Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Tea Party: Beginning to See the Light [update 2]

moe-tucker-explains-tea-party-affiliationNow this is cool. Maureen Tucker—known to friends as Mo, and more widely as the drummer from the Velvet Underground—is also a Tea Partier.  An angry Mo told her local TV station she is “furious about the way we’re being led toward socialism” and the “incredible waste of money” being spent, and followed it up telling a disbelieving Riverfront Times she is against

  • the government taking over the student loan program and car companies,
  • bailouts
  • the White House taking control of the census (what the hell is that all about?)
  • any First Lady telling us (I know, I know, “suggesting to us”) what to eat
  • the mayor of New York City declaring “no salt” (screw you, pal!)
  • the mayor/city commissioners of Anytown, U.S.A. declaring you can’t fly a flag, can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance and can’t sing the National Anthem
  • a President dismissing any and all who dare to disagree
  • the water being turned off in (central) California to save a one-inch fish — turning that huge area of farming land into another dustbowl — the insipid start of food supply control methinks!
  • the government deciding what kind of lightbulbs we can use (all you “think green” people, three objections to this b.s.: 1) Those bulbs give off the light of a candle; 2) They’re very expensive; 3)They have mercury in them – how the hell are we supposed to dispose of them?).

Maureen says.

_Quote  MT: My family was damn poor when I was growing up on Long Island. There were no food stamps, no Medicaid, no welfare. If you were poor, you were poor. You didn’t have a TV, you didn’t have five pairs of shoes, you didn’t have Levi’s, you didn’t have a phone; you ate Spam, hot dogs and spaghetti. .. 
    My anger stems from the unbelievable (criminal!) waste of money on pork and earmarks. It drives me nuts to see that X millions are being allocated to build a turtle tunnel, a donkey museum, a salamander crossing, etc, etc, etc. Billions spent every friggin’ year on totally unnecessary crap so that these Congressbums can tell their constituents that they “brought home the bacon” and get re-elected. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to pay for any Congress SOB’s vote buying, and sure as hell not in these very very worrisome times!
    RIVERFRONT TIMES: What specifically about the current administration do you disagree with?
    MT: I disagree with spending / borrowing / printing — damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!  I disagree with the “we won” attitude, which is the cowardly way of saying fuck you! I disagree with an administration that for twenty months blames Bush. If the President and his minions are so damn smart, why didn’t they know the severity of the situation? The president has actually said …. that they didn’t know!

(So, of course, have John Key and Billy Bob.)

Unsurprisingly, Tucker’s views went down like a bucket of cold sick with the trendies, leaving her.

_Quotestunned that so many people who call themselves liberal yet are completely intolerant. I thought liberals loved everyone: the poor, the immigrant, the gays, the handicapped, the minorities, dogs, cats, all eye colors, all hair colors! Peace, love, bull!
    Curious they have no tolerance whatsoever for anyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do. You disagree and you’re immediately called a fool, a Nazi, a racist.

She’s nobody’s fool, and never was.

Here’s how the Velvet Underground sounded in their prime.

This was the Velvets’ looked on their reunion in Paris in 1990, with Moe on drums.

And here’s the song that was Moe’s party piece, recorded (badly) at a 1993 Velvets concert in Prague requested by then Czech President Vaclav Havel—a Velvets fan who told the world on the fall of the Soviet Empire that it was a Velvet Underground record that inspired the Czech Velvet Revolution.

[Hat tip Russell Brown, who seems to think Tea Partiers are against free trade. How odd. Still, that’s twice today he gets a mention here.]

Murder. It’s still not O.K.

This is what leapt out of my newspaper this morning:

NZ HERALD: Hemmings' murderer had killed before
The man who murdered Good Samaritan Austin Hemmings in central Auckland spent eight years in an Australian jail for stabbing and killing his estranged girlfriend [and was then deported to NZ].
    He was also jailed in New Zealand on three separate occasions for knife [attacks] dating back to 1987…

Just think about that for a minute or two. A man who’d killed before and had been jailed before for knife attacks, all of them with the same sort of large kitchen knife with which he killed Austin Hemmings, was left by the courts out on the streets in Auckland ready to kill again.


This is not the first time, is it. A long list of New Zealanders have been attacked killed and maimed by thugs who had a history, who were out on bail, out on parole, or who had killed before but had not been given the sentence their crime deserved.  Susan Couch, Tai Hobson and the families of Kylie Jones, Karl Kuckenbecker and many many other good people who deserved better can tell you the story.

The first duty of any responsible govt is to protect the rights, lives and liberties of its citizens. That’s its duty. That’s its job. This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

The legitimate arms of government are there to protect innocent people from those, like Austin Hemmings’s killer, who think force is the means by which humans deal with one another. His killer had certainly given sufficient indication that’s how he felt—"when he gets enraged, he needs to vent his anger" the court heard yesterday—yet the last time he attacked someone with a knife, stabbing them in the stomach with a large kitchen knife and partially severing their thumbs (this was after he’d killed his girlfriend and been deported back here), he was jailed for just two years and four months.

Think about that for a moment, too.

Think about a courtroom in which a record of three savage knife attacks and a murder were read out, and the man responsible was put away for our safety only for two years and four months. Two years and four months … after which he was free to vent his anger again on anyone he felt like.

If the police, the law courts and the prisons are going to do their proper job—which is protecting the rights, liberties and lives of its citizens—if “justice” isn’t going to end up with the adjective “vigilant” in front of it—then they need to protect those who value their life, liberty, property and happiness from those who've shown beyond reasonable doubt that they're quite partial to taking them all away.  ("The rights of the accused are not a primary," points out philosopher Ayn Rand, "they are a consequence derived from a man’s inalienable, individual rights. A consequence cannot survive the destruction of its cause.") 

That's the only real reason to catch people and lock them up, isn't it—the only defensible reason.  Not to punish them, but to to protect us.

But it’s not happening, is it.

_Quote Mr Hemmings' brother Craig said last night that a man with Brown's convictions should not have been on the streets. "It would alarm any New Zealander and, I would think, any sensible person."

But after unrepentantly drawing gallons of blood and taking one life, this young man was out on the street to do it again.

Something’s wrong, isn’t it. The government is failing in the one thing they’re supposed to be doing—protecting our rights, lives and liberties.

But instead of walking the beat and policing laws already on the books, such as (off the top of my head) bans on carrying large kitchen knives, police instead spend too much their time collecting revenue from folk driving a few “k”s over an arbitrary speed limit, raiding hydroponic garden-supply shops, and harassing the 400,000 NZers who harmlessly smoke cannabis.

And instead of taking violent crime seriously, they give the highest prosecution rates to administrative (91 percent), dishonesty (86 percent), and drug offences (84 percent), crimes which neither pick our pockets nor break our bones; while violent crime—which does—has among the lowest prosecution rates, at just 16 percent. And sentencing for violent crimes has only recently begun to recognise that NZers don’t want violent criminals dumped out on the streets, they want them locked up safe inside. (Read the recent trends in the report Patterns in Police Apprehensions in New Zealand 2005/06 to 2008/09.)  And let’s not mention how many violent crimes are committed while the perpetrator is out on bail, or parole for an earlier attack.

Something’s wrong, it’s alarming, and any sensible person would know that.

* * * *

PS: I can’t help being reminded that the last time I discussed this I was savaged by Russell Brown for wanting “a policeman at every dinner table” for pointing out that so many convicted for violent crime are being kept on the taxpayers’ tab, and for assuming Austin Hemmings’s killer must have been before the courts before.

_Quote-Dumb The man arrested by police was not on bail or parole and apparently has no history of drug abuse or mental illness [said Russell attacking my silliness]. But he is a sickness beneficiary, and for Cresswell -- deftly applying righteousness as the cement between correlation and causation -- that is proof enough that welfarism is to blame.
Maybe we will discover that the man has a criminal history, maybe not…

Maybe we will, Russell. Maybe we will.

Who pays for Len Brown?


Rodney Hide’s super-sized city bureaucracy was sold on the basis of greater “efficiencies” for the bureaucrats, and greater cost-savings for rate-payers.

Virtually the first statement by the vertically-challenged new Auckland mayor Len Brown is to confirm that whatever savings do emerge (if any) they won’t be used to reduce your rates, they will be rolled instead straight into monument building by those bureaucrats that have just been empowered.

This is what Rodney Hide delivered.

So much for your hopes for lower rates—which for every New Aucklander are going to go up in any case just to pay for the billion-and-a-half debt that Banks and Brown (the two most spendthrift mayors in the previous city setup) managed to rack up over their last terms.

first_train_set Just one of the many monuments talked up by the midget mayor is an underground rail loop around the inner city. A monument with a price tag of $2 billion, plus cockups.

That’s big money. And that’s just one of the many monuments Brown wants to erect in the next few years—train sets for everyone—a “world-class” convention centre (another one?)—cruise terminals—eco this—sustainability the other—any one of which will easily suck down any savings that might emerge from the merger, let alone any hopes you or the local govt minister might have had of rates decreases.

"There will be a cost,” says the midget mayor, “But we will do it.”

There sure will be a cost. And we will be the ones have to pay for it. (And how long before Brown demands a flash new building to accommodate an ego pumped up by the power to dispose of that which he has not earned, and by the view of himself as the embodied voice of “the public.”)

The only question is whether we pay for it as rate-payers, or as taxpayers.

The Prime Minister reckons it won’t be taxpayers. Put down your plan for monument-building, says John Boy, and get on instead with implementing your “long-term spatial plan for Auckland.”

What’s a long-term spatial plan, you ask?  Let me tell you. Section 79(2) of Rodney Hide’s Super-Sized Bureaucracy Act says:

The purpose of the Spatial Plan is to contribute to Auckland's social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being through a comprehensive and effective long term (20 to 30 year) strategy for Auckland's growth and development.

And section 74(4)(d) says the Spatial Plan must:

identify the existing and future location and mix of—
(i) residential, business, rural production, and industrial activities within specific geographic areas within Auckland…

As Owen McShane says of the powers given the central planners, “Even Stalin might blush.”

_Quote The Spatial Planners are invited to contribute to “Auckland’s social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being” rather than let the people take care of themselves…
    These new Spatial Plan’s requirement to specify the mix and location of land-use activities throughout the region is much more far reaching [even] than the Resource Management Act, which never mentions land use planning at all.
    …These highly detailed three-dimensional plans leave little room for private innovation or change. Forget about spontaneous order…

This is what John Boy reckons the midget mayor’s new council should be doing—instead of building monuments themselves, they should be writing plans ensuring property-owners may not build anything at all except with the express permission of a central planner.

In other words, all Rodney Hide has delivered to Auckland is a battle between monument builders and central planners.

Guess who loses out in that one?

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: ‘The Incredible Bread Machine’


This is what the crew at the Auckland Uni Econ Group has for you tonight.

    This week we will view and discuss a short film that a former US Treasury Secretary once called "probably the finest effort at explaining in lay terms the economic facts of life..."
    This short film The Incredible Bread Machine integrates a number of the ideas we have already looked at this year. It slays a number of economic myths that still exist today, 40 years after the film and book were released.
    Great viewing.

        Date: Tuesday 2 November
       Time: 7:00pm
        Location: Engineering 3402

    NB: We are in the same room as last week and at the same time. If you are unsure, the Engineering Building is 20 Symonds St. If you walk through the main doors off Symonds St and straight across the hall, room 3402 is to the right. Look forward to seeing you there for another good discussion about economics ideas.
    Check us out on the web at http://uoaecongroup.wordpress.com/.

    See you there!
    Fraser, Julian & Peter

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tower of Babel – Pieter Bruegel


Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563
Oil on panel, 114 cm × 155 cm (45 in × 61 in)

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth “explaining” the break-up of one language into many—and being a Biblical myth it involves a tale of man’s hubris, and the god’s great ego.

Men, you see—early men, still united “as one”--felt so good about themselves and what they could do, and had heard so much about the wonders of Heaven, that they began building a great tower to get there and see for themselves.

But their god, being God, was outraged at this boldness (or at least scared they’d pull it off), so he sent down upon men a “babble” of different languages (from the ancient Hebrew, "balal", meaning to jumble), a “confusion of tongues” to confuse the construction, and to set men against each other men.

So like a jealous god, isn’t he--jealous of men’s ability; jealous of what they can do. (And if he wasn’t scared they’d succeed, he wouldn’t have needed to send the babble.)

Anyway, Pieter Bruegel painted this depiction of the tower from his own imagination, at a time when the tallest building in the world was the north tower of Amiens Cathedral, which at 113m was tall, but not as tall as Brueghel needed. So the painter added a few Gothic flying buttresses to a core that looks remarkably like the Roman Colosseum, and hey presto, he’d combined much of human architectural history into a painting of a building that at once tells the story of man’s hubris, and at the same time shows his promise.

Ads you might never see again

Here’s some ads from a series doing the email rounds at the moment from a time when life seemed somewhat less complicated and slightly more straight-talking -- but would you really want to live there again?

ATT00001 ATT00007ATT00008 ATT00013

By George, Professor Reisman is back blogging again!!

Great news!  The chap who I judge to be the most sane, sober and serious living economist is back blogging again.

George Reisman’s first two short pieces signalling his return are as topical as they are essential:

  • Boom-Bust in Microcosm
    "The essential features of the boom-bust business cycle can be understood by viewing them in terms of the financial circumstances of a single individual…”
  • Natural Resources and the Environment
    "…in and of itself, this supply of natural resources is largely useless. What is important from the perspective of economic activity and production is the subset of natural resources that human intelligence has identified as possessing properties capable of serving human needs and wants and over which human beings have gained the power actually to direct to the satisfaction of their needs and wants…”

Maths Kid

Here’s a nine-year old who wants to share his enthusiasm for, and ability in, mathematics.  Let’s call him The Maths Kid.

He wants to teach you how to solve simultaneous equations.

Disclosure: Yes, I do know him, I’m proud to say.  :-)

Friday, 29 October 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: ‘Aftermath’ edition

Law changed. Negotiations over. Right you are then. Line up smartly for another ramble round the net.

  • Can’t we all get what Warners got? It worked for China.
    “Subsidising” Hobbit enterprise? Sounds like a great idea! – N O T   P C
  • In case you hadn’t noticed, New Zealand’s best humorist has started writing here again every Thursday. (Really, why some newspaper editor doesn’t offer him big money for a regular column is beyond me.)
    NOT PJ: An Oracular Octopus – N O T   P C
  • Well, this should get you all talking.  “New Zealand has been ranked the world's fifth-most-prosperous country, with the highest level of education and civil liberties, by an international think-tank.” And this despite scoring “low” on “religious attendance, 81st in the world, suggesting (says the report) “low levels of access to religious support networks.” Or, perhaps, a healthy lack of interest in mumbo jumbo. The think-tank also judged the country's education system “the best in the world…”  Doesn’t say a lot for other places, do it.
    NZ scores fifth place in world prosperity stakes – N Z   H E R A L D
  • Meanwhile, in America the state is still stealing people’s property to give to friends of the state. “My home is my castle”? Not in the United Police States, it’s not.
    Eminent Domain Shenanigans – C A T O @ L I B E R T Y
  • Tom Bowden discusses once of these atrocities: Willets Point, a community in Queens, New York, whose residents and workers are being displaced by eminent domain.
    The Story of Willets Point – ARC-TV

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and
we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
~ Michelangelo

  • “A major rethink of the U.K’s finances is underway today after UN lawyers discovered a forgotten clause in the Declaration of Human Rights, enshrining forever the entitlement of all to have a two-week holiday abroad ...” [Hat tip Shaun H.]
    ‘Two-weeks-in-the-sun’ clause discovered in Declaration of Human Rights – N E W S   B I S C U I T
  • The Onion has a full round-up of the important ballot initiatives in the upcoming US elections.  I’m right behind Proposition 11 in California, which would “make it illegal to text while someone is saying something really important to you.”
    Key Ballot Initiatives – T H E  O N I O N
  • “The hostility and jaded news coverage that the Tea Party movement evokes suggests that it must be onto something really big beyond anti-incumbent attitudes or current-issue debates of Democrats or Republicans.”
    Tea Party Movement Is A Game-Changer – I N V E S T O R S . C O M
  • There’s an election next week. Beware, the extremists are coming!
  • A TV presenter being offensive? It seems to work for the BBC. [Hat tip Marcus B.]
    The BBC needs Jeremy Clarkson to be offensive 
    – David Quantick, D A I L Y  T E L E G R  A P H
  • Remember that talk of carbon markets? Of getting “a price” for carbon?  That price has now been found. It’s zero.
    Can someone please tell Nick Smith.
    Y2Kyoto: We're Winning – S M A L L  D E A D  A N I M A L S
  • That sound you hear? It’s the sound of climate scientists looking to their knitting.
        “A year ago, the climate establishment was on top of the world, masters of the universe. Now we have a situation where there have been major challenges to the reputations of a number of a number of scientists, the IPCC, professional societies, and other institutions of science. The spillover has been a loss of public trust in climate science and some have argued, even more broadly in science. The IPCC and the UNFCCC are regarded by many as impediments to sane and politically viable energy policies. The enviro advocacy groups are abandoning the climate change issue for more promising narratives. In the U.S., the prospect of the Republicans winning the House of Representatives raises the specter of hearings on the integrity of climate science and reductions in federal funding for climate research.
        “What happened? Did the skeptics and the oil companies and the libertarian think tanks win? No, you lost. All in the name of supporting policies that I don’t think many of you fully understand. What I want is for the climate science community to shift gears and get back to doing science…”
    The Sound Of Settled Science – S M A L L  D E A D  A N I M A L S
  • Here’s an opportunity for some easy activism. In honour of New Zealand Book Month, you can vote for your favourite four books at this website.  I wouldn’t want to influence your vote at all … but wouldn’t it be cool if we could get Atlas Shrugged up the lists? [Hat tip FreeMack]
    Vote for your favourite books – N Z   B O O K   M O N T H
  • "The sky is no longer the limit." Richard Branson [Hat tip Objective Standard]
    Spaceport America Inaugurated By Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise 
    – C R U N C H G E A R . C O M
  • A double win for Cantabrians? “Software to predict earthquakes can also predict street crime.” [Hat tip Geek Press]
     The aftershocks of crime – E C O N O M I S T
  • But still a loss for Canterbury.  Watch online as the once-majestic Manchester Court building takes its final tumble today.
     Manchester Courts Demolition Cam
  • Australian commentator Judith Sloan looks at the role of Australian unionists in the Hobbit debacle. “Good one, MEAA.  I’m not sure NZ trade union officials will be reaching over the ditch when they next need advice.  It reminded me of all those times in the 1960s and 1970s, when shop stewards from Scotland were so helpful to Australian industry … not.”
    Keeping the Hobbit in New Zealand – C A T A L L A X Y    F I L E S
  • “Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, has made headlines by questioning the effectiveness of charity and refusing to sign the Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge. ‘The only way to fight poverty is with employment,’ Slim is quoted as saying. ‘Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything.’”
    The rich have a right to pursue happiness too – V O I C E S   F O R   R E A S O N

“There is too little money in the economy…”
– Bank of England governor Mervyn King, 19 October 2010

  • “So the [Bank of England and the] Federal Reserve are dead-set on creating inflation, and it’s plain to see why.  Household debt … now stands so large that paying it down … ain’t gonna happen. Not this side of Paul Krugman joining John Maynard Keynes in that eternal “long run” in the sky. So what’s needed, or so the theory runs, is inflation in prices…”
    Gold in a Low-Inflation Environment, Part I
    – M O N E Y   M O R N I N G   A U S T R A L I A 
    Gold in a Low-Inflation Environment, Part II
    – M O N E Y   M O R N I N G   A U S T R A L I A
  • You might decide this is too cheesy for you, but I really like this series of interview with Fisher & Paykel designers.  It used to be said (and I’m sure it’s still true) that in other country’s the most talented engineers and designers would be working in the automotive or electronics industry. In New Zealand,,however where we have neither, they’re working instead producing whiteware for F&P. That’s a pretty good competitive advantage.
    Passion and Performance – F I S H E R   &   P A Y K E L
  • Mercantilism is on the move again—just as it was in the First Great Depression. If the world were to listen to Obama Administration officials—which is exactly what G20 leaders are doing at the East Asian summit in Korea this week—they’ll all soon be bringing in laws to restrict foreign investment. (Yes, Virginia, just like John and Bill have already done.) Speaking on behalf of Americans, Don Boudreaux says, “I await the White House’s explanation for how limitations on investments in the American economy promote Americans’ economic well-being.” The same goes for us, too.
    ‘a strange marriage of Keynesianism and mercantilism’  - C A T A L L A X Y   F I L E S
  • Stephen Hickson has a message along the same lines for Bill & John (and Winston’s voters).
    Is foreign ownership of land so bad? – T H E    P R E S S
  • PS: Listen to Stephen on Radio New Zealand's "The Panel". The segment starts at 3:30; Stephen comes in around the 7:30 mark. [Hat tip Eric Crampton and Paul Walker]
    Foreign ownership – O F F S E T T I N G   B E H A VI O U R
  • From the mind of the great Roger Garrison, a slide presentation on the difference between Keynes and Mises/Hayek.
    Capital-based Macroeconomics – M I S E S   E C O N O M I C S  B L O G
  • From the mouth of Lawrence White, three videos on the same difference, and more.
    New videos featuring Lawrence H. White talking about the work of F A Hayek 
    – A N T I   D I S M A L

Keynesians, failing since 1936 …


  • Bill Whittle explains how wealth can be created from thin air. True story.  [Hat tip Frederick G.]
  • “I’m not sure it’s what WikiLeaks intended,” writes Andrew Bolt, “but its latest leaks reveal that the infamous Lancet paper which claimed the US-led liberation of Iraq cost the lives of 655,000 Iraqis in fact exaggerated the death toll by at least 600 per cent.”
    WikiLeaks nails the wild Lancet scare story – A N D R EW   B O L T
  • The inaugural recipient of the 'ANZAC of the Year Award,' Lieutenant Colonel John Masters has died. His friend “The Veteran” pays tribute.
    A great Totara has fallen – N O    M I N I S T E R
  • The New York Times starts “getting” Ayn Rand: “‘This above all: to thine own self be true,’ … characters who embody this spirit, like … Roark and Cameron in The Fountainhead.
    Rounding Up the Usual Suspects: Interpreting Famous Quotations
    – N E W  Y O R K  T I M E S
  • The Christian Science Monitor meanwhile continues to get her wrong.
    Vladimir Shlapentokh’s Flagrant Dishonesty Regarding Ayn Rand 
    – O  B J E C T I V E   S T A N D A R D
  • Geraldton Lawyers and litigiousness have between them shut down a merry-go-round. (Isn’t it time we shut down the lawyers instead?)
    Iconic Merry-Go-Round Is Deemed an Insurance Liability 
    – F R E E   R A N G E   K I D S
  • Which countries drink the most beer?  Which city? Can beer with 55% alcohol by volume still be considered beer? Neil Miller asks (and answers) the important questions.
    Has beer finally gone too far?
    – M A L T H O U S E   B L O G
  • Tim Blair just posted a terrible Los Angeles fact: Steve Jones – former Sex Pistol guitarist and now an Angeleno radio presenter – drives a Prius. Sad, but true.
    'Jonesy's Jukebox' runs out of nickels – L . A .   T I M E S
  • True, but far from sad: Nick Cave confesses to a weakness for the guitar playing of the legendary Robert Fripp—especially that heard on early Fripp band King Crimson’s Larks’ Tongues in Aspic album.  [Hat tip Quote Unquote]
    Nick Cave: No Pussyfooting Blues – R E L I X . C O M
    Here’s the only “sing-along” from that 1973 Crimson album: Easy Money.

  • Michael Newberry, painter of joy.
  • People Are Awesome: A compilation of awesome people doing incredible things. (Unfortunately one of those things isn’t the music used for compilations like this, so turn your volume down.)  [Hat tip Diana Hsieh]
  • And speaking of both joy and awesome, here’s some Verdi sung by Maria Callas. [Hat tip Boaz the Boor]  Awesomeness doesn’t come more joyful.

        • Or, if you prefer more madness with your awesomeness, here’s some Pathetique/Manfred from Tchaikovsky playing under some insanity by Ken Russell (talk about a tautology). (Moderately NSFW. And it will probably help to understand the scene a little to know that Tchaikovsky, played here by Richard Chamberlain, batted for the other team.)

        Thanks for reading.
        Have a great weekend!

        Thursday, 28 October 2010

        NOT PJ: An Oracular Octopus

        _BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton investigates spineless creatures, and it isn't a metaphor.

        Forget the volcanoes, the mid-term elections, and fraught attempts to increase the number of hours worked by French people. The real reason TV news exists is the animal stories. Some watch for the sports so a sports story about an animal does double duty. Add a dose of psychic power and it’s ratings on a plate. Hence Paul the Octopus.

        Paul the Octopus, described by the Daily Telegraph as “the best known octopus of his generation,” died on Tuesday. He was two.

        For those who’ve been living in a cave and therefore have bad tabloid television reception, Paul successfully predicted the outcome of all Germany’s World Cup games, plus the World Cup final.

        One News, across developments like a rash, crossed live to the seafood buffet at Valentines, where a pretty blonde girl mawkishly delivered the news of Paul’s demise, looking relevant next to a bowl of dead octopuses.

        If you are going to talk about octopuses, do yourself a favour and learn the word “octopodes.” It’s a great word to know coming into the holiday drinking season. Just don’t bugger it up and say “ok-tuh-podes” - it’s “ok-toh-puh-dees.”. Armed with this simple fact and a six pack you can be the star attraction at the end-of-year work barbeque. Compulsory fun will never have been so much fun.

        PaulOctopus For the full effect, sneer at anyone who says “octopi” and memorise the Wikipedia article about how that word is based on the misapprehension that octopus is a second declension Latin noun, and that “octopus” is Greek, etcetera.

        While you’re browsing Wikipedia, marvel at the article on Paul the Octopus himself. Part of the reason that TV news is so dire, stuffed silly with populist drivel like clairvoyant molluscs, is that people have deserted television to spend their free time on more edifying tasks, like writing Wikipedia articles on clairvoyant molluscs.

        The article has an info box, explaining Paul’s dual occupations of “Exhibit” and “Psychic Football Pundit,” several photographs, some charts, serious discussions of his career and the possible biases that may have affected his sporting picks, links to other “oracular animals,” and a page of detailed references. The article is similar in size and depth to that on King Richard III of England.

        Paul the Octopus’ page also contains speculation on whether or not he was the same octopus that made predictions on games during the 2008 European Championship - a mystery on par with the Princes in the Tower.

        While Paul may not have been truly psychic, octopuses - sorry, octopodes - are highly intelligent creatures. They’re not intelligent in the sense that they worked out the laws of thermodynamics but they are, presumably, highly intelligent compared to other molluscs - that is to say, slugs.

        Based on this copious neural firepower, octopuses have been classified in English law as honorary mammals. Indeed, octopuses have eight brains - almost as many as the House of Commons, where this stuff gets made up.

        Paul and his eight brains will be cremated after a state funeral to be shown live on TV One. Close Up will have an exclusive interview with a grieving relative, and 20/20 this week will investigate claims that Paul had a penis on the end of one of his arms.

        * * He’s not PJ O’Rourke, but he’s not bad either.  Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ
        column here every Thursday, barring drinking accidents. * *

        Jeff Perren Radio Interview Rescheduled For Oct 29

        _jeffrey-perren Guest Post by Jeff Perren

        As promised, my radio interview with Jon David Wells has been rescheduled. Same time, new date.

        I'm slated to appear on The Wells Report at KSKY radio (660 AM), this Friday, Oct. 29 (Thursday, Oct 28 in the U.S.) at 11:20 am NZ (6:20 pm ET, 5:20 pm CT, 4:20 pm MT, 3:20 pm Pacific). The show broadcasts from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area in Texas.

        Here's a link to listen in. I hope you will. [Click the red "Listen Live" button near the top of the main text, roughly in the middle of the screen.]

        We'll be talking about my recent Pajamas Media article, Beyond Politics: Removing the Progressive Drag On America, and presumably other things as well. It promises to be lively, since I'll no doubt be asked my suggestions for how to straighten out the mess the U.S. is in.

        And it’s a big mess.

        Your suggestions are also welcome.


        Wednesday, 27 October 2010

        “The Light” – David Knowles


        When I posted last night’s art post, the stunning sculpture by Mt Eden sculptor Shona Lyon, an old memory stirred. A memory revived by an email this morning.

        It was a memory of this painting from several years ago by Wairarapa artist David Knowles, in a pose that looks oddly similar …

        “Subsidising” Hobbit enterprise? Sounds like a great deal. [Update 2]

        Labour leader Phil Goff isn’t dumb. He just thinks you’re stupid.

        He and his lieutenants have been out in force today saying the unions were caught in “a trap” set by Warner Brothers to negotiate a better deal from the New Zealand Government—a deal, he says, that could net them “a subsidy” of several million dollars.

        This, I’m afraid, is simply spin masquerading as substance.

        First of all, if there were any “trap” into which local unions fell, it was one set by Australian Simon Whipp to help make New Zealand film-making more expensive. Since Warners were all set to film here before Whipp orchestrated a worldwide ban (set to film on the basis of the conditions and exchange rates already in place) all Warners have done now is take advantage of the disruption to see if they can negotiate something better.

        And why wouldn’t they?

        But what they’re negotiating isn’t a “subsidy,” it’s a tax break.  To describe a tax break as a “subsidy” is no more honest than to call what a burglar leaves behind a “gift.” 

        It’s been objected that it makes no sense to offer tax breaks to get companies doing business here because there’ll be no revenue gain to the New Zealand Government.  Anyone saying this is more dumb than they look.  If companies come here and pay no tax at all every single person in New Zealand will still be richer by to the extent of the capital they do invest here, and by the jobs and wealth they create. And the extent they’re not stolen from by the tax man is the greater extent to which they’ll actually be able to create new wealth.

        The objection to that I heard voiced this afternoon is that if Warners, or other foreign companies get a big tax break like this, then pretty soon every company thinking about working here will be wanting them.

        And why wouldn’t they? Hell, even the numb nuts who object to any tax breaks being offered at all at least recognise it will make the company more profitable.

        But since the reason everyone will be wanting them is because it will make them that much more productive (especially if they can re-invest here without fear or new impositions by the grey ones) I don’t see the problem.  Instead, I see potential.

        What I suggest is that the New Zealand Government actually embrace this idea. Recognise that every company would like to be free of such restrictions, and embrace the idea for everyone, not just for Warners.

        Use this as a kick-start for something real.

        Start small. Start perhaps by declaring Enterprise Zones wherever Warners work—let’s start with Miramar and Matamata and anywhere else starting with ‘M’ in between—and announce that whatever tax breaks Warners get, and let’s whatever we do make them generous, that same deal would apply to anyone else working there, whether foreigners, NZers or anyone arriving from Mars.

        Pretty soon, everyone working in those Enterprise Zones will be as rich as Croesus, and eager to work and re-invest here. (Well, everybody but the tax accountants in Matamata and Miramar, who will have to move away to seek work elsewhere.)  And everybody else in New Zealand will be able to reap the benefits of that greater wealth creation, to the extent of the much greater capital that can be re-invested here to create even more wealth.

        How could anyone possibly object?

        Hell, it worked for China.

        UPDATE 1: You see, it solves so many political problems.

        No-one can claim that the Prime Minister is offering special favours to a foreign company. What he’s doing is offering general relief for any company of whatever origin who wants to take advantage of these Zones to be Enterprising.

        And while Helen Kelly objects that NZ would “lose sovereignty” if it accedes to demands from a foreign company to “trash” the employment law that protects NZ workers, it might perhaps be pointed out to her that if these Special Economic Zones were to be set up (with, perhaps, a nomenclatural tip of the hat to the Chinese success story) then no New Zealand worker would be forced to work there—all the rest of New Zealand, with all its present employment restrictions, will still be open to them.

        New Zealand workers, however, being no dumber than any others, will realise very quickly one which side of their bread their employment protection is buttered, and by whom, and would undoubtedly begin stampeding very rapidly towards these Zones in search of work.

        And who could blame them?

        Except for Helen and her ilk who, to remain true to her principles, would have to stand astride their path yelling stop. Which would put all the naysayers like Helen quite evidently on the side opposed to workers making themselves better off.

        Which is to say, in the same position as she is now, only more clearly.

        UPDATE 2: Here’s some other of the sort of rubbish these Enterprise Zones can nix.  Let’s get Chuck into Miramar damn quick:

        Hat tip Stephen Hicks.

        DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Angels, Guardian Angels & Government

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

        This week:  Angels, Guardian Angels & Government

        THE DOCTOR SAYS: Thanks to Rodney Hide’s magnificent achievement at concentrating local government power into the hands of a few, John Key only has to ask one mayor - Len Brown – if he is happy for John to spend $10 million dollars of other people’s money building a flash pub on the Auckland waterfront.
            Easy for John to realise this pipe-dream with our money; not so easy for a school to build a long-jump pit.    
            Isn’t it wonderful that the government has taken over organizing this footy tournament? Martin Snedden might as well go home now, like a good boy. John Key and the big boys, with an endless supply of our money, will take over now.
           Suffice to say the Libz Party would not allow one cent of your money to be taken from you to subsidise a month-long party. Discretionary spending on sporting events should remain a matter of personal choice; it’s none of the government’s business.

        • (NZ Herald) No Hobbit Bidding War – PMJohn Key won’t rule out tax breaks and changes to industrial law under urgency but won’t go to ‘extreme lengths,’ such as shooting union leader Helen Kelly, to ensure a film is made locally.  

        THE DOCTOR SAYS: First sport, now the entertainment industry. Is there any facet of our lives the government doesn’t think it should be overseeing?
           The one beacon of hope from this debacle is that the National government is contemplating giving someone a tax break! Now if John can just extend that tax relief to some of the serfs; you know: the ones who will watch this movie once it’s made. The Libz Party, of course, would give lower-paid people the same tax breaks as millionaire movie moguls.

        • (Wairarapa Times-Age) Boys blamed for $300k arson

          THE DOCTOR SAYS:  Two little angels desecrated dozens of headstones at the Riverside cemetery in Masterton, then lit a fire at the recycling station that caused damage now estimated at closer to $500,000. I could see the plume of black smoke from my home 7 km north of town.
              Two 11-year-olds who have been referred to police Youth Aid. And who will probably never have to compensate the insurance companies whose premium holders will end up footing the bill. And who, in all likelihood, would smirk at the victims of this arson if the parties involved were to sit down at a Family Group Conference (or whatever the PC term for such a meeting is now).
             A lot of people will empathise with retired detective Harry Quinn, who opined recently in the Wairarapa Times-Age that police should be punching criminals in the face rather than using pepper spray, the Taser or firearms.  
              But I have a better idea. It’s called restorative justice. Victim compensation. These kids should be named, and their photographs put on the front page of the Times-Age. They should spend every weekend and school holiday working until age eighteen. When they leave school, they are placed under supervision until the debt is paid off. Their parents can pay the insurance company if they want to, as they bear some of the responsibility for the actions of their offspring, but these kids should have no free weekends until they are adults.  
              Justice being done, and being seen to be done. That’s what it looks like.

        When the people fear the government, there is tyranny – when
        the government fear the people, there is liberty.

        - attributed to Thomas Jefferson

        As much Justice as we can afford

        They can’t talk about it in Parliament, but I’m sure we can all talk about it here.

        “Justice” Bill Wilson has resigned.  A “Justice” who, midst New Zealand’s incestuous legal fraternity, presided over a trial a few years ago in which he clean forgot that one of the lawyers before him was his partner in a business, to whom he owed a significant personal debt.

        “Justice” Wilson found in favour of his partner his partner’s client.

        “Justice” Bill Wilson has now resigned, but not before being given more than a million dollars of your money to extricate his arse from behind the Supreme Court bench (one-million dollars sure buys a lot of Justice, don’t it) a payout that includes half-a-million dollars of your money to cover the cost of his lawyers.

        Actually, that’s mostly lawyer, singular. One Colin Carruthers QC (“QC” standing for Quite Costly), who spent the first first few months after Wilson’s “oversight” came to light lying trying to keep the Justice’s name out of the papers, the next few months offering stories to the media that were patently unbelievable (“my client did not owe the lawyer the debt, M’Lud, and if he does he didn’t remember it”), and has spent these last few months negotiating the terms of this deal—which netted his client sufficient, and more, to get him out of this debt and several more besides.

        Terms which, when Mr Quite Frigging Costly first offered them, were even higher.  (One-million dollars buys you a lot of Justice, but some want more Justice than others.)

        Such is the way “justice” goes in New Zealand.

        H.L. Mencken one expressed his feelings about lawyers this way, “If all the lawyers were hanged tomorrow, and their bones sold to a mah jong factory, we’d be freer and safer, and our taxes would be reduced by almost a half.”

        I know exactly how he feels.

        PS: By the way, in the interests of justice being seen to be done (here at this blog at least, if nowhere else), I should tell you that Mrs Colin Carruthers QFC says in the Herald that poor Mr Wilson (as the Un-Justice will be called from November 5th, Bonfire Day) is as pure as the driven. Owed nothing to no-one. Had no conflicts of interest hearing a case from his business partner. None at all. Has been done like a dinner.

        Which is odd, really, because in the very early days before his friend Mr Wilson’s actions became public, Mr QFC himself “had tried and tried to persuade [Wilson] to disclose the indebtedness but he had adamantly refused.” (“But my client has no indebtedness, M’Lud … ”)

        It’s not just lawyers who lie for a living, is it.

        Here’s John Cale: “I believe you, Mr Wilson … ”

        Tuesday, 26 October 2010

        “Aphrodite” – Shona Lyon

        shonalyon_bronzesculpture_figurative_01 (1) Shona Lyon studied under Martine Vaugel in France (one of our favourite sculptresses) and now produces miracles in bronze, copper and clay in Mt Eden.


        Her website is here.  And you can visit her Mt Eden Gallery and workshop by appointment.

        Ants like water

        Fluid mechanics engineers study similarities in the way ants and fluids act.  “"Due to their restlessness and curiosity, they flow … like a viscous liquid.”  (One of a several cool fluids videos from the Gallery of Fluid Motion.)

        Hat tip Paul Hsieh at Geek Press, where he’s always able to find cool stuff like this.

        QUOTES OF THE DAY: On the GDP Delusion …

        “The whole annual produce of every county is distributed into two great parts; that which is destined to be employed for the purpose of reproduction, and that which is destined to be consumed. That part which is destined to serve for reproduction, naturally, appears again next year, with its profit. This reproduction, with the profit, is naturally the whole produce of the country for that year.”
        - James Mill

        “It is possible to determine in money prices the sum of the income or the wealth of s number of people. But it is nonsensical to reckon national income or national wealth. As soon as we embark upon considerations foreign to the reasoning of a man operating within the pale of a market society, we are no longer helped by monetary calculation. The attempts to determine in money the wealth of a nation or of the whole of mankind are as childish as the mystic efforts to solve the riddles of the universe by worrying about the dimensions of the pyramids of Cheops.”
        ­- Ludwig Von Mises

        “The gross domestic product (GDP) or gross domestic income (GDI) is a measure of a country's overall economic output...”
        - Wikipedia

        “However, GDP is not meant to be a complete measure of all activity and spending in the economy. GDP measures only final output of goods and services. It deliberately leaves out all intermediate production or goods-in-process... Why? ... To include spending at every stage of production would be ‘double’ and ‘triple' counting....”
        - Mark Skousen

        “Keynesian macroeconomics is literally playing with half a deck. It purports to be a study of the economic system as a whole, yet in ignoring productive expenditure it totally ignores most of the actual spending that takes place in the production of goods and services. It is an economics almost exclusively of consumer spending, not an economics of total spending in the production of goods and services.”
                - George Reisman


        I know it will seem strange using the words “significant” and “Phil Heatley” in the same sentence without something more pejorative in between, but over the long weekend while everybody was away the housing minister and former credit-card king slipped out a small but significant announcement on TVNZ’s Q+A programme about the houses the govt owns and rents out.

        Showing he may perhaps have learned some small amount at the housing conferences he was sent to while in opposition, he announced that the government no longer sees its role as an owner of houses (not before time), and will seek to sell some houses to existing tenants; to transfer others to lobbyists private housing providers (complete with tenants, whose rent the govt taxpayer would still subsidise); and for the remainder will implement rolling reviews to ensure that the 22,000 people, or 32 per cent of state house tenants, who have been in their houses for at least 10 years, are not living in more subsidised house than they need.

        It’s not a full solution to divesting govt of a job it shouldn’t even be doing (I look forward to that day with no expectation at all, just as I do to the day it stops subsidising landlords by paying tenants an Accommodation Supplement) but this is a far bolder announcement than I thought the soft-shelled credit-card dodger could countenance.

        Watch out for him to backtrack on it all once the protests start.

        Commiserations [updated]

        My deepest commiserations to the family and boyfriend of Rosemary Ives, and all her colleagues at Wa Ora Montessori School in Lower Hutt. Rosemary was shot over the weekend by an idiot who thought she was a deer—by someone so ignorant he was “hunting” at night in an area populated by campers, shooting illegally from a public road, and was too dumb to bother to check his target before he shot.

        As one of the few Montessori primary-trained teachers in the country, Rosemary had a huge future—a future snuffed out by a moron. This was not the way such a dedicated woman should have ended her life.

        Road toll

        Eight people killed on the roads over one long weekend is a tragedy.

        The tragedy of this weekend’s road toll is that police were led to pursue a flawed traffic policing policy this holiday weekend on the basis of believing their own headlines.

        They were put off by the statistical anomaly of Queens Birthday weekend, when a weekend with no deaths on the roads followed the announcement for that weekend of a traffic policing policy of “zero tolerance” for speed. (A policy that also generated a huge uptick in revenue.)

        All the authorities trumpeted that the policy caused the triumph with the road toll. They were so certain they re-imposed the policy this weekend, and re-ran all the ads and notices warning motorists to watch out for policemen watching them.

        But they forgot that correlation is not causality.

        Trying to convince drivers that speed is everything—that driving a few kph over the speed limit is going to kill us all—and convinced themselves by their own publicity, they  succeeded only in fooling themselves, and being surprised this morning at a number they thought they had no right to expect.

        Eight people killed is a tragedy.  Perhaps some of those drivers might not have died if police over the weekend had focussed on dangerous driving instead of sitting on their bums to collect revenue from motorists driving a few kph over the speed limit.

        Monday, 25 October 2010


        UoA Econ Group 26 Oct-1

        Here’s the spiel for tomorrow night’s (Tuesday night’s) econ evening at Auckland Uni.

        Following popular demand, and as discussed at last week's seminar,  we will continue with seminars during the exam period. We will meet again in the engineering school tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7pm to discuss one of economics' most frequently cited statistics - Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 
        GDP is often used to measure economic growth and it forms an important part of most courses in economics while also playing an important role in shaping government policy. However, often we accept such ideas without critical examination and without assessing the extent to which it achieves what it is claimed to do.
        So in this seminar we will define GDP and show where and how it is applied by economists. But more importantly, we will examine its apparent deficiencies and weaknesses. How is it that in the midst of the current recession, GDP is shown to be rising but that the underlying real-world economic fundamentals continue to deteriorate? Should the concept of GDP be shown to be an empty concept, then the implications and consequences are far reaching for us all. We will discuss what these consequences might be.

            Date: Tuesday 26th October
            Time: 7:00pm
            Location: Engineering 3402

        NB: We are in the same room as last week and at the same time.  If you are unsure, the Engineering Building is 20 Symonds St.  If you walk through the main doors off Symonds St and straight across the hall, room 3402 is to the right.

        Look forward to seeing you there for an interesting and challenging evening.
        Fraser, Julian and Peter