Monday, 12 May 2008

The only one missing was Minto

Before the Libz Party conference over the weekend, a few of us spent part of Friday evening in Galbraith's.  I watched some fascinating musical chairs in the table right in front of us.

A 'pair' of Keith Locke's aides arrived first along with communist Wayne Hope (who once confessed to me that he and his comrades joined the Greens after the Alliance folded because they knew they could make it serve the same goals) and with them was a young girl from Greenpeace.  As the evening progressed the table was filled by a revolving group of comrades and fellow travellers, all clearly on very friendly terms, including commentator Chris Trotter and unionist and former Alliance leader Jill Ovens -- who was, if you recall, the proximate reason for the megaphone bashing during last year's Labour Party conference.

Also joining them for cloth caps and glasses of warm bitter were Ovens's husband Len Richards, the megaphone diplomat and former Alliance flunkie.  Following the Alliance's demise he's now gone Labour too.  And sharing the table with Richards was the young fascist from 'Socialist Worker - New Zealand'' who edits the Socialist Unity magazine, who organised the court-session protests on behalf of the Urewera 16, and also the noisy protest outside the Labour conference that  included slogans such as 'Helen Clark, terrorist,' 'State Terrorists Kidnapped My Friends,' and 'Chris Trotter, leftist imposter,' at which protest Richard's smacked his comrade-in-arms in the mouth.

The obvious camaraderie of this group of authoritarian shits belies the images of conflict they produce for the media.  Their goals never change -- only the vehicles they choose to achieve them.

Ruthenasia II

Kudos should go to Labour's Double Standard blog for (almost) recognising the irony of Ruth Dyson presiding over the lowest beneficiary rates since Ruth Richardson's Mother of All Budgets in 1991.  (And kudos too to Ruthless Ruth Dyson for maintaining those low, low rates).

Blair Mulholland gives Sue Bradford the Dunce Cap for this revealing observation on the news:

The Green Party has accused the Government of running a "cruel and deliberate" benefit system that forces desperate people to find work...  "It was clear Labour believed the best way to motivate beneficiaries into paid work was to keep benefits so low that people were desperate to find work whatever situation they were in."

"Ooh do ya think?!" Says Blair. " OMG the cruelty!  Making people actually go out and find work!  Those bastards!"

Labour outlaws Greens

New blog The Dim Post looks to be outstanding satire.  It reveals, for example, how the Green Party intends to support Labour’s law to outlaw the Green Party:

The Labour Government's proposed bill to dissolve the Green Party took a step closer to being passed into law today after Green leaders Jeanette Fitzsimons and Russell Norman confirmed that they would vote in favour of the legislation.

The Environmental Electoral Vengeance Bill is currently before the Justice and Electoral select committee. If the law is bought into effect then membership of the Green Party will become a criminal offense punishable by ten years in prison and fines of up to three hundred thousand dollars.

‘This bill clears up many of the problems caused by potential Labour supporters casting their votes for inappropriate parties,’ Justice Minister Annette King announced during a pre-committee press conference. ‘It is undemocratic and unfair for votes rightfully belonging to Labour to be squandered on a bunch of hippies...'

Green Party cooperation was critical to passing the controversial law. The National Party withdrew its support when Justice Minister King introduced an amendment incorporating National into the bill.

While the National Party will not be outlawed, votes cast in favour of the opposition party will be transferred to Labour and counted in their favour. Under current polling this will see Labour voted back into power with approximately 110 seats and able to govern alone. National leader John Key has condemned the bill and criticized King’s handling of the legislation, although he has confirmed that if he somehow becomes Prime Minister he will not seek to change the bill in his first term.

As David Farrar says, "That one hits the mark on so many issues."

NZ Government needs a Burma Shave too

Libertarian Sean Fitzpatrick sent me this Guest Post:

BurmaShave-280 Politicians playing silly bugger debates in NZ over GST being cut in the face of rising prices of vital commodities now have a sinister parallel in the response to the hurricane disaster in Burma by Burmese politicians.

While tens of thousands of Burmese are rained on for lack of shelter, starving for lack of food, and dying for lack of water and basic medicines, the Burmese government is restricting access to suppliers of food, water, shelter and medical supplies. 

While aid agencies are kept out and the supplies they send in are seized, we bear witness on TV to the sickening sight of military rulers handing out aid in the most contrived way.

These bastards see the crisis as little more than a photo opportunity; a propaganda exercise.  They do not give a monkeys for the health and welfare of the people - they see the disaster only as a threat to their grip on power.

How else is this different to politicians using the financial strife hitting kiwi families as a chance to 'outscore' each other on 'solutions' that will not make a blind bit of difference?The answer in both places is the same: get the government the hell out of the way!

The Government report card: 'Not Achieved'

Libertarianz party president Craig Milmine welcomed an enthusiastic group of activists and supporters to the election year party conference in Auckland over the weekend.  Here's a lightly edited copy of his welcoming speech:

Good morning

My name is Craig Milmine, president of the Libertarianz Party, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2008 Libertarianz Annual Conference.

I am proud to preside over Libertarianz because it seeks to protect individual rights and works to reduce government interference in all aspects of our lives.   Since I'm a teacher in my professional life, I would like to present this morning an NCEA report card in individual rights for the parliamentary parties, and offer the only sane and rational alternative available: Libertarianz.

Let's look first at the Labour Party's result for 'Helping the Poor: 101,' which will assist in showing you that at this 2008 general election the Libertarianz Party is effectively the only opposition party around.

In an upcoming election where there is no discernable difference between Labour and National, or Labour and anyone else, Libertarianz is the only party that in this election will be offering tax cuts and cuts in government expenditure.  We do not have our heads in the sand and think we can have our sand and eat it too; unlike every other party we understand that cutting taxes means cutting government expenditure. We are the only party that knows that cutting taxes and government expenditure is a good thing, and why.

  • We know that reducing people's dependence on the state promotes independence and cooperation. Living on a state benefit would have to be one of the most soul-destroying and ambition-destroying lifestyles there are. It offers no incentive to improve your lot; it leaves beneficiaries at the mercy of the bureaucracy; and it actively punishes beneficiaries for earning money by imposing an incredibly high marginal tax rate on any earnings you might make.
  • We know that at the same time as having supposedly record low unemployment levels, the Clark Government also has a record high number of people on state benefits. Along with the usual array of benefits, there is Working for Families where families on the government benefit are given an incentive not to work because (once again) the marginal tax rate actively punishes families for earning more money.
  • We know this too: that Labour is determined to have more beneficiaries stuck in poverty with barriers preventing their ascent, because Labour needs a poor class who they they rely upon for votes.

Cutting government expenditure is a fantastic thing and Libertarianz are proud to say it. Cutting government expenditure allows us to cut taxes. Cutting government expenditure allows people to keep their own money in their pocket, or their savings account.  Cutting government expenditure means that government consumes less, while businesses can invest more.  To everybody but Michael Cullen and Bill English, it should be obvious which is more productive.

As a transitional policy, Libertarianz will happily support moves to remove all income tax below $10,000, effectively making this a tax-free threshold for everyone. This will reduce the high marginal tax rate that beneficiaries face when they look for paid employment. This simple act will do more to help Labour’s underclass of poor than anything they have offered up in their eight and a half years of born-to-rule power.

With the value of the surpluses that Labour has been taking, they could have gotten rid of GST altogether. This would have directly helped the poor of New Zealand because the poorest in New Zealand have to spend the highest proportion of the income on GST. I am brought to the conclusion once again that Labour needs the poor to stay poor so that the Labour Party can maintain their block of gratefully miserable beneficiaries.

At a time when low-skilled jobs are being exported overseas, the government has raised the minimum wage –- effectively driving these industries out of the country even faster.  As the market responds to a more expensive labour market, the results are a smaller manufacturing sector, automated supermarket checkouts, low numbers of restaurant serving staff per customer and highly automated factories .

We are seeing all of these in New Zealand but we still have record beneficiary numbers and the largest drop in people in paid employment in 19 years.  These are the people locked out of earning a wage by the government making their labour too expensive. Price fixing of low-skilled labour through minimum-wage laws is causing unemployment, poor service and the flight of New Zealand industries overseas.

If elected Libertarianz will move to reduce or preferably remove minimum wage laws in New Zealand.

So by Labour’s declared standards of “we must help the poor,” Labour themselves are failing abysmally. Only Libertarianz will remove the government barriers that are keeping  New Zealand’s poor poor.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on the Labour Party. Perhaps its time to give them some NCEA gradings. Being a secondary school teacher I have to give out the grades of Not Achieved, Achieved, Achievement with Merit, Achievement with Excellence and Not Yet Competent. At this point I must ask you all to stop laughing.

For all the reasons already stated, I’m going to give the Labour Party a Not Achieved for 'Helping the Poor: 101.'

For their grade in 'TAX:101,' you will recall that in 1999 the Labour Party pledged no tax increases for 95% of the population. With over 15% now in the upper income tax bracket -- inflation caused by government expenditure has pushed incomes into higher tax brackets -- while new taxes on petrol, and increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol have added to this effective tax increase, I think it is fair to give the Labour party a Not Achieved for 'TAX:101.'

Michael Cullen has been promising tax cuts since 2004 – perhaps in this instance we should take him at his word about promised upcoming tax cuts and say that it is Not Yet Competent for 'TAX:102' – however missing the assessment deadline by four years would normally count as a Not Achieved, even under NCEA's low standards.

In 'Economy:101' -- the Labour Party upon taking office promised to turn New Zealand into a knowledge economy and raise our incomes up into the top half of the OECD.  That’s a pretty straight forward Not Achieved.

In 'Education:101' – literacy rates are appalling. Not Achieved.

In 'Health:101' – Not Achieved doesn’t even begin to describe the mess that is the public health system.

In 'Free and Fair Elections:101,' the Labour Party initially did not achieve, but in an unprecedented revision of the course through retrospective legislation, Labour managed to Achieve with Merit in the newly named course of 'Protection of Incumbency:101.'  This course has recently awarded a scholarship to Robert Mugabe, so the Labour Party is in good company. Of course in passing 'Protection of Incumbency:101' they automatically failed to achieve in 'Rule of Law:101' and 'Lack of Corruption:101.'

In fact, looking at Labour’s record of achievement – there are only two things a libertarian can find favour with; these were the passing of the Civil Union legislation and prostitution legalisation. That is all I can find in nine years of rule. On that basis, it is well and truly time for them to go.

But what of the alternatives.

Let’s take a minute to count all the ways that the National Party policies differ from the Labour Party’s.

  • The Labour Party has bought a big train set.  National has pledged not to sell it.
  • National is looking to reintroduce Think Big for telecommunications. Labour is looking to Think Big with Rail.
  • Labour will continue to grow New Zealand’s bloated bureaucracy.  National will keep our bloated bureaucracy as it is.
  • The Labour Party will not charge interest on student loans. The National Party will not charge interests on Student Loans
  • National will bring in tax cuts without any cut in expenditure. Labour will bring in tax cuts without any cut in expenditure.
  • The National Party supported banning Party Pills. The Labour supported banning party pills
  • The Labour and National party will not get rid of the Maori seats
  • Labour and National both supported the prohibition on smacking.
  • Labour will introduce policies to destroy New Zealand’s economy in order to have no actual impact on global warming. National has berated the Labour Party for delaying the introduction of policies that will destroy New Zealand’s economy in order to have no actual impact on global warming.
  • Both National and Labour support the Resource Management Act, which is preventing new, cheap electricity generation. The RMA is now restricting housing development in New Zealand so much that we have some of the most expensive housing in the world as a proportion of income. The mortgage interest payments alone on the average house price in New Zealand is nearly twice New Zealand’s average income. That is without paying any of the principle off. Both Labour and National’s response to this has been a mixture of more rules and regulations about forcing developers to build cheaper housing.
  • The one thing to National’s credit is that they will get rid of the Electoral Finance Act – the largest assault on Free Speech that New Zealand has seen since the Muldoon era of controlling the media. For this National should received an Achieved – which could rise to an Achieved with Excellence if only they would get rid of taxpayer funding of political parties, and remove the law that prevents political parties from spending their own money on election broadcasting.

So, while I will be thrilled to see the Labour Party go because I believe that politicians should be changed as regularly as nappies– and for the same reason -- National offers absolutely no alternative.

What of the other parties?

The report card for the Greens reads as follows (in language that would not be deemed "supportive" enough to go on an actual school report card):

  • 'Legalising Marijuana:101' - the Greens show a general disinterest in this subject – which is a shame because it was the only thing they were good at.
  • 'Transport Efficiency:101' – The Greens opposition to any transport initiative except highly subsidised, often empty, wasteful, carbon dioxide spewing buses and trains indicate that they have no fucking clue about the environment whatsoever.
  • 'Energy Alternatives:101' – The Greens's opposition to electricity generated by hydro, coal, gas, wind or nuclear indicates that for the Green Party, the lights are not on, and there is nobody home.

Moving to New Zealand First:

  • In accepting the 'Baubles of Office:101' Winston has done exceptionally well and he has continued to excel in the course 'Typical Xenophobic Rant Against Anyone Slightly Foreign:101,' managing to just outdo the Maori Party.

In 'Being a Member of the Labour Party without Actually being in the Labour Party:101,' United Future and Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party have done very well this year, andhave excelled in Lapdog:102 and 103. However they will need to maintain this level of achievement in the course of 'Being a Member of the Labour Party Without Actually Being in the Labour Party:101' if they want to be a member of the National Government next year.

Out of the parliamentary parties – that leaves the ACT party. What have they been up to?

When Labour, United Future, the Greens, Jim Anderton and NZ First were rorting the electoral system, Rodney Hide was busy showing off his new body. The leader of the Libertarianz got over showing off his body years ago and (much to the consternation of Dunedin’s letter posters) and has moved on to showing up the government. While Rodney Hide was busy dropping his dance partner on dancing with the stars, Bernard Darnton was dropping off papers in the high court challenging the Labour party’s 2005 election pledge card rort. An action that Bernard would have won, had the government not retrospectively changed the law.

However in doing so, Labour started the electoral slide that they are now experiencing. Labour’s slide continued with the passing of the anti-smack law. Libertarianz were right there in the organisation of opposition to this law. Mitch Lees organised a march on parliament. Where were ACT?

My understanding is that the ACT tax policy is that the total tax take will not rise beyond the level of inflation. This makes ACT the only party in parliament not offering a tax cut!

If any one of these parties offered a consistent message of freedom and rolling back state interference in our lives then we could dismantle Libertarianz right now and join them. However, there is no sign of that happening. Libertarianz has been around 12 years and we are here to stay.

We are effectively the only opposition party. We have been in amongst all of the important political questions of the day from the freedom of speech, free and fair elections, through to providing real solutions to government caused problems such as housing unaffordability and a failing health system.

When we make submissions to parliament, our principles are recognised and the politicians occasionally take heed of what we say. The “nanny state” argument is reported as being a “huge” factor by government insiders in preventing the government from introducing even more draconian legislation than we have already seen.

At the Last election, all of the small parties were squeezed by a close election between National and Labour, and the Libertarianz vote was squeezed by a National leader with visible libertarian leanings.

All that has changed. The National Party is the Labour Party is the National Party is the Labour Party. One party has a lot of teachers, gays and unionists, the other has a lot of farmers and middle class businessmen. The people may be different. The policies are not.  They are statist from top to bottom.

Libertarianz have very different policies. Our policies are radical in that they will get the state out of our lives and allow human ingenuity, ambition and compassion to flourish. We offer an enormously positive and liberating set of policies. In contrast to every other political party we are offering to hand back control of your life – to you.

Libertarianz has developed a number of transitional policies that show how we can reduce government in a step-by-step process – always with the libertarian goalposts in sight. Today we will hear another of the transitional policies being presented.

We have some strong advertising campaigns well into the planning stage. Today we will present Libz.TV and Libz in Print.

This election, Libertarianz will be putting up more candidates than ever before – both in electorates and on the list. Nominations are still open but we already have more people putting their name forward to stand as electorate candidates for Libertarianz than stood in 2005.

Many of these candidates are first-time candidates and we will be hearing from a number of them as well as some experienced ones throughout the day.

We plan to fight this election as serious contenders. Our ideas are interesting, principled and they work. This makes a huge contrast with the other parties. If we can get the necessary publicity and funding -- and our programme for both is already underway -- we can make a realistic go at getting Libz in parliament. Electoral success in New Zealand is not that hard, despite the Electoral Finance Act.

I hope that by the end of today that you will come away with ideas, confidence and networks to enable you spread the freedom message this election.

Well, that completes the report card, so it is now my great pleasure to declare the Libertarianz Conference open for business. . .

You can visit the Libertarianz website now and join up for Election '08.  Go to it!

UPDATE 1:  A video of Craig Milmine's report card for the National Party's performance -- part of what  got you all so excited here -- is now up at the Libz TV site.


UPDATE 2:   We said earlier in commenting upon this post that

    If we are under some misapprehension [about ACT's tax policy] Rodney can simply stand up in Parliament this afternoon and announce ACT's tax policy is to cut taxes to [?]%.
    He can then announce a long list of freedom related policies, legislation ACT would repeal, spending cuts ACT would manifest and all other measures that [former] ACT supporters desperately want.

And it looks like Rodney and Roger were listening.  Today at lunchtime, Rodney and Roger held a press conference to announce at least the first of the two points above.  Reports Stuff:

    ACT would immediately make the first $10,000 of income tax free, which would give an average wage earner an immediate tax saving of $50.
Then it would abolish the 39c "envy rate" and make the whole system as low and flat as possible.
ACT will release details of its tax and other policies on Sunday.

Do you see now what honest criticism can do? I look forward now to seeing announced on Sunday the long list of freedom related policies, legislation ACT would repeal, spending cuts ACT would manifest and all other measures that [former] ACT supporters desperately want to see.

Friday, 9 May 2008

National ready to swallow the Emissions Trading rat

National's about ready to swallow the dead rat I said they would, but with the garnish of something healthier.  Today's National Business Review reports

The National Party is willing to support the government’s troubled Emissions Trading Scheme [ETS] in return for dumping the bill’s proposed 10-year ban on new thermal electricity generation.

Given the parlous and creaking state of NZ's electricity generation -- which will be running at and probably beyond capacity this winter -- dumping the ten-year ban on new thermal electricity generation would almost be worth the huge imposition of resuscitating the government’s Emissions Trading Scheme, which without National's help is all but dead. 


As the CEOs of BP and Solid Energy pointed out this week however, the Emissions Trading Scheme is not so much a market as a substantial new tax, one that could net the government around $80 billion by denuding producers of the capital they need to grow.  This is a huge imposition, and even the dumping of the thermal electricity generation moratorium isn't worth that.

And since the Resource Management Act (RMA) acts as a de facto moratorium on the construction of new thermal electricity generation -- it has been used to bar, delay or make much more expensive the construction of every new thermal electricity generation project in the last ten years -- then unless the Resource Management Act is dumped, the ending of the moratorium is all but worthless anyway.

If National wants to dump the moratorium, as they should, they should simply announce it as policy and go to the country with that as their platform.  And if National really wants to allow the construction of new thermal electricity generation, as they must do, then they really must get their head around the abolition of the Resource Management Act.

If they have any honesty, that's what they must do.  As I warned back in 1998, the anti-industrial 'green dream team' of the RMA and Kyoto (which is behind the ETS) has the potential to drain our industrial lifeblood.  NZ's commitment to both needs to go together.

What if public schools were abolished?

What if public schools were abolished, asks Lew Rockwell.  Answer:

In short, if we could abolish public schools and compulsory schooling laws, and replace it all with market-provided education, we would have better schools at half the price, and be freer too. We would also be a more just society, with only the customers of education bearing the costs.

What's not to like? Well, there is the problem of the transition...

Read his solution here: 'What If Public Schools Were Abolished?'- Lew Rockwell, MISES INSTITUTE


'The Rights that Make Us Rich'

In a piece called 'The Rights that Make Us Rich' (fantastic title) Mike Moore explains the result of increasing private ownership around the globe:

"In the past 60 years, more wealth has been created than in all of history. The number of people living on less than a dollar a day has dropped from 40 per cent in 1981 to 18 per cent in 2004. During the same period, the numbers living on less than $2 a day have dropped from 67 per cent to 48 per cent."

As Liberty Scott notes wryly, "That hasn't been because of charity."  "Private ownership works," says Moore.  It sure does. The great irony for New Zealand is that while much of the rest of the world is confirming that lesson, here at home the move du jour is to nationalisation, not privatisation.

How can we best help poor countries.  First of all, we should make sure we don't become poor ourselves.  And second, as Moore says, we should encourage their governments to get the hell out of the way of business activity, and

establish property rights which will encourage people into the formal economy. It's not that radical, it simply suggests that poor people in poor countries should have the rights that rich countries have. Perhaps that's why they are rich.

Property rights -- that concept now celebrated in New Zealand mostly in their breach.  National's Nick Smith provides a timely example of the endemic lack of local respect for this boon: he wants to confiscate the property rights of Kaiangaroa Timberlands to protect some Douglas Firs.

The man is an idiot.  He needs to read the former Labour Prime Minister.

A library in the palm of your hand?

book_clk I'm not sure I'll be reading from one of these things in ten years time or less, but e-books are said to be the way we'll read books in the future, and there's some big money going into producing e-book readers.

Read: The Future of E-Books - Forbes.Com.

UPDATE:   For obvious reasons this has turned into a 'what-are-you-reading'' thread.  Feel free to add yours in the comments.

Humour on Friday

2008_Gods_Final_Witness_big We're all gonna die!  There's nothing like sackcloth and ashes and warnings about the end of the world to get some people's blood beating in their ears.  If it's not the apocalyptic warmists it's the equally apocalyptic religionists: here's a religionist who's been "been sent by God as His end-time prophet." This is almost beyond satire.

From now until the latter part of 2008, many prophecies are going to begin to be fulfilled, especially the Seven Thunders of the Book of Revelation, which the apostle John saw but was restricted from recording. Those thunders are revealed in this book, as well as detailed accounts of the final three and one-half years of man's self-rule on earth, which are recorded in the account of the Seventh Seal of Revelation.

Don't you just love it.  Don't miss out!  Buy the book now!  If you're disappointed in three and one-half years  that it all hasn't come to pass, you can at least hit yourself over the head with the book to help yourself feel better.

Day Out

Here's a neat website.  If you're heading out and about around New Zealand, then head to DayOut.Co.NZ, type in your location or intended location and the sort of things you'd like to do and BINGO!  It's all laid out there for you.  Brilliant. 

Perfect for those long scenic drives in your classic car.

Ecstasy of St Francis - Carravaggio

I love the three-dimensionality of Carravaggio's paintings; her really was a master of the fully-rounded figure.  At their best they're almost holographic.


Pity he hadn't chosen better subjects.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Risking little

I was discussing the concept of financial risk with a friend in the finance industry last night,  and it seemed to me that our views on risk diverged somewhat.  I thought of our discussion again this morning when I read a report of the recent annual pilgrimage to the sages of Omaha, Nebraska -- Mr Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger -- whose combined wisdom struck upon this very topic.

What my friend and I were discussing was the relationship between risk and return, and how exactly one measures or quantifies risk -- which is what, as it turns out, my friend is in the business of doing.

On these two issues, my friend insists 1)that risk can be measured (one simply looks at the past volatility of an investment vehicle and extrapolates it into the future, apparently), and 2) that returns necessarily bear a direct relationship to the risk of an investment -- which is pretty much the standard patter on risk these days.  (Or as the Gnomes of Zurich have been known to say, "Worry is a sign of health: If you're not worried, then you're not risking enough." )

But why would you assume that past volatility alone is necessarily an accurate guide to future performance?  Didn't help those investors in the likes of Brierley, for example, which went from blue chip (non-volatile) to dog (highly flammable) in the blink of a share ticker's tail a few years back.

And why should risk and return necessarily be correlated?  A fairly successful friend maintains what to me seems a perfectly sensible view of risk and return, which is to seek those investments  in which the risk of loss is low and the expected return very high.  Sounds sensible to me.  Seek out opportunities in which the risk is already low, and increase you margin of safety by having a high margin of safety when things go wrong, which they do.  In other words, why not stop worrying altogether, while getting the same (or better) returns than your gnome over there with the ulcer? 

We talked some more about this, my friend and I -- my friend who is in the business of calculating risk for investors -- and I was thinking about our conversation as I read this gem from two of the world's most successful investors:

    Both men had lots of critical things to say about the so-called risk managers of our day. Risk managers, as the name implies, are supposed to ensure the safety and soundness of the investments made by financial institutions. "But too often," Buffett complained, "a risk manager is a guy who makes you feel good while you do dumb things."
Someone asked whether the big investment banks are too complex for even their managers to understand the risks the banks are exposed to. Buffett said: "Probably yes." He also pointed out that the managers have little incentive to worry about certain risks. His example went like this: Say there is a 1-in-50 chance of a company going out of business. If you are a 62-year-old executive planning on retiring at 65, it's not in your best interest to worry about it.
By contrast, the 77-year old Buffett and 84-year old Munger DO worry about risk. But they manage risk primarily by avoiding investments they don't understand. "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing," Buffett once remarked.

And that, right there, is my answer to my friend of last night; that and the advice of Buffett's colleague Charlie Munger:

    "We like businesses that drown in cash," Charlie Munger declared during the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska last weekend. Warren Buffet promptly agreed.
    Throughout the meeting, Buffett and Munger repeatedly stressed the importance of investing in companies that provide ample cash flow or some other essential "margin of safety."

Sounds smart to me. You can read the whole report from the Munger and Buffet show here at Rude Awakenings.  Just scroll down to How to "Drown in Cash" by Chris Mayer.

Samuel Freeman House - Frank Lloyd Wright


7d997f40-874b-4f3e-92d3-158238b83e5b efdd1855-0a67-4dbc-b8ac-368380c8ea1c Another 'textile block' house from Wright's Californian period, the Freeman house for Samuel & Harriet Freeman was completed in 1923, and lived in by the owners until 1986 when Harriet Freeman (pictured left in full flight) died and handed the house over to the University of Southern California.

The house, which now overlooks downtown Hollywood, was the smallest of Wright's textile block houses.

Guess_WhatYou might recall I asked you to identify it the other evening on the basis of a detail, and one two many clues:

You can see more photos of the house here, taken by master architectural photographer Julius Shulman.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

PJ in Auckland!

Fantastic news! The Center for Independent Studies (based in Australia, hence the misspelling), hasn't only just published a hit job on KiwiSaver that's got everyone talking, they've also announced that they're bringing PJ O'Rourke to Auckland! In December!

I wonder who you have to root to get a ticket?

If you have no idea who PJ O'Rourke is, then you're going to have to shell out for the best stuff -- books like Republican Party Reptile, Eat the Rich, All the Trouble in the World, Holidays in Hell and Give War a Chance -- since YouTube only seems to have the detritus of promotional tours. Here' for example is PJ taking Q&A in an author's evening a few years ago:

And talking about his new book summarising Adam Smith:

Or, you can read PJ talking about the world bicycle menace.



Burma: Cyclone Nargis death toll tops 22,000
The cyclone that hit Burma, also known as Myanmar, has left at least 22,000 dead and 1 million homeless. [TELEGRAPH]

Another dead rat: Emissions Trading

As the Bill setting up the government's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) heads to parliament for a vote, parliament's most boring man, Peter Dunne, warns the scheme is in danger of collapse.

This is excellent news!

As everyone but the Green Party is slowly starting to realise, the scheme is an impost on industry that businesses just can't afford, while the science behind the scam is looking increasingly theadbare -- it's both unnecessary and destructive but, despite Dunne's heads up, it's not over yet.

The scheme is in danger, argues Dunne, because of the increasing uncertainty around its introduction, especially since the Helen Clark's 'dance of the seven veils' over fuel taxes and the delays and exemptions to the scheme -- a belated realisation that the costs the scheme will add to doing business in New Zealand is going to be calamitous. These announcements of delays and meaning are scaring of those who expected to make big windfalls from the rort.

It's also in danger because the Greens now say they won't vote for what they see as a watered-down impost on industry -- they don't want to give local industry an out, they want to see the full environmental noose applied. And while the Greens voice the fears of their voting public, United and NZ First have been reading the signs of opposition to the scheme from what they hope is theirs, and are rapidly backing away from giving Clark's scheme the support it will need when it comes to a vote very shortly.

However, it's not all good news. We're not entirely out of the woods yet: there's one twerp who is still likely to give it life. With the Greens threatening to pull out," notes the Dominion, "Miss Clark said Labour would look to National for support." Enter stage left, John Key. Flip Flop Boy. The Smiling Ass. Instead of reading the signs from the voting public, John Boy is still listening to his advisers. Clark's backdown on the new fuel tax is not good news, it's "an embarrassment," says John Boy. Labour's partial retreat on the global warming bandwagon is not a welcome sign they're listening to the voting public, it's a sign of "Labour of failing to deliver on climate change" says John Boy.

They guy is an idiot. Anyone with a brain could see that "failing to deliver on climate change" is a good thing.

Remember how the smiling twerp signed up to resuscitate Sue Bradford's anti-smacking bill, just days after his MPs stood on the steps of parliament telling bill opponents they were dead against it? Expect to see history repeated as he signs up to a deal with Helen to resuscitate Helen Clark's anti-industry bill.

How many dead rats can you swallow before you choke.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Enforcing the Gore-thodoxy at Wikipedia

As a footnote to my regular injunction "don't use Wikipedia for any subject that's controversial," here's the story of how the global warming pages at Wikipedia are constructed, mostly under the watchful eye of a net guardian by the name of Kim Dabelstein Petersen [aka Tabletop], who has set herself up as Wikipedia's warmist gatekeeper [hat tip Bidinotto].  As Lawrence Solomon of Canada's Financial Post summarises,

The thought police at the supposedly independent site are fervently enforcing the climate orthodoxy...  If you have read a climate change article on Wikipedia -- or on any controversial subject that may have its own Kim Dabelstein Petersen -- beware. Wikipedia is in the hands of the zealots

UPDATE: Solomon has a follow-up on another Wikipedia warmist, a man he calls The Opinionator, who is

an administrator with unusual editorial clout. Using that clout, this 40-something scientist of minor relevance gets to tear down scientists of great accomplishment. Because Wikipedia has become the single biggest reference source in the world, and global warming is one of the most sought-after subjects, the ability to control information on Wikipedia by taking down authoritative scientists is no trifling matter.

Engage your brain

LP02B_220 If discussions of the philosophy of Objectivism here at NOT PC have piqued your interest, then you might like to engage your brain and get serious by joining the Objectivism Seminar -- an online weekly seminar hosted by Greg Perkins that is about to go through Leonard Peikoff's presentation of the entire philosophy in Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Details here and here.  Visit to sign up.  Looks like you can download Skype and (if you're in New Zealand) book in for some serious weekly brainwork. 

Top to the bottom.

Labour finance minister Michael Cullen says that "it is wrong" for railways to make a profit.  Which means it's to be propped up by businesses that do.

Meanwhile, Labour Hunua candidate Jordan Carter tells the world he "wouldn’t go into business if my life depended on it," not realising that it does.  "I find trade immoral," says the socialist prick. If he considers it at all, which is doubtful, then like his hero he presumably expects "immoral" private businesses that do trade and make profits to prop up his favourite government-run sluggards that don't. 

These two views are united by Cullen's "rich prick" insult in the house.  From the top to the bottom, the Labour Party is infested with the idea that making money is immoral, that wealth is immoral, that profits are immoral ... and at the same time, that those who do make money should have it stolen from them to prop up those who don't.  People like themselves.  People who will never ever be able to say of anything except ignominy, "I earned it."

What they fail to realise is the immorality of making a loss.  What they fail to appreciate is the morality of those who do.  What they completely fail to understand is the meaning of money.

NB: No point in saying any more about the rail sale -- I said most of what I wanted to say yesterday.

COMPETITION: Guess what?

A prize to the first person to identify the provenance of the building in this photo gets a prize and a loud cheer.


The prize will be ... let's see ... how about a copy of the latest Free Radical magazine.  And if you can get the correct century, or the continent, then you'll get the loud cheer. 

Here's your first clue: it hasn't been posted here before ... [Photo credit Matt Jalbert, Exuberance.Com]

Monday, 5 May 2008

Boris beats Ken

boris-johnson Let me propose a useful test for all you Tories, and all you died-in-the-wool Boris lovers.  This is for every one of you who has hated everything Ken Livingston has ever done, including breathing, and who's cheered to a standstill Boris Johnson's weekend victory over the mad Marxist. 

I suggest you take a deep breath, and start being realistic. 

I suggest, as one way of measuring Boris's performance in office, that you might want to  award Boris a point every time he overturns something Red Ken introduced -- which was always something egregious.  How many points do you think he'll have earned before London's voters throw him out? 

And what do you think this will say about the nature of Tory government?

Paying for a needless new train set -- through the nose

Ever wondered why the government was the only bidder in the latest rail sale? 

Or wondered why all the people praising the Clark Government's decision to pay Toll Holdings an exorbitant sum to buy back a failing rail 'network' didn't use their own money to  buy their own shares in the network when they were available?

Answer to this last question: rail supporters are dumb, but not that dumb.  Answer to the first question: because, as everybody knows,  this 'network' is not a money-maker it's a black hole down which money gets poured, and as such, perfectly suited to government ownership because the government can simply point the gun at taxpayers to get them to pick up the tab for a train set that too few people want to use.  A tab that's cost taxpayers the princely sum of almost $1.5 billion to buy (you can read Liberty Scott for the breakdown of this huge sum), with hundreds of millions of dollars to come on the likes of new and upgraded rolling stock, and ongoing costs (read subsidies) of tens of million dollars a year.

This is paid for with money taken from our pockets by force. This is money that taxpayers could have used productively. This is money we won't see again. 

This is why when you're berating the 'wastefulness of consumerism' -- and I know there are readers who do -- you might like to know that the biggest consumer and by far the most wasteful is the government.

As I blogged a couple of weeks ago, the government is not a producer, it's a consumer. This is not an investment: it's a waste of bloody resources.  In fact, that's the precise nature of every government so-called investment.  Whereas productive investment is reproductive -- producing the wherewithal by which to  purchase its replacement -- goods used by consumers (and governments) are consumer goods, which are destructively employed. Unlike producer goods, they disappear with use.

You see, when a businessman invests in goods or assets, he expects to make sales from these assets sufficient to replace them, and more. He expects to recoup his expenditure, with a bit left over besides. In other words, sales made on the basis of these assets makes possible their own replacement when they are physically consumed. It is reproductively employed.

Not so with government, "because governments are not producers: they are consumers. "

They are not self-sustaining: they are parasitical.   In other words: government does not invest, it consumes.  Hence only private businesses can be described as self-sustaining, since only the activity of private businesses is so designed as to recoup its investment in assets, and therefore to preserve its 'seed corn.' 

Put bluntly, all that a government produces requires consuming the production of others; all the assets in which it 'invests' are at best only consumptive production that is dependent on mooching off real producers.  Without this mooching, every government asset is on the road to disappearing without a trace.

used by consumers to consume are consumer goods, which are destructively employed. Unlike producer goods, they disappear with use.

This mooching is called "socialising the losses."  It's also called "a waste of bloody money" -- and, if you care about such things, a "complete waste of resources."  In other words, it's neither sustainable, nor an investment.

If you think this assessment is wrong, that this is an excellent investment that the country desperately needs -- the best use of 'scarce resources' -- then go right ahead and challenge Liberty Scott's figures here and here and here and here and here.

NB: And if you disagree with the purchase and think a John Key National Government is going to overturn it?  Then someone needs to tell you you're dreaming: despite the waste and despite earlier pledges that they would, they won't.

"Global warming may 'stop', scientists predict" - TELEGRAPH

Britain's Guardian newspaper whines that the "deliberately contrarian" tone of tabloid newspapers has "damaged public perception of climate change," poor lambs. 

Little wonder the volume of "deliberately contrarian" writing is rising, since as global temperatures simply refuse to follow the course the warmists' models say they should, the "mainstream warmist" position is looking increasingly indefensible.  And the "deliberately contrarian" position isn't just confined to the tabloids.  Even scientific journal Nature is now publishing peer-reviewed articles suggesting that despite global warming models predicting  catastrophic warming, we're unlikely to see any increases in average global temperature until at lest 2015.  The Telegraph (a broadsheet)summarises the uncomfortable news:

Global warming will stop until at least 2015 because of natural variations in the climate, scientists have said...  This would mean that the 0.3°C global average temperature rise which has been predicted for the next decade by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change may not happen, according to the paper published in the scientific journal Nature.

For years skeptics have been pointing out that there's just no way the warmists' models can account for every variable in the global climate, and until they can the model's results are just so much hot air. This adjustment is the result of adding several new variables that were previously ignored, including "how the oceans behave over decades,"  "the strength of the Gulf Stream and the El Nino cyclical warming event in the Pacific," and "the giant ocean "conveyor belt" known as the meridional overturning circulation (MOC), which brings warm water north into the North East Atlantic."  All fairily important one would have thought.

Defending the warmists' long-term models, Hadley Centre scientist Richard Wood said that "climate predictions for a decade ahead would always be to some extent uncertain."  To say nothing of climate predictions for a century, or for government action based wholly and solely on these "uncertain" models. 

To put the present result in context, if these new papers are correct it will mean there will have been no warming from 1998 to 2015, a period of seventeen years.  So much for catastrophe. 

In fact, rather than showing catastrophe, the record would show that since the 'coming ice age scare' finished in 1979, when modern warmism began, the globe will have warmed for nineteen years (from 1979 to 1998),and then plateaued for seventeen or so.  Hardly catastrophic.  And hardly a strong endorsement of either the global warming models, or the still unproven causal link between CO2 and global temperature.

Looks like those models are no more reliable than your average TV weather forecast. 

Perhaps those endorsing measures to throttle industrial civilisation on the basis only of the unreliable weather forecasts of the IPCC might use this hiatus to reconsider the headlong rush into poverty and food riots for which they are already responsible.  Perhaps they'll resile from talking up dramatic sea-level rises on the bask of their horrifying models -- from strangling the use of coastal land and all their talk about the millions of "climate refugees" from low-lying islands (of which the world is still waiting to see the first such refugee) .

Perhaps those who've joined the warmist chorus out of ignorance -- not because they know anything more than anyone else, but only to show their friends they 'care about the planet'-- could just keep quiet for a little while.  Perhaps those who've been scaring the crap out of impressionable and illiterate young kids with their 'we're all gonna die' litany could just shut the fuck up for a while, so that kids can realise this is a great world in which to live rather than the place of irrational disaster-prone madness that warmists would have us believe.

And as NZ Climate Science Coalition convenor Owen McShane points out:

    These findings make two important points. The first is that natural climate variation means that there will be no warming until 2015. This is wonderful news, because it gives us lots of time to stop and think before we leap. NO more biofuels and ruminant follies.
    The next point is that all the climate models failed to predict this — until now! That means that all the climate models have grossly underestimated natural variation and they are all must be regarded with extreme suspicion.
    Therefore we need a Royal Commission to look at the whole thing before we completely destroy our economy for something that may not exist and is certainly not imminent.
    Definitely time for a tea break.

I'm not so sure about the Royal Commission, but the fact remains that to destroy your economy on the basis of extremely flawed extremely long-range weather forecasts is just insane.  (And as Climate Debate Daily reports, "An insider exchange between climate modelers reveals the extent to which they are themselves leery of attributing predictive power to their models ...continue » Click on "EXPAND ALL.")

Time for that cup of tea, I'd say, if not a complete lay down.

PS: Why not go join the legion of voters at Kiwiblog and go vote in the poll on the left-hand side for "Global Warming is a hoax and there is no evidence for it ."  It's currently leading the pack.

UPDATE:  "Can global warming’s vested interests close the deal on greenhouse gas regulation before the public wises up to their scam?" asks Steven Milloy of the Junk Science site:

    When NASA’s James Hansen sounded the alarm in Congress 20 years ago, he predicted that rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, would drive global temperatures higher by 0.34 degrees Celsius during the 1990s. But surface temperatures increased during that decade by only 0.11 degrees Celsius and lower atmosphere temperatures actually decreased.
    Global temperatures remain well below an El Nino-driven 1998 spike despite ever-increasing atmospheric CO2. Global warming hysterics purport that manmade emissions of CO2 are the primary driver of global climate and that controlling emissions will favorably affect climate. While this is obviously not so since it virtually supposes that without human activity climate change would not occur, it nevertheless remains their
    The Nature study, however, reasserts Mother Nature in her rightful place as our climate dominatrix. Although there is no evidence that manmade CO2 emissions play any detectable role in
climate change, the very idea that Mother Nature may cool the planet despite humanity’s furious output of greenhouse gases should be even worse for the climate alarmists’ way of thinking.
    It would mean that greenhouse gas emissions are actually beneficial, since without them, Mother Nature’s cooling could be quite damaging.

He concludes:

    The bottom line of global warming—and that is why so many are behind it—is that its many vested interests are on the verge of a financial and political bonanza, something that scientific facts and climatic realities are likely only to spoil.
    So when global temperature doesn’t behave as predicted, excuses and explanations must be found to prevent the almost-mature golden goose from being roasted for dinner.
The spin on the Nature study provided by its authors to the New York Times is that, “We’re learning that [natural] climate variability is important and can mask the effects of human-induced global change. In the end this gives more confidence in the long-term projections.”
    The attempted logic here is that even though the alarmists have been wrong in the past—been there, done that—their failure somehow sets them up for more certain future success.
    We look past this logical fallacy at our own peril. I can’t wait for their Orwellian pronouncement that global cooling is the new global warming.

Petrol Porkies

As petrol at NZ pumps head towards two dollars per litre, commerce minister Lianne Dalziel says his morning there's nothing her government can do to lower prices.

Au contraire, Lianne.  Since the government is taking a fairly savage proportion* of the cost of every litre in tax (which is far more than the profits the oil companies make on every litre of their own oil every litre, and with GST on top) I'd say there's something very tangible the government can do, don't you?  

And this is not to mention the extra twenty-five cents per litre (plus GST) that the government is about to levy to pay for feelgood anti-global warming measures, and for its latest bout of constructing public transport infrastructure that few people want to use.

So frankly, Lianne, there's something very simple your government could do to lower petrol prices: Stop stealing.

* Last I checked this was something of the order of forty-seven percent, and that was before the extra five cents per litre 'green' tax added on April Fool's Day this year.  Perhaps someone with a calculator and access to an accurate account of the theft could let me know this morning what it amounts to now?

UPDATE:   Thanks to commenters JC and 'Spam,' who've come up with these figures:

    Going back to early 2007, taxes were $0.50 excl GST.
    GST is charged on the total price of fuel, and with a total price at around $2 / litre, the GST component is about $0.22. Now, with the importer margin being only around $0.18 the government is making more money out of GST ONLY than the oil companies are making on a per-litre basis!
[On top of that there's] the ACC levy of 7 cents, soon to be 9 cents on each litre. 
    So you have a 50 cent levy, a 9 cent ACC levy plus 22 cents GST... in round figures [that's about] 80 cents per litre to the government.
To put that in perspective, the government's take is about what we used to pay for petrol around 1997/98.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Sunday School reading: The other religion of 'peace'

Another reading today from Christianity's Holy book, this time from the New Testament -- the one that brought a "new covenant" to the world after the Old Testament's reign of blood.  Reading now from Matthew:

More here in a similar vein from the New Testament.

As they say, know your Bible. [Ref: Russell's Teapot]

Friday, 2 May 2008

Beer O'Clock: Hoppy Pale Ales

Stu from SOBA continues his series on all the basic beer types worth drinking. This week, your Hoppy Pale Ales. . .

PC_hoppy pale ales Hoppy pale ale is king in the craft beer market. Whether it be the wildly popular “hoppy” American pale ale (aka “APA”), or the more traditionally hopped English pale ale (aka “bitter”), pale ales are being hunted down all over the world by almost everyone who loves good beer.  Which, if you're reading this, should mean you.

Those who know me tend to class me as a malt lover, but I do love hops too. These warm afternoons and coolish evenings are as good a time as any to drink hoppy pale ales, so here are three local pale ales that I’m particularly digging right now:

  • Mac’s Brewjolais is, by my reckoning, the best special release I’ve tasted in the last 18 months – from any brewery. Celebrating the late summer hop harvest, Brewjolais is quite different from most other beers in the fact that it uses fresh “green” hops straight from the vine (usually they are dried in kilns before being packed and shipped out to breweries). Mac’s release the beer every autumn and, while being slightly different each year, it has always been a hoppy pale ale. This year’s vintage is an in your face, but superbly balanced, showcase of Riwaka hops (the hop formerly known as Saaz D, and made famous by Emerson’s Pilsner). Get to your local Mac’s bar now and experience the difference.
  • Emerson’s Falconer’s Rest, the latest from Emerson’s experimental “Brewer’s Reserve” range, is the most “English” of the three even though it uses no English ingredients (NZ malt and a combination of New Zealand and Slovenia grown ‘styrian golding’ hops). It’s firmly bitter with a nice base of caramelly malt and a good dose of old-fashioned marmalade in the hop flavour. The beer is very reminiscent of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (Madonna’s favourite beer, for those who care) and hopsmackingly delicious! Get it in takeaway flagons at Regional Wines and Spirits now but, be warned, it is a very limited release. It’ll probably be on tap at Galbraith’s and a couple of the more well-known Christchurch beer bars soon (if not already).
  • Epic Pale Ale is the most widely known of the three and, very importantly for all my hop loving brothers and sisters out there, it is available all-year around. An excellent example of the classic American Pale Ale it has a lean malt character, which allows the zingy citrus fruit hop flavour and aroma to play the lead role. It’s pale golden, hoppy, fresh and always excellent. Get it almost everywhere (alongside its new brother Epic Lager).

Other good pale ales on our shelves (if you can’t find the ones above): Tuatara IPA, Founder’s Fair Maiden, Emerson’s 1812, Croucher Pale Ale, Invercargill Stanley Green and Renaissance Perfection Pale Ale. Harder to get, unless you’re in Nelson, is Lighthouse Brewery’s wickedly named ‘Fug Nose’ (it’s full of ‘fuggles’ hops, for those not up to play with beer humour).

In a fortnight we’ll look at the American Ale category (within which the popular APA sits, alongside American-style Amber and Brown ales). After that we’ll be greeting winter with the warming ales and darker lagers of northern Europe.

Slainte mhath, Stu

"Ban the yobs": Which yobs?

Police2308 The Herald has the news that the Clark Government is about to introduce to parliament this year "a British-style behaviour order to curb anti-social crime."

The proposal, which would establish a scheme for Rotorua [allowing police to issue "community protection orders" against people convicted of a range of mainly property-related offences], has previously been rejected by politicians because its aim - to bar criminals from the city's central business district - had problems complying with the Bill of Rights.

No problem to an MP like Steve Chadwick, the bill's co-sponsor with Annette King, and the main promoter of the ban on smoking in bars -- which has equal difficulties complying with the Bill of Rights.

First of all, we should ask why this law is necessary.  Why are people who've been convicted of  property-related offences free to walk the streets anyway?  Answer: Because the courts don't take burglary and other property-related offences seriously anymore .  Is that good enough?  No, it sure as hell isn't.  Do we need more bad law to fix the result of bad justice?  No, our lawmakers should be concentrating instead on fixing these fundamental failures of our justice system that much more urgently need addressing.

Remember that law, good law, is intended to protect me from you and you from me. Specifically, it is intended to protect you against any initiation of force or fraud by me, and me from any initiation of force or fraud by you.  That's all good law should do, and when it doesn't do what it should be doing, which in this case is to protect us from criminals who've already been convicted, then we start to see laws like this that start to stretch the boundaries of what good law should be doing.

This works both ways.

There is an expectation that if you violate good law, that you will be handled under due process, and that the punishment will fit the crime. This is all part of what it means to have objective law. This is what freedom looks like. This is what Annette King wants to overturn with what is called in the UK 'Anti-Social Behaviour Orders' (ASBOs), which give police the power to deliver summary justice, and courts the power to turn minor offences into a five-year stay in jail if they're arbitrarily deemed to be anti-social.

She means it. We should take this seriously.  If yobs strolling town centres are dangerous enough, then out of control politicians using potentially uncontrollable law to do us over is far more dangerous, since these are the very people who are supposed to protect our rights.  Frankly, when it comes to yobs, the ones in the parliament are far more dangerous to our rights than the ones strolling the streets of our cities.

But as I say, it should work both ways. There's also an expectation that when criminals are convicted, then they lose certain rights (after all, if they don't respect them, why should we).  In which case, and only if safeguards can be put in place to ensure these orders can be applied to convicted criminals, then the orders could be justified -- but that's a big 'if,' especially with the likes of Steve Chadwick involved, who wouldn't know a proper right if she fell over one in the street.

Now having said all that, you might already have observed that the issue doesn't even arise in the case or privately owned property.  This bill is designed to to bar criminals from a city's central business district, and since it requires government action to effect such a ban there are attendant Bill of Rights issues. But just think how it works when a shopping mall wants to bar undesirables from their property . . .

NB: You can read the BBC's ASBO Chronicles to

Justice at last for Keith & Margaret Berryman!

Marvellous news!  After fourteen years of having the weight of the state on their throat -- fourteen years of trying to get justice and clear their name -- Keith & Margaret Berryman have finally got justice, if not yet restitution. Story here.

I salute their heroic lawyer Bob Moodie, without whom the battle could not even have been engaged, and my thoughts go out to Keith & Margaret, two wonderful people.

Read the Berryman archives here at NOT PC to see why this victory is so special.

Some NOT PC stats for April

Some stats for you from last month: 

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: TBA (Feb, #6)
Alexa Ranking, world: 300,467 (last month 313,902)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1,044/day
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 645 (last month 1021)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 30,025 (28,016)
Page views [from Statcounter] 46,767 (42,769)

Top posts:

Top referring sites: 
   Search engines, 2693 referrals; Kiwiblog, 733; Libertarianz, 533;  Whale Oil, 346;
Mulholland Drive, 273; Crusader Rabbit,  181; No Minister, 178;  Rod Drury, 165
Top searches:
not pc, 463; broadacre city, 95; studionz, 76;  ipcc bali, 72; nipcc, 65;  peter cresswell, 60;
metservice forecasting, 57; sione vatu, 44; bavinger house, 38; annette presley, 36.
They're reading NOT PC here:
Top countries (measured by Statcounter):
   NZ, 54%; USA, 19.4%; UK, 4.8%; Australia, 4.1%; Canada, 1.9%;  India, 1.2%; France, 1.1%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland, 16.3%; Wellington, 2.7%; Christchurch, 1.6%; London, 1.6%; Melbourne, 1.5%;
Sydney, 1.1%; Chicago, 0.8%

Cheers, and thanks for reading and linking to NOT PC, 
Peter Cresswell

Carl Wall House - Frank Lloyd Wright

Built in 1941 in Plymouth, Michigan, for a former student, and nicknamed 'Snowflake' for its hexagonal module.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Dear Judith

L1050511 Did anyone else hear the vice-minister of transport confess on T.V. last night when questioned about the new 'Parliamentary BMWs': "I don't know anything about cars."

Dear Judith. It's easy to see why she’s got the job she has. [Hat tip Riko]

"What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

With commendable honesty Minister Annette King confesses that the War on the Drug P is already lost.  The Herald follows up and asks, "What can we do to win the war against the drug P?"

Have they ever considered that this is a war than can't be won?  That the real damage is done by the War on Drugs itself? As Milton Friedman once told Bush Snr’s drugs tsar Bill Bennett, “You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favour are a major source of the evils you deplore.”

I won't bore you with another reiteration of the arguments why the War on Drugs can't win (you can read most of my previous posts here), but just consider these few pointers:

  • Since the government can't even keep drugs out of prisons, how can they keep them off the street?
  • Removing the legal market for recreational drugs (even relatively benign party pills) has created an illicit one, run by criminals.
  • Banning and arrests only reduces supply.  Since it does nothing to reduce demand, what do you think that does to price, and the profits of drug suppliers?
  • Since banning and arresting drug suppliers puts police in conflict with huge amounts of money, what do you think this does to police morals (hint: Clint Rickards was once an undercover cop).
  • Outlawing drugs leaves drugs in the hands of outlaws -- with huge profits driven by the reduced supply. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Criminals have no interest in things like quality control, honesty about the composition of a substance, or refraining from selling to children. (All praise the War on Drugs.)
  • Outlawing drugs only increases the virulence of recreational drugs.  As Milton Friedman explained with his Iron Law of Prohibition, 'P' is precisely the sort of drug you get when you start a War on Drugs, since the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.
  • If it is impossible to win the war on drugs, and no government anywhere ever has, then the question surely becomes: should we have a legal, transparent, accountable market for drugs, or an illegal, secretive, unaccountable one?

So what do you think? Could it be that what's too often overlooked in the link everyone sees between illegal drugs and crime is the 'illegal' rather than the drugs?  That's certainly the position of the cops and former cops  from an organisation called LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) who argue that, "We believe that to save lives and lower the rates of disease, crime and addiction, as well as to conserve tax dollars, we must end drug prohibition."

In the end, none of these practical arguments will convince a soul, not as long as good people are convinced the health of their soul depends on having drugs banned. In other words, not as long as the morality behind the war on drugs remains unchallenged.  In the end, here's the telling point: That consenting adults have the right to make our own choices for ourselves, and we do. As with alcohol use, so too with drug use: youngsters need to be able to see both responsible drug use, and people saying no because they want to say no, not because their free will has been lobotomised.

Perhaps if you won't listen to the cops or to people like Friedman, you'll listen instead to the criminals:'

Higher productivity = higher wages

I've noticed that several blogs and more than a few politicians have made a lot of noise about higher NZ wages, with nary a clue how to go about it.   The answer is simple: you can only get higher wages from higher productivity. 

mining pic5086_man_digging_hole_with_shovelIn economist-speak: Productivity is a measure of how efficiently labour produces goods and services, which is essentially a measure of how much capital labour gets to use.  (To put it as simply as possible: You'll dig a bigger hole with an Caterpillar than you will with a shovel.  That's a pure  example of the efficiency of more capital.)

This is why having a government suck money out of capital markets and stop capital investment in NZ is a bad idea: it lessens the amount of local capital that local labour gets to use.  This is why New Zealand wages are 30% lower than Australia -- not because Australia has stronger unions or any other stupid reason, but because Australia has more capital, and is more productive with it.

This is why, in short, if you want higher wages you should be doing all you can to discourage restrictions on NZ's capital markets, and discouraging restrictions on productivity.

I'll let Paul Walker explain the details, and show you all the graphs.