Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Still laughing at Wikileaks. And Stratfor.

I don’t know if you noticed, but Julian Assange’s Wikileaks just released a boatload of documents hacked or otherwise acquired from Stratfor Consultants, a global research firm that (in the words of Atlantic magazine) “brands itself as a CIA-like ‘global intelligence firm.”

Except, as The Atlantic also points out, “only Julian Assange and a few over-paying clients are fooled.” 

For comparison's sake, [says The Atlantic] The Atlantic often sends our agents into such dangerous locales as Iran or Syria. We call these men and women "reporters." Much like Statfor's agents, they collect intelligence, some of it secret, and then relay it back to us so that we may pass it on to our clients, whom we call "subscribers." Also like Stratfor, The Atlantic sometimes issues "secret cash bribes" to on-the-ground sources, whom we call "freelance writers." We also prefer to keep their cash bribes ("writer's fees") secret, and sometimes these sources are even anonymous.

Basically, they conclude: Stratfor Is a Joke and So Is Wikileaks for Taking It Seriously.

[Hat tip Glenn Reynolds/ Diana Hsieh ]

Glendowie Montessori Open Day

imageIf you’ve ever wanted to see and get the feel of a proper Montessori environment—there being so many Montesomething classrooms around instead, being just Montessori in name only—then this Sunday at Glendowie Montessori Preschool is your chance.

Come along and look around and talk to Directresses Carol and Cathy.

This is for anyone interested in Montessori education, whether as a parent, a friend of education, or you’re just interested to see and learn more about what makes a Montessori environment tick.

imageAfter all, it’s a ‘hands-on’ method of education. So take the chance to get ‘hands on’ with what the Montessori classroom has to offer, and have all those questions answered you’ve always wanted to know, like:

Or just send them a question of your own. They love questions.

(And if you already know you want quality Montessori education for your child, feel free to add your child’s name to their Wait List.)

Where: Glendowie Montessori Preschool, 227 West Tamaki Road, Glendowie, Auckland
When: Sunday 4th March, 3 to 4:30pm
What: Montessori Open Day!

GUEST POST: Licensed Building Practitioners Don’t Read ‘Anthem’

Guest post from Citizen LBP113707

As of today I am Citizen LBP113707. I was once an individual. I was once a craftsman. But not anymore. My personal style and the techniques with which I used to ply my trade no longer stand for anything. I now have to perform my work arbitered by people who produce nothing and who yearn for nothing of spiritual value. Unfortunately these sorry souls have found a threadbare reason to force their lack of life on to me and countless other craftsmen, many of whom have no doubt come to the realisation that it is time to find another way of earning a living.

DBHTherefore, since the coming of Licensed Building Practitioner status to my ‘sector’ (the words ‘trade’ and ‘profession’ no longer being appropriate), I shall no longer refer to myself as ‘I.’ I am now either ‘we’ or ‘us.’ We are no longer an individual. We are a number. We are now units aggregated into the great(er) collective.

Our ability to adapt, improve and to innovate is no longer required. Instead we must conform to the grey mandates of the collective. No longer are we required to explore new ideas. We are able to formulate new ideas in our minds but we are not to take these ideas any further unless we have received permission from our grey leaders; those more equal than us.

So now that we are card carrying Citizen LBP113707, what is the benefit to collective society to which we now belong? We will find that small-business owner-citizens will disappear as costs incurred and newly-enforced red tape will suck up more working hours than is viable.

Also, while being  given ‘guidelines’ within which to build (the rigidity of which belies the name, the practices being spoken about being ‘enforced’ on us) we will nonetheless bear all responsibility when any of these guidelines fail. As they will. This means we will have to find ways to hide our finances to protect ourselves when our grey leaders come to clean us out regardless of whether we are to blame or not.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Stop patronising us - Pacific leaders

Here’s something very encouraging that happened over the weekend: the reaction of Pacific groups to in NZ to Paula Bennett’s patronising “green paper” on so called “vulnerable” children.

At the national conference of the Pacifica women’s council over the weekend, the Minister of Social Development was told bluntly her suggestions the Pacific family is the solution to child abuse and neglect is based on “a romantic myth.” [AUDIO REPORT HERE]

Basically, Bennett’s report recommends “recreating traditional island villages in cities as a solution to Pacific Child abuse and neglect.”  But the response of participants at the meeting was essentially: “Get real.”

The chief executive of west Auckland’s Waves anti-violence trust [for example] told the national conference of the Pacifica women’s council it is a wonderful fantasy.

The assertion, she says, that “taking care of the Pacific family automatically ensures healthy, safe children is a myth.”

And Peggy Fairburn-Dunlop, lecturer in Pacific Studies at AUT, says the suggestion is the Pacific family is the solution,

but it’s time to stop ignoring that it’s also a big part of the problem… We all know there are things that are not so good that go on within families, and we can no longer hide those and pretend we don’t see them.

A refreshing honesty that if transmitted more widely should itself begin to be part of the solution.

Equally, she says, it’s dangerous to make policy on the assumption all Pacific families are the same—suggesting at least implicitly that it’s time to start treating people as individuals rather than as “members” of some community predicated on skin colour.

And South Auckland youth worker Katrina Mika reckons young families of whatever colour  just need good parenting help, not (in my words, not hers) more patronising mush from Ministers.

And many suggested even the idea of calling these children “vulnerable” was itself patronising, which it is, and all children should be treated equally, whatever their race.

I couldn’t agree more.

And I couldn’t be happier hearing sentiments like these from those one so rarely expects it.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Schadenfreude, thy name is Graham

imageA few years back, a friend’s father arrived home from a meeting to select National’s successor in the blue ribbon seat of Remuera after Alan Highet’s retirement.  Said friend’s father, “It’s always been said we could elect a donkey to stand for National in this electorate and it’d still get in. Well, that’s we’ve done this year.”

The donkey they selected was Douglas Montrose Graham, former Minister of Injustice, known to some in the past as Lord Montrose, and (after a guilty verdict in the High Court today) now known only as Inmate Graham.*

Because this mellifluous piece of human excrement, this canker on justice and bloated sack of self-importance, has today been found guilty of fraud.

Not for what he did as Minister of Injustice in the Shipley Government, when he mandated that defendants have their assets confiscated by the state, even before they’d been found guilty.

Not for what he did as Minister in Charge of Treaty Capitulations in the Bolger Government, when he took millions of dollars out of the pockets of New Zealand taxpayers to give to tribalists for things those taxpayers didn’t do.

Not for what he did as Minister of Apartheid, lecturing NZers at one point during his reign “The sooner we realise there are laws for one and laws for another, the better.”

Not because after a lifetime in the trough he retired to Tuscany to write his memoirs in Italy—and demanded a further sinecure from the taxpayer to pay for sojourn.

Not because he came out of retirement to tell taxpayers “You better keep paying your taxes” so he could be kept in his retirement in the style to which a lifetime of troughing had made him accustomed.

He was not tried in court on any of those things, more’s the pity, but the bastard did finally find himself in court for defrauding investors of Lombard Finance—his defence, ironically enough, was one of incompetence—and was tried and today found guilty.

Guilty of helping to defraud investors of $127 million. [Full judgement here.]

No, it was not for any of those many other things of which he was culpable. But it’s enough.  This is an entity who has never made on honest living, his entire wealth having come out of the pockets of unwilling taxpayers and deluded investors.  Such a life demands a deserving final chapter.

Never could schadenfreude have come to a more deserving dirtbag. The only tragedy is that hundreds of investors had to lose their life savings to make it happen.

* * * *

* He won’t be, of course. Being guilty of fraud causing losses to investors of around $227 million will never attract a custodial sentence. Jail is for people who attend a different class of social function.

No, McCully wasn’t there

There’s been an email thread going around the advertising industry in recent weeks, started when an email from the head one big agency calling his competitors “bastards”—bastards moreover who were going to “steal his staff”—was inadvertently sent to that very bastard.

The email started as an informal internal memo telling colleagues to get down to a certain Auckland careers show before those other bastards stole the hot talent they’d just been talking about. Naturally, the abuse and the error were enough to send the email string viral, with much mirth all round at the schadenfreude involved.

And, this being the advertising industry, it was only natural that the whole thing was a complete set-up. A set-up set up by the very talent hoping to be picked up at the careers show, in collusion with the the heads of those big two advertising agencies who were sponsoring the event.

Now you’ve got to admit, that shows real talent.

But what’s it got to do with Murray McCully and his now very public emails?

Well, the little dwarf certainly has no talent, but he sure is a shifty little fuck.  Just shifty enough to make wonder whether anyone really stole them. Just the sort of devious attention-seeker who might think letting his own emails out into the wild might garner him some; with just the sort of machiavellian mind that might think numerous emails about overpaid and overfed diplomats might be a good release about the time you’re about to cut the fat out of MFAT.

After all, his (now former) opposite number in Canberra has said much worse than anything in the fairly tame emails released thus far. The rat fucker.

And the local journalists who swallowed whole the story of them being hacked, making the emails and not the cutting of diplomatic FAT the story, are no less gullible than local ad men.  Are they.

GUEST POST: Importers ask government to break strike

Guest post by Daniel Silva of the Importers Institute

The Importers Institute has today asked the government to pass urgent legislation empowering the Port of Auckland to dismiss striking port workers and contract out the work to private operators.

The Union today threatened to extend a two-week strike into three weeks. During that period, importers and exporters will have to spend many millions of dollars diverting cargo to other ports and airfreight, to keep shops and industry supplied. The exodus of shipping services from Auckland to other ports will accelerate.

This is not a genuine labour dispute for better pay and conditions. What the Union is demanding is quite simply a monopoly on wharf work, usurping the right of management to manage the Port. In effect, they are striking for the right to run the Port for the benefit of the Union. Their members will get nothing from this action, except for one month's lost wages and most probably redundancy.

The Importers Institute asked the Port management what the cost would be of moving the work over to private contractors without delay. We were told that is not possible. Under current legislation, a Court would probably force the Port to take back the striking workers. This is apparently something to do with the 'good faith' nonsense legislated by Margaret Wilson a few years ago.

We call it nonsense because the Union has been guilty of the utmost bad faith. They have lied through their teeth concerning the average remuneration of their members (over $90,000) as well as pretty much about everything else concerning this dispute.

The current government has had plenty of time to reverse the legislative excesses of the last government, but chose instead to smile and wave. The time has now come for the government to assume its responsibilities and prevent a bunch of industrial thugs from holding New Zealand to ransom.

We already have legislation that prohibits some forms of industrial action, for example sympathy strikes. That has not stopped the managers of the Union from going off to Sydney to ask their comrades in other countries to boycott New Zealand. The government's obligation is clear and urgent.

Daniel Silva is the head of the Importers Institute, an informal national association of New Zealand importing companies keeping members informed on topical issues of interest, and representing importers’ interests before policy makers and the public.

RELATED READING:

Drew House, by Simon Laws

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The Australian climate offers opportunity especially for unique holiday houses. Like this one for photographer Marian Drew and family by Simon Laws of Anthill Construction for “a one of a kind campsite” in Seventy South, near Gladstone and right next to  “the most northerly surf break on the east Australian coast, at the start of the Great Barrier Reef.”

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Prefabricated housing doesn’t have to be dull.

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[Hat tip the Organic Architecture blog]

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Slavery, secession, states’ “rights” and those who (still) defend them

Around seven-score and twelve years ago the Confederate slave states of the United States America seceded from the Union in a bid to protect their alleged right to own human beings as property, and brought about the first war of the industrial age.

The obscenity of slavery brought about a war on industrial scale that became the bloody pointer to the “Great War” and its charnel houses on the Somme, at Passchendaele, at Verdun—a war about which there is nothing to celebrate except its end—and attitudes that still taint America today.

BoganThe flag of the slave states, the Confederate ‘Stars and Bars’ Flag of War, is now largely just a symbol of the Bogan. Thank goodness. But astonishingly, there are today still otherwise learned folk about who defend the Confederacy on whose behalf troops took it into battle. Who defend the Secession. Who defend, explicitly, the state collectivism of so called “states' rights” and, implicitly, the barnyard collectivism of state-sanctioned racism.

Disgracefully, some call themselves lovers of liberty.  Unbelievably, many of them are happy to pretend the war was never about slavery. Bizarrely, many of them camp out at the Mises Institute (motto taken from Mises’ own, i.e.: “Never Give In to Evil, But Proceed Against it Ever More Strongly”) and help to poison both the name of a good man and the Institute’s otherwise excellent economic work.

Fortunately, a short and easy read by one Jonathan Blanks demolishes this posturing. If this issue is one you’ve ever followed, then I commend it to your attention:

They are all prostitutes. Well, two of them are.

Whale Oil has done sterling work hunting down the real story behind the case of Tania Wysocki. Turns out the only real prostitutes in this story are Herald journalist Simon Collins and Labour MP Jacinda Ardern,who between them  pimped out her story  and those of many other undeserving poor in the much celebrated Herald series.

Anyway, after driving out and listening to Tania, something neither Jacinda nor Collins bothered to do, (Collins having written his story on the way and then doing more talking than listening), Whale Oil has a very different story than the one that was pimped out. Take a look:

Ayn Rand was an “illegal” immigrant…

There’s a few things that US Republican candidates (and other antediluvian anti-immigration  bigots) can learn from Ayn Rand—one of them, reckons Shikha Dalmia, is Ayn Rand being an “illegal” immigrant…

[Sorry, video won't embed, so click the pic to watch it at the WSJ site.]

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(Bottom line of Rand’s story: you have no more reason to tell the truth to an immigration officer than you do an SS office looking for your child.)

[Hat tip Y. Lee]

It’s still all Greek to some people [update 3]

You’ll have heard it reported in recent days that Greece has been “saved.” That the Greek government has been bailed out by the European Central Bank and the EU Rescue Fund (EFSF), that things will be tough for a while, but the Greeks will now be able to dig themselves out of their hole.

Nothing could be further from the truth—and the fact Gareth Morgan subscribes to this fiction (among three other fictions) is almost certain proof the outcome won’t be all rosy.

What has just happened in this second Greek bailout (remember how the first bailout was going to save things?) is another enormous tranche of borrowing lent to the Greek government to save it from its previous enormous borrowing. And if that sounds stupid, it is—but only if you think this is a rescue of Greece.

It is not a rescue of Greece.

Because it is not so much a bailout of Greece by European central bankers, but a bailout of European bankers put together by European central bankers—with German taxpayers picking up the tab.  Greece is now officially a ward of the international community—and as a ward its only job now is to make its guardians rich, or at least to provide a conduit for whatever of its mis-loaned money its guardians can claw back through good old EuroPolitik.

Face it, there was no other way European bankers were going to get any of their money out of Greece—not with Greek 1-Year Bond Yield having just hit 682%.  So when you hear bankers whooping it up because the “rescue” plan has gone through just remember to whom the lifebelt has just been thrown. And it’s not the Greeks.

Frankly, the best thing the Greeks could do now is default, and then leave the Euro Currency Zone.  And the best thing German taxpayers could do is let them—and then leave the zone themselves.

NB: Liberty Scott has an excellent summary of how things came to this pass, and how a Greek default would help:

PS: Oh, and in case you were wondering … yes, Virginia, bailing out banks is inflationary.

UPDATE 1: Mish summarises the options:

The sooner Greece exits the euro, the more likely Greece will be able to prevent still more capital flight. The smart money has already left. (Please see Germany Draws Up Plans for Greece to Leave Euro; Athens Rehearses the Nightmare of Default; Merkel's Denial Rings Hollow.)…
    The best solution would be for Germany to exit the Eurozone first, but that is not going to happen.
The next best option would be for a simultaneous bank holiday involving all Greece, Portugal. Spain, and Ireland at the same time as noted in
Why Greece Must Exit the Eurozone, How it Will Happen (and Why Portugal and Spain Will Follow); Does the Euro Act Like a Gold Standard?
That too is highly unlikely. Thus the odds of a protracted, one-by-one, and very costly breakup of the eurozone is the most likely outcome whether or not Greece survives the Ides of March.
For further discussion including an analysis of why it would be best for Germany to exit the Eurozone, please see
Eurozone Breakup Logistics (Never Believe Anything Until It's Officially Denied).

Short of a real gold standard emerging, my own opinion is that best economic outcome would see the more solvent countries (solvent only in relative terms, you understand) such as Germany, Finland, Austria, The Netherlands etc. leaving the Eurozone to go back either to their original currencies or a common one, which would quickly find their/its own value; leaving the less solvent, the halt and the lame, to soldier on under the (relative) discipline of a bargain basement Euro.

It would certainly make a southern European holiday something of a bargain.

UPDATE 2: Philip Bagus on “The Future of the Euro”:

“The problems of the eurozone are ultimately malinvestments…    even before the crisis, governments had accumulated malinvestments due to their excessive welfare spending.
    Two causes had incentivized social spending in Europe’s periphery. The first cause is low interest rates… an expansionary monetary policy by the European Central Bank (ECB) and … an implicit bailout guarantee…
    The second cause is that the euro is a tragedy of the commons.”
 

UPDATE 3: An overview on what just happened in Greece from Krazy Economy, “A Note on Greek Banks Recapitalization

As an overview, here is what we have:
The Greeks (actually you can insert any European Common Market country you want because the pattern is consistent throughout) borrowed from anywhere they could for a massive spending spree.
They required the banks to be a major lender.
They required the banks to have little or no reserves against the loans to the government.
The government can’t repay the loans.
The banks are failing.
The government, with money acquired from elsewhere because it has done stupid, insane things, is going to buy the failed [Greek] banks.
These banks are even more tied to government policies than before.
The government has ownership and control of the banks.
Does anyone think that the Greek banks will be better off?

Meanwhile, and this is perhaps the main point of the whole fiasco, the reality evasion in high places and low:

The failure of putting two and two together is a common theme in the entire European debt crisis. It is most blatant with the Greeks.
This week there have been more “strikes,” riots, and protests against the terms required by the agencies that would bail out the Greeks. Many of the chanted slogans and posters and banners declare that the foreigners are dictators and imperialists. The protestors want the politicians to “resist”!
    The Greeks appear like angry four year olds who have been told that they can’t have the toy on the shelf because mommy doesn’t have the money. How and what are the politicians suppose to resist? They are suppose to resist the requirement that they do not incur more debt. They are suppose to resist the requirement that they try to pay back their existing debt. They are suppose to resist the requirement that if they are given money they spend it wisely instead of like a drunken sailor (my apologies to sailors).
    The Greek protestors have no contact with reality. None. They have no idea that money has some connection to real things. That real things are made by someone who wants to be paid for their efforts. That borrowing actually means that the lender expects to be paid back.
    The Greek country is a testament to modern education and economic “thinking.”

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

One year on, and Christchurch is still on welfare [updated]

I think I agree with Lindsay Mitchell and others who feel uneasy about the mawkishness of the widely publicised public commemorations one year on from Christchurch’s February 22 earthquake. As she says,

The commemoration of tragedy, not confined to Christchurch by any means, is starting to take on a strange religiosity in a largely secular country.

To which reaction I add my disgust at the entities grandstanding in the commemoration who have done nothing since the tragedy but get in the way of individuals trying to recover from the disaster.

The earthquake was the first disaster. It has delivered a second one: the political decisions made in the aftermath.

From day one on, the earthquake has delivered to the kind of person who feels drawn to clipboards and jackboots the power over others they could never get in real life. In fact, virtually the whole panoply of government, central and local, has been ranged against those trying to recover—from Gauleiter Brownlee and Boss Parker on down, with the clipboard wielders in the van: standing athwart individuals trying to rebuild staying “Stop!”

Folk in houses only partially damaged, or not damaged at all, are told by council thugs to “Get Out.”  “By order!”

Folk in other houses are still waiting to be told by government’s minions whether or not they will be allowed to rebuild, repair or remove themselves, or whether (or not) EQC will bother paying their repairers.

Builders have been left to sit on their hands while all this happens, since there’s precious little rebuilding going on, or allowed to go on.  Not just due to the dithering of  EQC et al. Right round the city, while people desperately seek new housing and queue for the few rentals around, there is good land to build houses on. But it can’t be built on and it won’t be built on, because the council’s overlords and underplanners have deemed it all off limits: “off limits” because to build here would violate their precious “strategic plan” for the city—after earthquakes strong enough to shake the city to the core, but not strong enough to shake a “strategic plan” drawn up long before earthquakes were even thought about, and dangerously infected even then with the poison of so-called “Smart Growth.”

IMG_0281[1]Meanwhile, those belatedly selected by the government’s mandarins to build “temporary accommodation” for Christchurch’s evicted hordes have finally coughed up around the city what can only be called refugee camps—the all-too predictable sub-standard apologies of places that will quickly become the slums of tomorrow, while helping to kill residents’ dreams of todays. [Read David Haywood talk here about his move into the spirit-killing Linwood Park “Temporary”  Earthquake Village he’s photographed at right.]

Touring around the outskirts of Christchurch one year on an outsider can only be impressed at all the energy and activity going on. Going on in all the homes and businesses located and relocated there on the outskirts, frequently over the opposition of planners who wish them elsewhere.

This is where the real business of Christchurch is now being done—in rubble used as concert chambers, garages being used as factories, in factory units being used as offices, in offices being used as shopping malls, in houses being used as shops offices, factories and over-cramped boarding houses.  But the council’s town planners and earthquake mandarins haven’t helped any of this process in any way at all; in the days after the earthquake they stopped owners demolishing dangerous buildings, and since the second they’ve done all they can to hinder these necessary and spontaneous “re-zoning” of activities within the city.  And it’s fair to say the council, CERA and Gerry Brownlee have treated business owners with property still inside the CBD with nothing but contempt.  Little wonder these business and property owners have been protesting for virtually the whole of the twelve months since the second big earthquake, and for four months before that.

So to see all these various lackies and sawdust caesars standing up on their hind legs today spouting about their good works keeping Christchurch on its knees is too much for me to stomach.

One year on Christchurch continues to struggle. What the earthquake couldn’t do, governments central and local have done instead. The first disaster was the earthquakes. The second disaster is the political decisions made in their aftermath.

Give people back their lives. Give them back their property rights. Discard this pathetic idea that only government can do things—when all it does do is either tax, ban or subsidise. Take Christchurch off its knees, take it off welfare, make it an Enterprise Zone for Galt’s sake …. and then get the hell out of the way.

That’s my advice for the mandarins one year on. Just get the hell out of the way.

UPDATE:  Auckland council without an earthquake is considering doing what Christchurch council after an earthquake is not considering, i.e., relaxing (albeit only very slightly) the planners’ ring fence around the city.

But even these baby steps are beyond the pale for Christchurch’s planners.

Stephen Fry, Steven Joyce and Government broadband

imageHe loves gadgets and he’s tweeted from many places around the world, but Stephen Fry was less than satisfied with government broadband here in EnZed. And he reckons we EnZedders should rise up and take on those responsible.

“You wouldn't put up with potholes in your roads,” he says, though we do, don’t we, “so you shouldn't have to put up with Third World broadband standards as well.”

But we do, don’t we.  We not only put up with it, you vote for it.

So who’s responsible for the potholes in local broadband? Well, it’s fashionable to blame the private telcos, of course.  But consider that around six years ago, right when those private telcos were considering plans to roll out the next generation of broadband across the country, Labour’s David Cunliffe began dismembering Telecom—to the loud applause of  Labour hacks, National stalwarts and Telecom’s competitors—and announcing plans to “roll out” government fibre.

Would-be private investors in next-generation broadband began quietly reconsidering their own investment plans. Why put your own head in the noose when you could reap the benefit of a taxpayer “investment.”

Then around four years ago in a throwback to its Think-Big Muldoonist past the incoming National government began announcing that it would be they who would be “rolling out” the next generation of high-speed, bells-and-whistles broadband, the “roll out” of which would be a flagship policy of their first term.

Potential users and rival telcos alike waited with bated breath while nothing continued to happen. And now that the former promoter of National’s next generation of high-speed, bells-and-whistles broadband Steven Joyce has moved on to bigger, better and brassier things, the non-roll out has been left to first-time minister Amy Adams—who instead of being photographed in front of new high-tech equipment sits in her new office writing press releases boasting :

The Government has set aside $1.5 billion for ultra-fast broadband, and aims to have the service reaching 75 percent of New Zealand in the next 3 5 7 10 years… contracts had been locked in, the rollout was under way, and competitive wholesale prices had been secured, but it was up to the industry to ensure New Zealanders got the quality and performance they expected at prices they could afford…

Or in other words, “we’ve spent lots of your money already with only paper promises and electioneering hype to show for it. But stop whining, because you’ll get it when you get it.”

At least she recognises, if only partially, that government itself delivers nothing. That in the end it is still “up to the industry.” But perhaps she and other EnZedders might reflect that the industry might have done better and much earlier—that big private investment might have been directed into this area much sooner—if big government hadn’t been flexing its muscles for the last six years in the hope of  a political windfall.

After all, it looks like up to $33 billion could be the real return to NZ from the investment, if it ever comes to pass, some of which would have rubbed off on private investors. But when any private investment would have been drowned out by government and (no doubt) damned by luddite nationalists in every party, and when NZ’s largest telecommunications company is being dismembered and partially nationalised as a reward for owning and having rolled out the last national network, it’s no wonder no private investor wanted to take the risk.

As a blogger who’s now left the building once said:

If telecommunications companies think someone is going to steal their networks,they won't build any more of them! It's really simple. Now we are stuck with waiting for the government to waste my tax money building something that every private interest is now too scared to.

Former Telstra Australia head Sol Trujillo said much the same when similar threats were directed his way from the Australian government. He:

derided Kevin Rudd's election-promised "partnership" to build an across-Australian broadband network, calling it a "kumbaya, holding hands" theory. It might have been an election promise, but looks like no- one stopped to ask the company supposedly being partnered. Said Trujillo: "We are only going to participate in the things that we own and control."
    Mr Trujillo, firmly backed by chairman Donald McGauchie, said Telstra was happy to invest $4 billion or more of its own money rather than the taxpayers' - but only on its terms and pricing…
Australia needs a fast, modern telecoms infrastructure [says Trujillo]. And the quickest way to get there is to allow unfettered competition. Mr Trujillo says that America and Europe learned long ago that “to foster competition the government cannot control the levers, it must let the market work. Virtually every other country has moved towards less regulation in telecoms” …
    Worried that giving rivals a free ride would undermine his profits, Mr Trujillo is threatening not to lay the fibre: “My duty is to our shareholders—including 1.6m ordinary Australians. I will only invest where I can earn an economic return.”

So when private investors aren’t able to earn a return? Or they are (falsely) led to believe they can be given an unearned free ride on someone else’s network? Then you end up where you are today. As our late friend Anna Woolf said back in 2008: Remove the Red Tape, the Fibre Optics will follow. Or don’t, and it won’t.

So when you’re complaining about your broadband service today, it’s government broadband you’re complaining about.

Potholes and all.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: A Book Worth Buying

imageLibz leader Dr Richard McGrath returns with fire in his belly, his regular column, and a book you just have to buy…

Nanny State has had it good recently, what with the censorship of “disgusting” images of Piri Weepu bottle feeding his infant daughter; the blanking out of “horrific” footage of signage advertising Coca-Cola and fried chicken; and the hysterically defensive reaction following revelations fewer people have been out cycling, and more of them are suffering injury, since cycle helmets (i.e., knob hats) were made compulsory. 

Thank goodness for people like James Bartholomew, who documents the far-reaching and almost unerringly negative consequences of state interference in our lives. Along with commentator Lindsay Mitchell, I had the pleasure of dining with James in Wellington a few weeks back during his brief visit conducting research for a new book he is writing. His pet topic is the welfare state in all its forms, and to prepare for James' visit I ordered a copy of his chronicle of Britain's decline from a once great nation to the 'sick man of Europe', entitled The Welfare State We're In.

It was a great, if sobering read.

Published in 2004, the volume traces the origins of the welfare state to the time of Henry VIII and his seizure of monasteries previously functioning as charity hospitals and emergency welfare providers. Bartholomew reveals the increasingly coercive nature of the State in funding and providing health care, unemployment and disability compensation, education, housing and social support.

Unfortunately, as is plainly evident to anyone who cares to look, in each and every area in which the government has intervened - albeit often with compassion and a desire to work side by side with private providers and charities - the result has been the crowding out of the voluntary sector, and an increase in death and misery for the intended beneficiaries.

In other worlds, state welfare is not welfare.

Neither is state education education. After decades of state-funded 'education' in the UK and more than a hundred years of compulsory education, one in four adult Britons is functionally illiterate (sound familiar?). Yet before the advent of government welfare and state education, about 85% of industrial workers in the UK were already members of friendly societies providing welfare and support for members and their families. Since that time, the working class has been taxed into poverty, with many of them unable to make provision for a pension and purchase unemployment insurance.

A pervasive and recurrent theme throughout the book is that the welfare state was not needed in the first place! Where people had the means and the necessity to provide for down times, they did so, and gave huge amounts of their disposable income to the less well-off.

Bartholomew likens the avoidable deaths in Britain's National 'Health' Service to 'a train crash every day,' estimating over more 15,000 souls dying annually than the mortality that would occur under a system of non-government hospitals and primary care.  (Sound familiar?)

He documents the terrible results of laws that encourage broken families, and the often horrific consequences when the offspring of solo parents are placed in the care of non-biologically-related males. Most telling are the examples that highlight a general decline in public morality ('the falling off of decency') as a result of intergenerational unemployment and a breakdown in the passing down of values such as hard work, thrift and personal responsibility.

The author relates low levels of taxation to high rates of growth, using the example among others of the World's Greatest Ever Bureaucrat and his hand in creating the world's freest country. James' description of Britain's underperformance in every facet of human advancement - including medical research - since the rise of the welfare state, makes sad reading.

I recommend this book to all readers. It is packed with facts, memorable anecdotes and killer quotes, and is a valuable historical reference. One comes away with a much greater appreciation of the root causes of the United Kingdom's current malaise. In many senses, the origins date back centuries. But it was David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill (who would have guessed?) that really got the ball rolling in the early twentieth century. Once Labour took power in 1945 Britain's fate was sealed, but the die was already cast.

Couldn't happen here, could it? 

Dr Richard McGrath is a Masterton GP and the leader of NZ’s Libertarianz Party. When threatened with extreme violence he can sometimes be made to write a column.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Unaffordable housing? No wonder!

_HickeyONCE AGAIN BERNARD HICKEY offers the insalubrious example of a commentator who knows something is wrong, yet knows nothing about how to fix it. Nothing that is beyond yelling “Something Must be Done!” And by “something he means “someone.” And by someone, he means the government.

First, the problem:

Auckland and Christchurch now have massive shortages of waterproof and undamaged homes that regular families can afford to own…
    The Department of Building and Housing forecast this month that New Zealand needs to build around 20,000 to 23,000 housing units a year over the next five years to keep pace with population growth. Meanwhile New Zealand has been building at a rate below 15,000 a year for the last three years…
    The crisis has intensified since 1999 with the introduction of the Metropolitan Urban Limit and the revelations that an entire generation of homes is leaky and will have to be either reclad or rebuilt…
    This crisis is playing out in a variety of ways.
    There is, of course, a rise in homeless numbers. But the more obvious increase is simply in the price of homes and rents. Both are rising quicker than the wider inflation rate and price rises outside of Auckland and Christchurch. There is an inevitable reaction to this, which is for young Auckland and Christchurch workers and families, those who are not property owners, to simply give up.

He is right that rents are rocketing and new homes are becoming less and less affordable.  The annual Demographia study has shown for years that even during this Great Recession house prices as a proportion of income in New Zealand’s cities are among the highest in the developed world—and increasing*. And the Productivity Commission (from whom Hickey got his figures) point out that “for younger people and those on lower incomes there is a missing step on the property ladder, particularly in Auckland. The chances of them ever purchasing their first home are decreasing.”

He is right, too, that while would-be home-owners burn, governments in Auckland and Wellington continue to fiddle—with train sets in Auckland, and with a pathetic, partial, poorly-done privatisation programme in Wellington.

The problem then is this: what is to be done? And the problem with Hickey is, he has no bloody idea.

So like every simple statist who Wants Something Done, he simply cries that Gummint Should Do Something!

“Government-owned land would need to be opened up and town planners overruled,” says Hickey, getting it half right, before heading down the route of statists immemorial in calling for “taxpayer money … to be invested and lots of it.” Presumably building those affordable houses that the government has made it unprofitable for private builders to build, using resources that will cost more than the sale price.

imageIt’s the same “solution” put forward by Fran O’Sullivan (left) a few months back when she called for private land to be nationalised—expropriated outright by the grey ones—newly stolen land on which the Gummint Should Do Something.

Like O’Sullivan, Hickey is a business columnist. Yet just like her he has no idea how business works.

And they both write and talk about politics. But neither apparently have any conception of how politicians have caused the very “market failure” they describe. Because while calling for government to fix the problem by doing more, they never even bothered to ask themselves this fundamental question: whether it is government activity itself that has largely caused the problem.

And it has.

IN A NUTSHELL, THE big problem is that government has gone beyond right: it has passed laws giving the Reserve Bank the power to print money, bureaucrats the power to prescribe the methods and materials by which houses are built, and  planners the power to control and restrict people’s land.

Let’s look at these one at a time.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Creating a job is easy. Creating a remunerative job is not.”

 

The 'Consumptionist' Dead End
Jonathan Hoenig:  Why the persistent belief that the economy will grow as a result of government spending is flawed.
If you keep repeating a lie long enough, people eventually start to accept it as truth. So even as government debt hit new record highs and bankrupt entitlement states like Greece collapse, how else to explain the persistent belief among many politicians and policymakers that … the economy grows as a result of government spending….

Friday, 17 February 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: Take a look at these!

Another short ramble around a few things that caught my eye this week…

  • A new report suggests an earthquake in Wellington would  dwarf the economic damage of the Canterbury earthquake .  The report, however, takes no account of the enormous economic benefit to the country of the complete destruction of Wellington’s government departments. (We can dream, can’t we?)
    Cost of a major Wellington quake? $40b – N Z  H E R A L D
  • Stolen memos and fabricated documents from the climate sceptic Heartland Institute reveals that private individuals who agree with the aims of the Institute gave them money (shock, horror!). Meanwhile, the Institute advanced funds to fellow skeptics like Anthony Watts and NZer Bob  Carter to the tune of $88,000 and $1600 respectively, giving such scientists an unfair advantage in over the $1,2 million sucked from the taxpayer by James Hansen and the $300 million warmist campaign of Al Gore.
    In other words, “What the Heartland document show is how badly warmists have been beaten by those with a fraction of the resources they’ve enjoyed.”
    Hippies hate Heartland -  D A I L Y   B A Y O N E T
    The Anatomy of a Global Warming Smear – Anthony Watts, W A T T S   U P   W I T H   T H A T
  • If the philosophical father of America was John Locke, then that of New Zealand was utilitarian Jeremy Bentham.  Murray Rothbard examines the thought, economics and failings of the man whose corpse now entertains students at University College, London.
    The case of Jeremy Bentham, should be instructive both to historians of this funny little country, and to “that host of economists that attempt to weld utilitarian philosophy with free market economics.”
    Jeremy Bentham: From Laissez-Faire to Statism – Murray Rothbard, M I S E S  DA I L Y
  • The Ayn Rand Institute is thrilled to announce two new ARI ventures “that we believe have the potential to make a huge impact on the fight for capitalism”: a new book, and a new blog.
    Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government 
    by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins
    Laissez-Faire: The Uncompromised Case for Capitalism – A R I

Yaron Answers: What is Capitalism and Why Do You Say It’s Moral?

  • We’re near the endgame. But when will the tipping point into currency collapse begin? Author of the Paper Money Collapse Detlev Schlicter reckons the EuroZone crisis is just the beginning. “The tipping point comes either when concern about inflation or concern about sovereign solvency (in major countries) reaches a certain point. When people sell bonds and demand higher yields we are in the endgame.” Watch him and his interviewer here:

  • Steve Coogan used to be a comedian. Now? Not so much.
    What the Dickens has Coogan become? – Tim Black, S P I K E D
  • You want music with a joyful sense of life? You want musical fluency? Then the Hot Club of France are your men.  Here’s some rare film of the genii doing one of their quieter numbers (filmed, unfortunately, by a cameraman eager not to show Django’s unique fretwork dexterity).

Check back soon for more…

Thursday, 16 February 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Seagull? No, it’s a duck.

_McGrath001Don’t look now. Dr Richard McGrath is back with his formerly regular column. This week: Is that a bird, or a plane? No, it’s a duck!

Assuming Trevor Mallard still possesses any shred of integrity after a lifetime in the public trough, then his exposure this week as a 'ticket-scalper' will only move forward its inevitable extinction. 

In 2006 The Mallard stated quite baldly: "When there is bulk buying of tickets to [major] events simply for the purpose of profiteering, scalping is a rip-off that could deny many people the opportunity to see [the] event."

It’s now revealed he made a tidy TradeMe profit on a major Wellington event happening this weekend.

In 2011 his party went to the polls demanding those accruing profit on their assets be his hard by the grey ones.

And despite him "struggling to see the difference in principle between tickets and houses,” he sees no problem now with either the sale or his price-gouging.

If any integrity is left him after his playing away from home and his court appearance for assault, his lies about “bag men” and cash for policies and his attack on Brethren church-goers as “chinless scarf wearers, then to retain whagt little is left he should at least hand over the dirty profits to the ticket issuer, or perhaps pay a contribution to the government based on capital gain—a voluntary proposition the IRD website helpfully makes possible.

Not that I se any problem myself, mind you, in either ticket scalpers or profit-takers. Unlike the daily labours of politicians, both help the market.

In my view, and against the previously stated views of The Duck, all laws that impede a free, uncoerced market in goods should be scrapped—including any that prohibit the reselling of concert tickets. Ironically, under a government 'led by my Libertarianz party, Scalper' Mallard would be able to sell as many concert tickets to unsuspecting teenagers as he liked. But not a government headed by his own party.

It is difficult however to see how an unapologetic Mallard will possibly be able to explain his way out of this latest disaster, unless of course he truly believes there should be one law for politicians and another law for the rest of us.

Perhaps now the Hutt South Scalper has realised the virtues of the market first-hand he could do the decent thing for a change: "So how about a ticket to the Lady Gaga concert for my daughter?"

Dr Richard McGrath is a Masterton GP and the leader of New Zealand’s Libertarianz Party.
When prodded hard, he writes a regular semi-regular very occasional column for NOT PC.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Blasphemy

A man has just been deported from one country to another to face the death penalty for a crime that is the ultimate in victimless crimes, i.e., a crime that has no victim.

The man has been deported from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia to face a charge that he blasphemed, i.e., that he defamed Allah in a tweet, i.e., that he “insulted” a non-existent being.

Which means he defamed a victim that doesn’t exist, in a medium few if any in Saudi Arabia are allowed to read, from a jurisdiction that has nothing to with them.

And Islam is still a religion of peace.

Mojo

Much discussion this morning about the MP with the coolest name in Parliament, Mojo Mathers, and whether you or I should pay for an electronic note-taking system so the new Green MP can do her job.

She’s deaf, you see, and can’t do the job properly without one. It will cost us around $30,000, apparently—about the size of Bellamy’s bar bill on a slow afternoon.

So fair enough, surely. It’s a small enough sum; it can be taken out of the existing Parliamentary Budget without any problems; and this is supposed to be a representative democracy, surely, and when folk from all walks of life are in Parliament their democracy should provide whatever’s need to do their job, no?

No. Not really. Not exactly.

Because Speaker Lockwood Smith is reportedly examining whether to impose a new  obligation on taxpayers, rather than spending less elsewhere. Like subsiding Bellamy’s, for instance.  (Bad Lockwood.)

And yes, it’s a small sum.  But even a small sum has to be authorised; has to be taken from someone.  And there is nothing in law to justify a new imposition like this. (Laws about subsidising the trough at Bellamy’s on the other hand…)

And fundamentally, small though the sum involved is, the argument about spending it goes back to the nature of government and of parliament ,and and what they’re there for. 

Government’s job is not to raise the self-esteem of its participants—its job is to protect individual rights. That’s their only justifiable job.

So Parliament’s job, in this sense, is not simply to be a club wherein participants are made to feel better about themselves. It’s not a place where you go to raise your self-esteem. It is instead an arm of government (at least in principle if not in practice) that helps keep the other arms somewhat in check—to ensure they are protecting individual rights.

And frankly, then as long as taxpayers continue to vote people in to do that job (at least in theory) it doesn’t matter whether you’re deaf, dumb, blind or transgender. If you’ve been voted in to do the job by taxpayers (and even some Green voters do pay taxes)  then you should have the tools to do that job.

After all, there’s extra reinforcing needed for Parekura Horomia’s seat. And we’re obliged to pay for that, aren’t we?

Aren’t we?

* * * * *

* Paid for by those taxpayers who voted for them, ideally.

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?

image

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

image

“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.