Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Q: "How would you run the economy?"

The simple question "How would you run the economy?" deserves a simple answer, and here it is: "I wouldn't."

The only slightly longer answer is here at Amit Ghate's blog.

LIBERTARIAN SUS: ‘The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society’ and other gems

Susan Ryder has been thinking about Anzac Day.

susanryder I don’t like it when Anzac Day falls on a weekend because it never feels quite the same. Its falling on a Saturday amidst the usual busy schedule of kids’ sports events and household jobs, or a lazy Sunday seems to dilute its importance and solemnity.

I see Anzac Day as a real national holiday. Queen’s Birthday in early June has always meant a Monday off in the middle of the year – the last one before Labour Day nearly five months later – but for me it’s nothing more than that. In the past I always looked forward to Labour weekend because I have a birthday around that time, although these days I’d prefer to simply take the day off without the necessity of having to add another number to my personal tally of years. And as for the annual hooha regarding Waitangi Day, well, enough said. I can’t be bothered with it.

But Anzac Day means something. Back in the 70s when I was at school, we would have the annual class visit by one of the aging returned servicemen. We’d wear our poppies and he would say a few words, show us his medals and that was pretty much that.

I knew who Mr Hitler was because I watched Dad’s Army. But like the real Home Guard, I also knew that he wasn’t kidding. I also knew a bit about the First World War, too and it sounded a mighty unpleasant affair for all concerned – the events at Gallipoli for the Australians and New Zealanders and the European battlefields of Flanders, Ypres, Paschendaele and the Somme. This was all courtesy of my grandfather, a keen reader who encouraged me to do the same from an early age.

I started reading some of his books from about the age of 12. Carve Her Name with Pride was one of the first. It is the story of Violette Szabo, a British spy arrested by the Gestapo in France in 1944. After an extended period of solitary confinement and interrogation under torture, she was sent to Ravensbruk concentration camp where she was executed in February 1945, aged 23. Her bravery was such that she was posthumously awarded both the George Cross and the Croix de Guerre. An excerpt from the citation at Buckingham Palace stated that she was “continuously and atrociously tortured but never by word or deed gave away any of her acquaintances or told the enemy anything of any value.”

I remember reading the book with tears pouring down my face. At that point I truly understood the significance of the poppy Mum and Dad made us wear every April and I never thought twice about wearing one again.

The last decade has simultaneously seen both the passing of the last original diggers from 1915 and a well-publicised resurgence of interest in, and respect for, Anzac Day on both sides of the Tasman. Books and films about the conflicts of the 20th century, the two World Wars in particular, continue to emerge. Here are two recent offerings.

The finest film I saw last year was The Counterfeiters, the true story of the Nazi attempt to flood Britain and the United States with counterfeit currency to financially destroy both nations. ‘Operation Bernhard’ was conducted by talented prisoners within the segregated confines of a concentration camp and saw them receiving good food and treatment in dire contrast to the unseen unfortunates on the other side of the walls. The story exposed a series of conundrums including the morality of their actions in helping their enemy captors relative to the personal comforts received. Then there was the minute hope of survival should they succeed in their task as opposed to certain death if they did not, together with the temptation to slow their pace in the event that they would be expendable once successful, versus the risk of execution for deliberately delaying the Germans’ plans. An extraordinary piece of film-making about an extraordinary event in the last months of the war, The Counterfeiters won the Academy Award for “Best Foreign Language” category. It is a stark reminder of the antithesis of freedom.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer is quite the most beautiful book I’ve come across for some time, albeit about the German Occupation of the Channel Island of Guernsey for most of the Second World War’s duration. Written in epistolary form it opens a few months after the war, telling the fictitious story of a popular newspaper columnist in London who receives a letter from a stranger from Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. She starts to exchange letters with the writer and his eccentric friends, all of whom were members of the oddly-named club born, according to one review, “as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew” one night.

Except for a British drama series entitled Enemy at the Door from 30 odd years ago of which I have vague memories, I knew nothing of the Channel Islands’ Occupation and the horrors and hardships the Islanders endured, cut off from the world for the entire duration.

The letters vary in length, some consisting of only a few sentences and others several pages. No matter the length, they are alternately moving, shocking and hilarious and guaranteed to surprise.

TGLAPPS was Mary Ann Shaffer’s only book. Although she knew it was being published, her health deteriorated and she died before seeing it in print. As a testament to the power of the human spirit in the face of tyranny, not to mention a darn good read, I cannot recommend it more highly.

Or, for something completely different this weekend you could always commemorate Anzac Day by seeing the newly-released British film The Boat that Rocked about a pirate radio station in the North Sea in 1966. Why? Because in spite of its levity, it wholeheartedly celebrates freedom. “Governments can’t stand the thought of people being free!” said one smart cookie.

I’m sure the point wouldn’t be lost on those who bravely fought and suffered for it.

* * Read Susan Ryder’s column every Tuesday here at NOT PC * *

Exploit the Earth, or be square [update 3]

I hear it’s Earth Day some time this week.  Don’t worry.  Give it no mind (which is all its supporters are able to do) and CELEBRATE EXPLOIT THE EARTH DAY INSTEAD!!

Be there or be square.

Craig Biddle of the Objective Standard reckons that “because environmentalism is an anti-human ideology, on April 22 those who care about human life should not celebrate Earth Day; they should celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day.”

    Exploiting the Earth—using the raw materials of nature for one’s life-serving purposes—is a basic requirement of human life. Either man takes the Earth’s raw materials—such as trees, petroleum, aluminum, and atoms—and transforms them into the requirements of his life, or he dies. . . According to environmentalism, however, man should not use nature for his needs; he should keep his hands off “the goods”; he should leave nature alone, come what may. Environmentalism is not concerned with human health and wellbeing—neither ours nor that of generations to come. If it were, it would advocate the one social system that ensures that the Earth and its elements are used in the most productive, life-serving manner possible: capitalism.
    Capitalism is the only social system that recognizes and protects each individual’s right to act in accordance with his basic means of living: the judgment of his mind. Environmentalism, of course, does not and cannot advocate capitalism, because if people are free to act on their judgment, they will strive to produce and prosper; they will transform the raw materials of nature into the requirements of human life; they will exploit the Earth and live. . .
    It comes down to this: Each of us has a choice to make. Will I recognize that man’s life is the standard of moral value—that the good is that which sustains and furthers human life—and thus that people have a moral right to use the Earth and its elements for their life-serving needs? Or will I accept that nature has “intrinsic” value—value in and of itself, value apart from and irrespective of human needs—and thus that people have no right to exist?
    There is no middle ground here. Either human life is the standard of moral value, or it is not. Either nature has intrinsic value, or it does not.
    On April 22, make clear where you stand. Don’t celebrate Earth Day; celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day—and let your friends, family, and associates know why.

Here’s what Capitalism Magazine has put together for Exploit the Earth Day – more than enough for a wild party:

Environmentalism's goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather, it is a subhuman world where "nature" is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5167
Because Earth Day is intended to further the cause of environmentalism--and because environmentalism is an anti-human ideology--on April 22, those who care about human life should not celebrate Earth Day; they should celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5165
There is an alternative to the environmentalist argument.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=4206
For decades environmentalists have cried that man should adopt an "alternative" form of energy. But in this freest country on earth, exactly how have they exercised their liberty to try and make their dream come true?
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=4901
Green energy policies would hobble the economy.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5439
Atmospheric scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, "It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don't buy into anthropogenic global warming."
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5382
So many thing are happening now that, as I take time off to participate in the Tea Party in Newport News, Virginia on April 15, I have decided to devote just brief commentary on a selection of events.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5502
In spending its way to economic recovery, the government boldly casts principles aside.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5501
The heart of the problem: corporate greed in the form of grocery stores and restaurants operating on a for-profit basis.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5499
Words are not the only things that enable political rhetoric to magically transform reality. Numbers can be used just as creatively-- and many voters are even more gullible about statistics than they are about words, apparently because statistics seem more objective.
--> http://www.CapMag.com/article.asp?ID=5500


UPDATE 1:  Increasing numbers of Americans are seeing through the global warming scam. Details here.

UPDATE 2: Tim Blair comments on Americans increasingly seeing the light:

Degrees in global warmenology are now available from the University of the Sunshine Coast.

UPDATE. Warmening degrees may not be worth much in the US, where doubt continues to grow

Just one-out-of-three voters (34%) now believe global warming is caused by human activity, the lowest finding yet in Rasmussen Reports national surveying. However, a plurality (48%) of the Political Class believes humans are to blame. 

The political class is always the last to catch on.

UPDATE 3:  From the Mises Economics Blog, and just in time for Exploit the Earth Day, comes  "Economic Calculation in the Environmentalist Commonwealth," under review at the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. The abstract:
Do environmental initiatives like carbon accounting provide a viable alternative to monetary calculation based on profit and loss? Economic insights about calculation and imputation suggest that they do not provide a reliable, rational guide to action. Non-monetary calculation of the environmental effects of action runs into the same problems of in natura calculation and commonly-owned means of production. The information needed for rational economizing does not exist when we forsake the price mechanism. A legal regime based on strict private property rights solves environmental problems. Relaxed restrictions on property rights can generate environmental benefits and reduce our contribution to environmental degradation. Examples include the elimination of restrictions on housing markets and privatization of municipal recycling and garbage collection.
Bonus point -- in fact, a free full-colour digital copy of The Free Radical magazine -- for any reader who can name the hat tip in the title.

Meet the real Ahmadinejad [updated]

06.09.19.SecurityBreach-X Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demonstrates why no rational representatives of any country attended the UN's Conference on Racism, as he seemed to confuse the conference supposedly against racism for a call for racism.

It’s a chance he obviously relished, even the UN Secretary General – a man very, very slow to take offence – saying the Iranian president used his platform to "accuse, divide, and even incite." 

But why give this nutcase the platform?

05.10.27.AhmadFinalSol-X The Iranian leader is on record as wanting to "wipe Israel off the map" -- calling for a "new wave" of Palestinian attacks to “wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world” – to “burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury” –- supporting calls from “one of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapon against Israel” -- calling the formation and support of Israel a Western plot to divide the world of Islam with Israel as the pivot of this plan who have tried to blind themselves to the true sought to deny –- holding an “international” Holocaust denial conference in Tehran to continue his anti-semitic demonisation -- comments and views that commentators far and wide have sought to deny

His is a regime that stones homosexuals to death; that supports, trains and supplies terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah; where a blogger on traditional Persian music and culture, Omidreza Mirsayafi, died in prison after being jailed for speech that “insulted” the regime; where  American journalist Roxana Saberi is now being used as a pawn by the regime to test the resolve of the ObaMessiah Administration.

The only good thing about Ahmadinejad’s speech is that, perhaps, the whole world is now prepared to see him for what he really is. But what, I wonder, are they prepared to do about it?  And when?


UPDATE:  Tim Blair has more in his post Hatefest Turns Hateful:
Civilisation declined to attend the UN’s anti-Israel festival. Other representatives left once they realised what kind of atrocity they’d blundered into: 

They can’t say they weren’t warned

‘Ex Nihilo’ – Frederick Hart

Frederick Hart (1943-1999) declared “If art is to flourish in the 21st century, it must renew its moral authority by rededicating itself to life. It must be an enriching, ennobling and vital partner in the public pursuit of civilization.”  Tom Wolfe called him both America’s greatest sculptor, and “the artist the art world couldn’t see.”

ex nihilo detail Ex Nihilo, a giant relief frieze at Washington’s National Cathedral, of which the images shown here are just a portion, was, he said, “the metamorphosis of divine spirit and energy. The figures emerge from the nothingness of chaos, caught in the moment of eternal transformation — the majesty and mystery of divine force in a state of becoming."  More images here.

A website dedicated to his sculpture is here.
[Hat tip American Renaissance for the Twenty-First Century (ART)]

Monday, 20 April 2009

Pignon: Things I Like, Things I Hate.

Here's a neat short film by the chap who made Amelie: Things I Like, Things I Hate.  

Click on the pic to follow the link.

Hey, Keynes, leave them wage-earners alone! [update 2]

It's gratifying to see that one after another the non-solutions to the economic crisis proposed at the Key Government's Jobs Summit are falling by the wayside. The latest is the "fund for struggling businesses," that banks have pulled the pin on this morning. This is good news. Not one of these fatuous ideas made any serious economic sense. They were only ever political solutions, and underlying all their madness was the notion that "something must be done" by government to "fix" the crisis that can't be done by the market itself.

This is rubbish -- especially since anything governments propose will only get in the way of genuine recovery.

There's one simple thing the market needs to do to fix the crisis that only the market can do: to let wages and prices fall to meet the new economic realities.* There's less cash in the system because people are spending less? Less credit because too much capital has already been consumed? Less to spend on wages? No problem: meet the new economic reality with prices and wages to match the new, lower, levels of demand -- and since one man's prices are another man's costs, this allows employers to emply all who are loking for work, and healthy businesses to make ends meet and begin putting themselves back on the road to recovery. The overall result is what economist George Reisman characterises as opening up virtual springs to prosperity.

But there's a problem. Governments, at the behest of governments and labour unions, have closed off these springs.

Mainstream economists insist that prices must always be rising, and never ever falling -- they erroneously call this "deflation" -- and labour unions and mainstream economists insist that wages are "sticky downwards," meaning they're unable to fall when needed to (which goes against history, amongst other things), and since the coming of Mr Keynes they've championed laws to ensure their theory is mandated by law, making it all but impossible for wages to fall when necessary.

Backing up their arguments is the popular Keynesian nostrum, championed above all by the labor unions, "that a fall in wage rates, in reducing the incomes of wage earners, causes a fall in consumer spending, which allegedly serves to worsen the problem of unemployment."

George Reisman puts this foolish and destructive nonsense to the sword.
First of all, it overlooks the fact that at lower wage rates more workers will be employed. The effect of this is to enable total wage payments and consumer spending in the economic system to remain the same or even increase while the wages of the individual worker decline. For example, 10 workers each employed at 90 percent of the wages earn the same total wages and can spend just as much in buying consumers’ goods as could 9 workers each earning the original wage. (It’s as simple as the fact that 10 times .9 equals 9 times 1.) And, of course, more than 10 workers employed at 90 percent of the wage per worker would earn more collectively and spend more for consumers’ goods collectively than was possible before.
The popular version of the Keynesian doctrine also overlooks the fact that even if total wage payments and consumer spending did decline, business sales revenues would not decline insofar as reduced wage payments made possible increased expenditures for capital goods. Indeed, to the extent that additional spending for capital goods took the place of wage payments and the consumer spending supported by wage payments, not only would sales revenues in the economic system remain the same, but, what is particularly important for the process of economic recovery, the amount of profit earned on those same total sales revenues would actually increase.
That's only a very small part of Reisman's explanation of how this popular Keynesian notion is wrong, and that to the extent that they're accepted any recovery will be delayed, if not destroyed.
The essential conclusions to be drawn from this lengthy analysis is that once the process of financial contraction in a depression comes to an end, and existing business assets have been re-priced to reflect the deflationary aftermath of credit expansion—once this has occurred, a fall in wage rates will in fact serve to achieve the reemployment of the unemployed. Moreover, it will do so in a such way that the increase in employment is more than proportionate to the fall in wage rates. At the same time, as part of the same process, the decrease in the demand for money for cash holding that occurs in response to the necessary fall in wage rates, manifests itself in a rise in productive expenditure not only for labor but also for capital goods. As the result of the rise in productive expenditure, sales revenues, profits, and net investment in the economic system all rise together.
The fall in wage rates thus serves as an essential component of a full and complete economic recovery, one that entails full employment and the achievement of a substantially increased rate of profit that will be more than sufficient to make investment worthwhile.
The economic policy that is implied by these findings of economic theory is one of a fully free labor market. That is, a labor market free of coercive labor-union interference, free of minimum-wage laws, and free of all other laws that mandate expenditures by employers on behalf of the workers they employ. All legal obstacles in the way of wage rates falling, counting as part of wages the cost of so-called fringe benefits, must be swept aside. This is the policy that will allow the cost of employing labor to fall and thus the quantity of labor demanded to increase, and will thereby achieve the employment of everyone able and willing to work, i.e., full employment.
I suggest you head to Professor Reisman's site, print off the post, and read and digest it over your lunch hour. It might be the most productive thing you do today.

* And since prices fall as wages fall, real wages themselves may actually be the same as before, even if monetary wages are not.

UPDATE 1: It's not just the Jobs Summit's non-solutions fortunately falling by the wayside, so too is the local stimulunacy.
Prime Minister John Key has . . . decided against any fresh fiscal stimulus in the May 28 budget because it cannot afford to provoke ratings agency Standard & Poor’s into downgrading New Zealand’s AA+ sovereign credit rating, Key told the Financial Times in an interview over the weekend New Zealand “cannot afford” to provide fresh fiscal spending for its embattled economy and was instead planning to cut government expenditure . . .
Hallelujah! Though I doubt those cuts will be big enough to avoid a budget deficit, nor anywhere near as big as I would like.

UPDATE 2:  A commenter at the Mises Economics Blog makes a useful point about the natural  "springs to prosperity" that turn around a slump:
I think Dr. Reisman’s 'accounting' approach can be wedded to Hayek’s Ricardo Effect for an even more powerful explanation of the natural recovery process from a depression. Falling wages tend to happen to the largest degree in the capital goods industries where the depression is the worst. Wages don’t fall as much in the consumer goods industries, while prices do. The profits squeeze in the consumer goods industries encourages businessmen to purchase labor-saving equipment to offset relatively high labor costs. (This is basic micro econ, too.) The demand for capital equipment wedded to falling wages in the capital equipment sector causes profits to rise in that sector and encourage investment and employment.

Global warming news for March

From the nothing-to-worry-about files, Lubos Motl updates us on world temperatures for March. The short summary:
March 2009 was the coolest March in this century
The slightly longer story:
With the global anomaly of 0.47 °C, March 2009 is reported as the coldest March since 2000 - and colder than March 1990 and 1998. . . Also, the March 2009 global mean temperature differed by 0.03 °C only from the March 1981 figure . . . This cherry-picked monthly comparison would suggest that there may have been 0.03 °C of warming in 30 years.
And there's more.
The Antarctic sea ice area anomaly is approximately +1.2 million squared kilometers (more ice than what is normal for the season), almost matching the peak reached in June 2008. Combined with a minor negative Northern sea ice area anomaly, the global sea ice area anomaly approaches huge +1.0 million squared kilometers.
Note the appearance of the plus sign [+], despite media scare-mongering about collapsing ice shelves in the Antarctic.

Meanwhile, Steve McIntyre summarises the tropospheric temperatures to March, which is where warmists' computer models say warming should exist. Short story here in this image:

Scary, huh?

And finally (for the moment), Sydney warmist Paul Sheehan reads new book Heaven and Earth, and begins to reconsider his position.
What I am about to write questions much of what I have written in this space, in numerous columns, over the past five years. Perhaps what I have written can withstand this questioning. Perhaps not. The greater question is, am I - and you - capable of questioning our own orthodoxies and intellectual habits? Let's see.
The subject of this column is not small. It is a book entitled Heaven And Earth, which will be published tomorrow. It has been written by one of Australia's foremost Earth scientists, Professor Ian Plimer. He is a confronting sort of individual, polite but gruff, courteous but combative. He can write extremely well, and
Heaven And Earth is a brilliantly argued book by someone not intimidated by hostile majorities or intellectual fashions. . .
Heaven And Earth is an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.
As Lubos puts it, it looks more and more like Mother Nature, the world's most unabashed denier of man-made climate change is going to have the final say. Are you honest enough to notice?

NB: Here's Ian Pilmer last year, making the argument that Environmentalism is a New Religion -- "a fundamentalism with a fear of nature."

Friday, 17 April 2009

Beer O’Clock: Waikato [updated]

This post is intended as a warning. A warning to everyone heading to Hamilton for a weekend of fast cars and faster women (one in hope -- and one, perhaps, in expectation). The warning is this. No matter how desperate, don’t drink anything bearing this label:


According to the drink’s website:

The Waikato is a region on the Western side of the North Island of New Zealand around the city of Hamilton extending along the pristine Waikato River and is home to Waikato Draught. Now a Lion Nathan beer the beer has a very rich history dating back to 1864 when brewer Scot Charles Innes arrived in New Zealand. Charles Innes started a brewery in 1871 at Ngaruawhia and then a new brewery was established in 1873 in Hamilton East. A bit of tragedy followed with fire destroying the brewery in 1897 and poor old Charles Innes drowning while bathing in one of his beer vats- what a way to go. His wife Mary took over the reins and it later became a public company with what is now Lion Nathan merging with the brewery in the 50’s. The beer brand has a strong tradition with Rugby and is a real tasty beer- They have won Gold Medal and Best in Class at the 2005 BrewNZ awards just to prove it.

All this is true, except for five things.

  1. It’s not brewed, it’s made.
  2. It’s not made in Hamilton on the shores of the Waikato, it’s made in Newmarket underneath the motorway.
  3. It’s not beer.
  4. It’s not tasty – not unless you think sugar is a “taste.”
  5. Sure, they won Best in Class at the 2005 BrewNZ Awards . . . but that class was Undrinkable.

Drinkers at the Rate Beer site had this sort of praise about this drink:

  • “Pours a brown colour”
  • “Not particularly smooth and not a lot of hops”
  • “Under average pale lager”
  • “Flavour soapy,oily slight citrus finish and bitter but not good”
  • “ . . . small, rough, off-white head. . . Medium in body with some malts and sweetish caramel and a touch of metal”
  • “. . . grainy, earthy, metallic, sweet, YUCK. Aftertaste like the sole of your old sneakers. . . ”

In summary, don’t be tempted. The weekend’s too short to drink bad beer. Spend your money on fast women instead.

UPDATE: There is hope, Hamiltonians. Reader Greig, from Hamilton, reckons Hamilton is not devoid of excellent beer:

Get ye to Hamilton Wine Company on Hood Street for a selection unlike anything you'll find in Auckland, and fairly rare for NZ in general. At least 150 beers of various pedigrees. Hillcrest Fine Wines has similar. We have a Cock and Bull for ye Auckland types, and for those in the know, there's the Ruakura Campus Club, though it's not open over the weekend. This is a shame. I've just come from there, and they were pouring Epic Pale Ale, Invercargill Biman Lager, and Tuatara Pilsner. All in top form.

So yes. Avoid Waikato. But drink well wherever you go.

Excellent advice.

Just the facts, ma'am [Update 2]

Humphrey Bogart as Philip MarloweDeborah Hill-Cone suggests in today's Business Herald that "bitter bloggers" who lambast the mainstream media for its manifest failings are duty bound to solve old media's problems for them, i.e., to shed some light on "how the [mainstream] media might turn a buck so we [the royal "we"?] can fund quality journalism." Ironically, her column is not online, so her audience have to rely on bloggers to retype it all for her, but here's her main beef, that

"all this old versus new media aggro is just a distraction from the fact that neither [bloggers nor] Rupert Murdoch . . . have an answer for the future of journalism."

Well, it's not like I'm duty bound to solve all the problems for the profession of journalism (there's more than enough problems in my own profession of architecture, thanks very much), but here's a simple enough solution for the old media to adopt -- so simple that even a journalist might understand.  Here it is::

            Recognise the division of labour, boys and girls, and just report the news!

We, the bloggers, can get on with commenting on the news, since that's what we do best; and you get on with finding and reporting the news, since that's what you're supposed to do best. In other words:
  • don't editorialise;
  • don't pontificate;
  • don't ask how people feel, ask instead what they saw;
  • don't report events as if people are outraged, just report the events themselves;
  • dobn't report what everyone knows is transparent science fiction; report real science fact instead;
  • don't report what "celebrities" do as if it matters a damn;
  • don't report puff pieces about actors/musicians/writers as if they're not just puff-pieces for their new film/album/book;
  • don't report what everyone knows is just spin) -- report instead what's being spun, and the news that someone is spinning, and who;
  • don't assume the whole world has the same values as your friends;
  • don't just rewrite press releases as if they were news;
  • and don't create the news yourself.
  • In short, just report the news. All of it. As if the truth actually mattered.
Your role model in this new endeavour should not be Woman's Day, which your front pages and the Six O'Clock News more and more resemble, but the classic private detective whose motto should be hung over your desk in copperplate lettering: "Just the facts, ma'am."

This week offers the perfect example of why people are switching off the mainstream. With 400,000 Americans taking up pro-freedom signs against their government, the mainstream media has either pretended they don't exist -- preferring instead to focus on the tough issues like the new White House dog -- or tried to suggest all the protesters are insane. Meanwhile, the issue of the week in New Zealand, according to every news report every time I switch on the local media, is the latest in the Tony Veitch saga -- giving numb-nut so-called journalists the opportunity to interview each other over how well they did (or didn't) handle the story, and Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell the chance to wring their hands over the courage/bravery/pluckiness [delete one] of the two protagonists.

No wonder no one can take mainstream journalism seriously any more. Instead of Philip Marlowe, we have to endure endless re-runs of Barbara Cartland.

UPDATE 1: Why do so many journalists blog, despite their apparent opposition to the concept? Simple, says one journalist cum blogger: "there’s a part of me that loves blogging because you’re allowed to break the journalism rules."

So read on here, journalists, for the top 10 journalism rules you should go right ahead and break on your blog. Do it, it's okay.

UPDATE 2:  Deborah Hill-Cone's blog column is now online.

Tea Party follow-up [update 2]

CLICK HEREYou won't be finding any commentary on yesterday's Tea Party protests in the local media (too much time spent talking about how they covered themselves in glory in the Veitch affair), and as Chris Richards at CATO points out, even the mainstream US media is doing its best to ignore them, or to smear them.

Fox News and MSNBC are having fun with the taxpayer tea party protests today [while the rest concentrate instead on Obama's new dog] . Fox News is playing up the protests, while MSNBC hosts are making jokes about “tea-bagging,” while pretending that the protests were all orchestrated by Sean Hannity. I’ll be attending the protests in D.C. today, and I’m hoping that the message isn’t just anti-Obama because the Republicans are every bit as guilty as the Democrats for the government’s fiscal mess. MSNBC hosts who think that the colonists didn’t mind taxes, but were just upset about the “without representation” part, should read Alvin Rabushka’s massive tax history leading up to 1776, Taxation in Colonial America.

So in the absence of local coverage, I'll try to do the job for you on the coast-to-coast Government-is-out-of-control protests by posting some related commentary, links and resourcers from people I like, or who are still doing their job (and don't forget all the pics and links I posted yesterday).
What else have you got?

: Is this the sign of the day? It is at least the short answer to all those who claim that Alan Greenspan was carrying out some sort of Objectivist agenda at the Fed:

And here's a couple of collections of links, the first from Noodle Food, the second from the Titanic Deck Chairs blog, which includes several plum Rand references from 'round the Tea Parties. I loved this one in particular from the Dallas Tea Party, where the organiser
concluded by quoting John Galt’s oath: I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.'

UPDATE 2: Terrific speech here by historian John Lewis at the Charlotte, North Carolina Tea Party.

And don't forget to check out the Ayn Rand Tea Party blog for more, including this post-speech interview with Lewis.

Ignoring crisis causes means promoting causes of the crisis

An op-ed in today's Business Herald gives the perfect example of why nothing will be learned from the economic crisis by those whose schools of economic thought were responsible for making it happen.  Robert Wade, from the London School of Economics, ignores the credit bubble inflated by the Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve; ignores the US goverment's promotion of the sub-prime bubble; continues with the nonsense that "deregulation" was too blame; and promotes instead the canard that the solution to the crisis created by big, meddling government is even bigger and more intrusive government.

Alex Epstein writes in Canada's National Post that "Obama doesn't get the roots of the crisis."  Little wonder.  Neither do academic economists. 

I recommend to Mr Wade, and to Business Herald readers who want something better than they'd otherwise be reading, to avail themselves instead of the following three sites, where they won't find writers struggling to sweep uncomfortable facts about the crisis under the carpet.

FROM THE NEARBY PEN: Why not Obama-nomics?

The following is a guest post written by Daniel of The Nearby Pen and The Guru 5:
Have you used the term Obama-nomics to refer to the policies being put forward by President Obama? Do you think this helps or hurts the cause you're fighting for? Assuming that you are an advocate of liberty and individual rights, here are three reasons why you should never use that term:
1. It's excessively vague. Does it mean "bottom-up economics" (as opposed to "top-down") or does it mean increased government spending while taxing "the rich" even more? It may mean something unique to each person, which makes arguing against Obama-Nomics a mistake. Instead, state with clarity the moral premise of the economic policies, what they require in practice, and the name for the economic system that they approach.
2. It's not a new economic policy--and there is nothing really to distinguish it from a ton of failed programs in the past including those of the previous administration. There is no need to create a new term, and it is actually confusing to do so. Obama's policies approach the economic system known as socialism. This system has been tried countless times before (in many nations) and with equally disastrous results. Why advocates of socialism desperately want a new label should be as obvious as why you, an advocate of capitalism, should not give one to them.
3. It's guaranteed to waste your time. Leaving aside the vagueness of the term, and how using it without reference to all of history makes predictions about the practical effects of such policies (almost) irrelevant, recognizing each new label used, and arguing against them individually, commits one at the start to a political discussion focused on ever-changing concretes and labels. One could spend their whole life taking part in such fruitless arguments. And many have. But it is not recommended.

Nothing productive about Facebook use

Two weeks ago most of the blogs around the place were talking up "a study" that "showed" regular users of Facebook, Twitter and TradeMe were "more productive" at work than those workers who didn't spend their time checking up on their friends and buying old tat, and who actually worked instead.

Go figure.

But now another study shows something somewhat different.  Specialising in the bleeding obvious, researchers at the education department at Ohio State University found 
 that 68 per cent of students who used Facebook had a significantly lower grade-point average than those who did not use the site.
For the benefit of regular Facebook users, that means they got lower marks.  Perhaps that was because
students prone to accumulating friends, uploading photographs, chatting and "poking" others on Facebook may devote as little as one hour a week to their academic work...
So there are two conclusions we might draw here. One is that, for two-thirds of Ohio students at least, there's nothing productive about doing inane quizzes and reading pageloads of posts saying "lol cuz cool ta see yuz all."  The other is that taking any of these studies at face value is ridiculous.  And I have a study somewhere round here that shows that.

Sketch – Inga Loyeva

3232_179051630396_651375396_6349607_7341182_n A sketch – yes, a sketch -- by Inga Loyeva, presently studying at Florence’s Angel Academy of Art: a place they actually require you to draw.  Such places do still exist.

  Have a look at her website here.  You’ll be bowled over.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Quote of the day: Samuel Adams

The quote of Tea Party Day -- the Day of the 400,000 -- comes from Founding Father Samuel Adams, courtesy of Walter Williams: "The Tea Parties today were very impressive," says Williams. Remember,

"It does not take a majority to prevail...but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."
-Samuel Adams

No Veitch

No comment, not from me, anyway.  Not my business.

But you knock yourself out in the comments if you must.

Yaron calls for a REAL Tea Party! [Update 9]

Yaron Brook analyses the Tea Parties on Pajamas TV, calling for an intellectual revolution to back up the Tea Party activism out on the streets. (NB: You have to sit through a short ad bagging the MSM before the interview starts.)

On this point, the first Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution itself is germane. As they point out at Bureaucrash, the real revolution happened not in 1773 in the Boston harbor or in 1776 with the “shot heard round the world” at the Battle of Lexington and Concord but in the decades leading up to that date with the revolution inside people's heads. Take to heart the words of Samuel Adams, who during his retirement years was fond of saying that the War for Independence was a consequence of the real American Revolution. The real revolution, he declared, had taken place in the minds and hearts of the colonists in the fifteen years prior to 1776. According to Adams, the American Revolution was first and foremost an intellectual revolution.

That's what's needed now.
  • NB: Feel free to send me more Tea Party links either by email or in the comments , and I'll post them below. After all, we're not going to read about them in the MSM, are we.
UPDATE 1: There's been Tea Parties all over, in around 500 different locations, people mad as hell and not going to take it any more. Roundup here at the Tax Day Tea Party, and more pics here. Daily Pundit reports on the SF Tea Party, held outside Fancy Nancy Pelosi's office. Favourite signs:

More signs here from the Tea Party in Al Bore's locale:
And from Springfield, Illinois:
Austin, Texas:
Hartford, Connecticut:
New Haven, Connecticut:
Flemington, New Jersey:
Gilbert, Arizona:

UPDATE 2: Don Boudreaux is tea-ed off with Paul Krugman and the New York Times:

Paul Krugman criticizes the anti-tax tea parties to be held around the country on Wednesday ("Tea Parties Forever," April 13). But Mr. Krugman's message never rises above tabloid journalism. Rather than address the issues, he merely rehashes absurdities spewed (mostly years ago) by right-wingers such as Tom DeLay and Karl Rove. The implication is that, because the likes of Messrs. DeLay and Rove oppose higher taxes, persons who attend these tea parties must be similarly crazy partisans. But is it really so absurd for ordinary Americans to be furious that Uncle Sam now promises to run up $9.3 trillion in debt during the next decade - an unfathomable sum that will inevitably lead to much higher taxes or higher inflation or both? Is it small-minded to oppose corporate welfare for automakers, banks, and insurance companies? Is it lunatic to fear further socialization of medical-care provision? Do these concerns really signal that those of us who hold them are, as Mr. Krugman alleges, "refusing to grow up"? One need not agree with the tea-partiers to concede that these worries are ones that reasonable people can, and do, have.

UPDATE 3: Obama responds to Tea Baggers: "I simply want to rule you," paraphrases the Rational Capitalist.
This is prime Obama pragmatism on display[says the Rational Capitalist]. Notice that he claims to start from a 'simple premise': Marxism. . .
UPDATE 4: John Hindraker of Powerline smacks down the MSM's insistence that Tea Party protestors are just "right wing extremists."

UPDATE 5: More cool signs, courtesy of Bosch Fawstin and Amy Peikoff:

UPDATE 6: Rational Jenn records a one-minute speech for Atlanta's big screens, and takes her kids along. (Go, Jenn.)
#teaparty Morgan's sign: a classic! on Twitpic
UPDATE 7: Mish has a couple more cute kids:

UPDATE 8: Some great pics from Sweet Obamatown Chicago, and a cool video of the action.

UPDATE 9: Rochester, NY:

NOT PJ: A Fence is the Best Defence

This week Bernard Darnton visits the local community centre and thinks about naked women and whales. . .

Our new neighbourhood is a bit Bohemian. Not in the sense that it’s run by an unspellable Good King from a Christmas Carol or that it’s been annexed by Hitler – just that it’s a bit run down. And we have a community group.

I was terrified to hear that they had “facilitated” a “visioning day.” The “intense familiarisation and contemplation process” was preceded by a “backcasting” (haven’t the foggiest) and resulted in a, err, a few paragraphs of hippie day dreaming.

“Happy residents walk and cycle through streets of abundant colour, lined by productive fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Musicians enliven front yards and community parks, as people talk to their neighbours and trade local produce.”

Some bastard musician was enlivening a front yard a few doors down from us at 3 o’clock last Sunday morning. I would have facilitated an intense backcasting then and there if I knew how.

“Fences have been removed … and the local fish and chip shop sells fish caught in nearby streams.”

Or at least you can bring things home from the local shops in a trolley fished out of a nearly stream. It’s kind of ecological, I suppose. But what’s this about the fences?

Hippies hate fences because they’re one of the hallmarks of civilisation. A fence separates mine from yours. A fence is a symbol of property rights and all that flows from property rights, such as a society more complex than a bunch of guys called Ug all bopping each other with wooden clubs.

The “productive fruit trees and vegetable gardens” wouldn’t last five seconds if there were no fences to stop young and old from sharing in the community wealth a bit more than they deserved.

Fences – or more generally property rights – serve as the public line between peaceful action and aggression. They’re the difference between minding your own business and trespass. The risk of a fight is much reduced if we all know where the boundaries are.

Eric Raymond wrote about this in a chapter spicily titled “Noöspheric Property and the Ethology of Territory”. (I can quote this quite happily, knowing that no one else in the noösphere will have gone anywhere near it.) He noted that, “our domesticated cousins of the wolf know, instinctively, that property is no mere social convention or game, but a critically important evolved mechanism for the avoidance of violence. This makes them smarter than a good many human political theorists.”

Part of the reason the whaling debate is so retarded is that there are no fences in the ocean and so no sensible way of saying what belongs to whom. If Ngāi Tahu could just string some barbed wire round our exclusive economic zone (and patrol it from their new air base at Wigram) the whales could safely be watched in Kaikoura and the Japanese fleet would have to go back to bombing Darwin.

Fences make farming possible, promote secure development of land, and encourage Wanaka tourists to remove their bras. They feed us, they enrich us, and they irritate the stuffed shirts at the Queenstown Lakes District Council. What better vision could you facilitate?

* * Bernard Darnton's NOT PJ column appears here at NOT PC every Thursday * *

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: Smoke and Mirrors, Somalis and Soccer

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath gives his weekly take on the news items that grabbed his attention. (WARNING: Contains commentary talking positively about soccer.)
  • US Navy Guns Down Somali Pirates, Rescues Kidnapped Captain This is the story of the week. What more can I say that hasn’t been said already. Full marks to the Navy snipers who iced three of the toerags. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it would be to hit a target aboard a life raft bobbing up and down in the sea, while avoiding injury to hostages. Kudos to President Obama for authorizing the hit, a good example of the government acting as it should in using retaliatory force to protect its citizens.
  • NZ Posts Carbon Surplus Tree-hugger Nick Smith is delighted that bureau-rats in the Environment Ministry have fiddled with the figures to somehow turn a $546m carbon deficit into a $241m surplus. Despite the apparent good news, useful idiots Charles Chauvel and Jeanette Fitzsimons are still looking to punish the productive for being productive. What a pity for all three Gaia-worshippers that the whole AGW hypothesis is a crock of shit, and that numbers can be manipulated by politicians to prove whatever crackpot theory they want to prove.
  • Ex-Unionist Ousted From Pay Agency The truly gruesome and revolting Angela 'Jabba' Foulkes is booted off the Remuneration Authority. Good riddance. I wonder if this authority is descended from the Higher Salaries Commission, which used to set pay scales for all manner of publicly-run organizations. Many of these, such as power companies, have been privatized -- and rightly so. There are many other government departments and Ministries that would find themselves abolished if a Libertarianz government were elected, and the Remuneration Authority would then have very little to do, and could probably convene once a year to set salaries for the police, judiciary and politicians. My own view is that latter should be unpaid, in order to encourage them to engage in some sort of productive activity outside of their political careers.
  • Kiwis’ Rugby Birthright Denied: Labour Brendon Burns, broadcasting spokesman for the recently spurned Labour Party, alleges that New Zealanders have a natural right to watch rugby games free of charge. It's our "birthright." Free, at whose expense, Brendon? What a pillock. Does he forget that in the days before televised rugby, paying to get into the stadium was the only way one could watch a rugby match live? Most people have a Sky TV connection anyway, Brendon. Just take a drive around some of the less affluent suburbs in our towns and cities and you will see home after home sporting the tell-tale grey dish.
  • Chelsea, Liverpool play outThriller Last night I watched a replay of yesterday’s game at Stamford Bridge, and what a thriller it was! Two of the game’s giants battling it out, both without their captains on the pitch. Whoever would have picked a 4-4 draw? As a Liverpool fan myself it was sad to see them exit the Champions League after a 1-3 loss in the first quarter-final game at Anfield last week, but bravo to both teams for playing their hearts out to the final whistle.
See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

Figure Sketch – Michael Newberry

2956_1073835047254_1267526600_30255363_3159497_nI love how with  a few well drawn lines great artists can bring a piece of paper to life.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Schiff explains the GDP delusion [update 2]

There is a delusion stalking economic reasoning that is the cause of more mal-think than any other -- a delusion peddled in nearly every mainstream report you read. Let's call it the GDP Delusion (about which I'll have more to say tomorrow).

The biggest and most destructive myth of the GDP Delusion is this: that consumer spending is "the biggest part of the economy" -- a ridiculous delusion repeated in today's report at Bloomberg on the US economy [hat tip Bernard Hickey] worrying that US retail sales dropped in the last quarter? So?  And that's a problem why, exactly?  In a recession retail sales have to drop -- that's part of the solution, dummy.  Expecting them not to drop, or hoping they don't -- or, worse, throwing taxpayers' money at shopping subsidies to keep them propped up -- that's just one more example of how bad economic thinking, which got us into this unholy mess, is making it ever more difficult for us to get out.

Peter Schiff explains this whole delusion in this short but enlightening video blog.

But there's more.  Given that Bloomberg is dead set mainstream, and that the same Bloomberg report peddles yet another economic fallacy -- that falling producer prices somehow represent a threat, instead of another part of the solution -- then it's no wonder that mainstream economics has little ability to understand what the hell is going on, or what the hell to do about it besides shovelling cash we don't have at a problem they don't understand.

UPDATE 1: You can see the GDP delusion at work in this abjectly ignorant column from National Business Review's Michael Coote calling for "emergency US fiscal stimulus, with Uncle Sam becoming the face of enlarged public consumption" in place of shrinking private consumption -- which amounts to nothing more than idiocy squared.

UPDATE 2:  The GDP fetish is a delusional nonsense: it sees no difference between consumption and production; between productive expenditure and money thrown down the drain; no difference between capital accumulation and eating the seed corn--which means "stimulus" to boost GDP figures is simply money down the drain, or worse.
   In fact all GDP really measures is the growth in the money supply. No wonder countries deep in recession can still pretend to show “positive growth.”  If you want to know more about the whole failed measuring device that is the Gross Domestic Product, check out these pieces on the GDP Delusion in increasing order of thoroughness:

Fiji. What a mess. [updated]

Since writing what I thought was a fairly considered piece last year on what's going on in Fiji, things have definitely gone backwards.  Military seizure of the Reserve Bank and compulsory exchange controls; locking up a law Society president who was previously reluctantly supportive of the regime's aims;  sharpening censor's knives; expelling journalists and sacking judges.

I still maintain that it's urgently necessary to sort out the race-based constitution and electoral system and the near-feudal system of race-based land tenure, and that interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama understands this and has these as his goal.

He has three hurdles to overcome however in carrying that out, number one being that sorting out these fundamental constitutional problems while overturning the chiefly power bases is excruciatingly difficult, and number two being that what is difficult has been made even more so by the trade and travel sanctions and pious pontifications of other Pacific politicians, our own not excluded.

Rather than help resolve a problem set up by paternalistic colonial rulers a century-and-a-half ago, the likes of Key and Clark and Rudd have instead placed every barrier in the way they could find, and talked in unthinking knee-jerk fashion as if "new elections" under the old race-based system would be some kind of cure-all balm for a problem created by that very race-based system.

The third problem is of his own making.  He hasn't really done much to help himself.  Any constitution is only as good as the public support for it, and the 'Draft People's Charter' travelling the country was a valiant effort to garner that public support and understanding.  But by sacking judges, shutting down free speech and failing to clearly explain himself to the world (this speech to the UN is practically his only communique to the world) he's done nothing to help himself, and everything to give those pious politicians enough rope to want to have him hanged -- and enough ammunition to put at risk the fragile domestic support for positive change he's built up.

Fiji.  What a mess.

UPDATENational Business Review editor Nevil Gibson has a measured response well worth reading.