Friday, 30 April 2010

Friday Morning Ramble: The ‘Attacked’ Edition

It’s been a week of it.  On Monday, they attacked cannabis gardeners; on Tuesday they attacked drinkers; on Wednesday, they attacked smokers.  And yesterday, they rested.  Well, apart from reaffirming that power and petrol taxes will go up from July 1st (thanks to the mentally ill Nick Smith), announcing that they intend to introduce an Electoral Finance Act that looks remarkably like the last Electoral Finance Act that they pledged to throw out, and letting slip plans for a “super-regulator” to get in the way of finance markets.  Just another week in paradise, really.PIC BY JOHN ANSELL Oh, and ACT is still part of this government of utter emptiness. . .
On with this week’s ramble:
  • Will de Cleene muses on the week’s bust of Switched On Gardener and arrest of 250 people--and the censorship, propaganda, and forthcoming assaults on their assets and liberty.  Oh, and the enormous profits which other growers will now be looking forward to.
    Harm maximisation
    The Crown v. Switched On Gardener
    More thoughts on Switched on Gardener
  • "The anti-cannabis raids termed Operation Lime have struck a firm blow against freedom," says Luke Howison. "Coming so close together with Geoffrey Palmer's anti-alcohol Law Commission report [and its “extremely urgent” raid on the wallets of low-income smokers), these raids and arrests remind New Zealanders that our government simply does not trust us."
    Operation Lime - An Attack on Freedom
  • Green Cross spokesperson Billy McKee today said that this week's raids by police targeting hydroponic supply shops must be ‘good news’ for gangs, but is very bad news for medical cannabis users.  “The organised criminal groups which control New Zealand’s 'tinny house' networks are going to come out the winners here”, Mr McKee said. “By making it harder for your average person to buy hydroponic growing systems, the police have just given the black market more customers.”
    Raids On Hydroponic Shops Good News For Gangs
  • Nothing brings young politicians together like the freedom to party. “That was the message Thursday as the youth wings of Young Labour, Young Nationals, Young Greens and ACT On Campus banded together to protest raising the drinking age from 18 to 20.” Head here to listen in to their combined press conference:
    Scoop Audio: Keep It 18 Convenes
  • Still, I bet you didn’t know that “Prohibition—and the speakeasy—invented modern New York nightlfe.”
      Our Wet Debt
  • Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse?  Well, one out of three wasn’t bad.
    What Motley Crue can teach us about drug legalisation
  • The confusion, inept organisation and utter emptiness of the Queens Wharf ‘Party Central’ fiasco is truly representative of our present government—a collection of individuals bereft of any direction, or any principles.  The failure of Queens Wharf is a metaphor for the Key Government: the rule of expensive empty gestures.
    The people's wharf is deepest tosh
  • More on the signing of the UN Wish List for Indigenous Peoples, which apologists whisper will have no legal effect.  Says Owen McShane, “it seems probable that the first evidence of the signing of the UN Treaty on the Rights of Indigenous People will surface in RMA planning documents, largely because the people who write the "Maori Issues" chapters are frequently imbued with faith in the animist principles and beliefs of Deep Environmentalism and find the animist beliefs of Polynesia a useful means of forcing their own attitudes to the gods of nature and the Earth Mother on everyone, Maori and Pakeha alike.  We shall see.”
    Owen’s NBR column, foreshadows these developments:
    No other Gods Before Them?
  • Who would have thought you’d see the Greens speaking up for small business.
    The GST hike means a rough ride ahead for small businesses
  • And who would have thought?
    After 40 years of Earth Day, we're still surviving!
  • It’s not bad stuff this CO2 . . .
    [Hat tip Phil Sage]
  • And just so you know, Al Gore has bought a new house in Santa Barbara—it has five bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a large entertainment/game room, a guest house, full length loggia, a wine cellar—and “six fireplaces are running in reverse, consuming CO2 and creating wood.”  Well,maybe not.  But it is in the top-ten most expensive houses in the ocean-watching suburb.
    Al Gore's new villa in California
  • And in entirely unrelated news, “twenty-one authors affiliated with official U.S. government institutions argue that global warming leads to the increase of cancer, mental and neurological illnesses, impotence, asthma, allergies, foodborne diseases, nutrition disorders, human development dysfunctions, heat-related and weather-related morbidity and mortality, vectorborne, zoonotic, and waterborne diseases, as well as all other diseases.
    ”The only problem [says physicis Lubos Motl] is that global warming hasn't so far managed to kill the breathtaking parasitic imbeciles who are writing this kind of garbage.”
    US government: AGW causes cancer, insanity, all other diseases
  • The financial crisis is "far from over," according to Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital, as detailed here. Along with his brother Andrew, Schiff has written a new book, How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, which he says is "for anyone who wants to understand the government, the economy, how it works and why we're in such a mess."
    Schiff was one of the few to see the last crash coming, and he uses here what he used then to explain the basics of economic activity.  "The whole idea is to present economics in very simple terms," he says. "It's so simple even Congressmen can understand it."
    Economics 101: Peter Schiff Explains "Why We're in Such a Mess"
  • See here’s something so simple even most economists don’t understand it:
    Can Prices Go Down during Inflation? A Critical Lesson
  • And remember Peter Schiff in 2006/6 being laughed at by the talking heads as he predicted the coming crash?  JK Galbraith’s son James Galbraith shows he’s as dim as his father, and those other talking heads, as he fails to see the problem with ever-rising government debt.  You’d think he’d been advising the Greek government . . .
  • Who else likes to write in their books? ( I confess, I can’t help myself.) Art Carden offers three reasons to write in books—three reasons why books are better than Kindles, whatever Tyler Cowen might think.
    Writing in Books
  • "While reading and reviewing Robert Nelson's The New Holy Wars, I downloaded "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" [says Brendan O'Neill] and did a find-and-replace where "God" was replaced with "Earth" to see how it reads (not well enough for illustrative purposes).” [Hat tip DoL]
    Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Gaia
  • Why would you be interested in “sewing machine blogging”?  Simple: 1) because the invention of the sewing machine in the late-nineteenth century was an achievement “on par with the latest high-tech or pharmaceutical discovery today.” 2) because its invention, patenting and commercialisation tell us an awful lot about who patent law works, and works (or worked)well.  And, 3) because author Adam Mossoff knows all about patent law.
  • And while we’re talking about such apparent heresies,
    "Who Cares What Thomas Jefferson Thought about Patents? Reevaluating the Patent 'Privilege' in Historical Context"
  • Obama’s making $100 million worth of budget cuts?  Then check this out [hat tip Noodle Food].
  • Still, at least he’s not adding new spending, like some Finance Ministers we could mention.
    Farrar’s trial balloon shot down
  • “Some Obama supporters are already bragging about how the 'recovery' will ensure him a second term and therefore save his statist counter-revolution. Not so fast. These people are making the same mistake that many conservative commentators have made in that they are assuming recessions to be indeed cyclical. This means any downturn is eventually reversed and that this is now the case. It also means that these people have learnt nothing from economic history, particularly the policy disasters that the Hoover/Roosevelt administrations inflicted on the country.”
    Is the U.S. Economy Really Recovering from Recession? 
  • Chris Dodd dreams up a way to make it harder for start-up businesses to raise seed capital. How long before John Key copies?
    Death of Angel Capital
  • How maths helped cause the economic collapse.
        “It was a brilliant simplification of an intractable problem. And Li didn’t just radically dumb down the difficulty of working out correlations; he decided not to even bother trying to map and calculate all the nearly infinite relationships between the various loans that made up a pool. What happens when the number of pool members increases or when you mix negative correlations with positive ones? Never mind all that, he said. The only thing that matters is the final correlation number — one clean, simple, all-sufficient figure that sums up everything …
    Read the whole thing. This has got to be the most powerful illustration yet of the fallacy of mistaking a math function for real phenomena in the market.
    Recipe for disaster: The formula that cratered Wall Street
  • I’m a bit late coming to this one, but Steve Horvitz updates Bastiat’s Broken Window Fallacy in the shadow of Iceland’s volcano.
    The Parable of the Sooty Window
  • A related thought:
    We should make up a new game called "Spot the Broken Window!"
  • As the Euro turns itself slowly into the drachma (providing a new addendum to Gresham’s Law) Larry White talks to George Mason Uni about
    Sound Money, Free Banking, Rule of Law
  • And as Goldman Sachs executives face Senate hearings to explain why their short-term business plan involved screwing their customers, John Allison, the chairman of BB&T bank explains why such short-term thinking is self-destructive, and why principled leadership is self-interested.  Timely advice.
  • [UPDATE: Mark and Robert Tracinski argue that "screwing their customers" is not actually what Goldman Sachs were doing.]
  • “The annual report by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) on the state of federal regulations called Ten Thousand Commandments for 2010, written by Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. notes that:
    • The Code of Federal Regulations is now over 157,000 pages long
    • 3,503 new rules went into effect in 2009
    • That is a new regulation every 2.5 hours every day, all 365 days of the year
    For the last decade, the number of pages in the Federal Registry, where new regulations are published, has averaged 73,018 per year.  This would suggest the Code of Federal Regulations should have grown by 730,177 pages in the last decade…”  Remembering that ignorance of the law is no defence… Did you do your required federal reading today?
  • “Evidently,” says The Rational Capitalist, “the garbled mess of a PowerPoint slide at right was created by the US military to demonstrate the situation in Afghanistan and fittingly, is openly being mocked.”
    ”We do not need to understand the actual content of the slide,” he says. “We need to understand why the military would feel the need to create such a slide... If we understand that, we will indeed have won the war.”
    PowerPoint is not the Cause of Powerlessness
  • Another from the overflowing “anarchy makes no sense” file.
        ”We started off asking what society would provide the least coercion. We then noted that the power to coerce is a monopoly of the State. So, by confining the State, we confine coercion. The more we confine the State, the less coercion there is; it is as if coercive power is some violent beast, and we put it in a cage of constitutional limitations. But the anarcho-capitalist isn’t asking that question any more. They are now asking the question-How can the private sector provide what the State previously provided?
    And the product that the State was providing was coercion itself! We started off asking how to rid ourselves, as much as possible, of the whole panoply of arbitrary laws, and courts and police to enforce those arbitrary laws and so on, and the answer the anarcho-capitalist has come back with is, ‘don’t worry, under my system there will be arbitrary laws and courts and police in abundance!’”
    The fatal error of anarcho-capitalism
  • Time to repost this beautifully evocative video construction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘Fallingwater’—his  house over the Bear Run stream.  Architecture by Wright; music by Smetana.
  • There are people about who still don’t understand that the role of morality is not to teach you how to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live. For the latter group, here’s some valuable advice on living “a value-dense life.” [Hat tip Thrutch]
    Value-dense life
  • As the latest Pope passes the five year milestone, rather than take the time to pardon the Beatles, he could do worse than reflect on advice from an American columnist”
    The Pope loves the Beatles, but who loves Il Papa?
  • And now a word from Charles Darwin (courtesy of John Cox Art):
  • Protect your children from the hands of errant clergy…
  • There are no contradictions in the Bible. None at all.
  • No, there really are no contradictions in the Bible.
    PROJECT REASON: Contradictions in the Bible
    SKEPTICS ANNOTATED BIBLE: Contradictions in the Bible
  • Watch the sham act of a psychic fraudster collapse in an embarrassing heap on live television.
    Watch the stage death of a Psychic Fraudster
  • Yes, the threats against South Park by 20-year-old Muslim covert "Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee" do constitute a fatwa.
    Muslims Threaten South Park
  • Is anyone else sick of hearing that ad for Cat Stevens “riding on the Peace Train,” knowing that he’s a supporter of global jihad?  Anyway, as we’re warming up for Draw Mohammed Day here, here’s a few pics to get you started, including a new release from Lego  . .  .

    LEGO Mohammed Ahmed Your women
  • Turns out I’m fully 54% Bogan.   Take the Quiz and find out how much Bogan you are.
    Are you a bogan? Take the test!
  • Graham Reid goes all uncool over Justin Bieber.
        “I heard him on radio dismissed with the self-damning line from a commentator, "I'd never heard of him until the other day".
    Well, isn't that true of everything? You have to hear about something a first time.
        “But the subtext here is, He can't be any good because I haven't heard of him.’
    Police. Security. Screams. A singer comes to town.
  • Just for the record, NOT PC enjoyed 17,268 visits since this time last week.  The most popular posts in that time were:
  • 29th May is/was the incomparable Duke Ellington’s birthday.  Time to celebrate.

    Enjoy your weekend!

'The Tax Collector - Pieter Brueghel the Younge

 The Tax Collector. Pieter Brueghel the Younger. People's lives and livings being weighed in the balance by scum--and tossed aside like so much garbage. Story of the painting from the South Australian Gallery, where the painting now resides:
The Tax-Collector's Office is one of approximately forty copies by the artist of a lost painting by his much more famous father, Pieter Brueghel the elder. It shows a group of poor Flemish villagers waiting patiently to submit their taxes not in cash but in baskets of eggs, poultry, game and other produce. A prosperously-dressed tax-collector, assisted by a staff of half-witted clerks, is shown peering at a parchment behind a counter laden with piles of documents and money-bags. The artist mocks the wastefulness of this hive of bumbling officials by showing mountainous bundles of cancelled bills and receipts spilling carelessly across the office floor.

LINKS: The tax-collector's office - Associate Curator of European Art, Art Gallery of South Australia 

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Nanny Turia takes a leaf from Nanny Palmer’s playbook to make tobacco leaf more expensive [update 5]

So Parliament sat under urgency last night. Excuse me, extreme urgency.

Not to stop the imposition of new taxes, via the Emissions Trading Taxes, which from July 1st will be adding new taxes on power and petrol and much else.

Not to cut company taxes, which might allow NZ’s struggling businesses to get off the floor.

Not to cut income taxes, one of National’s headline election promises which is destined to remain broken.

Not to take GST off food, which would make things easier for low-income folk.

No, it wasn’t sitting under urgency for any of those things.  It was sitting under urgency—excuse me, extreme urgency—so it could whack a new tax on one of the simple pleasures of thousands of New Zealanders.  Hitting (at the behest of the Maori Party) right at the wallets of low-income folk, who are by and large the largest smokers.  Nanny Turia taking a leaf from Nanny Palmer’s playbook to take out the big stick.

The announcement was made in the manner of Muldoon—a late announcement that by midnight the present usurious tax on tobacco would be hiked immediately by another ten-percent on packets of cigarettes, and twenty-four percent on loose tobacco—with more new theft to come next year, and the year after.  And as it was under the Muldoon announcements, folk impacted by the hike headed off to their regular retailers to stock up on their chosen pleasures before the rise.

It was all just like the old days, really. Another National Government whacking on taxes after dark to make enjoying one of life’s little pleasures more difficult.  New taxes on an already over-taxed pleasure.

What will this mean for smokers, who for the most part are low-income folk? Look at it this way:  for a packet of 25 cigarettes now costing around $14.40, without all the the taxes that packet would cost you just $3.40.  All the rest is tax. 

The “thinking” behind last night’s tax hike, if any actual thought was involved here, is that higher taxes will reduce people's smoking. This is “thinking” at its lowest possible ebb.  Smoking is nobody’s business but the smoker’s. Smokers already pay far more than the “social cost” of any possible harm. And smokes are a highly inelastic purchase—meaning that instead of reducing the number of smokes the smoker buys because of the higher cost, it’s just as likely that smokers will reduce their purchase of everything else instead (and the govt will reap a huge windfall). Or they will simply hand their money over to gangs to provide them with more affordable black-market smokes.

So even if you don’t smoke yourself, what this move will do is further encourage the government to tax the hell out of all of life’s little pleasures (smokers are today’s lepers; who’s next?), and to further increase the profits of the gangs.  Smart, huh? No, it’s not.

So it’s a thoughtless, grasping move to placate a party—the Maori Party—who you would think, for all that they’ve been given, that they have secret photos of John Key stashed away somewhere. (Wouldn’t you love to take a peek in Tariana & Pita’s safe to see what they’ve got locked up there?)

And as at least one former ACT supporter wants to know, it now begs the question: how long will ACT go on supporting a government committed to everything the ACT party was once presumed to oppose.  “Where is the line, Rodney?” a blogger at Clint Heine’s blog wants to know.

Well, it’s clearly not this new tax rise, because at least one ACT party MP voted for it . . .

    Clearly there are a lot of proposals, and some, such as raising the alcohol excise, are perhaps aspirational, but the Government will give due consideration to the entirety of the report.
    ‘I look forward to working with my Ministerial colleagues on doing that and drawing out the recommendations that will best achieve an environment where responsible alcohol use marks the New Zealand drinking culture,’ he said.

    “Breathing is aspirational as well, yet the Government seems to favour that. So what's the difference? Class, that's what…
    “Mr Key is Mr Reponsible Drinking. But he is as likely to be seen with a fag as to grow a beard. Prime Ministers do not do that sort of thing anymore… Smoking is a poor man's addiction, as Mrs Turia observes.”

Abject macroeconomic failure

Remember America’s stimulus package(s)?

Remember how it was described as “essential” to”save jobs.”

So how’s that job-saving going, I wonder. Answer: 15 million Americans remain out of work.

Just so you know, the original graph was issued by Obama’s team in January 2009 to show what would happen both with and without most massive economic intervention since every other intervention put together (bigger, in fact, than the sum of all interventions put together).

The really sad thing to note here is that resources amounting to more than the Apollo programme, the post-war Marshall Plan and the cost of the Iraq War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War put together were taken away from resource-owners, where they could have been put to productive use, and used instead to … to what?  Well, to have no effect whatsoever, at best—and, at worst, to make the economic situation worse.

Now, the graph comes from the blog of Greg Mankiw--former adviser to George W. Bush and as mainstream as a mainstream economist can get—who rushes to the defence of both his profession and the Obama administration, saying no-one should be held accountable here because it’s all just “a reflection of the inherent uncertainties associated with macroeconomics.”

Perhaps a better word than “uncertainties” would be “failures.”  As in, the complete and abject failure of the whole mainstream theory.

Failure by practically all the world’s mainstream macroeconomists to see the global economic and financial crisis coming.

Failures of the advisers to both Bush and Obama to know what to do when it hit.

And now failure to know what the hell would happen when the world’s biggest ever “stimulus” programme was thrown at the US economy like one giant golden shower, at the recommendation of most of the mainstream macroeconomists Prof Mankiw calls “colleagues.”

But all of this is just abject, flatulent nonsense.  We here at NOT PC were among those saying at the end of 2008, as clearly as we knew how, that “A pump primed means a recovery delayed.” We were saying, while all thestimulunacywas being talked up, that there is no choice at all about the pain of recession—the only choice is how long the pain is going to take. Meanwhile, the mainstream economists were insisting on making the situation worse while pretending they knew how to make it better, even as (they confess now) their own hopes and expectations were riddled with all “the inherent uncertainties associated with macroeconomics.”

Perhaps it would be time, then, for those failed macroeconomists to reflect on one basic principle when considering action in the face of abject ignorance: First, do no harm.

And to take the only action that would really be appropriate in the circumstances: to pack up their theories, their excuses, and their record of abysmal failure, and get the hell off the world stage.

NB: Also for the record, here are the unemployment figures for the US civilian population by sex and age, not seasonally adjusted, March 2009 to March 2010

Overall: 9.0 to 10.2
Men over 16: 10.6 to 11.8
Men over 20: 9.9 to 11.2
Women over 16: 7.3 to 8.3
Women over 20: 6.9 to 7.1
Both sexes 16-19: 21.5 to 22.0

As Jeffrey Tucker comments, “It’s a heck of a time to have raised minimum wages three years in a row.”

And the only reason these unemployment figures look better than the figures for the Great Depression? Because the headline figures are measured differently now. Measure them as they used to, including the underemployed and long-term unemployed (as the BLS's U6 measure of unemployment does) and we discover that “unadjusted” unemployment reached 17.5 per cent in March, higher than it was in every year of the thirties apart from the peak unemployment years of 1932 and 1933, when the figures were 22.9% and 20.6% respectively.  [FYI, the series from 1929 to 1938 was, in percentage terms, 3.9, 8.7, 15.3, 22.9, 20.6, 16.0, 14.2, 9.9, 9.1, 12.5]

‘When Life Gives You Lemons’ - Robin Neudorfer

Rlemons Robin Neudorfer, When Life Gives You Lemons, watercolor on Arches paper, 28 x 20 inches

Another piece from the Newberry Gallery’s Symbolic Still Life Exhibition.  Apparently, artist Robin Nuedorfer had a lemon tree in the backyard at the same time as the newspapers were filled daily with stories about Toyota.

Course, there are lemons everywhere.  For instance, were plenty of “big old lemons” on centre stage at the Goldman Sachs hearings today too . . .

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

KRIS SAYCE: Why Australia isn’t so Different from Greece

_Kris_Sayce Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia explains why NZ’s biggest trading partner, and the domicile of our Big Four banks, is not so different from Greece.
* * * *
“Oh stop grumbling and just hand over the money.” That’s in effect what the German government is being told to do with its taxpayer euros.  According to the Associated Press (AP):
    “A 45 billion euros ($A64.45 billion) bailout package from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should see Greece through its borrowing needs for this year. But the bailout is complicated by German grumbling, which continued on Monday, about the burden of the bailout on its own finances.”
Do you know what, if your editor was German we think we’d grumble a bit too. In fact if we were German we’d tell the Greeks to stick a Banane^ up their Kokospalme.*

We’ve long thought the Euro currency was doomed to failure. Whether the debts piled up by Greece and other Eurozone countries is enough to cause its collapse is another matter.

But one day – probably sooner rather than later – it will fail. Just like all fiat currencies are destined to collapse.

For an indication of how bad things have gotten in Greece you need look no further than current Greek interest rates and compare them to German interest rates.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: This week: Cannabis, Krudd and Gold-plated eels

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

This week: Cannabis, Krudd and Gold-plated eels.

1. “Police harass garden shop owners – Despite the growing problem of violent crime, our police decide to launch raids on garden shop owners. The rationale behind these raids is that these shops would not turn a profit were it not for the sales they make to cannabis growers. Well, I guess it’s easier to pick on peaceful tax-paying middle class New Zealanders than to arrest the scum who murder, rob and rape.
    But this is serious interference: raiding 35 legal businesses, arresting 250 people, and executing home invasions on 100 private homes.
    How desperately far-fetched is this? By this logic, the owners of supermarkets and petrol stations will be next on the cops’ hit list, as the thousands of cannabis growers surely need food and transportation. Manufacturers of matches and lighters, including corner dairies needn’t think they are immune from official molestation. Nor the makers of stoves, tin foil, sealable plastic bags, weight scales and teaspoons--as these are all, too, illicit drug paraphernalia.
    Where will it stop? This bizarre persecution of business owners is proof, if any was required, that if the police take a dislike to you, the anti-pleasure laws and guilt by association give them a toehold to arrest and incarcerate you any time they like.
    These are frightening times. The arrests yesterday are symptomatic of the constant erosion of our liberty by the state that is meant to protect our freedoms, but otherwise leave us alone. Decent people are being bullied here. Anyone who trades with anyone else who even looks like they might smoke cannabis is now at risk of arrest, detention, and the destruction of their livelihoods and confiscation of their possessions--thanks to the laws that allows Nanny to seize your property unless you can do the impossible by proving a negative (i.e., that your property was not paid for through the proceeds of crime).
    If you are reading this and smirking, thinking you lie beneath the police radar, just ask whether your child, or any of your close friends or workmates might be smoking cannabis, and whether the police might put 2 and 2 together, get 5, and come after you.

2. “National insist on punishing New Zealanders with ETS madness – Not really surprising, when you think about it. Given the limited cognitive function of tree-hugger Nick Smith, and the albatross around National’s neck, Bill English, National couldn’t really be expected to take on board the U-turn by the Aussie Prime Mentalist and fellow climate psychotic Kevin Rudd, who, in the interests of brevity, I will refer to as “Krudd.”
    Despite referring to the mass delusion that the activities of mankind have a significant effect on climate  variability as “the greatest moral challenge of our generation”, Krudd has quietly shelved his plans to flay businesses and consumers for using energy to improve the living standards of Australians.
    Although Krudd has gone back on his promise to tax those whose activities produce more of the “poisonous” carbon dioxide on which plants thrive, our politicians continue to worship at the Church of Albert Gore.
   Why follow others, figure Nick and Bill, when you can be a the first lemming to jump off the cliff? These two are starting to look more and more like a couple of prize pricks, as the days get shorter and cooler and a bit of global warming starts to sound attractive. Pull your heads in and abandon this bloody ETS nonsense. Just admit that--like millions of others--the two of you, your leader, and Krudd were all taken in by the Warmist Pontiff and his conspirators at the IPCC. Admit your error, and move on. If you want to suffer the privations of a life without technology, don’t take the rest of us with you.  Some of us enjoy the niceties of Western civilization, thank you very much.

3. “Eels have rights too! – Wairarapa farmer Lloyd Rayner has been caned for digging a drain on his property because it killed some eels and disturbed a swamp. These must have been very valuable eels, because it cost him $37,000. I didn’t know eel meat was that expensive.
    The news item describes the farmer as a “landowner.”  Perhaps we should denote farmers like Mr Rayner as LINOs – landowners in name only—because thanks to the Resource Management Act, there is no such thing as freehold title in New Zealand now, and Mr Rayner would do well to remember that. 
      This man was excavating an existing drain to clear weeds and transform the land into productive real estate.
      Currently five hectares of his land is under water and he is now forced to pay a bribe, called a resource consent, to officials if he wants to drain the land he paid for but doesn’t own. The eels evidently own it (with the council goons as their representatives), but just let him try forwarding his next rates bill to the eels on his property and see how far he gets.
      Sure enough, the mystics got in on the act, with a local Maori tribal leader saying the earthworks had damaged the ‘mauri’ or life force of the area that Mr Rayner’s eels own. If that’s the case I guess local Maori will have to stop hunting eels and gathering watercress in the name of the sacred life force.
      May the force be with you.

“When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the
government fear the people, there is liberty. “
- Thomas Jefferson  

Drinkers pay for themselves [update 3]

A big “hello!” to Leighton Smith’s listeners.

Leighton argues that as long as you and I are paying the medical bills of irresponsible drinkers, then irresponsible drinking is everybody’s business.

But, as a simple matter of fact, you’re not paying their medical bills.  You’re not paying their medical bills, because the taxes that are already extracted from drinkers more than make up for their external costs, including their public health costs.

Don’t take my word for that.  Listen to University of Canterbury economist Eric Crampton and Victoria University economist Matt Burgess, who concluded after extensive analysis just last year that the “external costs [of alcohol consumption are] roughly equal to collected tax revenues.”  They conclude, unequivocally

    “We find net external costs to be zero once full account of excise taxes is made.”

Or as Eric summarised on his blog yesterday:

    “Matt and I found last year that collected alcohol excise tax revenues exceed tallied external costs of alcohol misuse, which include the public health costs. It's consequently pretty depressing when we keep reading folks claiming that alcohol tax increases are a good idea because of the costs of drunks to the emergency room system. Those costs can be good reason for doing something like punishing actual behaviours that lead to costs while drunk, like drunk and disorderly or fights or drink driving. But they're not reason for hiking the tax: the tax already covers those costs.

So much for the argument that the “external costs’ of alcohol consumption make the consumption of alcohol everybody’s business. 

And no wonder the Crampton & Burgess report was not included in the Law Commission report.

UPDATE 1:  Yes, yes, I know the extraction of excise taxes is immoral. And I know the spreading of costs from some drinkers to other drinkers by means of the extraction of excise taxes is equally as iniquitous.  But as long as you accept the system that extracts taxes by force, and returns just a small portion of those taxes in the form of a government-run health system, then you’re stuck with arguing on that basis when you’re arguing about “costs” and “benefits.”

UPDATE 2: Eric points out in the comments that not only did the Law Commission not include Eric and Matt’s analysis as part of their recommendations (analysis which readers might remember, utterly demolished the earlier analysis on which the Law Commission was relying) but has instead commissioned further research that Eric says “could well be described as an orchestrated litany of lies.”

Naturally, he’s begun the task already of unravelling it. See:

UPDATE 3: Why this focus on “external costs”?  Matt Nolan explains the way economists think when they’ve got their socks economist’s hats on:

    “Remember the simple fact that, as long as we believe people are responsible, have better information on themselves, and are better able to make choices regarding themselves then arbitrary regulation (or some lesser combination of these points), then we shouldn’t focus on the entire ‘social cost (private + external costs)’ associated with alcohol when regulating.
    “The focus should only be on the external cost – the cost placed on other individuals from the choice of one individual.  The private costs are already being taken account of when the choice is made.
    As a result, if the calls of a 50% increase in excise tax are not based just on true external costs, but also broader private costs, they are asking for ‘too much tax’ in a strict ‘efficiency’ sense.  They may be doing this as they genuinely dislike alcohol (although the risk of unintended consequences spring to mind here--namely people drinking more alcohol beverages if the cost-per-alcohol-unit is lower, and also people brewing their own), or because they think people are inherently stupid.  However, neither of these reasons seems like a good justification for policy.”

We must raise the voting age!

I’m persuaded. Clearly, we need to raise the voting age to 20.

If 18- and 19-year-olds are too dumb, and too irresponsible, and their young brains too inexperienced, unformed and undeveloped to be able to responsibly choose and use their evening tipple, then it is surely without question they are too dumb, too irresponsible, and their brains too raw and undeveloped to be able to choose a government.

The conclusion must surely follow from the premise: If 18- and 19-year-olds can’t be trusted with individual sovereignty over their own consumption of fermented beverages, then how how on earth can they be trusted with choosing those who are sovereign over us all?

It is on that basis, then, that I insist—nay, I demand!—that Parliament move immediately to raise the voting age. Immediately!

And don’t come that conscience vote nonsense with me.  On this, I rely on the unassailable arguments of that noted moralist of our age, John Armstrong.

Conscience votes on such legislation have traditionally been granted to MPs on the grounds that voting in parliament on matters like this is a matter of personal choice.

This is a charade which allows parties to abrogate their responsibilities on things like the voting age, on which the firmness of political opinion must trump the thin reed of public opinion.

Parties do not give their MPs free rein to vote as they like on measures dealing with social and economic policy. Yet, as the policies of parties other than the two popular and competent parties demonstrate, the harm caused by voting for the wrong parties is of huge social and economic relevance.

The same transparency, therefore, should apply to voting on the voting age. Yet, sensible policy-making is turfed out the window when it comes to the voting age.

Time to treat children like children, I say!  The views and evening entertainments of 18- and 19-year-olds should neither be seen, nor heard!

PS: Naturally, these arguments do not apply to being able to marry, have sex, or go to war. 18- and 19-year-olds may not be able to choose an RTD from a fine wine, or be as unable to stand upright after a hard night as Mark Blumsky or Ruth Dyson, but if we don’t have youngsters unthinkingly pumping out babies and being forced off to fight our wars, where would we be, eh?  Eh?

Why Leftists Hate Speech

Why Leftists Hate Speech
Advocates of Statism Cannot Tolerate Political Opposition
Guest Post by Robert Tracinski

When the left talks about "hate speech"—which they perpetually attribute to the right, and which they have dredged up again as their latest line of attack against the tea party movement—I've always thought the phrase carries an unintended but revealing double meaning.

Many people are not good at introspection or at identifying the real meaning of their emotions; it's an acquired skill that requires a lot of work, practice, and honesty. So people will often correctly identify which emotions and objects are involved—but not the correct relationships between them.

For example, when a leftist hears someone on the right speak, he is able to correctly identify the emotion, hatred, and the fact that it involves someone's speech. But he gets the relationship backward. The real relationship is: he hates our speech. It is the left that is convulsed with rage whenever anyone speaks up in defense of liberty.

As my friend Jack Wakeland sums it up: "hate speech" isn't a noun; it's a sentence fragment. It stands for "I hate your speech."

That's why the left has responded to the tea party movement—which has engaged in such violent activities as holding up signs, giving speeches, asking questions of congressmen at town hall meetings, sponsoring forums on the health care bill, and organizing congressional debates—by threatening to infiltrate the movement in order to fabricate incidents of racism and advocacy of violence that they will then use to discredit us.
As one tea party organizer responds to that threat, "They can't actually debate our message, and that's their problem."

Confirming that judgment, the left is busy working itself up into a campaign to suppress our speech by depicting us as a violent threat that has to be put down.

Jeff Perren: Brazilian Health Minister Says: "Have More Sex"

[Guest post from Jeff Perren at Shaving Leviathan.]

The title says it all.

But here's a snippet, anyway, just so you don't think I made it up.
"People need to be active. A weekend football game must not be the only physical activity for a Brazilian. Adults need to do exercise: walk, dance and have safe sex," said Jose Gomes Temporao.
Now, why can't we get politicians like that?

‘Himalayan Flight’ - Michael Newberry

himalayan Michael Newberry, Himalayan Flight, 2010, oil on linen, 36 x 48 inches

Just finished and just “signed,” this still life by Newberry was completed just in time for his gallery’s 'Symbolic Still Life' exhibition which opened Saturday.

For myself, I love the dramatic diagonals and white-on-red of the composition—and the contrasting perspectives of the two bowls which highlight the “ascent” up the snow-coloured scarf.

Now, still-lifes aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but this brief description by Sherri Tracinski of a still-life involving a suitcase and a vase comes as close as any explanation I’ve seen to explaining their appeal:

    "These fine details and contrasts of texture surround us in the world everyday, in the objects of our everyday lives. It is the invaluable skill of the still-life painter to highlight those contrasts, to heighten our awareness of them, and to show us all of the beauty the objects in this world have to offer."

Explaining  this one above, the excited Newberry says (hell, why wouldn‘t he be excited when he’s just finished a piece like this),

    “The Tibetan white silk prayer scarf was given to me from my friend Jennifer Jordan, she wrote and produced the National Geographic special, The Woman of K2. Like the mountain climbers that reach for the highest peeks, freedom comes with a cost of blood.”

And just quietly, being “signed” today means it’s on the market today . . .

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

REMINDER: Economics for Real People

I’m reminding you all about this do tonight at Auckland Uni—and I’ve been reminded to tell you too that everyone attending tonight goes into a draw for their own copy of Henry Hazlitt’s seminal book Economics in One Lesson.

Which reminds me, I really must work out who’s currently got my copy . . .






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Is there anything about Geoffrey Bloody Palmer’s plan (announced today) to turn us into a nation of wowsers that we didn’t already know about?

We discover that people like drinking.  Just imagine.

That “six in 10 drinkers had become intoxicated at least once in the past year”  Astonishing news!

That “one in three men aged 18 to 24 reported drinking enough to feel drunk at least weekly.”  At least weekly!

And that Geoffrey Bloody Palmer somehow considers it his business to change that with bans, extortionate tax  hikes, and early-closing restrictions on nightclubs.

Somehow, your drinking is his business.  The Tui billboards, which he wants to ban, are somehow his business. What you and I might do in Courtenay Place or the Viaduct after dark, which he wants to regulate, is somehow his business.

His business, it seems, is putting his own lemon-sucking wowserism into your business and saying “Suck on that.”

Why does this pin-headed former politician wish to use the bad behaviour of a few to impose his schtick on all the rest of us.

Why does he think it’s his business to tell us how we’re all going to spend our evenings?

And why, oh why, does this cretinous busybody seem to have as much authority now to recommend law changes as he did back when he was dreaming up the bloody Resource Management Act? 

The answer, I suspect, lies in the intellectual vacuum that is the top floor of today’s Beehive.

The first person to give the face of this life-long busybody what it deserves will get a very loud cheer indeed.  It should be delivered with the full moral rectitude of a job that sorely, and urgently, needs doing.k

GUEST POST: Turning right

A guest post here by our Ministry of Transport correspondent (who may, or may not, bear the name Spanker Brainby) on how NZ’s most ridiculous traffic law came into being. An example, in advance of this afternoon’s Law Commission announcement on how to make us a wowser nation, of how  “interfering, and unduly unintelligent, legislation often results from the brain stirrings of over-zealous (and over-powerful) civil servants” and their advisors.
Spanker Brainby
I drove into town today and heard the news that Archie Snutford had finally passed on to that great traffic office in the sky.

He actually departed, presumably at a safe speed and with due caution, over three years ago but it often takes time for such news to reach me.
My retreat near Whangamomona has become a safe haven for me over the years. I hide myself out there; I rarely make the journey into town – and I have a perfectly rational fear of driving on New Zealand roads these days.

I am free at last, now that Archie has gone, to tell the correct story of how what is often called ‘New Zealand’s most ridiculous traffic law’ came into being.

Plan Hawking from outer space

It has to be said: physicist Stephen Hawking must have a superb publicist.  One throwaway comment about "aliens", and the whole world is talking about his new documentary for the Discovery Channel.

Nothing mysterious about that result.

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Death threats ain’t so funny [update 3]

Okay, making fun of Islamists isn’t always as much fun as flashing your boobs for science—as South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have discovered. They put Mohammed in a bear suit, and before you could say jihad they had a bunch of crazies issuing one in the name of the religion of peace:

    “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show [said the crazies]. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

Average Joe has a round-up of the episodes, the issues and the reactions, including his:

     “Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion?
     “Where are we left? We either have freedoms…or we don’t. There is no middle ground here. Once you attach strings to freedom, then freedom is tethered and can’t be called freedom….
    “I guess what we have in truth in the world in 2010, is freedom that society allows us. We have freedom that the government approves. We have freedom…as long as we don’t say Mohammed.”

Islamists don’t like being laughed at? Fuck ‘em.  At least that’s what the media would like to say.  But “that sound you’re not hearing”? 

   “[It’s] the media, [says Frank Ross, via Instapundit], holed up in their towers along Sixth Avenue and across the street from the old Show World Center porn palace on Eighth Avenue, noisily rising to the defense of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the South Park creators who recently upset the tender Muslim sensibilities of this guy
    “That’s right: an American-born Muslim convert with ties to a small extremist group operating openly in the United States of America can affect the programming policy of a cable comedy network whose headliners — Stone and Parker, and Jon Stewart — pride themselves on their fearless irreverence.”

Even Bart Simpson is scared [hat tip Tim Blair]:


At least the Pope doesn’t issue death threats when people make fun of him and his own benighted hordes. The only threats the Pope issues are ones not to show up. He saves his best threats for the “next” world…

UPDATE 1: In the comments, Mark links to more good commentary at the Fun With Gravity blog.

    "Consider this fictional scenario. Imagine you lived in a remote protected fort surrounded by violent hordes. Over the years, those in charge of the fort have had countless opportunities to crush the violent groups outside, but have failed to do so. Now emboldened, the hordes surround the fort, pointing weapons at you, and you have to decide whether you want to mock them. That is essentially the position that Stone, Parker, and the rest of us now find ourselves in."

UPDATE 2: There is a grass-roots fight back!  Ari Armstrong urges everyone to join the "Everybody Draw Mohammed" campaign. See his own entry and commentary here, including this on-the-money point:

    “Offending somebody's religious sensibilities is NOT incitement to violence. The fact that somebody may respond to free speech by destroying property or threatening or murdering people is no legitimate reason to squelch free speech; it is instead an overriding reason for the government to take defensive action against the aggressors. If speech is held hostage to the irrational violence of some, then there is no such thing as freedom of speech. There is only tyranny.”

Well said.

UPDATE 3: Apparently, it’s May 20, so start now:


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BoobQuake: Who says science has to be boring?

BoobQuake Today in the States is the day for science like you’ve never seen.

To test the claim of an Iranian cleric that women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes, women across the States have pledged to dress immodestly in a bid to test the first part of the hypothesis, if not yet the second.

Started by blogger Jen McReight at Blag Hag who pledged to “offer my boobs to science,” it seems the experiment has already yielded what organiser McReight calls “statistically insignificant” ground movement in Taiwan.

Keep up with the experiment at its Facebook page, on Flickr, and on Twitter with the the tag #BoobQuake tag.

This is important work, people.  You wouldn’t want to miss a tremor.

Meanwhile, from the Irony Room:


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