Tuesday, 23 November 2010

So much for honest government

Was the government changed at all at the last election?

You wouldn’t think so.

  • Nanny is still with us.
  • Her anti-smacking law is still with us.
  • Aside from making it easier for the govt to bulldoze houses and factories, the Resource Management Act is fundamentally unchanged.
  • Council rate rises continue to rise, even as their borrowings to fund their spending increases accelerate.
  • The global warming/emissions trading scam continues.
  • Our substance is still eaten out by KiwiRail and KiwiBank, KiwiSaver and Welfare for Working Families, by bureaucrats and central bankers, by the IRD and ACC -- and by politicians whose snouts are in the trough with an arrogance and sense of “entitlement” that normally takes three terms to develop, not just one.
  • And in the face of the biggest economic crisis in seventy years we have a Finance Minister who can talk only about “sharp edges” and “green shoots” “rebalancing,” and between times acts in a manner that makes a deer in the headlights look purposeful.

So it’s all not good. Not good at all. 

And then yesterday it was reconfirmed, as it was was in September last year, and then again back in April this year, that the Electoral Finance Abomination is on its way back again, with just a few tweaks from Simon Power-Lust to pretend that all the campaigning and protesting and marching in the streets to oust Helen’s Electoral Finance Act really  meant something.

But it didn’t.

We marched to tear down Helen’s anti-democratic attack on free speech, only for you lot to vote in this lot to do the same themselves. To replace her Electoral Finance Abomination with their Electoral Finance Abomination-Lite. It includes:

  • a $300,000 spending limit on non-political parties running protest campaigns in the three “official” months of the election.
  • These “third party” protestors must register with the grey ones if they want to spend anything more than buying a classified ad in the Herald;
  • and include their names (and addreses?) on their ads and billboards.
  • "Anti-collusion" measures to really crack down on these jumped-up ne’er-do-wells with the temerity to criticise their betters.
  • More taxpayers’ money gifted to the big two parties to advertise themselves on television and radio to the effective exclusion of the smaller parties.

And of course Labour will support it all because it, too, wants to limit the political competition—any competition at all—from anyone outside the Tweedledum and Tweedledumber of The Big Two parties.

What a crock.

So much for all the pontificating blowhard National Socialist MPS who blew hard and long at rallies around the country about the iniquity of Helen’s Electoral Finance Abomination, only to introduce their own.

Just as they marched and blew hard and long at rallies around the country about the iniquity of Helen’s  ant-smacking law, only to support it themselves.

They are scum, scum, scum, from their back teeth to their bum.

Bernard Darnton said two-and-a-half years ago that he looked forward to seeing the back of Helen Clark, but did not look forward to seeing the front of John Key.

Two-and-a-half years on from exchanging one from another, the only visible difference is a smile and a wave and the endless repetition of the word “relaxed” while things fall to pieces around him.

But of any fundamental change, there is none. None at all.

Here’s a poster produced by Whale Oil based on those produced for the last free speech campaign. All it needs is some funding and a corner site somewhere.


So much for responsible government.

This big-spending government got a wake-up call this weekend, courtesy of the gimlet eye of the ratings agencies who are now scouring the world to find the next Ireland on the horizon—and with this government borrowing a quarter of a billion a week just to tread big-spending water, the New Zealand Government is now in their sights. The Wall Street Journal quotes

_Quote ANZ senior economist Khoon Goh, who says, the outlook revision suggests "Standard & Poors are more concerned about the state of the government's finances than initially thought."
    The net result is that the government will have to tighten its belt more than initially projected and try to return to surplus…

Sadly, it was apparent listening to Billy Bob English on Radio NZ this morning that it’s a wake-up call he’s too tied up in the status quo to take, and that his government is going to carry right on spending more than it has.

So much for responsible government.

The tower from space

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, what exciting times we live in.

Here, for example, is what the tallest structure ever built looks like from the highest resolution satellite in operation—surely an iconic image representing many magnificent human achievements we’ve already begun taking for granted.

GeoEye Picture and story from New Scientist magazine.

Pike River disaster

The thoughts of all involved with this blog are with the friends and families of the trapped Pike River miners.

At this stage, there’s not much more to be said—or that can be. So, pace Wittgenstein, we will remain silent.

Rodriguez House - Rudolph Schindler


A rare big-budget house for architect Rudolph Schindler, this 1930s Californian masterpiece can now be bought for around $3million.



Monday, 22 November 2010

Idiots guide to a public sector that produces no wealth

Producers produce. Governments consume. And so it has always been.

And if governments continue to grow as they have—consuming in the process their country’s substance—they’re going to bury everyone, consumers and producers alike, in the mountain of government debt that no-one can pay for except the very producers they’re killing off.

Martin Durkin shows how Britain reached this parlous state.

Don’t laugh. It’s all equally true for us, as well.

Government spending is not productive spending; what it spends it spends almost entirely on consumption. Explains George Reisman,

_Quote In the same sense as a housewife, the government is not a producer but a consumer, who is dependent upon producers.  All of its physical production, like hers, is in the last analysis a consumptive production. It is a production which cannot replace the means with which it began ...  a production which leaves the government poorer by the amount of funds it has expended.  In order to continue the activity, resort must be had to an external source of funds -- in the government's case, the taxpayers or the printing press.”

Government spending always has to be paid for.  Deficits even more so—

with interest.

And perhaps even worse than this ongoing consumption of our substance by the grey ones—and the widespread ignorance about the destructive process it represents—is the enormous number of bright, intelligent, resourceful individuals who, instead of working to produce things, head off to work every morning to sit behind a government desk writing reports on how the life of producers can be made more difficult.

And the tragedy is, they think their efforts are worthwhile.

Electile Dysfunction: ‘None of the Above’ Wins Mana By-election

Guest post by Dr Richard McGrath

Libertarianz Party leader Dr Richard McGrath said Saturday’s debacle in Mana was an embarrassing kick in the guts for the two main political parties, with only 55% of people judging any candidate worthy of their vote.
    He suggested that in any by-election where less than 50% of people vote, the seat should remain vacant until the next general election.
    “Kris Faafoi struggled to win the support of a quarter of eligible Mana voters. What sort of mandate is that?”
    “Our own candidate, Sean Fitzpatrick, took a pasting on Saturday, receiving 43 votes - despite a great effort on the campaign trail.”
    “But the big losers in this by-election are the Labour and BlueLabour candidates. On election night they were well beaten into the minor placings by ‘None of The Above’, which garnered an impressive 45% of votes.”
      “The people have spoken. ‘None of the Above should now take their seat in Parliament…”

Read more here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Conservatives Misread Lomborg's "Cool It"

Guest post by Jeff Perren

Several recent conservative commentaries offer a sympathetic review of Bjorn Lomborg's global warming documentary "Cool It."

These well-mannered gentlemen have been snookered.

According to the approving Spectator story, "Mr. Lomborg's thesis is straightforward: Global warming is real and humanity needs to do something about it."

PC has provided countless links pointing to data that radically undermine the scientific portion of that thesis. In the past ten years it's been exposed as incoherent, evidentially weak, and often supported by outright fraud.

The policy portion is even worse. The idea that "we" should do anything about the climate - beyond leaving individuals free to adapt to any changes that occur - is the fatal flaw in Dr. Lomborg's argument. No matter what we discover about the physics of the Earth, the politics of the world — not to mention human nature — make it clear that capitalism is the best cure... if there were any problem to solve.

Lomborg may be more skeptical and slightly less statist than many of his fellow Greens, but he still accepts their basic views. He's still committed to Comtean altruism, Roussean environmentalism, and garden-variety collectivism. He still touts a highly dubious hypothesis to justify them. Running around Africa crying over the poor doesn't change any of that.

Bjorn Lomborg is more dangerous than Al Gore precisely because he appears (and is) more moderate. Obvious con men like Gore expose their own racket before long. It's those who are more apparently reasonable - but still opposed to individualism and freedom - who do most of the damage today. Smiley-faced fascism is still fascist. Nanny may intend to be kind, but it's still unwise to give her $100 Billion of taxpayer funds and the power of the State in order to 'do good'.

Friday, 19 November 2010

General Debate

_Fekete I’ve just spent a fascinating week in the company of some wonderful people at Professor Antal Fekete’s Symposium on Sound Money (right), and now I’m heading off to Great Barrier Island for some R&R.

My thanks to Louis Boulanger and Professor Fekete for an outstanding and enthralling week.

While I’m away, why not treat this post as an  opportunity to debate whatever you want to, and raise whatever points you wish to.  Think of it as a managed commons.

What’s on your mind?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Demeter & Persephone

Deméter_tipo_Madrid-Capitolio_(Museo_del_Prado)_01 Demeter was the Greek goddess of the harvest, and Persephone, her beautiful daughter, the goddess of the seasons (who Pluto famously “took to wife”).

In a pre-scientific culture intimately dependent on the vagaries of the harvest, where a bad crop could mean famine and death, the manner in which the gods or goddesses responsible for the life-giving harvest is personified tells you a lot about the culture.hades450

In most cultures, the god was a violent, unpredictable god requiring placation. (A personification in mythic form of the malevolent universe premise.) But in the Hellenic Greek culture, the life-giving divinities were depicted not as monsters or ogres with the arbitrary power of life or blod-curdling death, but as beautiful women who must be seduced—a a depiction in stone and ceramics of the sunlit, benevolent universe premise that would inform and eventually permeate the life-affirming pagan Greek philosophy to come.

And artists today still use the myths to tell a tale that Homer told


NOT PJ: The Todger Screening Administration [update 2]

_BernardDarnton This week, Bernard Darnton found some nudie pics on the Internet. They're of you.

The latest weapon against airborne terrorism is nudie pictures, with backscatter x-ray machines being installed at airports across America.
    Normal x-rays machines use radiation that passes through an object and can detect dense things like guns, femurs, and the various household objects that people waddle into A&E having “accidently” sat on.   
    Backscatter x-ray machines, however, measure reflected x-rays. While fabrics appear invisible the radiation is scattered by most other things, like guns, explosives, and penises.    The Fiqh Council of North America has issued a fatwa stating that the nudie-scope is un-Islamic for its violation of modesty. Save your breath guys. Strip searches without warrants or probable cause are un-American, too, but nobody’s listening.
    Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’” Those were simpler times. That statement has mutated into, “I’m from the government and I’m here to take photos of your cock.”
    All this is in response to the attempt to blow up a plane last Christmas by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a.k.a. “Smokin’” Umar, the underpants bomber. Abdulmutallab’s plot raised many questions, chief among them: How do you explain to the seventy-two virgins, who’ve been eagerly waiting for you their whole afterlives, that you’ve just blown your todger off?
    The second question was: What’s happened to al Qaeda? 9/11 was simple, ingenious, and devastating. The underpants plot was so bad it would’ve been rejected by ‘Allo ‘Allo.
    The third question was: What’s the dimmest knee-jerk reaction we can have to our hopeless security lapse?
After 9/11 the instant response was to ban anything sharper than an Oscar Wilde story from aircraft cabins. (In New Zealand the Aviation Security Service was formed so hastily that they forgot to check that it’s acronym wasn’t ASS.)
    After Richard Reid’s shoe bombs (again, WTF al Qaeda?) passengers had to remove their shoes at the security gate. Clearly, getting everyone to remove their pants for x-raying was too dumb even for the Department of Homeland Security so the nudie-scope it had to be.
    Passengers who don’t want to be photographed by the nudie-scope can opt out and have a good old-fashioned groping instead. As Ben Franklin once said, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will end up getting its bollocks gripped by the government.”
    Protesters recommend the groping because it slows down the queue to the point of impracticality and requires the government flunky to molest you face-to-face (or hand to bollock as the case may be) in the hopes that this is embarrassing for him too. November 24th has been designated National Wear A Kilt To The Airport Day.
    What Ben Franklin actually said was, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” He is backed up by Rafi Sela, former head of security at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, a man who knows about fending off murderous nutters. He says that Israel hasn’t bothered with body scanning technology because the machines are “useless.” “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.”
    I assume he’s talking about the old cocaine smugglers’ trick. If the machine maps the outside of a passenger’s body in exquisite detail, carry the explosives on the inside. Come on al Qaeda - let’s see how big your arsenal really is.
   The truth is that all this remove-your-laptop-battery, take-off-your-shoes, drop-your-pants nonsense, known as “security theatre,” won’t stop terrorists but it will make life unpleasant for the rest of us. You are now assumed to be a criminal the moment you walk into an American airport.
    Security expert Bruce Schneier believes that security theatre does nothing to protect us. What he claims will protect us is intelligence gathering, understanding Islamic organisations, diligent police work, and having the sort of society where people don’t want to become terrorists.
    Notwithstanding the horror and drama of 9/11, bringing down an airliner won’t destroy our way of life. A hyperbolic and misguided response to the threat just might. It’s time American air travellers told their government to stop taking liberties.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column
here every Thursday, barring drinking accidents. * *

UPDATE 1: Lindsay Perigo offers a robust critique of the elephant in the Todger Screening room: It's the Muslims, Stoopid!.”

UPDATE 2: New #TSAslogans suggested on Twitter include:

  • "Remember -- if the government doesn't squeeze your nads, then the terrorists win!"
  • Former Sen. Larry Craig defends TSA: Says he really enjoys new pat down policy.
  • Molesting. It’s Not Just for Catholic Priests.
  • Bend over and take it like a man.
  • Please place your hats, shoes, and self respect in the bins.
  • We're the people ur mother warned u about.
  • You'll need more than 3oz of personal lotion by the time we get through with you.
  • If you want to fly, you can't be shy.
  • Don't ask, don't swell.

Pueblo Rivera Holiday Houses – Rudolph Schindler

EXTERIOR1 A series of twelve simple yet delightful holiday houses designed in the 1920s by Viennese architect Rudolph Schindler. EXTERIOR2

Simple one-bedroom houses with a sleeping porch above.pueblo1_thumb[2] And, yes, I did say “the 1920s.” That’s when the “look”  now so popular first saw the light of day, and  the architects who developed it then knew what they were about.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ten centuries in five minutes

Here’s a great animated map showing Europe’s changing borders over the last millennia.  There’s nothing so impermanent as a border. Or an empire. [Hat tip Scott Powell]

HINT: Pause the video and drag the slider along manually to see it in all its glorious detail.

GUEST POST: Sustainability Isn’t Sustainable

Guest post by patent specialist Dale Halling

Sustainability is all the rage today.  What do we mean by sustainability?  There are numerous and conflicting definitions of what sustainability means.  However, most sources point to the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), also known as the Brundtland Report.  
    According to the 1987 Brundtland Report, sustainability is:

_Quote_Idiot Meeting the needs of the present generation without
compromising the ability of future generations
to meet their needs.

This definition is not testable and is incredibly vague.  Let’s take the word “sustainable” literally.  A sustainable technology would be one that can be used indefinitely by humans without side effects and without any diminution in its effectiveness.  This definition violates the laws of physics.  Entropy is the second law of thermodynamics and is normally defined as the measure of the disorder of a system or a measure of the energy not available for work.  Entropy was discovered as part of thermodynamics and it explains that a perpetual motion machine is impossible.  Entropy always increases in a closed system.  Sustainability taken literally is an attempt to create a perpetual motion machine.
    Some of the key issues for the sustainability crowd revolve around so called non-renewable resources, such as the use of fossil fuels and the using up of other natural resources.  The way this is often phrased today is Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak _____ (Pick Your Favorite Resource).  [For more of the same, see Peak Everything: Eight Things We are Running Out of and Why.[2]]
    Peak Oil (natural resource) allegedly occurs when the amount of oil that can be extracted reaches its maximum or the point at which we reach the maximum net energy output from oil.  The alternative definition takes into account that even if we can extract more oil, this is irrelevant if it takes more energy to extract the oil than we receive from the oil. 
    The supposed solution for our “Peak Oil problem” is to develop renewable energy resources.  The Clean Energy website provides the following definition:

_Quote_IdiotRenewable energy is natural energy which does not have a
limited supply.  Renewable energy can be used over and over
again, and will never run out.

    What is “natural” energy?  Either all energy is natural and comes from nature, or only animal muscle power is natural.  The “natural” qualification is complete nonsense – unless they really want us to go back to animal muscle only. 
    Moreover, the “never run out” qualification itself violates entropy.  All energy resources will run out eventually.All energy sources—fossil fuels, solar, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, hydrothermal, fission, fusion, etc.—are at base solar, or at least stellar.**  And the Sun will not last forever and does not provide unlimited energy.  The concept of renewable energy that “will never run out” and “can be used over and over again” is fatuous nonsense.  It violates the second law of thermodynamics, entropy.
    This concept of “peak resources” is not new.  For instance, the fertilizer crisis of the 19th century.  In 1830 it was discovered that guano was an excellent fertilizer.  Population exploded, as guano was used in Europe, because of the additional food that was produced because of this excellent fertilizer and mechanization.  The best sources of guano began to run out fairly quickly.  People predicted the equivalent of “Peak Guano.”  The question was not whether we would have “Peak Guano,” but Peak Fertilizer?  We did not have a guano problem we had an invention problem.  The Haber-Bosch process was invented in 1909, which allowed fixing nitrogen in air and solved the “Peak Guano” problem.[5]
And therein lies the lesson.
    Reason magazine’s article “Peak Everything?” discusses how logical, scientific projections showed we would run out of lithium, neodymium, and phosphorus.[6] “Peak lithium” was going to limit the batteries necessary for electric cars.  In fact, we would run out of lithium faster than we would run out of oil.  The solution is a new invention that replaces lithium with zinc air batteries.  Note that the solution was not a better way to extract lithium, but to make the supply of lithium irrelevant.  It is a paradigm shift created by a new invention. 
    Peak neodymium is going to limit our ability to build the electric motors of hybrid cars as well as other products.  Interestingly, neodymium magnets were invented to overcome the problem of peak cobalt.  In the area of permanent magnets, it appears that a new induction motor will eliminate the need for permanent magnets. 
    Peak phosphorus is a repeat of Peak Guano.  Peak phosphorous threatens our ability to provide enough fertilizer for our agricultural needs.  One solution, recognises that phosphorous is a product of human urine.  The phosphorous can be recycled using a no-mix toilet.
    The lesson should be obvious:

_Quote Paul Romer has observed, “Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas. We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding: possibilities do not merely add up; they multiply.”[7]

    The computer industry was also beset by predictions of impeding doom when it could no longer achieve Moore’s law of doubling the number of transistors every eighteen months.  Ray Kurzweil has shown that if you restate Moore’s law as computational power, every time a technology reaches its limit to improve computational power a new technology takes over.  Using this he shows that computational power has been growing exponentially since 1900.  The first computational devices were electromechanical.  When this reached their limit, they were replaced with relay devices, then these were replaced with vacuum tubes, then transistors, and then integrated circuits.[8]
Life is a fight against entropy.  The unique way humans overcome entropy is by inventing.  Inventing is the answer to “Peak Anything.”
    Inventions are not subject to diminishing returns or entropy.  Potential inventions grow factorially, which is much faster than diminishing returns from natural resources shrinks.  We do not have a natural resources problem, we have an invention problem. 
    The sustainability crowd are not pushing science, they are pushing a political slogan.  And in the process, by diverting resources from the most promising technologies to the most politically acceptable, they are actually inhibiting new technologies from being developed.

* * * *

** (Hydroelectric energy, for example is the result of the Sun heating the oceans or other large bodies of water.  As the water evaporates and then condenses in the form of rain or snow on land masses it is collected in dams.  The dams converted the gravitation force of the water into electric energy.  Fossil fuels are created by plants converting sunlight into biomass (including animals).  The biomass is trapped underground by sea sediment and the pressure and heat converts the biomass into oil, coal, natural gas, etc.[4] Fission is the process whereby heavy elements, generally Uranium, are split into lighter elements and energy is released.  These heavy elements were created in a star that has long since expired.  Thus, all energy is Solar or at least stellar.)

Dale Halling is an American patent attorney and entrepreneur, and the author of the book The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.
Read his regular thoughts at his
State of Innovation blog. This post, with all its references, originally appeared THere.

DOWN TO THE DOCTORS: Wristwatch persecution - whose property is safe now?

_richardmcgrath  This week,  the Doctor speaks out about theft.

National Hero’s Widow Persecuted Over Wristwatch
- Whose Property is Safe Now?

    “If the wristwatch left to Lady Hillary is no longer hers to sell, then who in New Zealand is secure in their personal effects?” asked Libertarianz Party leader Dr Richard McGrath.
     He called for Chris Finlayson to immediately rescind the decision by the ministry for culture and heritage, which the Libertarianz Party would abolish instantly - along with many other government agencies, departments and ministries - if elected.
    “This bullying big-government attitude is not what the people expected, having tossed out Helen Clark,” he added.
“By his failure to block this egregious act of harassment of a private citizen, Chris Finlayson has effectively devalued - or abolished - private property rights in this country.”
    “If relatively minor items such as a timepiece are subject to the predatory avarice of bureaucrats, what hope is there for items such as gold bullion, to which people worldwide are turning as central bankers busy themselves debasing paper currencies?” he asked.
    “Will the gold that people hold - as hyperinflation looms on the horizon - be seized to help shore up our crumbling paper currency?”
    ”In the wake of this appalling treatment of Lady Hillary, who can rule out further seizures of any private asset Chris Finlayson’s ministry takes a shine to?”
    “The Libertarianz Party says it is not the government’s concern what people choose to do with their own property. John Key’s Nationalisation Party on the other hand clearly believes the government should own anything and everything it wants. These two views are incompatible.”
    “Those who voted for the Nationalisation Party in 2008 should ask themselves the following: Is New Zealand really any better off than it was three years ago? In particular, has this administration stuck by the core values of national and personal security, individual freedom, and limited government it promotes on its website?”
    “Does the Nationalisation Party deserve your continuing support in the wake of this outrageous example of big-government bullying?”
    Richard McGrath said the Libertarianz Party, in contrast to all its opponents, will offer a policy platform at next year’s election that would enable a trimmed-down government to focus on a very small list of core functions.
    “New Zealanders need to have confidence that their property is safe from arbitrary seizure by the state. Surely theft and extortion is wrong, whether done by individual criminals or by the government.”
    Dr McGrath suggested that if they are to be consistent, the ministry for culture will also have to seize watches belonging to the widows and families of Everest-climber Rob Hall, World Cup winning All Black John Drake and double international Eric Tindall.
    “Perhaps that will be enough to get the outcry this disgusting nationalisation deserves.”

Read Doc McGrath’s regular column every Wednesday here at NOT PC.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

PUBLIC LECTURE TONIGHT: The role of gold in the monetary system [updated]

Reminding you all about tonight’s public lecture in Auckland, to which you’re all welcome.

PUBLIC LECTURE: The role of gold in the monetary system
With special overseas guest - Professor Antal Fekete

_Quote Gold is the leash on which the frugal must keep the
prodigal. It was this leash from which the banks and the
government wanted to escape when they first
sabotaged and then junked the gold standard…
One could say that since taxation and treasury departments
were invented, a great tug-of-war has been going on
between the frugal and the prodigal. The latter is the consortium of banks and government. The former is the saving public…

- Antal Fekete

    President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick wrote this week that a new international monetary system should  "consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values."  And yet many, including Paul Krugman, still see gold as a “barbarous relic” that has no place in a modern society.
    Tonight, the University Economics Group is pleased to present a seminar by Professor Antal Fekete, a proponent of the gold standard and critic of the current monetary system.
    With talk of currency wars and continued financial instability dominating the headlines, there has never been a more important time to examine the foundations of the current monetary system. This is a unique opportunity to hear an alternative view about what makes money ‘sound’ and ‘unsound’, as well as the historical (and possibly future) role of gold as the anchor in the monetary system.
    Born in Hungary, Professor Fekete is a retired Professor of Mathematics and Statistics from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada who now devotes his time to writing and lecturing on fiscal and monetary reform with special regard to the role of gold and silver in the monetary system. He has taught at universities around the world including Columbia and Princeton.
    Date: Tonight, Tuesday 16 November
    Time: 7:00pm
    Location: Engineering School, 20 Symonds St, Room 3402
                             UPDATE: There’s been a late change of room to a bigger venue.
                             We’re now in “Case Room 4,” Level O, Owen G. Glenn Business School
                                        (NB:You can park underneath the Business School on Grafton Rd.)
Don't miss this opportunity to hear Professor Fekete speak about this important topic during his brief visit to New Zealand.
There’s no cost for an evening that could not be more topical.
All welcome!
And don't forget to invite your friends.

A good lesson from a young Ferrari

Here's a good story coming from a bad result and a demented overreaction.  RadioNZ reports that

_QuoteFerrari bosses have roasted Italian politicians after some called for heads to roll over the team's failure to win the Formula One championship.
    Roberto Calderoli, a government minister, said Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo should quit after a "demented strategy" at yesterday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix cost Spaniard Fernando Alonso a possible third title.

That’s not the good part of the story. This is:

_Quote Piero Ferrari, son of the carmaker's late founder Enzo, said he was "astonished and saddened" by statements made by some politicians, reminding them that Ferrari has done so much more for Italy's global image than the country's politicians will ever achieve.

True, true, true. With rare and heroic exceptions (Jefferson, Churchill, Thatcher, Havel, Klaus) an undisputable truth in virtually every country you care to name.

And a point worth making every damn day.

“To Sir E. Hillary”

ToSirEd What’s yours isn’t yours as long as the government says it isn’t.

I speak of course of a letter to Lady Hillary, the wife of Sir Ed, to whom he left his watches when he died.

Read that: His watches. Watches owned by him. Watches which were given as gifts to him, over which he therefore had, quite legitimately, complete freedom of disposal.

This, however, is not the view of the meretricious, meddling arsehole from the Orwellianly-titled Ministry of Culture and Heritage who wrote the aforementioned letter.

That shiny-arsed arsehole stated in its letter the view that Sir Ed’s watches—specifically a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Oyster awarded to him after he climbed Mt Everest (I emphasis the appropriate words just to make it clear who was up Everest achieving heroism, and who therefore is the owner of the fruits of that feat)—belong not to the hero who climbed Everest and to whom the watch is actually engraved, Sir E. Hillary, but to all the non-climbers and seat-warmers who sat at home basking in his reflected glory.

The fact that Sir Ed achieved such a magnificent accomplishment is all the more reason, according to the arsehole, for confiscating the fruits therefrom.

What a disgusting perversion of morality.

This letter-writing arsehole would have found a fruitful home for itself in the places whereof Orwell often spoke. The sort of place in which heroes become public property, success becomes a reason for punishment, and the fruits of achievement become the object of confiscation—and the greater the achievement, the more virulent the confiscatory power.

I did not think New Zealand had got there yet.

But perhaps I am wrong.

There’s Pansy … [updated]

"There's pansies, that's for thoughts."
- Ophelia, Hamlet

The fall of disgraced minister Pansy Wrong offers both thoughts and opportunities.

To lose one minister for abuse of office is an accident. To lose two looks like carelessness. John Key knows that’s what we’re all thinking.

Key says Wrong should not answer questions about her abuse of her parliamentary office to those who paid for her and her husband’s holidays and business trips, i.e., the taxpayers, until all the facts about her abuse of those trips and that office are known.

Translation (straight from the Sir Humphrey Appleby Handbook): “This problem is a bloody nuisance, but we hope that by the time Parliamentary Services reports, four months from now, everyone will have forgotten about it or we can find someone else to blame.*

The fact is that she knows the facts. And if she doesn’t, she’s incompetent. So she should answer now either to her dishonesty or to her incompetence—or both. Now, not when the story has blown over.

The flatulence of John Key on this is disgraceful.

But the demise of the minister of Ethnic Affairs and Women’s Affairs offers a heaven-sent opportunity for him to be decisive.

As the former minister shuffles off into the dustbin of history, he should grasp this as the ideal; opportunity to put the ministries there too over which she presided with such anonymity. Announce that it’s time for them to stop spending money we don’t have to produce reports no-one reads. Time, in other words, to take a hike.

In all the years of their existence, it’s not like they’ve actually achieved anything with all the money we’ve been forced to spend on them.

That’s just one opportunity.

And it offers the opportunity too to declare than MPs will no longer receive the perks about which they’ve demonstrably shown they can’t be trusted to be honest.  They must be confiscated without compensation—the only appropriate reaction in a deep recession.

This is surely however an idea whose time has come.

Naturally, however, since such opportunities exist for the PM to be decisive, this flatulent status-quo worshipper will do neither.

UPDATE: You can always rely on David Farrar to completely fail to understand that there’s a world outside Wellington.

The Royal NZ Herald reports:

_Quote An increase to MPs’ salaries is almost inevitable if the Prime Minister’s bid to get rid of their foreign-travel perks is successful.

To which the pink Tory responds:

_QuoteIt is.

Well, no, David. It is not. Or should not be. But what might help make it inevitable is lame-arse lame-brained “analysis” like yours, suggesting these overpaid burdens on the taxpayer deserve more of the same instead of the kick in the pants they deserve.

In case you and your coterie of Beehive Bludgers hadn’t noticed (which you haven’t), whatever your jacked up figures say, we out here in the real world are in middle of a quite severe recession.

Such a time is not the time to increase salaries. It’s a time to cut them—and really quite savagely. It’s a time for these highly-paid and highly-visible beneficiaries to lead by example.

Pansy’s abuse (on top of abuse by legions of others, including Roger Douglas and Rodney Hide) is the ideal opportunity to do that.

In my submission, if anyone were to listen to the Manatee’s ill-thought rationalisations for raising MPs’ salaries then, it would be an(other) example of the benighted following the delusional.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Birkenhead Library - ArchOffice

BirkenheadLibrary I always enjoy being able to praise local art and architecture, when it’s worthy of such praise.

Here’s another prize-winner in the recent NZ Timber Design Awards.  It’s basically the decoration of an otherwise uninteresting box, but what’s striking for me is how effective the sparse palette and relatively simply-done decoration is (it’s unfortunate that the theme wasn’t carried through a bit more, to the light panels for example, or that more natural light isn’t welcomed in—but there you go).

The theme of the fretted ceiling panels and sun shades evokes the light quality of a forest glade, an effect complemented by the counterpuntal balustrade fins and the reflections from the (otherwise unattractive) glass balustrading.

It makes a welcoming interior appropriate for the space; one that’s pleasant to be in and not at all overdone.Birkenhead02 

Well done ArchOffice.

MONDAY MORNING RAMBLE: Because Monday I have last Friday on my mind

Yes, I’m sure you missed my regular ramble last Friday. So here are some links to stories and shows around the world of the internet to make it harder to do your work on a wet Monday morning, but much easier to understand why you should.

  • Cartoon characters explain Ben Bernanke. [Hat tip Scott P]
     QE2 Explained by Cartoon Characters – D V O R A K    U N C E N S O R E D
  • Robert Higgs fisks Ben Bernanke.
    Notes on Bernanke’s Apologia for QE2  - Robert Higgs,  I N D E P E N D E N T   I N S T I T U T E
  • In the wake of the ongoing collapse of Bretton Woods II, World Bank president Robert Zoellick called for a “managed” gold standard last week. Richard Ebeling explains why his call should be taken seriously.
    A Return to the Gold Standard – Richard Ebeling,   N O R T H W O O D  U N I V E R S I T Y
  • But Zoellick’s “managed” gold standard would leave all the gold in the hands of government. Constitutional lawyer, historian and scholar Edwin Vieira agrees the world urgently needs the sound money of a gold standard, but insists it must be one that leaves gold coins in the pockets of workers.  It’s really all or nothing for financial freedom.
    A Cross of Gold – E dwin Vieira, G . A . T . A
  • _Fekete My thanks to economist Alntal Fekete for the above story, the man sometimes called “the Einstein of Money,” to whom I listened with rapt attention over the weekend (right), and will again this week at his Auckland Symposium on sound money.
    Auckland: Symposium on Sound Money  - Louis Boulanger
  • “We are seeing a steady erosion of fundamental legal protections in New Zealand and a parallel increase in the powers of the police and other state agencies.”  And they all claim to speak for “the public good.” Bet you didn’t know which long-dead French philosopher is ultimately to blame.
    Rousseau and the right to silence 
    –   M A N D E N O    M U S I N G S
  • Tim Black explains why the British housing industry is in ruins. There are lessons here to which our own central planners are blind, blind, blind.
    Why the housing industry is in ruins – S P IK E D
  • Measuring the Stimulunacy: Just another reason it didn’t work, and can’t: “Not all jobs are created equal. It cost more than $500,000 in economic stimulus funds to create a single highway construction job…”
    Tracking the stimulus: Some jobs cost more to create –  U S A   T O D A Y
  • The Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the best thing for fish stock since … well, ever!
    Oils spills versus fishing – O F S E T T I N G   B E H A V I O U R
  • As we approach the next financial crisis—the one the central bankers are making more necessary—it’s worth watching (again) this ‘Four Corners’ special that appeared on Australian television back in August.

This week American travellers “enjoyed” the introduction of pervert-cam and forced fisking. Here’s one liberal who got mugged by the thugs.

  • I’ve discovered the VERY best way to make yourself immune to Christopher Hitchens. It’s to read his memoirs. Spend a few days in the company of the smug git, who could name-drop for England, and you’re left unwilling to spend any more time in his company ever again.
    Hitch-22 is more interesting for what it leaves out – S P I K E D
  • Russia today is looking the same politically as it did under the Czar. After seven years in prison for the crime of being successful, the former owner of Yukos—who watched his business nationalised by Putin’s goons from his cell—finally gets his day in court before being shipped to today’s Gulag. “Says he:"Here and now the fate of every citizen of our country is being decided.”
    ‘The Fate of Every Citizen Is Being Decided’ – N E W  Y O R K   T I M E S
  • "The Day The Internet Threw A Righteous Hissyfit About Copyright And Pie" [hat tip PaulB] http://n.pr/cWHHAx
  • I’ve been telling you this for years, but if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe these archaeologists:
    Beer Lubricated the Rise of Civilization, Study Suggests – L I V E   S C I E N C E
    [Hat tip Ian J.
  • Australia’s ABC radio’s Classical Music Station just ran a listener’s poll on their top 100 classical pieces. No Wagner, no Verdi, and they’ve voted a piece of shopping music into number four, but it’s a pretty good top three, and if you’re new to classical music and want to explore more, it might be useful to start exploring what spins other folks’ wheels.
    The Classic 100 –  A B C    C L A S S I C   F M
  • All this talk about “multiculturalism.” Does everyone really know what multiculturalism means?
     Multiculturalism Gone Wild [PODCAST] – Alex Epstein,   J E S S E   L E E  P E T E R S O N  S H O W
  • More stupid stories that become news: Irish PriceWaterhouse employees rank female employees. Story goes viral. Check out the story (and the top ten skirt-wearers).
    The 'Top 10' Office Email That's Scandalizing Ireland – G A W K E R
  • The great H. L, Mencken explains how to perpetrate a scholastic urban myth.
    Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub – C U L T U R E   J A M M I N G
  • Peikoff speaks. And so does Yaron.
    Peikoff vs an ARI Board Member  - L E N A R D   P E I K O F F
    Dear ARI supporter:... - A . R . I .
    People react all over.
  • Bye bye Dim Post. We didn’t always agree, but I almost always laughed.
    This rough magic I here abjure  - D I M   P O S T
  • 500x_hamburga Important news for Burger users.
    The Truth Behind the Everlasting Happy Meal: Burgers That Size Don't Rot 
    – G I Z M O D O
  • Good people die, while others who should have don’t…
    Polish composer Henryk Gorecki dies at the age of 76 – B B C
    Meanwhile, ”according to Stuff: Phil Collins has contemplated killing himself, and would always pick an option that "didn't hurt". I so identify with this story. I too have contemplated killing Phil Collins..”
    We Came So Close To Losing Phil Collins – I M P E R A T O R   F I S H
  • How do great artists become great? Ask Stephen Hicks.
    More on how great artists become great -  S T E P H E N   H I C K S
  • Two comedians do Michael Caine at three paces.

  • And finally pinched from Lindsay Mitchell (who I have to thank again for an excellent presentation at the Libz conference)…  this was said over one hundred years ago but people still don't get it:

“I'd rather that England should be free than
that England should be compulsorily sober.
With freedom we might in the end attain sobriety, but
in the other alternative we should eventually lose
both freedom and sobriety.”
— W.C. Magee, Archbishop of York, Sermon to Peterborough [1868]

Friday, 12 November 2010

Stuff to go to

Three events here to get excited about, in reverse chronological order.

* * This Tuesday it’s…

UoA Econ Group 16 Nov-1

PUBLIC LECTURE: The role of gold in the monetary system

With special overseas guest - Professor Antal Fekete

    President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick wrote this week that a new international monetary system should  "consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values."  And yet many, including Paul Krugman, still see gold as a “barbarous relic” that has no place in a modern society.
    This coming Tuesday the 16th of November at 7pm, the University Economics Group is pleased to present a seminar by Professor Antal Fekete, a proponent of the gold standard and critic of the current monetary system. With talk of currency wars and continued financial instability dominating the headlines, there has never been a more important time to examine the foundations of the current monetary system. This is a unique opportunity to hear an alternative view about what makes money ‘sound’ and ‘unsound’, as well as the historical (and possibly future) role of gold as the anchor in the monetary system.
    Born in Hungary, Professor Fekete is a retired Professor of Mathematics and Statistics from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada who now devotes his time to writing and lecturing on fiscal and monetary reform with special regard to the role of gold and silver in the monetary system. He has taught at universities around the world including Columbia and Princeton.
    Date: Tuesday 16 November
    Time: 7:00pm
    Location: Engineering School, 20 Symonds St, Room 3402
Don't miss this opportunity to hear Professor Fekete speak about this important topic during his brief visit to New Zealand. There’s no cost for an evening that could not be more topical.
Al welcome! And don't forget to invite your friends.

* * Starting next Monday…

Auckland: Symposium on Sound Money

When the US Federal Reserve dumps a half-trillion dollar bolus of money created out of thin air into the veins of the American banking system (a mainline of government bailout crack representing the last gasp of a desperate but already exploded Keynesian orthodoxy) and the Bank of England governor Mervyn King says it’s time to talk about “eliminating fractional reserve banking” (the first gasp, perhaps, of a much-needed and long-overdue mainstream sanity) you should know it’s time to get the concept of sound money into perspective.
It’s essential self-defence for your pocket book!

goldstandard3 A week-long Symposium on Sound Money, presented by Louis Boulanger, and
delivered by the man sometimes called the “Einstein of Money," Professor Antal Fekete from his School of New Austrian Economics.
    Professor Fekete will explain  what he means by an ‘unadulterated gold standard,’ how today’s fiat-based monetary system is destroying both savings and jobs, and the role of gold as numéraire and the ultimate extinguisher of all debts.
    This is a unique opportunity to hear a world authority present an alternative view about what makes money ‘sound,’ and how ‘unsound ‘ money is pushing us to the very brink of disaster once again, based on history…
    Each of the ten lectures will last one hour and will be followed by a question and answers period lasting up to one hour. There will be one lecture per morning, starting at 9.30am, and one lecture per afternoon, starting at 2pm.

The course runs from Monday 15 November to Friday 19 November 2010, at the Owen G. Glenn Business School of the University of Auckland. Get on to it now. (Tell them I sent you.)

Details here.

Download the symposium programme here.

Email the event manager here.

Tomorrow (Saturday)…


Auckland plays host tomorrow to the annual Libertarianz party conference--and, naturally, you're invited.
We have a fantastic line-up of speakers, including world-leading Austrian economist Anton Fekete--here to talk about everything that's topical, including gold, and more--and local campaigner to abolish the DPB, Lindsay Mitchell. On top of that we have all our regular speakers including leading local blogger Peter Cresswell; Libz candidate in the Mana by-election Sean Fitzpatrick; NZ's answer to PJ O'Rourke, Bernard Darnton; and Libz leader and luminary Dr Richard McGrath.
So come Down to the Doctor’s and charge your freedom-loving batteries at the 2010 Libz conference this Saturday, for the risibly low price of just $40. Come along and register on the day.
        WHEN: Saturday November 13, 9:30am to 4pm
        WHERE: Dukes Midway Lodge, off Pah Rd, Royal Oak.
For more details, jump onto www.libertarianz.org.nz,
It's going to be a great day! Don't miss out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Peter Schiff on Ben Bernanke [update]

_QuoteDespite the devastation of the Fed’s previous burst bubbles ... Bernanke still believes in the virtue of pumping. His current policy is to inflate another stock market bubble to cure the recession that resulted from the bursting of the housing bubble, which was itself inflated to counter the effects of the bursting tech stock bubble.
Does the story of the old lady who swallowed the fly come to mind? She eventually tried swallowing a horse, and we know how that ended.
It’s hard to decide who is more culpable for the strategy: Bernanke for selling it or the country for buying it.
        -Peter Schiff, “There Was a Fed Chairman Who Swallowed a Fly

UPDATE: “Ben Bernanke Has Never Gotten Anything Right” Peter Schiff tells a room including a panel of Federal Reserve officials. (They respond.)

It’s true. For example:

But weren’t Ben and his boss Alan right that there a nasty “savings glut” that caused the nice chaps all the problems ?

No, Ben, there wasn’t.