Friday, June 11, 2010

The power of Beck

I logged on this morning to find a huge spike in my readers.  Hundreds of readers had beaten a path to my door to read a 2008 post on a Rudyard Kipling poem.

Why?  Because, as I soon discovered, Glenn Beck mentions the poem—or at least plagiarises it—in the trailer for his new book, The Overton Window

Love him or hate him—and there are sound reasons for both--such is the power of Glenn Beck.

But that’s only a trivial example of his reach.  Here’s something even more powerful.

On Tuesday night in the States, Beck ran a special on F.A. Hayek’s classic 1944 warning to the world about incipient totalitarianism, The Road to Serfdom, the book that woke up a whole generation, including Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Within minutes, the server for the Mises Institute website was starting to smell the way servers do when they’re being asked to do too much by too many —they called it The Beck Bomb— and  Hayek’s Wikipedia entry had crashed; the GOOGLE search phrase “The Road to Serfdom” was #1 on Google Trends; the audio version of The Road to Serfdom was #2 on iTunes; and within hoursAmazon were reporting that the book was now their number one best-seller.

From zero to number one in just a few short hours.  Not bad going for a book few had read in years.

That’s the power of Glenn Beck.

I look forward to his show next week on Atlas Shrugged.  :-)

In the meantime, here’s the whole ‘Road to Serfdom’ show in four parts.  Here’s a link to download a cartoon version of the book (which has the virtue of brushing past Hayek’s [let’s be kind here] limp defence of laissez-faire capitalism and the free market), here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version of Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”and here’s the Google Books online version.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab Beck’s guest Tom Woods’s great books either while you’re in a book-buying mood.  He’s one of the good guys:

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Beehive bludgers

Wasn’t last night’s news hour-and-half delicious.  Just for once, instead of watching the usual footage lauding your politicians as demi-gods, it was possible to sit back and bask as both news teams went to town and put their talents to use picking apart the venal bastards who pick your pocket for their own peccadilloes.  Instead of lauding the Beehive bludgers for their ability to perform miracles, as they usually do, Campbell and Sainsbury and the main news reports before them took apart the Ministerial heavy spenders and their hefty case of entitle-itis.

"It's the sort of thing that can undermine confidence in politicians," said your Prime Minister.  No, John, it’s the sort of thing that can allow us all to see the scum for what they are: sordid little power-lusters. 

Dear Professor Gluckman . . . [updated]

Dr Shaun Holt responds to Professor Peter Gluckman in a letter to the Herald:

_quote John Key’s Chief Science Advisor Peter Gluckman says that people who question the theory of and data supporting runaway global warming are comparable to those who question the links between tobacco and cancer and those in the HIV-AIDs denial movement. Yet according to the IPCC's own data, global temperature has not increased since 1998. Scientists should always be open and accepting of new evidence, should revise their theories accordingly, should argue with data not ad hominem attacks, and should not declare a legitimate debate over and call anyone who questions it crazy. It is sad and ironic that the Chief Science Advisor is not behaving like a scientist.”

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‘In the Stillness’ - Bryce Cameron Liston

BryceCameronListon-InTheStillness Bryce Cameron Liston
In the Stillness
Oil on Linen
19 x 24 inches

Just one of hundreds of beautiful paintings in this year’s Art Renewal Center awards. (Go on, visit the ARC site, where there are 286 images from the competition.) 

This year over 1700 entries were submitted, with 34 awards given out in each of the six divisions, for a total purse of $80,000. And this beauty was only a highly commended!

Visit the artist’s website here: The Artwork of Bryce Cameron Liston.  And buy the painting here.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blog Awards awarded [updated]

Damn. Bugger.  Blast.

The first annual Air New Zealand Best Blog Award has just been announced, and I didn’t win.

Damn. Bugger.  Blast.

Congratulations however to Cactus Kate, Dim Post, No Right Turn and Whale Oil who between them hoovered up the top prizes in what looked like a pretty fair judgement. Well, mostly fair.  ;^)  [Scroll down from the announcements to see some of the judges’ comments.]  This, in awarding Cactus the palm leaf was right on the money in describing her blog:

_quote Intelligent, persuasive and influential, with the sort of investigative journalism Metro should be publishing.”

So true.

So congratulations to Cactus and the runners up, and thanks to all of them and my regular reads, and everyone else who entered, for helping make to make it worth logging on to the internet every morning.

Still and all: Bugger.

UPDATE: The gracious and the not-so gracious:

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**What** climate consensus, Oh Great Science Adviser?

_Quote Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about
freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each
and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”
- Vaclav Klaus, Blue Planet in Green Shackles

If you're wondering why on earth John Key is pushing ahead with his "world-leading" Emissions Tax Scam in the teeth of a recession and the face of widespread opposition—wondering perhaps just where in hell he’s getting his advice from—then wonder no more: it's because of increasingly shrill “advice” like this from his so-called science adviser, Peter Gluckman: that “the climate row” is “undermining “ confidence in science.

_Quote_Idiot‘ There is a growing concern among those of us who have some role in marrying science and policy that the way the debate is being framed is undermining confidence in the science system,’ he told a Victoria University seminar series on key policy challenges facing New Zealand.”

Oh forfend us, oh Great Science Adviser from challenging figures that don’t stack up!

The Great Science Adviser  is a fine scientist  in his own field, but he is not a climate scientist.  Further, since his association with the Prime Minister—and his elevation to having a role in “marrying science and policy” (you can just hear the smug, self-satisfaction in that phrase, can’t you)—he appears to have eaten of the power-lust tree, peddling the mistaken idea that when government-appointed scientists talk, we should all just shut up and listen.

Scientific debate is undermining science, you say?  Well, forgive me Oh Great Science Adviser, but your political slip is showing. Whatever your scientific credentials, there is not and never can be a time or a means by which scientific debate can undermine science.  Scientific debate underpins science, it does not undermine it.  To not know that is, frankly, ignorant.

What does undermine science  is the shutting down of debate by claims of a non-existent scientific consensus, which is what Professor Gluckman explicitly relies on in his argument.  What does undermine science  is its politicisation, which is what Professor Gluckman specifically endorses, and enjoins.

And there is never a more important time in which to challenge the politicised science, and to demonstrate that there is no consensus whatsoever.

The science is settled?  Then why has the IPCC felt the need to manufacture evidence, and the government scientists on which it relies felt the need to massage data and alter temperature records? To have departed from science so severely “that they have become advocates for one particular set of hypotheses, and have become militant fighters against all others”?

The case is closed? Then why has a cross examination of global warming science conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics just concluded that virtually every claim advanced by global warming proponents fails to stand up to scrutiny?

There is a scientific consensus? Then why has Britain’s Royal Society of scientists, of which I believe Professor Gluckman is a member, just released a statement saying quite explicitly that “any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect.”

No wonder so many many once celebrated climate researchers are now feeling like the used-car salesmen of the science world—and that Professor Gluckman feels called upon to step in and defend them.

But in defending these scientists, in endorsing the politicisation of science, he is doing irreparable damage to science itself—and in propping up John Key’s Emissions Tax Scam he is endorsing inflicting irreparable harm on New Zealand agriculture, and New Zealand business. 

Shame on him.

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Movies. Massages. Golf clubs: "Using their ministerial credit cards like personal cheque accounts," bless ‘em. [Update 3]

Yep, the latest spending figures are out for the country’s biggest beneficiaries, your politicians, who spend your money like water when they’re signing off as ministers, and spend it like a torrential flood when they’re signing off on their own personal spending—at least when you’re paying for it.  Chris Carter. Tim Groser.  Shane Jones. Parekura Horomia.  Mita Ririnui. Drinks. Movies. Magazines. Massages. Golf clubs. "Using their ministerial credit cards like personal cheque accounts."  Just another day spending ministerial perks, eh bro.

Chris Carter for one has gone on the offensive, saying his own spending (if not that of his colleagues) is mistaken rather than dishonest.

And sure, the amounts we’re talking about in absolute terms here are risible, at least in comparision with the multi-billions of your dollars they spend in their day job; but what their willingness to whip out their taxpayer-funded credit card to spend up large on themselves demonstrates all too well is the attitude in which they hold your money, and the care with which they spend it (or lack thereof).

And you might want to ask yourself, if they’re this careless over their personal spending, do you really want people like this in charge of spending 43% of this country’s GDP?  Because you keep voting for them as if you do.

Which means, dear reader, that their wastefulness is really your fault.

Bless you.

UPDATE 1: Naturally, when someone mentioned Shane Jones the first thing Motella thought of was HOTEL PORN!!

UPDATE 2: Clearly missing the attention herself, Annette King offers up some unfortunate imagery in response to Plane Shane’s taxpaid porno problem: 

_Quote_Idiot “I think he's very embarrassed [says King].
We've said to him what he has to do now is put his head down and his bottom up and rebuild his reputation."

I think she needs a new quip-writer.

UPDATE 3:  For those who say that Kiwiblog is dead, it’s worth pointing out he can still spot gold like this:

“Twitter has been hilarious today, with scores of people tweeting suggested titles for Shane’s movies. The Twitter channel is here, and well worth following. Some of the suggested titles are:

  • Hung Parliament
  • Black Rod
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Chief whip
  • The Honourable Member
  • Erect Committee
  • Private Secretary
  • Ministerial Probe
  • De-Briefing the Minister
  • Yes! Yes! Minister
  • Anti Smacking, Pro Spanking
  • Loves Labour Tossed
  • Withdraw And Apologise
  • Mixed Member Proportional
  • The bi-election
  • The Thick Of It
  • Parliamount
  • Ejaculated from the house
  • The State of Head
  • Crouching Taniwha, Horny Dragon
  • Debbie does Dannevirke
  • Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Rainbow Lay-bour

“And many many more. They keep coming in every few seconds. So many wits.”

KRIS SAYCE: The Sweet Smell of Cheap Money

Guest post by Kris Sayce of Money Morning Australia

_Kris_Sayce_headshot_thumb[2] Forget Greece. Forget Spain. And forget Dubai… Oh, you’ve already forgotten Dubai, fair enough.

The biggie could be just about to hit the fan.

Not the real big one – the United States. But one of the other big ones, the UK.

According to ratings agency Fitch:

_quote The scale of the UK’s fiscal challenge is formidable and warrants a faster pace of medium term deficit reduction than set out in the April 2010 Budget. The rise in public debt ratios since 2008 is faster than for any other ‘AAA’?rated sovereign and the primary balance adjustment required to stabilise debt is amongst the highest of advanced countries. The primary deficit is nearly twice as large as that seen in previous episodes of fiscal deterioration in the UK in the 1970s and early 1990s.”

Oh dear.

And if you look at the chart below from Fitch, you’ll see that the UK is keeping pretty bad company:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge . [And for reference, New Zealand’s figure is 13 %, according to Bill English, placing us between Cyprus and Italy.]

There’s no getting around it, the UK economy is in big trouble.

You can see how big, by looking at a few of the figures compiled by Fitch.

Take a look at these numbers showing the state of the UK government budget expressed as a percentage of GDP:

mm20100609b_lge

Click to enlargeSource: Fitch Ratings. [For reference, according to the OECD, New Zealand govt spending as a percentage of GDP is 43%.  Its tax-take is 40%]

It’s pretty unbelievable to begin with that the UK government takes 36.1% of the economy’s GDP in taxation. A number forecast to rise to 38.3% by 2015.

But worse than that is the expenditure. Not content with taxing too much, the UK government has been spending a lot more than it takes in taxes. The expenditure accounts for a massive 47.9% of GDP.

In other words, nearly 50 pence of every pound spent in the UK economy is spent by the government.

No wonder it’s in such a mess. And with gross debt estimated to reach 89.2% of GDP by 2014 UK taxpayers appear destined to have a government debt albatross around their neck for many, many years to come.

And what does the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat (ConDem as it’s been labelled) propose to do about it?

[Hehem] It plans on cutting spending by GBP6.24 billion. It sounds a lot, but when you put it another way, it’s just a puny 0.4% of GDP.

Makes you wonder why they’re even bothering.

And considering one of the biggest expenses to the UK government is the untouchable National Health Service (NHS), which cost the UK taxpayer GBP92.5 billion in 2009, it’s hard to see how the government can either cut spending or pay down the national debt…

Unless it inflates its way out of trouble.

Which of course it has already tried to do with the so-called quantitative easing policy implemented by the Bank of England.

But it’s not just public sector debt that’s crippling the UK. The whole rotten economy is at it.

Our pals over at Wikipedia have compiled this table showing total external (public + private) debt per country:

mm20100609c_lge

Click to enlarge. [For reference, the per capita debt for New Zealand is $13,636 per capita, which as a percentage of GDP is 50%]

The UK is second only to the United States in debt owed to foreigners. A whacking great USD$9 trillion of debt, or amazingly, 416% of GDP, or a USD$147,060 per person!

You’ll notice Australia puts in an appearance with USD920 billion, or 92% of GDP.

And globally the debt figure stands at USD$56.9 trillion, which is only just less than the entire global GDP of USD$61.1 trillion:

mm20100609d_lge

Click to enlarge

Look, when you’re dealing with numbers this big it almost becomes incomprehensible. After all, many will argue that it doesn’t matter what the size of the debt is, but rather the ability to service it.

We’ve heard that argument plenty of times recently. It’s been applied to companies, to property buyers and investors, and also to individual countries.

The thing is, the size of the debt does matter. The argument about it being about the serviceability of the debt is just a smokescreen. In fact, you only ever hear someone talk about the serviceability of debt when they or the institution they’re talking about is in too much debt.

The total debt matters because that is the amount owed to the creditor, plain and simple.

The debt must eventually be repaid. Arguing that the size of the repayments is all that matters just doesn’t make sense. Besides, it encourages and leads to ever larger debt levels, which is what we’ve seen the world over.

Think of it this way. If you lend a mate $20,000 and he agrees to pay you back $100 per week over 4 years then you might be happy with that. He’s a mate and you’re sure he’s good for it.

But then in a year’s time when he still owes you $15,000 he asks you for another $20,000 for which he’ll pay you another $100 per week, you might think, “Hang on, that’s 35 grand I’m lending here…”

And then another year passes and he wants another $20,000… and so on.

At some point, as a creditor you’re gonna start to get concerned about whether and when you’re going to get your money back. Because all you’ve done so far is lend out money. You’ve received the weekly repayments but somehow you’ve got less money in the bank because you’ve continued to lend it out.

And of course, you don’t know how much your mate is borrowing from someone else either. Can he really afford to pay you back? Where’s he going to get the money from?

You soon figure out that you’re getting a raw deal, and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be repaid.

It’s the same, but on a much bigger scale in international finance. Creditors are lending money out getting repayments in return, but the principal is never actually repaid. Refinancing or new borrowings are just added on to the old debt and the repayments just get bigger.

At some point it breaks down. Not just because of the serviceability of the debt, but rather because creditors realise they’ve been stitched up.

They want their money back or they want better terms – i.e., Higher interest rates. Or both!

Think about it. Greece was more than able to service its debt. But only so long as creditors continued to lend it more money to pay for it. As soon as creditors started to ask questions and get toey then the whole thing fell apart.

You see, it’s vendor financing on a massive scale, “Here’s a billion dollars so you can pay back the billion dollars you owe us. Now you owe us a billion dollars.”

That can’t last forever. It’s absolute madness and it’s unsustainable.

Yet the idea of serviceability of debts is gaining more traction among the mainstream drones. We witnessed the excitement on CNBC a couple of weeks ago when Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer went bonkers after figuring out the US debt costs were less today than they were two years ago, even though the debt is larger.

Why? Because interest rates are lower. The size of the debt doesn’t matter, it’s the ability to service the debt, was their claim.

But this is what happens when you have a central bank manipulating the interest rate. Luring investors and speculators in with sweet smelling cheap money.

However, the endgame won’t be so sweet when creditors decide they want their money back, want a higher rate of interest, and/or they realise cash is being devalued at such a fast rate that they no longer see any value in it or in lending it, but instead prefer real assets.

That’s the point at which inflation gets out of control. As individuals and investors seek to dispose of cash as quickly as possible in exchange for something tangible.

And don’t for a moment think that it can’t happen because thanks to the central bankers, bankers and governments, it’s destined to happen.

So next time someone tells you it’s the ability to service the debt not the size of the debt, don’t believe them.

Cheers,
Kris.

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GUEST POST: Natural Laws of Innovation – 2

Another great guest post here by Dale Halling, the second in a series on The Laws of Innovation.  The introduction is here.

Conservation Law of Innovation:
    All innovations are combinations of existing/known elements.
    Conservation of matter (and energy) means that you cannot create something from nothing.  As a result, all innovations must be a combination of existing or known elements.

Causality Law of Innovation:
    Invention precedes production, production precedes consumption and discovery precedes invention.
    In order to consume an item it first has to be produced.  Production may just be the act of finding food for a hunter gatherer, but this has to be done before it can be consumed.  With the possible exception of some very simple things, mother’s milk and air for instance, things have to be invented before they can be produced.  The elements of all inventions are made of known items, so they had to be discovered before they could be incorporated into an invention.

Set Law of Innovation:
    The number of potential innovations is essentially infinite.
    There are essentially an unlimited number of potential innovations.  Paul Romer, a professor of economics at Stanford, uses the following example to illustrate this point:

_quoteOn any conceivable horizon — I’ll say until about 5 billion years from now, when the sun explodes — we’re not going to run out of discoveries. Just ask how many things we could make by taking the elements from the periodic table and mixing them together. There’s a simple mathematical calculation: It’s 10 followed by 30 zeros. In contrast, 10 followed by 19 zeros is about how much time has elapsed since the universe was created.[1]

    Someone might object that Paul Romer has overstated the number of possible chemical inventions, since not all elements are able to chemically bind to each other.  On the other hand, this calculation only includes one of each element.  Some of our most important chemical compounds contain long chains of carbon and silicon atoms.  In addition, the elements can bond to each other in multiple ways, ionic bonds, covalent bonds, polar covalent bonds and hydrogen bonds.  Elements may also have double, triple and quadruple bonds.  When you add in all these variations, Dr. Romer probably underestimated the number of possible chemical inventions.  This calculation is only for chemistry.  When you consider computer networks or electronic circuits with millions of transistors or nodes the number of different possible connection is n(n-1)/2 or easily equal to the number of combinations described for chemistry.  This does not begin to name all the possible number of inventions.  Previous innovations often are the basis of future innovations.  As a result, the development of an innovation acts as node for additional innovations and increases the potential number of innovations rather than reducing the potential number of innovations.
    Another example that Romer uses to illustrate the unlimited number of possible combinations is all the possible bitstreams you can turn into a CD-ROM.  The number is something in the range of 10 to the power of 1 billion, which virtually ensures that we will never run out of software to discover.  He notes that there is not enough mass in the universe to make that number of CDs.[2]

The total number of innovations may be limited by the total mass and energy of the universe and the laws of entropy that limit how many elements can be combined.

Rate Law of Innovation:
    The rate of innovation is dependent on the number of innovators, the size of the set of elements the innovators can access, and the size of the set of goals.
    Innovations are combinations of elements and connections, but an individual has to put together these combinations.  If more individuals are involved in the process of trying out combinations, then there is a greater likelihood they will find a useful combination or innovation.  In a rough analogy, the more samples or children in an genetic algorithm, assuming they are diverse, the more likely or sooner you will find an acceptable solutions.  Silicon Valley often creates many companies in a particular space, which function like a large population in a genetic algorithm, and results in an optimized solution (company) more quickly than only having a few companies in the space.  Individuals create these sample combinations and test them against a selection criteria.  If more people are creating these samples then you increase your probability of inventing a useful product of service.  The corollary is that you have more “failures” than you have success.
    A successful solution to a particular selection criteria or fitness criteria has an increased probability if the creators (inventors) have access to the complete set of elements available in the world.  When the inventors are limited in their selection or application of existing elements, then it reduces the potential number of combinations.  It is possible in this case, that many solutions meeting the fitness criteria will not be part of the search space.  This deceases the probability of finding a solution that fits the selection criteria.  When innovators’ freedom of action is restricted it will decrease their chance of creating something useful.  This is consistent with the tenet of academic freedom and consistent with the principles of a free market.
    Innovators as a group will be more successful if each individual innovator is allowed the freedom to pursue their own invention goal.  There are at least two problems with restricting the goals of innovations.  One, the individual talents and interests may fall into a forbidden area.  Two, unexpected results may fall into a forbidden area and therefore not be pursued.
    As a result, we see that freedom fosters innovation.  This is consistent with both our academic institutions’ policies and with a free market.  Innovation is not encouraged by plagiarism.  Plagiarism results in wasted resources, because the plagiarizer is reinventing the wheel and they erode the valve of the original innovator.  Innovators are the first person to develop an innovation because they add to the store of human knowledge.  Even innocent copycats do not add to the store of human knowledge.  Note that freedom as used herein applies to everyone.  Forcing someone to support your innovative activities, restricts their freedom to innovate.
    A corollary is that innovation is fostered by wide dissemination of earlier innovations.  Without this dissemination, individuals will waste time recreating innovations.

Commons Law of Innovation:
    Innovations are not subject to overuse.  The creation of innovations is subject to under investment without property rights in innovations.  The diffusion of innovations is subject to under investment without property rights in innovations.
    Although there are unlimited number of potential inventions, this does not mean that creating them is free.  The U.S. spends over $300 billion a year on research and development to discover inventions.[3] Just like real property conceiving inventions takes scarce resources.  The number of researchers, research facilities, and research equipment are all limited.  Each researcher’s ability to pursue various inventions and discoveries is limited.  It will always cost less for a copier to produce existing items than create their own innovations without property rights in innovations.  This will result in an under investment in the creation of innovations.
    Once an innovation or discover is made it still costs considerable resources to distribute the innovation.  For instance, scientific principles are not subject to intellectual property rights and therefore can be freely disseminated.  Calculus was discovered over 300 years ago and is not the subject of intellectual property rights.  Despite this, only a small percentage of the population understands it even in the most advanced economies.  Those people that do understand calculus generally paid an instructor to learn this area of math even though books on the subject can be reviewed for free at many libraries.  Almost everything a student learns through formal education, even in graduate school, is information that is readily available.  Even if the text book is copyrighted, the information is usually available in a non-copyrighted form or available for free from a library.  In spite of this, the U.S. spends over $500 billion a year on all forms of education.  Clearly, adopting and distribution ideas including inventions is not free.
    According to venture capitalists, most start-ups will spend 2-10 times the amount on marketing their inventions than on developing them.  If the distribution of ideas was free, not subject to scarcity, this would clearly be unnecessary.
    University professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, judges, marketers, sales people and computer scientists are mainly in the business of distributing or implementing known information.  Most of these professional would be unnecessary if distributing information was frictionless.  Distributing information is extremely costly, especially new information.
    Without property rights in innovations, most people and institutions will not spend the additional money required to create and distribute innovations.  This will result in an under investment in innovation.

Income Law of Innovation:
   
The per capita income of a large group of people can only increase over the long term if their level of technology increases.
    If we had exactly the same technology now as we did in 1800, would we be any better off per capita than the people of 1800?  You might think that we would live longer.  But, why would we live longer.  We would have the same nutrition, sanitation, and medicine as them.  We would have no advantages over our ancestors if we were limited to their technology.  Our per capita income would be the same as the people of the 1800s.
    Modern economists have studied this issue and found that increases in capital goods are not nearly as likely to result in economic growth as innovation.[4] Robert Solow won the Nobel Prize in Economics because of his work on the causes of economic growth.  His model suggests that fourth fifths of the economic growth of the U.S. is the result of technological progress.  The other one fifth of growth was due to increasing population.
    Real per capita increases in income can only be the result of innovation.  Adding capital without any innovation associated with the capital will result in elevating every worker to a certain efficiency level, however never above that level.  Once every worker has the all the capital resources they can use in their job they have hit a maximum output without innovation.


[1] Bailey, Ronald, “Post-Scarcity Prophet: Economist Paul Romer on growth, technological change, and an unlimited human future,” Reason, December 2001.
[2] Kelly, Kevin, “Paul Romer: The Economics of Ideas,” http://www.versaggi.net/ecommerce/articles/romer-econideas.htm, viewed July 4, 2009.
[3] Kao, John, Innovation Nation: How America is losing its Innovation Edge, Why it Matter, and What We Can Do to Get it Back, Free Press, 2007, p. 39.
[4] Clark, Gregory, A Farwell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 197.

Dale Halling is a patent attorney, and the author of the book ‘The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.’  Visit him at his blog, the State of Innovation.

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Exciting news for lovers of great art!

If you’ve been one of the many thousands of people who’ve seen some of the art posted here at NOT PC over recent years and wished you could afford come of it, I have some very exciting news that I’m now allowed to share with you.

My friend Terry Verhoeven has been travelling the world to meet and negotiate with some of today’s most inspirational artists, to bring their work to you!  Affordably!!

Matching the world’s most inspirational art with some of history’s greatest quotes, he calls what he’s about to launch “the next generation of motivational posters.”

Worry not. These artists are not painters of dead fish, or assemblers of stained blankets.  Terry has an amazing eye for art and a world-leading collection of motivational quotes that he’s matched up with an all-star line up of sculptors and painters including past masters Antonio Canova, Henri Regnault, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Beatrice Evelyn Longman, Daniel Chester French, Auguste Rodin, Jules Dalou, Caspar David Friedrich, Lord Frederic Leighton, Antoine Bourdelle, Ivan Shadr, Antonin Mercie, Giambologna and Lorenzo Mattielli, as well as renowned contemporary artists Joseph Sheppard, Martin Eichinger, Philippe Faraut, Michael Newberry, Paige Bradley, Michael Wilkinson, Bill Mack, Karl Jensen, Gabriel Picart and NZer David Knowles.

If you aren’t salivating already, you sure as hell should be!

Launching at the end of June (yes, yes, you’ll have to wait before you can get your cheque book out), Terry has sent me this very short taster video of his Inspirationz Gallery, below, and he’s set up a website that by late June will host his catalogue of revolutionary motivational posters.

As he says, they should ignite your soul!

And if they don’t, your soul must already be dead.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Ngai Tahu overlord’s private-property threat casts pall over foreshore debate [updated]

NOW THAT A NATIONAL hui of 100 iwi representatives has rejected the Attorney-General's proposal to replace Crown ownership of the coastal area with a public domain that nobody owns, it’s apparent the government’s uncertainty and vacillation over the Foreshore and Seabed issue has now led it, and us, to a dangerous place.

Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon said after the hui, "We refuse to forgo all of our rights and put our rights to the foreshore under the public domain, as long as there are still 12,500 titles sitting there, private titles to the foreshore. If you put them into the public domain, then iwi will have the discussion about putting all of our rights into the public domain."

Translation: Solomon and his friends will refuse to accept National’s sullied compromise on the foreshore unless already-established coastal property is nationalised.

A dangerous place indeed. And an unnecessary one.

FIRST OF ALL, SOLOMON is labouring under an illusion.  He and his Browntable have no recognised rights in any part of the foreshore.  Never did. Recall that what was extinguished when Helen Clark had her brain explosion over the Ngati Apa Marlborough decision was not Maori rights in the foreshore. What was extinguished was the common law right to lay a claim to those rights. It was their right to a day in court.  A common law court. Some iwi have a case to make there; so do some individuals.  But to assume that the case has already been made, and to use Helen Clark’s high-handedness (and John Key’s inability to make a decision) in order to smuggle in a title that is not yet granted to a claim that is not yet proven would be an annexation of which Joachim von Ribbentrop would have been proud.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I think every New Zealander should be entitled to go to court to make a common law claim to what’s theirs, Maoris no less than anyone else. Always have done. (You know, one law for all, and all that.) But let’s not let Solomon get away with putting his gravy cart before his horse here—particularly when’s using it to foster fear in owners of existing coastal property as a means by which to pressure the government.  Fear-fostering as a negotiating tactic, in other words.

SECOND, SOLOMON’S CITED HISTORY is both wrong and self-serving. He talks about long outstanding claims to reserves in Kaikoura, for instance, which claims he is loath to see extinguished. Frankly, he must think the government is stupid (and I think perhaps he is right). As Alan Everton said in The Free Radical back when Ngai Tahu were handed $170million of taxpayers’ money back in 1997,

“Ngai Tahu have been in the grievance game for about 130 years.  Before  that they were in the land-sale game for about 30 years.”

TFR26 The rorts they themselves perpetrated in those first thirty have served as fuel for their rorts of the last 140.  In that respect nothing has changed. Indeed, the 250,000 acres encompassing those reserves in Kaikoura, which Solomon erroneously claims were “taken” illegally in 1859, were in fact sold by Ngai Tahu two times already prior by that date (with Kaikoura’s Ngai Tahu leader Kaikoura Whakatau being present at one of them), when Whakatau agreed to sell it a third time. And the unjustified claims over these reserves were just part of what came to fuel four "full and final" settlements between Crown and Ngai Tahu over the next 140 years, with the taxpayer picking up the tab for all of them. (I recommend Alan Everton’s three part 1997 article on ‘Ngai Tahu’s Tangled Web’ for the full story and more: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.)

BUT ALL THAT ASIDE, it’s now apparent that the Clayton’s solution of “public domain” proffered by the Attorney General just three months ago has served only to further muddy the waters of foreshore and seabed, while pushing back even further any chance of sense or clarity at all in the now-troubled debate.

Time to bite the bullet and do what I’ve been advocating now for more than six years:

_Quote When the Foreshore & Seabed Act is repealed, just leave it where it was at before.
And where it was at before was with Maori needing to prove to the courts that they possessed a common law property right in their portion of NZ’s foreshore & seabed.  And if they could prove such a right to a legal standard of proof, then why on earth should anyone object?
    “What could possibly be wrong with recognising the right of people to claim the property in which they have a right?
    “What could possibly be wrong with the protection of property in which people can prove that right, which is all that a repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act will do.
    “And that’s all there really is to it.  See how uncomplicated it really is?”

Or needs to be.  Common law really is a beautifully uncomplicated thing.

UPDATE: Turns out that American Gardner said this all yesterday at the Roar Prawn blog.

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Libz leader offers fake libertarian a job

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release
Commercial Whaling

Paul Henry Flustered By Whale Farming Proposal
    Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath said comedian Guy Williams did such a good job promoting a free market in whale meat on Paul Henry’s breakfast TV show (above) that he should be offered a spokesman job for the party.
    “While Paul Henry is still smarting from being harpooned, Mr Williams did offer good arguments in support of the private farming of whales.”
    Dr McGrath, who prefers to think of whales as ‘sea cattle’, said the farming of livestock in rural areas of New Zealand had ensured the viability of species such as cows, bulls, sheep, alpacas and goats.
    “A while back, our party suggested eating roast kiwi or kereru for Sunday dinner, which would be possible if the farming of these animals was open up to commercialisation.”
    Dr McGrath disputed Paul Henry’s claim that he couldn’t have a decent argument with Mr Williams as sour grapes, because the comedian had made a trophy of him.
    “Paul didn’t offer one single skerrick of rebuttal against the cogent and reasoned points in favour of whale farming made by Mr Williams, which the Libertarianz Party endorses.”
    “Whales are endangered because no-one owns them or the seas in which they swim,” added Dr McGrath. “As Mr Williams implied, the current situation is a mess because of the absence of property rights--and the Japanese are having a field day as a result, slaughtering at will.”
    “The Libertarianz Party believe a free market would encourage and ensure the survival and sustainability of whale species,” he said. “Whale fritters should definitely be a menu item at fish and chip shops around the country. Any other system where humans lack a vested interest in looking after whales dooms these sea cattle to extinction.”
    It’s enough to make you vote Libertarianz!

ENDS

More on this story:

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Family Houses, I to XII – Hugo Haring

Haring-Family-ItoIII

Haring-Family-IV To an architect, a floor plan is like a musical score—all the information is there if you know what to look for, and how to read it [and here’s a site offering some assistance].  It both records and generates the whole work.

The plan, as one architect used it say, is the generator.

Back in 1950, German architect Hugo Haring began investigating options for a simple, compact, three-to-five bed family house, a European urban house, mind, with a cellar; entrance court; bicycle store; kitchen; dining; one, two, and sometimes three bathrooms; and both with and without an artist’s studio.  These twelve floor plans were the fruits of his study.
Haring-Family-V Each house had essentially the same elements, sometimes with one or two removed, but each time with the raw ingredients rearranged and placed in a new relationship to the other—each house growing out of the last.

They are all arranged with north at the top, and south at the bottom (the direction, in the northern hemisphere, of the sun.)  Haring draws his door openings as simple lines, whether swinging doors or sliding) and he draws his storage units, with which he gives his houses ample supply, as a rectangle with a cross.

Haring-Family-VI As a set, they are very much of their time and place, but they are a wonderful demonstration of the variety available even in relative simplicity.

The first three (at the top) are completely orthogonal.  Then they begin breaking out, with the first sign being an angled bay in the south-west bedroom of House III, offering different views in a larger space, and helping to define and protect a small outside sitting space.

Since the representations of all twelve are very similar, it might help if I quote Peter Blundell-Jones’s description of House I, from page 154 of his excellent  book on Haring, from whence these plans derive.

_quote

Haring-Family-VII The first plan, completely orthogonal, has is entry in the middle of the north side with a large store adjacent for bicycles.  South of this is a block of service rooms comprising kitchen, bathroom and WC, which opens into a long eastern terrace and the living room onto a contained garden area to the south.  Bedrooms with north-headed beds are placed at the south-east corner, and the north-lit studio to the north-west.  A retaining wall running south off the bedroom wall contains a level drop of about half a storey at the south-east corner. Lines suggesting low walls complete a couple of larger rectangles at both ends, defining outdoor living areas.”

Haring-Family-VIII The other eleven, presented here in order, flow more or less from that first arrangement, all of them representing a beautifully humane way of living.

Haring-Family-IX

Haring-Family-X

Haring-Family-XI

Haring-Family-XII

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Super-Ben [updated]

It’s always hard to remember, when you read headlines like this, that correlation isn’t causality.

Bernanke sees US recovery gaining traction

Markets tumble on US economic data

UPDATE: Instead of being surprised, perhaps Ben and Bill should read this from Peter Schiff:

The Phantom Recovery

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PETA protest pissed on by pissed-off bikers

14793_hell_ride_screen_biker_gang Does protesting leather-wearing at a bikers’ get-together sound like a good idea to you?  No, me either—although it apparently did sound like a good idea to three PETA protestors, who when last heard of were being searched for by police in the hills of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Story goes that after the protestors showed up shouting slogans, throwing blood and making a general bloody nuisance of themselves—making general Pete Bethunes of themselves, really—the gang members showed their “inclusiveness” by force-feeding them hot dogs and burgers and holding them down and farting on them, before duct-taping some of them to a tree and pissing on them.

    “"They peed on me!!!" charged one activist. "They grabbed me, said I looked like I was French, started calling me 'La Trene', and duct taped me to a tree so they could pee on me all day!"… When confronted with the allegations of force-feeding the activists meat, using them as ad hoc latrines, leaving them incapacitated in fast food restaurant dumpsters, and 'farting on their heads,' the organizer declined to comment in detail. "That's just our secret handshake," assured the organizer.”

These are protestors who sound like prime candidates for this year’s Darwin Awards, wouldn’t you say?

The Bhopal disaster and beyond

Those of my age and above will remember with horror the news of the 1984 Bhopal disaster.

It seems astonishing that it has taken all of twenty-six years for just seven of those responsible for the industrial disaster in Bhopal to be taken to trial, convicted and sentenced.  And what a sentence.  For those of you unfamiliar with what is still the world’s largest industrial accident, around 3000 people were killed when a cloud of methyl iocyanate gas leaked out of a Union Carbide pesticide plant in central India, and up to another 20,000 died in later years, for which these seven executives have belatedly received just two years in jail, with every expectation they will appeal--“a process that can take years.”

As a family member of of those killed has said, it’s like these executives “have essentially been set free.”

Worse, after years of trying, Union Carbide chairman and CEO at the time Warren Anderson remains free and unencumbered by any hint of justice for his part in his company’s manslaughter—remaining at large with the help, it has to be said, of politicians in both the US and the Indian Governments.

The disaster at Bhopal is still the world’s worst industrial accident, worse even than the mercury poisoning of Minamata, the asbestos poisoning by James Hardie, the ammonium nitrate explosion in Texas City ,the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City, and the Piper Alpha disaster in the North Sea.

Between them they rather put into perspective the Deepwater Horizon disaster still bubbling up into the Gulf of Mexico, don’t they. And sad though every death is, the greatest tragedies are when people are killed, not wetlands, dolphins and sea turtles.

Nonetheless, the disasters of Bhopal and BP (and James Hardie) show that the cosy relationship of big government and big business does not lead to big justice, or provide any guarantee against environmental or human disaster.  BP is one of the most politically active in its industry. The close links of BP to both government and environmental organisations should lead one to wonder whether “BP [has] been too busy spending money to [buy politicians, and to] impress the government and the public with how ‘green’ it is to look after safety adequately.” And Union Carbide and Dow Chemical, its new owners, seem to think its easier to buy regulators and politicians—to hold its operations together “by duct tapes and bribes”—than it is to face justice, or to act justly.

And it’s not like the governments they buy deliver any of that “bought-and-paid for” justice to their constituents either. The Indian Government’s fascistic “Think Big” policy saw them forgo their role as referee and act instead as a player, and a bad one. (“The Indian government had its heavy hand on every aspect of the Bhopal plant, from its design and construction to its eventual operation.”) So, desperate to protect themselves and under pressure from the US Government not to charge Union Carbide’s executives, Rajiv Gandhi’s government instead accepted millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements from Union Carbide as "compensation for the victims.” But while all that money was received by the politicians, very little of that 1989 settlement ever actually reached the survivors. The loop of political corruption closed out those who most needed justice from the disaster, just as that corruption and the politics that caused it helped make the disaster itself happen.

Anti-capitalists will often suggest that we need big government as a “counterweight” to big corporates.  But is that really true? The fact is that stiff regulation protects no-one except those it shouldn’t, and simply invites big corporations to buy their even-bigger regulators.  There really is no greater force for corruption than an equation that puts together a big corporate desperate to escape justice, and a politician in pursuit of power and campaign funds. As PJ O’Rourke once observed, “when buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first thing to be bought and sold are legislators”—some of whom, like Al Gore, take that relationship with them even when they retire from the legislature.

Just one reason that a complete separation of state and economics is called for, lest the poisoners and the parasites make common cause. As they have done all too frequently.

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Good “road toll,” bad statistical analysis [updated]

Now that we’ve got some good “road toll” figures for a holiday weekend to shout about, can we try to finally get our heads around the fact that the figures from one weekend—whether good or bad—tell us nothing at all about either the efficacy of road policing policies, changes in driving habits, or improvements in the state of the roads.

Whatever road policing bigwigs might now try to tell you about the success of their ‘zero-tolerance-for-speed’ policy over the weekend, fatality figures from just one weekend are statistically insignificant.  Whether good or bad, the sample size itself is so low they tell you nothing at all—not unless you’re a bad journalist keen for a colourful headline, or a traffic policing bureaucrat eager to cement in a new policy. Like Paula Rose, for instance, who “is amazed by what the extra police resources* on the roads and the 'no excuses' speeding policy have done.”

Did their new policy cause the statistics? No, they didn’t. Correlation is not causality, however much the cheerleaders for slow driving might wish it otherwise.

* * * *

* Extra police resources?  I’m not sure there were any more “police resources” out this weekend than on any other holiday weekend; and since in driving north from Auckland on Friday night I followed one car with only one headlight and passed another, I doubt that those “resources” were any more vigilant than they normally are. What was your experience?

UPDATE: Zen Tiger does a bit more analysis.

‘Ready for the Day’ – Bryan Larsen

RFD‘Ready for the Day,’ 18" x 30" Oil on linen

Learn more about Bryan Larsen BRYAN LARSEN FINE ART at his website; buy his work at the Cordair Gallery.

cu ‘Ready for the Day,’ detail

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Monday, June 07, 2010

NOT PC’s Blog Stats for May

I realised I haven’t done my blog stats since November last year. Naughty Blogger.  And what I find when I tot them up is that November last constitutes a high point in hits for this blog, following which there’s been a steady decline in readers, if not (I trust) in writing quality.

stats

I’d be curious to know whether other blogs have been experiencing the same thing?

Anyway, here’s the rest of the stats for last month:

Unique visitors [from Statcounter]: 44,251
Hits [from Statcounter]: 64,866
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1595 readers per day
NZ Political Blog Ranking for NOT PC in December (the last time Mr Selwyn measured this): 5th
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 1192nd
Alexa Ranking, world: 381,592nd

Top ten most-read May 2010 posts:

Most commented upon posts

Top referring sites:
No Minister 2061 referrals; Kiwiblog 1678; Facebook 411; Lindsay Mitchell 350; Crusader Rabbit 333; Twitter 320; Cactus Kate 221;  SOLO 174; Libertarianz 170; NZ Conservative 156; Roar Prawn 152; Oswald Bastable 142; Rational Capitalist 140; Liberty Scott 137; Organon Architecture Blog 128
Top searches landing here:
not pc/peter cresswell etc. 1139; horse betting 167; "how to argue like a" left "lie all the time" 149;  mcgrath indigenous 121; libz pleasance 94; fred stevens nz 80; family tree of economists 77; libertyloop yahoo 39; broadacre city 37; boobs on  bikes 35
They're reading NOT PC here:

Cities-May10
Top countries/territories (from Google Analytics)
NZ 46%; US 21%; Australia 5.1%; UK 4.7%;   Canada 2.0%; Germany 1.7%; Italy 1.5%; France 0.9%
Top cities
Auckland 27%; Wellington 7.8%; Christchurch 5.0%; London 2.5%; Sydney 1.7%; Melbourne 1.4%; Palmerston North 1.4%; New York 1.1%; Dunedin 0.9%; Hamilton 0.8%;   Brisbane 0.6%
Readers' Browsers
Firefox/Flock 43% (44); IE Explorer 31% (33); Chrome 11.2% (6.7) Safari 11% (13); Opera 2.4%(2.4) Readers’ OS
Windows 80% (79); Mac 15% (17); Linux 2.9% (2.5); iPhone 0.9% (0.7)
Readers’ Screen Sizes
1280x800 18% ; 1024x768 16%; 1280x1024 14%; 1440x900 11% 1680x1050 11%
Readers' Connection Speeds
DSL 35% (35); Unknown 34% (36%); Cable 18% (19); T1 9.7% (8.6); Dial-up 2.4% (3.0)

Cheers, and thanks to you all for reading, linking to and talking about NOT PC this month,
Peter Cresswell

PS: As a reward, here’s Pasquale Iannone playing a piano transcription by Franz Liszt of the second movement of Beethoven’z 7th Symphony.

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