Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Debate: Fossil Fuels - Good Or Bad? [updated]


Tune in live today at 1pm NZ time (that’s 4pm Pacific Time) to watch leading environmentalist Bill McKibben (left, above) debate Center for Industrial Progress founder Alex Epstein:


[UPDATE: Here’s the YouTube recording of the event below, which unfortunately is missing the first two minutes of Alex’s opening. Broadcast-quality version “is in production.”]

This is “the ultimate environmental debate.” Environmentalist icon Bill McKibben is, concedes Epstein, “the world's most powerful opponent of fossil fuels.”

Environmentalist icon Bill McKibben is organizing a movement to demonize and dismantle the fossil fuel industry--the industry that produces over 85% of the cheap, plentiful, reliable energy that makes modern life possible. McKibben believes that "we need to cut our fossil fuel use by a factor of twenty over the next few decades."
    In the most influential energy article of the year, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” McKibben called the fossil fuel industry “Public Enemy Number One.”
    Bill McKibben has been called “the nation’s most important environmentalist” for a reason. He is revered by liberal intellectuals and he is a master activist; in 2009, he organized 5200 simultaneous anti-fossil fuel protests--"the largest global coordinated rally of any kind."

Epstein challenged McKibben to debate to help promote the real truth about fossil fuels and our environment.

If McKibben’s new movement to turn the American public against fossil fuels is successful [says Epstein], it would be a death-blow to our already-teetering economy, and to environmental health around the world.
McKibben is dead wrong about fossil fuels and our environment. If we take an objective, scientific look at how fossil fuels have impacted the human environment, including our climate, the overall result is amazing--we live in the greatest environment in human history. The countries with the worst environments--with the most filth, disease, crop failures, low life expectancies--are the ones that use the least fossil fuels.
    That’s why I challenged Bill McKibben to a public debate when no one else would--and that’s why we should all be so excited that he accepted. On November 5, at Duke University, McKibben will be arguing the widespread fallacy that “fossil fuels are a risk to the planet.” I will be arguing the truth--that “fossil fuels improve the planet.”
This debate is a game-changing challenge to the environmental establishment…
    This is the first debate ever where a world-class environmentalist will be challenged by the powerful environmental case for fossil fuels.

The Fossil Fuel Debate is on! Watch live at 1 o’clock!

Here’s Alex warming up:

And here’s a preview of his case:  Challenging Bill McKibben and the Green Establishment: The Environmental Case for Fossil Fuels

99.9% of discussion of fossil fuels and our environment ignores the single most important fact about fossil fuels and our environment:fossil fuels have made our environment amazingly good.
        The difference between a healthy environment and an unhealthy environment can be summed up in one word, and it’s not “CO2” or “climate” or “temperature.” It’s “development” …
    Consider  Bill McKibben, “the nation’s leading environmentalist” according to The Boston Globe, who blames certain increases in malaria, dengue fever, cholera, and salmonella on “CO2-induced climate change.”
    What about a lack of development, of proper sanitation, and, above all, of the wonderful synthetic malaria-killer that is DDT? More broadly, what about a lack of the cheap, reliable fossil fuel energy that has underlain all of Western industrial and technological development?
    It doesn’t even get a mention–let alone the starring role it deserves in any discussion of improving our environment…

“Was It Global Warming When Stronger Hurricanes Hit the East Coast in the 1950s?” [updated]

imageThe facts are clear: The 1950s had “a road map of destruction up the East Coast.” “This map speaks for itself.”

Chief Meteorologist for Weatherbell Analytics Joe Bastardi is sick of ill-informed commentary linking weather, SuperStorm Sandy, with climate.

Was It Global Warming When Stronger Hurricanes Hit the East Coast in the 1950s?,” he asks.

It is frustrating to be out in front of the hurricane threat on the U.S. Coast, and then have people who either have not looked, or have, and are simply ignoring the facts, come in after the fact and make their claims. I have referred to these people as weather "voyeurs." They only look when it suits their purpose. In the private sector, our fight is every day, and the knowledge of the past and the reasons for the weather and climate are the foundations for any success in the future. A good meteorologist has to know his weather and climate history or he will fall prey to the whims of the computer models. Perhaps you saw some of that with Hurricane Sandy. Until the middle of the week before the storm, the U.S. generated model was taking the storm out to sea and there was denial in some circles that Sandy was going to come back and hit the coast.
Of course, the usual suspects piled on the disaster train once it became obvious, to push their AGW agenda. They are nowhere to be found before the fact, but certainly come out of the woodwork after. I leave the reader to judge the tree by the fruit on it.

Yes, please do.

Here are a few reminders that will assure you that a storm like Sandy is well within the realm of what nature can, and in reality, should do, especially given the cycle we are in, which is very similar to the 1950s (cooling Pacific, with a still warm Atlantic)…

image    You will have seen the chart above many times, but it does not get old, nor does the fact change that the earth is no longer warming, but CO2 is still going up. That chart should be enough to debunk the AGW idea on hurricanes since if the earth is not warming, it can't be warming that is causing more hurricane hits.
    The other problem is that there are not more hurricane hits -- the total global tropical activity is down! The Global ACE index (accumulated cyclonic energy) which gives us an objective way at looking at total global tropical cyclone activity, has tailed off to
record low levels.
So we have two objective measurements saying that:

            a.) The earth is no longer warming.
            b.) Tropical activity is not getting worse.

Interestingly enough, as if to teach a lesson to the Nobel Committee, the tropical activity started tailing off most strongly after Al Gore was awarded a Nobel prize for his movie An Inconvenient Truth. The actual Truth however is the opposite (which is inconvenient, though apparently largely ignored by Al Gore).
    But the irony grows even richer when one considers the fact that hurricane hits on the U.S. Coast were greatest
when there was less CO2!
image    In the end, blaming Sandy on Global Warming or "Climate Change" is … shockingly ignorant or shockingly deceptive. The facts are clear on this and not hard to see, if one simply looks!

He’s right, you know.

KRIS SAYCE: Bad News from the “Asian Century”

_Kris_SayceGuest post by Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia 

Part 1: Bad News from the “Asian Century”

Writing in Melbourne’s Age newspaper, Climate change adviser Ross Garnaut

has lambasted Australian executives for destroying shareholder funds in the blind belief China’s demand for Australia’s big three mining exports would continue to climb.’ 

Perhaps Mr Garnaut should ask why company executives are blowing up shareholder funds.

Maybe it’s because for 30 years, Australian governments have spouted off about the Asian economic boom.

And now the Aussie government has just released the Asian Century white paper. The gist of the white paper is that Asia will undergo an economic boom for another 100 years.

But before you trust everything the government says, just remember that they can’t even correctly forecast their budgets six months in advance. So we find it hard to take a 100-year forecast with anything more than a pinch of salt.

Our advice? Ignore the long-range forecast and look at history instead. That’s because history tends to offer useful lessons for the future…including a lesson Australia could learn from previous Asian booms and busts…

Take this report from the New York Times in 1996:

‘Are East Asia’s fiercely competitive tiger economies starting to lose their fangs?

‘Things probably have not gotten quite that bad. But if the teeth are still intact, they have lost some of their sharpness of late. Export growth for many countries in the region – including the original “Four Tigers” of Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, as well as a half-dozen other countries that are following the same fast-growth path – has slowed sharply this year. And China’s exports have actually declined.

‘The deceleration in part reflects a healthy cooling off of economies that were running the risk of overheating. But it also raises questions about the staying power of East Asia’s export-driven economic boom. In particular, it translates into a deterioration of the region’s trade balance.’

One year later, the Asian Economic Crisis was in full flow. The Asian Tiger economies collapsed and their currencies were devalued. To rub the salt in, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) handed out bailout money.

In simple terms, the cause of the Asian Economic Crisis was over-investment, over-borrowing, and over-enthusiasm…

Asian Tiger Slaughtered

It was a classic bubble. An investment or economy begins growing on its own fundamentals. This attracts attention. So more people invest. Things get even better…imagine if growth continued at this rate.

Then the snake-oil salesmen arrive. In this case they called it the ‘Asian Tiger’. Businesses expanded and new businesses appeared. But because they hadn’t saved enough, they had to borrow money.

The banks cautiously loaned money at first. But when they started seeing the returns, they imagined what they could have made if they had loaned twice or three-times as much.

You get the picture. In the end, like every investment bubble in the history of mankind, the world runs out of fools who are prepared to buy into the bubble.

The euphoria that sucked everyone in disappears. Replacing it is fright as everyone rushes for the exit.

They sell the investment at a loss. Businesses can’t sell enough goods to repay the loans. That means loans go unpaid. The currency falls as investors abandon it for safe haven currencies…and finally, the whole economy collapses in a heap.

That’s the (abridged) story of the Asian Financial Crisis. And it’s the story of every other asset or economic bubble…and it’s the story of the Chinese economic bubble.

‘Oh, but Kris, China is different, it doesn’t have a bunch of external debt. It owns other nations’ debts, so it will be fine.’

We often hear that excuse.

But, it’s worth paying attention to an article in Forbes earlier this year:

‘Here’s some terrific news about China’s economy: at the end of last year, the debt-to-GDP ratio of the Chinese government, the key measure of its fiscal sustainability, stood at 16.3%. That’s an improvement from the already impressive 17% at year-end 2010.

‘Based in large part on Beijing’s low debt load, the Economist’s “wiggle-room index,” which ranks economies on their ability to afford stimulative measures, assigns a great rating to China. Of 27 emerging nations, only petroleum-blessed Saudi Arabia and Indonesia look stronger…

‘All this sounds wonderful, but none of it correlates with the facts. The 16.3% calculation excludes Beijing’s “hidden liabilities.” Once you add them in, China’s debt-to-GDP ratio increases to somewhere between 90% and 160%. And if you believe Beijing has been overstating its GDP recently – it has, at least starting from the last quarter of last year – China’s ratio approximates Greece’s 164%.’

Greece is Nothing Compared to China

Wow! The European Union is on the verge of collapse, and asset markets have crashed due to Greece’s debt problems. Given the relative size of the Greek economy to the Chinese economy

Click to enlarge

…can you imagine what will happen to asset prices when the Chinese economy implodes? It almost doesn’t bear thinking about. Only you have to think about it because the Australian economy is handcuffed to the Chinese economy.

Now, we’re not saying that China won’t be an economic force…to a large degree it already is. But what we are saying is something we’ve said for the past couple of years.

That is, regardless of a country’s strength, economic growth doesn’t go up non-stop forever. Booming economies will always have periods of bust.

If an economy sees excessive credit growth and an economic boom, as sure as night follows day, that economy will see credit contraction and an economic bust.

Bottom line: 100 years is a long time, and anything can happen. But don’t fall for the spin that Australia’s future wealth is safe.

The Chinese economy is following the same path as every other economic boom…and it will soon follow the same path as every other economic bust.

History will show that the Asian Financial Crisis was nothing compared to the coming fallout from the Chinese Financial Crisis.

Part II: Is the “Asian Century” Already Kaput?

It’s getting tasty in China.

Yesterday, the Financial Times noted:

‘Chinese listed companies have reported a sharp rise in unpaid bills during the third quarter, in one of the clearest signs yet of the toll that China’s economic slowdown is taking on corporate balance sheets.’

We wonder how that will fit in with the government’s plans for the so-called ‘Asian Century.’ Not very well we’ll wager…

Last weekend, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard released the long-awaited Australia in the Asian Century white paper.

The paper notes:

‘The Asian century is an Australian opportunity. As the global centre of gravity shifts to our region, the tyranny of distance is being replaced by the prospects of proximity. Australia is located in the right place at the right time – in the Asian region in the Asian century.

‘For several decades, Australian businesses, exporters and the community have grown their footprint across the region. Today, for Australia, the minerals and energy boom is the most visible, but not the only, aspect of Asia’s rise. As the century unfolds, the growth in our region will impact on almost all of our economy and society.’

It sounds impressive, right?

The argument is that Asia will become the global economic powerhouse. Therefore, because Australia is on Asia’s doorstep the Australian economy will benefit.

As impressive as it sounds, it’s also completely misguided, and we’re sorry to say, woefully wrong.

But we look at it like this: it’s like a fat man thinking he’ll lose weight if he stands next to a skinny man!

But we’re not the only one to criticise the white paper. Michael Pascoe wrote in Melbourne’s Age that ‘the PM has offered a statement of the obvious.’

While Clinton Dines, formerly of BHP China, told the Age, ‘With a slowdown and budget deficit looming, one suspects that Ken Henry’s efforts are doomed to go the way of his tax reforms.’

We’re happy when the mainstream criticizes government policy. Only this time, the mainstream is wrong too…

The “Asian Century” is Already History

The reality is when we look back at today from the future, the Asian century (in the way the government envisions it) will prove to be nothing more than an Asian decade…or two decades at the most.

If the government, businesses and investors have pinned their hopes on the Chinese Dragon and Asian Tiger, they’ll be sorely disappointed.

By attaching their hopes to Asia, they’re in danger of missing out on the real story of the next 100 years. It’s what we call the ‘Wired Century.’  (This is a theme we wrote about in the latest issue of Australian Small-Cap Investigator.)

The fact is, in some ways the era of backing one geographic location over another are over. So are the days of benefiting from being close to a booming nation.

Let’s be honest, Australia’s closeness to China hasn’t been as important to the Australian economy as most think. What’s more important is that Australia has the natural resources that China needs – copper, iron ore, and coal.

But Brazil has a bunch of this stuff too. So does Canada, Chile and Africa. And the last time we checked, Brazil is three times as far from China as Western Australia is from China…and that’s as the crow flies. In nautical miles the distance is even greater.

And if we’re not mistaken, the US has relied on Middle Eastern oil for years. You could hardly call them neighbours.

Distance doesn’t matter compared to having a resource in demand. The fact that Australia has a bunch of resources and is close to China is just a bonus.

In short, anyone hoping that Australia will cash in on the supposed ‘Asian Century’ is kidding themselves.

Australia Needs to Exploit the Wired Century

Yes, there are benefits of being close, but there’s something much more import. And that’s technological innovation and global trade.

This is the real benefit for Australia.

So if you’re after a clue about the future, we suggest you take in the two following excerpts. First this from the Age:

‘The rise of the internet has killed the newspaper business model, but demand for television remains enormous.

‘According to The Cross Platform Report by researcher Nielsen, United States viewers still spend around four hours a day watching TV, barely down from record highs.

‘Does this make the battered shares of Seven, Nine and Ten cheap buying for potentially-rich stocks? No.

‘Australian television broadcasters are at the very same tipping point newspapers reached a few years ago, just before their problems became near-terminal.’

And this from the London Times:

‘The world is “drowning in data” and computing companies are running out of space to store it, one of the technology sector’s best-known – and most controversial – figures has warned.

‘Mark Hurd, the president of Oracle, said that the amount of data being produced by the nine billion devices connected to the internet had grown eightfold over the past seven years, putting incredible strain on the companies that need to process and store it all.’

New technology, new business practices, and new consumer behaviour is having a big impact on the local and world economy. And that impact will only grow.

As we wrote in the latest issue of Australian Small-Cap Investigator, 16 years ago the Sayce household only had one device connected to the internet (a desktop computer).

Today, between  this writer, the missus and two kids, we have 12 internet-enabled devices. And as far as we’re concerned, the world is barely 5% of the way through the technological revolution.

The Most Important Skills You Can Learn

Bottom line: forget the Asian century. Forget the nonsense about forcing kids to learn Mandarin, Japanese, Hindi and Indonesian.

Sure, those skills will be handy. But on the importance scale, they are far, far behind the most important skills any kid (or adult) could learn today. We’re talking about encouraging kids to learn more technological and web skills.

If Australia (or anywhere) has any chance of building a successful economy over the next hundred years it won’t be through foreign languages or as the mainstream economists seem to think, by building more houses, it will be by embracing and exploiting the Wired Century.

That’s the future for Australasia. But only if governments stops butting in and let schools and businesses get on with building those skills.


Kris Sayce is an Investment Director for Port Phillip Publishing and an editor for Money Morning Australia.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Gas Lines are Not Sandy's Fault

imageGuest post by Jeffrey Tucker of Laissez Faire Books 

It's crazy in New York and New Jersey, and commentators are mystified. Hurricane Sandy was bad enough. That's a natural disaster, and we are dealing with it.

But then came the unnatural disaster in the form of the government's response. This is where the real catastrophe begins.

Check out the mess in New Jersey. The New York Times reports that "widespread gas shortages stirred fears among residents and disrupted some rescue and emergency services as the New York region struggled to return to a semblance of normalcy after being ravaged by Hurricane Sandy."

Fights, anger, lines, craziness everywhere. Emergency shipments of gasoline are pouring in. Mail trucks are stuck. Supply trucks are stuck. Ambulances need fuel and can't get it. The government is trying to get gas to the place, but is hampered by traffic jams and chaos all around.

New Jersey has these weird laws that require that gas stations pump the gas for you. Why? To save jobs? I don't know. But they are there. As a result, service station attendants are slaving, breathing in serious fumes for 18 hours a day and desperately trying to keep the peace.

The images show scenes right out of the 1970s. There are long gas lines as far as the eye can see. Tempers are inflamed. Meanwhile, generators and cars need gas. People's lives are at stake. Some have successfully found gas in Pennsylvania, but you have to have enough gas to get there.

Who can account for such bizarre things as these? Probably the greedy capitalists at work here, right? After all, the state is fielding thousands of complaints of price gouging.
Actually, gouging -- if by that you mean raising prices according to market conditions -- is exactly what will fix the problem. But producers are not allowed to do so. The price system has been abolished. Like socialism.
Gov. Christie himself has made it clear: "We will not hesitate to impose the strictest penalties on profiteers who, in direct violation of our consumer protection laws, seek to capitalize on the misfortune of others in the midst of a crisis and recovery period."

Even more absurdly, "The state had set gas prices at $3.59 on the highways last week," reports the Times.
It's serious. Last year, merchants paid huge fines for raising prices more than 10% in an emergency. This means that they cannot respond to changes in supply and demand. A disabled price system means chaos. When the price is too low, producers drop out and consumers over-utilize. Scarce resources are not being replenished, and those that exist are being irrationally squandered.

That's why price ceilings mean shortages. Gas shortages cause social disasters. We are seeing this in real-time in New Jersey. It's a man-made disaster caused by stupid government officials, elected officials, and bureaucrats.
Can it really be that observers of this situation have no clue about the cause? Can it be that fairly intelligent reporters and politicians are truly that stupid when it comes to basic economics? I fear that the answer is yes. We are dealing with a governor who either has a brain the size of a pea or is so craven toward popular opinion that he is willing to throw away all rationality just to suck up to the bourgeoisie that knows not the first point of economic logic.

Hence this lesson. There is no real distinction between responding to economic conditions and so-called gouging. A law against gouging is a law against economic behavior. Merchants need to raise prices -- not to reflect higher costs (though costs could rise), but to reflect changing conditions of supply and demand. A higher price would signal consumers to conserve. A higher price would also call forth greater supply -- without having to have the government intervene with special shipments. A higher price would also settle the crowds down a bit and stop the insane attempt to stockpile as much as possible at the low price.

Price controls are causing human suffering -- yet again. And this time, the toll is very high, even if it will always remain somewhat invisible.

I've been writing on price-gouging laws for at least a year, fully expecting something like this.
In my article called "The Day Your Life Fell Apart" from last July, I wrote:

So you hop in the car and set out for new gasoline. The storms have caused the usual anti-gouging mania. Station owners have been hauled before Congress in the past just for having raised prices in a storm -- a time when they should be raising prices. Stations fear bad PR and even laws against the practice, and so they can't properly ration supplies.
    You drive and drive, but every gas station in a 10-mile radius of your house is out of gas. In fact, after all this driving, you are nearly out of gas. You creep home and beg the neighbor for some gas, but he has the same problems: bad can, and the stored gas doesn't work right.

How well I recall getting floods of email from people telling me that I was exaggerating, that price-gouging laws are not that awful. They certainly are nothing like national price controls that lead to mass shortages. They are mere agents of consumer protection. Did I really want to unleash greedy merchants to rob people in the middle of an emergency?

Well, I might as well say it: My article, if anything, underestimated the extent of the damage caused by anti-gouging laws. If you live in New Jersey, these laws are ruining your life. If you are running a business on a generator, need to get somewhere in your car, need fuel for your chain saw, or otherwise need some power to manage your life, these laws are your enemy.

Maybe next time you will store up some gasoline? Don't think of it. Ethanol mandates have made gas difficult to store for a long time. Also in this crisis, people are discovering that their gas cans don't work right. The culprit is again government regulations.

Economic liberty is crucial to life functioning. Even the smallest intervention can cause calamity. Enough small interventions can cause the collapse of what we call civilization under certain circumstances. Markets are never more important than in an emergency, and government is never more useless, threatening and counterproductive than during a crisis. The events following Hurricane Sandy make the point very clear: Our choice is between liberty and human suffering and death.

All these regulations are like knives at your throat. Some of them have workarounds. You can hack your gas can. You can shop for gas that is not ruined with corn additives. You can prepare by storing up water and food. But in the end, as Ludwig von Mises said, there is no escape for anyone when civilization is headed to destruction.

We are rarely presented with a case that so clearly illustrates the explanatory power of economics. It turns what would otherwise seem inexplicable into something entirely predictable. The lesson we must learn before it's too late: Let the price system work.

Jeffery Tucker
CEO of
Laissez Faire Books , and Primus Inter Pares of the Laissez Faire Book Club


Presidential race too close to calls, polls say

Actually, the race to which I was referring occurred in 1980…


[Hat tip Diana Rae]

You’d be batshit crazy not to

Take the David Beckham IQ test. Because there are some things about which he really does know more than you or John Key:

Fine Art Sale, with Jasmine Kamante & Jesper Sundwall

image“Seated Nude III,” by Jasmine Kamante, oil on panel 300 x 200mm

image“Memento Mori II,” by Jesper Sundwall, oil on canvas, 450 x 350mm

Artists Jasmine Kamante and Jesper Sundwall have been invited to exhibit at the annual King’s College Fine Arts Sale, along with a wonderful line up of artists, proceeds from which are used to promote the development of art and culture, and the improvement of student facilities.  These are just two of the paintings they will be exhibiting there.

They invite you to join them at the opening cocktail party on November 9th at 6.30pm. For more details and information on how to book your ticket, please click here.

Friday, 2 November 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: In the wake of Poseidon

I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New
York's skyline… The sky over New York and the will of man made
visible. What other religion do we need? … Is it beauty and genius
[religious pilgrims] want to see? Do they seek a sense of the
sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the
Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no,
I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war [or destruction]
came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the
city, and protect these buildings with my body.
- Ayn Rand


Obama boasted his primary win would mark the moment "the oceans
began to roll back." We rate this claim "mostly false."
- Dave Weigel

“The number of deaths in the U.S. attributed to Sandy rose to at least 90, nearly half in New York City, as millions of people in the Northeast continued to confront traffic, gas lines and patchy public transit on Thursday.”
Sandy's Grim Toll Rises in Battered East – WALL STREET JOURNAL
Live Updates: Sandy  - WALL STREET JOURNAL

News reports naturally focus on Manhattan. But much of the US damage was inflicted in New Jersey.
6 stunning APP aerial videos show Sandy's Shore damage – ASBURY PARK PRESS

“Does ‘a big storm require big government’ as the NY Times argues? In fact, nearly every measure to prepare for the storm and to deal with its aftermath is a product of private efforts…”
Does a Big Storm Require Big Government? – Ari Armstrong, OBJECTIVE STANDARDMartin Hoerling: As to underlying causes, neither the frequency of tropical or extratropical cyclones over the North Atlantic are projected to appreciably change due to climate change, nor have there been indications of a change in their statistical behavior over this region in recent decades (see IPCC 2012 SREX report).
Kevin Trenberth: So we do have a negative North Atlantic Oscillation and some blocking anticyclone in place, but the null hypothesis has to be that this is just “weather” and natural variability.
Patrick Michaels: It’s also consistent with a planet with colder temperatures as well as one with warmer ones. More important, events like this are inevitable on a planet that has an ocean with the geography of the Atlantic (meaning a Gulf Stream-like feature), a large north-south continent on its western margin without a transverse mountain range to inhibit the merger of tropical warmth with polar cold, and four seasons in the temperate latitudes.
Quoted at TOM NELSON

imageOne of the biggest problems reported by Manhattanites … no power for their cellphones (Yes, #FirstWorldProblems).  Midtown Manhattanite Harry Binswanger reports

‘I have whined before (August 2003) about the trauma, for high-rise apartment dwellers like ourselves, of power outages. We're almost trapped in our apartments, with no heat or water. Fortunately, it's better this time than it was in 2003 because the power is on just a few blocks uptown from here. In the mobile age, that has created a new phenomenon: people congregating at publicly reachable sockets, such as inside some banks' ATM centers, re-charging their cellphones, laptops, tablets, and the like. At one socket, there was a guy with a power strip, allowing multiple people to charge up simultaneously.
    ‘Wandering around this afternoon, I found an outdoor socket at the Met Life building at 44th and Vanderbilt (near Grand Central Station), and started charging along with another guy, but a building employee came up and told us to stop. That's the owner's right, but it's nuts. Met Life loses as lot of good will—to save 25 cents? Most mobile devices use all of 10 watts to charge. If Met Life's PR department had any brains, they would run cables with power out to the sidewalk, provide chairs, and post signs saying: Charge up, courtesy of Met Life.

Failing that, the few little shops that are open could sell time on their power for high rates. I would certainly pay $5 or $10 for half an hour of charging. And so would a lot of other New Yorkers.’

The local and international alarmosphere is already touting a dramatic Bloomberg cover story foolishly touting Sandy as the work of global warming—complete with blazing headline: “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.” As hurricane expert Roger Pielke, Jr, says, “The only accurate part of this Bloomberg Business Week cover is “stupid.”
Helping Bloomberg understand ‘stupid’ – Antony Watts, WATTS UP WITH THAT

And in the wake of Obama…
Hurricane Sandy to Cost $40 Billion… Or, About Half as Much as Obama Blew on Green Energy Boondoggles 

“The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel toward other
human beings is profoundly egoistic… In revering living entities they
are revering their own life. This is the psychological base of any emotion
of sympathy… It is on the ground of this generalized good will and
respect for the value of human life that one helps strangers in an emergency…”
- Ayn Rand, “The Ethics of Emergencies

I fear now government is looking to be hands-on that “affordable housing” is going to mean “building the slums of tomorrow.”  “It is time, instead, to begin to think about quality not quantity in our urban planning.  And that means really thinking outside the compact city box.”
Trans-Tasman Blues – the Housing Crisis and Our Future – Phil McDermott, CITIES MATTER

“Christchurch inner-city commercial landowners remain confused and suspicious about compulsory acquisition of their properties.” To that, add “bloody angry”!
Confusion rife as valuers come to grips with compulsory acquisition – NBR

You can disagree with his anti-farmer invective and still realise he’s right: while protesting the suppression of democracy in Fiji, the National Government were following the same model in Christchurch.
National's tyranny – Idiot/Savant, NO RIGHT TURN

The Australian PM and Treasurer have now “retreated from what was once a rock-solid, come hell or high water guarantee” of a return to surplus in 2012/13.  Watch Bill English and John Key do the same next year. Which is…
Budget politics at its most cynical – CATALLAXY FILES
Peddling Spin and Paddling Furiously – Niki Savva, THE AUSTRALIAN

Why Hayek matters…

More signs that the writings of Hayek, Mises, and modern Austrian economists are beginning to have some influence even in places where it might be least expected … like China!
Austrian Influence: China and the WSJ – CIRCLE BASTIAT

“More than two decades of failed Keynesian economic policies have left Japan with near zero economic growth.”
Japan is in worse than a deflationary trap: One-time powerhouse, it’s withdrawing from the stage – MARKET WATCH

No, we haven’t.
Financial crises: Have we learned nothing? – ECONOMIST

And now, to US GDP figures: “With the figure for the third quarter now in, it puts the growth rate for the year at 1.7%. Wait a minute. As the Wall Street Journal put it, 'we borrowed $5 trillion and all we got was this lousy 1.7% growth.' But it's worse than that. Of the third quarter's growth, at least a third of it is attributable to growth in government spending….  This is described in the press as a "fragile recovery". But it is no recovery at all. It's a scam. The US population is growing at a 0.9% rate. That leaves actual growth per person at 0.4%.  And that's a figure that has already been twisted by seasonal, qualitative, substitutional and other "adjustments" that make it meaningless. In other words, there is so much fudge in the GDP figures that you can get tooth decay just looking at them.”
The GDP Figures Leading a Scam Recovery – Bill Bonner, DAILY RECKONING

If central banking were a stock, you’d go short.
Pity the Central Banker – Ingolf Elde, COBDEN CENTRE

“Despite last week's blowout $6 billion or so profit from ANZ, it turns out all is not entirely well in Australia's financial services industry. For the last five years, the pattern in the markets has been the same. A crisis starts at the margin, with a peripheral player, and then moves its way up the food chain.
That's what happened when non-bank US lenders got in trouble in 2006…. The same pattern held in Europe, with a few slight differences…
Australia avoided this fate, or has seemed to, but at a cost. The marginal players and non-bank lenders either disappeared or were swallowed by the Big Four banks…. You have less competition and arguably a lot more systemic risk in the home loan market than you did at the beginning of the financial crisis. From a risk perspective, things have actually gotten worse, not better.
This is all part of Australia having an over-sized banking industry relative the country's economy. But there is a more immediate worry for 3,000 people in Victoria. About $660 million in savings is in limbo after non-bank lender Banskia Securities Limited called in receivers…”
Australian Banks at Risk to the Core – Dan Denning, DAILY RECKONING

It’s true, you know. What folk need after disasters is some honest price gouging.
Price Gouging Saves Lives in a Hurricane – David M. Brown, MISES DAILY
In praise of price gouging, revisited – Eric Crampton, OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR

There is a fundamental conviction which some people never acquire, some
hold only in their youth, and a few hold to the end of their days -- the conviction
that ideas matter. In one's youth that conviction is experienced as a self-evident
absolute, and one is unable fully to believe that there are people who do not
share it. That ideas matter means that knowledge matters, that truth matters,
that one's mind matters. And the radiance of that certainty, in the process of
growing up, is the best aspect of youth. . . .

- Ayn Rand

Warmist scientist, inventor of the Global Warming Hockey StickTM and Nobel Prize winner Michael Mann is taking Mark Steyn to court over this post. He’s a brave man.
Nobel Mann Takes On Revolting Peasants – Mark Steyn, NATIONAL REVIEW
Inherit the Wind Farm – Mann made global hilarity – Steve Kates, CATALLAXY FILES
Michael Mann Sues NRO, Mark Steyn, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Rand Simberg – POPEHAT

“To mark Michael Mann’s Nobel Prize, we bought this full-page ad that ran in today’s Penn State student newspaper…”
Honoring Michael Mann’s Nobel Prize – Rich Lowry, NATIONAL REVIEW

“And does Prof. Mann fully understand the concept of "discovery" under American law? During this phase of his lawsuit he will be required to release any & all documents that the lawyers of the defendants demand of him. The public release of those will be beyond fascinating!”
Michael Mann to Proceed with Lawsuit – Robert W., SMALL DEAD ANIMALS

Mann’s hockey stick disappears – and CRU’s Briffa helps make the Medieval Warm Period  live again by pointing out bias in the data – WATTS UP WITH THAT

Climate skeptic Richard Lindzen joins Alex Epstein  talk about perspectives on climate change and the loaded questions surrounding the top, including questions about climate, “balance” in nature, the goals of environmentalists , and much more.
POWER HOUR: Questioning Climate Science with Dr Richard Lindzen – Alex Epstein, CENTRE FOR INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS

"The destruction of values by scientific error has increasingly
come to seem to me the great tragedy of our time."
— F. A. Hayek

This is Australia, where folk move to get away from big government. They think. But do you really think New Zealand is any better?

Evil on its own is is impotent. It’s said that all that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing. Even worse if you do for evil what it couldn’t do itself. “Someone designed the furnaces of the Nazi death camps…. This person was an engineer, an architect, or a technician. This person went home at night, perhaps laughed and played with his children, went to church on Sunday, and kissed his wife goodbye each morning… Few men better exemplify this danger than Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect.”
The Architecture of Evil – THE NEW ATLANTIS

President Obama took to teenage music mag Rolling Stone recently to tell readers Ayn Rand is only read by teenagers. “How ironic,” responds Stuart Hayashi, “that the President so reputed to have inspired the idealistic youth of America to vote for him, is now dismissing this very same demographic as being somehow inherently prone to shallowness.”
About Teens, Ayn Rand Answers President Obama from Beyond the Grave – Stuart Hayashi, SOLO
President Obama Duels With Ayn Rand Over What Makes America Great – Yaron Brook & Don Watkins
Obama’s Straw Man Attack On Ayn Rand – Don Watkins, LAISSEZ FAIRE
A Philosophy for Teenagers – Robert Tracinski, TRACINCKI LETTER

Obama’s hit was followed up by a dishonest hit piece from Huffington Post’s Sanjay Sanghoee, bizarrely using SuperStorm Sandy to smear Ayn Rand.
HuffPo’s Sanghoee Uses Tragedy of Sandy to Smear Ayn Rand – Ari Armstrong, OBJECTIVE STANDARD

So, is government the problem, or the solution? Ayn Rand Center’s Yaron Brook debates David Callahan.

Watch live streaming video from aynrandcenter at livestream.com

So, is fracking good or bad? Director of ‘Frack Nation’ Anne McElhinney debates ProPublica’s Abraham Lustgarten:

Summarising Leonard Peikoff on the election: “The political choice in November is: non-entity vs. anti-entity. Or: a man who is nothing vs. a man who wants to mass-produce nothings. This, in my judgment, is an unanswerable reason to vote for Romney, no matter what the nature and quantity of his flaws. A man such as our current president is far more dangerous to the survival of the United States than any terrorists from the Mideast.”
Leonard on the Election – LEONARD PEIKOFF

Diana Hseih disagrees in two ways.
Dr. Eric Daniels on Why Voting Doesn't Matter – Diana Hsieh, PHILOSOPHY IN ACTION
Vote for Mitt Romney? Thanks But No Thanks! – Diana Hsieh, NOODLE FOOD

“Historians, as a general rule of thumb, don't like playing the what-if game…. But there's one notable exception: the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
The JFK Library's Frightening Alternate History of the Cuban Missile Crisis – HISTORY NEWS NETWORK

“A real-life election mystery, with Edgar Allan Poe as possible victim.”
Death by voter fraud? – WASHINGTON EXAMINER

"A government which cannot obey any principles must maintain
itself by handing out special favours to particular groups."
- F. A. Hayek

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science says labelling [genetically modified foods] would “mislead and falsely alarm consumers.” The AAAS – best known for publishing Science magazine – says genetically modified foods are fundamentally no different from conventionally bred foods. In fact, the organization says they are tested more extensively than most new crop varieties… “Civilization rests on people’s ability to modify plants to make them more suitable as food, feed and fiber plants and all of these modifications are genetic,” the AAAS statement says.
In case you haven’t been paying attention – Tyler Cowen, MARGINAL REVOLUTION

And now, from our Good News Desk: “A recent study of children’s brains in the UK and the US found that adults who began drinking as children were more intelligent that their more sober peers…”
Smart Kids Drink More as Adults, Non Drinkers ‘Dull’ – Dan Denning, DAILY RECKONING

And even more good news: because the answer is “Hell, yes!”
Will 3D Printing Change The World? – FORBES

Yes, folks, this was the original meaning of the phrase.
Exception that proves the rule – WIKIPEDIA

Well, they had to start learning somehow…
#BaldForBieber Hoax Teaches Kids to Fact Check Before Shaving Their Heads – MASHABLE

English soccer has been trying to reduce racism and anti-racism to name-calling, handshakes and yellow t-shirts.
The phony war over football racism – Duleep Allirajah, SPIKED

How do publishers compete in the internet age?
For Magazines, The Digital Future Lies Beyond The iPad – Jonathan Harris, FORBES

“After seeing the Los Angles premiere of Atlas Shrugged, Part 2, the film that opens today based on the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, a question struck me as I was exiting the theatre surrounded by Hollywood types most commonly stereotyped as liberal: Why don't liberals admire Ayn Rand and her philosophy of objectivism, so forcefully presented in this book and film?”
Why Ayn Rand Won't Go Away: 'Atlas Shrugged,' Part 2 and the Motor of Moral Psychology – Michael Shermer, HUFFINGTON POST

Don’t take Sociology if you’re looking for career prospects.
Worst College Majors for Your Career – KIPLINGER

Speaking of which, Joseph Schumpeter explains the emergence of a world full of Martyn Bradburys:
“The man who has gone through a college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work. His failure to do so may be due either to lack of natural ability—perfectly compatible with passing academic tests—or to inadequate teaching ... those who are unemployed or unsatisfactorily employed or unemployable drift into the vocations in which standards are least definite or in which aptitudes and acquirements of a different order count. They swell the host of intellectuals in the strict sense of the term whose numbers hence increase disproportionately. They enter it in a thoroughly discontented frame of mind. Discontent breeds resentment. And it often rationalizes itself into that social criticism which as we have seen before is in any case the intellectual spectator’s typical attitude toward men, classes and institutions especially in a rationalist and utilitarian civilization.”
Schumpeter on the Effects of College on the Willingness to Do Manual Labor – Kenneth Anderson, VOLOKH CONSPIRACY

[Hat tips to Catallaxy Files, Climate Depot, Anti Dismal, 3 Quarks Daily, TakingHayekSeriously, Joe Bastardi, BarrowiceSonaliRanade, William F desRosiers, Shea Levy, The Libertarians, Paul Hsieh, Dr Simon Sellars, Pete Cashmore, Tim Harford, Architizer]PS: NEW BOOK: The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why Pure Capitalism is the World Economy’s Only Hope


PPS: Free Market Revolution is the book that shows how Ayn Rand's ideas can END big government.


And finally, let’s visit Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands for a dip in the world’s most spectacular swimming pool:


Thanks for reading.
Have a great weekend!

Storm Economics in One Lesson

Guest post by Jeffrey Tucker of Laissez Faire Books 

imageIn a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy, the only thing people should fear more than the storm is the government's response.

Let us count the ways.

Mandatory evacuations presume that politicians know the risks better than property owners themselves. That can't possibly be true. In an information age, we all have access to the same data. Especially these days. We should be able to make our own risk assessments, coming and going from our property as we choose.

Where is the evidence that property owners systematically underrate risk whereas political elites are clear headed and know precisely what to do? The incentives for the government is to clear everyone out because doing so exempts city workers from liability for failing to do the job they exist to do, namely to protect and serve people in times of crisis.

There is also something extremely perverse about arresting people for failing to take government-mandated steps to protect themselves. When it is all over, government is in then in a position to control access to one's own home and property. In every natural disaster with evacuations, people find themselves struggling against their own government to get back to their own property and assess the damage.  [Christchurch, anyone?]

In this case, all across the Northeast region, even where storms only brought some wind and rain, it was the government workers who fled first. It makes sense because they tend to regard themselves as more valuable than the rest of us. A friend posted the following even before the storm hit:

So I call 911 for the downed power line in the alley way. I get Fairfax county 911. They transfer me to Alexandria city 911. They refer me to the storm damage emergency line. I get the voicemail for the city communications office.
So I call 911 again. They transfer me again. They refer me again. I tell them, but nobody is answering. They say that's where I'm supposed to call. So I call again. The guy there does not know for sure whether he is supposed to take calls for downed power lines. (pause) He looks it up. (pause) He decides he is supposed to take my information and enter it into the computer.
I call my landlord. He comes right over.

Then there's the anti-gouging mania that hits every government executive. They warn with great bravado that no private seller can raise prices more than 10% in the event of an emergency. This defies reality. Storms and impending storms send existing supply and demand matrices into total upheaval.

Prices change, and that's a good thing. It should go without saying that when things and services are in shorter supply, the price of them goes up. This serves two purposes. It provides a signalling device and incentive for new sellers to jump into the market. It also signals the need for more and alerting consumers to conserve until more arrives. This is good for everyone. Would you rather pay $5 a gallon for water or have no water available for sale at all? That's the choice.

When government threatens people not to profiteer, it discourages producers from entering the market. And yet this is what they do. One North Carolina paper even editorialized for people to rat out any gougers by turning them. "It's a good law, and is made better when the public reports profiteering incidents to authorities."
Amazing: demonize the people who are providing solutions in time of crisis!

Short-circuiting the pricing process discourages gas stations, water sellers, restaurants, and everyone else in the commercial marketplace not even to bother showing up. Why take the risk when there is no reward? As for the goods and services that are available, they will be depleted more rapidly than they should be.

Lives are at stake here. Yet all the politicians seem to care about is their reputation and power, regardless of the consequences. Long experience tells us that it is not government that serves people well in emergencies, but places like WalMart, Waffle House, and Lowe's. Of course, these commercial establishments are the ones that the political class tries to shut down. It's perverse even by government standards.

Given the torrent of criticism over the last disaster, FEMA did its best to spin opinion in its direction this time. They have the National Response Coordination Center, which, as the New York Times says, decides "where officials gather to decide where rescuers should go, where drinking water should be shipped, and how to assist hospitals that have to evacuate."

In other words, they tell people what to do. But who is actually doing the thing itself? The Wall Street Journal reports that WalMart "staffed up an emergency operations center at its headquarters last Thursday and began routing shipments of goods to 10 disaster distribution centers along the storm's projected path. As the storm clears, WalMart will dispatch trucks from the disaster warehouses to stores in the areas hit by the storm."

Sandy was a less deadly storm than it might have been because of such preparations. Can we get a round of applause for Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Lowes, and the thousands of other retailers who made a difference this time around?
As well, how about a respectful nod to new commercial technologies. Even when the power failed, the cell towers still functioned. 3G connections were going full blast while the lights were out. YouTube's live streaming technology allowed anyone to watch live reports on their smart phones. Instagram permitted live documentation of the entire storm, with 10 images per second being posted. Reporters filed reports from their iPads even with massive power outages. This was the most-documented storm in the history of the world, all thanks to the market economy.

Then there's the aftermath in which government suddenly discovers millions and billions of dollars available to shovel onto the clean-up and rebuilding efforts. Decades of experience show that average people see little of this money. Instead, it goes to government contractors and real estate developers and other preferred groups who are closely connected to politics. The money is taken away from the private sector when it is needed most and transferred to people who waste it on projects that the market may or may not value.

The process to get approved for post-disaster largess causes city and state governments to even delay private clean-up efforts. The political class discovers that it has every reason to make the mess look as bad as possible as long as possible, all in the hope of getting ever more money sent from the capital city to the affected area.

Another tendency is for government to enforce licenses on all service professionals. Want someone to cut down the tree or fix your plumbing or rewire your home? You had better choose someone with a license to do business or you will be in big trouble. Of course, this only discourages an influx of new service providers just when they are needed most.

In general, government sees every emergency has a power-grab opportunity. I get shivers down my spine just reading about FEMA's wonderful plans to nationalize just about everything should the need present itself. If anyone believes that martial law is out of the question under these conditions, he hasn't been paying attention to the police-state trends over the past decade. Weapons confiscations? It's going to happen if conditions get bad enough, as happened in New Orleans during the Katrina disaster.

Then there's the role of economists. It is inevitable that some find an upside to the destruction in a natural disaster, same as they find an upside to stimulus and inflation and war. "While natural disasters take a large initial toll on the economy," Moody's Ryan Sweet said on economy.com, "they usually generate some extra activity afterward."
Yahoo Finance ran the most notorious example this time around, asserting that every act of destruction contains a multiplier that causes even more creation later.

For the umpteenth time, there is no upside to wealth destruction. But try telling that to the folks who calculate GDP. It is very likely the Sandy will be given credit for any fourth quarter fake economic growth. After all, that's how government affects the GDP. The more it spends, the higher economic growth appears to be.

You need only look at the third quarter 2012 GDP statistic that dominated the headlines last week. The government announced the thrilling news that the economy grew 2 percent. But Veronique de Rugy and Keith Hall of the Mercatus Center looked more carefully at the data to find that "all of the increase in GDP growth came from the biggest increase in federal government spending in over two years."

It turns out that government spending rose 9.6% at an annual rate in the third quarter. Hence the seeming “boost” to productivity. Never mind that the government has nothing that it doesn't take from somewhere else. Private sector growth rates actually fell in the third quarter compared with the second.

This is not economic growth. No matter how many economists tell us that the storm will inspire all kinds of new and wonderful things, the first impression will remain true. This storm has been a disaster and a serious blow to the economy when we least needed it.

At the same time, the storm should remind everyone who romanticizes about the wonders of nature that there is a more fundamental truth: the whole history of humanity has mostly consisted in finding ever more effective ways to diminish the nature's threat. First came shelter, then came clothes, then came tools to kills animals for our own use, then came transportation to overcome the limits of nature so that we could travel fast on land and water.

It's true with every advance: indoor heating, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, the washing machine, chemicals to kill pests, medical advances to keep killer bacteria at bay. To a very great extent, it is the struggle away from nature that defines the idea of progress. It is only once the elements have been master that we can afford to think of the environment around us as a friend.

These are things we can learn during times of natural disaster. They are the same things we should know before the natural disaster. Only people know what's best for themselves. Only markets can deliver goods and services. Only property owners know how to assess risk. As for politicians and bureaucrats, they care only about themselves.
Governments do vast damage in normal times, and vastly more precisely when it is commonly believed that they really need to act. In all times and places, people who are determined to build and sustain a life for themselves are inhibited only by the actions of powerful governments.

The people who are suffering through the aftermath of this storm are all being reminded that the political elites are not very useful in times of crisis, and, in fact, are frequently worse than useless. Storm preparation and storm survival is our job, not theirs.

There is no better preparation for any storm than understanding economic forces that are at work at all times and places. This is where the Laissez Faire Book Club does its work, helping people to understand their world in ways that government officials cannot and will not. Join us to stay dry in this and future storms.

Jeffery Tucker
CEO of
Laissez Faire Books , and Primus Inter Pares of the Laissez Faire Book Club

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Grow up, Mr Hickey

Mark Hubbard calls out Bernard Hickey for yet another childish swipe at efforts by governments, however lack-lustre, to either repay or avoid further debt--to both of which Big-Govt Bernie is apparently opposed.

In Bernard’s item number one this morning], looking at the continuing train wreck of Greece, he says:

        “…the debt debacle is getting even worse in Greece, forcing the Germans to think about
            stumping up yet more money.
The austerity medicine is clearly not working.”

Really? It took Greece, and all the other Keynesian basket-cases, sixty and seventy years of irresponsible government spending to [reach their current position of indebted servitude]. In the face of such long term insanity, who seriously believes that just one year of austerity was going to change anything!?
    Thinking that sixty or seventy years of over-spending can be fixed by one year (or even ten) of (true) austerity, is the sort of childish emoting that got the West in to this mess in the first instance.
    Grow up!

Stimulus failure

Back in 2009, the Australian government panicked. It saw the global financial crisis and immediately pulled the Keynesian lever: they cut a cheque for $900 to every Australian for a shopping subsidy—which was paid for by every taxpayer.

How much extra spending did each $900 “stimulate”?

About $20.

Just twenty dollars for every nine-hundred dollars poured down this particular drain.

In fact, even the original unpublished paper on which the “stimulus” was based, now its finally been published, only talks about a fifty-dollar spending increase. Fifty dollars over seven weeks.

Not bad for a “stimulus” package which cost taxpayers around $16 billion and helped plunge Australia into an immediate $22.5 billion deficit*.

Mind you, good luck getting a Finance Minister to admit that. (Not without a Lockwood Smith in chair forcing her to address the question.)

“I wonder,” wonders Sinclair Davidson, “if politicians had been told …

‘Quick. We have to get people spending and if we give them $900 they’ll rush out during a seven week period and blow $50.’

… whether they would have been so keen to spend the money?

* * * * *

* The full “stimulus” package cost around $42 billion, half of it borrowed, hiking the govt’s debt to about $118 billion. This debt mountain now represents around 10% of GDP, and has climbed every year to now stand at nearly $150 billion. Last year’s deficit alone was around $44 billion.

Your second time…

You might have seen the patronising approach the Obama campaign has taken towards women?

The likes of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton argued that women were just as capable of rational deliberation as men [writes Rich Lowry]. The conceit of the Obama campaign is that, to the contrary, they are quite susceptible to a few powerful dog whistles and unable to see beyond their gender. To paraphrase a notorious post on the Obama campaign’s Tumblr page, “Ladies vote like their lady parts depend on it.”
    The twenty-something filmmaker and actress Lena Dunham captured the sensibility perfectly in
an instantly mocked video likening voting for Obama for the first time to having sex for the first time. “You want to do it with a great guy,” Dunham gushes. As the conservative writer John O’Sullivan noted, if Dunham can really compare “the excitement of her first vote to losing her virginity, one can only encourage her to persevere: Sex really will get better.”
    Dunham’s pitch is fashioned, of course, to young, single women in particular. (One hopes that by age 35 or so, older and wiser, she will look back on the spot with embarrassment.) But single women in general are key to Obama’s coalition. He wants government to occupy an outsized role in their lives, as captured in the symbolism of his campaign. Obama was implicitly the husband of Julia, the cartoon character created to demonstrate the cradle-to-grave assistance rendered by his programs; Obama is implicitly Lena Dunham’s lover.

I hope she thinks more deeply about her second time round…


[Pic hat tip Catallaxy Files]

A registration revolution, starting with Charter Schools

Every form of occupational licensing, of professional registration, is a type of protectionism—a means whereby incumbents in that profession restrict entry to others. The result is an increase salaries and wages above market rates, and the removal of the threat of innovative newcomers.

It’s a modern form of medieval guild socialism.

One of the prime examples today is teacher registration, which teachers are registered not on the basis of knowing their subject, but because they have endured three years or more of indoctrination at a state teachers college.

No wonder the suggestion from the Charter School Working Group that teachers be hired on the basis of subject expertise, rather than attendance at a state indoctrination centre state teachers college, has caused outrage in the various teaching guilds.  [LISTEN HERE, 3’04”]

The group advising the government says expertise rather than qualifications should be enough…  The chairperson of the Charter School Working Group Catherine Isaac says it wants registration for people who work in partnership or Charter Schools and who have proven expertise in a particular area. “They may have PhDs or degrees in science or engineering, languages--they may be people with music, arts, trade qualifications—who would make great teachers. The objective here is to enrich a pool of high-quality teachers who want to teach, and to recognise that there are additional pathways into teaching…”
But the chairman of the Council of Deans of Education [i.e., the teachers colleges’ boys club] Dugald Scott, says the proposal … would undermine the value of teacher registration.

Let’s hope so.

The Director of the Teaching Council Peter Lind says teaching is like any other profession that requires registration … that subject expertise and enthusiasm is not enough to justify registration.

Whereas at the moment, subject expertise is virtually irrelevant to registration. Which if why so many children are taught English by virtual illiterates, science by folk who’ve never seen a test tube, and mathematics by people who have trouble balancing a cheque book.

No wonder the apostles of the status quo, like these two dinosaurs and others quoted in the report, are opposed! 

Because charter schools want people teaching subjects who know their subjects, which would truly be a revolution in the New Zealand classroom. Instead of moderating uninformed discussions on subjects on which they themselves are often totally ignorant (which describes so many of today’s classrooms), these teachers would be able to impart the knowledge on which they are abundantly qualified.

Think about it: science PhDs teaching science. Language experts teaching languages. Mathematics graduates teaching maths. Art history specialists teaching art history. Trades professionals teaching their trade skills.

Isn’t this what you thought schools were supposed to be doing?

Instead, this represents a division of classroom labour so unthinkable to the guardians of today’s calcified classroom management that they can do nothing else but stand in the way, because the extent to which  is allowed is the extent to which parents will be demanding more of it.

And then where will their cosy protectionist guild system be?