Tuesday, 31 July 2007

"The state is hoovering up resources..."

The Stuff and Herald political blogs have allowed more of what the Fairfax and Herald journalists really think to come through. This from Bernard Hickey for instance is excellent [hat tip GB]:
One of my favourite sections of the Dominion Post on a Wednesday and a Saturday is Job Market. It’s where I find out what the government is really doing with a good chunk of my money. The last week’s editions are fascinating and all the more topical because of this week’s hike in the official cash rate.

They show that both local and central governments are on a recruitment binge we have not seen in decades. The state is hoovering up resources and stretching the economy to breaking point, which has forced the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates to control inflation.
On the first five pages of executive recruitments alone in this week's Job Market there were at least 29 jobs for senior policy analysts, policy analysts or senior communications specialists in either Wellington or Auckland. The following give a good taste of the type of employees governments are trying to hire right now ... many in positions paying more than $80k per year.
Read on here. And read on here for Cactus Kate's more jaundiced view of the worth of journalist bloggers.

Quote of the weekend, on global warming

Quote of the weekend from the Libertarianz Party conference, from leader Bernard Darnton in a debate on libertarian responses to global warming:
Socialism and central planning doesn't work at seventeen degrees, so why do people think either will work at nineteen?

Reagan: He ain't a blooming thickie

From Eisenhower to Bush II, it's long been fashionable to mock the intelligence of post-war Republican presidents. Ronald Reagan was no exception, a frequent butt of jokesters firmly convinced in his ineptitude, his irrelevance within his own administration, and above all in his glaring lack of intellect.

In light of the publication of Reagan's diaries however, the Times Literary Supplement re-examines the evidence and puts the record straight: this is one president at least who was no intellectual lightweight. [Hat tip James Valliant] See 'Reagan the Astute.' Excerpt:
The popular notion of Ronald Reagan as a lazy bungler has long been questioned; but only now, with the publication of his diaries, do we encounter a shrewd and watchful President determined to have his own way. Edward N. Luttwak peers beneath the 'studied pose of amiable vagueness', and finds an economically savvy, anti-racist, tough on Communism..."
Read on here.

Sack the social workers

It's all our fault. Lowlifes being paid to produce children they don't want are killing them, abusing them, hitting them around the head with bats and pieces of wood, throwing them in dryers and against the wall -- all utterly in defiance of the Bradford-Key anti-smacking law, which you'll remember was going to put a stop to all this -- and do you know who's to blame for all these incidents: According to all the experts, we all are! You, me, absolutely everyone. Everyone except for the lowlifes and those who take our money to pay for their breeding.

"They're not to blame," I keep hearing; "WE are." It makes me sick.
"Our children belong to all of us."

"We're killing our children."

"We need to look after our under-fives."

"Violence against our children is unnacceptable."

"Family violence is a community issue."

"We all need to step up."

"We all need to become and be nosy neighbours from now on."

"We object to the way people are treating our little babies."

"We must bring back discipline in homes."

"We all need to be questioned when we go to hospital."

"Our children belong to all of us."

""We all need to take responsibility - perhaps we should all become our brothers, sisters and children's keepers... An act of violence against a Maori child is an act of violence against all Maori' says Te Ururoa Flavell.

"How do I feel when I hear they're Maori?" says Pita Sharples. "I feel ashamed. I feel guilty."
What a lot of horseshit. These people aren't talking about some inexplicable act of nature but about a series of incidents with one thing in common: lowlifes beating and killing their own children -- children they've been paid to have.

These aren't our babies.

We aren't killing them.

These babies are produced by lowlifes who don't want them; they're paid by us to have them; we're forced to pay for them by politicians who don't care about the incentives their welfare system has created. There's no need to for Sharples or any other Maori to feel ashamed to be Maori; he should be ashamed as a politician who supports those payments and their incentives and the system that delivers them.

We -- you and I -- we aren't responsible for the carnage and the abuse. I haven't killed or beaten any children, and neither have you. The people responsible for the carnage are the killers and the beaters themselves, and the scum who force us to pay for these lowlifes to have children they don't want.

If "we" really could do anything, it would be putting an end to being forced to pay for no-hopers to breed. That more than anything else would put a stop to it.

If you agree, then don't just tell me: tell everyone who will listen -- and every one of those 121 time servers in parliament.

UPDATE 1: From Liberty Scott:
So the next time my mother enters hospital, she'll be asked:
  • Has anybody hurt or threatened you?
  • Have you ever felt controlled or always criticised?
  • Have you been asked to do anything sexual that you didn't want to do?
Perhaps if it is asked of someone who enters hospital with injuries that could be attributed to violence then yes, but to ask every woman? What utter nonsense....

I have another idea, let's ban all those convicted of serious violent offences from claiming welfare. Who can morally justify that, why should they live funded by others?
UPDATE 2: From Lindsay Mitchell:
Just listening to Labour MP Dover Samuels calling in to Radio Live and vigorously regaling Jackson and Tamihere with his thoughts about these latest atrocities. He says he and a lot of other MPs knew that Sue Bradford's bill would make not one iota of difference. There are no academic solutions. There are no do-gooder solutions. And the Maori Party and their 'aroha' can go jump. There you go.
And again:
What we are seeing at the moment is not new. 'Battered Child (or baby) Syndrome' was first discussed in the 1960s. From Family Matters by Bronwyn Dalley;

New Zealand medical practitioners and paediatric radiologists took a central role in the dissemination of awareness of the syndrome; staff at Wellington Hospital noted the large number of 'injury' cases with a suspicion that was often confirmed when X-rays revealed earlier healed fractures.

Many cases of abuse investigated "displayed an intergenerational pattern." So the abuse stems back further still. The distressing number of young Maori children who died at the hands of their young mothers who had themselves been state wards is commented on.

For a long time associated factors have been known. Unmarried parenting, very young parenting, and a personal parental history of neglect and abuse. Add to these increased misuse of alcohol and drugs and benefits that pay emotionally and financially bereft people to become parents and it is little wonder what problem already existed has worsened.
UPDATE 3: As William Curtis, Michael William Curtis, Michael Curtis's girlfriend, Oriwa Terrina Kemp, Michael Paul Pearson and Wiremu Te Aroha Te Whanau Curtis are charged with assault for putting their three-year-old in a dryer, the government swings into action with "a four-year, $14m campaign ... aimed at changing the way New Zealanders think and act about family violence." The way New Zealanders think. The way "we" think.

Do they really think the no-hopers we pay to breed are going to hear this campaign we're also forced to pay for? Or take the least notice of it?

The government's answer to this end-road of welfarism is not to question the welfare, not to take a good long look at what paying no-hopers to breed has brought, but instead an expensive campaign of education to tell the people who are listening, the people who aren't killing their chidren, that they shouldn't. Says Cindy bloody Kiro in support of this fatuous stupidity, "The best deterrent is prevention through education -- teaching young people basic parenting skills and about a baby's development," she said.

She's deluded. She seems to think the likes of the Curtises and Kahuis are interested in parenting skills and the "development" of the babies that are their meal tickets. Will she never learn?

UPDATE 4: Meanwhile, this from a concerned Rodney Hide: "The Sunday Star Times have this extract from my book My Year of Living Dangeously [sic] in the bookstores this Friday..." As Blair Mulholland says, "It's official. The ACT Party is no more."

UPDATE 5: Heather Roy pipes up. As does Peter Osborne from Libertarianz. Says Heather:

"Now we have more abuse in the papers and the outrage is back. In typical political fashion neighbours are being criticised for not reporting abuse, the community is being exhorted to be more watchful and child abuse has been labelled a 'Maori problem'.

"But we should not be looking at who to blame - rather, we should be asking WHAT to blame. I have attended every meeting of the Cross-Party Group on Family Violence set up after the Kahui twins died. Despite numerous attempts, there was no willingness by any other committee member to even discuss - let alone tackle - welfare dependency.

"Rather, this issue - which has a direct correlation to child abuse - was placed in the 'too hard' basket, because making meaningful change to welfare in New Zealand might cost Labour some support when the election rolls around.

Says Osborne:

"Only New Zealanders as individuals can take control of the social ills facing us all today. Forget about Nanny State, it was she who set this disaster up in the first place and it was we who voted for it. Nothing can be done until we win back control over our own lives. This means getting Nanny State out of our homes, out of our workplaces, out of your children's minds and out of our pockets. The well being of our fellow citizens, neighbours, friends and relatives does not need to be centrally controlled and we certainly shouldn't be compelled to finance what is now proving to be a social disaster."
UPDATE 6: W E L C O M E H A R D N E W S R E A D E R S :
I invite you to check what I say above and see if Russell Brown makes his case. He says here:

What we might do [about violent crime] is try and catch and prosecute ... earlier; encourage reporting..., emphasise its irreducible unacceptability, try and pick it up in a public health context -- even if it means doing something as squishy as asking someone about their feelings.

All the measures, that is, that Cresswell mocked and railed against in [this] post.

Do you really thing it's these solutions that I'm mocking and railing against here? Or has he missed the point entirely?

Hiatus

Sorry for the three-day hiatus.

I had a very enjoyable weekend in Wellington at the Libertarianz conference (thank you to all those who helped make it so enjoyable; I'll post some news and photos later) and then spent all day yesterday in training for my new ArchiCAD upgrade to make me even more productive.

Back into everything now, bigger, badder and better. ;^)

UPDATE: Julian has posted raw audio from the conference at his site. Expect to see cleaned up audio of some of the presentations linked later.

Some grooks, by Piet Heine

A few 'grooks,' by poet Piet Heine: Perceptive, poetic observations that never stay long enough to outstay their welcome.

PROBLEMS

Problems worthy
of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back.

CONSOLATION GROOK

Losing one glove
is certainly painful,
but nothing
compared to the pain,
of losing one,
throwing away the other,
and finding
the first one again.


OMNISCIENCE

Knowing what
thou knowest not
is in a sense
omniscience.


MANKIND

Men, said the Devil,
are good to their brothers:
they don’t want to mend
their own ways, but each other's.


DREAM INTERPRETATION
Simplified.

Everything's either
concave or -vex,
so whatever you dream
will be something with sex.


PRAYER
to the sun above the clouds.

Sun that givest all things birth,
shine on everything on earth!

If that's too much to demand,
shine at least on this our land.

If even that's too much for thee,
shine at any rate on me.


CIRCUMSCRIPTURE

As Pastor X steps out of bed
he slips a neat disguise on:
that halo round his priestly head
is really his horizon.

THE ROAD TO WISDOM

The road to wisdom? -- Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
Err
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.


GROOK ON LONG-WINDED AUTHORS

Long-winded writers I abhor,
and glib, prolific chatters;
give me the ones who tear and gaw
their hair and pens to tatters:
who find their writing such a chore
they only write what matters.


ON AN ASHTRAY

When your thirst
and hunger cease,
may your ashes
rest in peace.


More here.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Beer O'Clock: Croucher Brewing

Beer O'Clock comes to you this week from Stu of Real Beer and SOBA, the Society of Beer Advocates.

Paul Croucher is living many a homebrewer's dream. After a bit of success in homebrew competitions, he took the plunge and started a commercial brewery in Rotorua. In the first couple of years, since opening, he's managed to gather a committed group of stockists and picked up enthusiastic reviews from beer geeks and a few medals in international competitions (three very difficult things for the little guys to achieve).

Croucher Brewing Company have three regular beers on the go (a hoppy new world pale ale, a German-style wheat beer and Bohemian-style Pilsner). I've tried their pale ale a few times over the last year, and have been impressed with it's consistency. Pouring a burnished rose-gold, with a dirty white head, there's some punchy toffee-like malt on the nose, peaking through the big peach and passionfruit hop character. A little sea breeze, probably from dry-hopping, rounds out a quite obstreperous aroma. In the mouth it follows the same path, with a weighty malt character carrying a very big, fruity, hop flavour and bitterness that lingers deliciously - inviting another sip. There's a slight yeasty sharpness through the middle, that the beer would be better without, but it didn't hinder the beer winning bronze at BrewNZ 2006.

Well worth a sample, and I'm looking forward to trying the rest of the range.

For Paul Croucher, and his team, there are plenty of insprations from other former homebrewer's who've successfully made the switch: Chris O'Leary, who's Limburg beers you have probably have seen around. Steve Nally, of Invercargill, who's becoming one of New Zealand's most consistent and awarded brewers. Carl Vasta, of Tuatara, who not only brews the beer - he builds breweries! And, of course, that bloke down south who just happens to be one of New Zealand's more prominent brewers - Richard Emerson. Best wishes Paul!

Check out the Croucher website for news and more information on stockists.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Humbug

Helen Clark has fired David Benson-Pope. "I expect the full facts to be put out there by ministers," she says.

I wonder why she used a different standard when fronting up on her party's pledge card.

Answers on a postcard please. A small one.

Poetry Day

Oh look, it's Montana Poetry Day. How prescient of me to have posted poetry for most of the last week. I do like how the Poetry Day website already declares "Montana Poetry Day was a huge success." I like the optimism. Time to plug the poetry section of Not PC's Archives. ;^)

UPDATE: Feel free to post your own favourite poems in the comments section (or excerpts and links to your favourites if they're still under copyright).

So much for 'Values not Politics'

Can someone explain something to me. Labour's bill to effectively bar opponents of the government from publishing dissent at any time during election year was passed in parliament on its first reading last night to the rapturous applause of the usual suspects, and the opposition of National who says that Labour is trying to silence their critics.

And so they are.

So can someone explain to me why the ACT Party abstained on the vote? Is freedom of speech not something the ACT Party values? Is speech rationing something it does value? Or is logrolling and dealmaking now more important in the ACT Party rooms than opposition to a serious rort in NZ's electoral system.

I think we should be told.

'Song of Myself' (excerpt) - Walt Whitman

More poetry tonight, this from Walt Whitman's huge-spirited and ever-changing 'Song of Myself.' This is just a tiny fragment from this muscular autobiographical work.

Song of Myself
Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos,
Disorderly fleshy and sensual, eating drinking and breeding,
No sentimentalist - no stander above men and women or apart from them - no more modest than immodest.

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

Whoever degrades me degrades another, and whatever is done or said returns at last to me,
And whatever I do or say I also return.

Through me the afflatus surging and surging - through me the current and index.

I speak the password primeval - I give the sign of democracy;
By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counterpart of on the same terms.

Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of slaves,
Voices of prostitutes and of deformed persons,
Voices of the diseased and despairing, and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars – and of wombs, and of the fatherstuff,
And of the rights of them the other are down upon,
Of the trivial and flat and foolish and despised,
Of fog in the air and beetles rolling balls of dung.

Through me forbidden voices,
Voices of sexes and lusts - voices veiled, and I remove the veil,
Voices indecent by me clarified and transfigured.

I do not press my finger across my mouth,
I keep as delicate around the bowels as around the head and heart,
Copulation is no more rank to me than death is.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from;
The scent of these arm-pits is aroma finer than prayer,
This head is more than churches or bibles or creeds.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Musical interlude

Forget "Opera Guy" Paul Potts, here's the real thing on You Tube:
  • For the girls and those who like steel in their singing, Mario del Monaco singing Puccini's Nessun Dorma as it's supposed to be sung. Strong. Bold. Terrific. Now you can maybe understand why although Paul Potts might want to sing opera, he isn't an opera singer.
  • For the boys and those who think Mozart always has to sound like so much passionless tinkling, here's Dianne Damrau as a showstopping Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute. [Singing starts about two minutes in.]
  • For those who enjoy orgasms -- and let's face it, apart from the Pope who doesn't -- here's the best, if not the only, ten minute orgasm in music: Richard Wagner's Transfiguration from Tristan and Isolde, sung by the incomparable Jessye Norman, and conducted by God. Delicious.
  • And here's what I'm looking forward to tonight: Simon O'Neill and the Auckland Philharmonia doing a show called 'Rome - The Eternal City'. If those Tosca excerpts they're promising include most of Act III (perhaps the best thirty or so minutes in opera), I'll be a very happy man indeed.
Hope that gives you some pleasure over your lunch hour.

PUBLIC NOTICE: Beer O'Clock heads to Helengrad

Regular readers may like to know that about the time the Beer O'Clock post normally hits the ether on Friday I'll be heading towards Wellington for this weekend's Libertarianz party conference, and to the bar that won this year's NZ Bar Awards: Wellington's Matterhorn. I'll be heading to "the Ho" just as soon as I can mosey in from the airport and drop my bags, say about six or so. Feel free to join me and my Libz colleagues in as many arguments as you may like to muster. One per drink would seem about right.

Weasel words

Noody likes weasel words. Well, except for politicians, academics, salesmen, admen, planners, lawyers, MBAs, members of the American military and bureaucrats everywhere . . . apart from all of them, no one likes weasel words.

But you still catch yourself occasionally don't you. A "multi-tasking" here, a "going forward" there, a "delivering quality outcomes" everywhere . . . it's like an addiction, isn't it. Here's Barry, he's a weaselwordholic. See:

Hello, my name is Barry Carter and I’m a weaselwordholic.

I guess it all started when I was a manager in the public service. At first it was only the soft stuff, like the odd restructure or client service charter. There just didn’t seem to be any harm in it and everyone was doing it anyway. Before I knew it I had moved on to transparent processes, key drivers and then the hard stuff like balanced scorecards. By the end of the year I was dropping 4 or 5 caps of focus groups and corporate memory every day.

My staff began to shun me as my coherence diminished and I took to shuffling through the corridors of power, prostituting myself to get my next fix. This came at a terrible price. I was introduced to crack complexity resolution and was soon freebasing change management and process re-engineering. I was on a highway to hell without a key performance indicator to guide me.
A frightening addiction, isn't it. Visit Barry's Weasel Words site to leverage treatment of your own addiction.

Pursuit of price stability gives rampant instability: Go figure.

The Reserve Bank is tasked by law to preserve price stability. To fight inflation. These two things are not, however, the same thing.

Inflation is a curse; inflation steals wealth; inflation (as Milton Friedman used to point out) is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon: monetary inflation happens as a result of printing money (and our Reserve Bank has been 'printing' about fifteen percent more each year for the past few years). It's a form of surreptitious theft. That's monetary inflation, which Alan Bollard's bank is exacerbating.

What Alan Bollard is concerned about is not the monetary inflation for which his bank is responsible, but price inflation (or deflation), those price movements either up or down that happen for good market reasons such as supply and demand and the introduction of new technologies and the discovery and extraction of new resources and the like. As I've argued before, removing monetary inflation would be a good thing (but not something in which the Reserve Bank is interested), whereas dampening down the free movement of prices is bad -- it distorts those important price signals which the market needs to function effectively.

Yet Alan Bollard will continue to ignore his own monetary inflation and pursue the illusion of price stability, hiking exchange rates to dampen down free price movements and the results of the inflated money supply and inflated government spending and the strangulation by regulation of land supply, and setting up what economist Steve Hanke calls a "death spiral" in which the higher the exchange rate the more "hot money" from the carry trade is attracted into the country, putting up prices and leading to another hike in prices leading Bollard to hike interest rates and . . .

Bad stuff.

But here's the irony: in this headlong and destructive pursuit of price stability, there are two prices whose instability is compounded: the price that's paid for the dollar, and the price we pay for money. That's right, the myopia over price stability has led to rampant instability in interest rates and mortgage rates and the exchange rate. The rationalistic "basket of goods" by which price inflation is measure may be made to appear stable, but the prices we actually pay for mortgages, capital and foreign exchange are all over the place.

Do you think there's something wrong with the economic theory on which the Reserve Bank Act is operating?

Islamist joke of the day

Hey, you know that Muslim fellow round the corner? He's threatening to pour gas on himself and set it alight to protest the presence of the Great Satan's soldiers at Muslim holy sites. So we’re having a whip round for his family – so far we’ve got about 80 litres.

The Kiss - Rodin


Yes, we've all seen it so often it might be hard to see it afresh . . . but this is magnificent sculpture. Nothing before or since approaches either its subject or its style. Rodin is one of the geniuses of sculpture.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Once again, "What would a libertarian do about global warming?"

Some email correspondents want me to talk about what a libertarian would advocate we do about man-made global warming if man-made global warming were proved to exist. Oddly enough, my correspondents seem unaware I've commented on this many times before, not least last October when I linked to a roundtable discussion on the question led by Ron Bailey at the Reason site. (See my post: What would a libertarian do about global warming?)

The simple answer to my correspondents' question was put in that roundtable by Julian Morris in suggesting that what best enables "adaptation to climate both now and in the future" is the "universal adoption of the institutions of the free society." That is, free and open debate and inquiry, the free and unrestricted operation of resources and of the pricing system and of land use, and the free and open use of technology and science to inquire into and adopt new technologies.

Or in other words, as George Reisman has been saying all along, rather than loud and long calls for government "action" -- "action" that consists only on bans or restrictions on private action -- we should let human ingenuity and the price system of the free market work out solutions to whatever problems do arise, in exactly the same way as human ingenuity and the price system of the free market has done in the past. Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek says simply enough that when it comes to what governments should do about global warming we should "shrug."

One legitimate reason for refusing to endorse massive, worldwide government-led efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is that any such effort will inevitably be politicized. Even if the possibility exists for such regulation to make the world a better place, this possibility is remote compared to the likelihood that grandstanding politicians, special-interest groups, arrogant environmentalists who are intolerant of commercial values, and well-meaning but misinformed voters will combine to generate policies that do more harm than good.


More fundamentally, the relevant question – as always – is ‘compared to what?’ The polar ice caps might well be melting, the earth’s temperature might well be rising, and human industry and commerce might well be the culprit. But this ‘culprit’ is also humankind’s great savior. It keeps us from the fates suffered by the vast majority of our ancestors: famine, plague, filth, drudgery, and ignorance. If global warming is a consequence of capitalism, I agree that it’s likely one that should be registered as a cost (although not everyone agrees that global warming is undesirable).


But if the only way to prevent or slow global warming is through political action, it is neither absurd nor irresponsible to argue that the best course of action is to ignore the problem.

Mick Hume makes a similar point at Sp!ked magazine:

To challenge [the warmist consensus] is not a job for scientific inquiry, since that is not really what such prejudices are based upon, but for political argument. The pressing need is to recast notions of human agency, and develop a future-oriented vision based on a belief in our ability to tackle problems through economic and social advance.

For starters, here is one straightforward historical idea that might sound ‘revolutionary’ today: the more control humanity is able to exercise over nature, and the larger the ‘footprint’ we make on the planet, the better the future is likely to be.
For a species -- us -- whose means of survival consists not in adapting ourselves to nature but by adapting nature to ourselves, that's almost a truism, isn't it. Or at least it becomes a truism when you accept that fact about human nature.

More paperwork for less paperwork

As always, I'll support anything that promotes or advances freedom as long as there is no new coercion. Rodney Hide's Regulatory Responsibility Bill does just that, and as he explains on his blog you can do your bit to help it pass so that the mitts of the grey ones are just a little bit further from your business:
The Regulatory Responsibility Bill is the most important Bill to come before Parliament since the Fiscal Responsibility Act. It serves to make lawmaking more transparent. Governments have to spell out the impact their proposed laws will have on kiwi’s property rights, freedom to contract, and ability to choose. It forces regular reviews on all existing laws and regulations. Here’s your chance to tell Parliament the impact red tape is having on you and the country. Make a submission to the Commerce Committee—but be quick; submissions close 10 August.

Our webpage CutRedTape.org.nz details how.

Now’s your chance. We need this Bill passed into law.
If you do have the time in amongst all the paperwork you're required to do by law, then this might be one means whereby you can do something to reduce the legal requirement for all that paperwork. if it passes, we'll all have more time to spend on our businesses .

Venezuala continues down the gurgler

Venezuela continues to demonstrate the inevitable downward spiral of a country in the grip of socialism: Yesterday, nationalisation and queuing for food; today, suppression of free speech, rorting the electoral system and suppressing critics. (Readers are invited to draw as many parallels as they wish with the speech rationing and electoral rorts of our own socialist masters here.)

The latest Free Radical's cover story invites the reader to compare the slow strangulation of Venezuela with the same grey death experienced in other places where collectivism has taken power. The latest news in that slide is that Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez now wants to be leader-for-life Hugo Chavez: not content with just rorting elections to gain power he's now taking another leaf out of the socialist playbook by moving to effect a vice grip on power by removing term limits on his presidential power in Venezuela, and to expel foreigners who publicly criticise him or his government.
Mr Chavez also ordered officials to monitor statements made by international figures in Venezuela. He did not mention any names, but his comments came on the same weekend that Manuel Espino, president of Mexico's ruling National Action Party, criticised Mr Chavez at a pro-democracy conference in Caracas.

Mr Espino told the conference a plan by Mr Chavez to end term limits on Venezuela's presidency were a threat to democracy.
Chavez shows the same contempt for democracy as do his confreres here. Just another step towards the same socialist suppression of criticism that every socialist country everywhere has taken.

By the way, the hat tip for this story goes to Kiwi Pundit, who rather sagely observes that with socialists both here and there tinkering with the electoral system for their own advantage that one would be forgiven for thinking that "socialists can only retain power by cheating in elections and suppressing dissent."

As I asked in the The Free Radical: are you watching, young socialists? This has all happened before in every country that's adopted your goals: first penury, then poverty, then one-party rule and the suppression of free speech. It's all so sadly predictable.

Democracy rationing

Yes, it's as bad as we thought it would be. Caught with their hands in the till last year to pay for their pledge card rort, the Labour Party has used the subsequent outcry and their position in government to try to strengthen the electoral power of the Labour Party, and to little public opposition.

Liberals and advocates of free speech are rightly berating the Bainimarama regime for threatening free speech and making a mockery of democracy, but on Labour's plans to limit free speech in election year and to ration the democracy we're allowed ("there's only so much fweedom to go awound" as Stalinist Liz Gordon used to say), they're largely silent.

Why is that? DPF has good commentary here, here and here (and good on him for that) including the observation picked up and made by Bill English in parliament yesterday, that opponents of the government are effectively barred from publishing opposition to the government at any time during election year, while the government will have full slather and the backing of the taxpayer to peddle their own election bribes. Just imagine the hoopla over the Labour's July 1 announcements this year if the same thing were to happen in election year: a whole "suite" of taxpayer funded election bribes publicised by a politicised civil service in election year while critics are forced to sit on their hands.

That's what this proposal makes possible.

Let's be blunt, this is "speech rationing" -- an affront to what is supposed to be a democracy. Speech is to be rationed precisely when it is most important to be free: in election year, and for the whole of that year. As Stephen Franks observes,
There is no more important time for free speech than during elections. That is when people must be free to try to persuade others on who should represent them. That is when the people must be free to challenge, to remind each other about, to praise and to castigate the deeds, misdeeds, attitudes and attributes of candidates and parties. The election is the peoples’ only chance to control those who will thereafter be their masters.

The new Bill turns that on its head.
So it does. And instead of saying so, would-be advocates of free speech such as Idiot/Savant and the Greens are bemoaning that it doesn't go far enough in barring "third party" criticism. These two cheerleaders for silence would like to bar any substantial non-taxpayer funded criticism. So much for free speech, eh?

I've often though that limits to power might be more effectively enacted if one imagines one's political opponents in the driver's seat. I wonder how these former free speech advocates would have reacted if National had managed to dream this one up.

Our joke du jour

Our Islamist joke for today:

I've just been to my first Muslim birthday party!

Musical chairs was a bit slow but f*** me, pass the parcel was fast!

Sonnet LXXIII - William Shakespeare

The "snooty art" tonight is a sonnet from Shakespeare, chosen because I love that third line, those "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang."

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World

Q: What do these seven things have in common:
A: The great human achievements they all represent are celebrated in a TV series starting tomorrow night on Prime. Amidst all the dross of drama that isn't and reality TV that's not, this is one jewel that's worth turning on your TV set: the BBC series "Seven Wonders of the Industrial World." Deborah Cadbury's book on which the series is based is a wonderful celebration of industrial genius, and I've heard nothing but good things about the 2003 TV series. I can't wait. If only I can remember to turn on the TV when it's on -- with so little else worth watching, the poor thing doesn't get much of a workout.

Reserve Bank's foul ups: PC's four-point remedy.

I'm stunned. A commenter here says he's been keeping up with my comments on the Reserve Bank's ongoing and losing battle with inflation and the exchange rate, but he then says he assumes I'd want the Reserve Bank to inflate the currency!

What on earth has he been reading? It surely can't be anything I've written here. I've said several times that there's no magic level for the money supply; what's important is that the money supply itself remains stable so that price information is real market information, and so that governments aren't stealing our wealth by means of inflating the currency.

Just for the record then (and to answer my questioner), here's PC's Four-Point Plan to fix the foul up. (Click on Inflation or Reserve Bank tags to see all the posts I've produced on the cause of the foul ups.)
  1. Slash government spending to the bone. it's govt spending more than consumer spending that's keeping up price inflation: slash it to the bone, and give people back their own money to invest. That's money that will be invested to going to grow the economy, not to buy elections. (But won't tax cuts be inflationary? No, we've answered that one before. Several times. And doesn't "too fast growth" cause inflation? No, that's another myth put out by economic morons.)
  2. Consign the Resource Management Act to the flames. If there's one thing that's increased the price of housing more than any other, it's the power the RMA has given the ill-named "planners" to restrict the growth of housing supply to meet rampaging housing demand. Time to consign this egregious piece of drek to the flames and free up housing supply. As a minimum, abolish immediately the Metropolitan Urban Limits the so called planners have applied around our cities like a noose, and prohibit them introducing these restrictive constraints again.
  3. Leave the Official Cash Rate to the market. Even Reserve Bank boosters admit that the best the Bank can do with the Official Cash Rate is to set it at something approaching the natural interest rate. Why the bureaucratic middle man? Having either bureaucrats or politicians meddling with something they clearly know nothing about, (and which they say at best simply emulates the natural workings of the market) is a recipe for disaster, especially when the market is working contrary to the failed economic theories of the bureaucrats and politicians. Leave the OCR to the market, and begin working to disestablish the Reserve Bank itself.
  4. Prohibit the Reserve Bank from inflating the currency. The money supply has increased by roughly fifteen percent year on year for the past few years, this more than anything else has contributed to any across-the-board price inflation that does exist. While the Reserve Bank still does exist, I would prohibit it from inflating the currency.
In my view, those are four things that should be done immediately. Long term, what I'd like to see applied is the prescription called for by economist Larry Sechrest in the latest Free Radical: free banking. What we're after from the banking system in this context is not the illusory idea of "price stability" (in whose pursuit the wealth of all of us is being sacrificed) but monetary equilibrium. As Sechrest points out in the Free Radical, "as long as there is continuous monetary equilibrium, all other desirable monetary goals become superfluous."
In addition, it is important to recognize that the demand for free bank-created, “inside” money represents an act of short-term voluntary savings by consumers. The supply of inside money represents an act of investment in that new inside money comes into being via the process of creating loans and deposits. Under free banking, saving and investment move together, as do the supply of and demand for credit. Therefore, the market rate of interest remains equal to the natural rate of interest. Since departures of the market rate from the natural rate are the cause of most if not all business cycles, then free banking is likely to avoid all such economic disruptions.

By contrast, in a fiat money, central banking system liquidity is a “common pool”. Costs have been socialized---spread across all citizens. That is, the monopoly issuer of currency and lender of last resort (the central bank) itself faces essentially zero marginal costs. It can increase the supply of money at will. So damaging expansions of money and credit are to be expected from central banks.

Mark this well. Central banks are the source of both inflation and business cycles. Tragically, many people seem to believe that both inflation and boom-bust cycles are somehow an intrinsic part of a market economy. They thus turn to the central bank to solve the problems that the central bank itself created. I might add that the very existence of a central bank introduces into all markets pervasive “regulatory risk” that would not otherwise exist. That is, market participants expend real resources in an attempt to forecast---and then cope with---the manipulations of money, credit, prices, and interest rates undertaken by the central bank. It all sounds frighteningly familiar.
That's the long-term solution then: Remove the Reserve Bank's monopoly powers, and cut the govt's apron strings from the currency.

The biggest floods since Noah got his sea legs?

It's been impossible to watch, listen or read news of Britain's floods without a certain phrase being rudely inserted into the reportage: "global warming" (or the phrase to which it's changed since temperatures began flattening instead of rising, "climate change.") Said the near hysterical Baroness Mucky Muck on behalf of some environmental bureaucracy on the BBC the other night, "this is what climate change will look like." [Barf.] But writing in The Times, Paul Simons brings Shocking News: Britain's a Wet Country.
...Britain is drowning under floods of biblical proportions and nothing like it has been seen since Noah got his sea legs. In a wave of hysteria, the cry goes out for millions of sandbags, better drains and more flood defences. And fingers of blame are pointing at global warming.

But a simple fact has been overlooked: Britain is a wet country... Of course, British summers weren’t always as wet as this year’s, but some were certainly worse. 1912 was the wettest and dullest summer on record, far ahead of this summer’s downpours. It pretty much rained all summer, reaching a peak in late August, when a seven-inch downpour in one day in Norfolk left Norwich completely marooned in a sea of mud and devastation. Even that deluge is overshadowed by the 11 inches of rain that fell in less than a day on Dorset in July 1955 – about half of London’s yearly average rainfall. The longest nonstop rainfall record in the UK was more than 58 hours in London during June 1903, in a summer when there was an epidemic of lung disease in farmworkers caused by mouldy hay and grain.
Read on here to avoid ahistorical panic. [Hat tip Samizdata]

Our Hold on the Planet - Robert Frost

One of my favourite Robert Frost poems . . .
OUR HOLD ON THE PLANET

We asked for rain. It didn’t flash and roar.
It didn’t lose its temper at our demand
And blow a gale. It didn’t misunderstand
And give us more than our spokesman bargained for;
And just because we owned to a wish for rain,
Send us a flood and bid us be damned and drown.
It gently threw us a glittering shower down.
And when we had taken that into the roots of grain,
It threw us another and then another still,
Till the spongy soil again was natal wet.
We may doubt the just proportion of good to ill.
There is much in nature against us. But we forget;
Take nature altogether since time began,
Including human nature, in peace and war,
And it must be a little more in favor of man,
Say a fraction of one percent at the very least,
Or our number living wouldn’t be steadily more,
Our hold on the planet wouldn’t have so increased.
- Robert Frost

Monday, 23 July 2007

Galt's Gulch

For fans of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, here's the place that inspired Galt's Gulch: a place called Ouray, Colorado that Rand fell in love with on a brief visit, pictured here courtesy of Gus van Horn. You can almost picture the electronic screen just above the trees, can't you . . . ?

Jay Ambrose at the Scripps Howard News Service reviews the Objectivist conference recently held up the road from here in Telluride. It sounds like he had a ball.

Airport sale: Business versus xenophobia

The sale of Auckland's airport to the same company whose purchase of US ports was spurned earlier this year values the airport at $5.6 billion, and will put the airport in the hands of an international business in which our own 'window on the world' will be an integrated part, particularly of Dubai's Emirate's Airways.

That's a great thing for NZ, and that figure of $5.6 billion (and the wealth it represents) is an enormous vote of confidence in New Zealand, and a tribute to the decision made just a few years ago to privatise the airport.

Naturally any boon like this has an equal and opposite political reaction, and no surprise that the two noisiest reactions are from the leaders of the two most xenophobic parties in parliament. Both the Greens and NZ First leapt immediately to decry the prospect of dirty foreigners getting their hands on "our" assets -- as if the asset was about to be shipped offshore.

In being opposed to "profits going offshore" and at the same time to the money coming in to buy the airport, Winston Peters demonstrates both that he's impossible to please (whichever way the money is going he's unhappy), that he's ignorant of the benefits of trade, and that as long as a business is in hands other than the government, it's largely irrelevant who owns it. The benefits accrue whoever owns it.

In saying that he can't see how New Zealanders will benefit from the purchase, Russel Norman joins Winston Peters as a politician in serious need of remedial economics . That's like saying he doesn't understand how wealth is produced through trade ... which when you think about it is true. He doesn't.

He also says it's wrong for control of Auckland's only airport to go offshore, ignoring first that no one is going to pay a couple of billion dollars just to make a pig's ear of the place, and that Russel's Greens have declared themselves as expressly opposed to a second Auckland airport that might provide this one with some competition, and that the Greens are strong supporters of the RMA, an egregious piece of legislation that makes construction of a second airport inordinately difficult, if not completely impossible.

So in short then, a great result for all of us, especially for the owners and Auckland Airport shares.

Swindle director asks: Why react so aggressively?

After last week's airing of Martin Durkin's Great Global Warming Swindle on Australia's ABC TV (which was followed on ABC by a panel who eviscerated the programme, or tried to) Durkin writes in The Australian about the experience of being Up Against the Warming Zealots.
WHEN I agreed to make The Great Global Warming Swindle, I was warned a middle-class fatwa would be placed on my head.

Martin Durkin says his documentary has survived last week's roasting by the ABC

So I wasn't shocked that the film was attacked on the same night it was broadcast on ABC television last week, although I was impressed at the vehemence of the attack. I was more surprised, and delighted, by the response of the Australian public.

The ABC studio assault, led by Tony Jones, was so vitriolic it appears to have backfired. We have been inundated with messages of support, and the ABC, I am told, has been flooded with complaints. I have been trying to understand why.

First, the ferocity of the attack, I think, revealed the intolerance and defensiveness of the global warming camp. Why were Jones and co expending such energy and resources attacking one documentary? We are told the global warming theory is robust. They say you'd have to be off your chump to disagree. We have been assured for years, in countless news broadcasts and column inches, that it's definitely true. So why bother to stamp so aggressively on the one foolish documentary-maker - who clearly must be as mad as a snake - who steps out of line?
Read on here. The reaction there and elsewhere to those questioning the global warming mantra is revealing, isn't it? If they're as confident as they claim, then why all the vitriol? [Hat tip Orson]

UPDATE: The effects of global warming are already upon us. I don't mean the floods in England -- these are 1 in 100 year floods, not 1 in 1500 year floods -- what I mean is the effect of all the political meddling enacted in the wake of global warming theory, even as that theory looks increasingly at odds with the reality. On both reality and the effect of meddling, Christopher Brooker has news of of both in Britain's Telegraph,
The cool wet summer of 2007 may be looked back on as the moment when global warming finally got serious: in two respects. First, we are beginning to see the scarcely credible costs of the legislation our politicians are dishing out, supposedly to change the world's climate.

At the same time, the latest climate data themselves begin to raise some rather serious question marks over the scientific basis for that legislation.

There has been no more vivid example of the mounting costs of our politicians' "climate change" policy than BP's announcement of a £200 million plant in Hull to turn a million tons of wheat a year into "biofuel". This is to help meet the EU's new diktat that within 13 years "CO2 neutral" biofuels must supply 10 per cent of all our transport needs...

Yet just when all this tidal wave of new costs is approaching, the latest scientific data, as I reported last week, are beginning to raise the largest question marks so far over the entire global warming thesis on which they are based.

A graph of satellite data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that, over the past eight years, average global temperatures have flattened out well below their peak in 1998. The 2007 figures to June show a dip to a level first reached in 1983, 24 years ago.

During this same period, however, the graph of CO2 levels from the Mauna Loa Observatory has continued a consistent rise. If rising CO2 inexorably means rising temperatures, what happened to those temperatures?

More importantly, what happened to the brains of all those panicking politicians who are now heaping on us an Everest of costs without bothering to check whether the simple little equation on which they are based actually corresponds with reality?
Brains? Politicians? Anyway, see A Lunatic Crop of Laws for Global Warming - Daily Telegraph.

Piri Weepu hard done by?

No.

He's played poorly, taken his place for granted, and been replaced by a guy who's hungry for the spot. He needed to go.

But there is one gap in the squad: If Richie's not there to steal the ball, then who is?

Sunday, 22 July 2007

'Bishop Blougram's Apology' (excerpt) - Robert Browning

Our interest's on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist, demirep
That loves and saves her soul in new French books--
We watch while these in equilibrium keep
The giddy line midway: one step aside,
They're classed and done with. I, then, keep the line
Before your sages--just the men to shrink
From the gross weights, coarse scales and labels broad
You offer their refinement. Fool or knave?
Why needs a bishop be a fool or knave
When there's a thousand diamond weights between?
So, I enlist them. Your picked twelve, you'll find,
Profess themselves indignant, scandalized
At thus being held unable to explain
How a superior man who disbelieves
May not believe as well: that's Schelling's way!
It's through my coming in the tail of time,
Nicking the minute with a happy tact.
Had I been born three hundred years ago
They'd say, "What's strange? Blougram of course believes;"
And, seventy years since, "disbelieves of course."
But now, "He may believe; and yet, and yet
How can he?" All eyes turn with interest.
Whereas, step off the line on either side--
You, for example, clever to a fault,
The rough and ready man who write apace,
Read somewhat seldomer, think perhaps even less--
You disbelieve! Who wonders and who cares?
Lord So-and-so--his coat bedropped with wax,
All Peter's chains about his waist, his back
Brave with the needlework of Noodledom--
Believes! Again, who wonders and who cares?
But I, the man of sense and learning too,
The able to think yet act, the this, the that,
I, to believe at this late time of day!
Enough; you see, I need not fear contempt.

-Robert Browning, excerpt from 'Bishop Blougram's Apology.'

Friday, 20 July 2007

Beer O’Clock: The Best Day of the Year

Your Beer O'Clock comes to you this week from the SOBA Neil Miller of Real Beer and beyond. . .

July 21 is the best day of the year. No question. That sacred date is the national day of Belgium - the 176th anniversary of the coronation of Belgium’s first monarch, King Leopold I.

Personally, I celebrate Nationale Feestdag many, many times with some of the finest ales known to humanity accompanied by lashing of tasty beer cuisine because Belgium is undoubtedly the world’s most interesting beer nation. That in a nutshell is why this is the best day of the year.

While some struggle to associate the concept of “interesting” with the country which writer Tim Webb called “the historically fascinating and endearingly daft little kingdom at the heart of Europe,” the simple fact is that Belgium has the largest range of beer styles in the world and its products are highly and deservedly revered.

When the Belgians call their nation of 10 million people “the paradise of beers” it is not marketing hyperbole. Their 120 breweries use traditional craft techniques to produce beers of exceptional quality from centuries-old brewing recipes.

For this Beer O’Clock I recommend every reader try a real Belgian beer (no Virginia, Stella doesn’t count), preferably one you have never been brave enough to try before. The Belgian Beer Cafes are a great place to start.

Belgian cuisine is also renowned for cooking with beer and for their extensive use of fresh seafood and quality game. The consummate food accompaniment for beer in Belgium is mussels, fries and mayonnaise (moules frites). I’d recommend mussels steamed in either lobster broth or wheat beer, but if the mussels are fresh then it's all good.

If the sheer quality of their beer is not enough for you to raise a glass to the endearing and enduring Kingdom of Belgium, this alone is reason enough: Charles de Gaulle once said that “Belgium is a country invented by the British to annoy the French.”

Op uw gezonheid!

Neil.

Al Qaeda's Iraq leader nabbed

From the Announcements-you-won't-hear-from-Helen-Clark file, (and let's face it, you're unlikely to hear it from what passes for a news department at either TVNZ or TV3):
BAGHDAD, July 18, 2007: The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest ranking Iraqi in the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter. [Hat tip Jameson]
News? Why do you think this should be news?

How to take the high ball

It sure took long enough, but it looks like All Blacks co-coach Wayne Smith (that's him under the padding) has finally realised that if he wants his rugby players to take a contested ball over their head successfully, they need to adopt the style used by AFL players [hat tip AB].

Mils Muliana (left) and Gary Ablett (right) show how it's done. Let's hope it works for the ABs tomorrow night.

Best pub

Last night I visited New Zealand's best pub for a drink. That's not just my opinion - it's the decision of the judges in the NZ Bar Awards, who awarded Galbraith's in Mt Eden Rd the award of "country's best pub." I felt obliged to pour a libation or three in their honour.

"Best Bar Team" was declared to be Clooney's, in Auckland, another opinion I'd wholeheartedly endorse: those bartenders make the best genuine cocktails I've had the pleasure to sample. Given the judges' clearly superior opinions then, I'm looking forward to visiting the "Best Bar," the Matterhorn in Cuba St, Wellington, when I'm down there for the Libertarianz conference - if that is we can tear ourselves away from the Mac's Brewhouse where the conference is being held.

Read the complete list of Bar Awards winners here.

The Geographer


Vermeer, The Geographer. A man of the mind, portrayed with light-filled clarity.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Scum ahoy

There are few human beings more vile than apologists for evil. One such is about to visit New Zealand: Saddamite George Galloway, the "honourable member for Baghdad Central," a recipient for many years of Saddam's money and of Soviet money; a man for whom the demise of the Soviet Union was, he said, "the biggest catastrophe of my life," and who is on record as saluting Saddam's "courage" "strength" and "indefatigability"; a man happy to hang out with with the murderer, rapist and torturer Uday Hussein; a man who, as you would expect with these credentials, has attracted the Green Party's Keith Locke in vigorous support. [ref: Liberty Scott]

No surprises there. Keith has no shame. As you might recall, back in April 1975 he was a supporter of Pol Pot. And After September 11, as many of you will also recall Keith Locke hosted Annette Sykes in a series of meetings around the country, in one of which while Keith sat there smiling and nodding his head in agreement, Sykes told the audience (as transcribed by a member of that audience):
When I first saw the planes fly into the towers I jumped for joy, I was so happy that at long last capitalism was under attack. Until, it suddenly dawned on me, what about all those poor pizza delivery boys, those poor firemen, those poor policemen, those poor lift-operators, all those poor cleaners, all those other poor workers who are forced to work for and were trying to save those greedy and horrible capitalists!? My heart and head was so confused - happy that some capitalists had been killed and very, very sad for all those who had died while working for them.
Keith neither challenged nor questioned Sykes’s rant; instead he sat there and smiled and nodded and then led the applause when she finished. Nice chap. I expect him to smile and nod his head all the way through Galloway's apologia for totalitarian evil. If you're judged by the company you keep, both Locke and Galloway are guilty.

What will it take for RMA anger to result in REAL change?

NBR: Rural dissatisfaction with the RMA widespread.
Federated Farmers is calling for fundamental changes to the Resource Management Act based on the findings of an independent survey of 900 farmers.

The survey results, released at the federation's national conference, showed that only 3 percent of farmers who had had some experience of the RMA were happy with it.

More than 70 percent want changes to the Act and how local councils apply it.
Sheesh, more than fifteen years since the damned thing was introduced and millions of dollars squandered on and by the damned thing, and case after case of destruction of property rights and enterprise caused directly by the damned thing, and still all they're after is "CHANGES" to the bloody thing! Unbelievable.

"Changes"? Just what does it take to get productive people sufficiently incensed to call for a stake through the heart of the bloody thing [pdf] ?!

As the saying goes, when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know that your culture is doomed. This is a "culture" made all-too stultifying law by the RMA. It's not time for "change", it's time for the RMA to be consigned to the flames and common law protection of property rights implemented in its stead.

Cullen changing "price stability" target may be all talk, but may not be all bad

I'm bemused to see suggestions from finance minister Michael Cullen that he is considering amending the Reserve Bank Act so that the focus is on something (anything) other than "price stability." On the face of it removing the focus on "price stability" would be a good thing for a number of reasons (most of which I've canvassed here before), but since no change proposed will result in removing the politicisation of the currency (which it should), whether it is a good move at all depends fundamentally on what the target changes to, and whether or not this is simply another attempt to talk down the currency.

Something certainly has to be done, and urgently -- as US economist Steve Hanke says, "by having a free, floating exchange rate combined with inflation targeting" "the New Zealand economy is on a death spiral" -- and removing the Reserve Bank's legislatively constrained myopic focus on "price stability" would be prime amongst things that should be done, but given the circling of monetary cranks around the rotting corpse of the Reserve Bank Stabilisation Act, I have little confidence in where such a change might end up.

The fact that Bill English is opposed (and solely it seems for the reason that, to paraphrase him in this morning's Herald, "this is how we've always done things") is perhaps good reason however to give it serious consideration, since Billy Boy is almost a beacon for the wrong side of every issue.

Let me just explain briefly why I've placed the words "price stability" in inverted commas above, and my answer to that will help explain why, on the face of it at least, removing this as a target for the Reserve Bank governor would be a good thing. As Frank Shostak explains, "the policy of "price stability" always leads to more instability." That may seem incongruous, but only if you fail to see how prices (plural) are formed. It's true that monetary inflation (that is, the Reserve Bank printing too much money) is the primary cause of inflation of prices, but it's not true that every change in prices is due to such monetary legerdemain; when prices need to fall or to rise for reasons other than monetary reasons -- when say a technological change makes a product line cheaper, or when supply and demand factors make a line of goods or services more expensive -- then mandating price stability puts an artificial constraint on markets, constraints that will and do lead to malinvestments and severe dislocations, just as we're seeing, and with our small currency it leads too to serious foreign exchange problems.

An article in the latest Free Radical explains this apparent paradox of how "price stability" leads instead to instability; says M.A. Abrams, it comes about through a complete misunderstanding of the nature of monetary inflation:
In an economically progressive community (that is, one where the real costs
of production per unit are falling and output per head is increasing), any
additions to the supply of money in order to prevent falling prices will be
hidden inflation; and in a retrogressive community, (that is, one where output
per head is diminishing and real costs of production are rising), any
contraction of the supply of money in order to prevent rising prices will be
hidden deflation. Inflation and deflation can occur just as well behind a stable
price level as when the price level is rising and falling
...

Thus, in the case where [economic progress] due to increased saving is
corrected by additional money for consumers, the result is to prevent any
[increase in the efficiency] of production; and where a fall in prices due to
improved knowledge is corrected by additional money, the result is to force a
transition to less [efficient] methods. In both cases the fruits of
progress are rejected because of a determination to keep prices stable
.
Moreover, in both cases the correction of the attempted advances has involved
the abandonment of some of the higher stages of production where certainly some
of the factors used are highly specialized and these will therefore become
unemployed as a result of the transition.
It's time to cut the Reserve Bank Stabilisation Act loose. That's one thing that could be done immediately. But cutting it loose should not be used to politicise the currency in another way. That would be a remedy worse than the malady from which we're presently suffering.

There's trouble at Vector

I confess that with all the vituperation, defamation and jail time for defamation flying around on the issue of Michael Stiassny and his time at the helm of the troubled Vector, I haven't really got to grips with what it's all about, and why exactly Vince Siemer deserves jail time for defamation by website.

Garth George seems to give the beginnings of some background in this morning's Herald on Stiassny's role in the increasingly dysfunctional Vector Energy, but if anyone can throw some light on this (succinctly) I'd be grateful. If you post any info in the comments section that looks reasonable I'll post it here as an update.

Great Wave - Hokusai


Probably the most well known Japanese woodblock print. The balanced asymmetry and simplicity of the composition was to have a profound effect on western art.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

REMINDER: PUBLIC ADDRESS TONIGHT - 'The Path to Independence'

The problems of adolescence litter the headlines. Many of these issues stem from early childhood. What can you do now to help your children become self-motivated, independent, and inspired with a lifelong love of learning?

These are questions asked and answered by educators who follow in the inspirational footsteps of Dr Maria Montessori, and a leading Montessori educator will be in Auckland this week speaking on 'The Path to Independence' on behalf of the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (NZ).

The Maria Montessori Education Foundation sprang from Sydney’s International
Montessori Congress
two years ago when 1200 Montessorians gathered under the Congress's theme: to 'Champion the Cause of All Children,' igniting a spark for a group of local Montessorians, resulting in their formation of the Maria Montessori Education Foundation (MMEF), a charitable trust, to establish quality AMI Montessori training in New
Zealand.

Their first AMI teacher-training course begins in February and the trainer for that course is Cheryl Ferreira, a leading Montessori trainer from London's Maria Montessori Institute, who will be speaking in Auckland Wednesday night and Warkworth Monday night on ‘The Path to Independence.’

You're all invited.

Says MMEF trustee Carol Potts, ”This public address is for all those who genuinely believe in the enormous potential of the young child. The Montessori philosophy of education - now celebrating its centenary year - offers much more than a philosophy of education: It is an essential aid to life. Come along and be inspired!”

CHERYL FERREIRA WILL BE SPEAKING AT:
  • The Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Silver Street, Epsom, 7pm, Wednesday 18th July. Only $20 with a complimentary glass of wine, tea or coffee. Call 623 8111 to book.
  • Warkworth Primary School Hall, Hill Street, Warkworth, 7:30pm, Monday 23rd July.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about the internationally recognised AMI 3-6 Diploma course in New Zealand visit www.MMEF.Co.NZ, and MMEFNZ.Blogspot.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about Cheryl's visit, or to book an interview, please email mmef@ihug.co.nz, or ring Carol Potts on 021 111 4133.

Two mayors for two cities

Blair promotes two mayoral candidates for two of the world's great cities, both of whom piss all over their incumbents:
  • For the Auckland mayoralty he's a fan of Steve Crow, and at fourteen percent Crow's in with a chance, (which with a "transmogrified" John Banks at fifty-five percent is more than you can say for Mother Hubbard). If I deigned to vote in such things then the pornographer (who told the Herald a while back that he's a libertarian,)would be my pick ahead of the two puritans.
  • And in London, plummy-voiced nincompoop Boris Johnson is running for the job of mayor of Greater London against Ken Livingston. Says Liberty Scott of the loopy Tory toff, "I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State... I want a few things from a Johnson mayoralty, but what it boils down to is less government, less spending and more accountability." A Johnson mayoralty would be good for both London and the House of Commons: he can't be a worse mayor than Red Ken (Hugo Chavez wouldn't be any worse), and removing Johson from the vicinity of any nukes would make the world a safer place.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Celibacy begins at Rome ... or not.

Sings Lou Reed on his New York album: "You can't depend on any churches, unless there's real estate that you want to buy..." Lou was wrong. There's one other thing it seems you can depend on the churches for. Read: Los Angeles Roman Catholic Diocese Settles Huge Sex Abuse Case.

Don't expect to see much about this news on conservative blogs.

Meanwhile, here's Robert Ingersoll:
There was a time in Europe when the Catholic Church had power, and I want it distinctly understood with this jury, that while I am opposed to Catholicism I am not opposed to Catholics -- while I am opposed to Presbyterianism I am not opposed to Presbyterians. I do not fight people -- I fight ideas, I fight principles, and I never go into personalities. As I said, I do not hate Presbyterians, but Presbyterianism -- that is, I am opposed to their doctrine. I do not hate a man that has the rheumatism -- I hate the rheumatism when it has a man. So I attack certain principles because I think they are wrong, but I always want it understood that I have nothing against persons -- nothing against victims.

Bastards beaten back ... temporarily

A small victory for common sense in the defeat for the Therapeutic Products & Medicines Bill, with Annette King admitting this morning that she just hasn't got the numbers to have this passed. It looks too like a victory for MMP: showing just how difficult it is for any government to pass anything through an all-but-hung parliament. A point perhaps in MMP's favour.

Sadly however, the political opposition to the bill hasn't been based on the stupidity of regulating what doesn't need regulation -- the vitamins and supplements whose use 2.5 million New Zealanders enjoy -- but instead on a xenophobic opposition to an Australian regulatory body. Consequently, the time looks ripe for many of those opponents to sign up to a Bill setting up a local regulatory body with the same overbearing powers as those proposed in the defeated bill.

So as far as small manufacturers are concerned then, this isn't a victory so much as a temporary beating back of the bastards.

UPDATE: Russell Brown mentions Pippa Mackay arguing that this is bad news, especially for "what this means for the approval of all new medicines: longer delays as Medsafe, which had been anticipating the joint trans-Tasman regulator, struggles to keep up, higher costs, and fewer new medicines approved."

'Terror' title a tactical failure

Readers interested in Ayn Rand and Objectivism will find good reading in the Jerusalem Post: two articles on Ayn Rand and on the Ayn Rand Institute's head Yaron Brook.

See The Nexus, and You Don't Fight a Tactic, from which comes this excerpt:
Brook has lectured at numerous US college campuses, often under tight security, appeared numerous times on Fox and CNBC, and is emerging as one of the most outspoken voices when it comes to the "War on Terror," a title, Brook says, that already dooms the West to failure.

"You don't fight a tactic," he said in his talk. "Terrorism is a tactic, and I believe we have to look at the ideological source of terrorism in order to identify the true enemy." He defines this source as Islamic totalitarianism, which he describes as an expansionist philosophy that seeks to spread Islam by the sword, but he thinks that the enemy's identity has been blurred or ignored by government leaders and the intelligentsia.

"We don't have the guts, the courage, the self-esteem to even identify who the enemy is. We couch it in terms of terrorists who happen to be Muslims who are 'hijacking a great religion.' We're afraid to say 'Islamic anything': Islamic fascism, totalitarianism, whatever you want to call it." The fear stems, he said, from the academic trend of multiculturalism, in which all cultures are morally equal, and moral relativism, in which "anything goes" in human behavior.
But this isn't the most destructive idea to the cause of the West, he says. Read on to find out what receives that approbation.

UPDATE: Writing for Victoria University's Salient magazine, Lindsay Perigo focusses on the real enemy: 'Death to Islamofascism.'