Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Can’t we get over our obsession with the bloody voting system!

We are now entering our regular quinquennial celebration of the idea that tinkering with our voting system will somehow give us freedom from politicians and all the other moochers and looters.

What a joke.

Somehow NZers have become enthralled with the notion that if only the perfect electoral system can be devised, then our golden days will somehow return. It’s an obsession. Every drinker at every leaner in every bar in the country has their own special theory of how, if only we could raise/lower the threshold/number of MPs, and encourage/discourage new talent/carpetbaggers, a new time of prosperity and wonder will be ours. At dinner parties and barbecues, one will be dragged into a small group in the corner discussing electoral boundaries, and how a referendum on the Maori seats will solve everything. Every person on every bus—not to mention every talkback caller and commentator on every radio station—seems to have a notebook with notes therein on how, if we could only follow the plan for electoral change of the passenger/caller/pontificator everyone could live happily ever after.

People: wake the fuck up.

Can we not get over this obsession about tinkering with our voting system, and go for freedom instead? 

What about that for a plan?

The word “politics” comes from the Greek “poly” and ticks meaning “small blood-sucking parasites.” Instead of obsessing every few years over how the bloodsuckers are chosen, could we not resolve instead to put the important things beyond the vote instead?

Do that, I’d suggest, and it won’t matter how you choose your parasites.

And you’ll be able to find something much better to talk about next time you have your elbow on a bar leaner.

Woman Olympian called a prostitute for participating

While virtually every place in the world is celebrating its returning athletes (well, except for Belorus, ha!) there’s one place that isn’t.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani returned to Saudi Arabia as the first woman to represent the Kingdom in judo, and was greeted not with cheers but a reception that “ranged from lukewarm to openly hostile.”

 Her father, a judo referee who said he wanted his daughter to make "new history for Saudi's women," is reportedly incensed at conservative Saudis who showered her with racial slurs on Twitter and called her a “prostitute” for participating.

Clerics were already saying allowing women out in public was always going to end badly.

Dr. Mohammad al-Arifi, an influential cleric who preaches at Al-Bawardi Mosque in Riyadh, is on faculty at King Saud University, warned Prince Nawaf against sending Saudi women to the Olympics:
“Women practicing sports … is fundamentally allowed … but if this leads to mixing with men … or revealing private parts … or men watching her sometimes run, sometimes fall down … sometimes laugh and sometimes cry or quarrel with another female athlete … or mount a horse … or practice gymnastics … or wrestling … or other sports … while the cameras film and the [television] channels broadcast … then there can be no doubt that it is forbidden.”

Despite the objection of the author to whose story I’ve linked, this is entirely the work of Islam—a religion that views women as evil beings with such power to bring down their masculine superiors that they must be covered, cloistered and kept at heel.

Islam is evil.

2012 London Olympics: Economic Benefits Not What You Think

The BBC’s Jeremy Paxman has an unusually good piece celebrating British sporting success over the last glorious fortnight. He reckons “the many successes of the London 2012 Olympics should overturn the myth that Britain is country best suited to heroic failure.”  In sport, at least. That said, he says, “that was quite a way to blow nine billion pounds. As none of us needs reminding, it was nine billion that we don’t have.”

Which leads me to this morning’s Guest Post by Ben Gersten…

2012 London Olympics: Economic Benefits Not What You Think
Guest Post by Ben Gersten

With the whole world still basking in the 2012 London Olympics, it’s easy to think of this year’s Games as one big fundraising event for the city – but it’s far from the case.

Like any host city, London expected a three-week surge in visitors to draw record revenue for the region and its vendors.

But the 2012 London Olympics, like global sporting events before, will disappoint.

Instead of luring money to the city, it actually drives out the usual spenders and decreases tourism, drastically reducing revenue for local businesses. That means host cities hardly ever recoup the costs it takes to prepare for holding the Olympic Games.

Just look at Montreal.

Montreal, which hosted the 1976 Olympics, is the best example of the negative economic side effects of the Olympics.

The city’s mayor infamously said, ‘the Olympics can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.’

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Mismanagement and unexpected costs left the city’s citizens with a C$1.5 billion debt that took three decades to erase. The final payment on the debt was made in 2006—thirty years after their Closing Ceremony.

‘The government wants to say that not only are we going to have a good time with this event, but it’s also going to make us rich,’ Stefan Szymanski, professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, told CNN. ‘And that’s just not true.’

London usually sees 300,000 foreign and 800,000 domestic tourists per day during the month of August. It is widely expected that these numbers will be down this year following the 2012 Olympics.

‘These people have been told implicitly that they should stay away and they have done so,’ European Tour Operators Association Chief Executive Tom Jenkins told the AFP. ‘The numbers are currently dramatically down on last year. How far down will be determined by how long Transport for London maintains the ‘don’t come into London’ campaign.’

Of the 2,500 U.K. hotel owners surveyed by TripAdvisor, 58% said the Games would have no impact on business, while just 35% think they will see either a short-term or long-term positive effect.

The transportation industry has a more grim take on hosting the Games – their business has already suffered.

‘Our business is down by about 20-40 percent depending on the time of day,’ Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, told the AFP. ‘Normally about 90 percent of our customers are Londoners but they’ve all left the city and haven’t been replaced by tourists. I don’t know where all these tourists are or how they’re getting about, but London is like a ghost town.’

Not only is a tourism decline hurting the city’s revenue; London is already in debt because the cost of Olympics hosting starts with the bidding process.

Olympics Economic Benefits Dead from Start

London had to beat out other U.K. cities before it went up against the international field to finally win the bid.

This process is driven by private interest groups supporting construction, architecture, bankers and lawyers who care little for London’s fiscal well-being and more for their own pockets. That means they pressure the city to overbid.

‘Even in an ideal world where aspiring host cities behaved rationally, the competition to land the games would leave the winner just about breaking even, or maybe with a small windfall,’ said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who recently published International Handbook on the Economics of Mega Sporting Events. ‘But we don’t live in an ideal world. In practice, host cities tend to be captured by private interests who end up promising much more than the city can afford.’

The winning city isn’t the only one hurt by the bidding process. Chicago, during its three-year bid process, spent $100 million on advertising, preparing venues for inspection, and promotions in a losing effort to lure the Olympic selection committee to choose the Windy City.

2012 London Olympics Costs Continue to Rise

The British government has raised its 2012 London Olympics budget estimate to just over £9.3 billion – almost four times the initial amount of £2.5 billion.

Some economists project an even higher cost and only some of this investment is tied up in infrastructure projects that may be useful in the future.

With about half the revenue raised going to the International Olympic Committee, London is going to need well over £6 billion more in revenue than originally projected just to break even.

It is a common trend for host cities to understate budgets. Athens’ initial budget was US$1.6 billion, but the final public cost is estimated at closer to US$16 billion, ten times higher than originally thought.

And each year, the cost of hosting gets higher.

Atlanta spent US$2.4 billion in 1996. Sydney spent A$6.8 billion in 2000 and is still trying to fill the rooms it built. Athens, which spent US$16 billion in 2004, has venues that are in disrepair because it costs hundreds of millions to maintain them.

Beijing seems to be the only recent host to have benefited in terms of tourism, but only after spending a monstrous US$40 billion in 2008 – the most expensive Olympic Games in history.

Britons are still counting medals rather than costs. But the costs will still have to be paid.

“We’re all having a great time but, similar to most parties, there’s going to be a hangover,” said Georgios Kavetsos of the London School of Economics.

“Mega events, such as the Olympics, do not significantly increase tangible outcomes such as economic growth, tourism, employment or wages,” he added.

However, he said London’s Olympics might have a positive impact on British society.

“There is limited evidence on whether they might have intangible benefits, such as happiness and the promotion of healthy living.”

The only instances of a Games generating economic success have been Barcelona, which did enjoy a significant tourism boom following the 1992 games, and Los Angeles, which hosted the 1984 games and already had the infrastructure and venues needed.

But two examples of success are hardly anything to brag about.

Ben Gersten
Ben Gersten is Associate Editor of Money Morning, and Contributing Editor Money Morning Australia

Monday, 13 August 2012

Romney, Ryan … and Rand?!

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his VP candidate has already brought out from Obama worshippers the new leftist talking point with which they hope to smear both Ryan and Romney: Paul Ryan is an Ayn Rand worshipper!

Take a look: the “meme” is s already all over Twitter.

Ryan the extremist!  He’s  picked Ayn Rand as his running mate! Don’t forget Paul Ryan’s obsession with Ayn Rand!

As they say, a lie goes right around the world while the truth is getting its boots on.

This about a man who voted for both TARP bailouts and Bush-era expansion of Medicare drug program.  True enough, he did give copies of Atlas Shrugged as Xmas presents, and he once credited her with inspiring his “interest in public service.” Suggesting, perhaps, he hadn’t read it too well himself.

Look, it’s not hard to explain Ayn Rand’s appeal to the better part of better people. Truth is however Ryan is at bottom just another confused Catholic conservative who said only recently,

“I reject her philosophy. It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas…Don’t give me Ayn Rand." 

As the quote suggests, whatever enthusiasm he has for her novels, he has little understanding of Rand’s philosophy (no, Virginia, Rand’s philosophy does not reduce human interactions down to mere contracts). Still, as the head of the Ayn Rand Institute says, the controversy that’s going to go all the way to November is sure as hell great publicity for them.  (Here, for instance, is one of the first “attack ads” along these lines, featuring great footage of the great woman.)

And as Michael Hurd argues, “this conflict within Paul Ryan is a good case study in the whole problem with “conservatism” as we know it.”

Ultimately, conservatism is, like leftism, based on fear. Leftists are afraid of personal responsibility, sometimes for themselves and always for people in general. Conservatives are afraid of being punished by God, and all religions (including Paul Ryan’s Catholicism) teach sacrifice of the self to the deity.
    My question for Paul Ryan and others is: How do you justify a society based on individualism and individual rights by starting with an epistemology of supernaturalism?

He’s right, you know.

Winner’s circle [updated]


This is what a golden group of NZers looks like on their day off.

After a hell of a good Games for NZ, for a 16th place on the overall medals table and a fourth place on the “medals per capita” table.

Damn good.

And never mind the talk about throwing more taxpayer money at local sportsmen and women; if truckloads of taxpayers’ money at people were a guarantee of success, Australia’s sports trough would be full of gold. But it’s not.  Australia’s medal cost taxpayers $A10,000,000 each. Meanwhile, Britain’s medals cost their taxpayers under ten pence per medal .

So it’s not primarily about money. It’s about what’s going on people like that golden crowd above.

It’s what’s going on behind those smiles.

UPDATE: Oops. That’ll teach me to dash off a post without checking it first. British medals cost British taxpayers ten pence each—i.e. ten pence per taxpayer. So with 65 medals at £264 million of OPM (Other People’s Money) that’s a total of £4 million per medal.  Turns out nationalism is expensive after all.

Friday, 10 August 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: It’s the Double Double Edition


Wow!   The Lightning Bolt has struck twice twice!  The 100/2oo double at the Beijing Olympics, then the same again in London—easing up in the last dozen metres in all four events.

The story of the fastest man ever, and the unprecedented Jamaican 1,2,3, should be the story of today. But there are others…

Let us rejoice in the reign of Usain – and bring back Ben Johnson!
Usain Bolt has won the race against history (so far…) – Mick Hume, SPIKED

You can’t joke about Nasty Korea when you compile your medal tables.
Naughty Brisbane Metro – LIBERTY SCOTT

But you can joke about The Olympics.
John Clarke on the Olympics - 'Freakishly gifted' in front of the TV – John Clarke, NZ HERALD

An unfortunate lesson from the Olympics.
Another Example Of Why Central Planning Is A Bad Idea – Simon Black, ZERO HEDGE

Research tells the story. Sex for athletes before an event is good. “We believe that a woman gets better results in sports competition after orgasm.” [NSFW]
Sex is Good…for Athletes! – BOBBI STARR

“An expat Brit in Australia says his countrymen aren’t obsessing over their lack of Olympic gold because they have no ‘culture of complaint’.” And apparently he hasn’t gone outside for the last fortnight.
Why the Lucky Country isn’t blubbing about losing – Nick Cater, SPIKED

I love history. In 1912, Britain coming third in the medals table was considered a disaster.
Britain third in Olympic medal table. What a disaster! – Patrick Crozier, SAMIZDATA

But here’s something to celebrate. The pasty Brits might have rediscovered their sporting mojo.
Say it loud and clear, we're on crest of a wave at the London Games – MAIL ONLINE

You can’t force folk to volunteer. A 2012 Games volunteer says it’s a massive folly for officials to try to ‘capture and recreate’ the volunteering instinct so successfully harnessed for the Games. (A great piece, although what he calls “the altruistic spirit” is just taking responsibility for something about which you selfishly want to make happen.)
You can’t bottle the volunteer spirit – Ollie M. Picks, SPIKED

Serious question: Is design a bigger draw than sports events? Comparing Olympic London to World Design Capital Helsinki says “yes.”
Is design a bigger tourist draw than sports events? – SMART PLANET

We live in amazing times:

“Hey Grandma, I'm sitting at a food court, looking at a
360-degree photographic panorama of Mars on my iPhone.”

            - Robyn Gallagher

He makes a good point:
Why the jury in the Scott Guy murder trial should have been privy to all the facts about Ewen Macdonald – BRIAN EDWARDS MEDIA

While the knives go firmly in his back, where exactly is Cunliffe?
Wales, wine and whiskers – WHALE OIL

the currently fashionable rush to assert positions of either so called “liberal” or “conservative” views on legislation to allow more or less same sex marriage, no one seems to ask  why on earth we need the state passing laws to “let us” or “prevent us” marrying?”’
Why do we need state branded marriage at all? – EYE 2 THE LONG RUN

The NZ Government and the IRD have devised another vicious new scheme. They’re going to charge income tax on income not even earned. Even if you earn a loss!
LTC’s:  A Fraud On The Taxpayer – Mark Hubbard, LIFE BEHIND THE IRON DRAPE

Oh look.
Politicians and lobbyists seek exemption from political lobbying bill – DIM POST

Is there any question about it?
"ACT brand has been irredeemably damaged" – LINDSAY MITCHELL

In the last five years, 44 New Zealanders were killed by criminals out on bail. This is inexcusable.
Killing on bail – KIWIBLOG

Holy shit! “I’ve just heard that Graham Watson died in a car crash near Pokeno…”
Graham Watson RIP – KIWIBLOG

“Dear Mr President, Now that your re-election campaign is in full swing, I wanted to share with you some thoughts on how we can make sure that you are able to continue your work promoting Progressive policies—especially protecting entitlements from right-wing radicals….”
Elizabeth Warren’s Secret Memo To President Obama (Satire)Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE

“[‘You didn’t build that,’ Mr President? You’re saying] if you do not
create everything, you create nothing.
    Since Thomas Edison didn’t discover electricity, invent glass,
learn how to forge metal, and devise language, he didn’t invent
the light bulb. An artist doesn’t create a painting because the
pigments are already there on his palette. A child putting together
Lego blocks is not building anything because the Lego blocks
were provided for him.
    The only act that would count as creation is making something
out of nothing–creation ex nihilo.”
            - Harry Binswanger, “Revenge Of The Zeros: The Battle Between Ayn Rand And Collectivism
             Reaches A Climax

Curiosity and reason together drive exploration of Mars. “It is the result of reasoned engineering—thought.”
Curiosity Drives Exploration of Mars – Ari Armstrong, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

An "obesity crisis" where people not long ago were starving to death doesn't seem like such a terrible thing.
In Nairobi, business is booming in the gleaming new branches of KFC – Daniel Howden, INDEPENDENT (UK)

“University exams are never anyone's idea of a rollicking time, particularly when your professor rambles on besotted for 23 hours, denies you sustenance and bathroom breaks, and covers topics not on the syllabus, such as her wardrobe and outside business interests.”  Perfect training to be a nuclear physicist.
This is how to examine studentsANTI DISMAL

Shock! Sensitive journo student exposed to real world. Hilarious postmodernism ensues.
Notes from a Tabloid Newsroom -  FARRAGO
Pomo goes to work – Sinclair Davidson

In Australia, hotel and motel owners have no right to decide what sort of businesses are operating from their premises.
Australia: Great moments in discrimination law – Walter Olson, OVERLAWYERED

Bureaucrats. They’re always concerned with the big issues.
NHS chiefs ban metal paper clips after worker cuts finger on one – DAILY MIRROR

No, it wasn’t invented in the San Fernando Valley by someone twelve years old. Winston Churchill was partly to blame.
The abbreviation “OMG” is almost 100 years old – iO9

“The trial of the Russian feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot does not seem to be going well for the Kremlin [or for the band]. As we learned during an interview with Cuban frontman Gorki Águila, punk musicians don't take well to authoritative regimes.”
Cuban Punk Rocker Gorki Aguila on Music, Life and Getting Led Zeppelin Records in Cuba – HIT AND RUN

It was always so.
"No Future" - punk's past – NOT PC, 2009

Okay, on the anniversary of the second use of an atomic bomb during World War II, someone has to make the argument. It takes a historian.
Why Drop an Atomic Bomb? To Save Lives! – Anita Folsom, BURTON FOLSOM

“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate
about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind
each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”
            - Vaclav Klaus, Blue Planet in Green Shackles

Warmists are losing. It’s the fault of white conservative males everywhere. Oh, and the evidence.
A reply to Robert Manne by an ageing conservative white male – Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES
The Climate of Opinion - Steve Kates, QUADRANT

“So what ingenious ruse have the Warmists alighted upon to disguise the awkward fact that they are losing every important scientific argument going? Simple: they’ve now decided that whenever the weather does anything extreme anywhere in the world, it’s another sign of Climate Change.”
'A sudden increase in extreme weather events': the new Big Lie – James Delingpole, TELEGRAPH

And you can always just make shit up. 
July 2012 Hottest Ever in the U.S.? Hmmm….I Doubt It – ROY SPENCER
Climate Catastrophe or Media Hype? – Madhev Khandekar & Tom Harris. PJ MEDIA
NASA's Hansen Uses 30 Year Cherry Picked Time Period To Prove That Climate Is The Most Extreme In 10,000 Years – REAL SCIENCE
Hansen Is Defiling US History – REAL SCIENCE
Is climate change to blame for recent heat waves? – Wynne Parry, FOX NEWS

Hell, making shit up works in every other branch of government.
Reality Deficit: Left and Obama Misrepresent Debt and Deficit Over Last Four Years – Yaron Brook, LAISSEZ FAIRE

Japan is not the richest and most technologically advanced country in the world. In fact, it’s a disaster.
The Curious Case of Japan in the 21st Century – FORBES

PS: Still not too late to sign up for Scott Powell’s masterful, and highly topical, online history of Japan, so you can judge for yourself what happens next.
The History of Japan (Online) – POWELL HISTORY

Message from Australia…
The mining boom is over – Dan Denning, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA

Chinese Treasury officials have a unique attitude to economic data. But their forecasts are always correct. Except…
Forecast accuracy- Sinclair Davidson, CATALLAXY FILES

Warren Buffett reckons  rich folk should pay more tax? Warren Buffett can go to hell, says George Reisman, who utterly, thoroughly and definitively demolishes not just Buffett’s arguments for class warfare, but all arguments for class warfare. (And it costs you just 99 cents and a Kindle Reader.)
Warren Buffett, Class Warfare, and the Exploitation Theory. – GEORGE REISMAN’S BLOG

Now that is a good use of £250,000.
Economist won £250,000 for THIS proposal to exit the Eurozone - SOVEREIGN MAN

Is Paul Krugman a coward as well as a big government shill? We have evidence.
Tom Woods Calls Out Paul Krugman and Challenges Him to Debate Bob Murphy – ECONOMIC POLICY JOURNAL

imageDetlev Schlichter’s Paper Money Collapse provides a sweeping view of monetary history and of today’s place within it… in both his defense of inelastic or commodity-backed money and in the power with which he demolishes every main argument for its non-backed and elastic opposite…
    Schlichter’s book does much more than show that our present system of fiat money is headed for collapse—just like every other such system across history has done. The book also nails so many crucial areas of economics that you can profit from reading it on that basis alone.”
A Central Banker Could Commit Seppuku With the Pages of This Book – Daniel Wahl, PURPOSEFUL READER

Message to the central planners who have failed to lift any economy out of its funk: “Instead of fighting the depression, you have to give it a chance. You have to let bankrupts be bankrupts... you have to let defaulters default... you have to let bad debt go bad and bad managers go unemployed and bad banks go belly up….
    When you are doing something that is bad for you - such as spending more than you can afford... or inflating the currency - you should stop doing it, ASAP. Adding more credit to a debt-soaked economy is a disastrous mistake. It should be stopped forthwith.
    Then, nature can take over... and correct your errors.”
What Central Planners Can Never Know – Bill Bonner, DAILY RECKONING

On "the manifest futility of the International Monetary Fund" & the inanity of various plans to demolish money…
The Return to Sound Money – LUDWIG VON MISES

They get my vote.
10 Reasons Why Austrian Economics Is Better Than Mainstream Economics - JAKUB BOŻYDAR WIŚNIEWSKI

Um, what role did the credit rating agencies play in causing the Financial Crisis?  Good question. Yaron Brook answers.

“One thing everyone can agree on is that there is not enough equality of opportunity.”  Well, not everybody.
Fact is, “equality of opportunity” is incompatible with freedom.
Just Say “No” To Equality of Opportunity – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE

The great Hernando se Soto reminds us never to forget the power of the poor.
The Power of the Poor -

As De Soto understood, capitalism is fundamentally a philosophic, not an economic, endeavour. Here are some of the best online resources you could wish for to understand the philosophy of capitalism.
The Philosophy Of Capitalism – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE

Here’s an excellent question:
“Why Aren’t Murderous Communists Condemned Like Nazis Are?” – Walter Williams, INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY

A deserving finalist in the NZ Timber Awards was the new, and stunning Auckland Art Gallery extension (above). But there were other stunners too,
Timber Design Awards 2012: Finalists Announced – NZ WOOD

Oh yes, and the new gallery extension also, and deservedly, won the NZIA New Zealand Architecture Medal for 2012.
Auckland Art Gallery Wins New Zealand's Top Architecture Award – NZIA

Actually, this is one of the few occasions I agree with Brian Rudman.
City orchestra deserves much more – NZ HERALD

I agree with Diana Hsieh; this (detail of a larger painting by Alexei Ravskis) is magnificent:
Alexei Ravskis Painting: Sheer Intensity – NOODLE FOOD

A Google Maps Tour of Famous Authors’ Homes – FLAVORWIRE

Spotify, et al. For and against.
I ain’t seen a sign of my heroes / And I’m still diving down for pearls – Simon Grigg, THE OPINIONATED DINER

Good news from history. The Islam world not only nurtured Aristotle’s thought, it also gave us coffee, democracy and the Enlightenment. Mind you, the Islamic world was different then.
How the Islamic world gave us coffee and democracy - 3 QUARKS DAILY

Christians often claim the Ten Commandments are the basis of our legal system. But what would it look like of they were right…
Ten Commandments, in LawNOODLE FOOD

[Hat tips and thank you to Russell W., Geek Press, Thrutch, Climate Depot, Junk Science, Radley Balko, Architizer, Steve Baker MP, Augustus Van Dusen, Paul Litterick, Maria Popova, Ben Packham]

Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Famous last words

The Titanic will never sink…

Hand me that fork. There’s something stuck in this outlet…

I saw this in a movie once…

Don’t worry, I’ve done this thousands of times before…

Hold my beer a second and watch this

It really is impossible to swallow your tongue…

550 bucks says I can make that jump…

Don’t worry, the safety’s on…

What the fuck was th….

[Hat tip Daily Pundit]

Greatest of all time? How far ahead is Usain Bolt of 116 years of sprinters?


Usain Bolt blitzed the 100m final again, and with a runaway win in his heat of the 200m (well, jog away. given how he crossed the finishing line) he’s now bidding for the rare 100/200 Olympic double.

Is he the greatest of all time? This interactive New York Times graphic suggests just how far ahead he is of 116 years of sprinters.


Click on the pic to go to the full interactive graphic.

[Hat tip Geek Press]

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The bill to “rebuild” Christchurch is starting to emerge—and it’s huge

There were at least two glaring omissions in the grand announcement last week of “The Government’s Grand Plan for Central Christchurch.”  The first was any acknowledgement at all of those whose land is to be confiscated to make the pretty pictures reality. The second was any numbers telling us how much the pretty pictures will cost us.

This Guest Post by Hugh Pavletich begins to explain why.

The bill to “rebuild” Christchurch is starting to emerge—and it’s huge
Guest post by Hugh Pavletich

The Press this week reports the first public meeting to discuss the plan for Christchurch's new central city drew few people.

No surprise, because without initial costings, feasibility studies and wider economic and social reports there is very little of substance to discuss. Simply pretty pictures.

Further research will likely find that things are not so pretty though.
Property journalist Chris Hutching reported in the NBR the cost of the governments “extravagant” Christchurch central city rebuild plan is a whopping $1.6 billion.

$1.6 billion.

Little wonder when the plan was announced last week by Prime Minister John Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee there was no hint about costs, and any questions along those lines were deflected with comments the plan was "broad brush." A better word, with so much at stake, would be reckless.

A planners’ fantasy destroying existing and successful businesses. A very destructive, very expensive fantasy.

Hutching was supplied with his figures by a reliable source who cannot be identified due to possible repercussions.
Nonetheless, the covered rugby stadium is tipped to cost $506 million, the convention centre $460 million and the metro sports arena $227 million, Other elements of the plan make up the balance of the $1.6 billion.

By contrast the recent parallel city plan based on the "Share An Idea" programme with residents allocated about $200 million for a rugby centre, $150 million for a convention centre and $120 million for a metro arena.

According to Hutching’s informant, the government has indicated it would come up with “roughly half” the money for the Rolls Royce plan. But subsequently there have been calls for the city sell assets to pay a greater share.
Community leader Reverend Mike Coleman (a trained economist before becoming an Anglican priest) described the scale of the plan as "bizarre."

It's Emperor's clothes stuff. To even talk seriously about a rugby stadium or convention centre at these prices is absurd. We are not a big city in the scheme of things, we are a large town of about 300,000 people. We don't want to end up stuck with millstones like the Dunedin stadium.

It is neither a big, nor a rich city. The average annual earnings of Christchurch households was about $56,000 compared with Aucklands $72,000. In eastern Christchurch average annual earnings were about $46,000. I estimate the government plan would cost an additional $600 per year in rates for households—six-hundred dollars extra per year per household!—to say nothing of the unseen costs about which all students of the "Broken Windows Fallacy" will be aware.

When the government’s destructive fantasy plan was announced at a televised cocktail function in Christchurch last Monday, civic leaders, businesspeople and dignitaries were however universally supportive of the plan.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend exhorted Christchurch City Councillors to sell assets such as the airport and Lyttelton Port to help pay for it. Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend also supported the plan.

Ironically, it was just three weeks ago that Mr Key told local government delegates at their annual conference  to rein in their spending.

"And just as central government does, local government also needs to work on delivering better services to New Zealanders within tight financial constraints."
"Times are tight and ratepayers just can't endure unaffordable rates rises. We are not telling you how to do your jobs but we would urge you to think carefully about the capacity of your communities during these difficult financial times.".
"I know it's not easy and its tempting to think your council is an exception or faces special circumstances, but we all have to face up to making difficult choices." Mr Key said three weeks ago.

The Property Council's Mr Townsend echoed this theme.

We have long been calling for restraint on local government spending for the benefit of New Zealand ratepayers and small businesses" Mr Townsend said a couple of months ago.
"There is an absolute need to hold down the costs of local government, which has spiralled out of control in recent years," Property Council's Mt Townsend said.

That was then. Now apparently both view Christchurch Council as “an exception,” and Christchurch’s already hard-pressed ratepayers cash cows.

Let’s be frank.  With this "fantasy" of gross bureaucratic overreach being promoted by politicians who should know better, the costs will not stop at $1.6 billion. We know that.

Further, there is a world of difference between a bureaucrat’s CGI-powered fantasy trip and a real recovery. We all know that too.

Does the CERA legislation really allow politicians to go on fantasy trips clearly retarding the real recovery? Well, yes it  does; it encourages it.

So no surprise that recent local polling by The Press suggests that even at this very early stage, a surprisingly high percentage of the public is growing increasingly concerned about the costs and affordability of these proposed projects.

Christchurch’s council is not alone in considering itself an exception to the rule of restraint—and unfortunately the  local government reforms proposed by central government are, again, in large measure only "tinkering around the edges."  Well respected local government consultant Phil McDermott reckons the government’s proposed restructuring puts the cart before the horse—instead of setting up barriers in the way of building large, remote bureaucracies, it instead  sets up forces for further council amalgamations.  And yet the Auckland Experiment “will demonstrate sooner rather than later that restructuring is not the silver bullet that might put an end to run-away council costs – or run-away councils.” Note the "cost blowouts" with respect to the idiotic decision to amalgamate the Auckland Councils. Auckland is the only major City in the western world to have just one Council. This is a disaster for New Zealand.......

The reality is that the real recovery process can only get underway in Christchurch, as and when the citizens, and property owners, decide to take back control.

The 5 major objectives that need to be focused on are set out within this announcement by Cantabrians Unite "Christchurch: The way forward":

  1. A fresh local election
  2. Replacing the Council’s Chief Executive
  3. Abolish Councils’ centralised local structure, replaced with a one-city many-communities model
  4. Make it possible to provide affordable land for housing and business
  5. Make rates affordable.

It is not just Christchurch’s future that is on the line. It is the future for you and your family, whether as ratepayer or taxpayer, Christchurch resident or New Zealander watching the country’s second-biggest city going down the tubes.

The choice is yours.

Hugh Pavletich is the Coordinator for Cantabrians Unite the co-author of the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, and the webmaster for the archival website  Performance Urban Planning.

Adams’s supporters starting to sound Australian [updating]


People, we’re starting to whinge like Australia, and it’s not pretty.

It’s starting to sound as if folk think Valerie Adams, like Australians thought about their swimmers, owned her gold medal; as if she only had to show up to win; as if she had her gold medal stolen from her by a cheating Byelorussian (suggested by the pointed and unworthy “no comment” by Adams’s coach—“"I would prefer to keep silent on this performance, if you understand me") and by a bungling bureaucrat who forgot to enter world champion Adams in her only event.

What nonsense.

First of all, why, oh why, would any competitor leave something as important as their competition entry up to a bureaucrat they’ve never met? I remember tennis ace and Wimbledon finalist Chris Lewis talking about preparing for competition: in his view every part of preparing for the sporting contest is as much a part of the contest as what happens on the ground: organising to get on the ground fully trained and fully equipped is as much a part of the contest as what you do when you get there. Chris Lewis would never have left something as crucial as his entry to his only event up to someone with nothing riding on it. He would have been there either doing it himself, or chasing it up being done.

The bungling bureaucrat, Raylene Bates, has now been named and blamed by the NZ Olympic Committee for her oversight in not submitting Adams’s entry for the event. She’s the scapegoat. This is ridiculous. Even if this did upset Adams, and I’m sure it must have, she would still have to have thrown well above her personal best to do better than silver. So this is not a factor.

The biggest factor in Adams not getting gold was the woman who did, who threw far further than Adams’s personal best and did it three times in a row. Even if Adams had arrived with a better attitude and more “zing,” that was a lot of ground, a hell of a lot of ground to make up.

Fact is, the Byelorussian deserved to win, and there was very little Adams could have done on the day to change that.

We should stop whinging, and start appreciating what that she has done.

UPDATE: Written before Australian overhauled NZ on the Medal Table this morning, but this, from the Associate Editor of Melbourne’s Age newspaper is some world-class whinging.

Not only did Australia send its best athletic talent to London, it also shipped over some of its entitlement mentality.


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Rand on Marilyn


It’s fifty years this week that Marilyn Monroe died, aged 36.

I’ll bet you didn’t realise, but her passing and the manner of it profoundly moved Ayn Rand—who wrote in the LA Times shortly after that people were right to feel “her death had some special significance, almost like a warning they could not decipher.”

If there ever was a victim of society [write Rand]. Marilyn Monroe was that victim--of a society that professes dedication to the relief of the suffering, but kills the joyous.

Read Rand’s posthumous tribute to Marilyn Monroe here—and discover who she thought her real murderers.

“Stimulus” doesn’t stimulate


Whatever your view of arch supply-side economist Art Laffer—inventor of the Laffer Curve, and infamous as one of Peter Schiff’s adversaries in the months before the big crash who boneheadly refused to see the coming problems—whatever you think about him and his acumen, his piece examining the results of the last five years of government stimulus experiments is undeniably correct.

How did government “stimulus” work in the real world? His conclusion after studying the facts and figures: “In country after country, increased government spending acted more like a depressant than a stimulant.”

Of the 34 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, those with the largest spending spurts from 2007 to 2009 saw the least growth in GDP rates before and after the stimulus.

That seems fairly conclusive.

The four nations—Estonia, Ireland, the Slovak Republic and Finland—with the biggest stimulus programs had the steepest declines in growth. The United States was no different, with greater spending (up 7.3%) followed by far lower growth rates (down 8.4%).image

…If you believe, as I do, that the macro economy is the sum total of all of its micro parts, then stimulus spending really doesn't make much sense. In essence, it's when government takes additional resources beyond what it would otherwise take from one group of people (usually the people who produced the resources) and then gives those resources to another group of people (often to non-workers and non-producers).

Often as not, the qualification for receiving stimulus funds is the absence of work or income—such as banks and companies that fail, solar energy companies that can't make it on their own, unemployment benefits and the like. Quite simply, government taxing people more who work and then giving more money to people who don't work is a sure-fire recipe for less work, less output and more unemployment.

It’s unsurprising that rewarding failure from the proceeds of those who are successful is hardly a recipe for making great gains.

Yet the notion that additional spending is a "stimulus" and less spending is "austerity" is the norm just about everywhere. Without ever thinking where the money comes from, politicians and many economists believe additional government spending adds to aggregate demand. You'd think that single-entry accounting were the God's truth and that, for the government at least, every check written has no offsetting debit.

Well, the truth is that government spending does come with debits. For every additional government dollar spent there is an additional private dollar taken. All the stimulus to the spending recipients is matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis every minute of every day by a depressant placed on the people who pay for these transfers. Or as a student of the dismal science might say, the total income effects of additional government spending always sum to zero.

“Stimulus” is a zero sum gain at best.

imageBut all of this is just old-timey price theory, the stuff that used to be taught in graduate economics departments. Today, even stimulus spending advocates have their Ph.D. defenders. But there's no arguing with the data in the table above, and the fact that greater stimulus spending was followed by lower growth rates. Stimulus advocates have a lot of explaining to do. Their massive spending programs have hurt the economy and left us with huge bills to pay. Not a very nice combination.

Sorry, Keynesians. There was no discernible two or three dollar multiplier effect from every dollar the government spent and borrowed. In reality, every dollar of public-sector spending on stimulus simply wiped out a dollar of private investment and output, resulting in an overall decline in GDP. This is an even more astonishing result because government spending is counted in official GDP numbers. In other words, the spending was more like a valium for lethargic economies than a stimulant.

In many countries, an economic downturn, no matter how it's caused or the degree of change in the rate of growth, will trigger increases in public spending and therefore the appearance of a negative relationship between stimulus spending and economic growth. That is why the table focuses on changes in the rate of GDP growth, which helps isolate the effects of additional spending.

The evidence here is extremely damaging to the case made by Mr. Obama and others that there is economic value to spending more money on infrastructure, education, unemployment insurance, food stamps, windmills and bailouts. Mr. Obama keeps saying that if only Congress would pass his second stimulus plan, unemployment would finally start to fall. That's an expensive leap of faith with no evidence to confirm it.

There is no evidence, either empirical or theoretical, that “stimulus” stimulates.

But stimulunacy is not an economic theory. It’s a bout politics. Which is why stimulunacy will continue—right up until the pool of real savings runs out altogether.

[Hat tip Phil Hayward from NZ’s Foundation for Economic Growth]

AusZealand hits the top ten!

Nice to see that Australians, or some Australians at least, have retained a sense of humour over their athletes unexpectedly poor gold medal haul.

Sick of seeing Australia so far down the medal table,  in yesterday’s Sydney Daily Telegraph a new nation appeared called AusZealand, allowing Australia to “co-opt” New Zealand’s gold medals for their own.


Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald has started to refer to the success of something called Team Oceania.

I hope the sense of humour continues.

It’s better than the gnashing of teeth, which is all that can be heard in the Melbourne papers.

Monday, 6 August 2012

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: How the Problem of the Chickens Fixed the Tragedy of the Goats

Here’s the news on tonight’s meeting from our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group:

Hi everyone,
Here are some questions to ponder before this evening's discussion:

  • Why do people in shanty towns build their furniture before their roofs?
  • Why did the Industrial Revolution happen first in England?
  • Why do some places produce factories and enormous wealth, while in others all they have are pushcarts and penury?
  • How did problems with goats and chickens seven-hundred years ago lead to an enormous humanitarian advance we still enjoy?
  • And why might your neighbour want to invoice you for his new flower bed?

Join us tomorrow night to discuss the answers to these questions and much more--and find out what they all have to do with our subject: property rights.

    Date: Monday, August 6
    Time: 6pm
   Where: Room 215, Level 2, Business School Building (OGGB)

See you there!
Keep up with the Econ Group on the web at Facebook & at our blog.

But, there’s more!  Wednesday night sees the Auckland semi-final of the Next Generation Debates between the University of Auckland and the University of Otago, on the subject of Chinese investment in New Zealand farms.

Sponsors tell us that free beer and pizza will be provided, and that registration is essential.

    Date: Wednesday, August 8.
    Time: 5:30pm
    Where: Ernst & Young Building, downtown Auckland

More details here.

“The Olympics represent the exact opposite of everything polite society requires” [updated]

The Olympics is a fish out of today’s politically-correct water, says Michael Hurd, which is probably why it’s such compelling viewing: because “the Olympics represent the exact opposite of everything polite society requires.”

What I mean by “polite society” in this context are ideas that aren’t necessarily true, or that you necessarily believe—but that you feel compelled to pretend you have adopted…
    Polite society claims that there are no winners or losers. Yet the Olympics clearly distinguish among winners and losers…
    In polite society, you’re not allowed to view matters individually.... Yet in the Olympics, it’s individuals who are cheered, celebrated and rewarded…
    In polite society, we’re expected to believe the hogwash that nobody is exceptional… Yet the Olympics celebrate exceptionalism, based on who actually performs the best.

With so many ideas embraced by the Olympics “considered shameful if not illegal in polite society,” it’s astonishing they’re allowed at all.

PS:  Obama, of course, still maintains they didn’t win that.

UPDATE: Oh, FFS. Romney has been drinking the water of America’s collectivist president, saying: “You Olympians didn’t get here solely on your own.” [Hat tip Trey P.]

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Spelling is important

“Hey kids, spelling is important. Look! The difference between won and one: New Zealand have just won gold. Australia have just one gold.”

[Hat tip Cat in the Bush]

PS: Even on a medals-per-capita basis Aussies are still going to be cross. But go those Slovenians!

Cocking a snook at the Organising Committee

With the weight of government behind them, the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOGOC) has been as officious with advertising Londoners as the International Rugby Board (IRB) was with advertising New Zealanders. So it’s fun to see their soft fascism tweaked. Here’s how some entrepreneurial types cocked a snook:

My favourite is by the bookmakers Paddy Power, whose ad at the top of the page trumpets their sponsorship of an egg and spoon race in London, France.


More stories here at The Drum, who also host a great Fauxlympics: Olympic-based ads that probably shouldn't run, possibly won't run--but would be bloody good if they could run. More here, here and ... gosh, just keep looking around their site for even more.

[Hat tip Julian D.]

Friday, 3 August 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘we’ve struck gold’ edition


Sorry readers, it’s been a flu-ridden week for your humble writer this week: enlivened only by Olympics medal celebrations.  But here’s a few things that caught your writer’s eye around the net…

Don't come to London for the Olympics, they said. It it will be too busy, they said. They listened, and they didn't—so it's not. Not busy at all, that is; the economic malaise of hosting the Olympics.
Don't come to London - it will be too busy: They didn't, so it isn't – LIBERTY SCOTT

The Wall Street Journal explains ‘ badminton-gate’ with puppets. Yes, really.
Homemade Highlights: Olympic Badminton Scandal – LIVE WSJ

The Olympics have gone smoothly despite -- gasp! -- America's team wearing clothing made in China at the opening ceremony. "I'm so upset," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile, and burn them. ... We have people in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs." Here, Reid demonstrates economic cluelessness…
Myths We Live By – John Stossel, TOWN HALL

Thank goodness for The Onion. “Members of the U.S. men's gymnastics team have continued to apologize for their fifth-place finish in Monday’s team finals, mistakenly convinced that they dashed the entire nation's dreams of Olympic glory.”
U.S. Men's Gymnastics Team Thinks It Has Let Entire Nation Down – THE ONION

”Michael Phelps, the American who won his record-breaking nineteenth Olympic medal – his fifteenth gold – in the pool on Tuesday evening is unquestionably the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time. For some of us, however, that should automatically disqualify him from the contest to be named the Greatest Olympian…”
Why Phelps should be disqualified from any ‘Greatest Olympian’ contest – Mick Hume, SPIKED

American gold-medal winners will be shaken down by the Inland Revenue Service on their arrival back home. Because in the now-classic phrase of their president: that gold medal, you didn’t win that.
Go for the Gold! (Pay the IRS.) – WEEKLY STANDARD
Obama 'Invests' in People to Own Them – OBJECTIVIST INDIVIDUALIST

The politics of “You didn’t build that.”
Four Little Words: Why the Obama campaign is suddenly so worried. 
– Kimberly Strassel, WALL STREET JOURNAL
The intellectual roots of “You didn’t build that.”
The Shoulders of Giants: Obama didn't build "You didn't build that." 

Eric Crampton reckons Christchurch’s covered-stadium plan is a poison pill the government is trying to offload on the council.

“Fair tax”? What the hell does “fairness” have to do with tax?
Taxing Language: A Question for the Politicians - Fair: What Do You Mean? – Mark Hubbard, LIFE BEHIND THE IRON DRAPE

Louisa Wall’s bill to legalise gay marriage has whipped up opposition from those arguing the law should recognise the Biblical view of marriage. Be careful what you wish for.
A Biblical View of Marriage – AMERICAN ATHEISTS

And, since you asked for his opinion…
Gay Marriage Is for Suckers – Lindsay Perig0, SOLO

The right to agree with others is not a problem in
any society; it is the right to disagree that is crucial.

            - Ayn Rand

Len Brown has worked out the ideal way to kill Auckland’s inner city: by driving a train set right through the middle of it.
Irresponsible inner city behaviour – Phil McDermott, CITIES MATTER
Tunnel Vision: thin edge of the rail wedge – Phil McDermott, CITIES MATTER

Call the diplomatic “thaw” on Fiji what it is: a long-overdue backdown.”
Backdown on Fiji called a “thaw” – STEPHEN FRANKS

If cronyism didn’t exist, you’d get the sense that John Key would have had to invent it. No, cronyism isn’t the greatest threat to freedom. But it is a threat.  You want to get rid of it, you have to get rid of the mixed economy that is its perfect host.
Cronyism Is Not Today’s Biggest Problem – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE
The Economics & History of Cronyism – David R. Henderson, MERCATUS

The insufferably pompous Gore Vidal is dead.
Here’s the late Hitchens on the now-late Vidal. And enjoy a classic piece of gladiatorial television, Norman Mailer versus Vidal and everyone else on the Dick Cavett Show a few years ago.
Vidal Loco – Christopher Hitchens, VANITY FAIR

Just to remind you where Gaza’s ruling Hamas is on history … “Gaza's ruling Hamas has criticized a Palestinian official for visiting a memorial at the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz and paying respects to its 1.5 million victims there, most of them Jews.”
Hamas blasts Palestinian official's Auschwitz trip – Jonathan So, HISTORY NEWS NETWORK

And where’s the coverage? Surely the role of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the coldblooded slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics has not been forgotten ?
Where's the Coverage? PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Role in the Munich Massacre – SNAPSHOT

Come on, you knew this already, surely.
As A Teen, Obama Deeply Influenced By Communist Mentor – INVESTORS BUSINESS DAILY

Here’s a really scary thought: New York Times’s Paul Krugman Wants To Be The Next Federal Reserve Chairman…
Paul Krugman Wants to Replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve Chairman – NEWSBUSTERS

Those who have zero respect for Intellectual Property either have zero
intellectual property, or zero respect for what little they do have.

            - Bosch Fawstin

What’s wrong with plastic bags anyway? The latest war on these incredibly useful bags is fuelled by nothing more than greens’ loathing of modern consumption habits.
Why plastic bags should be free – Tom Bailey, SPIKED

A clarifying breakdown on the core issues surrounding the global warming debate.
How to detect pseudo-science: The case of Bill McKibben and catastrophic global warming – Alex Epstein, CENTER FOR INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS
Ronald Bailey on the Freak Out Over Two New Climate Studies – HIT AND RUN
Spinning more bad news to pretend it answers skeptics. When 400 “equals” zero – JO NOVA

Climate scientist John Christy tells US Senators why carbon dioxide is not a pollutant—and is not the cause of extreme weather.
John Christy’s stellar testimony today – ‘The recent anomalous weather can’t be blamed on carbon dioxide.’ – WATTS UP WITH THAT

Many classic English phrases can be heard only in India…
India: What are some English phrases and terms commonly heard in India but rarely used elsewhere? – QUORA

The belief teacher training takes a year, not a whole career, hurts pupils. It's time to rethink how we teach teachers.
Training does not make the best teachers – SPECTATOR

This is cool: a website to help you teach kids about business.

It’s astonishing, but in today’s modern world otherwise intelligent people still people in goblins and demons. No, seriously.
Demonic activity and exorcism – Lucia Maria, NZ CONSERVATIVE

Yaron Brook calls it “one of the stupidest, most immoral ideas ever.”
The Case for Lying to Yourself – WALL STREET JOURNAL

Sixty minutes on “Mistakes Couples Make about Sex,” starting now…
Mistakes Couples Make about Sex – PHILOSOPHY IN ACTION [podcast]

More classic television, the recording of which was thought to have been lost:
Ayn Rand on Johnny Carson – Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD

Oh, and CNBC marks the Library of Congress’s naming of Atlas Shrugged  as one of the 88 most influential books in America by saying “Read this book”!
Santelli Says Everyone Should Read This Book! – CNBC VIDEO

If Peter Jackson is having title trouble, he might check out other famous trilogies.
The 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies  - EMPIRE

And finally, yes, Alfred Hitchock’s Vertigo starring Jimmy Stewart & Kim Novak (below) was a great film, but is it really good enough to have knocked off Citizen Kane as “best picture of all time”? Crikey, it wasn’t even Hitchcock’s best (surely that was North by Northwest, right?) And just where the hell is The Third Man?
The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time – BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE


[Hat tip Mark Hubbard, Small Dead Animals, Don Watkins, Geek Press, Oliver Cooper, David Enrich, YALiberty, Craig Ranapia, John Stossel Updates, Ari Armstrong, Martin Kramer, Onion Sports Network]