Friday, November 12, 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)…

LIBZ

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.

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Negotiation by riot [updated]

I’m sure you’ve seen the scenes of destruction in London as thousands of British students rampages through buildings in central London protesting their Government’s  announcement that it’s time for  the UK Government to stop living beyond taxpayers’ means.

As Peter McCaffrey quips, you have to love the irony of self-described Anarchists rioting because the STATE won't give them a free education!

And you have to admire the double irony of those who have spent most years in the state’s classrooms using violence, vandalism and destruction to make their case.

Perhaps there’s something about what they’re being taught inside those classrooms that leaves students prone to seeing nihilism as their metier, and reason as their enemy?

Because after years of being immersed in the nihilistic philosophies oozing out of university’s philosophy, psychology and sociology departments (to pick just three), the pictures of those nihilists down at Millbank make evident that Britain’s “intellectual elite” have taken one look at the economic reality in the world outside their ivory towers and can only stamp their feet like children and chant, “I want it. Now.”   [Hat tip Marcus Bachler]

As eloquent an argument as you’d need that what is being taught in their classrooms leaves students unable to cope with reality—and partial to the idea of violence as an end in itself.

Because instead of reasoned arguments, sound thinking and eloquent addresses, all they can offer is broken glass and destruction. Negotiation by riot.

Which is as good a reason as any not to just cut taxpayer funding to universities, but to end it.

UPDATE:  As a brief semi-serious demonstration of the point made above, Gus Van Horn links to this graphic illustration of  the decline of the “queen of the sciences” in terms of the kinds of questions being asked around philosophy departments…

what

And around some of the other departments…

New_Maths

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Nanny wins the day. Again.

The Nanny State is on the march again, with parliament voting 114 to 3 last night to make access to the demon drink more difficult, and life for its would-be sellers more onerous.

And disgracefully, the only serious opposition to the bill came from wowsers demanding even more busybodying than even this bill made possible.

Simon-Power The bill’s author, Simon Power-Lust, must have been giddy with delight as he celebrated the its win in Bellamy’s.  The only serious parliamentary opposition he encountered to running Geoffrey Palmer’s Attack-the-Proles programme was from wowsers who wanted to make it worse.

Meanwhile, as the world’s economies collapse in a welter of sovereign debt and currency wars—and businesses in these tiny islands struggle to keep their heads above water, from Bellamy’s came the cry that “This government sees overhauling our alcohol laws as a priority…”!

Lindsay Perigo states the case plainly:

_Quote Power-lust is More Harmful than Alcohol!
The 114 MPs who voted today in favour of the Alcohol Reform Bill should be drowned on the floor of the House in a flood of the sickliest, sweetest plonk available, says SOLO Principal Lindsay Perigo.
    “The Bill is yet another assault on individual liberty by an array of unedifying authoritarian specimens haunted by the fear, to paraphrase H. L. Mencken, that somebody, somehow, somewhere may just be managing to enjoy himself with an alcoholic beverage,” says Perigo.
    “It bans corner dairies from selling liquor. It raises the purchasing age to 20 in supermarkets and bottle stores. It bans alcohol products which are 'dangerous or particularly appealing to youth,' without specifying what these might be. It bans the 'promotion of the excessive consumption of alcohol'—meaning, in all likelihood, that Happy Hours will be criminalised. In the words of today's illiterate press release from Injustice Mistress Simone de Power-Lust, it 'makes licences harder to get and easier to loose [sic].'
    “…If this striped-skirted wannabe-dominatrix wishes to know why many youth binge-drink she need look no further than the airhead in her own office who doesn't know the difference between 'loose' and 'lose' any more than she does. The crippling of the minds of youngsters by the state education system has produced more than one generation of airheads and slobs who drink exactly as you'd expect airheads and slobs to drink. The fanatical hostility among our educators to reason and civilised values generally, which hostility reached its apogee when National's Lockwood Smith was Minister of Education, is what has produced Generation Airhead and the drinking habits one would expect of the conceptually-damaged.
    “Prohibition and wowserism are not the solution. The solution is to treat and respect citizens as the self-governing adults they inherently are; most will work their way through the damage and rise to the occasion. Even those who do not should become the government's concern only when they commit crimes against others.
    “Removing the vicious influence of nanny-statist, control-freak, power-addicted dregs like De Power-Lust from our lives would be a significant step towards a culture that respects individual sovereignty. Such a culture will assuredly sport alcohol without anarchy,” Perigo concludes.

Simon Power_128 One power-luster is more damaging than a hundred alcoholics.

The Nanny State is worse for all of us than a thousand necrotic livers.

A few lessons that a few wowsers, and their apologists, need to take to heart.

And who voted against this atrocity?  Just three heroic stand-alones.  The parliament’s so-called party of freedom barely manages a rump for their founding principles these days, with both ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and deputy John Boscawen casting their votes with the majority for more power-lust and less freedom.

Just another indication of what most ACT supporters should have worked out about their former party long ago.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Waitomo Caves Visitors Centre: “The Gridshell” – Architecture Workshop

WaitomoCavesGridshell Here’s a good-looking project, which just won an NZ Wood award for its designers, Wellington’s Architecture Workshop, and their engineers, Dunning Thornton Consultants.

They should take another bow, because there’s nothing else like this in the country.

Waitomo2 Taking its structural cue from the likes of Edward Cullinan’s Downlands Gridshell in Sussex (featured here  a couple of years back) the Waitomo Centre features translucent, “inflated ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene) air pillows tethered over the gridshell structure like a tent fly.” The gridshell structure itself is made of laminated veneer lumber (LVL) ribs made to shape and then locked together in a toroidal grid  floating welcomingly over the new centre.

Waitomo04 Just another reason to detour this way when you’re heading in this direction.  I certainly will be.

WaitomoDiagram

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“This Is Not Normal”

A timely guest post by David Galland & Chris Wood from Casey Research. In the wake of a change of helm in the US Congress and Ben Bernanke’s “Quantitative Easing II” announcement last week, David & Chris look both forward and backward—looking at how we got into a situation where the debasement of the world’s reserve currency looks like an answer, and what happens now that the deluge has started. There is information here ever intelligent commentator needs to get their head around.

cdd-email-head-top-new

Dear Readers,

Over the last couple of days, I’ve had some interesting exchanges with readers – the majority equal parts excitement and fear about rising precious metals prices… and especially the explosive gains in so many of our recommended stocks.
    After surveying a portfolio that has daily been gaining in leaps and bounds, regular correspondent Dennis M. observed, “This is not normal.”
    And he’s right.
    The chart just below shows the ratcheting price of SLV, the silver Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). As you can see, in the last three months alone the price has steamed ahead by over 50%.

    The next chart shows the share price of Silver Wheaton, a silver royalty company, over the same period of time. Again you can see that it has more than doubled over roughly the same time period.

    It’s notable that Silver Wheaton is no thinly traded microcap – even though it has been acting like one of late – but rather a $12.7 billion company.
    Happily, we first recommended Silver Wheaton as our “go to” silver stock in the International Speculator service on December 10, 2004, when it traded for just $3.35 a share.
    But the same breathless excitement at having been dead right almost simultaneously unsheathes the proverbial double-edged sword that has so many dear readers wondering if what Mr. Market has so kindly provided (with a little help from Casey Research, one is tempted to add), he might soon take away.
    Put another way, given the size of the gains so many subscribers are sitting on in Silver Wheaton – and many other precious metals stocks – is it any wonder they are getting a bit nervous? Is it time to sell? Hold? Buy more?
    With the mind-numbing complexity of today’s globally interconnected economy, I’d be the last person to claim special knowledge about where the precious metals express will stop next – especially now that we’ve taken out the $1,400 level that our own Chief Economist Bud Conrad has been forecasting for 2010. Is $1,500 in the near future, or could a surprise action on the part of the U.S. government hammer the precious metals sharply lower?
    It may be useful to step back to the 50,000-foot view and see if there is any discernable pattern apparent on the landscape.

The 50,000-Foot View

    By now I suspect that all but the newest dear readers are well versed in the reasons behind the stunning rise in precious metals.
    Simply, ever since Nixon yanked gold out from under the U.S. dollar in 1971, the world’s nation-states have operated on a pure fiat monetary system. The great advantage of a fiat money system is that as long as no one pays too much attention to the details, a government can create money out of thin air – usually in support of social spending programs designed to win support from the grateful plebes.
    All to the good – until it isn’t. More on that momentarily.
    In any event, armed with the power of the printing press, the nation’s governments – all with the best of intentions, I am sure – began taking on bigger and bigger spending commitments, and because it was also politically pleasing, began papering over even normal business cycle gyrations. Unfortunately, kicking the can down the road didn’t really resolve much of anything, but rather caused the dislocations to become ever larger.
Casey02      Skipping  to the present, the consequence of these actions is a world awash in historic levels of debt, on both the individual level and particularly the governmental level. 
    Of course, individuals who find themselves deep in debt can try to cure the situation by reducing their spending, taking a second job, or even declaring personal bankruptcy in order to begin the process of working things out with creditors.
    By contrast, governments don’t actually produce any wealth and so, when faced with mountainous debt loads as they are now, have a very limited range of options available. For instance, they can raise taxes – but that’s counterproductive in a struggling economy. As for belt-tightening, decades of establishing large bureaucracies and taking on hard-coded obligations aimed at pleasing the citizenry – mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Social Security – make cutting the budgets increasingly more difficult. In fact, thanks to simple demographics, the mandatory spending is only set to rise from here – and significantly so.
    So here we are, with the U.S. government – long the provider and protector of the world’s reserve fiat currency – up to its eyeballs in debt, and piling on more by the trillions.
    A moment ago I made a passing comment that fiat systems work as long as no one pays too much attention to the details of the government’s monetary actions. Generally speaking, this fact ensures that governments are nuanced and even somewhat reserved in their money printing. If they become so extreme that the market begins to notice, the bond vigilantes will demand higher and higher interest rates.
    Unfortunately, the scale of the problems now facing the U.S. have reached the point where…

  • The U.S. government’s debt and mandatory spending obligations are intractable. Simply, there is no conceivable way that the debt can be paid and the obligations met, at least not through any “normal” government operations.
  • Evidence that this is true can be seen in that it is now accepted as a fait accompli by Democrats and Republicans alike that annual U.S. budget deficits approaching $1.5 trillion will be the norm for years into the future.
    A few days ago, I ran an interview with a newly elected Tea Party congressman in which he states that even the Tea Party has no interest in touching Social Security and Medicare spending. Tack that politically sensible but economically unviable position onto the Republicans’ Pledge to America that explicitly excuses military and homeland security spending from further scrutiny, and you end up with exactly zero chance of making even the slightest of dents in runaway government spending.
  • A lot of people are paying attention. In fact, pretty much everyone is watching the desperate follies of the U.S. government. The watchers may hope for the best, but if the prices of gold and silver are any indication, they are beginning to suspect the worst.
  • Desperate to avoid the debt death spiral that will be triggered by rising interest rates, the Fed has announced that even if no one else shows up at the almost daily auctions of Treasury debt, the Fed will. By doing so, Bernanke & Friends hope to lull the watchers back to a less vigilant posture. So far, it is “sort of” working… the watchers are buying the argument that as long as the Fed keeps buying Treasuries, rates should remain dampened.

It is, however, our contention that this charade cannot last. A sentiment shared, it is clear, by the number of big money players recently piling into sound money.
    There are a number of big questions yet to be answered, but the core issue surrounding the ability of the U.S. government to meet its obligations using normal operations is not one of them. It can’t. Therefore, by definition, it must either default or attempt to debase the dollar to the point where fixed-amount obligations erode back into a range where they can be paid.
    Dipping just a bit deeper into the ability of the government to claw back out of its deep, deep hole, our own Chris Wood took a quick look at the 2011 Federal Budget and found nothing to cheer about. Here’s Chris…

A Quick Look at the U.S. Federal Budget 2011
By Chris Wood

First, here’s a useful interactive graphic on the budget from The New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/01/us/budget.html
    Now, the Times indicates that the 2011 Federal Budget Proposal is $3.69 trillion, but using the actual budget itself (specifically Table S-4 Proposed Budget by Category on page 151) we find total budgeted outlays of $3.834 trillion, of which $1.415 trillion is discretionary and $2.419 trillion is mandatory (including net interest).
    Some sound bites:

  • If you got rid of the whole Department of Education, you’d only shrink the budget 1.9%.
  • If you got rid of the Department of Agriculture, you’d only shrink the budget 3.4%.
  • If you were able to get rid of the EPA, NASA, and the Department of Interior, you’d only shrink the budget by 1.0%.
  • If you were able to cut all discretionary spending from the budget, you’d only be cutting 36.9%.
  • Mandatory budgeted outlays of the Department of Health and Human Services (responsible for Medicare and Medicaid) are greater than the total budgeted spending of all the following departments combined:
    • Dept. of Agriculture
    • Dept. of Commerce
    • Dept. of Education
    • Dept. of Energy
    • Dept. of Housing & Urban Development
    • Dept. of Interior
    • Dept. of Justice
    • Dept. of State & Other International Programs
    • Dept. of Transportation
    • Dept. of Treasury
    • Dept. of Veterans Affairs
  • If you cut the Department of Defense budget in half, you’d only shrink the budget 9.4%.
  • Mandatory budgeted outlays of just the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration exceed total discretionary budgeted spending by 13%.

Casey01    David again. As Chris’s quick look makes clear, nothing short of profoundly altering the role of government as an actor in our society will slow the out-of-control spending. And even that assumes the best case: throw in large-scale economic damage caused by higher oil prices (now nearing $87/bbl),  another war in the Middle East, a nascent trade war with China, etc., and the train leaves the rails even quicker.
    But there’s enough to worry about as it is without adding to the pile. Which brings us back to the worries of some that precious metals may now be too expensive and headed for a fall.

Are Precious Metals Too Expensive and Headed for a Fall?

Trying to arrive at a useful answer, ask yourself the following…

  1. Is there any politically feasible way that the U.S. government can avoid an overt or covert default on its obligations?
    Per the data points provided above, we simply cannot see how such a default will be avoided at this point.
  2. As the coming default becomes obvious to a broader universe, is there any way the Fed will be able to keep a lid on interest rates?
    Again, the answer has to be “no.” For awhile the bond vigilantes may continue to show tolerance, but such tolerance has a limit… especially if the Fed continues to become a bigger and bigger factor in the Treasury auctions. Once interest rates start up, the interest expense on the debt will quickly become self-propelling and crushing.
  3. As the dollar era grinds to a halt, will central bankers, institutions, and investors want to replace their dollars with alternative fiat currencies – the euro? British pound? Yen? Renminbi?
    At least for awhile, the answer is likely to be, “All of the above.” But it seems a very safe bet that the shift into precious metals will also continue.
    Given that the combined size of global stock and bond markets is on the order of $120 trillion – with trillions more at risk in faltering dollars and other fiat currencies – it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that even a slight additional shift towards the precious metals will send them soaring.

    And, of course, this problem of too much debt is not limited to the U.S., but is the same for all the world’s leading economies. On that topic, this out today in the UK’s Telegraph

    _Quote Is there a second credit crunch looming? Between now and the end of 2012, UK banks and building societies must find ways of refinancing between £750bn and £800bn of lending. That's a number approaching half GDP.

    Full story here.
    So, now, ask yourself again that question of whether precious metals are overvalued.
    Personally, my answer is that they have definitely gotten ahead of themselves. But this is little more than the entirely ordinary ebb and flow to be expected in a secular bull market. It would be shocking to me if the precious metals didn’t take a breather in here – but I don’t think that if they do, they’ll drop overly far (5%?) or stay down for any length of time.
Casey03     Put another way, the situation today – and the outsized returns for precious metals investors – are definitely not normal, but then again, neither is the nature and scale of the crisis now gripping the globe.
    In fact, given the fast-eroding global confidence in the fiat currencies, it seems entirely normal to me that the currencies will continue to stumble against all sorts of tangibles, gold and silver included. And so maybe the rise of precious metals is normal, after all?
    Though you have to make your own decisions, in my view, while the trend for the global economy may not be friendly, those with the foresight – and at this stage, the guts – to stay invested in the precious metals will be well rewarded.
    That said, it is never wise to rule out the government doing something very unconventional to disadvantage gold… so it is worth maintaining a disciplined approach to your investment portfolio. A failure in any particular asset class shouldn’t cause you to have to downgrade your lifestyle.
    Moderation in all things, including your excesses.
    And with that, I’m going to dash for the day. As always, thank you for reading … 

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research

Reposted by permission from Casey Research.
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NOT PJ: Mozart for your Mall

_BernardDarntonBernard Darnton's column this week is a Requiem for journalism.

* * * *

Mozart prevents crime, claimed Monday’s Press, which is just as well because ticketing people for driving at 55 does no such thing.

The claim is that since starting to play Mozart from speakers in City Mall (a pedestrianised Christchurch street) the crime rate has been slashed. The number of thefts and other offences is reported to have gone from 35 per week in October 2008 to zero for the same “typical” week in October 2010. There is even helpful bar graph showing a green line (with “35” written above it) next to no bar whatsoever (with “0” written where the bar would have been) so you can marvel at how different the two numbers are. Now that’s sciencey.

City Mall is a nice place to sit in the sun at lunchtime and read a book. The gentle strains of Mozart add something to the pleasure, as does the not being stabbed. The only thing that spoils it is the Music to Bang Hoes By blaring out of Glassons.

Mozart is an extremely powerful deterrent to violent crime. Two weeks ago, presumably during an atypical week, a man with a tyre iron began haranguing another man about staying away from his daughter. As soon as the argument got loud enough to drown out the Mozart, violence erupted. Fortunately, Mozart also heightens concentration and allows you to work faster. Once the four Police cars had gone back to their real task of ticketing alacritous drivers, the people mopping up the blood were able to do so with a spring in their step.

Mozart also allegedly increases your IQ. About twenty years ago a research paper showed that listening to Mozart temporarily increased subjects’ performance in a spatial-temporal reasoning test. This caused a flurry of popular books with more pages than content although, to meet the target market, the message had to be dumbed down to “Mozart makes you smarter.”

CDs like Mozart for your Mind flooded the market. Everyone instantly got smarter at which point they all realised that the research said no such thing and the industry disappeared in a puff of contradiction.

Less well known is Mozart’s ability to break down sewage. The Treuenbrietzen sewage treatment plant in Germany plays Mozart to assist in the breakdown of all the crap that flows through it. It makes me wonder whether moving the Press’s headline writers to their new building further away from City Mall is a good idea.

* * * *

* * 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. * *

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Greens are seeing the error of their ways

Socialist_Wildlife_thumb[1] The floodgates are opening. Authoritarian environmentalists are beginning to realise they’ve scaremongered in haste, and are now repenting at leisure.

On Britain’s Channel 4 recently, a whole parade of greens showed up to pour their hearts out and tell viewers What the Green Movement Got Wrong.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this programme is that it was made at all [says Charles Moore]. It shows how the Green monolith has cracked. For many years, Channel 4 would not have dared devote an hour to the errors of environmentalism; or, if it had done so, it would have wrapped it in the cordon sanitaire always put round anything considered Right-wing, stating that this was a "provocative" and "personal" view.
    This was no such programme. Instead, it was a platform for every sinner that repenteth. Former hippy Greens, directors of Greenpeace, the chairmen of the Copenhagen Climate Council and the like, queued up to admit error. Their reasons for doing so were interesting. None of them repudiated all their previous ideas. All continue to believe that there are serious environmental threats to the welfare of life on earth and most seem to be devoting their lives to addressing them. But, as one put it, environmentalists over the past 40 years have "failed to achieve Job One, which was to protect the planet."
    At least three central reasons were identified
.
Misanthropy. According to a veteran American Green, Stewart Brand, too many Greens believe "Nature good – humans not so good"…
Exaggeration. If you say that the end of the world is nigh all the time, people start to disbelieve you…
Damage. The most powerful part of the programme was that arguing that the Green obsession with banning and preventing things has done actual harm…

All points we’ve made often here at NOT PC .

Out of all this breast-beating came hope. The rueful campaigners of yesteryear now see science and technology as their friend.

More so even than the author of the article, Charles Moore, whose “conservatism” leads him to believe there’s necessarily “a conflict between economic growth and the environment which will never go away.” Not so. Especially once one realises that the whole point of economic activity is improving the human environment—which at this stage of history has never been better. Nonetheless,

If the drift of this programme is correct, the consequences for politics will be large. All the main political parties have chosen to put their eggs in the frail, Fairtrade, hand-weaved basket of Greenery, imposing rising levies to develop "renewable" sources of power which cannot do the job demanded of them. The basket is starting to break.

Ben Pile argues in "What the greens really got wrong" that the greens on the show proffered only a half-recantation, that they still take for granted the limits set by Malthus (“the Malthusians’ focus on finiteness explains firstly why they are always wrong about everything; secondly why they are so misanthropic; and thirdly why they put forward such illiberal proposals, dressed up, of course, in [PC] language”) but that their reasons for repenting—even partially—are profound nonetheless.

Although it is interesting to see one-time activists reflecting in this way, the reformulation of environmentalism doesn’t really address the problems with its initial perspective. The arguments in the film don’t form a criticism of environmentalism as an instance of the politics of fear, but merely moderate some of its excesses. There is an interesting discussion about the shortcomings of the precautionary principle, and the film’s participants are far more circumspect about risk from certain technologies than they have been in the past.
    But these risks are merely seen in contrast to the ultimate catastrophe: climate change. Technologies are not considered in terms of their potential for humans, but are embraced reluctantly as solutions to climate change. Genetically modified (GM) food is sold seemingly only on the basis that it is a means to begrudgingly feed the poor. The limitations of the catastrophic narrative still are such that they constrain discussion about progress beyond subsistence…
    What [thinking environmentalists have] realised, and [the moonbats have] not, is that ‘sceptics’ did not undermine the environmentalists’ cause. Environmentalists were their own worst enemy. They have alienated the rest of society by their own uncompromising and misanthropic outlook. The challenge for the new environmentalists is to emerge from this crisis of their own making into an era of growing scepticism, while keeping an eye on the consequences of their arguments. But without the precautionary principle, alarmism, doom and catastrophe, and premature claims to scientific certainty, what is environmentalism?

That’s a good question for you.

RELATED READING:

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pakuranga Renovation – Organon Architecture [updated]

Boyes-Sketch_Plan_003-02 Here’s an interesting project I’ve been working on recently—renovation designs for an existing house in Pakuranga—making a ‘full house’ out of one that presently closes itself off to its site, and opening it out to light, to sun and to the entire site and beyond.Boyes-Sketch_Plan_003-Structure01 In essence, it involves the surgical insertion of a new steel and concrete upper floor over an existing one-storey, flat-roofed house (above), to add extra accommodation, and give a new double-height lounge (below).

Boyes-Sketch_Plan_003-Lounge It’s been fun to work on. And should be great to live in.

(Cross-posted at the Organon Architecture Blog)

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Geoghegan, global warming and gold

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

This week:   Geoghegan, global warming and gold

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “MP defends student union bill- ACT MP Heather Roy defends her private member’s bill requiring voluntary membership of student associations…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Heather Roy wants to see voluntary membership of student “associations” (read: unions), which after all is consistent with Article 17 of the 1990 NZ Bill of Rights Act reminding us that we are free to associate with whomever we like.
    OUSA president Harriet Geoghegan is fearful however of a drop in income and job losses if students are given the choice to either join her organisation or leave it. Actually, that’s life in the real world, Harriet. If OUSA wants to retain membership, it should give students value for money and start delivering services that its members actually want.
    Harriet thinks “the whole ACT free market thing doesn’t work because we’re not a commercial service.” She’s right. OUSA is a collective with forced membership. Isn’t it funny how socialists don’t like revolution and “people power” when it’s their own tyranny that’s being threatened!    

  • OTAGO DAILY TIMES: “Students to attend climate conferenceTwelve young people will attend a conference in Mexico later this month to attend the latest meeting of people who want to enforce global UN sanctions based on a belief in anthropogenic global warming…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: The 2010 Youth Delegation are sending twelve people to a talkfest in Mexico. These twelve, according to their website, want to “reduce our emissions.” Hey, guys, how about setting an example by staying at home and video-conferencing, instead of burning all that jet fuel? Guess that’s not so headline-grabbing, though, is it?
    Poor little muppets, still deluded in their belief that humans contribute significantly to changes in global temperature. In their blinkered parallel universe, these zealots ignore the sun, ignore volcanoes, hell they even ignore termites, whose greenhouse gas emissions dwarf those produced by human activity.
    As a taxpayer, I hope I am not being roped into help pay for these earnest but naive young crusaders.

  • CHRISTCHURCH PRESS: “Call for compulsory quad bike helmetsA Canterbury woman whose partner was brain damaged in a quad bike accident wants helmets made compulsory for every one riding a quad bike…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: It’s always sad when anyone is maimed as a result of trauma. I was going to say an accident, But as most people know, riding a quad bike means taking a HIGHER THAN AVERAGE RISK of sustaining serious injury. There is always a knee-jerk reaction when someone is injured to make sweeping changes and force people to take some extra precaution for their own good.
    Why not make roll cages on quad bikes compulsory? After all, a helmet is hardly going to save you when several hundred kilograms of machinery is compressing your chest.
    Why not advocate a total ban on quad bikes – why tolerate the slightest possibility that someone will be injured while riding one of these vehicles?
    I wonder if Sue Hardy—who now wants to make everyone do what she thinks would be a good thing—had then insisted that her partner wear a helmet? Why not?
    And does she suggest that her partner now be prosecuted for not wearing a helmet?
    Furthermore, how does she know her partner would not have suffered brain injury, or a broken neck, if he had been wearing the helmet she now thinks he should have been.
    Attempts to control people’s peaceful behaviour by law is, in my view, going too far. It’s none of the government’s damn business—or your’s—what I do on my own farm with my quad bike.
    So, please, Sue and others, just butt out and let people learn to take responsibility for their own safety instead of surrendering essential liberties on a whim.

THE DOCTOR SAYS: Gee, I wonder who could have predicted that? Peter Schiff, that’s who. Peter points out, among other things, in this interview that had the United States stuck with the gold standard, oil would now be $US3.50 a barrel.  That’s three dollars fifty!
    Peter currently likes silver even more than gold, in terms of potential gain. So, people, get rid of those junk-bond US dollars, and protect your savings, and buy some metal.
    Incidentally, Professor Antal Fekete, refugee from communist totalitarianism and an expert on the gold standard, is speaking on exactly this subject at the Libertarianz Party conference this Saturday.
    Be there!

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny – when
the government fears the people, there is liberty.
- attributed to Thomas Jefferson

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When Al Gore falls, does Nick Smith make a sound? [updated]

Global warming cap-and-trade is this National Government’s big idea (they have damn few, so anything at all is enough to constitute a big one).  Nick Smith’s Emissions Trading Scam is a flagship world-leading policy—leading the world in plundering consumers and shackling producers, in the hope the world will catch on and emulate us.

They’re not.

So here’s a tale for someone to read to Nick Smith.  A story about a man named Al Gore, who several years ago, in the midst of the hype over global warming generated by loud activism, scary science and fraudulent films like his own, got involved in setting up the Chicago Climate Exchange. It really was leading the world. Explains Steve Milloy,

_QuoteAlthough the trading in carbon emissions credits was voluntary, the CCX was intended to be the hub of the mandatory carbon trading established by a cap-and-trade law, like the Waxman-Markey scheme passed by the House in June 2009.
At its founding in November 2000, it was estimated that the size of CCX’s carbon trading market could reach $500 billion. That estimate ballooned over the years to $10 trillion.

Al and his friends were looking at billions of dollars of profit if they could scam the politicians to pass the bill, or something like it. Never happened. Never will. And so here’s what some recent trading on Al’s exchange looks like:

 chicago_climate_exchange

Impressive, huh?

Al Gore’s exchange is dead, dead, dead.  And it serves the old fraud right.

_QuoteAl Capone tried to use Prohibition to muscle in on a piece of all the action in Chicago. The CCX’s backers wanted to use a new prohibition on carbon emissions to muscle in on a piece of, quite literally, all the action in the world.

And now the CCX, launched to the sound of unrelenting media hype,  is quietly being taken out and shot.

_Quote In a little reported move, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) announced on Oct. 21 that it will be ending carbon trading — the only purpose for which it was founded — this year.

Which leaves just two relevant questions:

UPDATE: The graph of carbon price per metric ton over the life of the exchange is fascinating. Thanks for the link to reader Julian P. who, like me, “finds it really difficult to feel sorry for the people who bought in at 750 cents.”

CCX_final_chartNotice too who else bought into the scam when it was spiking?  Yep, mid-2008 was about when Thick Smith started to go hard on his Emissions Trading Scam.

And a year later, once he’d begun its introduction, the Wall Street Journal had this to say:

_quote To the annals of global warming lunacy, add this gem from New Zealand: According to [the Key Government, Nick Smith and] a parliamentary committee, Kiwis should accept lower standards of living to protect the national image abroad.”
            - ‘Kiwi Carbon Haze,’ Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2009

The image to be created presumably being that of a pack of idiots.

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Genetic engineering: it’s been happening since the dawn of time

Writing this morning in the New York Times,James Mcwilliams takes on the idea of genetic modification as “unnatural.”  Bureaucrats and anti-GE activists (those few that still exist) insist that transferring genes from one species to another is “unnatural.” That genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are “unnatural.”

_Quote The UK’s Health and Safety Executive … explains that genetic modification occurs when the genetic material of an organism (either DNA or RNA) is altered by use of a method that does not occur in nature. The anti-biotech Non-GMO Project notes that genetic modification creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature. The Huffington Post plugged last October as non-GMO month on the grounds that genetic modification produces goods through processes that do not occur in nature. Greenpeace has described breaching species barriers as unnatural. Daily Kos insists that gene splicing does not occur in nature. In a word: frankenfood.
    Well, you know where this is going. Scientists have now confirmed what evolutionary geneticists have long suspected nature does produce GMOs. Swedish researchers discovered an enzyme-producing gene in a meadow grass that naturally crossed into sheep’s fescue about 700,000 years ago. The most plausible explanation, said Professor Bengt O. Bengtsson of Lund University, is that the gene was transmitted by a parasite or pathogen, such as a virus, perhaps with the help of a sap-sucking insect.
    The fact that cross-species gene transfer happens without human intervention in nature, however rare, provides further justification for viewing transgenic technology not as a Frankensteinian intervention into the natural world, but as yet another method of trait selection, something we’ve been doing with heroic results since the dawn of agriculture… [hat tip AgBioWorld]

So the objections to GE as “unnatural” fall to the ground.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dalian Shide stadium - NBBJ

1253026397-dalian-stadium-05-528x332 This is the sort of stadium Auckland might have passed up when the politicians elected instead to do up the old dive at Eden Park, instead of making something new and exciting on the edge of the domain.

1253026360-dalian-stadium-01-528x332 Here’s a proposal for a new type of stadium altogether, one for a garden site in China that is “more than just an impressive skin wrapped around an ordinary seating bowl.”

1253026380-dalian-stadium-03-concourse-528x332

Conceptually, the new stadium is created out the of existing gardens, with the garden folded up to form the outer skin with the seating and sports “bowl” suspended within.  1253026306-dalian-stadium-diagram-01-folding-land-528x387

_Quote The reclaimed site captures a new place in the city [says the architects], with spectacular views across the ocean and out to the mountains and center city. Growing from this new coastal park, the design proposes that the land is folded open to create two garden walls, which support the venue, inserting the bowl between them. The walls become iconic elements, creating a strong and visually striking support system while leaving the ends open to connect the event inside to its urban context on the outside. The roof is a flexible system of cables and fabric to protect the fans from the elements, beautiful and unique, fluttering overhead.

1253026370-dalian-stadium-02-528x332

A great place to watch a game of footy.

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How “smart”-phone users see each other

I stumbled across this (accurate?) analysis of how smart-phone users see themselves and each other.

ev17d3

Which reminded me of this old matrix:

So what do you use … and does it say about you … ?

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So how much did the US election change?

Judge Andrew Napolitano hosts a couple of interesting discussions in the aftermath of last week’s US elections.

First, “The Election Didn't Change Anything!” says Reason magazine editor Michael Moynihan. It’s all still business as usual. Mostly.

And how about the argument over conservatives vs. libertarians in the Tea Party, that movement more responsible than any other for the Republican revival.  Conservative Mike Huckabee—barbs about being a RINO obviously having pierced his hide—takes on the libertarian viewpoints on drugs, taxes, and tea.

As Paul Hsieh says, the GOP had better “dance with the one who brung them, or be left standing by the wall for good. 

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Economic thinkers say Emperor has no clothes [update 2]

The mainstream, “textbook” economics of recent decades is under threat.

bernanke-helicopter Ben Bernanke’s quadrillion-quintillion injection of counterfeit capital into the banking system of the world’s reserve currency has got the world’s economists beginning to scratch their heads in wonder at the system they’ve upheld for the last few decades—which (instead of relying on savings to fund growth) essentially relies on ever-inflating gobs of cheap counterfeit capital to be lent out to create asset bubbles to fund “growth” during the boom and, once the bubble bursts the growth stops and the pool of real savings has been diminished, to fund the “stimulus” on which politicians and other know-nothings now set their hopes.

Instead of relying on the questionable acumen of a monetary dictator to set interest rates (cue lots of media conversation about how the dictator is feeling this week, and the “semantic nuances” of his carefully chosen words in public), more far-seeing economists are beginning to say the current emperors have no clothes.

* * The market itself gave the economists a kick in the pants by responding to Bernanke’s openly inflationist cheque book by soaring past $1,400 per troy ounce for the first time.

* * The German Finance Minister helped kick off the head scratching by pouring opprobrium on the acumen of Bernanke and his colleagues (who could not be more mainstream)

_Quote “With all due respect, U.S. policy is clueless,” the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told a conference. “(The problem) is not a shortage of liquidity. It’s not that the Americans haven’t pumped enough liquidity into the market, and now to say let’s pump more into the market is not going to solve their problems.”

* * And the Chinese—the Chinese!—told a news briefing at the G20 conference the move “smacked of outmoded central planning.” Which, of course, it does.

* * In the British Parliament, the cradle of modern democracy, two Conservative MPs have introduced a bill to end shut down the spigot of endless credit—every new note of which dilutes the purchasing power of every note in your pocket—and replace the system that produced the boom and bust with a system of honest money and sound banking.  Introducing his bill, Douglas Carswell told the parliament:

_QuoteSince the credit crunch hit us, an endless succession of economists, most of whom did not see it coming, have popped up on our TV screens to explain its causes with great authority. Most have tended to see the lack of credit as the problem, rather than as a symptom. Perhaps we should instead begin to listen to those economists who saw the credit glut that preceded the crash as the problem. The Cobden Centre, the Ludwig von Mises Institute and Huerta de Soto all grasped that the overproduction of bogus candy-floss credit before the crunch gave rise to it. It is time to take seriously their ideas on honest money and sound banking.

The bill is beginning to gather widespread support.

* * Indeed, the bill has been lent support by Britain’s own monetary dictator Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, who told an audience last week it is time to talk about “eliminating fractional reserve banking.”

* * And just yesterday, the head of the World Bank chief Zoellick said the world needs to think seriously about “readopting a modified global gold standard to guide currency movements.” And he’s right, you know, it does. The US Federal Reserve’s insistence on diluting the world’s present “reserve currency” only makes it more urgent to re-adopt that more rational numeraire—the one that underpinned the enormous economic progress of the nineteenth century (not coincidentally, the period which enjoyed the most historically sustained economic progress ever).

So the world’s economists are beginning to turn. They’re beginning to realise their emperors of the last few decades have no clothes, and their their textbook theories so widely held hold no water.

It’s only early days, but as Malcolm Gladwell explains about tipping points, this is how change happens.

_QuoteGladwell’s Law of the Few contends that before widespread popularity can be attained, a few key types of people must champion an idea, concept, or product before it can reach the tipping point. Gladwell describes these key types as Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. If individuals representing all three of these groups endorse and advocate a new idea, it is much more likely that it will tip into exponential success.

We’re nearly there.

_QuoteMoneyBomb As Ludwig Von Mises, F.A. Hayek, et al. took great pains to explain, what this means is that the seemingly golden age — in reality, a thinly gilded one — during which the first, most favored issuers of cheap credit and artificially boosted equity prices enjoyed almost effortless success, has reached the limit of its ability to postpone the workings of fundamental economic law

And the people who need to are quietly, and not so quietly, realising that over sixty years after John Maynard Keynes died, his gig is finally up, and in the Hayek-Keynes debate (one of the most crucial of the twentieth century) a winner is conclusively being confirmed.

Not before time.

_QuoteThe gold standard was the world standard of the age of capitalism, increasing welfare, liberty, and democracy, both political and economic. In the eyes of the free traders its main eminence was precisely the fact that it was an international standard as required by international trade and the transactions of the international money and capital market. It was the medium of exchange by means of which Western industrialism and Western capital had borne Western civilization into the remotest parts of the earth's surface, everywhere destroying the fetters of age-old prejudices and superstitions, sowing the seeds of new life and new well-being, freeing minds and souls, and creating riches unheard of before. It accompanied the triumphal unprecedented progress of Western liberalism ready to unite all nations into a community of free nations peacefully cooperating with one another.
    It is easy to understand why people viewed the gold standard as the symbol of this greatest and most beneficial of all historical changes.
    [It is also easy to understand why] all those intent upon sabotaging the evolution toward welfare, peace, freedom, and democracy loathed the gold standard, and not only on account of its economic significance. In their eyes the gold standard was the labarum, the symbol, of all those doctrines and policies they wanted to destroy. In the struggle against the gold standard much more was at stake than commodity prices and foreign exchange rates.
    The nationalists [fight] the gold standard because they want to sever their countries from the world market and to establish national autarky as far as possible.
    Interventionist governments and pressure groups are fighting the gold standard because they consider it the most serious obstacle to their endeavors to manipulate prices and wage rates.
    But the most fanatical attacks against gold are made by those intent upon credit expansion. With them credit expansion is the panacea for all economic ills…. What the expansionists call the defects of the gold standard are indeed its very eminence and usefulness. It checks large-scale inflationary ventures on the part of governments.
    The gold standard did not fail. The governments were eager to destroy it, because they were committed to the fallacies that credit expansion is an appropriate means of lowering the rate of interest and of "improving" the balance of trade.

He could have been writing that to Mr Zoellick just yesterday. And Mr Zoellick might very well have been reading it.

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