Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Reputation, reputation, reputation

cadbury There’s been a lot of talk about Cadbury’s slide down the rankings of NZ’s most-trusted brands, from being judged the most trusted company in the country lat year down to a meagre 36th out of 133rd this year (if those rankings themselves can be trusted, being based on a survey of only 500 people).

For its part, Cadbury has resolved to earn back the public trust it has lost in the past year.

But you might be wondering, why on earth would companies care what people say about them?  Especially when so many of the left’s luminaries insist that companies, especially multinational companies in headlong pursuit of profits, are essentially an irresponsible law unto themselves?

The answer is as simple as the nose on your face, really.  It’s because a seller’s reputation is the key to their long-term profits.

If companies have their own long-term interests at heart then, as all good companies should, then maintaining their reputation with their customers is essential. This is why good companies spend so much time and energy protecting their brand, and lesser companies do not. It’s because in the final analysis it’s not multinational corporations who decide the long-term direction of production, it’s consumers.

_Quote Neither the entrepreneurs nor the farmers nor the capitalists determine what has to be produced [explains Ludwig Von Mises]. The consumers do that. If a businessman does not strictly obey the orders of the public as they are conveyed to him by the structure of market prices, he suffers losses, he goes bankrupt, and is thus removed from his eminent position at the helm. Other men who did better in satisfying the demand of the consumers replace him.
    “The consumers patronize those shops in which they can buy what they want at the cheapest price. Their buying and their abstention from buying decides who should own and run the plants and the farms. They make poor people rich and rich people poor. They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. They are merciless bosses, full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. For them nothing counts other than their own satisfaction. They do not care a whit for past merit and vested interests. If something is offered to them that they like better or that is cheaper, they desert their old purveyors. In their capacity as buyers and consumers they are hard-hearted and callous, without consideration for other people.”

The consumer is king, and she is a hard task-master—and it is the very profit system that those leftist luminaries denounce that is the key to ensuring a company’s responsibility. Because if long-term profits are important to a company, then keeping their customers happy must be paramount.

RELATED POSTS:

Auckland Bloggers Bar Bash (B3) this Thursday!

It looks to me like this Thursday is the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time for Bloggers Drinks! For the monthly Bloggers Bar Bash(B3) at Galbraith’s, Mt Eden!

So: B3, be free, be there!

It’s the event for bloggers and blog readers to leave their guns at the door, let their hair down, and take the grrr out of bloggrrrs.  And you just never know who’s going to show up.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Lady Gaga said about something else.

“Ecstasy!” Phil Goff did not say.

“I’m going outside for a cigarette,” Judith Collins might have said.

“It’s the second-most arresting thing I attend,” Cameron Slater probably would say, but hasn’t yet.

Past blogging celebrities in attendance include bloggers and blog readers from Annie Fox, Barnsley Bill, Beretta, The Fairfacts Media Show, Stephen Franks, Garfield Herrington, Bernard Hickey, Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog, MandM, No Minister, Not PC, Roar Prawn, Lolly Scramble, SOLO, State Highway One, Whale Oil and WHOAR! … though this last one didn’t stay around too long.

So get ye there and buy your favourite blogger(s) a drink.  ;^)

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
When:
This Thursday 1 July from 6.30pm
Where:
Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, blog trolls.

That’s all, England [updated

One of the many pleasures in watching English teams lose is watching the ferocity with which English supporters turn on their own teams; and The Sun, who have collected a host of jokes already posted  “after what has been seen as England's worst World Cup performance ever” (a phrase you might find useful to remember next time you drink with English folk).

Show's over ... Wayne's World Cup is finished

- The England team visited an orphanage in Cape Town today. "It's heartbreaking to see their sad little faces with no hope," said Jamal, aged six.

- I hear Oxo are making a new product. The packaging is white with a red cross. They're calling it the laughing stock.

- What's the difference between the England team and a tea bag? The tea bag stays in the cup longer.

- News Flash: Huge spike in sales of pink fairy tutus at Glastonbury Festival by blokes too embarrassed to wear their England shirt.

- What do you call an Englishman in the knockout stages of the World Cup? A referee.

- Three hours of football and Robert Green is still England's top scorer.

- Apparently that fan had no trouble slipping into the England dressing room Robert Green was guarding the door.

- I can't believe we only managed a draw against a rubbish team we should easily have beaten. . . . I'm ashamed to call myself Algerian.

- What does the Englishman do when England wins the World Cup? He switches off the PlayStation.

- What's the difference between Wayne Rooney and Shrek? Shrek can save the day.

Time to re- watch and enjoy a few of Nike’s brilliant “Write the Future” ads, a great expression of free will and causality…

Controversy over proposed ‘Ground Zero’ Mosque [update 3]

In his latest podcast, Leonard Peikoff comes out swinging against allowing the “give America the finger” Mosque to be built just three blocks or so from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, where more than 3000 people were killed in the name of Islam less than ten years ago.  But he’s not just objecting to its construction, he’s calling for government action to destroy it altogether. Asked “isn’t it private property and therefore protected by individual rights?” Peikoff says no, emphatically not, and further

_Quote In regard to this issue, I would say, any way possible, permission should be refused; and, if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence. Evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity.”

Trouble is (well, there’s several causes for trouble, really), his argument applies to every mosque built in every street in every city in the west. Which is no better than what Roosevelt did when he locked up every Japanese-American he could find right after the attack on Pearl Harbor.  As Ari Armstrong said last week:

_QuoteIf there is real evidence that the builders of the mosque actively plan to forcibly overthrow the United States government or harm its citizens, then they should be prosecuted and imprisoned by the government. I have seen no such evidence.”

Yes, Islam is at war with the west.  And yes, those who’ve committed acts of war should be treated as casualties, not as defendants.  But as far as those building the mosque are concerned, any guilt must first be proven, not just assumed.

If not,  seems to me that objecting to this mosque is simply a proxy for objecting to what’s not being done to hunt down and kill those responsible for terrorism and for supporting terrorists —in other words, objecting to the foolish war that is being waged against a tactic instead of against the real enemy, a failing war that has left the real enemies to haunt failed states like Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan and hostile states like Iran in the same way that a vampire haunts darkness. Or in Diana Hsieh’s succinct words:

_QuoteTotalitarian Islam is a major threat, but that threat needs to be fought by the military -- by destroying the states that sponsor terrorism -- not by violating private property rights in order to prevent a mosque from being built.”

On this then, Trey Given’s carefully considered words speak for mine:

_QuoteDr. Peikoff says in his comment that if I disagree, then I don’t understand Objectivism.  I’m fine with that. I do not subscribe to Objectivism so that I might call myself an Objectivist.  I call myself an Objectivist because I agree with all that I know and understand about Objectivism.  Part of that understanding is that I make up my own mind about these things.  Dr. Peikoff can think whatever he likes about things, but his thoughts are not mine.  I will not accept an argument from authority.
    “All I can say is that I will re-listen to the podcast and re-consider what he says and see if I agree.  At present, I do not.”

Me either.

RELATED POSTS:

Read his whole post here asking What About the Forty Other Islamic Centers?.

‘Cathedral’ – Auguste Rodin

What Auguste Rodin could do with a pair of hands, other sculptors struggled to do with whole galaxies of complete human figures. When I first posted this a few years ago, I quoted Oh Crikey'. 

_Quote Who would've thought a mere 'hand' could convey so much anguish & torment, or tenderness & delicacy? ... In Maori terms, we could say Rodin's sculptures have a mauri, or a 'life force.' The more rational among us will scoff, ‘Oh, that's silly, inanimate objects can't possibly have a life force!’ But they're dead wrong, Rodin is alive!

Rodin: the sculptor who breathes life into mere stone.  In a beautiful photo by Mark Klym.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Toy Story meets The Wire

So the new Toy Story film has already been accused if being “carelessly sexist” by the usual feminazis.  I wonder how those critics would feel about the idea of Toy Story mashed up with The Wire? [Hat tip Noodle Food]

The return of street-fighting man

260610_riots They’re out on the streets again. Burning. Looting. Vandalising.

From The Battle of Seattle to the destruction of Toronto’s main shopping street, thugs and vandals have been out in force destroying the property of local business owners to (somehow) demonstrate by that destruction the iniquity of global capitalism,and the evil of multinational corporations. 

The vandals argue that the alleged “violence” of global capitalism justifies their own violence against what they say are the “symbols” of symbols of global capitalism, from banks to multinational franchises from Starbucks to Nike, to the G20 summit itself. A broken storefront window, they say, “becomes a vent to let some fresh air into the oppressive atmosphere of a retail outlet.” A burning building becomes “a message board to record brainstorm ideas for a better world.”  And somehow a billion-dollar meet-up of politicians becomes a symbol of capitalism, instead of its very opposite.

This form of postmodern protest is clearly as ironic as it is irrational.

Because in the first place, these thugs meet up to smash windows and score headlines only at the times and places that politicians meet up to talk to each other. And the only relationship that politicians have with capitalism, particularly these ones sitting around today's G-20 table, is getting in its way.

And of what does this alleged “violence” of global capitalism consist?  If we judge the targets of the hard-core “Black Bloc’ thugs, whose destruction is given at least tacit support by their less violent confreres whom they profess to despise, it’s the “violence” of serving coffee and hamburgers to people in comfortable surroundings (“Let’s trash McDonalds and Starbucks!!”); it’s the “violence” of fitting people out in comfortable and good-looking clothes (“Let’s go burn down a Nike or Levis store!”; it’s the violence of lending capital to businesses large and small to help create prosperity (“Let’s attack these tools for the expansion of corporate repression!!”); and if we were to draw the global bow that these protestors would like us to, it’s the “violence” of bringing jobs, capital and prosperity to places around the world that haven’t necessarily enjoyed these boons before.

If there’s any violence here, the only place it can be found is in their own violence against both property and logic.

As it happens, the news of the Toronto protests riots came through just as I was reading an excellent piece on “The Multinational Corporation” from an old (1974) copy of The Freeman. It makes the excellent point, one that twenty-six years later still escapes both the thugs and vandals and their pacifist fellow-travellers, that multinationals are good both for the country of their origin, and for the countries in which they invest.

That’s a lesson that opponents of foreign investment here in New Zealand still haven’t grasped.

And the article also identifies the heart of the leftist opposition to the multinational corporation, i.e., “the Leninist concept of imperialism.”  That’s a well-exploded fallacy that unfortunately still lies at the heart of so much opposition.

Now since the article is now online (as are all from The Freeman’s archives, a great resource), and since The Freeman’s publishers grant permission to republish their articles, here is a large part of it. It makes fascinating reading twenty-six years later, especially considering the examples the uses and the trends begun then (and sometimes expunged since by the political predecessors of today’s G-20 politicians). (References, by the way, can be found in the online article.)
The Multinational Corporation
by Mark Peterson (January, 1974)

I blame the parents, myself

3858744 There’s been a lot of commentary in a short space of time about the arrest and subsequent release without conviction of Phil Goff’s twenty-five-year-old daughter Sara for trying to take four tabs of Ecstasy into a music event in New South Wales—hardly the most serious crime on the books, and one which in a more moral society wouldn’t be on the books at all.

But it’s prompted a lot of people to argue that poor Sara shouldn’t be a headline, on the basis that politicians’ loinfruit shouldn’t be fuel for criticism of their parents.

What rubbish. Child-rearing has yet to become an exact science, but it’s very clear that parents play a large part in the creation of their offspring’s personality—and when the actions of children have a bearing on the politicians themselves, or on their policies, then it’s only appropriate that they be judged thereby.

Annette King’s daughter crashing her mother’s ministerial car, which King herself had loaned her, might for example justify the suggestion that King might not be too responsible herself in how she looks after the taxpayers’ property in which she’s been given responsibility.

Bill English’s son’s anti-gay tirades on his Bebo page might be viewed in the context of the increasingly hysterical whispering campaign about the private life of then-PM Helen Clark and her husband, a campaign given tacit support by senior Nats.

Jim Anderton’s utterly misguided enthusiasm for banning party pills was undoubtedly motivated by the 1994 suicide of his daughter Philippa, leaving him utterly immune to reason on the subject of drugs.

And, more recently, Sarah Palin’s Bible-based conservatism, and the “family values” she sought to impose on the country, gave good grounds to talk about both her 17-year-old daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the unseemly haste with which her parents tried to force her into what looked like an unwilling shotgun marriage with the baby’s father.

So it’s not true at all to say that politicians’ children should always be off-limits to media scrutiny, especially not if their behaviour reflects on that of their parent.

And Sarah Goff’s behaviour does reflect directly on the character her father, doesn’t it. A life of sucking off the taxpayers’ tit himself has clearly rubbed off on his own loinfruit, because we find that at twenty-five-years old this young woman has already begun to throw her life away—starting a life-long dependency on taxpayers’ money as a bureaucrat with the Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry.

A very sad and shocking story indeed.  I blame the parents, myself.

Friday, 25 June 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: “You’re Fired”

So that’s it.  If you’d told me two weeks ago that New Zealand would finish the World Cup unbeaten and finish ahead of Italy—and that I’d watch all their games—I wouldn’t have believed you.

Still, while our eyes were focussed on events in South Africa, other things were happening around the world too...

  • The commander of the Afghanistan campaign, in which New Zealand troops are involved, has been fired over the Rolling Stone scandal. But surely the real scandal exposed in Rolling Stone is not his criticisms of his bosses, but his widely acclaimed but sadly failing “counterinsurgency” strategy, and how it needlessly imperils soldiers’ lives--shifting the risks from Afghan civilians to Western combatants. Not to mention the politicisation and expansion of a war that started with one simple aim, and now has too many, and all too diffuse.
    McChrystal’s other — deadly — scandal – Eland Journo, VOICES OF REASON
    General McChrystal and the War in Afghanistan – OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST
  • "It is typical of the spin era that the first serious ‘crisis’ in relations between General McChrystal and President Obama occurs over a few disobliging words the General and his team spoke about the President and his team. The endless rounds of deaths and dangerous patrols, the delays in finding political settlements on the ground and the ubiquitous ability of the ‘insurgents’ to reappear are not apparently worthy reasons to recall the General for talks, but a magazine article is."
    The President and the General – British MP John Redwood [hat tip Samizdata]
  • The only possible element of hope is the appointment of David Petraeus to the Commander’s post. In a message following "
  • Speaking of sackings, Julia-Gillard_0Australia just elected had appointed a Fabian socialist Prime Minister to replace the softcock drongo they finally saw through. Wonder how long it will be before they want to see the back of Red Julia too?
    Julia Gillard - New Aussie P.M.'s Red Roots – TREVOR LOUDON
  • Her biggest and most immediate decision: to can or not to can the iniquitous mining tax grab imposed by her predecessor and his Treasurer to pay for Australia’s ballooning welfare bill by strangling its golden goose.  The Aussie dollar has already leaped up on the back of expectation that it will be canned, but all that’s agreed do far is that the mining tax grab ads will be pulled. Which leaves a lot of uncertainty about a tax her over-spending government needs, but the country just can’t afford.
    Uncertainty over mining tax remains as Julia Gillard takes over – THE AUSTRALIAN
  • By the way, have you noticed talk that the “flood of boat people” into Australia was one of the issues that brought down Kevin Rudd?  How big is this flood of human beings seeking more freedom and a better life?  Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?  Well, no. According to one of the primary instigators of the “flood” meme, the otherwise excellent Andrew Bolt, the critical number is just 1500.  1500 souls in a country of 20 million. If this “flood” of humanity is really is an issue, it’s both deplorable and demonstrably wrong. Just one reason I’ll be adding this new pro-immigration blog to my blogroll very shortly, The Mother of Exiles blog:
    Mother of Exiles
  • And for more links and stories see my own coverage of yesterday’s ejection of Kevin’07 for the woman who looks more and more like Helen Clark with sex appeal.
    A lesson from Canberra – NOT PC
  • “So if he cried, forgive. His end was cruel.”
    No wonder Kevin cried  - ANDREW BOLT
  • And already there’s an episode of Downfall for Poor Kev.
    Kevin Rudd's Downfall – YOUTUBE
  • As country after country realises that organising debt into currency is the way to penury instead of prosperity, Britain finds itself the latest canary in this Keynesian coal mine—and its Con-Dem government releases an Emergency Budget that … still fails to really take advantage of a good crisis.
    Osborne’s emergency budget accepts Labour’s larger state - LIBERTY SCOTT
  • “The government can’t borrow much more, it can’t spend much more and it can’t tax much more; nor can it grow the economy out of its current mess (as if it ever could!). The only other way to pay off its debts is by massive inflation, which would produce a catastrophe reminiscent of the Weimar Republic after World War One. The implications are national insolvency down the road and it is against this background – and the failure of Keynesian spend-your-way-out-of-it policies that the historic Emergency Budget must be judged.”
    Keynesian policies have brought Britain to the brink of ruin – Kevin Dowd, IEA BLOG
    Emergency Budget: real spending will be frozen, not cut – Philip Booth, IEA BLOG
  • And the fact remains that, just like in the Great Depression, it’s proving to be those countries which are limiting public spending that are keeping more jobs.
    Lower public spending leads to more jobs – Richard Teather, IEA BLOG
    Stimulus Spending and Unemployment  - Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES
  • Things look bleak indeed, even with these few cuts. Still, Craig Ceely and others want to know who elected Ludwig Von Mises to the High Wycombe electorate!
    Austrian economics come to CentreRight – COBDEN CENTRE
     Labour's legacy is a choice between unpleasant cuts in public spending, a sovereign debt crisis or currency debasement  - Steve Baker, MP, CENTRERIGHT
    Watch for the monetary lesson in his maiden speech from about 3 minutes on…
  • We’re near the breakdown of the present fiat monetary system that Baker so easily describes, a breakdown which was just as inevitable this time as the breakup of every system of fiat money has been.  A good time to look back at Henry Hazlitt’s prescient criticisms of the Bretton Woods system, that mid-century Keynesian abortion premised on organising the expansion of the world’s economies on the back of oodles of paper money backed only by phoney credit. A shame that so much of that plan is still with us.
    Hazlitt's Battle with Bretton Woods – MISES DAILY
  • Here’s a frightening graph (pinched from Kate’s Small Dead Animals blog). It shows the world’s paper “hockey stick” since gold was abandoned in favour of paper money (see when it started taking off around the time of that Bretton Woods agreement in 1944?). 
    And you know what’s most frightening about it? It’s when you reflect that all that paper money was organised out of all the debt that can’t now be repaid. Because that’s (still) the Keynesian way you know…
    graph_goldstandard
  • The problem is everywhere, even as politicians try to spin their way out of it (spin is the only ammunition now in their depleted locker). Yaron Brook looks at the fiction of America’s “Recovery Summer” now being touted from the White House. Just how much good has 800 Gazillion Dollars done to teh economy? Ah . . .
    Recovery Summer: Team Obama to the Rescue! – PJTV
  • Herewith some much needed intellectual ammunition for Tea Party activists, from the same source.
  • So just by the way, what was Obama doing taking BP off the hook for its oil spill?
    "This is no longer BP's problem. Now, it's the president's. The administration's hand-picked fund czar must decide how many fish went uncaught, how many hotel rooms would have been booked if not for the threat of oil-stained beaches, and so forth."
    DISASTER IN THE GULF: That 'shakedown' could be a gift to BP – HOUSTON CHRONICLE
  • But what happened to the rule of law? “Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere. And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.”
     Is U.S. Now On Slippery Slope To Tyranny? – THOMAS SOWELL
  • And what’s this nonsense about America having an oil “addiction.” Is that the most over-used world in the postmodern handbook? “… oil’s detractors call it an addiction, downplaying its enormous benefits as fleeting pleasures that will necessarily bring long-term pain and destruction. An oil-based economy will inevitably collapse, they say, because oil is finite and will run out, because foreign oil causes terrorism, because oil, as a fossil fuel, will bring about climate catastrophe. Let’s examine these myths about oil.”
    Three myths about oil – Alex Epstein, FORBES MAGAZINE
  • Poor POTUS. Things are not going well for him—and Washington scuttlebutt says they’re going even worse than what you’re seeing, as the well-connected John Batchelor summarises:

            “Disturbing and mesmerizing whispering that the Oval Office is the scene of stormy
          and romantic melodrama between POTUS and his most senior and trusted advisers.  
          Whispering that POTUS is sleeping poorly and is much aggrieved at slights, shortfalls,
          interruptions. Whispering that POTUS is vulnerable to jet lag. That POTUS has returned
          to chain-smoking. That POTUS hesitates to heed his advisers, because POTUS frets that
          he is being sand-bagged by experts, allies, confidantes.Whispering that POTUS frailties
           most in display in West Wing settings. That POTUS evidences a Nixonian persecution
          mania. Can any of this be confirmed? Not easily. Less detailed, POTUS is said to express
          his opinion to pals in Chicago that he dislikes his job. Wilder whisperings that some pros
           are now weighing that POTUS try an LBJ exit after one term - rather than face a Carter
          collapse.”
        Is Washington Whispering Obama's Name? – DAN RIEHL

  • You know what’s funniest about this Daily Show piece on Obama’s big BP speech and America’s “Energy Independent Future”? It’s because it was also posted at the Greens’s Frog Blog, but when the Greens see decades of lost opportunity in creating their dream (“Oh, if only John Boy & Mary Ellen could have been here to see our latest energy independent future!”), I see the abject and inevitable failure of central planning to plan any damn thing, let alone the future. 
    As they say, fine words butter no parsnips—nor create any new windmills, solar panels or tidal energy stations.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

  • The west now has a confused relationship to risk, elevating “risk avoidance” to an illusory ethical standard, resulting in the production of what Frank Furedi calls "fantasy documents" on policy -- including responses to emergencies -- that provide no real-world guidance. (Are you listening, BP?) Says Furedi, “risk is no longer regarded as an opportunity but as a hazard to be avoided. As a result, risk-taking is now culturally stigmatised. People who take risks are frequently denounced for being, by definition, irresponsible.” But as living beings, we must take risks: the very act of pursuing the values necessary to keep alive entails risk.
    Frank Furedi and Gus Van Horn consider this important question.
    Value Avoidance – GUS VAN HORN
    Why BP is not very slick in an emergency – Frank Furedi, SPIKED
  • Some erudite chap or chappess contributed my post on ‘The schadenfreude of the postmodern president’ to the Bookworm Room blog. Thank you, whoever you are.  And thanks to the Bookworm Room blog for the interest.
    The Bookworm Room blog
  • Here’s another myth that desperately needs exploding:
    The Myth of Retirement Planning – TWIN TIER FINANCIAL
  • Burgess Laughlin takes a good hard look at Bradley Thompson’s important new book, a historically and philosophically deep look at neoconservatism. The  post suggests a more descriptive title for the book might have been: Neoconservatism: Its Philosophical Nature, Historical Roots, and Poisonous Fruit. The neocon movement is very much alive and still a threat.”:
    A Chronology for “Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea” – BURGESS LAUGHLIN
  • How often have you heard the claim that those who were “unlucky” when it came to handing out the talents and opportunities need someone to make their particular playing fields more level? But what if you learned that compensating people for supposedly “unequal” luck in life simply means penalizing the virtuous for the sake of the vicious.
    Compensating for Unequal Luck – Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD
  • Here’s another common myth about rational selfishness, another myth that needs exploding:
    Living for yourself is not living only for yourself – Beth Haynes, WEALTH IS NOT THE PROBLEM

 That’s it for now. More later…

Thursday, 24 June 2010

One Shot for Glory ! [updated]

The official All Whites’ team song.  Well, sort of official, with Miles Davis (no, not that one), Dave Gent (ex-Dance Exponents) and friends.

UPDATE: So that’s it.  If you’d told me two weeks ago that New Zealand would finish the World Cup unbeaten and finish ahead of Italy—and that I’d watch all their games—I wouldn’t have believed you.  It might be too early to say it, but that’s a great result.

We just drove past Gina’s in Auckland, the home of Italian support in Auckland.  It’s looking awfully quiet.  Much quieter than we feel.  :-)

Young kids. They blow up so fast, don’t they.

This delightful children’s song produced by an anti-Israeli TV station for children is so touching.

A good time, perhaps, to be reminded of a point well made by then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu back in 2006 when for a brief period of time the rockets being fired into Israel were coming from Lebanon instead of Gaza:

_Quote Here is a simple truth: If our enemies lay down their arms, there will be no more war. But if Israel lays down its arms, there will be no more Israel. For the crux of the conflict is their desire to destroy us.

A lesson from Canberra [update 6]

In around four hours from now we will know whether or not Australia has a new Prime Minister--and whatever the outcome, John Key will have been delivered an important lesson.

Only last year, K. Rudd was enjoying unprecedented seventy-percent approval ratings, but is now so unpopular that senior Labor party folk consider themselves unelectable with the Krudd at their helm.

The two chief reasons for his unpopularity?  The latest is the usurious tax on mining profits, which threatens to send many of Australia’s biggest mining companies offshore--unpopular not just because it’s an economy-killer, but because the Krudd said he wouldn’t spend taxpayers’ money on advertising such programmes, and he did.

But even that misbegotten behaviour pales into insignificance compared to his backing and filling over Australia’s Emissions Tax Scam, i.e., the very scheme John Key said he’d be following with his own one, not preceding.

And therein, really, lies two lessons for Mr Key. The first is that popularity is not something on which you can bank forever.  It’s here today, and gone tomorrow.  Gone like the dust on the wind. So just because you have the support of a focus group today, don’t expect that same support to be there tomorrow, especially if you go back on your word.

The second lesson is well articulated by Andrew Bolt, and should give Key cause for pause on his own Emissions Tax Scam:

_Quote How strange. Global warming a year ago was seen as the policy supported by everyone of sense, and by all political parties. Since then the leaders of the both [Australia’s] biggest parties have lost their jobs essentially over this issue.

Let that point rattle around the empty crania of the Beehive, and resonate through its corridors. As that sign in Tuesday’s protest suggested ETS (Emissions Tax Scam) could easily mean OTG (One Term Government).

UPDATE 1: Turns out NZ’s Climate Science Coalition was making essentially the same point yesterday in a press release warning “John Key Faces Risk of Rudd-Slinging”:

_QuoteUnless he intervenes to defer implementation of the forthcoming emissions trading scheme (ETS), Prime Minister John Key runs the risk of the same level of sudden electoral backlash that now threatens the re-election prospects of Kevin Rudd’s Labor government in Australia. This today from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, commenting on the description by two Victoria University researchers that New Zealand’s current ETS is “technically obsolete” and “beyond rescue.”

UPDATE 2: Don’t think for a moment that Julia Gillard, Rudd’s likely replacement, will take the country in a different direction, or grasp more firmly the nettle that Rudd refused to. Gillard is simply Helen Clark with lipstick.

Nonetheless, her ascension will allow her to permanently park the Krudd’s Emissions Tax Scam, if she wants to, but abandoning his unpopular Mining Theft Tax will be heck of a lot harder.  It will be harder because Treasurer Wayne Swan was relying on it to pay Australia’s unaffordable and ever-growing welfare bill. That’s the very sharp nettle that any Australian Prime Minister urgently needs to grasp, the scale of which John Humphreys’s now prescient comments from 2005 make clear [hat tip Tim R]:

_QuoteOur top marginal tax rate is higher than the rate in communist (sic) China, our income tax burden is one of the highest in the developed world and Australians are currently suffering from the highest level of tax in our history. An estimated 80,000 people are employed to avoid or enforce taxes, and those taxes result in about $30 billion of lost efficiency every year. The current system of welfare payments is complex, expensive, inefficient and ineffective.  If we distributed the current federal welfare budget directly to the poorest 25% of Australians, each family of four would receive $72,000 per year.11 And welfare spending continues to increase quickly. In three years, we will reach $100 billion federal spending on welfare ($80,000 for each of our poorest 25% of families). And yet, despite this massive level of expenditure, poverty remains and is even entrenched.

Australia’s welfare bill is now $111 billion, making that $88,000 per family, yet this War On Poverty has done nothing to roll back the enemy, it is still entrenched, and as countries from Britain to Greece to Australia are now discovering, it’s a War that becomes more unaffordable every day.

How Gillard seeks to pay that bill, or to reduce its size, will define whatever time she can manage in the job.

UPDATE 3: Via kochie_online, “Final numbers being counted ... Word is 64-70 votes for Gillard... Solid win.”

Andrew Bolt gives a timeline of how it happened.  Apparently, it started with a meeting called over the need to resolve the resource super-profits tax….

UPDATE 4: It’s done. Rudd steps down without a ballot, with no visible blood on the floor to mop up (he really must be wanting that Foreign Affairs job).

And in even better news, ABC news in Australia is reporting that Julia Gillard may take a 'new direction' on the mining tax…

UPDATE 5: Sam Hearne posted this pertinent point at his Facebook page:

_QuoteGillard as PM. Can anyone think of any policy successes that she has had in her portfolios? Can think of a lot of disasters (BER, computers in schools, Medicare Gold, and having responsibility for the training aspect of the home insulation scheme). Additionally, she has been central to every disastrous policy that this government introduced. Same old Labor.

‘Bather’ – Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Image 6.jpg

A Late Renoir, painted towards the end of his life when the early Impressionist was re-reconciling himself to the Classicism of Watteau and Rubens, and “in love with flesh and paint.”  This is just one of many bathers, all of them with the same features. (Compare it to his ‘Study for Nude in Sunlight’ from twenty years previously, below, and see how much more ‘Classical’ he became.)

Which do you prefer?

A new New York exhibition of Late Renoir is just opening. Watch a slide show here of a good selection, and read here for a fair critique of his later work .

nude-sunlight

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: The Egregious Tax on Serfs

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

This week: “The Egregious Tax on Serfs.”

Yesterday, three libertarians – Don, Olive and myself – joined a march from the Civic Square to the Beehive protesting at the imminent Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). It felt good to exercise our right to free speech and expression in peaceful protest, without harassing anyone in the process. Despite the beautiful Wellington weather, there were only about 100 people marching, and more the pity as the issue will affect every one of us – and soon. The price of electricity and fuel will rise, thus hurting everyone who uses electricity and owns a motor vehicle. But farmers will be worst hit. The agriculture industry will basically be punished, in order to subsidise investors in forestry.

The prime movers behind this tax are Nick Smith, who was previously opposed to the concept of an ETS, calling it a lemon [read John Ansell’s blog for a full account this “Nickpocrisy”], and John Key, who gushed over Al Gore’s movie about Al having “pushed all [his] buttons.” In 2008, the National Party joined ACT and the Libertarianz Party in condemning the growth of the state sector and Helen Clark’s micromanagement of New Zealanders. National was elected on the basis of pledges to shrink Nanny and adhere to core values which apparently include limited government and personal responsibility. In 2010, however, they’ve given up on all that.

The evidence to support the hypothesis that human activity significantly influences global temperature is proving difficult to find. Computer models do not comprise hard evidence, so lets discount those immediately. The high priests of the Church of Global Warming conveniently ignore the observed rises in CO2 levels that don’t precede but FOLLOW rises in global temperature. Tey ignore that recorded temperatures in the 1930s were as high or higher than they are today, without any comparable rise in CO2 levels. They ignore the steady drop in average recorded temperatures from 1940 to 1975 while CO2 levels rose during a period of war followed by re-industrialisation. They ignore the slow but steady decline in global temperature over the last dozen or so years; in fact they want to hide the decline.

They even ignore the fact that their chief propagandist Al Gore, doomsayer of rising sea levels, has purchased coastal real estate since making his propaganda film.   

So what IS the limited government approach to the alleged threat of climate change? The first step would be to depoliticize the field of scientific research – shut down or privatise NIWA and all other government-run research organisations, and free the taxpayer from having to fund them. Let the private sector gather and analyse data on weather and temperature, it can’t be that hard.

Secondly, sit back and let the market respond to the consequences of any rise in temperature. Increased temperatures are an opportunity to millions of people, who will find crops easier to grow and the environment somewhat more human-friendly. Huge frozen expanses in Russia and Canada would likely be more amenable to development. There are endless possibilities whereby humans can take advantage of changing climate, just as humans always have. It is much easier now for people to migrate to new areas. I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but neither do politicians and bureaucrats. Entrepreneurs will provide humankind with ingenious life-enhancing breakthroughs that will harness climate trends for good.

The Church of Global Warming are scare-mongerers, whose aim is to stoke people’s anxiety about the weather to new heights and then offer to save them – at the cost of higher taxes, of course. They should be free to spout their rubbish as much and as often they like, but their freedom ends where my nose starts. Their irrational fears do not entitle them to raid my wallet, or yours.  

As former Libz leader Bernard Darnton pointed out a few years back, if socialism doesn’t work at 17 degrees, why should it work at 19 degrees? The ETS is a destructive tax, based on a crumbling edifice of bullshit. Enough is enough – vote out Nick Smith, John Key and their anti-farmer anti-business BlueLabour Party.

As one banner said yesterday: ETS = OTG (One Term Government). That’s a message even Nick Smith should understand.

ETS-OTG

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

GE is in clover

While Greens and former Greens wring their hands in dubiety over the proposal here to use a genetically engineered clover as animal feed in order to reduce agricultural emissions (in simpler words, to reduce animals’ farts, and with them their putatively dangerous greenhouse gases), genetically engineered horticulture has been safely and successfully covering the planet and improving both production and prices. Says Time magazine in a recent reassessment of so-called “Frankenfood,”
_Quote Some 740 million acres (300 million hectares) are planted with GM crops, about equally divided between North America and the rest of the world — primarily Argentina and Brazil…
    Advocates see biotech as a no-brainer, the only way to boost yields while escaping the trends of a growing world population (now 6.8 billion, heading beyond 9 billion by 2050) and finite cropland nourished by stressed water resources … [while] reducing pesticide use (a major source of water contamination) by about 10%.
And the number of documented safety problems with all this? None. Not one.  [See this good summation and dismissal of most of the anti-GE myths that are so frequently peddled.]

Any sane person would see all this a good thing, a very, very good thing—more food for more people at less environmental cost—as a sober illustration that the frequent Malthusian rants about “running out” are just so much ignorant cant.  That so many Green persons are still in hand-wringing mode might lead one either to question whatever supposed sanity one might to grant them with, or to surmise that perhaps the primary reason for their Malthusian opposition to genetic engineering is that it almost single-handedly overthrows all their defeatist arguments about our inevitable doom.

As I’ve been saying for a while. And Mike Moore pointed out very well back in 2005:

_QuoteGenetically modified foods offer us the opportunity to feed a hungry world. It is hard to see how we will provision the world and lower the use of dangerous insecticides and fertilisers without enlisting the new forces of science.
    Of course we must be prudent, cautious and seek high standards, because science can move faster than our moral, ethical or legal capacity to cope. But those who wish to destroy science have as their forefathers those who burned so-called witches, not the heroes who freed the slaves. These small groups, which exaggerate the dangers to a gullible media, represent pre-Enlightenment thinking.

“The Runaway General”: The interview that earned NATO’s Afghanistan commander a “please explain” [update 5]

What does a general do who’s in charge of a campaign that has its hands tied politically? If that general is Stanley McChrystal, battling regrouped Al Qaeda, Taliban and allied Islamist fighters across the mediaeval landscape of Afghanistan while the politicians fiddle, you give an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, PJ O’Rourke’s former gig, criticising your Commander-in-Chief—an interview published with the sub-heading.:

_Quote  Stanley McChrystal, Obama's top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.”

McChrystal It’s earned him a presidential smackdown and a “please explain” meeting with the POTUS—the last of which occurred when he dismissed the counterterrorism strategy being advocated by Vice President Joe Biden as "shortsighted," saying it would lead to a state of "Chaos-istan."

This time it’s more serious. That was just an answer to one question.  This time he’s answered dozens--none of them in a way that’s pleased his boss.  And this is a war that needs plenty of questions answered—a war that now appears to have no aim outside appeasement of the Taliban, and has only got worse since the addition of 30,000 troops in December.

_QuoteThree obvious reasons why this is so [summarises Jack Kelly at ToThePoint] are the deadline the president set for next year to begin
withdrawal of U.S. troops; ridiculous rules
of engagement [set by McChrystal], and the poisonous relationship Mr.
Obama has established with Afghan President
Hamid Karzai.”

Read the interview online at Rolling Stone. It gives more insight into the war and its White-House related problems than a hundred New York Times editorials, or a hundred-thousand “briefings” by Rahm Emanuel.

UPDATE 10:33am: Gen. Stanley McChrystal has "offered to resign," according to a Twitter post from Time magazine's Joe Klein.  Note: Not resigned, but offered to resign.  The only resignation so far is from McChrystal’s media officer who set up the Rolling Stone profile.  But note also that McChrystal is reported to have seen and approved the profile before it went to press.

UPDATE 10:42pm: Freelance war correspondent Michael Yon, who is always worth listening to and famously criticised McChrystal’s generalship back in April, is picking McChrystal’s resignation to be accepted and Marine General James Mattis to be appointed (Tom Ricks’s thoughts on this are similar to my own, says Yon at his Facebook page).  Meanwhile “Michael Yon's Criticism of McChrystal Deemed Prophetic,” says Kay B. Day at The US Report.  With one addition, Her conclusion on the Afghanistan campaign is sound:

_QuoteI'd also say we need to either face the brutal reality of war and [give] our men and women [a clear goal and let them] fight, or we should bring them home now. We have to admit at some point you can't earn someone else's freedom. They have to do that for themselves and they will do it only if they want it.”

UPDATE 3: Some background here on Yon from early June, covering his disagreements with McChrystal, his criticisms of the Afghan campaign, and why you should take them seriously.  Yon’s quoted comments are on target and, with talk of Mattis’ appointment, both prescient and hopeful:

_QuoteYon believes the war can still be won, but that a change of command is in order. At this level of warfare, he says, ‘McChrystal is like a man who has strapped on ice skates for the first time. He might be a great athlete, but he's learning to skate during the Olympics.’ Yon adds that publicly denouncing the commanding general of a war is not an easy thing for him to do, especially considering it means crossing swords with General Petraeus and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, two men he greatly admires.
    “Indeed, if anyone can turn this war around, Yon believes it is General Petraeus. He concedes such a return to the battlefield is unlikely, and suggests another general whose name fewer people have heard. "General James Mattis from the Marines.  I get a good feeling about Mattis but I don't know. General Petraeus is a known entity and he is solid gold.’
    “Short of that, Yon's outlook is bleak. ‘Even if the President commits more forces [next year], they will not be effective until 2012.  By that time, more allies likely will have peeled off, requiring us to commit even more forces to cover down. We lost crucial time in building the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army and so forth, and today we are paying the price. This is not to mention that the Afghan government is sorry at best and criminal at worst.’
    He concludes, ‘The trajectory of this war leaves a sick feeling in my stomach.  It's as if I've watched a space shuttle liftoff while sitting at launch control, with full knowledge that it will abort to the Indian Ocean. We are trying to reach orbit with insufficient fuel.’"

UPDATE 4: The headline in The Australian says it all:  “Petraeus steps up as Obama sacks General Stanley McChrystal over Rolling Stone interview”:

_QuoteGENERAL David Petraeus, who saved a failing US mission in Iraq, has been recruited to rescue a faltering war in Afghanistan.
    President Barack Obama named Petraeus, 57, to be the US commander in Afghanistan after sacking General Stanley McChrystal over an explosive magazine profile in which he and his aides belittled civilian leaders.
    The move means Petraeus relinquishes command of all US forces in the Middle East to take over a military campaign that has been stymied by a resilient Taliban foe, rising casualties and deep divisions within the administration…
     It is the second time Petraeus has been called on to turn around the country's fortunes in an unpopular war.

UPDATE 5: Oddly, Rachel Maddow gets it right for all the wrong reasons:

_QuoteBy accepting Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation, President Obama solved one problem: the rancor within his security team… We're still left with the biggest problem: America's strategy of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.

A strategy that leaves the war without a real goal, and without a means to achieve it.