Thursday, 26 April 2018

"'Jumping through hoops' is pushing up building costs"

I was heartened this morning to hear Radio NZ report that "'jumping through hoops' is pushing up building costs" -- not about the hoops, and certainly not about the costs they're imposing, but because this is finally being reported as a headline item.
Fire engineers are accusing councils of making illegal demands on them that are inflating building costs by thousands of dollars... "I've become totally used to how bad it is, I'm sort of numb to it, it's just a bureaucratic nightmare right now," Wellington fire engineer Kenneth Crawford of Pacific Consultants said. "We've got so many demands coming from council ... it's pushed up costs, it's creating months and months of delays in obtaining a building consent, and none of this is actually really improving safety." A fire design on a small warehouse in 2013 that might have cost $1200 to $1500 was now costing at least $4000, and up to $20,000, he said.
Sadly, as anyone who's recently endured the consent process could tell you, it's not confined to fire engineers.

The Building Act requires council to process Building Consent applications within twenty working days of being lodged. Council have two dodges to get around this. The first is to set up a process to decide when the application has been successfully lodged. This can easily take two weeks, with no work at all done n processing. And the second -- based on he principle that "the clock stops" when questions about the project are asked -- is to ask as many silly questions as council processors can think of, all of them calculated to show down the processing and frustrate client, consultants and designers. [This 2013 table from Christchurch will give you some idea of the time 'saved' in this way.]

In recent months, for example, and like every regular applicant for building consents, I've spent many, many hours replying to council's Requests for Further Information (RFIs). These days it's often less about being a designer than it is about being a lawyer, explaining the building code clauses to the processor at the other end of an email.

The simplest RFI responses are to tell the questioner where precisely in the document set they can find the answer to their question, already addressed. But in recent months it's been getting worse. Among other things, in order to keep things moving I've been required to tell council the make and model of a shower and the finish of a bathroom cabinet; the colour of bedroom carpets (accompanied by a calculation to show they're bright enough); the normal process by which to pour a concrete footing in engineered soil, to abandon approved details because the territorial authority has decided they don't like them, and to replace them with those they've now decided they do; to discuss the acoustics of polystyrene sheets (that are not being used for acoustic purposes); to resupply calculations and statements that the processor has already received, but lost; to explain why handrails are not required on steps with fewer than two treads, and how an opening window into an open lightwell allows light and air into a room; to draw up a list of a project's "construction and demolition hazards"; to provide mechanical ventilation rates for areas we've shown will use natural ventilation; to draw up simple diagrams because processors are unable to read fairly standard plans; to confirm the use of smoke detectors (when they've already been clearly placed and labelled on drawings); and (in the absence of council finding anything else to ask about) to draw a detail of a bathroom splashback -- just some examples of recent Requests from processors, all of which have wasted my time and theirs, unnecessarily dragging out the consenting process, and all at the time and expense of clients who were once very eager to build.

I'm sure you can all add your own list of examples. (And please do!)

This process is often worse when councils sublet the processing to a consultant, whose motivation is then to spin out the questions in order to pad the bill. This can work out very nicely for the very average consultant, but very poorly for clients who have budgets and builders trying to programme in their work.

And all this of course is in addition to the truckload of documentation, in triplicate, that has to be supplied just to 'get in the door' to make that original application, the sheer volume of which in itself delays the processing and all but guarantees inconsistencies will appear in the document set. By way of illustration, I may be renovating a house built in the 1920s, of a style that is still very popular, the original drawings of which are on one A4 page with another smaller page containing what might be called the specification -- which might say little more than 'use nails.' And this 'document set' was probably drawn up by either the builder or owner. Yet to renovate that house now I will need documentation of around 24 A1 pages, and A4 specifications and accompanying documentation of around a thousand. And neither builder nor owner will be allowed to prepare those documents unless they have been previously Licensed by a government department to do so.

Every year it's been getting worse, without making the houses any better. In 2007, for instance -- aware that things were becoming more complicated in this new age of Licensing, Producer Statements and Memoranda/Certificates of Design Work-- the Department of Building and Housing produced a Guide to Applying for a Building Consent. It was a 44 pages long. The second edition appeared just three years later. It was already 62 pages long. None has appeared since: perhaps because no-one would have the time to read a document as long as it would now need to be. Crikey, these days it takes well over a day just to complete the application forms and processes to apply for a consent, and more than a day for every response thereafter.  All of it time wasted.

Every consultant will tell you similar stories, and not just fire engineers.

Yes, 'jumping through hoops' is pushing up building costs, and has been for some time.

Until or unless the Building Act is amended to remove risk from council -- and their ratepayers -- the hoops (and costs) are going to get worse, not better.

"Man, too, is no less a feature of the landscape than the nature to which he owes his being.”

“Man takes a positive hand in creation whenever he puts a building upon the earth beneath the sun. If he has any birthright at all, it must consist in this, that he, too, is no less a feature of the landscape than the rocks, trees, bears or bees of that nature to which he owes his being.”
~ Frank Lloyd Wright, 1937

[Top pic of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Fallingwater,' by photographer Andrew Pielage; bottom pic of Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Tirranna' House, by Houlihan Lawrence via Cottage and Garden]

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Lest we forget *what*?

I grow increasingly uneasy every year with the growing laudation of Anzac Day.

Lest we forget, it is said, every year, with increasing vehemence. But what exactly is it we should be remembering, and are earnestely entreated not to forget?

In my own lifetime, the remembrance seems to have morphed from the birth of a nation and the bungling of generals to one in which the twin themes of duty and blood sacrifice have come to thoroughly permeate the day. Is it just the proximity to Easter that allows that commemoration's central theme to bleed so strongly into this one, I wonder? But I fear instead that it's the increasing link between the ethics of duty and altruism, and the demands of the State in collecting both.

The sculpture above and below is by Australian artist Rayner Hoff, inside the Australian War Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

It is called, appropriately: ‘Sacrifice.’

At the very focal point of what is virtually a temple to the slain, a stylised man-machine lies prostrate on his shield (embossed upon it are the words “come home on either with your shield or on it,” the words said by wives whose husbands answered the call to war) across a sword too weighty to wield, atop a stylised column lauding the ultimate sacrifice of an individual life...

Few twentieth-century sculptures celebrate the morality of sacrifice in war more nobly. More starkly. More ... appropriately.

For never is the widespread acceptance of the morality of sacrifice exploited so thoroughly but in times of war. In World War One, that mis-named 'Great War,' the exploitation was explicit -- sacrifice exploited for recruitment, for economic savings, to diminish liberty, to justify and transmogrify the mass slaughter into something akin to a mass crusade.
Honour, Duty, Patriotism and -- clad in glittering white -- the great pinnacle of Sacrifice, pointing like a rugged finger to Heaven. [1]
This disgusting cant was how Lloyd George combined the themes in a 1914 recruiting speech, the "great pinnacle" uniting the reasons to die on the State's chosen altar. To no-one's surprise, hymns were written in this vein,  ringing to the drumbeat of sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice ...

Proudly you gathered, rank on rank, to war
As who had heard God’s message from afar;
All you had hoped for, all you had, you gave,
To save mankind—yourselves you scorned to save

In the final days of the war, desperate to give meaning to the slaughter, the literal blood sacrifice of millions was being called up by many as constituting some form of great moral atonement akin to that called up by the Easter crucifixion.
The men who, in days gone by, have recoiled from the plan statement of God's Word that 'without shedding blood there is no remission of sin' should find this doctrine easy of acceptance in these days when our lives in this Nation, as the lives of those in the Nations allied to us, are being redeemed by the blood of our sons. [3]
Thus are the transgressions of those who seek moral meaning in mass slaughter. Could anything be more foul? "At the centre of this," writes historian Adrian Gregory,
was an interpretation of war as in some sense 'a sign of grace' in the English people. Before the war all the indications were supposedly of some kind of a disaster; a disaster caused by materialism, selfishness and social division. The war had called forth a better nature. An altruistic willingness to sacrifice oneself for the cause of righteousness ... [4]
"We have been too comfortable and too indulgent," cried Lloyd George, "many, perhaps, too selfish." Thus is selfishness made the sin and the morality of altruism made explicit as a call to mass sacrifice -- that collective bloodshed 'atoning' in atavistic fashion for the pre-war sin in having produced and enjoyed what was described as the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history -- or as Austrian author Stefan Zweig called it “individual freedom at its zenith, after [which] I saw liberty at its lowest point in hundreds of years.” [5, 6] That was what mass slaughter had bought. By the ethic of altruism, the soldier's sacrifice was a "'blood tax' which everyone else had to measure themselves against." [7]

We are still being asked to, every April 25.

What is it then we should least forget, every year? For these are among the things that I cannot. As Ayn Rand observed, when there is widespread call of sacrifice, there is always someone ready and willing to pick up the sacrifices. Not in military duty necessarily, today, but undoubtedly in calls for duty, for selflessness, for service to a higher cause -- either State, or Climate, or Great Cause -- that Great Cause to be selected for us by Great Leaders. Selfishness, still, the sin to be expunged.

For under a morality of sacrifice, the standard of value is never your own happiness, but that of others. Not your own prosperity, but that of others. Not even your own life, but those of others. (As W.H Auden sarcastically summarises, “We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I can’t imagine.” [8])

The result of all this sacrifice amounts to nothing more than an often blood-soaked row of zeroes; or as this excerpt from Galt’s Speech points out: "Under a morality of sacrifice, the first value you sacrifice is morality…" [9]

Think about it.

In the meantime, and as a much healthier antidote , let’s talk about happiness. Not war. Not sacrifice. But the thing -- and, flowing from freedom, perhaps the only thing -- that is ever worth fighting for. “What else could be more selfishly important?”


1. David Lloyd George, speech at Queen's Hall, September, 1914, quoted in Adrian Gregory's book The Last Great War,  2008, "an entirely new account of how British society understood and endured the war." (You might also say: of the moral means by which they were exploited.)
2. From the hymn 'O Valiant Heart,' taken from a poem by John Stanhope Arkwright, published in The Supreme Sacrifice, and other Poems in Time of War (1919)
3. The War and Sacrificial Death: A Warning, The Evangelical Alliance, 1918, quoted in Gregory
4. Gregory, 157
5. From Ayn Rand’s introduction to her essay collection The Romantic Manifesto: A Philosophy of Literature.
6. From Stefan Zweig’s 1942 autobiography, which is also a biography of the collapse of Europe into barbarism, The World of Yesterday
7. Gregory, 150
8. Auden, Prose, vol. 2, p. 347
9. Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Q: But what were the ANZACs fighting *for*, Grandad?

Today, all the stories from Anzac Cove seem so inevitable. But what were all those ANZAC troops actually fighting for – and why were they doing it in Turkey, for Galt’s sakes!? 
What on earth were they hoping to achieve over there? 
And why exactly is their sacrifice and botched battle considered part of the “birth” of our two nations?

From the centenary’s Countdown to Anzac Day series here at NOT PC comes this blog’s answer to those questions.

* * * *

Did you know that Australian and New Zealand soldiers embarking in November 1914 on ships towards Britain thought they would be fighting for Britain on the Western Front, not fighting in Turkey to gift Constantinople to Russia --against whom for decades New Zealanders and Australians had been defending their shores and ships? Yet that is the reason they embarked – not to beat the Hun, but to save the Czar and to gift him a city … 

THE MYTHOLOGY OF ANZAC is that the battle at the Dardanelles gave birth to three nations. If that’s true, it is an odd birth, fathered out of failure by way of disaster. For modern Turkey, the mythology helps hide a genocide. For Australia and NZ, it gives us a birth date more unmired by difficult questions of colonialism than an earlier birth-date would bring.

Still, it’s mostly a modern invention, this mythology, and if there’s any truth to it at all then it applies more in Australia than it does in New Zealand, where they have made “the anniversary of a botched battle into virtually the country’s national day.”[1]

It’s truly, truly odd. In what way did a butchered battle give birth to these two nations so far away from the carnage, or from any genuine understanding of what the total waste of human life was for?

It’s true that for the first time, outside the few sports played internationally, NZers and Australians could compare themselves on a world stage and begin to identify (if they could) the sorts of national differences that distinguish one group of people from another. But NZers’ similarities with Britons were still greater than any real differences, and both at war’s beginning and end NZers still identified themselves thereat: Indeed, NZ’s war began with Prime Minister Massey’s abject declaration to parliament “that, if necessity unfortunately arose, New Zealand was prepared to send her utmost quota of help in support of the Empire,”[2] and at war’s end held even tighter to Britain than at war’s start, remaining for decades (especially by contrast with Australia) “a particularly Anglophile part of the Commonwealth.”[3]

So it’s not really clear why this legend even arises, in NZ at any rate.

Even in Australia, the legend has only a short heritage. The publicity poster for Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli, released in 1981, tells a tale of the legend’s birth: “’From a place you have never heard of … comes a story you’ll never forget.”  Take careful note of that phrase “a place you have never heard of” – it describes where the ‘legend’ sat just three-and-one-half decades ago: nowehere. “[It says] a lot about where the Anzac saga had been,” says an Australian author who’s examined this frequently overlooked point, “and equally where it would be going.”[4]

ODDLY ENOUGH, FOR A BATTLE that supposedly gave birth to two nominally independent nations it was one hatched, devised, planned and bungled entirely without the input of either -- and the participation of the Australian and NZ Army Corps themselves was entirely accidental.

It couldn’t be more appropriate that the reason these two were chosen for the ill-fated mission was born out of battlefield disaster. "Chewing barbed wire" to little effect on the Western Front, and under political pressure to achieve a breakthrough somewhere (even a place no-one had heard of), the war chiefs found a plan drawn up years before that some of them thought might have legs.

Not Kitchener however. Britain’s wartime icon and then war chief Field Marshall Kitchener had declared that in this campaign Britain could afford neither British troops from the Western Front nor the British navy for escort duties, so when Churchill's plans for a naval breakthrough at the place of legend failed as dismally as naval tacticians had predicted, the fortunate happenstance of colonial troops already en route for the Suez escorted by Japanese warships was seized upon to reinforce a French/British force begrudgingly transferred from Belgium.

The resulting irony (among  many) was that, entirely unknown to anyone when they departed, these ANZAC troops were headed to a place they'd never heard of to deliver a city to a natural foe, escorted there by ships of a navy against whose threat (after Japan's stunning victories in the Russo-Japanese war) Australia and New Zealand had huddled even further beneath Britain's defensive skirts.

Perhaps the final irony in this disaster was that Britain cared nothing for those infant nations’ troops, throwing them away in a campaign of unmitigated disaster whose success, if it had even been possible, would have done nothing to shorten the war, and whose drawn-out failure few wanted to acknowledge.

IT WAS ARGUED BY no less than Lloyd George that knocking the Ottomans out of the war would “knock out Germany’s props” and leave its “soft underbelly” exposed. Nothing, really, could have been further from the truth. The campaign undermined whatever reputation remained of both Royal Navy and British military acumen – and if it were costing thousands of young lives on the flat and easily supplied Western Front “to move General Haig’s drinks cabinet a few yards closer to Berlin,”[5] then it swiftly became clear that in the distant and mountainous terrain between Constantinople and Berlin there lay no shortcut. Nonetheless, 1st Baron Maurice Hankey, who as Secretary of Britain’s War Council “carried all before him [in cabinet] with his persuasive memorandum of 28 December 1914”[6] proposing British, Greek, Bulgarian and Romanian troops “occupy” Constantinople. As if it were simply a matter of the the choosing being the doing.

For his part, Churchill, at this early stage of plans being hatched, favoured the “diversion” of landing troops on an island in the Baltic, for which he received the much-deserved disdain of his cabinet colleagues, but seeing a bandwagon driving past, when shown Hankey’s memo he jumped quickly on board, “commenting that he himself had advocated an attack at the Dardanelles two months earlier...”[7]

Not that failure of an attack was inevitable. Tragically, and
in retrospect, it seems clear that if the Greek army had marched on Constantinople in early 1915, alongside the British navy, the Ottoman capital would have been defenceless.[8]
It wasn’t to be—mostly because no-one saw any strategic advantage to Britain in occupying what is now Istanbul. 

Not until a desperate Russian high command pleaded for “a diversionary attack”[9] to help relieve its beleagured troops were plans finally drawn up – but for a naval-only attack on the Dardanelles: Kitchener refused to make troops available, and First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill boasted they would be unnecessary. But his Royal Navy blundered around there so long to so little effect that even the beleagured Bosche quickly worked out something was afoot in this mountainous underbelly of Europe, and encouraged its new Turkish ally to rapidly reinforce the peninsula to repel whatever it was perifdious Albion was cooking up there.

SO BEGAN THE BLUNDERING, even as the first of many ironies began piling on. Because the very reason Russian troops had been so beleaguered was an Ottoman attack on the Caucasus that had already been swiftly repelled three months before ANZAC troops landed to give them some relief. The attack itself was pointless:
Logically, after crushing the Ottoman invaders that month, the Russians should have told Lord Kitchener that it was no longer necessary for him to launch a diversionary attack on Constantinople in order to relieve it from a Turkish threat that no longer existed. [But this was not how these ‘allies’ operated.]
    Thus began the Dardanelles campaign, which was to so alter the fortunes of Churchill and Kitchener, [Prime Ministers] Asquith and Lloyd George, Britain and the Middle East 
And, of course, of Australia and New Zealand, and of the many bold, bright-eyed young men in their respective army corps.

In the end, the attempted occupation was decided upon for several very bad reasons:
  • partly because in any bureaucracy once plans are begun they are very hard to stop; and
  • partly as an altruistic gift to an “ally” who was the most autocratic in Europe, who had shown no sign of earning British trust.
The price for this unearned sacrifice to the Czar was to be paid for in the blood of those bright-eyed Australian, New Zealand and British young men and their families sent to fight an unwinnable battle on a an unimportant shore.

Such is the code of sacrifice under which the decision was made to go.

EVEN WITHOUT THE NEED for a diversion, however, the gift would have meant everything to the backward, autocratic Russian empire for whom the young Anzacs were asked to give their lives.

As an almost landlocked nation Russia had always been desperate for a warm-water port. For virtually the entire 19th century, or at least since Napoleon had passed away, Britain had been manoeuvring in the Mediterranean to keep Russia out (this was after why the Light Brigade were famously and self-sacrificially charging the guns in Sebastapol only a few generations before), and in the Middle East to keep Russia away from India.

As long as Russia was held at arm’s length, the two aims were mutually reinforcing. The trouble began when the two aims were crossed in an increasingly muddled foreign policy by an increasingly distracted British Foreign Minister.

Russia’s desperation for a secure warm-water port had always set it on a collision course with the rest of Europe.
From Russia’s point of view it made eminent sense to search for secure warm-water ports but, as Kuropatkin had warned [Czar] Nicholas in 1900, it ran a great risk: ‘However just our attempts to possess the exit to the Black Sea, to acquire an outlet to the Indian Ocean, and to obtain an outlet to the Pacific, these missions touch so deeply on the interests of almost the entire world that in pursuit of them we must be prepared for a struggle with a coalition of Great Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, China, and Japan.’ Of all Russia’s potential enemies, Britain, with its worldwide empire, seemed to be the most immediately threatening.[11]
During the peace of the 19th century, Russia’s Black Sea ports eventually came into their own commercially. “As Russia became a major exporter, especially in food, the passage from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean via the Bosphorus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles – known collectively at the time as ‘the Straits’ – became particularly vital; 37 per cent of all its exports and 75 per cent of its crucial grain exports were flowing past Constantinople by 1914.”[12]

But as its treaty with France made clear enough, it wanted these ports for military use as well – extracting France’s agreement that Russian interests should predominate at the east end of the Mediterranean.
Also clear enough from many centuries of Russian-Ottoman enmity was that the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, past which Russian grain, war materiel and battleships must pass, was under threat.

This should, of course, have put Russian plans on a direct and very visible collision course with British interests in Egypt, Malta and the Suez Canal that helped form Britain’s naval strategy of keeping The Med as “a British lake,” and the Ottoman Empire as, if not a friend, then at least a fairly benign neighbour. It should have put it on a collision course, but it didn’t, because Britain also wanted Russian kept away from India.

You see how I said things would get muddled?

Because the new 1905 Liberal government and its new Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, saw nothing in this conflict of interests to slow them down.
One of Grey’s first meetings after he took office in December 1905 was with Benckendorff to assure the Russian ambassador that he wanted an agreement with Russia. In May 1906 Sir Arthur Nicolson arrived as British ambassador in St Petersburg with authority from the Cabinet to sort out with Izvolsky the three main irritants in the relationship: Tibet, Persia and Afghanistan. The locals were not, of course, consulted while their fate was decided thousands of miles away. The negotiations were long and tedious as might be expected between two parties, ‘each of which thought the other was a liar and a thief.’[13]
The agreement worked moderately well in fending off Russian aggression on the North-West Frontier.
It worked appallingly in Europe, where it helped to set off the First World War.

The new British cosiness with Russia was seen by Germany (when combined with the coterminous Russian treaties with France) as a threat to its very existence – Russia, France and Britain forming an “iron ring” it was said that encircled and would eventually strangle them. (A man like Bismarck might perhaps have negotiated away this perceived threat; but Germany had no Bismarcks left, only a child-like Kaiser prone to tantrums. And a man like Gladstone may have recognised how the friendships would be seen by Germany, but Britain had no Gladstones left, just a Foreign Minister utterly out of his depth in a cabinet confused about Britain’s place in this new world).

It turned out this unlikely friendship between erstwhile rivals was the final link in the powder trail leading from Russia’s agreement to back Serbia that was finally ignited by “The Guns of August,” 1914.

It was not to be the only foreign-policy bungle from Sir Edward Grey, whose eleven-year tenure in the job offers few chances to transfer blame to others. It was the longest continuous tenure of any person in that office, and it could not have fallen to a less integrated thinker at a time when the world could not have been more complicated.
His own muddling, and that of his Prime Minister, made all the complications worse.

Because once war began (and you can read elsewhere here about the war’s beginnings) we can draw a straight line from the muddling to the murder on those beaches at the Dardanelles.

ONCE THE PLEADED-FOR “diversionary attack” had begun by naval means, even as the reasons for the pro-Russian diversion had disappeared (Russian troops no longer being so immediately beleagured), Russia quickly saw its chance for someone else to shed blood on their behalf anyway.

Simply assuming the inevitable success of what had begun as an ill-thought-out diversionary attack on his behalf, in March 1915 Czar Nicholas II already began issuing demands of his new Allies, insisting that at the operation’s end “the Allies turn over Constantinople and the Straits—and all adjacent territories—to Russia.” The response illuminate’s the intellectual and moral rot at the heart of the wartime Asquith Administration.
[British Foreign Minister] Grey and [his Prime Minister] Asquith, the leaders of the Liberal administration, were ... disposed to make the concession that Britain’s wartime ally required…
    At the outset of the Ottoman war, the Prime Minister wrote [to his young mistress Venetia Stanley] that ‘Few things wd. give me greater pleasure than to see … Constantinople either become Russian (which I think is its proper destiny) or if that is impossible neutralised…’
    In March 1915, when the issue arose, he wrote of Constantinople and the Straits that ‘It has become quite clear that Russia means to incorporate them in her own Empire,’ and added that ‘Personally I have always been & am in favour of Russia’s claim…’
    Unbeknown to the rest of the Cabinet [and of course to the Anzac troops who were eventually called upon to carry out his strategy], Sir Edward Grey had already committed the country [i.e., Britain and its Commenwealth] to eventual Russian control of Constantinople, having made promises along these lines to the Russian government [as long ago as] 1908[!]. His view [not supported by his advisers, nor by anything in Russian history before or since] was that if Russia’s legitimate [sic] aspirations were satisfied at the Straits, she would not press claims in Persia, eastern Europe, or elsewhere.
If the British response to the illegimate demand of the Russian Czar could be truthfully characterised as anything, it would be a catastrophic combination of altruism and wishful thinking.

So less than ten years after Asquith’s musings had developed and Grey’s muddled Russian strategy had taken effect, and with Winston’s ships firing ineffectually and the battlefield now fully reinforced, Australian and NZ forces landed in the Dardanelles to carry out their ill-starred mission. The real reason for the mission, not that they knew it: not to open a route to Berlin, which was always impossible, but to take Constantinople for Russia.

TO BE FAIR TO Churchill, who shoulders a large part of history’s blame for the campaign’s failure, he was initially wary at the idea of a naval-only operation, but he and the Asquith Cabinet were swiftly persuaded by the commander of the British naval squadron off the Dardanelles, Admiral Sackville Carden, who cabled back answering Churchill’s early question on the possibility of naval interventions there that “while the Dardanelles could not be ‘rushed’—in other words, could not be seized by a single attack—“they might be forced by extended operations with a larger number of ships.”[15] Churchill jumped on board with a decision he himself had finessed, and the decision was just as swiftly made.[16]

Yet even as Admiralty opinion began turning against the idea of a purely naval venture, and as British naval warships began bombarding the Turkish coast to little effect apart from alerting the Central Poweres of their interest in the area, Kitchener suddenly declared that troops would be used after all: primarily Australian and New Zealand troops who had just arrived in Egypt ready for re-embarkation to Western Europe, who would instead, in Kitchener’s plan, go in “once the navy’s ships had won the battle of the straits.”[17]

That battle was never won. The troops however were sent in anyway.

Turkish guns and Turkish mines in the Straits were sufficient to see off Churchill’s “extended operations.” The eight weeks of failed naval bombardment, beginning February 19, 1915, gave the Turks notice of the attack and time to marshal their defences at the Narrows—as did the glowing British newspaper accounts of the expedition’s assembly and embarkation in Egypt, the lights and the military bands of the vast fleet as it headed noisily through the Aegean, and the reports of parliamentary debates about the coming combined operation. 

Who needs surprise when sending in colonial troops to fight a third-world opponent, they all thought. Turkish expert Sir Mark Sykes had already warned Churchill in late February that “though [Turkish troops] could be routed by a surprise attack, ‘Turks always grow formidable if given time to think.’”[18] And unlike the third-world troops British troops had slaughtered so easily in the Sudan, these Turks had machine guns. And these guns were marshalled behind defences expertly laid out by one military genius, the German Liman Von Sanders, and directed by the man for whom the battle would launch the legend known as Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey – the only modern country that was actually born out of the battle.[19]

IF YOU THINK THINGS were already muddled enough then hang on to your hats! On 15 March, before either Australian or New Zealand troops had even entered their ships for the operation, fearful Turkish negotiators met with British officials in European Turkey to discuss leaving the war they had never sought in return for the large, but not wounding, sum of four million pounds. This would have delivered everything British strategists had said they wanted to achieve by force of arms, delivered to them not by the blood of thousands but by money that would have been spent anyway on the cost of war. “The negotiations failed because the British government felt unable to give assurances that the Ottoman Empire could retain Constantinople—so deeply were the British now committed to satisfying Russian ambitions.”[20]

If it might be doubted why Australian and New Zealand soldiers were ordered to fight and die on Turkish beaches one month later, the reason by now could not be any clearer: Anzac troops were there to make real the single and long-held ambition against which Britain had fought for centuries.

This was a sacrifice with neither selfish purpose nor realistic prospect of success.

YET IF ATTACKING A place that pre-war British military studies had long ago concluded was “too risky to be undertaken”[21] wasn’t already made difficult enough, the commander of the land operation and his manner of appointment made things only more so.

Sir Ian Hamilton was appointed peremptorily on March 12, barely one month before the landings. Telling the disinterested War Minister “he knew nothing about Turkey,” he was briefed by the War Office “by showing him a map and a plan of attack borrowed from the Greek General Staff.” Despite the overwhelming strategic importance placed on the attack, and the lives of countless men and women being put in harm’s way, “the War Office had not even taken the time or trouble to work out their own [plan]." So not yet a month into his new appointment, General Hamilton was sent out to win the war "with an inaccurate and out-of-date map and very little else to guide him.”[22]

On arrival in the theatre he promptly called off the naval operation, delayed the landings for a further three weeks, and agreed to attack only the European side of the straits. Whereupon, when the landings did finally happen – and for the Australian and NZ forces at Ari Burnu they were at the wrong beach – Hamilton decided at the first sign of opposition to dig in rather than move ahead to take up the battlefields’ dominating positions, dooming the expedition to a drawn-out replay of the very Western Front stalemate the campaign had been intended to circumnavigate.

If you feel like resurrecting the phrase “lions led by donkeys,” now might be about the right time.

OF THE BATTLES THEMSELVES AT the Dardanelles, much more is known and very little more needs to be said about the shambles that ensued. You will no doubt hear and re-hear many of these stories today and tomorrow, and of the heroism in the face of this hell.

Except perhaps that with Turks dug in on the heights to fire down on Anzac troops entrenched on beaches below, and with no obvious hope for any success in the campaign and the only obvious decision being evacuation, we might wonder why the soldiers were condemned to die there for months on those hills and these beach-heads?

The answer is that, against limp Cabinet opposition, Churchill and Kitchener simply refused all requests to withdraw –“Churchill because he was never willing to accept defeat, and Kitchener because he believed it would be a disaster for a British[-led] army to be seen to be defeated by a Middle Eastern one.”[23] Especially after the recent and very public stain of near-defeat by impoverished Boer farmers was still so raw.

So the bloody, murderous shambles on the beaches continued on until January, 1916 -- with no hope of success -- with nothing to be gained from victory-- and with the death and destruction in the end of 400,000 young lives.

What must those men have thought if they read Churchill’s speech to his Dundee constituency in June that “the Allies were only “a few miles from victory” at the Dardanelles, “a victory such as the war had not yet seen.”[24] What might the friends and family of those 400,000 said to Mr Churchill had they been there to hear it?

The "victory" never would be seen. It never could have been seen. 

Instead, it all turned to omnishambles. The only thing in the end about which anyone had anything about which to boast was a successful and well-executed withdrawal.

It was a bloody mess that achieved nothing, that could achieve nothing, that was purchased at the price of a wholesale sacrifice of young lives that could and would have meant something very great indeed. 

It was a total, complete and unmitigated disaster -- but for you at least, dear reader, some reason for the whole, sordid shambles might now be somewhat clearer, if not any easier to swallow.

The reason however for commemorating the shambles as the botched “birth” in some way of our nation is very much less so.

This post was part of NOT PC’s centenary series #CountdownToAnzacDay. Other posts in the series:
[1] From David Reynolds’s The Long Shadow: The Great War & the Twentieth Century, p. 376, who in his chapter 10 offers perhaps the best explanation for the birth of the mythology.[2] Quoted in Douglas Newton’s Hell-Bent: Australia's leap into the Great War. Kindle edition, location 1680[3] From David Reynolds’s The Long Shadow: The Great War & the Twentieth Century, p. 376[4] Ibidp. 375[5] A quip pilfered from Black Adder Goes Forth.[6] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 127[7] Ibid, p. 127[8] Ibid, p. 128[9] A plea emulated throughout the next war by Stalin, whose constant refrain in the meetings of the “Big Three” was a demand that Roosevelt and Churchill implement “a second front” to relieve the beleaguered Soviets[10] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 129[11] From Margaret MacMillan’s book The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War, Kindle edition, location 3496[12] Ibid, location 3492[13] Ibid, location 3733[14] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 138
[15] “As Carden subsequently emphasized in his evidence to the Dardanelles commission, the operative word was ‘might’.” From Robert Rhodes James’sChurchill: A Study in Failure, 19900-1939, p. 66
[16] This may be being more than fair. Robert Rhodes James is one among many in arguing that Churchill cynically manipulated the callow Carden into his opinion, which Churchill himself had maintained without support since at least August 1914. Carden’s undistinguished prior experience was as supervisor of the Malta dockyard, “and one of the [many] puzzles of the operation is why Carden was not replaced when the importance of the naval attack was recognised.” [Rhodes James, p. 65 n. 8] Perhaps because he was so easily manipulated? In any case, at the Dardanelles Commission set up to examine the disaster,  it was seen that authorities cited by Churchill to Carden  as being in total agreement with his opinion were not, and in his own evidence to the Commission,“Churchill agreed that his telegram was framed to provide a favourable answer.” [Dardanelles Commission: Evidence, Q.1264]
[17] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 133[18] From Martin Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill: Vol. 3, p. 343[19] In that sense, Gallipoli represented the birth of three nations, not just two. No wonder the bond at contemporary commemorations at the battlefield is so deep.[20] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 151[21] From Martin Gilbert’s Winston S. Churchill: Vol. 3, p. 358[22] From David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, p. 156[23] Ibid, p. 158[24] From Richard Toye’s Churchill’s Empire, p. 133.

"It's time to resume thinking about how to improve the planet for human beings."

"It's time to stop thinking about how to save the planet from human beings, and resume thinking about how to improve the planet for human beings."
~ @AlexEpstein

Monday, 23 April 2018

3 questions for Labour's housing minister

In August 2017 Labour's Phil Twyford and his boss Jacinda Ardern told an electorate "fired up about housing issues" they would "remove barriers that are stopping Auckland growing up and out."
Labour [said Labour] will remove the Auckland urban growth boundary and free up density controls. This will give Auckland more options to grow, as well as stopping landbankers profiteering and holding up development. New developments, both in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand, will be funded through innovative infrastructure bonds [said Labour]. … 
Eight months on there has been no action on either of these very important fronts. There is apparently, no urgency now their feet are under the Treasury benches.

Instead, the only action at all on the housing front has been  a xenophobic and ultimately destructive anti-immigrant ban on buying existing or funding new housing. Which was announced with an unseemly degree of urgency.

You can ask yourself what that says about this Labour-led Government's values. ("On this one," says one commentator who has answered the question for himself, "they have out-xenophobed Trump by miles.")

So there are three quetions that need to be answered urgently by this un-housing minister:

Q1. When are the Auckland Urban Limits being abolished ? 
Q2. When is bond financing for infrastructure to be introduced nationally ?
Q3: When will you remove your xenophobic and patently destructive anti-foreigner housing policy.
I think we should be told. Urgently.

[Hat tip Hugh Pavletich]

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


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

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®.

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

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

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:


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.