much, much better for them.

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Chilean Rescue [update 2]

All eyes on Chile today.

We might—we hope—be witness to a dramatic rescue.

UPDATE 2: Forget that live stream. It’s busted. Try this one.  Or this one, if you prefer a BBC talking head over your footage.

McDonald's ObamaCare Waiver Violates Rule of Law

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Please pop over to Breitbart's Big Government and read my newest article, a short commentary on McDonald's grant of a waiver to avoid some of ObamaCare's mandates.

It begins:

_Quote In a blatantly unconstitutional move, the Feds have let McDonald’s off the hook from some of ObamaCare’s requirements. This violation of the Equal Protection clause is just one more reminder, as if we needed it, that D.C. is now completely ignoring the rule of law and deciding issues based on political pressure and pull.

I encourage you to comment, there and here. Especially there.



Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Darling Harbour, but not as you know it…


It’s great being a tourist again in Sydney.  This is the astonishing Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour.  Not at all what you expect to find literally seconds from the Central City.


Making Auckland safe for Len Brown [updated]

Well, that was very successful wasn't it.

It was "explained" to me a few months back that the set-up of the "Super" City, with all its attendant expense, dislocations and disruptions, was intended to make left-wing Auckland governance impossible ever again -- that the cost of campaigning over such a vast new principality would make Auckland safe for "centre-right" government (whatever that means) for most of the foreseeable future.  (The idea, you see, being that lefties have no money of their own with which to sell themselves.)

The ACT Party's entire political capital of fifteen years was put behind this ruse. After all, we've been waiting fifteen years to see what they would do when they got to where they always wanted to go: a seat at the top table. "The battle for freedom is not a battle of ideas," we were told. "The ACT Party exists simply to earn parliamentary representation and get a place in government, and when we do, look out!"

So after fifteen years of nothing doing and ACT finally does get itself a ministry, a whole ministry to do what it wanted with, we suddenly find out what it was all about for all those years that ACT supporters kept the faith, and kept up their donations.

It was for this!

It wasn't to gut local government, or put the chains back on. It wasn't to constrain the councils and remove the "power of general competence" that Sandra Less gave them years ago, following which ratepayers everywhere have been paying the price.  No, after fifteen years waiting for a ministry, the most important thing Rodney Hide could find to do was to make Auckland safe for Len Brown.

So much for the idea that the ACT Party has any idea what it's doing.

Or that it’s possible to somehow trick people into freedom and smaller government, instead of ;oudly and openly advocating the ideas that would make either possible.

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Sebelius Pegs the Irony Meter

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Commissar Kathleen is at it again. (For my friends nearer the top of the world, she's the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a Cabinet position, and now public enemy #2 on my list.)

Rushing to rationalize her decision to let McDonald's opt out of certain ObamaCare-required actions — violating the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection clause in the process — she had this to say: "This is a health care model built around the private market," she said. "It might be the salvation of the private market."

I guess she's now joined the George Bush school of capitalism, where you violate it in order to save it.
If nothing else, it demonstrates that Progressives are so far gone, they can't even recognize the distinction between the free market and a fascist one.


Monday, 11 October 2010

Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society

PC has headed to Sydney for a few days to visit some old drinking holes attend a presentation by Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, on "Capitalism without Guilt: the Moral Case for Freedom". Over the weekend, the below letter from Hal Lewis, Professor Emiritus of physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, was sent to Curtis G. Callan, Jr., President of the American Physical Society. The letter is reproduced in its entirety.
Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).

Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence—it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

So what has the APS, as an organization, done in the face of this challenge? It has accepted the corruption as the norm, and gone along with it. For example:

1. About a year ago a few of us sent an e-mail on the subject to a fraction of the membership. APS ignored the issues, but the then President immediately launched a hostile investigation of where we got the e-mail addresses. In its better days, APS used to encourage discussion of important issues, and indeed the Constitution cites that as its principal purpose. No more. Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate.

2. The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one. In response APS appointed a secret committee that never met, never troubled to speak to any skeptics, yet endorsed the Statement in its entirety. (They did admit that the tone was a bit strong, but amazingly kept the poison word incontrovertible to describe the evidence, a position supported by no one.) In the end, the Council kept the original statement, word for word, but approved a far longer “explanatory” screed, admitting that there were uncertainties, but brushing them aside to give blanket approval to the original. The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

3. In the interim the ClimateGate scandal broke into the news, and the machinations of the principal alarmists were revealed to the world. It was a fraud on a scale I have never seen, and I lack the words to describe its enormity. Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.

4. So a few of us tried to bring science into the act (that is, after all, the alleged and historic purpose of APS), and collected the necessary 200+ signatures to bring to the Council a proposal for a Topical Group on Climate Science, thinking that open discussion of the scientific issues, in the best tradition of physics, would be beneficial to all, and also a contribution to the nation. I might note that it was not easy to collect the signatures, since you denied us the use of the APS membership list. We conformed in every way with the requirements of the APS Constitution, and described in great detail what we had in mind—simply to bring the subject into the open.

5. To our amazement, Constitution be damned, you declined to accept our petition, but instead used your own control of the mailing list to run a poll on the members’ interest in a TG on Climate and the Environment. You did ask the members if they would sign a petition to form a TG on your yet-to-be-defined subject, but provided no petition, and got lots of affirmative responses. (If you had asked about sex you would have gotten more expressions of interest.) There was of course no such petition or proposal, and you have now dropped the Environment part, so the whole matter is moot. (Any lawyer will tell you that you cannot collect signatures on a vague petition, and then fill in whatever you like.) The entire purpose of this exercise was to avoid your constitutional responsibility to take our petition to the Council.

6. As of now you have formed still another secret and stacked committee to organize your own TG, simply ignoring our lawful petition.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

I do feel the need to add one note, and this is conjecture, since it is always risky to discuss other people’s motives. This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst. When Penn State absolved Mike Mann of wrongdoing, and the University of East Anglia did the same for Phil Jones, they cannot have been unaware of the financial penalty for doing otherwise. As the old saying goes, you don’t have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Harold Lewis is Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara, former Chairman; Former member Defense Science Board, chmn of Technology panel; Chairman DSB study on Nuclear Winter; Former member Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards; Former member, President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee; Chairman APS study on Nuclear Reactor Safety Chairman Risk Assessment Review Group; Co-founder and former Chairman of JASON; Former member USAF Scientific Advisory Board; Served in US Navy in WW II; books: Technological Risk (about, surprise, technological risk) and Why Flip a Coin (about decision making) 

[HatTip: Watts Up With That?]


How Many Chemistry Nobel Winners Can You Name?

Guest Post by Jeff Perren
To round out my Nobel Prize commentary, I highlight the story of this years winners for Chemistry: Richard Heck, Ei-Ichi Negishi and Akira Suzuki "for developing a key synthetic technique to make complex organic molecules used in medicine and electronics."
I can't explain what got into the water in Sweden this year, but handing out the prize for "develop[ing] a key synthetic technique for making complex organic molecules used in medicine, agriculture and electronics" was another stroke of right on.
Similar to the Physics Nobel, the researchers earned the award for investigating carbon bonds. As the LA Times story describes it
Among [Heck's] first feats was joining a short carbon chain to a ring of carbon atoms to produce styrene, the raw material of the now widely used plastic polystyrene.
A similar process is also used in the production of the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen, the asthma drug montelukast and the herbicide prosulfuron.
One of the most spectacular feats was the 1994 synthesis of a naturally occurring chemical called palytoxin, which was first isolated from a coral in Hawaii in 1971. Palytoxin contains 129 carbon atoms linked in a precise three-dimensional structure that chemists were able to reproduce using the Suzuki reaction.
What's most interesting about this type of research is how even relatively mundane things like this are still part of leading edge science. We've come a long way, but there is still much to be learned, highlighting the importance of the freedom required to let it continue.
And for anyone inclined to give all this a big, fat yawn, I'll try to demonstrate its value with a personal anecdote from just yesterday morning.
I made steak night before last on my stove top grill. This morning, I sprayed the cast-iron surface with fume-free Easy Off and let it sit, where it didn't stink up the kitchen one bit. Less than an hour later, I rinsed it off, wiped it a couple of times with a sponge (no scouring), and I was done. Safe, effortless, and quick.
Multiply that savings of time and effort by a billion people for fifty years worth of days and you have some idea of just how important even ordinary chemistry truly is.
Now consider this: how many politicians names do you know versus how many chemists'? Yeah, me neither.