Naturally, given the sodden winter, there's still a few things to complete, mostly outside, but here's a wee peek inside from the new kitchen.
Thursday, 31 July 2008
With new revelations of undeclared donations to NZ First revealed in this morning's Dominion, Whale Oil reckons the only man in parliament named after a concrete block is suffering "death by a thousand cuts."
Though not fatal the cuts received thus far are draining the life blood from the carcass of Winston First.
He's mistaken. Winston isn't dying of this -- he's dying for it. For months now he's been trying to get headlines, for anything -- anything at all -- and we all know that Winston doesn't care what he get headlines for just as long as he gets those headlines. He knows that his voters are too dim to either know or care what those headlines are for, just as long as that stern jawline is amongst them.
You see, Winston subscribes to the Oscar Wilde school of PR: to Winston, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. And he is. So don't fool yourself that this is Winston's political death. If anything, these headlines are his resurrection.
In 2002, the Labour-led government gave New Zealand the new and 'improved' Local Government Act, which essentially delivered to local bureaucrats the power to do whatever the hell they want, unless there are specific laws prohibiting it (Libz' review of the Act is here). Since this was described as giving councils and their staff the "power of general competence," it's clear that someone at least had a sense of humour, but the nationwide explosion in councils' rates bills that followed the introduction of the Local Government Act was no laughing matter, giving councils all the tools they needed to beat property-owners around the wallet.
Enter National in 2008. Will they promise to repeal the Act? Will they hell. This is the party who gave councils the Resource Management Act way back in 1993 -- which for fifteen years has given councils the tools to beat property-owners, builders and would-be home-owners around the head, and to destroy the dreams, property rights and life-savings of many of them.
So what is John Boy promising now for reeling ratepayers and property owners? Abolition of the LGA? Repeal of the RMA? You've got be joking. Here's what the smarmy git is promising councils: "We want," he told a local government conference yesterday, "to give local government a broader range of tools..." In other words, not less power, but more. Think of that next time a local bureaucrat is giving you the run around, and remember that this brainless prick has just promised the grey ones even "more support ... for undertaking new responsibilities."
Read Liberty Scott for the disgusting details.
I just wish to make the simple point that "imports are good; exports are bad". Not an idea I think [the Greens'] flog blog would go for.
Why? Well, notice that Adam Smith pointed out more than 240 years ago that "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production" and that the measure of a country's true wealth, is the total of its production and commerce. That is, a country's wealth is what the people of that country can consume. Note also that exports are things that we produce and send to other (overseas) people. That is, they are goods and services that we produce but do not consume and thus they lower our welfare. Imports on the other hand, are goods and services that other counties produce and send to us to increase our consumption. This means imports increase our welfare. So imports are welfare increasing and exports are welfare decreasing. Therefore "imports are good; exports are bad"
But this does raise the question of why do we bother to export and not just import? The obvious answer is that exports are the way we pay for our imports. If we want people to send their goods and services to us we have to send our goods and services to them in exchange. Adam Smith also noted that in any free exchange, both sides must benefit. The buyer profits, just as the seller does, because the buyer values whatever he gives up less than the goods he obtains. That's why we trade at all.
That's right. As Ludwig von Mises pointed out just fifty years ago, "The inhabitants of the Swiss Jura prefer to manufacture watches instead of growing wheat. Watchmaking is for them the cheapest way to acquire wheat. On the other hand the growing of wheat is the cheapest way for the Canadian farmer to acquire watches.” In the same way, the cheapest way for us to acquire electronic goods is producing lots of high quality milk and cheese, and keeping tourists happy.
Read Paul Walker's whole explanation here if you'd like to be better informed than Russel Norman.
Many people consider the election is already over. At the same time, most polls are reported without the number of undecided voters`mentioned (Galt knows why, since the number is always significant).
Checking the figures for the most recent poll, the Herald's Digipoll gives the point some context -- 110 of the 770 people polled were either undecided, or would prefer "none of the above." Here's the 770 responses in order, with the "undecided" group ranking third:
27 NZ First
Like The Kiss, you've seen Rodin's Thinker so often you barely see it at all anymore. But did you know it was first intended to grace a large relief representing the characters from Dante's Divine Comedy, the figure herein intending to represent The Poet, out of hose head the story and all the characters emerged.
Here it is in that setting. It is Rodin's masterpiece, which is to say it's one of the world's finest artistic creations.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
UPDATE: As predicted, it was great radio. Combative as always, Prodos began by insisting Radio NZ be privatised, told the panel the ban puts the "Sieg Heil" into "inhale," and still had time left over to give Chris Trotter a brief lesson in dialectical materialism. You can listen to it all here [audio]. Prodos comes on about ten minutes in.
Simon Pound has uncovered another imminent National "me too" ...
... the adoption of yet another flagship Labour policy – having a female leader. In a one-page policy briefing released today h stated that under a National government he would undergo gender realignment to have what it takes to lead the Country.
Well, he sure looks like he'll do anything for power, and it's already obvious he has no balls. And it would make it difficult to call him 'John Boy.'
As one of the Wellington Central candidates for Election '08, Libertarianz leader Bernard Darnton (right) was invited to join the other candidates at a lunchtime meet-the-lobbyists meeting at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce today. He decided to talk about the joy of not lobbying. I'll let you draw the obvious connection between his speech, and the issue de jour about which the whole beltway is presently all a-twitter. Can you spot it?
Good afternoon, everyone.
A while back I picked up a booklet, The Joy of Lobbying at the Government Bookshop. It has glowing quotes on the back from the Prime Minister, the Communications Officer of the CTU, and the sitting member for Wellington Central, Marian Hobbs, who sadly can't be here today because she's cleaning out her desk for one of us.
The book has a guide to how laws are made and covers topics such as campaigning, media, and sucking up to MPs. It even has little anecdotes: “Sir Randal [Elliott] said they made absolutely no headway in the seatbelt issue for years. Then a close relative of a Minister was killed in a car crash and there was action from then on.” This episode is charmingly described as a bit of luck.
The trouble with lobbyists, author of this booklet Deirdre Kent included, is that they tend to be interfering do-gooders. They usually want someone else's money for some grand scheme, something made compulsory or something banned.
The list is endless: Imported wood, big TVs, fast food advertising, foreign fruit, lightbulbs, party pills, smoking in public, smoking in private, substances I've never even heard of. Ban them all! Politicians have the power to deliver all of this and so lobbyists are born.
Lobbyists are drawn to political power like flies to garbage. And the only way to get rid of the flies is to clean up the garbage.
There are people here today who lobby – I hope you do it reluctantly. To the trader, the person of commerce, who deals with people by voluntarily exchanging value for value, lobbying should not come easily. It should be a reluctant act of self-defence. Lobbying is a sad fact in a world where politicians wield too much power.
As author Ayn Rand observed, when the productive have to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce, then you may know your culture is doomed.
When I said that the only way to get rid of the flies is to clean up the garbage, what I meant is that we need to limit the power of the government so that it's incapable of handing out these favours.
The proper role of government is to protect its citizens from aggression. Libertarianz would shrink the government back to its core duties: law and order and defence. Every other area of life would be depoliticised. We'd no longer fight over one-size-fits-all answers to every problem. People would be free to make their own arrangements as they see fit.
What this means for you is that you can spend more time running your businesses and less time running to the government. Rather than fight the people who are getting in your way, you can concentrate on helping your businesses realise their potential.
Wellington's – and New Zealand's – most important asset is people, their talent, and their creativity. If those talents and that creativity could be redirected to useful productive activity rather than being wasted on politics there's no limit to what we could achieve.
Vote Libertarianz and discover the joy of not lobbying.
Mark Hubbard reckons that at least Labour are honest:
From the latest site update, beehive.govt.nz:
"Associate Health Ministers Damien O’Connor and Steve Chadwick today welcomed a new social marketing campaign aimed at ensuring more New Zealand babies are breastfed. ... “This government is committed to improving breastfeeding rates ..." [emphasis mine]
"Yep, they've got that right," says Mark. "Everyone from day one to the grave is on the State tit."
It's said that whatever Winston Peters's many all too obvious faults, he does at least make politics interesting.
-- Really? Hasn't been that interesting for the last two weeks, has it.
It's said that his behaviour over the last two weeks has tarnished his reputation, and damaged his credibility.
-- Really? I wasn't aware that he had any remaining vestiges of credibility, or any reputation left to tarnish -- except with the five percent or so of morons who are his target voters, which is all he needs to maintain his sinecure, and for whom a picture of Winston in the paper is all the political argument they can handle.
And people like Bob Jones, who express disappointment that the money they gave Winston didn't apparently end up where they thought it would?
-- What the hell did they expect when they gave good money to a known snake-oil salesman? I trust they've now learned their lesson.
Cuil is "a more comprehensive and efficient way to scour the Internet." So says Cuil developer Anna Patterson, who reckons her new search engine covers "a wider swath of the Web with far fewer computers than Google." [Hat tip Gus van Horn]
Check it out for yourself. I did, by the time-honoured method of searching for myself. Looks like an over-reliance on Wikipedia to me. How uncuil.
No one came up with the answer yesterday, so I figured I'd give you another day to get it right.
Who's this character in the photograph on the right - and no, it's not PJ O'Rourke (though it does look like they were separated at birth).
Here's a clue: "good revolution."
I'll give you the answer later this evening. :-)
And that's PJ O'Rourke at left. Do you think by any chance they could be related?
I've seen objections to the idea of opening up oil fields in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico which say things like "Drilling in Alaska's National Wildlife Refuge won’t make the slightest difference at the pump, ever."
How can drilling for oil that won't appear for ten years change the price of oil now? The answer is simple: Because the the expected price of commodities in the future plays a huge role in the price of commodities now -- and the 'economic engine' that transmits those expected future prices to the present is that oft-derided character, the speculator.
The basis for this claim is that any discrepancy between prices creates opportunities for profit, whether those price discrepancies are geographic, technological or temporal. As long as storage costs are minimal -- and there's no more minimal storage cost than keeping your commodity in the ground -- lower expected future supply will mean higher prices now, whereas higher expected future supplies will mean ... well, you can either do the maths, or see how the argument works with beer.
If we step back and survey the big picture, what would happen is that the market in a sense would be transferring some of those future [Alaskan] barrels to the present. It's true, the market doesn't have recourse to time machines. But physical barrels of oil that would have otherwise sat underground in 2008, 2009, and so on, will now be brought to the surface and sold, because they have been displaced by the barrels currently buried in Alaska that will be brought to the surface and sold in 2018, 2019, and so on.
Simple, as I said.
But it's not just economic ignorance that is opposed to new drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. As Jeff Perren points out, there's also the political ignorance of members of Congress who think they have the right to dictate when, where and how any oil company should search for or extract oil -- and naturally there's environmental ignorance too: the misbegotten notion (for which the economic and political ignorance are just the facade) that these physical locations and their biota have 'intrinsic value' in and of themselves, whereas human beings and all our enterprise doesn't.
Whatever economic arguments are put up, that is the real motivation of opposition to new oil -- that human beings and all our enterprise, including our 'addiction' to oil, might just continue to flourish.
UPDATE: I liked this comment at Hit and Run, which puts the 'intrinsic value' nonsense in context.
We could see how much people truly value pristine wilderness if the government would sell off ANWR.. If the Sierra Club outbids Exxon for the land, then it turns out they value it enough to prevent drilling. If you dont want the government selling it all off, they could just auction off the oil drilling rights...
As Ayn Rand pointed out, you can't have a value without a valuer -- which makes complete nonsense of the very idea of so called 'intrinsic values.' "The conceptpt “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? ... Material objects as such have neither value nor disvalue; they acquire value-significance only in regard to a living being—particularly, in regard to serving or hindering man’s goals."
Everyone has seen Rodin's 'The Kiss' so often it's almost become a dead metaphor. Here's it is in its original 86cm high clay study, from a different angle than you'll be used to.
And did you know, like Rodin's 'Thinker,' it was inspired by Dante's Divine Comedy? 'The Kiss' itself was first titled Francesca da Rimini, and illustrates the noblewoman immortalised in Dante's Inferno (Circle 2, Canto 5) who falls in love with her husband's younger brother while together they read the story of Lancelot and Guinevere, and is killed for her indiscretion by her jealous husband. Rodin places the storybook in the male's hand...
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
The Greens' Frog Blog croaks that NZ's latest trade deficit figure of $1.9 billion for the quarter shows New Zealanders are buying too much imported consumer stuff on too many lines of credit. "Using one of those ‘bringing it down to a scale you can comprehend’ metaphors," says Frog, "means that you owe someone overseas $475 dollars for the stuff you bought this year."
They are a profoundly important means of preventing problems. What will cause a problem is allowing wreckers, devoid of serious knowledge of economics, to “fix” things.D'you think he's talking about the likes of the Greens?
Robert Sirico, a Catholic priest who heads a Michigan think-tank to integrate superstition with free-market principles -- an 'alliance' that cedes reason to the free market's opponents -- came to New Zealand to deliver the message "that welfare leads to moral decay."
Somebody should have asked him what led to the widespread moral degeneracy of the Catholic priesthood.
FACT: Maori are over-represented in "intimate partner violence" (IPV);
HYPOTHESIS: Colonisation has torn Maori away from cultural roots and identity.
CONCLUSION (of just-released Ministry of Social Development study): "This explanation to account for the over-representation of Māori in IPV was not supported by the data."
IN ENGLISH: Don't give me that 'Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder' baloney!
Lindsay Mitchell summarises what the conclusion of this research means for the grievance industry:
This is quite earth-shattering for those Maori who strongly assert that bringing people back in touch with their cultural identity will put them on the straight and narrow so-to-speak. Rehab programmes through to separatist Maori education should all be viewed with a new degree of scepticism as to whether they will deliver what is promised.
Or in other words, 'discourse' should involve less bullshit, 'rehab' should involve less Maoritanga, and justice should be colour blind.
In his latest book, PJ O'Rourke delivers a humorous modern-day spin on The Wealth of Nations and Adam Smith's revolutionary theories on liberty: pursuit of self-interest, division of labour, and freedom of trade. Employing Smith’s insights, PJ tackles such present day topics as outsourcing, blogs, central banks, and lobbyists, to name just a few. As PJ puts it, he read The Wealth of Nations "so you don't have to." Think of it as Adam Smith with jokes.
BTW, any idea who this is pictured right? Think carefully now. First correct answer receives a loud cheer.
Party leaders Helen Clark, John Key, and Winston Peters were flying to an election debate. Helen looked at John, and said, 'You know I could throw a $1,000 bill out of the window right now and make somebody very happy.'
John Boy shrugged his shoulders and replied, 'I could throw ten $100 bills out of the window and make ten people very happy.'
Winston chipped in, ' I could throw one hundred $10 bills out of the window and make a hundred people very happy.'
Hearing their exchange, the pilot rolled his eyes and said to his co-pilot, 'Such big-shots back there.
I could throw all three of them out of the window and make 4.3 million people very happy.'
Who to vote for? The Pilot !
How does a tribe negotiate a deal under the Treaty of Waitangi when it was never a signatory to that Treaty? The answer, grasshopper, is that this is election year - and in election year, everything is possible!
Admits Tuhoe negotiator Tamati Kruger, who is today about to sign a deal with the government signaling the start of negotiations for 'redress' under the Te Tiriti, the Waitangi process is the only game in town by which to feel the wholesale largesse of the taxpayer -- including, he hopes, a payout for perceived historic injustices, as well as perceived indignities inflected last year during the anti-terrorism raids.
Ironically, the historic 'injustice' and the contemporary indignity have a link -- they were both the result of harbouring a madman.
The historic 'injustice' occurred in the late 1860s-early 1870s when Tuhoe harboured guerrilla 'warrior' Te Kooti. The Kooti One had gone on the run after murdering around sixty Maori and non-Maori in Poverty Bay, and eventually found support for his campaign of murder under the shelter of a supportive Tuhoe. For three years he and his Tuhoe allies waged war from the Ureweras on all around, with the full support and connivance of Tuhoe leaders, regularly crossing the Kaingaroa plains, the Urewera and surrounding districts to pillage, burn and kill. To drive him out of his lair, "Government forces applied a scorched earth policy so that the Tuhoe tribe could not shelter Te Kooti and the dwindling remnants of his band," following which he was driven out, and 448,000 acres of land was confiscated from Tuhoe as punishment, 230,600 acres of which was later returned. (Ironically, as reward for his murder, Te Kooti himself was eventually given several acres of land in Ohiwa, BoP, in 1891.)
So the supposed historic 'injustice' was the product of a tribe unwilling to live under the rule of law who harboured a known killer, and joined him on a campaign of murder. In some circles, mere partial confiscation would be see as being let off easily.
The contemporary 'injustice' for which the Waitangi Tribunal's taxpayer salve is sought is the well-publicised anti-terrorism raids of last year, the result of Tuhoe leaders knowingly permitting Tame Iti to train young thugs and would-be terrorists on their own patch. Once again, the supposed 'injustice,' which in this case involved such heinous actions as searching an empty bus, was brought on by another poor decision to harbour an idiot.
So in neither case can a clear injustice be proven -- quite the contrary in both cases -- and in any case Tuhoe was never a signatory to the Treaty. In the age of hand-wringing and revisionist history however, neither is likely to prove a barrier to today's Tuhoe 'leaders' receiving large amounts of taxpayer largesse as a reward for living in the past -- a past which is largely a fiction of their own making.
* Figures and quotes are taken from the Oxford History of New Zealand, (pgs. 186, 187); Penguin History of New Zealand, (pg. 219); 'Te Kooti,' NZ.History.Net; 'Te Kooti,' An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966.
Monday, 28 July 2008
Lindsay Perigo's appearance on Eye to Eye yesterday to discuss 'Mordi Language Week' can now be seen online at 'Gogglebox.' Keep an eye out for former Head of the Māori Language Commission Haami Piripi to say the only way the Commission would "target" Perigo is "with a gun in the back," and Rotorua City Councillor Hawea Vercoe to display all the powers of reason of the vicious neanderthal he so strongly resembles.
Fresh from his "people I hate" diatribe in last week's Sunday Star, in which "creators of wealth" and "makers of jobs" come in for particular opprobrium, local leftie Christopher Trotter now offers up as an antidote to that 'hate speech' a "things I believe in" column.
It's not because he's a Marxist/Leninist/Stalinist/Trotskyite that he's a leftie -- 'I rejected that credo' long ago, he insists -- it's all about need, you see. Here's the heart of it:
I believe [says Christopher] that human societies arise out of need. The need for food and shelter, the need for intimacy, the need for nurturing, and the need for protection – both from natural dangers, and the aggression of our own species. To secure these needs, human beings must work, individually or collectively, but always with the ultimate goal of keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities in a functioning wholeness.
Did you see the sleight of hand? From whence emerged this "ultimate goal" of "keeping strong those innumerable threads that bind our communities in a functioning wholeness"? How does he jump from individual needs for things like food and shelter to the "ultimate goal" of the "binding" of communities? Of answer, there is none, and never can be.
And from whence, in the world of our Christopher, emerges the food, shelter and "protection from natural dangers" that all individuals seek? How do these things get here? Who produces them, and why? This is the economic rock upon which all the ships of Trotter's statist longings founder -- indeed, it is the economic rock upon which all of Marxism/Leninism founders: explaining how the goods got here. Sheer need alone will not produce them, and no amount of verbal sleight of hand or "I believe" longings can conjure them out of thin air.
The Marxist's answer to how they're produced? Somehow! They observe only that the goods exist, and put their minds only to the job of taking them from those who somehow produced them -- or to dreaming up sophisms to justify the theft.
This, to a Marxist (or a pseudo-non-Marxist like Trotter), is considered 'economic thinking' : It concerns itself not with how wealth is actually produced, a process which to them remains a mystery, but only with how it is to be 'redistributed.' From Christopher, as from every lapdog Marxist, there is no sign he even understands or wants to understand how production happens. To him the question is insignificant. "Individuals and groups by superior strength or simple good fortune are endowed with wealth and influence" ... they were just standing in line at the right time ... "the possession by a fortunate few of social, political and economic privileges serves the community [are] ... privileges granted to them by the majority" ... they are granted by the majority, you see ... "As a social-democrat I look to the state ... to secure for all citizens a healthy and abundant life" ... all hail the state, the great expropriator ... "As a social-democrat I cannot countenance the arbitrary dispersal of the people’s resources..."
The people's resources, you say, Chris? 'What the hell did indolent fat cretins like him have to do with producing any bloody resources?' This is the question you might want to ask yourself as you read on.
According to the Trotter mantra, the likes of food, shelter, wealth, influence and resources are not produced by individual effort, or entrepreneurial ability, or the application of reason to existence -- they arrive by "good fortune," they are granted as "privileges" by the majority -- they fall, in other words, like manna from heaven, to be redistributed as one pleases. These are the sort of sophisms of which I spoke above.
To people like Labour candidate Jordan Carter, trade is immoral. To people like Labour cheerleader Christopher Trotter, production is irrelevant. To both of them, and to all their great social-democratic 'luminaries,' the State is simply a great engine of expropriation, a beneficent behemoth from which all good things apparently flow. "Those charged with governing our country," the Trotter confides, "hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people."
What makes this property "common"? How do these resources come into the possession of the apparatchiks of the state? What right did they have to take them from those who produced them? Of answer to these questions there is none, but neither is there in all the pages of Marx, or Lenin, or Stalin -- or of any of Trotter's present 'social democratic' heroes. The expectation is that need will inexorably arise, and just as inexorably expropriations will rise up to meet them.
Communities simply have rights to goods, according to the Marxist/social democrat, which the state must meet by expropriating them from those who (somehow) have been able to produce them.
What could be more ingenious? A whole social edifice based upon theft!
Thus we see how one man's need becomes the justification for theft by the state, how economic illiteracy becomes a justification for a morality of sacrifice and expropriation, and how the moral cannibalism of altruism underlies the engine of destruction that is the all-enveloping welfare state. To repeat, according to Trotter: "Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people." When you understand that, in Trotter's view, those who (somehow) possess this magical ability to produce must be considered a resource, you can understand both why they must be enslaved - "they are the common property of all our people" -- and why he hates, as he demonstrated in his revealing diatribe last week, these productive few who have been mysteriously endowed with an ability beyond his own.
And thus we come to the inevitable Marxist conclusion of Trotter's 'I believe,' the linking of ability to need through the enforced sacrifice of the welfare state -- in the words of Karl Marx: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Trotter may resile from calling himself a Marxist these days, but it doesn't take too much poking around under the new veneer to see what's hidden beneath the easy sophisms, and that the same blood red flag is still flying.
Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people.
Can’t disagree with that.
Dear Galt! He then bewails when Trotter "seems to say the minority have no rights, unless the majority grant them," yet the connection between the two escapes him!
Another example of how to disarm oneself by a lack of sufficient philosophical acumen.
David Farrar's Kiwiblog is now five years old, boasting nine-and-a-half million visitors in that time (my own humble blog boasts just over one-tenth that number in just over half that time*). I'd like to offer my congratulations to David for the hard work and energy he has put into his blog over those five years, and what he has achieved with it.
Blogging has already changed the nature of political commentary, helped by the appalling state of the mainstream media -- did someone say "Braindead"? -- and with its uncontested 'number one in NZ' ranking, Kiwiblog has both surfed and created NZ's blogging wave, as No Minister summarises.
The chief value of Kiwiblog to me and many others over many of those last five years is not that Farrar's opinions are either worthwhile or worthy of respect (he's at the better end of National Party apologetics, but apologist he still is), but that his nose for details is acute, and his political antenna is first class. If there's a political issue about, then he's onto it. If there's a story in the wind, then he'll be linking to it. In that respect, Kiwiblog has become the preeminent online clearing house for NZ's major political stories, ahead of the likes of Scoop which would like to have that role. Read Kiwiblog once or twice a day, and if there's a political story worth knowing about then in five minutes or less you can be informed.
From where I sit, however, his authority has diminished as the apologetics for his party have become more necessary.
It's worth noting that for all of those last five years, Kiwiblog has been very much part of the political opposition, while erstwhile rival Public Address has very much not been, and that if National are successful in Election '08 the situation will reverse, and I'd expect the apologetics at Kiwiblog to quickly take over. At that point, when squelching criticism of the government takes over from linking to it, I'd be prepared to say that the relative positions of the two leading blogs might also reverse, and Kiwiblog's number one position will be under threat. After all, the nature of blogging is inherently oppositional.
* Specifically, 986,899 visits since April 2005. At the current rate, I should hit the million mark about halfway through August!
Amid a blogosphere brimful of bickering and a polis rife with passions, Burgess Laughlin comes out on his own blog in favour of ... reasoned debate! What on earth?
In the last few years, I have frequently examined many advocacy websites. One of my purposes was to identify the manner in which the authors made their points. In some weblogs, one element of style stands out: insults to opponents. These writers call their opponents names such as: nutbars, nutjobs, morons, cowards, idiots, goat herders, ragheads, and scum. They also use adjectives such as: moronic, idiotic, stupid, nuts, crazy, loony, insane, delusional, and childish.
I plead guilty. Meanwhile, Laughlin continues.
Why do these writers [ie., me] use insults? Judging from their statements of purpose and the contents of their weblogs, these writers want the world around them to adopt certain views. Do these writers think that insulting their opponents will persuade their opponents to revise their values? I am not sure of the answer. I have only a "working hypothesis."?"
Answering for myself, I have two answers:
- Calling a spade a spade.
We're not having a debate in a university lunch room here. If I can entertain, inform and enlighten by using reason and emotion, then all the better for both my readership and my advocacy.
What say you, dear readers?
[Hat tip Objectivist Carnival at Rational Jenn's]
Barack Obama gives the impression he would be an "I will" President yet, points out psychologist Michael Hurd, all the evidence -- including his "Gee, look at me, I'm a President" tour -- suggests the best way to characterise an Obama presidency would be "I wish."
Labour's Welfare for Working Families bribe has transformed large swathes of New Zealand's middle classes into welfare beneficiaries. When introduced, National called it "a giant welfare package," which it is, said it is "a waste of money," which it has been, and pointed out that it trapped working beneficiaries into penury with an effective marginal tax rate of one-hundred percent, which it does.
Asked about it yesterday, however, Key confirmed National's Welfare for Working Families policy: "Me too."
Nothing has changed to counter those criticisms. What has changed is the National Party, who have now adopted every major policy that they've opposed for nine years.
Meanwhile, as credit dries up on capital markets -- and with no planned spending cuts from a Key-led government -- John Boy has confirmed against criticism that National "will not borrow to fund tax cuts." Notice however that he hasn't ruled out borrowing to fund so called "public investment," which was how Key justified its borrowing plans in 2005 to fund its promised tax cuts.
National: the opposition you have when you don't have an opposition...
UPDATE 1: How many ways does this flip flop violate National's so-called party principles? Let Lindsay Mitchell count the ways, and watch her effortlessly count to nine.
UPDATE 2: John Key, 2004:
Mr Key predicted the new system would have "huge behavioural outcomes" and he was concerned that employers would find workers refusing to do overtime or weekend work.
The effect of the Budget had been to push the disincentive far into middle New Zealand, he said.
"They've got the vast majority of people now trapped in a one-size-fits-all. We all pay one rate - it's communism by stealth.
"It didn't work very well for Eastern Europe and it won't work very well for New Zealand."
John Key, 2008:
Sunday, 27 July 2008
Saturday, 26 July 2008
On the basis of that pathetic shambles of a performance, you'd have to say the All Blacks will be lucky to come third in this Tri Nations.
If you think of that as the final round of a job interview, Deans just aced it. Shame the bosses' incompetence meant he's already signed up for the other side. Henry and co just have to go; they couldn't coach a bloody darts team.
Frankly, the Mad Butcher could do a better job. Or even his mother.
Friday, 25 July 2008
Here's a wrap up of what proved to be the most-read posts here at NOT PC over the last seven days. Check 'em out if you missed them the first time 'round:
- Scientists for sophistry
The Royal Society of NZ was once an objective scientific organisation, but as Vincent Gray's thorough fisking of their recent descent into egregious warmism demonstrates, those days are over.
- Another interest rate decree set to distort the economy
How Alan Bollard's interest rate meddling messes with the economy, and with people's natural time preferences ... (part one of three)
- Nosmo King - by order!
British anti-smoking zealots are strangling the British pub culture and turning the country into a dictatorship. Sound familiar?
- Say "No" to the public-service pushers!
What makes an eager, fresh-faced intelligent young graduate take their hard-earned degree and, with the whole world as their oyster and opportunity their friend, choose instead to take up a comfortable berth in the civil service -- where instead of being productive themselves, they spend their time, energy and intelligence devising schemes that get in the way of those who are?
- Beer O'Clock: Hop Heavyweights
Announcing the battle of the two hoppiest beers ever available in New Zealand, coming soon to a public house near you. If you're lucky.
At some stage in their lives every thinking person has to read the 'complete collection of classic dystopian novels.' There are many pretenders, but this is the core list...
Clark's highly popular cocktail and entertainment bar in Queenstown, Debajo, has a 24-hour licence, but council wowsers are now trying to get all bars to close at 4am, and to do that they're making an example of just two bars which they insist must start closing early -- by order! -- and as early as next week.
This is not just an argument about opening hours. Debajo make around a third of its income in the hours after 4am, with entertainment through to 8am. And since all the other bars in town will still have 24 hour licenses, all the punters will head off to the other bars while Clark is forced to close at the time he usually makes most of his income, destroying his business.
Clark is a responsible host and Debajo is one of the top bars in Queenstown. He has been nominated as barman of the year. He competes in many competitions in the hospitality world, and is taking his good old dad to Rarotonga in two weeks for an expenses-paid holiday courtesy of a competition he won for a new cocktail involving rum, pineapple, liquid nitrogen and a blow torch. He has also been chosen by Beefeater Gin to represent them in the world championships. This is not just a regular barman - this is his chosen career - he's damn good at it -- and fascist wowsers are trying to close him down.
Promises, pledges or ideas for support can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It's not the role of any business to be a ward of the state. Former vice president and economic adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Gerry O'Driscoll reckons the best thing for multi-trillion dollar failures Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is not to bail them out, but to let them fail. The Federal Reserve's bailout plan, he points out, is totally without any protection for taxpayers.
They'll fund the downside if losses mount at the two mortgage giants. But if Fannie and Freddie recover, stockholders and management gain. Call it "casino capitalism" - taxpayers bankrolling management high rollers.
The plan doesn't ask stockholders or management to suffer for their financial indiscretions. The players who put their companies in jeopardy get to stay in charge - Paulson says he isn't looking for "scapegoats." Someone should remind him that capitalism without failure is like religion without sin.
UPDATE: Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute recommends reading the Wall Street Journal's "revealing opinion piece, 'The Fannie Mae Gang,' by editorial page editor Paul Gigot, a longtime critic of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"Gigot's piece is a devastating expose of how these quasi-governmental behemoths concealed their shady practices and shaky finances by enriching powerful friends on Wall Street, Main Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue," said Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute.
"Gigot's account should lay to rest the idea that 'public-private partnerships' such as Fannie and Freddie bring valuable new assets to the free market. In fact, the government's only contribution to the market is to forcibly take some individuals' money and freedom for the sake of others.
"Fannie Mae's 'public-private' goal of 'promoting home ownership' turned out to mean nothing more than handsomely rewarding reckless lenders by forcing taxpayers to bail them out. Any proposal for how to clean up the Fannie Mess must seek to phase out and eliminate the twin housing monstrosities--not prop them up."
Amid a maze of me-tooisms that only Ariadne could navigate with certainty, one of the few policies National leader John Key has been clear about is that if elected National will repeal the Electoral Finance Act (EFA).
Many otherwise honest people have drawn great comfort from this promise, eager to have this assault on our freedom of speech repealed. But the talk about repeal made not so much to abolish a law that tramples our freedom of speech, but to replace it in Key's words with "something that works."
So what exactly is this promise worth, then? What precisely will he replace it with? Will free speech be protected, or rationed? Do we want the same authoritarian law with a different name, in a different package, just "working better"? Not me, but that looks to be what Flip Flop Boy thinks is all we're going to deserve.
On Morning Report this morning [audio here] John Boy "clarified" his approach is to be exactly as mealy-mouthed on this as in everything else. He confirmed his intentions regarding the EFA's replacement have nothing to do with free speech ... the main concern is "consensus," to make the electoral process "workable," to seek "cross-party support" -- and further, many of the "aspects" of the Electoral Finance Act will be retained, says Key, who predicts no "dramatic changes" in any replacement legislation ...
So if anything at all is clear after that it's that nothing will be clear until "consensus from all parties" is sought, and found, and free speech is cut up, repackaged and rationed out by agreement among our political 'masters' who are all supposed to be our servants.
So what's a Key promise worth when it's examined?
There's nothing quite like getting a bundle of Rutherfords as payment for a job well done; it's not gold, but it does at least offer superb aesthetic value.
So with a Rutherford judged as 'very cool,' these new Royal Bank of Scotland notes have to be judged as very cool indeed.
They combine two of my favourite things: bridges and money. Kerry Rodgers explains their significance [hat tip Building Today magazine]:
It was no mere script writer's fancy that Captain James T. Kirk's chief engineer on the USS Enterprise spoke with a phony Scottish burr. The Scots have long enjoyed reputations as serious engineers, whether of a mechanical or civil bent.
... just one reason places like NZ's West Coast still have some mouldering engineering marvels from the nineteenth century still extant...
And it is highly appropriate that the backs of an entire new note issue from the Bank of Scotland pays homage to some of the more notable engineering achievements of the Land of the Mountain and the Flood.
Read all of Rodgers article for a description of all the the fine engineering works depicted.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
The Department of Internal Affairs reports that stories of somewhat colourful children's names being registered by their parents is somewhat exaggerated -- that is, they are wrong. Says a DIA press release,
Some of the unusual names being circulated in media reports have not been officially registered by the Department of Internal Affairs, despite claims to the contrary.
Brian Clarke, Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages says some of the names mentioned have not been registered. "The names Fish and Chips, Masport, and Mower, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit have not been registered."
Remember, just because you read it in a newspaper, it doesn't make it true.
Yes, I'm afraid with illness and all I rather missed all the kerfuffle over Christopher Trotters' weekend 'hate speech' against rich pricks, in which he clearly bared his blood red dripping soul, but I did enjoy the rejoinders against Trottersky by Lindsay Perigo and Phil Howison.
You might too.
... apropos of yesterday's post:
Lobbyists, special interest groups, and tainted money are drawn to political power like flies to garbage. The only way to get rid of the flies is to clean up the garbage - by cleaning up [politics], by taking away from the federal government the ability to grant favors.
- William Winter
I trust the relevance will be obvious?
Paul Walker at his great blog Anti Dismal summarises in two recent posts recent research on the causes of rising world food prices (hint, it's neither growing Indian and Chinese demand, nor is it the fault of speculators), and some recent rational commentary on the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacle.
Thomas Sowell's quoted observation on the latter issue offers the broader lesson from both:
Politics is largely the process of taking credit and putting the blame on others— regardless of what the facts may be. Politicians get away with this to the extent that we gullibly accept their words and look to them as political messiahs.
I voted for the robin.
UPDATE: Crikey, those Australians move fast: the link has already been changed. To see the two video I promised, click here to go to the programme's archives page and try out the top two videos for 'Which agency's fossil fuel company climate change message do you warm to more?' And of course feel free to check out all the other great stuff on offer.
In less that an hour, Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard will bring down from the mountain tops his latest decree on the country's interest rates, which he will deliver to us with all the gravity of one who has just been to the mountain tops communing with the economic gods.
He hasn't, of course -- instead, he's been interviewing his calculator.
In his view, and the view of those who support the mainstream economic model on which his pronouncements are based, from his calculator issues forth all the wisdom that the market lacks. According to these mainstream economic models, interest rates can't do their job -- they are governed by irrational "animal spirits" (yes, this is the sort of 'thinking' on which the mainstream economic models are based) -- and they require the likes of Bollard to do the job for them with calculations like this one, in which the interest rate, r=p + 0.5q +0.5 (p-2) +2, and p is defined as the inflation rate over the previous year, and q represents a notional figure based on guessing what 'full output' looks like.
Elegant, huh? The figures '2' appearing there, by the way, indicate the banker's nominal inflation target of two percent.
If you've ever wondered why economies experience severe business cycles -- lurching cyclically from boom to bust, from inflation to stagflation -- then the heart of the answer lies in the failure of this flawed economic model, and the difference between the interest rates brought down from the the mountain (or received from their calculators) by the likes of St Bollard, St Greenspan and St Bernanke, and the 'natural interest rate' that would be set by the market if interest rates and the money supply weren't being meddled with by the likes of these beatified few.
The 'natural' interest rate is not set by central bankers. In fact, it's not set by bankers at all. It's set by the natural time preference for money of numerous individuals, as shown by their spontaneous decisions to save or consume or invest.
Time preference is simple to explain, but profound in its implications. It is simply a measure of how much I prefer present satisfaction to future satisfaction, as demonstrated by my own actions. If I demonstrate by taking out a loan that I prefer $100 dollars now to $110 one year from now, then that suggests a 'natural' interest rate of ten percent, as demonstrated by my own demonstrated time preference. If I find a lender willing to forego his own consumption of that $100 for one year on the basis that he will receive my $110 in a year, then he has demonstrated a similar and reciprocal time preference.
It is on simple decisions such as this on which a rational market is based.
The natural market interest rate is simply the sum of all such preferences shown by borrowers and lenders across all markets, and if coordinated through the voluntary choices and actions of individual actors the result is to provide the necessary constraints and incentives to keep savings in line with investment, and to distribute new resources to future investment projects, based all the time on people's demonstrated willingness to forego present consumption. Left alone, instead of being used to further the political goals given to the world's central banks, interest rates can do their "growth governing" job - if, to stress the point, they are allowed to.
I'll leave it as an exercise for you, the reader, to work out what happens when people's demonstrated willingness to forego present consumption does not match the resources distributed to future investment projects -- which is what happens when interest rates are set by saints bringing down wisdom from the mountain tops instead of by simple market forces.
NB: In fact, I'll only leave it until tomorrow to muse upon the question, since I propose to answer it tomorrow with some rather tasty looking graphs. Keep watching.
UPDATE 1: As you've probably heard if you're reading this now, Bollard's calculator told him to make a cut in interest rates this time, the first interest rate cut in five years [Herald story here]. The NZ dollar had already eased slightly in anticipation...
UPDATE 2: ... the dollar had eased slightly, but not as quickly as it 'eased down' after forex dealers heard the sound of Bollard's chickens coming home to roost. Interest rates: they play a huge part in setting our exchange rate; they're the means by which we divide up our income between consumption and investment; they set the levels at which resources are distributed to projects with a long-term payoff ... and all Bollard's calculator is able to do for him is confirm the failed myth that he is capable of influencing inflation, without apprising him of the damage he's doing in the process. [Thanks to Lou at No Minister for the graph.]
The Wall Street Journal, no less, sets up artist Jacob Collins as the 'next big thing' -- his 'classical' realism opposing all the 'novelty art' that has heretofore succoured the empty souls of the big-money New York art buyers.
The new school Collins represents finds its artistic home in the Florence Academy of Art, a school "founded in 2002, offering rigorous training in modelling, one-point perspective, cast drawing, and all the other technical aspects of art that one used to assume would be part of an artist's training." Says the Wall Street Journal,
Is technical mastery sufficient by itself to guarantee high artistic accomplishment? The art world has been shouting "No" for decades. That judgment is correct -- ultimately -- but it leaves out the important codicil that an artist who lacks technical command also lacks competence.
Hallelujah! That point has been either lost, evaded or mislaid for more than half a century!
If an artist's 'inner voice' lacks the technique to communicate except by the visual equivalent of Tourette's, there's no reason to give them the status of artist. If Collins and artists like him can rehabilitate the importance of technique, they will have done an immense job in moving art back to what it had once achieved when both technique and expression -- and having something to say -- were valued.
NB: Collins's painting above is very much a study. Just 4 1/4" x 11", studies like this form the basis for works like this.
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
But what's to comment on?
And what's there to say that I haven't already said before, when arguably there was a trifle more to talk about?
Once again, the miasma of 'me too' permeates everything John Key touches,
[Thanks to Scott for the 'redirect.']
I freely confess that when it comes to stories about who gave what to which politician, and how much, and what it was for - and why it might be either illegal or against the cabinet manual -- my eyes begin to glaze over, as I suspect do most of yours. Which is what, or course, politicians like Mr No-No-Yes rely upon, that seven days from now you'll all be hard pressed to even remember the details about Winston's donations from Owen Glenn and the Velas, and why they mattered.
There are arguments about whether donations follow policy or policy follows donations, and it's frankly impossible for anyone but the donor to know which is which and whether they're getting value for money, which points to the primary problem here -- that politicians have almost unlimited power to deliver policy and favours in which their donors are interested. Policies that so often deliver special privilege, or special favours, or monopoly interest.
The problem is not with the donations, it's with the power politicians have to deliver those special privileges. The problem is not chiefly that policy might follow donations, but that politicians have the power to deliver the policies favoured by this sort of donor. That's the problem that those decrying Winston need to face up to, and that both sides of the Electoral Finance Act debate need to address -- that there are no constitutional restrictions whatsoever on how much parties can do once they have power, ands as long as that remains the case, the temptation will exist to buy one's laws or special favours direct from the political wholesaler.
But isn't this just another reason why the levers of political power should pull so much less weight? That there should be constitutional restrictions not on how much we can spend on our favoured party so it can gain power, but instead on how much parties can do once they have power. Isn't that infinitely more important, and far more supportive of genuine free speech?
As PJ O'Rourke says,
When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.Isn't that the point in a nutshell? Restrict the range of areas in which legislators can meddle, and you immediately lessen the interest in buying political power.
Around £100 million has been spent renovating outdoor areas for smokers ... sales of patio heaters have doubled to 3.2 million (prompting complaints from environmentalists) ... but following the British government's ban on smoking in pubs, smokers are staying home in large numbers instead of patronising their local -- and non-smokers have been staying home with them.
As the Express reports, and despite predictions to the contrary from anti-smoking zealots before the ban was imposed, British pubs "are facing an uphill struggle to attract customers." It's been the same in every benighted part of the world where the zealots have trampled on the property rights of pub and bar owners.
“Trading conditions are incredibly tough. We’re seeing hundreds of pub closures and smoking is definitely a factor,” says a spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association.
“Current closures will certainly continue for the foreseeable future. At the moment 27 pubs are closing every week” ...
Pubs are not the only businesses suffering – there are more than 600 bingo clubs countrywide and most say customers are disappearing in the wake of the ban.
"I hate the ban," says smoking rebel Bill King. "It has turned the country into a dictatorship... Why not have smoking and non-smoking pubs? And as for the nonsense about smokers being a drain on the NHS, well the tax on a pack of 20 comes to about £4.20 so I think it’s the smokers who keep the NHS going.”
I'd be interested to see some local figures, if anyone has been able to collate them?
UPDATE: Lindsay Mitchell has graciously provided the local figures here, and the words "cash' and "cow" spring immediately to mind. Anti-smoking zealots please take note.
I was fascinated to see news that Auckland's Mercy Hospital will soon be host to NZs first ever private cancer treatment centre, offering "the latest in high-tech treatment, using lower doses of radiation, pinpointing the cancers more precisely, yet treating the cancers more aggressively. Treatment sessions will be quicker and the average patient will be in and out in three minutes. And patients will not have to rely on fluctuating public hospital waiting times to start their treatment.
"We will start their treatment within a week and all the urgent cases will start work within 24 hours," says Dr Benji Benjamin, clinical director.
Given the crucial importance of time in cancer treatment, with British researchers, as just one example, attributing their "dismal" cancer survival rates to the "late diagnoses and lengthy waiting lists for treatment" that are endemic with socialised medicine, this is fantastic news.
One can't help but assume the news is linked to plans announced earlier in the month for privately-owned Ascot and Mercy hospitals to begin offering "New Zealand up as a destination for 'medical tourists' from affluent countries who want 'cheap' operations and other medical procedures" -- a deal by which everyone wins: the medical tourists get timely, inexpensive treatment in well-appointed private hospitals "that, unlike their public counterparts, are not full to overflowing; English-speaking hospital staff and a culture that felt familiar to many Americans," and we get the use of services, facilities and technology that wouldn't be affordable otherwise, and get to retain and attract back just a few of those New Zealand surgeons working overseas, or thinking about heading off.
Great news all 'round, really.
Cactus calculates just how much the above average woman spends each time she gets her leg over. It's the very least you can do to buy her dinner -- or offer her a tax deduction.
UPDATE: I can only imagine the response to Cactus' calculations if men wrote advice columns:
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.
We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.
When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "Stick to the Devil you know."
On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "The Wages of Sin is Death."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.
UPDATE [11 June 2010]: Acute analysis here from Robert Tracinski:
The title of Rudyard Kipling’s poem is obscure today but would have been clear to any educated Englishman of his day. A copybook was a kind of penmanship exercise in which the student copied over and over again a sentence printed in the heading at the top of each page. These copybook headings were usually aphorisms or statements of commonsense wisdom, so Kipling used the Gods of the Copybook Headings as a symbol for basic, immutable truths.
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turnThe point of the poem is that the various schemes for “social progress” being promoted at the time—and most of them are still with us today—are based on denying the basic truths represented by the Gods of the Copybook Headings.
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn.
With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,Kipling’s derisive reference to the “Gods of the Market Place” was not intended as anti-capitalist. “The market” is not short for “the free market,” as it is in contemporary parlance. Rather, the “market” refers to the public spaces where people gather to listen to demagogues who promise the impossible and the irrational—the function performed by CNN today.
They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.