Monday, 17 October 2011

Poverty? [updated]

Is this really what it looks like?

UPDATE:  Welfare researcher Lindsay Mitchell kindly provides some relevant figures:

Cannons Creek School is rated Decile 1 while Newlands (nearby 'rich' neighbourhood) school is Decile 8. The decile rating substantially affects the level of government funding. For example from the 2011 operational funding budget:

Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement, Including Redistributed Decile Funding
(Decile Per student)

Decile 1
    A 871.49
    B 810.21
    C 703.59
Decile 2
    D 594.40
    E 487.80
    F 404.60
Decile 3
    G 336.98
    H 266.81
    I 212.23
Decile 4
    J 175.82
    K 144.31
    L 130.00
Decile 5
    M 111.37
Decile 6
    N 90.16
Decile 7
    O 68.93
Decile 8
    P 45.08
Decile 9
    Q 27.83
Decile 10
    Z 0.00
Special Education Grant, Base per school 1,354.69
(Decile Per student)
Decile 1 71.14
Decile 2 69.11
Decile 3 65.04
Decile 4 60.98
Decile 5 56.92
Decile 6 52.85
Decile 7 48.80
Decile 8 44.74
Decile 9 40.66
Decile 10 36.60
Careers Information Grant, for schools with students in years 9-15
(Decile Per student)

Decile 1 35.90
Decile 2 34.49
Decile 3 31.66
Decile 4 28.83
Decile 5 26.05
Decile 6 21.11
Decile 7 17.56
Decile 8 16.18
Decile 9 15.48
Decile 10 14.78

I was nervous as I walked down to the ground last night [updated]

Nervous? Hell, I know I was, walking down the hill to the ground last night. And I know I wasn’t the only one.

Wearing the same tear-stained All Blacks jersey I’d worn to our 1991 semi-final loss to Australia in Dublin  (not jinxed, I hoped!) it seemed to me that night and others like it in Cardiff, at Twickenham, in Sydney, had demonstrated to every AB fan, to all of us, how difficult it is even just to get the right to play off for the big prize.  And the short and stupid game the night before had shown how easy it is to have your hopes overturned in one stupid rush-of-blood-to-the-head moment.

There were one and a quarter great semi-finals to enjoy over the weekend. Sadly, rugby’s destructive obsession with command and control* killed off the first one after seventeen minutes, but there were at least 97 minutes in all that were a great advertisement for the game.

And didn’t the boys in black step up in that second game! Apart from the two Williams boys (one of whom was a passenger, the other who was ejected from what could have been his biggest stage looking like an even bigger muppet than his mate Quade Blooper) every single player stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. Even Weepu, playing with flu and the memories of his late grandfather, could be forgiven for missing the kicks that could have put Australia away much earlier. He could be forgiven because the Australian pack were being monstered, destroyed, and finally just blown apart. (Who didn’t feel as thrilled as Brad Thorn when right on cue the black pack blew them apart utterly to deliver the penalty that finally confirmed the victory.)

But think of those great moments; those great “one-percenters.” Cory Jane’s marking of the high ball. Israel Dagg’s line breaks. Cruden’s coolness. Kieran Read’s superbly dashing tackle, backing himself to come off of his man at full speed to snuff out an attack. McCaw’s driving tackle to push Genia back ten, fifteen, nearly twenty metres and then steal the ball. (Is that how it happened? In the stands around me, we were were all starting to get a bit messy by this late stage of the game.)

The pressure of the black machine was just immense.  Only one try in it at the death, but in the end there was only one team in it.

Not because Australia played badly. But because they just weren’t allowed to play well. (“Four more years, boys,” every Australian in the crowd was being told over and over.)

Roll on next weekend. **

And yes, I’m already starting to feel nervous again.

But at least I know it isn’t my jersey that has the hoodoo.

* * * * *

* I blame soccer:  The rolling on the ground by the felled French winger; the whole ridiculous read card/yellow card nonsense—both entirely inappropriate imports from a game where they do play tiddlywinks. 
Rugby is a man-on-man physical battle needing all fifteen players to make it a contest.  Yes, referee Alain Rolland followed the letter of the IRB’s rules in sending Warbuton off for his adrenalin-fuelled spear tackle (so stop your whingeing about the ref), but they’re bloody stupid rules he was enjoined to follow.
Tens of thousands of people travelled many hundreds of miles for a match that was four years in the making, and many months in the anticipating. Millions of dollars, pounds, euros and zlotis have been spent getting these teams and all their fans to this point of the tournament. Millions tune in to watch the drama, and the hopes of whole nations rest on the outcome. So to kill it off as a contest after just seventeen minutes—tokill it stone dead—suggests to me that rugby still needs to sort out its house.
My suggestion: abandon the sending 0ff rule altogether.  It doesn’t protect players; it only destroys the game. It destroyed this one-and with it, for many, the credibility of the tournament. Instead, do what AFL does in contests of equivalent tension and physicality: instead of sending players off for egregious offences (which is what Warburton’s was, make no mistake) in an AFL semi-final he would have gone on report and his team been marched back fifty metres—earning the French the appropriate outcome from the offence (probably, on the much shorter rugby field, it would have been a five-metre scrum or some equivalent), and earning the Welsh captain the well-deserved ire of his fans and team-mates, instead of (as he has been now) being elevated into the ranks of sainthood for having lost his head when all around him his team-mates were keeping theirs.

** There’s only one game next weekend: the World Cup Final! Who cares about the joke game that is the third and fourth play-off, a game unlived even by those playing in it. Put it to bed, please—or better yet, set it up as a Battle of the Hemispheres, with selected players and coaches from north and south shoulder-tapped to take part as their teams exit the tournament.
It’s not like they have anything else booked for the week.
And wouldn’t it be great to see Victor Matfield and David Pocock pack down next to each other against Sam Warburton and whatever other northerners could be found worthy of the contest. (Even throw Bryce Lawrence the whistle, to redeem himself in a much more good-natured contest than his last outing.)
Like the classic barbarian games of old, it really would be World in Union—and unlike the dreary third-fourth Battle of the Sad Sacks, it’d be a fantastic curtain-raiser for the Big Game!

UPDATE: Best line this morning from an Australian:

Was a week that started with endless [Australian] huffing and puffing over [Gillard’s] carbon tax ever going to end in anything other than a blackout?

Read the rest of Anthony Sharwood’s piece on the All Black Sabbath. I guarantee you’ll love it.

Friday, 14 October 2011

More updates from Papamoa, from our correspondent Jonathan Livingston

Jonathan Livingston reports from his eyrie above Papamoa Beach.

UPDATE, 9:19am, 14 October

A report on Newstalk ZB just moments ago appeared to claim that the beaches at Papamoa are now clean due to the manual clean-up. Bravo, well done boys, etc.

I observed the beach near me from one day to the next, where no manual cleaning had been conducted, and it too had been mostly cleared of oil globules during the tidal cycle.

The notion that the only way the oil can go is to be manually removed by humans reminds me of the absurd notion being (successfully) promulgated by the greenies that trees must be planted by humans before they can grow.

The blobs of oil will break down naturally, the same way each grain of sand came from a larger rock, and end up constituting an even lesser proportion in parts per million in the sea water than , say, radioactive uranium.

UPDATE, 7:18pm, 13 October:

I went all down the beach today. SO FAR it is pretty minimal, at the Mount you wouldn't know anything had happened, except from a few beached containers (being guarded), and one little enclave of oil eddying around near the Papamoa Surf Club. It doesn't extend far in either direction (so far), and could be cleaned up by a front end loader with a skilled operator in a few hours. Still haven't figured why it is being done by hand!

Oh, and that little micro-pocket of oil is where all the media shots are being taken of course.

My theory was that this stuff will ultimately be washed away and go somewhere else, like North Korea for example. Westerlies are  now coming in over the next couple of days, so may have to make that Venezuela, not North Korea…

Tupperwaka: Too much hooey, bit late with the do-ey

I’m certainly not the only one to be, um, disappointed about the $2m of taxpayers’ money spent on the Tupperwaka to “showcase” Ngati Whatua culture to Rugby World Cup visitors.

At least, that was how it was sold to the politicians giving away our money.

I heard a Tupperwaka spokesman crowing that with the Tupperwaka open they could now “showcase their culture to the world.” Mate, I thought, the world’s gone home. They’ve been and gone. They came, they looked around, and now most have toddled off home. If you built this for the World Cup, for the six weeks and twenty teams and supporters who were here, then it’s a bit late isn’t it, with just eleven days and only four teams left.

Altogether too late.

Mind you, perhaps it wasn’t truly intended as a “showcase” at all. Maybe it was only intended to give piles of money to a few chosen members of the Browntable (you think?), in which case it has already been a success.  For the recipients of our largesse, at least.

And if they’d truly intended to showcase their culture to the world, then I fear—with this whole shambles—that they have.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Things are Interesting Down Here at Papamoa, and other thoughts of Jonathan Livingston [update 3]

A guest post from our correspondent Jonathan Livingston, a common-sense kind of gull who perches in an eyrie overlooking Papamoa Beach.

I see signs are going up down at the Mount, and volunteer beach oil cleaners have been advised they need to do a course before they can help - apparently clean-up volunteers must "register." The claim about the so-called “toxicity” of the oil clumps coming ashore is, I suspect, just spin to justify control.

An engineer colleague tells me from his fuel oil manual it is no more toxic than tar-seal.  Maybe just a few more base metals in it than more refined oil.

The main difference between this “bunker oil” and crude, I'm told, is that crude floats. So this stuff will just go all through the ocean. My theory is that it will ultimately go somewhere else, like North Korea for example, so I am not going to worry unduly about removing the tiny little bit on my beach as I’d be surprised if it didn’t wash away in the next storm and join the rest of it.

As for the "toxic" container, try googling ferrosilicon. Doesn't look too bad to me, but the the entire beach from the Mount to Maketu is now been pronounced off-limits on account of it. Nobody knows where it is, and it is claimed that it can’t readily be identified—which is awfully convenient for the clipboard wielders. (I wonder though how they deliver these containers to their respective consignees if they cannot be identified?)

H L Mencken would probably have been able to say something about all this, but hey, he's just a silly conspiracist, right?

Interesting too to hear Leighton Smith interview the salvor spokesman this morning, who I understand was claiming to be an “expert.” Leighton asked him why the ship could not be torched. The way I heard it, the spokesman was pretty much flummoxed, lost for words, and couldn't give any answer other than to mumble something about not knowing if that was an option.

It is surely surprising the expert spokesman couldn't explain why burning is not an option (it may well not be, I don’t know). Perhaps the answer was so obvious, the notion so absurd, that the spokesman didn't need to answer the question. Leighton mentioned that someone out of the thousands of experts now in on it would have suggested it had it been an option.

As far as the oil around my own nest, there is less there this morning, most of it having washed away to North Korea over the last tidal cycle.

Jonathan Livingston

UPDATE 1:  More from Jonathan:

I went all down the beach today. SO FAR it is pretty minimal, at the Mount you wouldn't know anything had happened, except from a few beached containers (being guarded), and one little enclave of oil eddying around near the Papamoa Surf Club. It doesn't extend far in either direction (so far), and could be cleaned up by a front end loader with a skilled operator in a few hours. Still haven't figured why it is being done by hand!

Oh, and that little micro-pocket of oil is where all the media shots are being taken of course.

Westerlies coming in over the next couple of days, so may have to make that Venezuela, not North Korea…

UPDATE 2From NewstalkZB: “…there are more details of the hazardous goods container - one of 88 which fell overboard.  Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman, Sophie Hazlehurst says it's not ferrous-silicon as first thought - but another dangerous liquid which is water soluble and not expected to cause a significant health risk at this stage.”

UPDATE 3:  And in related news:

There's a sliver of good news from the salvage crew that's been all day on the Rena, after being winched aboard this morning.
Maritime New Zealand spokeswoman, Sophie Hazlehurst says their first job was to see if they could get the power going and she understands they can.
Their next step is to heat the custard-thick fuel so it thins enough to pump.

Only just now getting the power going, and the fuel-oil heaters going? You’d wonder if perhaps the right decision might have been to allow the crew to sort that out first, and deal with the arrests later. Or, perhaps, were they just arrested to proffer the illusion the government is in charge?

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Exiting the Parliamentary Trough

_richardmcgrathYour weekly prescription of headline dissection from Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath.

This week, Exiting the Parliamentary Trough


Parliament has finally risen. And if Mark Twain is correct, that should mean our lives, liberties and personal property should be safe again for a month or two.

Fat chance.

Nonetheless, the end of this parliamentary term has seen several MPs disengage themselves themselves from the trough from which they have gorged themselves these past three years. Some have been feeding from it for two-score years or more. Others have stayed just long enough to qualify for the parliamentary pension. I can't remember what the rules around that are now—perhaps the perks are not quite as gold-plated as they used to be, although subsidised air travel appears to remain on the list.

One of the troughers finally extricating himself after years on the State tit is Rodney Hide, the perk-buster come perk-luster who shouted his girlfriend an overseas trip paid for by the sweat of others ("But I was entitled!" he squealed, paying up only once he was found out). Another is Roger Douglas, who by my reckoning has chalked up twenty-seven years warming a seat in the debating chamber; he made himself famous in his first terms as a Labour Finance Minister prepared to challenge and then rescue the country from the totalitarian tendencies of Robert Muldoon; he  made himself famous in this one by being prepared to have the taxpayer pay for his books and his  trips to his granddaughter's wedding in the UK. ("But I was entitled!" he squealed, refusing to pay up at all.)

Other parasites—cockroaches like Trevor Mallard and Murray McCully spring immediately to mind—hang on like the leeches they inevitably become, addicted to the OPiuM of the masses (Other People's Money) and the power plays of the Parliamentary precinct.

Those of us who have to pick up the tab for the circus that is Parliament, for the time-wasting, filibustering attempts to justify a salary that is several times the minimum wage, and the TV channel that broadcasts the heavily censored antics of these goons into our living room (the cameras are not allowed to capture MPs sleeping, reading newspapers or picking their noses, and newspapers may not—on penalty of being banned—republish photos of any action that might occasionally happen in the chamber) often become somewhat irritated by the overinflated sense of importance that MPs exhibit and their insatiable lust for unearned reward. Unearned, because none of them produce a damned thing. They can only either inhibit or destroy.

The best thing they could do would be to get out of the way. Let people work hard, and desist from stealing the fruit of their labour. Go on indefinite gardening leave, for example, as PC has suggested most 'public servants' do. But no, they insist on making more and more laws to regulate and micromanage our lives, as if that somehow justifies their bloated salaries.

Until they see the light and start pulling their heads in voluntarily (fat chance), I propose a radical reform of the system of remuneration and the trappings associated with being an MP. This would involve pulling ALL current MPs off Nanny's nipple and sending them back from boarding school to their parents with a note from Matron. That note would essentially say that the golden days of living off the taxpayer forever are over, From now on, MPs would have to be funded by their own political parties.

Yes, let the National Party set John Key's salary, and that of his Labour-Lite colleagues. And let the members of the National Party raise the funds to pay that salary. Likewise let the Labour Party pay its own MPs—that should be a relatively cheap exercise for the next 3 years at least.

Radical? Hell, yes. It would probably mean National seeking funding from corporate sources and Labour competing with other left-wing parties for union funds. But it would mean political parties were actually bankrolled by the people that support them instead of holding a gun to heads of productive people and forcing them to cough up their hard-earned pennies to pay delinquent parasites whose principles and policies are often diametrically opposed to their own personal beliefs.

Speaking for myself and my own pocketbook, I personally resent having to pay a Prime Minister who is a liar and his sidekick the Dipton Double-dipper—happy, both of them, to consign our children to a burden of crushing debt, the inevitable consequence of which which will be default and further credit downgrade.

Make all political parties responsible for paying their MPs whatever they want, and arranging their pensions and perks. You can bet there wouldn't be the same golden shower of pay and perks these jobsworths enjoy at the moment at our expense.

Hell, some of them might be forced to find productive work! 

And yes, fat chance of that as well.

See you next week!
Doc McGrath

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Class warfare hits the U.S. streets

Last night the #OccupyWallStreet movement #OccupiedBoston, much to the consternation of the Boston police.

Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute joins the crew at PJTV to discuss the good and bad about the grassroots protests:

Time to go

Another picture doing the rounds…


It’s a disaster [updated]

There’s no way around it: the ship breaking up and spewing fuel oil off Papamoa is a disaster.

A disaster for the beach, the wildlife, the home-owners and beach regulars (of which I’ve been one), for Tauranga harbour, for the shipping industry—and, one would hope, for the ship’s owners, helmsmen and navigators.

Since the ship’s stranding, the weather has hardly helped the salvage. But given how much interest there is in cleaning up the spill, is there a reason there aren’t waves of volunteers out there on the beaches helping clean up? There are stories about that folks being banned from doing any clean up by busybodies more interested in waving clipboards than cleaning up.  (Just like happened in Christchurch after the shakes, eh. Seems to be the knee-jerk response to disaster by “the authorities” these days: to spout about how they’re “in charge” while demonstrating precisely the opposite.)

And make no mistake, it’s a disaster too for any large-scale oil industry that might—or, now, might not—ever appear off the East Coast. Eric Crampton says, and I agree with him, “The Greens are largely right on this one.”

There's little chance of public support for substantial offshore drilling if a minor freighter crash leads to locals having to clean up the mess [or being barred from doing so]. The exploration companies ought to pull out something credible demonstrating either capacity to contain a spill or financial capacity to pay for a clean-up should a spill eventuate.

Yes, they should.  And yes, it’s true that the Gulf of Mexico spill appears to have cleaned itself up very quickly, and was eventually good for fish stocks rather than bad.

But the circumstances here aren’t quite the same (the naturally occurring microbes that happily clean up crude oil, for example, don’t do the same job  for fuel oil) and there’s been far too many recent cases of companies expecting to privatise profits and socialise their losses.

Time for one of them to step up now, or (deservedly) forever hold their peace.

So what do you think?

UPDATE: It would a disaster compounded if the justified anger at what appears to be rank sea-going incompetence were to spill over into anti-corporation anti-industrialism. A letter by Don Boudreaux at the time of BP’s blunder in the Gulf of Mexico oil makes the pertinent points:

During today’s 1:00pm hour you played a clip of a listener who is “livid that Americans aren’t up in arms against the devastation that corporations inflict” on us.  This gentleman’s anger was sparked by the BP oil spill.
    I have little sympathy for BP, it being a firm that has often feasted at government troughs.  But some perspective is now very much needed on the costs and benefits of corporations.
    Consider that the latest estimated cost of the BP spill is $33 billion.  That’s a lot of money, to be sure.  But this sum pales in comparison to the amount of money that Wal-Mart’s retailing efficiencies are estimated to save consumers each year: $200 billion.*
    Oil spills are compellingly photographable – and, hence, attention-getting and emotion-stirring.  In contrast, lower prices for – which, by the way, mean fewer resources used to bring to market – clothing, children’s toys, digital cameras, camping equipment, kitchen appliances, groceries, and other goods that we routinely enjoy are not photographable in any compelling way.  The result is that the social benefits of corporate innovations and competition are easily overlooked, ignored, taken for granted, forgotten.  But these benefits are enormous.  And any assessment of the worthiness of corporations in modern life had best take them into accurate account lest we adopt policies that make us all poor and miserable.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: Production versus Consumption ... and more [updated]


Our friends at the UoA Economics Group just sent me through their update on tonight’s meeting:

Hello all,

“Progress is movement in the direction of a higher, better and more desirable state of affairs.” Growth? Not so much. Join us tonight as we discuss the difference between progress and growth, wealth and production, productive consumption and UNproductive consumption.

It will help us next week when we discuss the GDP Delusion—the idea that GDP measures production, and not something else that’s almost the opposite.

    Time: 6:00pm
    Date: Tuesday, 11 October
    Location: Case Room 1, Level 0, University of Auckland Business School

Look forward to seeing you there.

UPDATE:  Here’s some notes and images used last night (my source for the images is Mark Skousens’s book Structure of Production):



And here’s the slides showing all those definitions we discussed. Hope you find them useful:

SLIDES-Production Versus Consumption

John Key lies [updated]

Two years ago, if you believed the Key Government, the biggest problem facing Bill’s First Budget was whether or not he could somehow forestall a credit downgrade. Government cheerleaders cheered when our hero pulled it off.

Not so much today.  Those cheerleaders are resolutely silent.

And the talk elsewhere now is not about last week’s downgrade—due in part to “increased spending by the government”—but about John Key’s lies about it.  About the lie he told parliament after last weeks’ downgrade that an even bigger downgrade would have happened under a Labour Government—and he knew this (he says) because Standard and Poors told him.

 Bullshit, says Standard and Poors. They aren’t now, never have been and never will be so partisan—and, frankly, any former manager of Merrill Lynch knows that as a fact you can take to the bank, whatever he now says he heard second-hand from whichever ill-tamed unnamed source.

He lied. Perhaps to take attention from the downgrade itself. But he lied.

He can’t help himself.  It just comes naturally.

He lied to you about tax cuts. Before the last election he promised “a tax cut programme [fully costed and funded] that will not require any additional borrowing” – a “pledge to deliver about $50 a week to workers on the average age.” It was a lie. As their borrowing grew, their tax cuts fizzled, spluttered, then died in a political sleight of hand: a small cut with one hand, a larger rise with the other. (And no fear saying Smile and Wave never saw the collapse coming.  You don’t think a former Merrill Lynch manager would have noticed when Merrill Lynch went under?)

He lied about it, and you bought it.

And how about this boast of his in parliament a couple of weeks ago, boasting about “his” achievements as Prime Minister:

We have grown for eight of the last nine quarters, we will be back in surplus by 2014-15, our debt is one quarter of the OECD average, we have interest rates at a 45-year low, unemployment is starting to fall, we have created 45,000 jobs, … we are likely to create 170,000 jobs in the next 4 years, we have reformed the Resource Management Act, and, by the way, we are on track to win the Rugby World Cup.

More lies.  More bullshit. More hyperbolic nonsense.

  • “We have grown for eight of the last nine quarters…” Any “growth” has only been in inflated figures—and even those show any “growth” as virtually a statistical anomaly. The claim is a nonsense.
  • “…we will be back in surplus by 2014-15…” Any “surplus” expected in 2014-15 is expected only by Treasury, and only on their delusions of world economic recovery and local economic “growth” of over three percent a year for the next several years. Do you see any of that coming? The claim is a fiction.
  • “…our debt is one quarter of the OECD average…”   Government debt is now $28.5 billion and growing, thanks solely to Bill English’s continued over-spending.  This rapid and worrying rise in government debt was cited by both Fitch and Standard and Poors in their downgrade. Moreover, the OECD includes the UK, USA, Japan, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece … being just “average” in this company would be a very disturbing place to be indeed. The claim is irrelevant, at best.
  • “…we have interest rates at a 45-year low…” Interest rates have been set at a 45-year low by every central bank in the world because the world is in the middle of a 75-year historical world financial crisis, brought about by those same central banks. This is not an achievement, it is an admission. Of failure.
  • “…unemployment is starting to fall…” Really? Since the official unemployment rate rocketed up to between six and seven percent, virtually doubling under his Premiership, the adult rate has remained virtually static—figures helped, perhaps, by the more than 100,000 New Zealanders who left under his watch for Australia, with the rate of departure increasing in recent months. Meanwhile, a quarter of young people are now out of work and likely to remain so for some time, and nearly one-third of a million New Zealanders have been on a benefit for nine out the last nine quarters, with no sign of that falling either. Key’s claim is a joke. A disgraceful joke.
  • “…we have created 45,000 jobs…”  There were just over 2.2 million New Zealanders in work when the Key G0vernment came to office. There are now just over 2.2 million New Zealanders in work. 2.2 million minus 2.2 million equals …
  • “…we are likely to create 170,000 jobs in the next 4 years…”  More flatulent fiction.
  • “…we have reformed the Resource Management Act…”  The Act was “reformed” not to free up land to help make housing more affordable, nor to give power and property rights back to property owners, but to give more power to planners and make life easier for the government’s road-building machine. In other words, not to help you or I, but themselves. The claim is a lie.
  • “…we are on track to win the Rugby World Cup…” We? Is he next in line behind Stephen Donald?

His boasting is a litany of orchestrated ooze.

The fact is John Key lies.  He twists. He wriggles.

He’s a flake and a faker.

Why does he lie? Simple answer: if reality is only your side then there’s no need to fake it.

You only need to lie when reality is not going your way.

And once you start lying, there’s no way again that anyone else can trust you.

UPDATE: Oh yeah, Steven Joyce lies too. [Don’t just trust Gareth, you can check the logs.]

Q: So how can you tell when a politician is lying.
A: Their lips are moving.

“Down with evil corporations!” [update 2]

An image doing the rounds which hardly needs any further comment.


It is truly the Gimme Generation.

[HT Jeffrey Tucker]

UPDATE 1Pictures here from the Philadephia “Occupy Wall Street” protest, needing virtually no comment either.

UPDATE 2: Commentary coming, nonetheless, as the American left begins to embrace the Occupy Wall Street movement as its Anti-Capitatalist Moment.

    The politics of the Occupy Wall Street moment are deadly poisonous [says Steven Kates] but potentially as effective as any political scam in history. The Republicans may have shoveled an insane amount of money into the banks in 2008 but the Democrats are taking that money back with interest by painting those self same banks as the blackest of villains from
whom Americans can only be saved by voting Democrat.
    And the thing about banks is that there is not a citizen in a hundred who could tell you what the banks do. I have an
article up on Quadrant Online where I try to explain at least some of it. How much even bankers understand their role in a market system you may have to wonder..
    The speed of descent into a socialised economic mess is astounding. That 60s generation I am part of has completed its march through the institutions and the result is devastation, morally and intellectually, to go along with the economic wreckage they have left behind for which only worse is to come.

Nonetheless, there is hope from some of today’s generation:

Worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s “if not ever”–Governor [updated]

The Governor of the Bank of England says the world is facing the worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s “if not ever.” A crisis, he says, calling for more printing of more paper money to buy more government bonds.

So he’s got things half right.

The worst financial crisis since at least the 1930s (“if not ever”) is not a crisis of capitalism, says Detlev Schlicter. It is “the second crisis of socialism.” And printing more bits of fiat money, more bits of coloured paper, won’t solve it.

UPDATE:  “Why does the behavior of the Greek government have anything to do with taxpayers in Germany? Why did the original Maastricht Treaty have rules about fiscal policy as part of the criteria for monetary union? The answer is that the euro is a fiat currency… Germany, Slovakia, and the other frugal countries were only in this mess because the euro was a fiat currency. Had it been backed 100 percent by a commodity such as gold, then the Greek government's debts would be irrelevant to outsiders.” – Robert Murphy, “Fiat Money and the Euro Crisis

Cool stairs

There’s more than one way to build a staircase—not that our local regulators would know about that. (Their motto: “One way and one way only. And do as you’re told.)  Anyway, the Curbly blog has what it calls “ten architecturally wondrous staircases,” only a few of which quite meet the description (though they’re pretty cool) and only three of which would be legal in New Zealand. Possibly.

Here’s my favourite few, with a couple of other additions:






More stairs at StairPorn.Org.

PS: Can you pick which one was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright?

Monday, 10 October 2011

The battle of the coaches [updated]

After a great weekend of rugby action, what has emerged as the remaining four contenders for World Cup glory are four teams, three of which are coached by New Zealanders.

Henry v Deans v Gatland.

May the best coach win?

UPDATE: I hereby and most humbly apologise for making an idle Stephen Donald reference last week.

I should have touched wood.

Friday, 7 October 2011

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘Winning & Losing’ Edition

It was a week that started with the Geelong Cats winning their Premiership and ended with news of Steve Jobs losing his battle for his health.  And it’s not finished yet: here’s still some other important things happening in the next two days at the Cake Tin and at Eden Park—and off Tauranga.
Since I’ve been a little busy this week (for which, I hope, my clients will thank me, if not my readers) there’s not much of a Ramble to offer you. Nonetheless, since some of you have been asking for it, here’s your chance for a wee ramble round some of the things that caught my eye online this week:


To quote Hayek v Keynes Rap II: ‘The economy's
not a car. There's no engine to stall. No
expert can fix it. There's no ‘it’ at all.’"
- Russ Roberts & John Papola

  • “Keith Ng rightly won an award for this one.”
    CPI visualizerO F F S E T T I N G    B E H A V I O U R
  • “Paul Callaghan cites 20 top technology companies, not one of which is remotely a Clean Tech company, except in as much as they are all environmentally benign. ‘That latter, in my view, is all that matters, that and being the best in the world at what they do and hence viable and profitable. The evidence suggests what we are actually good at is not at all what the Green Party would like us to be good at. What we are good at is a result of brilliant entrepreneurship and business expertise. Such genius does not follow politicians’ prescriptions.’”
    Genius does not follow politicians’ prescriptions -   H O M E  P A D D O C K
  • image“Like most Keynesians, in the end, Paul Krugman is a one-trick pony who always recommends inflation as the answer to economic problems… So, I see that Krugman now is giving the "Vietnam Strategy" to the Europeans: in order to "save" the euro, you must destroy it -- via inflation.”
    Krugman: "Save" the euro by inflating it to death
    – K R U G M A N   I N   W O N D E R L A N D
  • Don’t think it’s just the addle-pated Keynesians either. The followers of Milton Friedman are equally eager to pour inflationary fuel on their fire.
     Inflationists in Wolves' Clothing 
    - Robert Murphy,  M I S E S   E C O N O M I C S    B L O G
  • “One reason that some government agencies may be failing is that their attention is directed to the wrong things. High on that list is policing against high prices during emergencies. Basic economic analysis finds that price gouging laws end up wasting state government resources and wasting consumers’ time during emergencies.”
    ‘Price Gouging’ Law: Why Waste State and Consumer Resources during Emergencies?
    - M A S T E R     R E S O U R C E
  • “It was recently pointed out to me that certain free market orientated friends dislike policies that fail to restore immediate growth: Basic economic theory posits that as households and businesses...”
    Do nothing: a positive proposal for recovery – C O B D E N C E N T R E

“If there's a way to solve this environmental disaster
[off Tauranga] by giving away public money to
private companies, Steven Joyce will find it.”
- Tweet from Dim Post

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men, women, and transgendered—and any other human who is able to elude the tyranny of work for a couple of weeks—are created equal…”
    Occupy Wall Street: A Manifesto – R E A S O N
  • “Until recently, I haven’t been paying much mind to the Occupy Wall Street protests. They’re a lot like Tea Party protesters. They’re upset with the status quo, and are being quite vocal about it. ...”
    Occupy Wall Street Protesters Make Demands – O P E N  M A R K E T . O R G
  • “Quantitative Easing just forcibly redistributes wealth from the poorest in society to the richest. It's immoral….
    Inequality will widen until banking is reformed – Oliver Cooper,
    C O N S E R V A T I V E H O M E B L O G S ( U K )
  • “Governor Rick Perry likes to say Texas is experiencing an economic miracle because of small government and low taxes. Another take: [S]mall government still doesn't mean scant government in Texas. It means lots and lots of small government and accompanying taxes...”
    Texas is another word for 'taxes' – M A D D O W   B L O G
  • Milestone alert: just one month left to see the Julian and Josie Robertson Promised Gift at the Auckland Art Gallery before it jets back to the US:
    Julian and Josie Robertson Promised Gift – A U C K L A N D   A R T    G A L L E R Y

Image: Paul Cézanne, La route (Le mur d'enceinte) The Road (The Old Wall), 1875-1876,
From the Julian and Josie Robertson Promised Gift

  • In my mind, I can play the ukelele too…

  • This is pretty much the highlight of Placido Domingo’s performance you missed in Christchurch last night, filmed in Tokyo on the same tour: the thrilling E Lucevan le Stelle from Tosca, sung beautifully, even at seventy years of age.

  • Compare with the same piece sung in his prime and filmed on location in Rome: a young man about to have his life ended by firing squad knowing that at this moment he has never loved life so much!

  • And one of my other favourites from last night (filmed, as before, in Tokyo), from Frank Lehar’s operetta ‘Land of Smiles’

  • Have a great weekend.
    And let’s hope Colin Slade does too.

    C.E.R.A = red tape


    I spent a day in Christchurch yesterday that was both marvellous (thank you to friends and Maestro Domingo for making it so) and depressing.

    The former commercial heart of New Zealand’s second-largest city still lies in ruins.  The place where business used to be done. And instead of allowing business to do what business does—i.e., to get on with reshaping and improving everyone’s situation one trade, one improvement, one productive innovation at a time—the government’s “solution” has been to bar businessmen from doing business while pretending to do themselves what businesses were set up to do.

    The result: More than a year after the first earthquake, the government still has wire fences and soldiers surrounding the city to keep out business owners, while their sites inside are now slowly, very slowly, being turned into tarmac.  The recovery plan in summary appears to be to ban business activity while hoping that the rescue fairy will somehow or other arrive on her own.

    No wonder there is anger. Very justified and, as yet, very ill-directed anger.

    These are just a few of the examples of “street art” decorating the barricades.




    And while it’s nothing to do with the anger directed towards the government and its creature C.E.R.A. (Cancel All Recovery Anyway), I thought this addition to the police’s “street art” was rather good:


    Thursday, 6 October 2011

    Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

    Steve Jobs has died.

    In his honour, I've reposted what I said about him just a few weeks ago.

    SORKIN-tmagSFGenius has often been described as the ability to enter an existing field and, by your contribution alone, change it utterly.

    Louis Armstrong did that for jazz. Newton and Einstein did it for physics. And Steve Jobs of Apple? Virtually single-handedly he revolutionised telecommunications, personal computing, the music business, publishing and Hollywood. Not to mention what he did to the computer itself.

    Most geniuses only revolutionise one field. Jobs has revolutionised at least three.

    But it’s not enough for some folk that his genius has improved the lives of millions. That he’s a genius who’s earned his money. He’ll only get respect at places like the New York Times if he gives it all away.

    Never mind that the focus of his wealth and productive genius on production does more for every single person on the planet than if he spent his time and energy giving his money away. He understands this:

    Mr. Jobs [told friends] he could do more good focusing his energy on continuing to expand Apple than on philanthropy, especially since his illness. “He has been focused on two things — building the team at Apple and his family,” another friend said. “That’s his legacy. Everything else is a distraction.”

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 1993 , Jobs said, “Going  to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.”

    Good for him.

    Power to pillage, but not to surveil

    For all the kerfuffle about the changing of the laws recently controlling over the police's powers of surveillance (about which I've commented here) a front page story in the Herald this morning reveals something both surprising, and disgusting.

    A High Court decision has confirmed that while the powers of the police are (quite properly) circumscribed by law and legal precedent, those of the IRD to do over honest New Zealanders is not.

    "While the Inland Revenue's right to search is not new, Deloitte partner Greg Haddon said the decision showed the tax commissioner's search and seizure powers are likely to be broader than any other branch of the Crown.

    "[The ruling] identified a number of situations where perhaps in a criminal case, the search and seizure right wouldn't have existed but under a tax case it does," Haddon said.

    "The rules around what that warrant looks like is a lot looser [in a tax case] than what would be required under a criminal case. Under a criminal case the warrant's required to be specific about who is entitled to [enter a premise] plus what things they're allowed to look at," he said.

    The IRD does not need a warrant to search a business and copy documents found there and only requires one when it wants to search a private dwelling or take documents away, he said. Any information deemed necessary or relevant to a tax investigation can be copied or seized."

    Contemplate that fact for a moment. It means, to repeat, that the government continues to give complete and unlimited power to IRD to do over productive businessmen, while retaining the restraint of law only on those investigating criminals and alleged terrorists.

    And with all his much boasted tinkering with the (In)Justice system, this is one thing Simon Power-Lust has elected to leave resolutely untouched. Of course.

    Tuesday, 4 October 2011

    What if the All Blacks played by teachers' rules? [updated]

    Fran Tarkenton (Former NY Giants and Minnesota Vikings quaRterback) makes an observation in today's Wall Street Journal that I’ve translated into New Zealandese for you:

    carterImagine NZ Rugby in an alternate reality. Each player's salary is based on how long he's been playing in the Super 15 or the All Blacks. It's about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he's a three-time winner of the IRB’s Rugby Player of the Year or the man who regularly never makes it off the bench until the seventieth minute. But for every year a player's been in the Super 15 or ABs, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Dan Carter and Stephen Donald is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

    Because if Dan Carter were injured, you’d always be able to select his equivalent off the bench, wouldn’t you. And you’d always want Stephen Donald around to fall back on.

    Let's face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?
        No matter how much money was poured into the NPC, the Super 15 or the All Blacks, it wouldn't get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.
        Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: "They hate rugby. They hate the players. They hate the fans." The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn't help.
        If you haven't figured it out yet, NZ Rugby in this alternate reality is the real-life public education system. Teachers' salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn't rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they've been teaching. That's it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you're demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation's children.

    As Tarkenton says, “Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn't working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities” rather than the dictates of the Ministry and of central government.

    Robert Wenzel observes that the blame is not all with the teacher unions; “the problem is really government involvement in the education system.”

    The answer is to get government out of the education business so it can grow and thrive,  just like the All Blacks …

    UPDATE:  Legendary quarterback Fran Tarkenton was interviewed on Fox News on this issue:

    Should NFL Rules Apply to Teachers?.

    [Thanks to commenter “School Principal” for the link.]

    Think the European government debt crisis is over because of the latest fancy “rescue plan”? Think again. [updated]

    Think the European government debt crisis is over because of the latest fancy “rescue plan”? Think again.

    The Eurozone is already in depression, the PIIGS’ governments continue not to pay their way, banks who’ve already lent to the PIIGS’ governments continue drowning, and the solution is not for governments to stop their overspending (despite its so-called “austerity measures,” the Greek govt for example  will continue spending billions more than it has, ditto the Poms and all the fiscally malfeasant Eurozone), nor to take the pressure off the banks whose over-lending made the over-spending possible. Instead, it’s to demand that over-lent banks already overloaded with bad Greek paper get more of it, in a plan so indecipherably complex that the “plan” really amounts to a hope that no-one could possibly understand either the plan the full extent of what this makes inevitable.

    This is intended to be the model for every country facing its own Greek moment. 

    It takes faking reality to a new extreme: it demands not just that progenitors of the plan keep their blinkers on, but that the bankers themselves put their heads in the noose while pretending they’re simply being fitted out with new clothes.

    Or in the words, of the Financial Times’ Wolfgang Münchau, it’s not just like kicking the can down the road, it’s “the equivalent of putting explosives into a can, before kicking it down the road.”

    [Hat tip Economic Policy Journal]

    UPDATED: Links added; commentary sharpened.

    Monday, 3 October 2011

    ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: Property rights and more! [updated]

    Here’s the update on tomorrow’s session with the UoA Economics Group:
    Good evening all,
    Ask yourself:
    • Why do people in shanty towns build their furniture before their roofs?
    • Why did the Industrial Revolution happen first in England?
    • Why do some places produce factories and enormous wealth, while in others all they have are pushcarts and penury?
    • How did problems with goats and chickens seven-hundred years ago lead to an enormous humanitarian advance we still enjoy?
    • And why might your neighbour want to invoice you for his new flower bed?
    Join us tomorrow night to discuss the answers to these questions and much more--and find out what they all have to do with our subject: property rights.
            Time: 6:00pm
            Date: Tuesday, 4 October    
            Location: Case Room 1, Level 0, University of Auckland Business School
    See you there!

    Sunday, 2 October 2011

    Quote of the Day: AFL edition

    "[With] yesterday's stunning victory by Geelong over
    Collingwood ... the club's ninth premiership and
    its third in five years ... [the Geelong Cats] can now
    rightfully claim to be the greatest of the modern era."
              - Caroline Wilson, writing in 'TheAge'

    Saturday, 1 October 2011

    Best of the week, and for the weekend

    If you missed them this week, these are the posts that got folk excited:

    1. Three Logicians Walk Into a Bar
      The humour of logic.  And beer.
    2. Don, John and the right to take a toke
      Even if the country’s clueless, calcified commentariat is unable to see the connection between the right to pursue your own happiness and the right to defend your own life—two rights which are linked as one in freedom—if ACT ever had a reason to exist then it was to promote the policies of freedom and individual rights while all around them parties were peddling the opposite. That they’ve rarely if ever done so has led them to the place they are now. Which is to be unelectably shambolic.
    3. Don’t like drugs? Then legalise cannabis.
      The more you actively prohibit drugs, then it is the more virulent drugs you actively encourage. The more you outlaw drugs, the more you empower outlaws.
      If you want police cracking down on real criminals instead of spending time frisking people harming only themselves, then end the War on Drugs now. Because if you can’t even keep drugs out of prisons, then you sure as hell can’t keep them off the streets.
    4. “Nobody got rich on their own, so there!”
      Some folk are saying this tirade against wealth creators  by Obama adviser and now Harvard academic Elizabeth Frigging Warren is “the best thing ever!” Like hell.
    5. "This economic crisis is like a cancer…”
      The situation in Europe has now officially become a farce. Plan? What plan. The only plan on offer is to continue driving off the cliff.
    6. DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: The FrACTured Party
      Don Brash dips his toe into the water and before you know it, toys are being ejected from cots by the president of ACT and the two Johnny Bs.
    7. Doug Casey: How to Prepare For When Money Dies
      An eye-opening interview with renowned speculator Doug Casey:  why fiat currencies around the world are destined for collapse, whether the US dollar or Euro might lead it … and what investors can, and should, do to protect themselves.
    8. 100,000 green jobs from $2.5 billion of green pork? Who are they kidding.
      New green jobs “created,” if they are at all, by taking away existing jobs.

    So that’s the best of the week. Now for the best of the weekend!


    227368_186235261426891_186235124760238_514391_8279974_nJust in case you didn’t know, and despite all the other games on this weekend, the game of the year for me is this afternoon: Geelong Cats (Go the Cats!) vs Collingwood Magpies (Cold Pies) in the AFL Grand Final!

    Ninety-odd thousand screaming fans strapped into their seats at the MCG to watch this year’s two dominating teams battle it out for either Collingwood’s second Flag in two years, or Geelong’s third in the last five. (Check out some of the highlights of their thrilling 2009 victory.)

    Geelong are the Counties of Australian Football—at least, Counties when it was in its prime. Hard playing, skilful, astute, possessing all the virtues of the sport. They’ve been the pace-setters of the game over the last half-dozen years.

    And Collingwood? These jokes might give you the flavour of the Collingwood supporter, and explain why for most Australians the two teams they support are their own and ABC – Anyone But Collingwood.

    Geelong-markQ: What has four-hundred legs and three teeth?
    A: The Collingwood Cheer Squad.

    Did you hear that the Post Office has had to recall their latest stamps? They had pictures of Collingwood players on them. People couldn't figure out which side to spit on.

    Q. If you see a Collingwood fan on a bicycle, why should you never swerve to hit him? A. It could be your  bicycle.

    Did you hear about the politician who was found dead wearing a Collingwood jumper? They had to dress him in women’s underwear to save his family from embarrassment.gamenight

    Q: What is the difference between a Collingwood supporter and a park bench?
    A: The park bench can support a family.

    Q: How do you make a Collingwood supporter run?
    A: Build a job centre.

    Long live the Colliwobbles!
    And just so you know,  the last time the two teams met the Cats thumped the Pies by 96 points. And Cats Eat Birds.

    Oh, and Clare Curran is a Collingwood fan.

    So go the Cats!




    Geelong2008Logo1 (1)