Monday, 13 February 2012

Come on baby, be my econo-Valentine

It’s not quite “come on sucker, lick my battery” stuff, but economists are warming up for Valentine’s Day with the #FedValentines tag on Twitter [hat tip Offsetting Behaviour]. My favourites, from the SanFrancisco Fed:

I'm going to extraordinary measures to increase your stimulus.

My love is elastic, my commitment too big to fail.

And from NPR’s Planet Money:

But, soft! What light through yonder discount window breaks? It is the East, and Ben is the sun.

I'll be your lover of last resort.

And the Marvin Gayesque:

When I get that feeling I want quantitative easing.

With those out of the way, Craig Biddle identifies a more serious point: the connection between Say’s Law and Romantic Love (and you were going to say you’d just been thinking along those lines, huh?):

The realm of romance, like that of economics, is governed by Say’s Law. Supply constitutes demand. What you produce (supply) is what you have to trade in the marketplace (demand.
    Say’s law does not mean that if you create something people will want it—or “if you build it they will come.” It means that if you want to trade with others, you have to produce something with which to trade—something of value. The values you create—whether computers or works of art or educational services—constitute your demand on the goods and services created by others. What you create is what you have to offer in trade for what others create.
    The same is true in romance. If you want a relationship of mutual love, you have to produce something with which to trade—something that a good person will want and be able to love. The one and only demand you can exert in the realm of romance is what you have made of yourself. That is your “supply”; it’s what you bring to the table.
    This is not an analogy; it is the literal truth. And it applies to both mind and body…
    If we want a wonderful, lasting romantic relationship—if we want to fall in love and stay in love with a great girl or guy—then we have to make ourselves of value to such a person.
   
Supply constitutes demand. “Take what you want and pay for it”….

* But maybe if Flight of the Conchords were to try econo-ditties as well as Robo-boogie?

Peace activists?

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Yes, folks, the trial of the Urewera 18, 16, 15, 4 has finally got under way this morning in Auckland’s High Court.

So we may finally hear some facts about what this motley lot are accused of, rather than the self-serving soft-soaping they and their chums have been peddling on their behalf.

It has now been four and a half years since the 18 were arrested. Four and a half years! Four and a half years in which the crown muddled while defendants and their lawyers and their friends in the media churned out press releases, interviews and media events in their defence. In the absence of a real trial we had instead a trial by media—a “trial” in which defendants were feted while all the substantive evidence against them was suppressed at the behest of their own lawyers!

Law has been very much the loser in this case.

But let’s not accept any crocodile tears about how long it’s taken for this crew to finally get before the court—like the crocodile tears John Minto et al were crying this morning about how tough it’s been for them to be on bail for so long.  Because right from day one of this whole debacle, the Urewera 18, 16, 15, 4 and their lawyers have been using every delaying tactic in the book. (That their requests for suppression only delayed proceedings even longer puts their crocodile tears now over the delays into damning perspective.) But if a justice system cannot pull together a case in four years, while fending off the shysters out looking for a loophole, that’s a pretty serious indictment of the system’s failure.

And while out on bail Tame Iti was allowed to dance his way around Europe on the taxpayer.

Only in New Zealand, one suspects, would a man facing charges of participating in an organised criminal group, unlawful possession of firearms and possession of restricted weapons be allowed to swan off around Europe on a dance tour while taxpayers sit here at home picking up his tab.

So let’s hope we finally do hear some facts in coming days. Or else we’ll be left to conclude only that our “justice” system is little more than a laughing stock.

That’s a hell of a price for a train set

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“Socialist governments traditionally make a financial
mess.  They always run out of other people’s money.”

- Margaret Thatcher

His ambition, he said, was to make Auckland the world’s most liveable city.

It seems, however, that after dreaming up a new train set, a fancy new bridge and various other fantasies, mayor Len Brown is instead intent on making Auckland among the world’s most expensive cities in which to live—with petrol, tax and rate hikes mooted to make up the $10-15 billion shortfall between reality and his fantasies.

And this is on top of the general rates rise he and his minions agreed last year to impose on us this year.

Nice, huh.

We’re in a deep and worsening recession, and all this clown can think about is means by which to extract even more of the hard-earned from those who earned it.

Thank goodness for the “Super” City, eh.

Glendowie Montessori

I’ve written many times about the benefits of Montessori education for your youngsters, not just through their early years but right on through primary and high school. If you can find them in your neighbourhood, and if they’re not just Montesomething schools instead of the real thing. 

Well, lucky old Glendowie. If you’re lucky enough to live in Glendowie, Glen Innes or anywhere in that area, I can tell you that a new Montessori classroom has just opened for your two-and-a-half to six year olds—and this is very much the real thing. It’s called the Glendowie Montessori Preschool, and it opens for business today at 227 West Tamaki Rd!

What’s more, there’s also an excellent Montessori primary classroom that can take your children at six.  So if you have young children and this is your stamping ground, then you’ve just fallen on your feet.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I am beginning to think that Christianity has a lot in common with Marxist-Leninism..."

"I am beginning to think that Christianity has a lot in common with Marxist-Leninism... God is dialectical materialism; Christ is Karl Marx; the Church is the Party, the elect is the proletariat, and the Second Coming is the Revolution."
"How do heaven and hell fit into that?" I asked.
"Heaven is the socialist millennium, of course. I think hell must be the punishment of the capitalists."

And...

"The medieval Church and the Communist state share four basic dictums. Firts and foremost comes the instruction to seek the life of the spirit: seek pure Marxism. Don't waste your efforts on other trivial things. Gain is avarice, love is lust, beauty is vanity.
"Two: Communists are urged to give service to the state, as Christians must give it to the Church--in a spirit of humility and devotion, not in order to  serve themselves  or to become a success. Ambition is bad; it is the result of sinful pride...
"Three: both Church and Marx renounce money. Investment and interest payments are singled out as the worst of evils.
"Four, and this is the most iportant similarity, there is the way in which the Christian faithful are urged to deny themselves all the pleasures of this world to get their reward in paradise after they die."
"And Communists?" she asked.
"If they work hard and deny themselves the pleasures of this world, then after they die their children will grow up in paradise..."
"You missed out number five," I said... "Victory over the flesh. Both Church and Communist state preach that."

- Excerpted from Len Deighton's novel 'London Match.'
Views are expressed by a defecting Communist.

Friday, 10 February 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The bewigged edition

WinstonParliament is back in session, so by Mark Twain’s standards neither life, liberty nor proper should be safe. But apart from questions about Maori Party integrity and Winston Peter’s wig, it’s been a quiet political week.
Thanks goodness.

On with the show…

  • Steven Joyce talks unusual sense for a politician. He says “Each time we say ‘you can’t’ it carries a cost.” And so it does.  But what’s with the “we,” minister?
    ‘We’ Are a Little Confused - P O L I C Y   M A T T E R S
  • “You’ve heard that America is enjoying a “jobs-led recovery”? Don’t be so sure.
      No Evidence of a Jobs Recovery
    - O B J E C T I V I S T  I N D I V I D U A L I S T
  • And you thought Bill Clinton was the president who couldn’t keep it in his trousers…
    The Truth About President Kennedy – S C O T T  H O L L E R A N ’ S   B L O G
  • How to choose from a bad bunch.
    Ayn Rand on Selecting a Presidential Candidate? – Burgess Laughlin, M A K I N G  P R O G R E S S

“Central bankers are the arsonists of [the present economic] 
crisis who now pose as fire fighters quickly labelling
further monetary debasement ‘stimulus’.”
            - Detlev Schlicter, “There will be no end to ‘quantitative easing’

“What is the difference between animal spirits and the confidence
fairy? Why do Keynesians embrace one but not the other?”
            - Russ Roberts

  • The Europeans have a plan, and like all political plans…
    Why Europe’s Plan to End the Debt Crisis Can’t and Won’t Work -  D A I L Y  R E C K O N I N G
  • Dept. of Yikes: "In effect the EFSF is being used to recapitalize the ECB."
    http://soberlook.com/2012/02/efsf-used-to-recapitalize-ecb-on-greek.html
  • Do government-engineered "soft landings" ever work out as planned?
    Are "Soft Landings" really softer? – Darius Cooper,  P R A C T I C E   G O O D   T H E O R Y
  • Alleged economists suggest printing more to devalue your currency is a good thing and not a disaster. That the job in times of economic disaster is to “boost demand.” The biggest disaster is the economic theory on which such “thinking” is based.
    Will Currency Devaluation Fix the Eurozone? – Frank Shostak, M I S E S  D A I L Y
  • You know about gold and how it can protect you when the times become those about which historians like to write.  And how bonds can provide a return when they aren’t. But where do gold bonds fit in?
    Gold Bonds – Keith Weiner,   K E I T H   W E I N E R ‘ S   P O S T E R O U S
  • What politicians, economists and environmentalists need to learn from the billion-dollar collapse of Obama’s “green jobs” flagship, but won’t.
    Lessons From Solyndra – Robert Murphy,  E C O N L I B

“There are few branches of learning as devoid of history’s
light as economics. Economists are rarely informed by it.”

            - Jonathan R. T. Hughes’s in his book
The Government Habit,
quoted by Don Boudreaux

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[Thanks and hat tips to Geek Press, Marginal Revolution, Watts Up With That, Rational Jenn, Cafe Hayek, The Playful Spirit]

Earthquake engineering is not an exact science

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AFTER THE REPORT ON the collapse of the CTV building, everyone now wants to hang the builder and designers.

“Someone is incompetent!” Is the cry. “Someone must be to blame!” “There's criminal negligence going on there somewhere…."

No. Not necessarily. None of that follows necessarily from the report.

It seems on the face of it that people are not so much blaming people for not being competent, but for not being omniscient.

Because I think the problem is not one of negligence but one of the nature of knowledge.

COMPARING THE POOR STATE of Christchurch’s heritage buildings after the earthquake with most of its modern buildings is enough to tell you that earthquake engineering has improved rapidly over the last century. That knowledge has increased and will continue to increase.

It is a heroic tale. From a position of almost complete ignorance one-hundred years ago, engineers acquired increasing understanding and ingenuity in protecting buildings and the people in them--with new and revolutionary systems introduced in recent decades such as K-Braced Frames, Base Isolation and Ductile Design—saving literally millions of lives around the world, and hundreds of thousands in Christchurch.

Where just seventy years ago in First World countries like ours people still died en masse in earthquakes like the Napier disaster, today the earth can shake well beyond what even modern building were designed to handle—as it did in Christchurch on February 22nd—and ninety-nine per cent are still able to survive heroically and allow people to get out safely.

That we are talking about just two that didn’t (this one and Pyne Gould) is a tragedy on a massive scale. Let’s not downplay that. But that we are talking about just one that didn’t is a testament to the engineering in all the buildings that did. The engineers responsible used all the the knowledge acquired in recent years to design them; knowledge that will increase in future years.  But as the knowledge continues to increase, some of the methods used today will also shown to be wrong and less than adequate by engineers fifty years from now (as they undoubtedly will).

That  will not make today’s engineers negligent. They will simply be revealed as less than omniscient.

Just like every other human being.

SO EARTHQUAKE ENGINEERING IS still an inexact science, with new understanding emerging  after every earthquake that helps engineers understand more for the next one. After this one, for example, we’ve learned that the ground can move in very different ways than buildings have been designed for. It’s not necessarily a matter of criminal negligence, then—it’s more the nature of knowledge and how it improves, is tested and expands.

Reading summaries of the report with that in mind, when you boil it down it seems that in the early eighties we knew less about designing buildings to resist earthquakes than we do now.  Which is nothing to blame anyone for. And (perhaps) that too little was done to upgrade buildings like CTV’s that were designed before the modern era of seismic design.  Which is where any blame, if it’s deserved, probably lies.

This building for example was designed with its bracing walls disposed asymmetrically. But, for whatever reason, the importance of symmetrical bracing was less well understood then.

The building’s floors appear to have “pancaked,” which is what happens when columns collapse and one “soft storey” after another collapses on the one beneath. But back in the early eighties, engineering wisdom was still dictating that beams be designed stronger than columns—a situation eventually recognised as causing columns to fail before beams, leading inexorably to the pancake problem.

The columns are described as “brittle”—which is say they were not ductile—on which were imposed extra loadings from the increased twisting of the building. But the building was designed before the importance of Ductile Design was fully understood. 

As the engineers responsible for designing CTV, Alan Reay Consultants, said in a prepared statement yesterday:

We need to remember that the [design methods] of the day, when the building was designed and constructed, were not intended to withstand the magnitude and type of earthquake ... experienced on February 22.

They’re quite right.

Things have changed since then—but to call the engineers of the time negligent because they knew less than they we do now, and will know in the future, is to blame human beings for not being omniscient.

Which is not anything you can blame engineers for.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

This is cool

Workers on BHP Billiton’s new building in Perth, West Australia, replicated the famous ‘Lunch Atop a Skyscaper’ photo from the thirties of workers having their lunch on a steel beam high above Manhattan.

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Colding kills

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Several inches of global warming have now covered Europe for eleven days. Here’s the tragedy in a  headline:

Europe death toll now 400 from icy weather.

Can we now, please, begin to recognise the dangers to human beings of cold weather—which far, far outweigh the dangers of warming.

Can you own water? [update 2]

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That’s become the question of this political term, hasn’t it, the answering of which is going to hold up the government’s flagship sell-a-little-bit programme for its power companies: Can you own water?

Simple answer: Yes, of course you can.

The ownership of water is not only possible, it’s often highly desirable.

It de-politicises arguments about resources.

It solves the Tragedy of the Commons in water.

It solves the increasing problem of dirty dairying.

It solves the problems involved in the South Island river systems, where there are many competing uses for the limited water available.

Recognising ownership in a water resource is not only moral, it’s practical. The answer to the problems cited and many more besides is to recognise there is no greater protection for both environment and water users than the protection of property rights and the legacy of common law -- if only these were allowed to function as they should, by placing the power of law behind those who truly value the specific resource under threat.

Ownership of water not only could happen, it should happen.

If the way to open those floodgates is by recognising specific claims to ownership, however flawed initially, then so be it.

Better it begins some way than never to begin at all.

* * * * *

* I make no comment at all here on the veracity of claims now hitting the headlines, nor on the anachronistic argument asserting property rights were recognised in New Zealand before 1840.
But as Ronald Coase points out, once a property right is finally recognised in law then (as long as transaction costs are kept low) it will end up in the hands of those who value it the most. And that would be a good result, right?

UPDATE 1: The collectivisation of water has failed New Zealanders.

So in addition to the excellent links I’ve provided above, I’d like to highly recommend a Canadian organisation called Environment Probe who have written many excellent things on The Role of Property Rights in Protecting Water Quality, including these many wonderful publications.

UPDATE 2: Yes, I do own water says Liberty Scott.

If I have land, and collect water on that property, it is mine.
Just because the state treats the sea, rivers and lakes as owned by it and local authorities, doesn't mean that water can't be owned.
It is ludicrous to claim otherwise.
Reticulated water costs money. It requires people to work, people to construct, lay, maintain and replace pipelines, dams, pumps and the electricity required to operate them. That isn't free.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Clint: “Keep buying our shitty cars” [update 2]

Shitycars

Americans stopped buying American cars several years ago. Mostly because they were rubbish.

That didn’t bother American car makers. They kept making the shitty cars anyway and just went cap in hand to the government for a bailout.

"We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies," actor, director and Academy Award winner Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times in November 2011.

That was November 2011. Now, however, in February 2012? He’s delivered an ad for half-time at the US Superbowl over the weekend about job growth, about “the spirit of America,” and how Americans should join together again and buy American cars.

Carefully, however, they show very little of the American cars they want Americans to buy.

Because they’re still shitty.

And the only “roar” is the roar of bullshit, and the sucking sound of money disappearing down a black hole.

UPDATE 1: Speaking of shitty cars … it’s half-time in the Lincoln Tunnel.

UPDATE 2: Here’s how a halftime ad by Clint Eastwood should have sounded …

[Hat tip Small Dead Animals]

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Printing money is not sustainable [updated]

Morons like Bernard Hickey have been beating the drum for our Reserve Bank to do what every other Reserve Bank in the world has been doing: to cross their fingers and print money like there’s no tomorrow.

_Quote_Idiot[Other governments’] print and hope strategies look set to leave anyone who doesn't print and hope sprawling in the dust [says Hickey]. 
The last one to print and devalue is the loser.

As I’ve said before, Bernard Hickey is a moron.  If anyone in authority listens to him, we will be the losers.

As if we should put our heads in the oven just because everyone else is! As if propping up share markets and bankers’ profits by faking reality is somehow a sound policy. As if  the printing of more coloured pieces of paper can somehow bring new resources into existence.  As if printing these new bits of paper doesn’t destroy your savings and devalue every existing piece of paper in your pocket. As if printing ever increasing tranches of this bailout crack (just another hit, please Doc!) isn’t like taking a tiger by the tail. As if the creation of new credit “out of the ether” is all it takes to create a sustainable boom…

“The boom can last only as long as the credit expansion progresses at an ever-accelerated pace. The boom comes to an end as soon as additional quantities of fiduciary media are no longer thrown upon the loan market. But it could not last forever even if inflation and credit expansion were to go on endlessly. It would then encounter the barriers which prevent the boundless expansion of circulation credit. It would lead to the crack-up boom and the breakdown of the whole monetary system.”
            - Ludwig von Mises, “Interest, Credit Expansion & the Trade Cycle,” Chapter 20 of Human Action

[Hat tip Foundation for Economic Growth]

UPDATE: From Detlev Schlicter’s Paper Money Collapse blog:

    …the public believes it was greedy bankers and ‘unfettered capitalism’ that brought us down. But cheap credit through state fiat money and the systematic subsidization of the housing market are not features of the free market but of politics. The present mess is the result of decades of institutionalized monetary debasement and the accumulation of public debt. These policies have left us with bankrupt welfare states and overstretched banks, yet none of this has diminished the enthusiasm of politicians and bureaucrats to give us more of their medicine…
Prosperity through money printing?
   
The persistent debasement of money in the modern state fiat money system is an obstacle to the smooth operation of the market, the production of wealth and the growth in prosperity. It keeps the middle class in bondage as its efforts to save and gain financial independence are constantly undermined by the official policy of inflationism.
   But the central planners and central bankers and their apologists among journalists and economists tell us that it is exactly the other way round: “Prosperity through monetary debasement” is Big Brother’s slogan, and he has spokespeople with outstanding academic credentials to explain this absurdity to the masses. In November 2010, MIT and Princeton man Ben Bernanke, the U.S. government’s money-printer-in-chief, wrote this in the Washington Post when explaining to the less educated why creating $600 billion out of thin air and messaging yields on government debt down was a clever policy:

_Quote_IdiotEasier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.”

Well, that was 14 months ago. As it turns out, manipulating the economy by artificially lowering rates (lowering rates not by saving but by simply printing money) has not started a virtuous circle. Such manipulations come with nasty unintended consequences, and after a few decades of such a policy the accumulated unintended consequences far outweigh whatever short –lived growth blip money debasement may have manufactured otherwise. None of this has anything to do with healthy growth and a functioning free market economy.
    But it is important that those in positions of authority do not admit that they are clueless. They never make mistakes. Their policy is never wrong. They simply need to do more of the same – and then even more. As I write this, the Fed is, of course, preparing another round of quantitative easing, and so is the Bank of England. And the ‘economists’ on Wall Street and the City of London cheer them on.
    The debasement of paper money certainly continues.

And the morons (and those who get first use of the new printing) stand by and cheer.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Morning Ramble: The ‘Waitangi/Rand’s Day’ edition

Yesterday was Rand’s Day: Ayn Rand’s birthday. Not everyone wants to celebrate that, but I do.
Not every country has a reason to celebrate its birth. We are one of those happy few, yet we don’t.
So how about more Rand and less Waitangi today. Deal?

“A new report says that Facebook has created over 450,000 jobs. Unfortunately
photos posted on Facebook have ended 550,000 jobs.”

- Fallon

  • This is the guy who says we have to live with less?
    Cameron buying 2,600 acres of land in NewZealand – A P
  • Ministerial briefings to new ministers are being censored. This incenses the political opposition. These briefings, says Eddie at The Standard, “give the public (via the media) an insight into on coming challenges in portfolios, elaborate on how election promises will be converted into real policies, and—most importantly—reveal things the government is planning. So, it's disturbing that the Nats are censoring them,” says Eddie.
    “Arrogant and unresponsive,” says Labour’s Clare Curran.
    “Cult of secrecy”! says Idiot/Savant. “We should not tolerate it.”!
    So down with censorship; and all power to transparency!
    On the other hand, information about school performance (or lack thereof) must be kept from prying eyes, says Trevor Mallard, who wants to make school level assessment information more secretive than security information held by the SIS.
    So down with transparency; and all power to censorship!
    Don’t bother to examine such a blatant contradiction. Ask yourself only what it achieves.
    For your eyes only – Eddie,  T H E   S T A N D A R D
    Is Amy Adams’ work programme a state secret? – Clare Curran,  R E D   A L E R T
    No right to know – Idiot/Savant,  N O   R I G H T   T U R N
    The hypocrisy of Robin Duff -  W H A L E   O I L
    More on Education and OIA-  K I W I B L O G
  • Eric Crampton finds much to celebrate in Treasury’s briefing paper.
    Treasury! O F F S E T T I N G  B E H A V I O U R

Good advice from Imperator Fish:
“With all these folk swearing off the booze for February, it is important
that the balance of the universe be maintained. Time to up my game.”

  • It’s a slam dunk. New Labour MP Raymond Huo takes aim at the Chicago School of Economics: it’s all their fault, he says, “that particular school of thought … is one of the main reasons the western world is in the doldrums.” From the financial crisis, to growing income inequality in Europe and the United States, to leaky buildings … it’s all their fault for promoting unfettered free market and deregulation!
    Naturally, since he’s writing on a blog, numerous more intelligent commentators leap to their keyboards to put him right—both politely and succinctly.
    It’s a slam dunk.
    Everybody loves Raymond – W H A L E   O I L
  • Auckland welcomed its 1.5millionth citizen this week. But how will the city accommodate its growing population with the grey ones so firmly in the way?
    Are we there yet? Auckland welcomes 1.5 millionth citizen –  Phil McDermott, C I T I E S  M A T T E R
  • “Once again I am shocked at how easily and automatically so many intellectuals are willing to use compulsion to solve problems.”
    Another anti-freedom conservative: David Brooks – S T E P H E N   H I C K S

"Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death."
- Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged 

  • With the coming to these shores of Charter Schools, it’s time to take up the catchphrase “Separation of School and State!”
    Restore the Separation of State and School – T H E   U N D E R C U R R E N T
  • You’ve all heard the Keynesian litany from every alleged economist from Krugman to Hickey to Morgan: the world’s economies are collapsing and there’s a worldwide shortage of demand; governments are deeply in debt and can’t provide the necessary investment to make up the shortfall.
    What a shame they’re talking crap.
    Is government spending really "investment"? – K R U G M A N  I N  W O N D E R L A N D
  • Oh, for those of you wishing to gain some insight into our genius overlords' thinking, these four “classes” by Ben Bernanke (Central Planner in Chief) might be of interest.
    You could call them a “Master Class,” i.e., lessons the Class of your Overlords.
    Make sure you pack some difficult questions.
    Bernanke to teach class on Fed at GW in March – M A R K E T   W A T C H
  • Antarctica is melting! says Al Gore, Richard Branson, James Hansen and Kevin Trenberth.
    Um, no it’s not, points out Steven Milloy.
    Al Gore’s ‘melting’ Antarctic claims refuted by reality – J U N K   S C I E N C E
  • Some people buy gold. Others buy cheese. Here’s how to make your fancy cheeses last.
    How to make your expensive wedge of cheese last for weeks – F O R B E S
  • World-Wide Factory Activity, by Country.
    World-Wide Factory Activity, by Country. -  W A L L  S T R E E T   J O U R N A L
  • You know what’s holding us all back here? Don’t worry, the Ministry of Economic Development has all the answers.
    Most notably, they’ve determined that what ails us economically is not their fault. Got that? It’s not taxes, regulations, public sector idiots or bureaucracies getting in our way. No, says the Ministry, it’s not that at all.
    No, it’s all our fault.
    Arseholes.
    Ministry suggests poor management holding economy back -  R A D I O   N Z

"The man who lets a leader prescribe his course
is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap."

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

"A creative man is motivated by the desire to
achieve, not by the desire to beat others."

- Ayn Rand

  • imageGuess what? Yesterday was Ayn Rand’s Birthday—and some folk had a great idea to make February 2nd, Rand’s Day,  a day worth celebrating!
    Randsday is Justice Day. Give YOURSELF a present.
    Rand'sDay -  A Y N   R A N D  M Y T H S
  • And why is a philosopher who died thirty years ago still have Tea Partiers, political commentators, and politicians still taking (and arguing) about her now?
     ppy Birthday, Ayn Rand -- Why are you still so misunderstood? 
    – Don Watkins,  F O X   N E W S
  • Ayn Rand: 10 more great quotes on her birthday
    Ayn Rand: 10 great quotes on her birthday 
    -  C . S.    M O N I T O R

"The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny
individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
- Ayn Rand

  • From our environmental page … there is hope for the weka, but only if the grey ones get out of the way.
    Hope for the weka? -  O F F S E T T I N G   B E H A V I O U R
  • And on Waitangi Weekend, it’s appropriate that environmentalists ask themselves: “Were Maori environmentalists?” Most NZ environmental law assumes they were.  So if they weren’t…
    Were Maori environmentalists? -  N O T   P C ,  2 0 0 6
  • Some environmentalists don’t like oil drilling because of oil spills. But what if you could fight oil spills with cool technology like this?
    Magnetic soap made for oil spills -  F U T U R E   O F   T E C H N O L O G Y

"Money demands that you sell, not your weakness
to men's stupidity, but your talent to their reason."
- Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead  

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[Thanks to readers Shaun H, Julian D., Paul van D. and hat tips to Thrutch, Anne McElhinney, Stephen Hicks, Bosch Fawston, Noodle Food, Geek Press, ]

Keep watching.
More later.
PC

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Cabin porn

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Anybody fancy a snug little cabin many miles from everything that troubles you?

Then the website Cabin Porn is just for you.

But maybe not exactly what you might think….

(Yes, Virginia, it is safe to view at work.)

GUEST POST: Christchurch people say “enough is enough!”

_hugh-pavletich-smlGuest Post by Hugh Pavletich

At noon yesterday some 4,000 local citizens gathered next to the Civic Building in Christchurch to express their anger at the poor performance of the Christchurch City Council. Many of these people had never attended a protest in their lives before—as New Zealand’s Television Close Up programme “Anger in Christchurch” (Video 3.45 min) explained last night.

Rev Mike Coleman (a leader who has emerged in the east of Christchurch and chairs  the Wider Communities Action Network representing the devastated people of the east) ably chaired the protest meeting, facilitated by Peter Lynch and his  team, who also spoke. Members of the public who wished to do so were asked by Rev Mike Coleman to express their views as well.

imageThe beloved Christchurch Wizard also spontaneously contributed his well-received views too.

This was very much a spontaneous outpouring by the wider Christchurch community. They left heartened and emboldened from this important gathering.

Within the Close Up programme, Andrea Cummings of North New Brighton is featured. Andrea and her husband, who run a small lawn mowing repair shop, spontaneously became the focal point of their community through the earthquake events – meeting the communities immediate needs and distributing food parcels where required.

As Andrea explains within the interview, this had to happen because the Authorities – and particularly the Christchurch City Council – were not set up to respond because of their centralised structure.

The Simmering Discontent Continues

While there had been deep concern in Christchurch for many years about the poor performance of the centralised Council structure, incapacitated by bureaucratic bloat [the writer has written extensively on these issues – latest October 2011 - Christchurch earthquake recovery: The political circus], the “final straw” was the Council’s decision on the advice of its consultants to award the Council Chief Executive Tony Marryatt a $68,000 14% pay rise mid December 2011.

The public fury was immediate.

Peter Lynch, a local resident with no prior involvement with politics, was so incensed, he set up a Facebook page  - No Pay Rise For Tony Marryatt - announcing publicly that there was to be a protest 1 February 2012.

The “blundering” Council decision announcing this extraordinary pay rise to a largely “invisible” Chief Executive of the Council Tony Marratt was followed soon after by an equally odd announcement by the Earthquake Recovery Minister Hon Gerry Brownlee, urging the local elected representatives and citizens to “settle down” and support the Council authorities. Brownlee “threatened” dissenting local representatives (those supporting clean local government) with dismissal, as reported by the local morning daily The Press soon after – “Quake Minister Gerry Brownlee Scolds Council.”

Normally, the summer Christmas breaks in New Zealand are when the country shuts down for a month and the media “goes to sleep” because there is so little news to report.

In Christchurch this year however, following the political blunders of both the local Council and the Recovery Minister Brownlee, the atmosphere was very different, with the public and the local media erupting with “enough is enough.”

South Islands major daily The Press led the extraordinary public conversation, with other print, radio and television media participating as well. The Press however had been covering these issues for a period of 17 months, since the time of the first earthquake event 4 September 2010.

In normal times, Local Government issues tend to attract little media or public interest. But with the earthquake events still persisting (in excess of 9,500 shakes to date), the performance of the political authorities at both the local and national levels, came under increasing scrutiny – as they failed to perform to an acceptable standard.

The Emerging Focus on Solutions

The critically important public conversation over this time has meant that the wider public has an increasingly better understanding of the problems and what the solutions need to be. While there is loose talk about the possibility of “rates revolts” and other approaches, the three major changes required are emerging –

(1) The need for a fresh mid term election as soon as possible – likely April / May.

(2) A replacement Council Chief Executive (realistically – only a newly elected Council can do this).

(3) Abolish the Councils centralised structure and replace it with a One City/Many Communities model – where the “control” is at the local level. This is clearly essential for both elementary reasons of risk management and because, as the TVNZ Close Up programme highlights, the importance of local communities being able to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of local people.

As the writer pointed out in a brief address to the people gathered at yesterday’s protest meeting, some 17 months following the first earthquake event 4 September 2010 the recovery has still not yet got underway in Christchurch  – simply because the “top down” approach, with bureaucracies incapacitated with bloat and weak political leadership, have not been able to respond to the community’s and businesses’ needs.

The atmosphere with respect to the Christchurch City Council bureaucracy is that it has long been At War with its communality and business.

In development and construction terms, Christchurch has long been considered a “disaster zone” well before the first earthquake struck September 2010. The writer has covered these issues extensively within earlier articles [see Performance Urban Planning].

The Christchurch Rebuild Disaster

The situation has only worsened since the time of the first earthquake – and is best illustrated by the new housing consent construction performance through 2011.

Christchurch, with a population of some 370,000 people, consented just 750 new conventional housing units over that period (with 150 relocatables deducted) – a miserable consent rate of just 2 units per 1000 population - well below replacement levels in a normal market, let alone through an earthquake recovery.

By contrast, to the south and west of Christchurch is the county of Selwyn with a population of about 40,000, which over the same period consentedwell  in excess of 400 new residential units through the year – a consent rate of about 10 units per 1000 population.

To the north of Christchurch is the county of Waimakariri, of (again) some 40,000 people, which consented around 500 new residential units in 2011 - a consent rate of about 12 units per 1000 population.

So the construction volumes in these two smaller and more responsive Local Government areas are some 5 and 6 times greater than Christchurch on a population basis.

Christchurch in essence is being “hollowed out” as people and businesses are departed for these adjoining counties and other centres throughout New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand’s Woeful Home Building Performance

Statistics New Zealand announced recently building consents granted in 2011 represent the lowest level in 46 years.

The situation is even worse than these “bald figures” from Statistics NZ suggest – because taking account of the population changes over this 46-year period are not properly taken in to account. New Zealand’s current population is about 4.414 million, and with only 13,662 residential consents issued during 2011 this suggests a low consenting rate of 3.09 consents per 1,000 population. Some 46 years ago in 1966, New Zealand's population was 2.711 million. Adjusted for population, if the consenting rate per 1,000 population in 1966 was 3.09, that would mean that just 8,376 residential consents were issued in that year. It was likely substantially higher then.

The 2011 consenting rate per 1,000 population figure is therefore likely to be the lowest since the Great Depression, or in history. As noted above, the Christchurch situation is even worse still – throughout a supposed recovery.

Blundering Politicians Protecting Mates

To date, the political authorities have persisted with their “blundering responses” to the wishes of the earthquake ravaged city of Christchurch.

Within The Press today there is “Talk Of Rates Revolt as “serial political blunderer” Local Government and Environment Minister Hon Dr Nick Smith is reported to have said that a fresh new mid term election is “highly unlikely,” further compounding the political problems for his Government.

In essence, the current Government has just three options – first, do nothing; second appoint Commissioners; or third, allow a fresh mid-term election so that the locals can directly deal with the local political problems and inadequacies.

The current Council is clearly seriously dysfunctional, and the Smith “non-solution” of appointing Kerry Marshall as an “Observer” in a vain endeavour to dampen the protest down backfired by the Monday. When the Council’s Chief Executive Performance Review saw the light of day Monday, after it was “extracted” under the Official Information Act by the diligent media, Smith’s ham fisted plans were already in tatters. Contrary to earlier public statements by local politicians talking in glowing terms about his performance, justifying the $68,000 pay rise, the Review itself when it finally saw the light of day clearly illustrated otherwise.

The Government will not appoint Commissioners (contrary to the current public musings by Smith), because this would immediately collapse the local public support for the National Party, which did undeservedly well in Christchurch at the last General Election November 2011. The support for the National Party is in no small measure because the Opposition Labour Party is so internally conflicted and confused. As a political participant in local issues, it is currently “missing in action.”

Further to this, the appointment of Commissioners by the Government to the Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury), was not popular and has not been successful to date.

While Local Government Minister Smith is technically highly ranked in the Cabinet, in reality he is very much seen as “yesterday’s man” so far as political influence within Government is concerned.

Common Sense Must Prevail

It therefore seems likely, that as the local political pressure intensifies and Christchurch and citizens communicate directly with the politicians involved, that Prime Minister John Key and his Government, must see it as “desirable” to allow the local Christchurch people to sort out their own problems - with a fresh mid-term election.

Hugh Pavletich is a Christchurch entrepreneur, the owner of website Performance Urban Planning and the co-author of the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, 2011 .

Quote of the Day: No, Dr Brash, inflation targeting has not "worked well." Not ever. [Updated]

"The financial-market crisis is not over but has grown into a vicious sovereign-debt crisis. Nevertheless, monetary policy makers of the major economies go on to practice the same sort of policy that has led to the crisis. Following the model of inflation targeting, they continue to disregard the quantity of money and the amount and kind of credit creation. As they did before, central bankers cut interest rates as low as they can. Few seem to remember that the monetary-policy concept of inflation targeting was adopted with the promise that low and stable inflation rates would produce financial and economic stability. Reality has not confirmed this assurance. On the contrary, inflation targeting was instrumental in bringing about the current financial crisis...."
             - Antony P. Mueller, "Inflation Targeting Hits the Wall"

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

How about we kill the planners instead? [update]

It looks like planners helped to kill people in Christchurch. From the ongoing Christchurch inquiry:

The building at 605- 613 Colombo St, … was green stickered following the September earthquake. The Boxing Day aftershock caused much more significant damage to the building, and it was red-placarded. [On February 22 it killed four pedestrians and crushed eight passengers on a bus.]
    Consultation between the owner and its engineers resulted in a decision to demolish the building but, because the building had a heritage classification, the city council required that the demolition application be a notified consent application. This process would have taken some months.
    There was no protective fencing in front of the building at the time of the February earthquake.
    Ann Brower, a lecturer specialising in regulations [who was pinned under rubble on the bus], said: "There's some irony in the fact that it was a failure in regulations that nearly killed me and which did kill those closest to me [on the bus].''
    …[T]he collapse of the facade of the building at 603 Colombo St killed Joan Weild, 76, and Graham Weild, 77, and Israeli backpackers Ofer Levy, 22, and Gabi Moshe Ingel, 22, who were walking in the street nearby.
    The heritage classified building was severely damaged following the September earthquake and was yellow-stickered. Following Boxing Day, it was red-stickered. Make safe works were to be completed before January 31 2011.
    But no make-safe works were completed on the building and instead a decision was made to demolish it. As this building was also heritage classified, the process involved a notified consent, which was to take months…

An entirely avoidable tragedy.

[Hat tip Julian D.]

UPDATE:  That was then: Here’s Councillor Frau OberGruppenFuhrer Sue Wells speaking out on CTV after the first quake  to tell building owners, sorry to ORDER building owners, that they may not even THINK about demolishing their dangerous buildings, not without the express, explicit, paid-for permission of one her grey ones.  The bitch.

And now? … “‘An engineer lashed out at city council processes for being “too time consuming” at the Royal Commission of Inquiry today, after paperwork delayed the demolition of a red-stickered building which later collapsed in the February quake – killing four people…’

Feel free to email Sue and tell her or any other councillor what you think: sue.wells@ccc.govt.nz .

It’s those fantastical ‘Treaty of Waitangi Principles’ again

Here we are again, having the same tired, washed-out old arguments:

image

YET AGAIN WE SEE all the political classes jumping into the trough for a mud wrestle over the so-called “Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi,” with the National Party wanting to diminish their impact in the partial sale of SOEs, the Maori Party wanting to use the bout to boost themselves, and Browntable iwi  leaders hoping to further feather their nests.

The impossible-to-define "principles of the Treaty" were a late and pragmatic addition to law some twenty-five years ago—and a leading lesson in the dangers of pragmatism in politics. As you might not know, the “the principles of the Treaty” are not part of the Treaty at all, just a recent accretion adding great confusion and a huge amount of expensive litigious activity. Not least  because to this day they have still not been adequately defined.

FOR THOSE UNAWARE OF the history of these “Principles,” you might be surprised to hear that were never there at the Treaty’s signing; they only emerged in recent times, and only because of the appalling political judgement of a former ACT Party luminary. A rushed addition to legislation that for the first time put the destructive ideas of “biculturalism” and race-based political “partnership” on the table, into the courts, and into the bank accounts of folk who saw the “Principles” as their main chance at piles of money.

So take a bow Richard Prebble while we tell the story of the birth of these “Principles” that have poisoned politics ever since.

Like Rodney Hide when he first got his feet under a ministerial table, Richard Prebble was so excited to “get things done” he didn’t care how he did them. So when, as Minister of State-Owned Enterprises in the Fourth Labour Government, he wanted to sell state-owned enterprises (a good thing), to quieten down the race-based dissent that started to affect the Labour’s relations with its Maori voting base, he asked his colleague Geoffrey Palmer to insert a section in the new State-Owned Enterprises Act the phrase “principles of Treaty of Waitangi,” insisting that “decision-makers” must have regard to these Principles. Here’s all their now infamous Section 9 said:

Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

What were these Principles? No one knew.

Had they ever been defined? No, they hadn’t.

Did these two clowns have any idea what they might have started? Not a bit of it.

So in order to get the sales under way, these two simply brought these Principles into being without ever defining what these Principles are.

imageRICHARD PREBBLE DIDN’T CARE. He just wanted to sell things. And Geoffrey Palmer didn’t care, because his life’s work was based around writing legislation so vague, so ambiguous, that it allowed the courts to define things any way they wanted to. This, said the Idiot Palmer, is how you make law “flexible”: by giving the courts bullets which they could elect to fire in any direction they wished.

So much for the legal acumen of Geoffrey Palmer and the political nous of Richard Prebble.  Because in the time it takes to say Motunui, a huge number of claims based on these newly-fangled Principles were rapidly being manufactured and presented, and the courts were beginning to dream up all sorts stuff to fill up Palmer’s empty vessel.

This is where  the fictions of “biculturalism” and race-based political “partnership” were born.  And this was the beginning of the deluge of claims based on these twin fictions—a deluge unseen by the twin geniuses how gave birth to the legislation  (“In the course of a relatively few years,” said the woeful Palmer for example, “most of the outstanding issues in this area will be settled. Most of the claims now are known…” )

The result is that to this day no-one knows with any kind of clarity what these “principles” are supposed to be. They were a legal fiction waiting for courts to define and redefine, and for litigants to quarry in an attempt to make their fortune—which they did, in their droves.

And because, over time, they were inserted in all their vagueness in virtually every piece of quasi-constitutional legislation written since, they became a poison that soon infected every piece of legislation they touched.

What that poison did—as subsequent court cases quietly morphed these “principles” into something ever more lucrative for the lawyers who lived off them—was to transfer the Treaty’s clear and straightforward promise of legal protection of and the recognition of rights into the sort of vague, indefinable mush that help lawyers afford large launches. 

THE NET RESULT OF evoking principles that didn’t exist was to to create a Treaty that had never existed at all, except in the wet dreams of a lawyers and activists. And lo, a whole Gravy Train was created to feed off this New Thing.

It’s been a hard Train to stop now it’s got rolling.

It set the platform for a whole generation of youngsters to join the Grievance Industry and become, as virtually their sole occupation, professional Maoris. Three of this ilk, ironically, are now propping up John Key’s National government and throwing a tantrum over this very issue.  Many others simply see the tantrum as yet another opportunity for a lucrative dip into this trough.

_DougGrahamAnd it allowed the then Minister of Injustice Doug Graham to mellifluously opine a few years later that “The sooner we realise there are laws for one and laws for another, the better.”

That this piece of human excrement  is on this very day before the law courts for fraud—for which his defence has been to limit his dishonesty by talking up instead his incompetence—is perhaps an appropriate contemporary comment on the fraudulent “Principles” themselves.