Monday, 4 October 2010

Henry V

Here’s a few questions for all you literate types getting all your pants in a bunch about Paul Henry’s latest stupidity. (This must surely be about number five, at least?) So …

… you know what he’s like. So if you don’t like him, why do you watch?

… haven’t you got something better to do over breakfast than watch a grinning fool present braindead news?

… on a scale of one to very-frigging-offensive, surely a professionally-produced ad laughing at exploding children programmed to be played on all channels far outstrips a morning blowhard’s thoughts on a retiring Governor General?  So how come you’re all so quiet about that?

Just a few questions whose answers I wonder about.


Tomorrow the Auckland Uni Econ Group talks about money…

UoA Econ Group 5 Oct

The news today is full of concerns over the state of the world's economies; in fact these concerns have not subsided for the last three years. This has resulted in many central banks around the world having increased their printing of money, especially so in the United States which has printed hundreds of billions (if not trillions) of US currency.
But what theory is advanced for doing this?
Can printing bits of paper actually solve an economy's problems?
And what are the long-term consequences of such a policy?
To help answer these questions we need to examine the often misunderstood economic concepts of inflation and deflation.
In this week's seminar we set out to better understand these concepts. To do so we must first look at the origins of money and ask some more fundamental questions as to what money actually is. Did the market for money develop naturally or spontaneously or did it require a central authority to mandate its use?

Date: Tuesday 5th October
Time: 6:30pm
Room: University of Auckland Business School, Owen G Glenn Building, Room 317 (Level 3)

All welcome!

Look forward to seeing you,
Fraser, Julian & Peter

CUE CARD ECONOMICS: Opportunity Cost

There are plenty of contemporary economic concepts that make no sense—or, worse, serve only to obscure legitimate concepts. “Externalities” is one, an illegitimate concept that serves only to delegitimize a necessary one, in this case: property rights. (Other  equally illegitimate cousins of this anti-concept include “stakeholder theory”—the idea that that a business owes its community, rather then the other way around, and whether anyone in the community has contributed to the business’s success or not—and the phony “free-rider problem” are other related examples of equally shoddy package deals.)

“Opportunity cost” is equally nonsensical.

One of the most common notions in economics, “opportunity cost” is [in Larry Sechrest’s formulation]

_Quote the idea that the cost one must bear when making choices is appropriately measured by the value to the actor of what he or she gives up. If A and B are ranked first and second, respectively, on one’s value scale, then the cost of choosing A is said to be B, the next best alternative.

But once one observes that this is a ‘B’ one hasn’t even got, one realises that this is a cost that hasn’t, and won’t, be paid—and we end up treating what is not even a potential loss as a real one. Which leads to the realisation that “opportunity costs” are an exercise in unreality.

To see how foolish this anti-concept is, just imagine I’m evaluating my year’s share trading. In January, let’s imagine I considered plunging heavily on two hypothetical stocks, one of which rose to $20 and one of which rose to $30. If I had bought the first and remained uninformed about “opportunity costs,” I would be under the “illusion” I had made a profit. Yet if I had read the latest textbooks, I would be made “aware” that instead I’d made a dreadful loss, and rather than uncorking champagne I should instead contemplate throwing myself off the nearest tall building!

The absurdity is real. The”loss” is not. Neither is the concept of “opportunity cost.” Says Reisman, those who insist that the doctrine of opportunity cost is valid

_Quoteconfuse the alternative opportunities whose competition in bidding gives rise to the money costs with the phenomenon of cost itself, and thereafter ignore the necessity of a money outlay actually being present. In other words, they....confuse the cause with the effect.

And the potential with the actual.

So stop worrying about a non-existent cost, or “you can wind up needlessly worrying about money that you never made.”

A map for Paul Henry

I don’t know how often Paul Henry leaves New Zealand, but when he does there are atlases and stuff to help him find his way around.

Here, for instance, is a map of Europe he might find convenient. [Hat tip Geek Press]


The Case for Legalizing Capitalism

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Someone called Kel Kelly, has written a book with the title of the post.

I haven't read it - and given the current length of my reading list it will be 10 years before I can even crack its cover - but I have to salute one of the best book titles I've ever seen.

From the review on
_Quote He considers every important topic: banking, education, taxation, labor, environment, trade, war and peace, safety, medicine, drugs, and far more. He presents the reader with a basic explanation of how capitalism is supposed to work and how society functions when commerce is free. He then turns to all the areas of life that are distorted and destroyed by the great "helping hand" of government.
Hmmm... maybe I'll bump this up my reading list.

P.S. Based on a single comment on the review, it sounds as if Mr. Kelly has the usual screwed up views about war and foreign policy. But, then, it is on so that's what one would expect. Still, it sounds as if the book might be worthwhile otherwise, and you really can't beat that title.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A portrait of Dorian Gray as an environmentalist [update 7]

Just as people do, just as Dorian Gray’s portrait did, movements too sometime show their real face—they let it slip—and what they reveal sometimes looks nothing like you thought they would. Behind the mask is someone quite different.

Back in April, for example, Greenpeace took time off from cuddling dolphins and claiming polar bears are becoming extinct to berate their enemies on their website, saying “We need to hit them where it hurts most, by any means necessary: through the power of our votes, our taxes, our wallets, and more…”

_Quote_Idiot The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the oxygen from denial and skepticism.
    If you’re one of those who believe that this is not just necessary but also possible, speak to us. Let’s talk about what that mass civil disobedience is going to look like.
    If you’re one of those who have spent their entire lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:
     We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.
    And we be many, but you be few.

The offending post was swiftly removed and quarantined, replaced with a bland acknowledgement that something had gone wrong, and soothing words about how easy it is to “misconstrue” this sort of thing—or perhaps even “take it out of context.” 

Yeah right.

Something had gone wrong, all right. For just one moment the mask had come off. That the piece had been written, published and promoted showed that no-one saw anything wrong with it at all—not until the phone calls and emails started coming in. This was how they felt.

Look, this really is how they feel. Remember this piece of fascist tripe they peddled a few years ago? A snotty kid warning his “enemies.” i.e., you and I.

Or this sick piece of inhuman gloating put out by the World Wildlife Fund.

289407be4759e9c4a23cfb25bdd4bde6Scratch so many environmentalists, and this really is how they feel.  This is what’s behind the mask. In their view, humans come a distant second to “a wild and healthy planet.” We are at best simply here to “provide stewardship for the environment”—to “sweep the rain forests and rake the beaches”—and if we’re not going to be obedient, we can go.

Fundamentally, according to so many environmentalists, “the extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable, but a good thing...

That’s how they feel.

This week the mask slipped again.

A bunch of British environmentalists got behind the 10:10 climate campaign—an anti-industrial campaign sponsored by the UK Taxpayer, ActionAid, The Carbon Trust, and The Energy Saving Trust—to produce a celebrity video they thought was “extremely funny.” Written by New Zealander Richard Curtis (writer of Black Adder, Four Weddings & A Funeral, Notting Hill etc.) and starring every luvvie looking to advance their career, it shows precisely what’s going on behind the mask. It was lovingly put together, widely promoted, then sent out proudly onto the high seas of the world’s media to make its point.

It did. People saw it, and immediately understood: This is how these people really think. This is what’s behind the fury. No wonder everyone involved is now ducking for cover.

Watch it yourself, and see why.

Dorian Gray is getting old.

[Hat tip Jonathan V.]

UPDATE 1:  Turns out O2, Sony and Kyocera helped pay for this illustrative piece of man-hating, with The Guardian acting as a “media partner.” So if you want to express your disgust, those would be good places to start.

UPDATE 2Gareth Renowden at NZ’s warmist Hot Topic blog reckons 10:10’s sick misanthropy  is “on the button,” and that those who don’t laugh must have “a sense of humour failure.”  Yes, exploding children has always been funny.
Commenters have been deservedly telling him what a vile turd he’s revealed himself to be.

UPDATE 3: Updated the post with the WWF poster from a couple of years ago. Hat tip Whale Oil.

UPDATE 4: Richard Treadgold has posted contact addresses of the main sponsors, and an apology from o2—and anyone who supports Tottenham Hotspur might want to drop them a line.  And it turns out there are rather more 10:10 sponsors than first thought.

UPDATE 5: Cuddly old warmist Bill McKibben from 350.Org announces he is ‘Shocked! Shocked!’ that his friends at 10:10 could do such a thing. [Hat tip Watts Up With That]

_Quote_Idiot The climate skeptics can crow.  It’s the kind of stupidity that hurts our side, reinforcing in people’s minds a series of preconceived notions, not the least of which is that we’re out-of-control and out of touch — not to mention off the wall, and also with completely misplaced sense of humor… There’s no question that crap like this will cast a shadow, for a time, over our efforts and everyone else who’s working on global warming.

Of course, McKibben certainly knows what crap looks like and how to keep it hidden, because he’s been keeping up his mask since his 1989 diatribe The End of Nature, in which he quoted approvingly this “benediction to alligators “by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.  "A good epigram" he called it:

_Quote_IdiotHonorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty.

And in a glowing review of Bill’s diatribe, National Park Service biologist David Graber showed he “gets it” too.

_Quote_IdiotWe are not interested in the utility of a particular species, or free-flowing river, or ecosystem to mankind [said Davo]. They have intrinsic value, more value—to me—than another human body, or a billion of them.… It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.

“McKibben is a biocentrist,” said Graber, “and so am I.”

If “wishing for the right virus to come along” is what it means to be a “biocentrist” – if wishing alligators “a mouthful of terror-stricken man” is what it means to “get it,” then what Bill and his comrades can go and get is to get fucked.

NB 1: More similar quotes from McKibben’s confreres here.

UPDATE 6: George Reisman comments on the Toxicity of Environmentalism here, which discusses McKibben while neatly putting this whole discussion into  context—making clear why none of these ads or statements are any accident.

_Quote Recently a popular imported mineral water was removed from the market because tests showed that samples of it contained thirty-five parts per billion of benzene. Although this was an amount so small that only fifteen years ago it would have been impossible even to detect, it was assumed that considerations of public health required withdrawal of the product.
    Such a case, of course, is not unusual nowadays. The presence of parts per billion of a toxic substance is routinely extrapolated into being regarded as a cause of human deaths. And whenever the number of projected deaths exceeds one in a million (or less), environmentalists demand that the government remove the offending pesticide, preservative, or other alleged bearer of toxic pollution from the market. They do so, even though a level of risk of one in a million is one-third as great as that of an airplane falling from the sky on one's home.
    While it is not necessary to question the good intentions and sincerity of the overwhelming majority of the members of the environmental or ecology movement, it is vital that the public realize that in this seemingly lofty and noble movement itself can be found more than a little evidence of the most profound toxicity. Consider, for example, the following quotation from David M. Graber, a research biologist with the National Park Service, in his prominently featured Los Angeles Times book review of Bill McKibben's
The End of Nature:
"This [man's "remaking the earth by degrees"] makes what is happening no less tragic for those of us who value wildness for its own sake, not for what value it confers upon mankind. I, for one, cannot wish upon either my children or the rest of Earth's biota a tame planet, be it monstrous or--however unlikely--benign. McKibben is a biocentrist, and so am I. We are not interested in the utility of a particular species or free-flowing river, or ecosystem, to mankind. They have intrinsic value, more value--to me--than another human body, or a billion of them.
    "Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. I know social scientists who remind me that people are part of nature, but it isn't true. Somewhere along the line--at about a billion years ago, maybe half that--we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth.
    "It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil-energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."
    While Mr. Graber openly wishes for the death of a billion people, Mr. McKibben, the author he reviewed, quotes with approval John Muir's benediction to alligators, describing it as a "good epigram" for his own, "humble approach": "`Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty!'"
    Such statements represent pure, unadulterated poison. They express ideas and wishes which, if acted upon, would mean terror and death for enormous numbers of human beings.
    These statements, and others like them, are made by prominent members of the environmental movement. The significance of such statements cannot be diminished by ascribing them only to a small fringe of the environmental movement. Indeed, even if such views were indicative of the thinking only of 5 or 10 percent of the members of the environmental movement--the "deep ecology," Earth First! wing--they would represent toxicity in the environmental movement as a whole not at the level of parts per billion or even parts per million, but at the level of parts per hundred, which, of course, is an enormously higher level of toxicity than is deemed to constitute a danger to human life in virtually every other case in which deadly poison is present.
    But the toxicity level of the environmental movement as a whole is substantially greater even than parts per hundred…
    There is something much more important than [environmentalism’s toxicology], however--something which provides an explanation in terms of basic principle of why the mainstream of the ecology movement does not attack what might be thought to be merely its fringe

 Read on to discover that principle…

These are the sort of people who might like to consider joining the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, before they do the rest of us further harm.

Friday, 1 October 2010


Today everything  is more expensive.  Thank John Key.
In October 2008 John Key said “National’s not going to be raising GST.” Today they did. All through the election campaign they promised “significant personal tax cuts,” and in October 2008 they confirmed “the pledge to deliver about $50 a week to workers on the average wage remained on track.” Today instead of the promised fireworks, you got a damp squib, a tax hike and an increase in across-the-board welfare payments.  Cool, huh. Oh, and
an extra seven cents a litre on petrol and diesel.
So much for responsible government.

Here’s some of what else is happening around the world.

  • On the one hand they want to talk to Peter Jackson. But when Peter Jackson wants to talk to them they say no.  The actors unions reasons are unreason.
    MEAA refuses to allow Jackson to attend meeting  - KIWIBLOG
  • Did I say actors unions? I should say, unions for self-interested actors.
    Actors back union out of self-interestTVHE
  • Clayton Cosgrove is beginning to argue that the amount the Earthquake Commission covers needs to be rethought. Given that the government’s rules on the Earthquake Commission require it to hold the bulk of its assets in NZ govt stock--hostage to every earthquake—and its time period for payouts is months rather than days—delaying whatever rebuilding home-owners would like to do—it’s probably a good thing the amount insured has been inflated to virtually nothing. But a serious rethink would surely question the need for this bureaucracy at all?
    Labour urges EQC rethink – RADIO NZ
  • The UK’s leading scientific body has decided to rewrite its own definitive guide on climate change, now admitting that it is “not known” how much warmer the planet will become… “The Royal Society’s new guide… concedes that there are now major ‘uncertainties’ regarding the once sacred ‘scientific consensus’ behind man-made global warming theory, admitting that not only is it impossible to know for sure how the Earth’s climate will change in the future but it cannot possibly know what the effects may be. The 19-page guide states clearly, ’It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future..
    The decision to revise and tone down its alarmist position on climate change demonstrates a clear u-turn on its previous 2007 climate pamphlet, one which is said to have caused an internal rebellion by the 43 fellows of the Society, triggering a review and subsequent revision. The 2007 publication, which parroted the IPCC’s popular, but misleading impression that the ‘science is settled’ – making way for the new guide which accepts that important questions remain open and uncertainties unresolved. “The Royal Society now also agrees(with us) that the warming trend of the 1980s and 90s has come to a halt in the last 10 years,” said Dr Benny Peiser, the Director of Britain’s Global Warming Policy Foundation.
    Another Domino Falls: UK’s Leading Scientific Body Retreats on Climate Change – MARKET ORACLE
    UK Becomes a Denier Nation – FINANCIAL POST (CANADA)
  • With virtually every country’s government pressing the inflation button, it really is now a race to the bottom. The currency wars are on.
    Deep Economic And Debt Frictions Triggering Competing Currency Wars – MARKET ORACLE
  • “It's an all-out attack on the greenback and everyone else is winning!”
    Squishy Ball Test for Banks – DAILY RECKONING
  • And what’s the flipside of rapidly depreciating their currencies?
    Central Bank Drives Up Commodities – MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • When he was in office, Australian PM John Howard demonised refugees for votes. Now he’s in retirement, he’s talking a different and better tune.
    Howard junks multiculturalism. But belatedly – ANDREW BOLT 
  • Hated3 Stephen Fry has a new award he’s very proud of.  He is hated by the Daily Mail.
    Hated By The Daily Mail – STEPHEN FRY
  • The Broadcasting Standards Authority have done us the service once again of telling us which swear words are more useful than others.  Delicate flowers should avoid the link. [Hat tip Eric Crampton]
    The acceptability of words on TV and radio – BSA
  • Google Instant has an issue with some of them.  Well, most of them. Like the link above, “this link is NOT suitable for children, ministers, senators, or the mass media.”
    Google Blacklist - Words That Google Instant Doesn't Like -
  • Meanwhile, despite their nice language “for the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” What do you think a survey of NZers might show?
    Distrust In US Media Hits Record High – ZERO HEDGE
  • Coming to New Zealand (well, maybe, eventually) crowdsourcing the price of marijuana from the most accurate source possible: the consumer.
    Price of Weed
  • Told by Michelle Obama to eat their vegetables, Americans order fries instead.
    Eat Your Vegetables — If You Want To  - CATO
  • Here’s a guide for every journalist on hw to write a science story.  Hilarious.
    This is a news website article about a scientific paper - GUARDIAN
  • Dr Shaun Holt is a skeptic medical researcher whose hobby is applying the blowtorch of reason to the soft parts of medical charlatanry. Here he is getting flak for calling homeopathy “witchcraft.” And here’s the first part of his recent talk on complementary therapies for people with cancer.
  • Here’s an enjoyable article on a father and son reading Atlas Shrugged this summer. And as Amit Ghate says, “the comments are so much more interesting and literate than anything over at CNN.”
    A Shrugged Summer – Bruce Bialosky, TOWN HALL
  • Hey, great news!  If you missed last weekend’s AFL Grand Final, there’s a replay on this weekend.  True! This weekend St Kilda and Collingwood go head to head again to see if one of them can come out the winner after two hours of footy.  And once again non-Saints fans are saying “G’arn the Saints” in the hope they can squash the Pies, and avoid the unthinkable.
    FINALS PREVIEW: The winds of change – Leigh Matthews

That’s all for now.
Have a great weekend!

So he’s a “truther” as well

First he denied the holocaust.  Then he said Israel should be wiped off the map. Then he told everyone that Iran has no desire to build a nuclear bomb—despite clearly pursuing the nuclear option.  Now he tells the assembled notaries at the United Nations that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by they United States.

Is he mad?  Or does he just think we are?

Click the pic to see Allen Barton, Terry Jones and Alex Epstein discuss the nut at PJTV.


Thursday, 30 September 2010

Celebration of the Beer Crate

beercratepavillion2a-thumb-550xauto-48323 Thanks to the reader who sent this to me.

Tonight we celebrate the architecture of the ready-to-hand. This, ladies and gentleman (yes, I know my readership consists of one gentleman and umpteen barbarians) is a Celebration of the Beer Crate—a pavilion in the shadow of The Atomium (the then futuristic centre-piece of the 1960 Brussels World Fair) built by Stella Artois Brewery to … to … well, just because they can, that’s why.

The pavilion was designed by architects Shin Bogdan Hagiwara, Thierry Decuypere, and Jorn Aram Bihain to be a temporary structure, and after disassembly the crates will return to carting around bottles of Stella Artois.”

“Who wants more pork?”

If your child shows signs of being a politician, enrol them in Camp Politics today!

“Who wants more pork?”

[Hat tip Objective Standard]

Lights, camera, strike! [update]

Strikes by teachers. Strikes by actors. Strike, strike, strike.

With strikes and union activism everywhere, politicians meddling in sport, and morons like Bernard Hickey imploring us to embrace the economic mercantilism of Fortress New Zealand, you could be forgiven for thinking Rob Muldoon was alive, well, and flourishing in places other than just the virtual “other-world” of Twitter.

In Muldoon’s day, it would have been striking boilermakers and Cook Strait stewards. Strikes by actors are a new, and much more media-friendly thing. But their basic premises are still the same:

  1. the erroneous idea that workers own their job;
  2. the advancement of one group of workers at the expense of all others;
  3. the placing of the union’s interests above even that of its members…

Let’s consider these in turn.

Employees own their labour services, but they don't own their jobs.  They’re certainly entitled to withdraw their services, but nothing in justice gives them the right to exclude others from replacing them.  There is no right, in justice, that gives one group of employees the right to exclude others—especially not by force.

The extent to which industrial unions have been granted legal powers to forcibly exclude others from replacing their services, however—to run pickets shutting down companies and film projects by forcibly excluding supplies, customers and replacement labour—is the extent to which governments have given unions power beyond right to damage the welfare of everyone, including their own members.

William Thompson, a colleague of Robert Owen and a founder of so-called “scientific socialism” observed that the union’s “excluding system depended on mere force and would not allow other workers to come into the market at any price…”

_Quote It matters not [he said in1827] whether that force…be the gift of law or whether it be assumed by the tradesmen in spite of the law: it is equally mere force.
    Gains [of the unionised few] were always at the expense of the equal right
of the industrious to acquire skill and to exchange their labour where and how
they may.

peter-jackson-shoots-on-red_527x351 (1) No wonder unions like the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) have launched a naked power grab using the power beyond right that legal favour grants them, to use that power and and expand it across the Tasman—oblivious to the damage they will deliver to the whole NZ film industry and everyone in it, including the actors they’re courting, especially if Jackson’s new film The Hobbit heads to Eastern Europe as he says it might.

No wonder unions like the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) want to use the power beyond right to grandstand on a party political issue—using children and their own unionised members as their political pawns.

The teachers union and the actors union have different aims. In the case of the teachers union, what they’re after is 4% and a chance to bash Anne Tolley.   In the case of the actors union, an Australian union seeking access here, what they’re after is power and publicity. In neither case are the welfare either of actors or teachers (or students) their primary concern.

At a time when jobs are scarce, money is short and everyone is having to tighten their belt, what both should get is what their premises  deserve.

Because as economist William Hutt argued, the extent to which these unions and every other are successful in their successful in their demands and destructive in their means of achieving them, they harm every other group in society.

As they almost always do.

UPDATE: At least NZ’s unionists aren’t throwing molotov cocktails. In Europe, however…

_QuoteUnion-backed workers rocked Europe this week with intermittently violent protests in Greece, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Portugal and others. In Spain, a nationwide strike disrupted air travel, regional shipping and municipal services. Doctors at state-run hospitals walked off the job in Greece and subway lines shut down. Supermarkets reported shortages of basic goods.
    To call many of the increasingly regular demonstrations protests is generous. In Dublin, the gates to Ireland’s parliament were blocked yesterday by a demonstrator in a cement truck. In Barcelona, police cars were
torched. And in Athens, a mob opposing cuts to government spending firebombed a bank in May, killing three people, including a pregnant woman.
    What makes these frightening scenes so unnerving is that they’re not occurring in
third-world dictatorships, but in advanced economies within many of Europe’s largest cities. We’re used to seeing violent street clashes in Lebanon. But Belgium?
The conflicts are the inevitable consequences of
entitlement spending and a society geared towards the “common good," not individual rights. Turns out the much-heralded “safety net” isn’t safe at all: When bureaucrats decide how long you work, what type of benefits you receive and which industries or sectors receive privileged treatment, the economy quickly turns into mob rule.

Read more: “Mobs in Europe, Records in Brazil”

The biggest issue in New Zealand today?

Says Cactus Kate:

_Quote I'm glad this National government has its eyes on the large issues. Like who goes first at a give way sign.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The goal of today…”

_Quote "Politically, the goal of today’s dominant trend is statism. Philosophically, the goal is the obliteration of reason; psychologically, it is the erosion of ambition. The political goal presupposes the two others. The human characteristic required by statism is docility, which is the product of hopelessness and intellectual stagnation. Thinking men cannot be ruled; ambitious men do not stagnate.
                       - Ayn Rand 

[Hat tip The Objective Standard]

Commissar Sebelius to the Rescue!

Guest Post by Jeff Perren.

The headline in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial reads: "Health insurers finally get some oversight."

The sub-head continues the theme:

_Quote_Idiot In the past, these companies ran wild
with no accountability.

At least, according to Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, that is.

She must be right. There is no State Insurance Commissioner in every State of the Union. There aren't thousands of regulations dictating prices, terms of coverage, etc., etc. None of that existed until ObamaCare and the mighty Commissar Kathleen rode to the rescue of the proletariat. Missing her own irony, she lists several of them later in the editorial, including herself (as past commissioner in Kansas).

She begins:

_Quote_Idiot In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of "thuggery" (by this editorial page) and "Soviet tyranny" (by Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable.
Nothing thuggish, of course, about violating the 4th and 5th Amendment protections of private property and voluntary trade, the sanctity of contract, etc. But who needs them? It's comforting to know instead that my 'right' to health insurance is being protected by the pure and all-powerful Wizard of Health Care, no longer bound by any such quaint notions.

Can't these idiots at least go back to telling semi-plausible lies? They're making it far too easy on me.

Kanaya, ‘24th Station of the Tokaido’ – Ando Hiroshige


25_KanayaLast night I posted master artist Hokusai’s wood-block print “Mount Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido Road. Tonight, a scene from the other celebrated Japanese print artist, Hokusai, from his series “Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido.”

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Marine mammals and their blogs

Here’s part of an occasional series introducing you to aspects of my fellow bloggers—or to posts where others have done the job.

Yesterday, David Slack introduced Metro readers to the father and son that are Whale Oil and Whale Sr. Very touching.

And today, the Southern Fried Scientist assures that Everybody Farts, Even Manatees.  Yes, it’s true.  Apparently it’s one way a Manatee communicates.

More insights soon.  :-)

“Atheists know most about religion” [updated]

A new Pew survey of religious knowledge confirms most religionists know little about their own religions, let alone others.And “to make matters worse, it seems that those who scored highest on this survey were, in fact, atheists and agnostics.”

_Quote I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people," says the president of American Atheists. "Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That's how you make atheists."

Atheists lack some powers however.  Because if you do have faith and do not doubt, you can say to a mountain, "Go throw yourself into the sea!"

[Hat tip mitchellhall]

Text bans cause accidents

I know it’s tremendously unfashionable here to follow up news stories over a long period, or to ask politicians to back up their expectations after a law change, but new research coming out of the States on the efficacy of text bans—or lack thereof—suggest Transport Nanny Steven Joyce needs to answer some questions.

_Quote Laws banning texting while driving actually may prompt a slight increase in road crashes, research out today shows… Researchers at the Highway Loss Data Institute compared rates of collision insurance claims in four states — California, Louisiana, Minnesota and Washington — before and after they enacted texting bans. Crash rates rose in three of the states after bans were enacted…

The reason for the rise?  Looks like our old friend the Law of Unintended Consequences again.

So who’s going to be the first to ask Nanny Joyce to comment?

[Hat tip Overlawyered]

“Mount Fuji from Kanaya on the Tokaido Road” – Katsushika Hokusai


Another of Hokusai’s graphic wood-block print series 36 Views of Mt Fuji.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On honesty

Misrepresenting facts does not change them. However successfully one might fool another person, faking is ultimately futile. For it does not alter the underlying facts.
   --Tara Smith, quoted in “Six Clarifying Quotes on Honesty

Something to think about for all sides there, from those who (still wholly unrepentant) were misrepresenting Anderton’s “seismic shift” non-comment the day before the earthquake as something it wasn’t, to those promoting Labour pamphlets intimating Labour will cut all GST, not just on fruit and vegetables.

Lying doesn’t change the underlying facts; it suggests that if you have to make something up you no valid criticism of the real facts; and it suggests too that you yourself shouldn’t be taken seriously in the future.

So, bad all round, really.

Honesty is the first casualty of war—and the almost daily casualty of politics.

No wonder politicians aren’t taken seriously.

The Fed’s new “super-stimulus” will not stimulate but destroy. UPDATE 2: “Plan A” for wealth destruction. UPDATE 3: “The US Fed has now laid its monetary cards on the table… its new mandate is to create inflation.” UPDATE 4: Bernard Hickey is a moron.

The global monetary and economic crisis has reached its next phase.  With a world economy already seriously out of whack, into which the first trillion-dollar tranche of economic “stimulus” was poured without effect, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is about to press the button to print around three trillion new paper dollars to further devalue the American currency, further dislocate a world economy out of whack (and desperately trying to recover), and potentially initiate the final destruction of the American economy.

If the first “stimulus” merely printed enough paper to keep afloat those zombie malinvestments that were built up over the boom that needed to die in the bust, this last desperate mega-printing will so dilute the American currency that it will no longer even be able to do its job internally of lubricating the division of labour it once made possible, and externally of allowing the American dollar to be virtually the world’s reserve currency.

That he will be pressing the button with the full blessing of virtually every one of the world’s mainstream economist is a measure of just how far mainstream economics is from having a clue what’s going on at this stage of the crisis, any idea of the role that the application of their theories had in causing the global monetary and economic crisis, and any figment of a notion now of any Plan B to remedy what they’ve caused.

Instead, we’re just about to get more of the same, by the truckload.

The world crisis was caused by an enormous worldwide increase in the money supply—around twenty percent year-on-year for more than a decade, compounding—which flooded into credit markets, distorting the capital structure and giving finance companies what they thought would be a never-ending spigot, and spilled over into the world’s housing market, creating the world’s most expensive and biggest-ever housing bubble. 

It is being now “fixed” by nothing less than the same again—only this time on steroids. More cash pouring out of the Fed’s printing presses.

Injecting huge tranches of counterfeit capital into the economy to stimulate the boom was what initially inflated the bubble and caused all the dislocations. Injecting huge tranches of counterfeit capital was the so-called solution wheeled out in the first tranche of bailouts and “stimulus.” Now, with no Plan B even under consideration, the only call we hear from the mainstream is “the same again, only more so.”

If the first hit was like feeding a person crack, and the second hit of bailout crack was like trying to revive the patient with a bigger dose once their come-down started, then this last hit is like trying to revive a dying patient by making their heart explode.

There’s only one word for it. It’s insane.

Whether this massive emission of new money by the central bank is brought about through direct purchases from the central government (“Quantitative Easing”) or from the politically connected banks (“Credit Easing”) is immaterial. The results are exactly the same: they both involve "an expansion of the central bank's balance sheet," as Ben Bernanke himself puts it. Both engender a surge in available money and credit. Quantitative easing, again according to Mr. Bernanke, "is most common in poor countries or in countries wracked by war or natural disasters."[1] Or, the jaded might add, in a country wracked by economic illiteracy.

There really is no Plan B being considered, you know. This bailout crack  is being shovelled straight into the patient’s heart at the very same time as the economic doctors are strapping the patient to a gurney with enough financial regulation to ensure any restructuring is virtually impossible in any place—and the existing regime uncertainty is compounded.

There can only be one result. Economic destruction.

But there really is a Plan B, you know, and it’s the very opposite of the plan being followed. 

The money pumping is an attempt to “fight” falling prices. But rather than pumping the money supply to attempt to make falling prices impossible, and putting in “price floors” and minimum wage laws to make falling prices illegal, economists might realise instead that in falling prices are the very seeds of recovery—opening up the very springs of profitability that will allow viable businesses to lower their own costs and get back on a profitable footing again.

Frankly, "Falling Prices Are Not Deflation but the Antidote to Deflation." 

And Economic Recovery Requires Capital Accumulation, Not Government 'Stimulus Packages'.

And rather than the slide to regulation, and to the protectionism and economic nationalism which is the almost inevitable counter reaction to collapse (phenomena perfectly reflected in yesterday’s call locally to ban the sale of NZ farmland to foreign investors—and calls worldwide for rising protectionism and for new governmental and supranational agencies aimed at global governance of the world economy) what’s needed instead is just what Czech President Vaclav Klaus was recommending yesterday to the United Nations.

I am afraid we are moving in a wrong direction. The anti-crisis measures that have been proposed and already partly implemented follow from the assumption that the crisis was a failure of markets and that the right way out is more regulation of markets. This is a mistaken assumption. [“A big increase in financial regulation...will only prolong the recession,” he earlier told the Financial Times. “The best thing to do now would be temporarily to weaken, if not repeal, various labour, environmental, social, health and other 'standards,' because they block rational human activity more than anything else."]  It is not possible to prevent any future crisis by implementing substantial, market-damaging macroeconomic and regulatory government intervention as it is the case now. It is only possible to destroy the markets and together with them the chances for economic growth and prosperity in both developed and developing countries.
    The solution to this or any other crisis does not lie in rising protectionism [Can you hear that, Bill English?] … The solution doesn’t lie in “more bureaucracy” either, in creating new governmental and supranational agencies, or in aiming at global governance of the world economy. On the contrary, this is the time for international organizations, including the United Nations, to reduce their expenditures [and] make their administrations thinner…

Sadly, there is less than no chance of any Plan B along these lines being adopted anywhere outside the Czech Republic. Which means that the process of rapid economic and capital destruction is now under way.

I’d recommend you do whatever you need to do to protect what you have.

UPDATE 1: Did I say mention the worldwide housing bubble the central banks created?  Australians are still in denial about their housing bubble—a bubble fuelled by their Reserve Bank’s irresponsible credit expansion—a bubble they still refuse to recognise, but which is nearly about to pop.

As  said above, I’d recommend you do whatever you need to do to protect what you have.

UPDATE 2: In a more rational world, one in which there was a rational Plan B, the world would have been out of economic depression in February last year.

instead, we’ve had the same Plan A used by the likes of Hoover and Roosevelt to extend the 1929 correction for another fifteen years of crisis—the same remedies I was warning back in October 2008, before the last election, would be responsible for extending this one.

If you were devising a Plan to ensure that when  markets need to correct, they can’t; that when real savings are being consumed on malinvestments that urgently need to be extinguished, they won’t be; that when an economy needs to be restructured, it won’t be; then this is the plan you’d come up with to extend the collapse and make sure the necessary correction won't happen, just as the Hoover-Roosevelt Plan A did in the thirties:

  1. Prevent or delay liquidation by propping up shaky businesses and shaky credit positions. (Better to flush out the malinvestments quickly, so recovery can get under way.)
  2. Further inflate the money supply, creating more malinvestments and delaying the necessary correction. (Better to maintain the the purchasing power in your pocket rather than dilute it.)
  3. Keep wage rates up --or keep money wages constant when prices start falling (which amounts to the same thing) -- which in the face of falling business demand is a sure recipe for unemployment. (Better to take your cut now, and give your business a chance to restructure.)
  4. Keep prices up (by means of the likes of green-plated building regulations) or add new costs to struggling businesses (such as the dopey Emissions Tax Scam), delaying the necessary corrections that will make businesses profitable again. (Better to let prices fall to the new level they need to post-crash. Trying to help recovery by artificially re-inflating prices is like backing over someone you’ve run over in your car, hoping that it will make the patient better.)
  5. "Stimulate" demand by spending on "infrastructure" projects just to make it look like the government is doing something -- when what that something actually does is to take money from profitable businesses and bid resources away from struggling businesses. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without competing with struggling businesses and raising the prices of now-much-scarcer resources.)
  6. Discourage saving and investment by increasing government spending (all of which is consumption spending) and maintaining high tax rates. (Better if government cuts its coat according to its new cloth, without taking now-much-scarcer resources away from struggling businesses.)
  7. Subsidise unemployment with make-work schemes paid out of money from profitable businesses that will bid resources away from those struggling businesses, delaying the shift of workers to fields where genuine jobs would otherwise be available. (Better to abolish all minimum-wage laws, so everybody who wants to work can work—and work in a job that pays its own way.)

As Murray Rothbard points out in America's Great Depression (from which I draw the above seven points) when you list logically the various ways that government could hamper market adjustments and hobble the adjustment process, you find that you have precisely listed the favourite "anti-depression" arsenal of government policy.

And you’ve listed the “Plan A” that they’re still following.  They have no Plan B.

I said in 2008 all these variants of stimulunacy would be used, and would fail, just as they did in the First Great Depression. They have, and they are. So fasten your seatbelts, because their use now, on steroids, will be responsible for creating the Second Great Depression.

UPDATE 3: Buy gold?  Watch talking heads including Peter Schiff on The Kudlow Report:

“You’re seeing currency destruction going on around the world… The one currency you can’t print more of is gold.”

“The US Fed has now laid its monetary cards on the table… its new mandate is to create inflation. The old mandate was to create ‘price stability,’ but the Fed now views stable prices as a problem that its’ gonna cure by creating inflation.”

“If you’re an American citizen and you own US currency, you’ve got a bullseye on your back and you’re in Ben Bernanke’s cross-hairs.”

UPDATE 4: Bernard Hickey has contrived not to notice that the government’s own central banks have been front and central in pumping up the boom; that their flawed and relentless pursuit of  bogus price stability is at root responsible for both boom and collapse; and he’s now abandoning what he calls the “free market orthodoxy” and plumping instead for protectionism, nationalism and braindead big governmentism.

Fuck him.

He’s an easy read of how bad economic education leads to dire economic reporting.

He rightly derides our high debt, and the fact NZers did so little productively with it in the boom years.  Yet he is oblivious to the place wherein the vast majority of that credit was created: the world’s central banks.

He says we need “measures to control our currency.” Hasn’t he noticed that the Reserve Bank has been pumping and un-pumping our currency for the last decade? With what measure of success we can already see.

He seems to have bought wholesale the idea advanced by Alan Greenspan and elaborated by Ben Bernanke that what was actually responsible for the bubble was an excess of global saving—an “excess” from which Bernard now thinks we should wall ourselves off from. But as George Reisman pointed out when Greenspan and Bernanke advanced this alibi to distract from their own culpability, “the very notion of a saving glut is absurd, practically on its face.”

And he seems to have bought the idea that for the last decades we have had “completely free markets and capital flows”  Free markets! What is he smoking! This hot-shot economics reporters is apparently blind to the fact that in the markets of the last decade there is virtually no price or profit relationship left untouched. You think the age of Muldoonist price controls and interference with profits are dead?  In the last few decades the “orthodoxy” worldwide has overseen:

  • interest rates controlled by an economic dictator with powers Muldoon would have killed for;
  • specific interest rates, such as home mortgages, manipulated through subsidies as well as price controls;
  • indirect currency controls virtually everywhere;
  • direct government manipulation of the gold market by both world govts and the IMF;
  • asset price floors—in addition to the ‘Greenspan put,’ we’ve had money printed and “toxic” assets bought, anything to keep asset values raised ;
  • wage floors, essentially a guarantee of widespread unemployment in a downturn;
  • wage ceilings, especially for executives;
  • direct price controls, especially in medicine and education;
  • good old-fashioned protectionism—not just currency manipulation, but outright tariff and non-tariff barriers;
  • the dismissal of business bankruptcy and liquidation as “old-fashioned”;
  • pumping up illusory profits by inflating the money supply, creating an inflationary illusion of profitability and prosperity;
  • the grant of virtual monopoly powers to the very credit agencies that didn’t know a bad thing even when it was held right under their nose.*

These are just a few of the means by which govts ran price controls and interference with profits in recent decades—and still are.  But Bernard, and hundred of thousands of others trained to view all this as part of a “free market” are too braindead to see them for what they are, and now with the failure of this system of control calls instead for the controls to be tightened!

He has the frankly braindead notion that somehow the people in govt responsible for creating, overseeing and extending this economic disaster need to take back the reins.  He has apparently either lost the brains he once had, or has now reached the point (as it has with most educated in mainstream economics) where the real world has now outstripped his learning, so has resorted to the siren cry of the braindead everywhere: “Bring me more big government! Now!!”

Bernard Hickey is a fucking moron.  That’s all that’s left to be said.

_ _ _ _ _ _

* This list comes from Hunter Lewis’s book Where Keynes Went Wrong: And Why Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles and Busts. It’s exactly the sort of book that braindead fools like Hickey should be reading, but don’t. Or won’t.

Do **Communists** represent the middle class?

Guest Post by Jeff Perren

Daniel Foster at National Review reports on a "confederacy of liberal groups" who plan to hold a rally in response, they say, to Glenn Beck's rally last month that galvanized hundreds of thousands of patriotic Americans to show up in Washington.

The “confederacy” against Beck claims to represent "America’s embattled middle class.”  There are some mainstream left-leaning groups (the SEUI, the American Federation of Teachers, and others). What's more interesting, though, are the groups the confederacy fails to mention, revealing the counter-rally as just so much, very stale, communist bombast.  The un-mentioned groups include:

  • The Communist Party USA
  • Chicago Democratic Socialists of America
  • Code Pink
  • Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
  • Democratic Socialists of America
  • International Socialist Organization
Yawn... It's clear that Progressives are out of ammunition. That won't stop them from initiating kamikaze raids, of course, but they officially now got nothin'. When you align yourself with groups like this, then so far from representing the “embattled middle class,” you're confessing you’ve lost ‘em.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Romeo Y Julietta con una Testigo - José Manuel Capuletti


Romeo Y Julietta con una Testigo (Romeo and Juliet with a Witness), 25.5" x 18" oil on linen

José Manuel Capuletti was a student of Salvador Dali (I’ll bet you guessed that) and a favourite of Ayn Rand’s (but maybe not that). His work, she said,

_Quote has the passionate intensity of Spain, the elegance of France, and the joyous, benevolent freedom of America.

View his Full Collection and Bio at the Cordair Gallery, which carries many of his works, including this one.

The Games blame

The media always loves a fiasco, so for them the ongoing Commonwealth Games story is a gift that will just keep right on giving.

But they’re always better laughing at a fiasco than they are analysing their causes. And Stephen Franks reckons it’s “embarrassing to be a New Zealander, watching our media search for New Zealanders to include in the blame for India's shame.”

_Quote The usual media line on relationships with peoples who have been colonised deplores any hint of 'judgment' or being patronising. Officials who fail to "understand" the excuses for failure (including the cultural 'necessity' for bribery and nepotism) are held to be nasty relics of imperial arrogance. Yet what can be more arrogant than blaming sports officials for failing to supervise as for children, the performance of a government in one of the world's most powerful countries, a nuclear armed nation with a prickly pride and some of the world's leading businesses.
    Of course in reality we know that India has been hobbling itself for generations with socialist governments …
    What makes India's democracy so venal and its love of red tape such a drag on its hard working and intelligent business people?  To what extent should businesses share the blame? Or does the blame rest with the Indian intelligentsia, which (like here) perpetuates hostility to the values that create wealth, through dead minds in the commanding heights of education … ? Is it simply that there is a tipping point of Chris Trotters and Matt McCartens and Finlay McDonalds, which no amount of business competence can outweigh?

Good questions all, and better than any I’ve seen asked so far about the Games fiasco.  Are India’s Hank Reardens more encumbered by Bertram Scudders than ours? (Hard to believe, surely.) Or, with our own world sporting showcase now just months away, is it a case of there but for the sake of karma* go us?

* * * *

* Karma might be one answer, suggests Bernard Darnton: “3000 years of being soaked in the idea that you don't control your own destiny could lead to an ingrained cultural learned helplessness. But is it too cute to tag hundreds of millions of people with one word?”

What a grand final! Same again next week?

724205-goddard Collingwood and St Kilda tore each other part in Melbourne on Saturday. That was some Grand Final!  After 2 hours of fast-paced, high-skilled, throat-tightening, bone-crunching, buttock-clenching action—after St Kilda came back in the last six minutes with one of the best Grand Final marks of all time (right, by Brendon Goddard—video here) to put themselves ahead and avoid the unmentionable by just a whisker—at the end of those two hours of non-stop action, scores were still locked at 68 each ... and players and fans realised that rather than this being either the end of their road this season or the culmination of their dreams, that they would all be back at the MCG again the same time next week to do it all over again.

That’s right.  The AFL Grand Final ended in a draw.  No extra time.  No penalty shoot-outs. The game gets replayed next week.

Only fair, I’d say, when it’s clear that after a full game neither tem could beat the other.  Which meant neither team could claim to be the champion.

The game on Saturday was a gruelling mental battle in its purest sense, punctuated by a series of truly heroic moments. In the end neither side would accept defeat and neither side was defeated. Surely there was some beauty in the glorious mess of it all.

Goddard At the end of the game, players were utterly spent and almost unbelieving.

Asked what he was going to tell his players back in the sheds, Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell was for once lost for words. He was rescued by both coaches however, who reached into their bags of clichés to assure everyone, including themselves, they’d be back bigger and better next week.

Just like most of the fans, who get to have another week of football to enjoy, and another belter of a game to look forward to.

That’s  good for footy.

Just as long as the Saints don’t the Pies pull out the premiership at the end of it.

That wouldn’t be.



Oh, and just in case you want to see some other marks to which you can compare this one …