Friday, 20 April 2018

Anger alone is a bad mistress, and a worse guide



“Some people may become libertarians because they’re angry. For a while, it’s enough to be angry at the government. But ultimately libertarianism is about peaceful cooperation―markets, civil society, global trade, peace―so it just isn’t angry enough for some people. Racial intolerance is a way to be angry at the whole world.”~ David Boaz
RELATED READING:

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Thursday, 19 April 2018

"Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State..."



"Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone."~ Frederic Bastiat
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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Q: Is Trump’s Brand Ayn Rand?





It's said that Donald Trump got his narcissistic, winning-at-any-cost philosophy from reading Ayn Rand’s books. We are told that by former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich, among others, who reckons “Trump’s brand is Ayn Rand.” But, explains Johan Norberg,  nothing could be farther from the truth. Reich et al are Dead Wrong®.
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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Social justice, a definition ...


"Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you - and why?"
~ Walter Williams
>
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Monday, 16 April 2018

More voting advice


"If you vote for politicians who promise to give you someone else's money, don't complain when they give your money to someone else. Or themselves."
~ Daniel Hannan
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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Virtue signalling, a definition



Virtue signalling, aka halo-polishing, n., "the act of publicly flagging your alleged moral piety, while shaming others who aren’t on the same holy plane;  a bedfellow of ‘clicktivism’ and hashtag activism– or ‘hashtivism'."

A form of second-handed activism: parading convictions you know in advance are acceptable to others simply to enhance your group status (see also People's Republic of Grey Lynn); conspicuously posing rather than actually doing, esp., loudly expressing opinions or sentiments intended only to demonstrate one's adherence to the cause of the day; acting so as to look morally superior to others, when factually there is no substance to your claim, and actually you intend to do no no more about it than make noise. (See also Unintended Consequences.)

Virtue-signalling is making a statement because you reckon it will garner approval, rather than because you actually believe it. It’s a form of vanity, all the worse because it’s dressed up as selfless conviction.” Often from keyboard warriors claiming they’re saving the world, but for all the talk about virtue,it's noticeable that virtue-signalling often consists simply of saying you hate things.

One of the crucial aspects of virtue signalling is that it does not require actually doing anything actually virtuous. It takes no effort at all. Just whining.
 Examples in use
For British Labour party leaders, Europeanism is just a virtue-signalling gesture -- like wearing a charity ribbon.’
‘A lot of what happens on Facebook, as with Twitter, is “virtue signalling” — showing off how right on you are.’
'Led by global luminaries such as Michelle Obama, Malala and Piers Morgan, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls has been used 4.8 million times by 2.3 million users on Twitter. Some of the girls escaped but, tragically, 218 remain missing, and virtue signalling celebs quickly moved on to the next fashionable hashtag.'
'Expect a year of virtue signalling from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, particularly on plastic trash in our oceans. And as with nearly all virtue signalling, expect Trudeau’s blather to be more about shining his environmental apple than about doing anything meaningful.'
'Jacinda Ardern's Government is putting 'virtue signalling' above energy reliability.'
See also:

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Friday, 13 April 2018

No, don't #EndOil : Because hipster energy is no replacement for reliable energy [UPDATED]


“Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels ... is
almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

~ former NASA scientist and current uber-climate-alarmist James Hansen
(quoted in ‘
James Hansen Smacks Renewable Energy’)


"The world is changing, and it's time to face the facts" said the Prime Minister's minister who drove to Taranaki yesterday to tell people this Government is putting 'virtue signalling' above energy reliability.

Times are changing, emphasised the show pony in the Prime Minister's office, declaring this announcement to be the beginning of "our transition to renewables" -- citing as "essential parts" of her "transition plan" the Government's Provincial Growth Fund and Green Investment Fund: her "plan" to replace reliable energy thereby being revealed as resting upon the twin pillars of the Green Party's "green jobs" fantasies and Shane Jones's billion-dollar slush fund. Hipster energy backed by welfare cheques to depleted regions.

South Australia has recently completed that transition to renewables. It celebrated with blackouts that closed schools, hospitals and most of its industry -- closed down by a once in a 50-year storm that was enough to shut down the renewables-packed grid, shut down all supply and send the state reeling straight back (quite literally) into the dark ages. Urgently, it reconnected its state's grid to Victoria's fossil-fuel supplied energy.

It was said that South Australia's experimental energy arrangements were a "textbook case" of how not to transition to renewable energy. In fact, it was a textbook case of why not to transition to renewable energy at all.

As South Australians discovered, a working definition of renewable energy is unreliable energy. It might also be characterised as unprofitable energy, relying upon subsidies to survive and on reliable fossil-fuel energy as backup. The fact is, it is not a reliable energy source at all - it is imply parasitical upon energy that is. It is an entire alleged industry on the mooch.

Times might be changing -- but it's not because reliables are being replaced by renewables. It's because those talking about all this hipster energy are simply denying away the facts they find inconvenient. Like the fact that New Zealand could shut down tomorrow and become a nature reserve with no humans at all (which some in Green Party would cheer if they were still here), and we would still have virtually no impact on global warming;

... like the proportion of so-called renewables in use around the world, which is risible ...




... like the fact that the fossil-fuel share of world energy is around 80% of all energy produced, with nuclear and hydro providing most of what remains;

... like the fact Germany's much-hyped sun-worshipping energy sources delivers near-zero power whenever it's most needed;

... like the fact abundant energy keeps us warm, keeps us cool, and gives leverage to puny human effort. It quite literally keeps us alive, and thriving;

... like the thousands upon thousands of everyday products we all rely upon that are made reliably and inexpensively with fossil fuels;

... like the millions of people in northern Europe and Canada who rely every year upon reliable heating to save them from certain death in the face of bone-killing cold;

... like the fact that the relative costs of weather catastrophes are not rising but declining -- declining because reliable world energy production is not;

... that the key to climate safety is not a degree or two of temperature, but the climate protection provided by industrial civilisation (e.g., air conditioning).

These are very relevant facts to face right there.

The fact is, nature is not naturally benevolent. We have to work to make it so, for us. The very point of human production – the reason we get up in the morning and go to work, if we can – is to make our lives better. If human life is our standard, then making human lives better and the natural environment more humane is a good thing. A Very Good Thing.

So when you see dozens killed by Europe's coldest weather in years you may realise for example that cold weather kills – kills vastly more than warmer weather does – and that human production that makes the human environment warmer may not be a totally bad thing. And, therefore, that the fossil fuels people burn to stay warm are not a bad thing.

As Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress summarises: “Fossil Fuels don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous, they take a dangerous climate and make it safe.”




Why are fossil fuels still so overwhelmingly important? "If you rely on wind and hydro, if it does't rain, you have to have something else to turn on,” explained Meridian's then chief executive Mark Binns last year. “And at this stage, that is fossil fuel; either coal or gas.” Fossil fuels are still New Zealand’s reliable backstop. Just one reason he’s reluctant to encourage Genesis turning off New Zealand’s largest reliable energy producer, at Huntly.
New Zealand was "a long way away" from generating all its electricity from renewables [said Binns], questioning whether that might ever be possible.
These are facts the Prime Minister and her messengers refuse to face.

Much of the opposition to the Prime Minister's announcement however has ignored most of these facts as well, focussing only upon the loss of jobs as investment pulls out as investors see little future in the industry. The fact is however that we should be against the loss of these jobs not because they are jobs, but because fossil fuels are a life-enhancing product that is being legislated out of existence (not competed out) without even a real reliable expectation of any viable alternative to replace them.

The fact is, we need good reliable energy to survive. We need it to flourish. In a week in which Aucklanders have discovering again just what it's like to struggle without power, you'd think at least some of those tens of thousands might at least appreciate some part of that fact.

UPDATE: A good comment below by MarkT:

[It is said that] the critics are contradictory by claiming it's both an empty gesture and also wholesale destructive to the regional economy.
It’s an empty gesture in terms of any supposed climate benefits, wholesale destructive (or at least damaging) in terms of the effect on the regional economy. Fossil fuels will only be on their way out when better practical and economic alternatives to the internal combustion engine are found, and we’re a long way from that. If and when it is found, it will naturally out-compete oil in the market without government intervention. In the meantime this move won’t make one iota of difference to how much oil is consumed, just more of it will need to be imported.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Trade Wars Lead to Shooting Wars and Depressions


Trade wars do not make people prosperous or countries great. Indeed, as Frederick Marks explains in this guest post, trade wars were a principal factor in making the depression of the 1930s a Great Depression, and helping set off the very-much-not-great World War II.

The current US President has imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminium effective March 23, 2018 and proposes more tariffs on products imported from China. He has also proposed revoking US participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has enabled a large expansion of trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Mr. Trump says trade wars are easy to win. Wrong. Everybody loses in trade wars.

Trade Wars Hurt Everyone

Mr. Trump’s trade war will have a bad effect on American trade and on relations with nations around the world, including Canada, Mexico, China and other Asian nations whose companies do business in the U.S., and European nations.

Prominent American companies whose business will be hurt by Trump’s trade war include Boeing and Union Pacific, to name only two.

Boeing currently sells nearly one-third of its airplanes to China. The Chinese earn U.S. dollars by exporting to the U.S. That is the source of the ability of Chinese airlines to buy Boeing aircraft.

Union Pacific is the largest U.S. railroad. It transports goods, both imported and of domestic origin through much of the U.S. The CEO of Union Pacific has warned that Trump’s trade war will hurt not only the business of the railroad, but many other businesses that transport goods via Union Pacific.

American companies hurt by Mr. Trump’s trade war will suffer shrinkage of their businesses and shrinkage in the number of people they employ.

The impact of a trade war started by the U.S. is likely to go far beyond a downturn in business for American companies.

Trade wars cause depression. Trade wars cause shooting wars.

French economist Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850) is often quoted as saying that when goods do not cross frontiers, armies will. Whether he said it or not, it's right.

Trade wars were a principal factor in causing the Great Depression of the 1930s

Trade wars were a principal factor in causing the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. In 1922 and again in 1930 the U.S. Congress enacted tariffs designed to protect American industries from foreign competition.

The 1922 tariff law caused a depression in American agriculture. At the time, farm products were the largest category of export goods produced in America. Tariffs on foreign goods resulted in a marked reduction of foreign purchases of American farm products. How so?

In this way. For people of another nation to purchase American products of any kind, they must earn U.S. dollars by selling their own goods to Americans. The 1922 tariff reduced the amount of U.S. dollars earned by people outside the U.S. Therefore, they had fewer dollars to spend. They cut back on buying farm products and other goods in the U.S.

Consequently, American farmers suffered a big reduction in export sales. They could not sell all their production domestically. So farmers cut back on their own spending. That hurt the rest of the U.S. economy because, in comparison to the present, in the 1920s and 1930s a much larger portion of Americans lived in rural communities.

In 1930 the Congress enacted a more far-reaching regime of high tariffs on foreign imports. At the time the world economy had started into depression. The tariffs made the depression far worse. Other countries that exported to the U.S. imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods. Many countries imposed heavy tariffs on all imports, whatever the source.

The tariffs and retaliatory tariffs were a trade war. The trade war exacerbated the global depression, which caused economies around the world to shrink, causing business failures and throwing people out of work.

By 1932 the entire world had been in a deepening depression for two years or more, with no sign of things getting better.
Trade Wars and WWII

Germany was among the nations hardest hit by the tariffs, due to the burden of war reparations from World War I, and the nature of the highly industrialised German economy.

France, Britain and the U.S. were the natural market for Germany’s high quality industrial products, because absent the high tariffs on imports from Germany, those countries were wealthy enough to afford German machinery and other industrial products.

The 1930 U.S. tariff law had the effect of closing the U.S. market to Germany. Tariffs in France and Britain had a similar effect, closing those markets to imports from Germany.

By 1932 the depression had hurt the German people badly. The economic walls against Germany added to the woes that Germans had suffered due to an extreme hyper-inflation in the early 1920s that wiped out the savings of the middle class in Germany.

Germany’s economic catastrophe played into the hands of Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) and his National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party. From 1920 to early 1933 Germany was governed by political democracy. At first the Nazi party was only a marginal, fringe party, albeit a noisy and violent one.

The Nazi party garnered only a relatively small number of votes in every election until 1932. In that year, the Nazis received a plurality, but not a majority of votes. In January 1933 Hitler used that plurality to persuade Germany’s senile President, Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), to appoint him Chancellor. It took Hitler only two months thereafter to dissolve the German republic and become dictator and absolute master of Germany.

Hitler and his Nazi party turned Germany into a militaristic police state. Hitler was bent on conquest of France, in revenge for military defeats in WW I. He was also bent on conquest of the Slavic peoples east of Germany (Russia, Poland, and more), whom he intended to enslave and eliminate by starvation so that Germans could occupy the lands of the Slavs.

Between 1938 and 1942 Nazi German armies invaded or took over without a fight most of the nations from France to Russia (then known as the Soviet Union). Hitler’s Nazi Germany was defeated only after a terrible war that caused the deaths of seven million Germans, over twenty million Slavs (mainly in the Soviet Union) and millions more in other European nations killed in war or by the Nazis’ deliberate extermination of civilian populations.
Trump's War

What can be done to avoid a trade war initiated by Mr. Trump?

It would take resolute action by the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Trump is imposing his trade war by means of Executive Order. This he is empowered to do by U.S. laws.

The Congress could however repeal those laws and once those laws are repealed Congress could countermand Mr. Trump’s Executive Orders. However Mr. Trump has the veto power of the Presidency. It would take a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress to override a veto.

Where is the courage of anyone in Congress to oppose Trump’s trade war in ways that could put it to an end? No one in Congress is speaking up.

The failure of a democracy comes about in this way. A legislature enacts unwise laws. A President uses them to do bad things. And no one in politics has the will or courage to do anything about it.

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Frederick Marks has taught investments and financial planning at UCLA, was a student of Andrew J. Galambos, and has been active as an investment counsellor. In his book 'Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution' Mr. Marks shares what he learned from Andrew Galambos and what he has understood through his own study.
His article has previously appeared at FEE, and at his website Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution.
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"This is what winning a trade war looks like"


"'Trade War' (noun): Two heads of state, in defiance of morality and basic economics, compete to see which has the stomach to inflict the most injury on their citizens."
~ Amy Peikoff

Per Daniel Hankins, "This is what winning a trade war looks like":



Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"The opposite of Leftist identity politics isn’t the alt-right."


"The opposite of Leftist identity politics isn’t the alt-right. They are both forms of collectivism. The opposite of all identity politics is individualism."
~ Alice Smith.

Monday, 9 April 2018

QotD: Something Jacinda's Tax Working Group could think about ...


"People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can't live within its income."
~ Robert Half
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Sunday, 8 April 2018

"Religion and other false philosophies have corrupted spirituality..."


Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above a Sea of Mist

"Religion and other false philosophies have corrupted spirituality so deeply and broadly that few people are able to think coherently or to communicate effectively about it. Advocates of reason can and should reclaim the field and its key terms."
~ Craig Biddle, from his article 'Reclaiming Spirituality for Lovers of Life'
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Friday, 6 April 2018

QotD:"Engagement with politics is like sports fandom..."


"Engagement with politics is like sports fandom ... -- people seek and consume news to enhance the fan experience, not to make their opinions more accurate."
~ Steven Pinker, from his new book Enlightenment Now

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Thursday, 5 April 2018

QotD: The purpose of public education: a permanent coup d'ecole


“The process of spreading a philosophy by means of free discussion among thinking adults is long and complex. From Plato to the present, it has been the dream of social planners to circumvent this process and, instead, to inject a controversial ideology directly into the plastic, unformed minds of children — by means of seizing a country’s educational system and turning it into a vehicle for indoctrination. In this way one may capture an entire generation without intellectual resistance, in a single coup d’école.”
~ Leonard Peikoff, from his book Ominous Parallels
[Hat tip Robert Vaughan]
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Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Don't be scared of aluminium cladding


Despite all the news reports suggesting otherwise, I'm going to argue that you should not be scared of aluminium cladding.

You should not be scared of aluminium cladding because, despite news reports failing to understand the difference, aluminium cladding (which is inert, stable, safe and not flammable) is very different to a type of cladding called Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) which is the thing implicated in the Grenfell Tower fire, and discussed widely and inaccurately this morning on Radio NZ and elsewhere...



So it's not because reporters are scaremongering. It's because they don't understand the difference between two different things. i.e., between aluminium cladding and Aluminium Composite Panels.

Aluminium cladding is generally a very thick extrusion of solid aluminium often intended to emulate a weatherboard or other timber products, and used with increasing frequency to clad and re-clad houses. It is a non-combustible material. It is perfectly safe. And it is nothing like Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP).

Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) are a sandwich panel of two very thin layers of aluminium with either polyethylene  or polyurethane in between to give the sheet rigidity. Essentially plastic sandwich, it is used frequently and (until recently) very fashionably on many high-rise and commercial buildings. The problem is not the aluminium however, which is demonstrably safe. It is what's inside the sandwich, which isn't.

Does this difference between two totally different cladding types matter?

Well, it certainly does if you're designing and specifying a building. And it certainly does if you're buying one, or already living in one. As a designer of houses myself, I've already heard from developer clients, who've very happily used aluminium cladding before, that they simply can't use it now: far too much fear in the market. Because buyers just aren't interested in anything at all with the 'A' word; they're not interested because they've been told by (mis)reporters who should read better that "aluminium cladding is dangerous." Reporters who should read better, because the very report from which they're drawing their mis-reporting (which Radio NZ web types have even linked to make it easy for their reporters and sub-editors) speaks only about Aluminium Composite Panels, and not at all about aluminium cladding.

So please, don't be concerned about aluminium cladding -- only about the misreporting of reporters.

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QotD: "Fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory"


"Fascism and communism are not two opposites, but two rival gangs fighting over the same territory . . . both are variants of statism, based on the collectivist principle that man is the rightless slave of the state."
~ Ayn Rand, from her article '"Extremism," or The Art of Smearing'
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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

“Power is not a means, it is an end… The object of power is power.”

From PJ O'Rourke's recent re-reading, reflecting and writing on what Orwell's 1984 says about the left-right red-blue parties who oppress and overpower us:
But what is the goal, what is the objective of the Leftright Party? Why do they oppress and overpower us? (Or, rather, why do they trick us into oppressing and overpowering ourselves?)

Orwell goes straight to the point.

O’Brien tells Winston, “Power is not a means, it is an end… The object of power is power.”

What the Leftright Party wants is power. And what will the Leftright Party do to us with its power?
Again, Orwell is clear. O’Brien asks…

“How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?”

Winston thought. “By making him suffer,” he said.

“Exactly. By making him suffer. Unless he is suffering, how can you know that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is inflicting pain and humiliation.”
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Monday, 2 April 2018

QotD: "The moving parts of economies are men ... "


"The moving parts [of economies] are men, that is, beings capable of learning, reflecting, reasoning, of making errors and of correcting them, and consequently of making the mechanism itself better or worse. They are capable of pain and pleasure, and in that respect they are not only the wheels, but the springs of the machine. They are also the motive forces, for the source of the power is in them. They are more than that, for they are the ultimate object and raison d’être of the mechanism, since in the last analysis the problems of its operation must be solved in terms of their individual pain or pleasure."
~ Frédéric Bastiat, from his book Economic Harmonies

[Hat tip Force For Good]
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Sunday, 1 April 2018

I went down to buy a beer today ...


... and of course I was stopped by a group of religious trolls who'd caught the ear of a bully with a clipboard, working when no-one else is allowed to.


Fortunately, you can still get a cold one down at the Pop Up Globe.

Despite the best efforts of the grey ones.

[Cartoon by Nick Kim, courtesy of The Free Radical]

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"I understand the importance the resurrection story holds in your particular religion."


From a reply to a School Chaplain Christian Volunteer:
I understand the importance the resurrection story holds in your particular religion. If I too knew some guy that had been killed and placed inside a cave with a rock in front of it and I visited the cave to find the rock moved and his body gone, the only logical assumption would be that he had risen from the dead and is the son of God. Once, my friend Simon was rushed to hospital to have his appendix removed and I visited him the next day to find his bed empty. I immediately sacrificed a goat and burnt a witch in his name but it turned out that he had not had appendicitis, just needed a good poo, and was at home playing Playstation.
Read the whole exchange here. Hilarious.

[Hat tip Suzuki Samurai]
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Saturday, 31 March 2018

Good advice



"Never think of pain or danger or enemies a moment longer than is necessary to fight them."
~ Ayn Rand
[Hat tip Louise Lamontagne]

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Thursday, 29 March 2018

Easter through art


What's the theme of Easter, and of Easter art? In a word, it's sacrifice: specifically human sacrifice. And more specifically, the sacrifice of the good to the appalling.

That's the Easter theme we're asked to respond to every year.

The theme starts early in religion with the bloke at the heart of three of the world's large religions, whose voices in his head (we're told) told him to cut his young son's throat and "offer him for a burnt offering." The son was saved only by some other voices in his head telling him to stop. 

Caravaggio makes the crime real:




Family values, huh.

Keep reminding yourself: this would-be child-killer is revered by Islam, Christianity and Judaism. You wonder why (Greater evil hath no man than this, that he is willing to kill his own son for God.) The only other notable thing he is ever said to have done to be revered is to marry his own sister, and to offer up his foreskin to his god. Yes, really.) But the other two religions only revered him; Christianity then upped the ante by founding a whole new religion on the thing he was discouraged to do!

Think about that: to the extent you believe the story, the greatest being in the universe is sacrificing his most beloved son to a world (in their description) filled with sin and deformity (all His own work, ironically) and to a species one Christian saint described as a mass of ordure, filth and corruption. (A working definition of Sacrifice being: the surrender of a higher value for a lower one. Or even to nothing at all; sacrifice just because.)

This perversion is brilliantly captured in Dali's Christus Hypercubus, below, in which the figure at left -- infinitely smaller than the Ideal Man pinned up on the stylised crucifix -- looks up at the blindingly bright Christ figure with a look not simply of curiosity or sadness, but of literal man-worship. If we have questions here, when looking at a man – not just any man, but our ideal man – nailed up to a piece of wood like this, they might be along these lines:
"How can you worship the destruction of your ideal man?” 
“Why would you celebrate his torture?” 
“Why is suffering so damned central to your mythology?”
Fair questions, especially when confronted with priests quietly sacrificing young children to their own misbegotten lusts, and splatter-fests like Mel Gibson’s Passion that so lovingly depict every act of torture and every drop of blood in high-definition Technicolor as their Ideal Man is delivered up to the mob. (They mightn’t watch the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but how many good and gentle Christians will be searching on Netflix this Easter for the chance to see their hero graphically beaten and slayed?)



Christus Hypercubus, Salvador Dali.

You have to believe a lot of (literally) fantastic nonsense to explain this stuff away, let alone worship it. Han's Holbein's painting Christ After Crucixion helps makes plain both the reality of the sacrifice, and the precise amount of fantasy you would have to believe to swallow this stuff. Holbein's interrogation brings you up short. It tells you: This is reality. This is a dead body. It It is never going to walk again. 




A Christian Confronts Reality, Hans Holbein

Holbein's is no ideal man. It is a painting from the morgue. It is a man as he would be several days after a brutal death; decaying, rigid, gone, departed. Its features drawn, its muscles limp, its skin already decomposing. I've labelled it as Dostoyevesky did when confronted with this battered Christian corpse: when he was first brought face to decaying jowl with the gruesome reality of death and sacrifice crucifixion and its results. Dostoyevsky was immediately struck when first seeing the piece by the importance of this confrontation for his faith, and inspired to dramatise in his next novel the full importance what that confrontation meant. As described by his wife,
The figure of Christ taken from the cross, whose body already showed signs of decomposition, haunted him like a horrible nightmare. In his notes to [his novel] 'The Idiot' and in the novel itself he returns again and again to his theme.
Dostoyevsky describes in The Idiot one character's questioning:
His body on the cross was therefore fully and entirely subject to the laws of nature. In the picture the face is terribly smashed with blows, swollen, covered with terrible, swollen, and bloodstained bruises, the eyes open and squinting; the large, open whites of the eyes have a sort of dead and glassy glint. . . .
    Looking at that picture, you get the impression of nature as some enormous, implacable, and dumb beast, or, to put it more correctly, much more correctly, though it may seem strange, as some huge engine of the latest design, which has senselessly seized, cut to pieces, and swallowed up–impassively and unfeelingly–a great and priceless Being, a Being worth the whole of nature and all its laws, worth the entire earth, which was perhaps created solely for the coming of that Being!
Holbein confronts the Christian viewer with the starkest of choices: One must either believe the fantasy that God somehow repaired and raised this ravaged body from the dead, and that the Christian myth, therefore, “offers hope for humanity beyond this life”; or else you must accept that the dead stay dead, that such an event did not and could not occur, that reality is what it is – not fodder for this nastiness -- and begin making a life and an ethics from there. Dostoyevsky's Idiot crystallises the challenge. Holbein's art makes it possible.



A Christian Confronts Reality (detail), Hans Holbein

Remember here that good art need not be a thing of beauty, but it must have something to say. This -- both Holbein’s painting and Dostoyevsky’s novel -- certainly do that.

But why celebrate sacrifice anyway? Why wait, as the fantasy demands, for happiness in some supernatural realm? Why accept the nonsense that the whole of nature and all its laws were created for the sake of a fantastic and gruesome story?

Maybe, instead, we could reject the absurd, and with that embrace instead this earth and our life upon it. This is what artist Michael Newberry asks of us in his powerful reclamation of two mythological traditions.



Icarus Landing, acrylic on linen, 55x36 inches.

This is man reclaiming mythology, and embracing this earth. 

In the artist's words, 
Happy Easter!
Wouldn't it be great if we could be transformed while alive?
And evolve with plenty of time to share the wonder?
And to look towards Earth for our paradise?
Wouldn’t it just. And wouldn’t that transform lives.

Happy Easter everyone!

Have some chocolate, have some fun, and if you have to watch a movie, then make it Life of Brian.
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QotD: "I'd like to see a 'slow information' movement, parallel to the 'slow food' movement..."


"I'd like to see a 'slow information' movement, parallel to the 'slow food' movement. Just little things. Read whole articles, don't skim. Read more books. Have commentary be only a small part of your intake. In short: more protein and fibre, less cake."
~ graphic novelist Zach Weinersmith.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

QotD: "Those who carry on trade always try to rid themselves of competition..."


"Those who carry on trade always try to rid themselves of competition; they always produce some sophistical arguments to prove that it is to the interest of the State to rid them at least of foreign competition, which they have no difficulty in representing as the enemy of national trade."~ French economist ARJ Turgot in a 1754 letter to Controller-General of Finances Abbé Terray
[Hat tip Cafe Hayek]
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Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Monday, 26 March 2018

“Integrity?” [updated]


As of this weekend, there’s a new oxymoron to add to 'Australian culture': Australian integrity. And a lesson to be drawn about owning up.

The position of Australian cricket captain in the country’s pecking order is just one down, or even one up,  from Australian PM. It bears with it all the virtues and values the Australian likes to think are embodied by those from the broad brown land: courage, fortitude, tenacity, a relentless drive to succeed, integrity.

Look however at this press conference over the weekend with the most recent Australian cricket captain to wear that mantle, just after his team were found to be cheating by illegally tampering with the ball in the method described by the newest member of the team, Cameron Bancroft:





It makes for painful viewing, and not only for  Australians. It isn't cricket -- and there's a reason that phrase still does have some resonance, because it still stands for some kind of rectitude in a world in which that quality seems in such dreadfully short supply.

IN MANY WAYS, THE the press conference says more than the blatant cheating. In this interview his integrity, or lack thereof, is fully exposed. It is an apology without offering an apology, a mea culpa without the slightest intention to change. Listen to the words, which betray more than he thinks:

The leadership group knew about it, he says, we spoke about it at lunch. ('We spoke about cheating, and decided to get the new bloke to do it.' That tells you all you need to know about his team's 'leadership.')

I'm not proud of what happened. Um. ('I'm really not proud of you blokes noticing the young bloke putting that stuff down his trousers.' But would he, you wonder, have been really proud of winning if they hadn't been caught?)

You know, it's not within the spirit of the game. (From Smith's career, and that of recent Australian captains, there's little evidence he even knows what that last phrase means. And if he did, why did he sanction the cheating and the manner of it? Blank out.)

My integrity, the team's integrity, the leadership group's integrity has come into question, and rightfully so. (Mate, it's not under question, it's fully revealed. But note how in his own mind, it's still a question.)

Um, it's not on. It's certainly not on, and it won't happen again, I can promise you that, under my leadership. (Note how he appears to try to convince himself it's not on. ('It's certainly not on.') But we already know you're a liar and can't be trusted, so what exactly are your promises to anyone now worth?)

There is nothing in this about which to feel proud. (And he doesn't look it, does he. And this is precisely the consequence of cheating to achieve a value: shame in other's eyes and, most importantly, in your own.)

It's not what we're about. (But, mate, in every sense, it is. This is who you are. And that's the bit on which he really does need to stop and reflect.)

ON WATCHING IT A second time, and cringing as much as the first, I thought back to the ignominious end of South African Hanse Cronje, and reflected how reality is so often Shakespearean in being the final tragic arbiter of poor choices. Smith clearly thinks he can control this (as we move on) because he still doesn't see the full magnitude of what he's made happen. That too speaks bucket loads about how important he truly views it in the scheme of things.

Sure, it's not the first time a test cricket captain has been caught tampering with the ball. Even the opposing South African captain in this series Faf Du Plessis was caught earlier in the season smearing his breath mint over the ball to help it perform more wildly. "It's so difficult to know whats right and what isn't," this cheat laughed unapologetically after being sprung. That his team's supporters laughed loudly too raises equally 'many questions' about their integrity as well.

But, "difficult"? No, what he is saying is purely evasive bollocks. Virtues pertain to our choices -- the choice to focus, or not; to act with courage, or not; to put illegal substances on a ball, or not. The choices are only difficult when you've forgotten, or never fully understood, what it is to do right. That is to say, to do right by yourself.

It really isn't that hard to know what to do when you do know, and Australian cricket did it back in 1988 when it dropped wicketkeeper Greg Dyer after he'd falsely claimed he'd taken a catch against New Zealander Andrew Jones. Back then, a cricketer's word was a given, and Dyer's was taken. When the truth emerged however he was dropped, just like he dropped that catch, and he never played for his country again. It wasn't cricket.





THERE ARE TWO VIRTUES involved here: honesty and integrity, both being based on the recognition that real values (like a test victory) can never be earned or lastingly enjoyed if they were obtained by deception.
Honesty is the recognition of the fact that the unreal is unreal and can have no value, that neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud.
It is not the fear of being found out that undercuts success: it's your own knowledge that victory was achieved dishonestly. And to the extent you don't evade that awareness, it's knowledge that immediately diminishes you in your own eyes. (The only fool you can't fool is yourself.)

And if you do elect to evade that awareness of who you really are? Then you're immediately on the road to making reality your enemy, rather than your honest ally, which is a long and slippery slope to total destruction. (Objective morality being about achieving your own lasting happiness, based on unvarnished adherence to reality.)

Integrity is the recognition of this fact in action: that one's primary orientation must be to reality, not to putting something over on others.

Because trying to win by deceiving others, that would be the mark of a coward.

Or of today's Australian cricket captain.


UPDATE: 
The ABC's Jim Maxwell answers the question:  "Why is Australia so outraged at Steven Smith's team?"

A cricket-writing colleague, not from Australia, asked me that question on Sunday. It was a valid query. Ball-tampering does happen in cricket, probably a lot more than anyone outside the game realises. Players have been sanctioned for it before. In the ICC's Code of Conduct it is ranked at the same level as making a seriously obscene gesture, and is less grave than intimidating an umpire. The maximum penalty is a fine and suspension for one Test, which Steven Smith received and Cameron Bancroft did not.
So, why is that not the end of the story? Why was there such widespread national outrage over an incident that cricket's governing body views as only of moderate severity?
To answer a question with another question, what do they know of Australia who only Australian cricket know? READ ON >>>
 And by the way, it's not just Australia. And it's not just the cricket world. "Test cricket was front page news across the world over the past [few] days, for all the wrong reasons."




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Definition of the Day: Alt-Right


Alt-Right: A neo-Marxist post-modernist political ideology characterised by an affinity for European ethno-nationalism (white supremacy), anti-semitic conspiracy theory (group evolutionary strategy), atheism, biological determinism (race-realism), totalitarian modes of governance (National Socialism), combined with subversive Alinskyite promotional methodology (memes as arguments). In general, they share a disdain for Classical Liberalism (cucks), contemporary Conservatism (cucks) and Libertarian (cucks) political ideologies. Their main hostility is reserved for Social Liberalism in its current form but not in its methodology which they adopt and practice (poorly) in reverse. They also really really like using the word CUCK."
~ taken from the 'All Right' blog post 'Hannibal Ad Portas'
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Sunday, 25 March 2018

"A tax cut without a spending cut isn't a tax cut."


"A tax cut without a spending cut isn't a tax cut. A tax cut when spending goes up is an increase in taxes."
~ Russ Roberts

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

QotD: "There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal"


"There is all the difference in the world between treating people equally and attempting to make them equal. While the first is the condition of a free society, the second means (as De Tocqueville describes it) 'a new form of servitude.'"
~ Friedrich Hayek
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