Friday, 1 August 2008

So good, you have to read them again...

Here's what ranked highly here at NOT PC this week with readers, commenters and yours truly.  Now's the time to catch up if you missed out the first time round:

  1. Why I'm a leftie - Trotter
    After last week's 'hate speech' in which he lambasted wealth creators and the makers of jobs, self-confessed leftie Chris Trotter challenges himself to present a "things-I-believe-in" column instead of the usual drivel. The results are more revealing than he might think.
  2. Queenstown fascists bankrupting bar owners
    Award-winning bar owner Jason Clark is facing closure by council bullies intent on snuffing out late-night pleasure in the twenty-four hour tourist town. Why? Because they can.
  3. "Undecided" are the third most popular
    Why don't poll results display the so called undecided vote in their totals?  Beats me, especially when (as in the most recent poll) the 'none of the above' selection scores so highly.
  4. Flip Flop Watch: Another 'me too'
    In 2004 he said of Welfare for Working Families, "it's communism by stealth. It didn't work very well for Eastern Europe and it won't work very well for New Zealand."  Now, in 2008, John Key says, "Me too" --- and "three bags full" and welfare for every one.  Why would you want this empty windbag in your voting sights when he stands for nothing, and can be relied upon for nothing?
  5. Happy birthday, Kiwiblog
    Five years and nine-and-a-half million visitors later, David Farrar's Kiwiblog is NZ's number one political blog.  How come?  What does he have that all the others don't?
  6. New Scottish banknotes - Stuart Rost, designer
    Check out the coolest bank notes this side of the Falkirk wheel.
  7. Heads up for this afternoon
    Listen to Chris Trotter, Joanne Black, and Australian Objectivist and internet radio host and blogger Prodos lock horns over Austalia's new ban on smoking in your own car.  Great listening.

And don't forget to check out the latest Objectivist blog carnival, hosted this week at Titanic Deck Chairs.  Have a great weekend!


Beer O'Clock: All black beers

Since winter weather is still upon us with a vengeance, here's a recycled taste test of the very dark beers you might like to drink around the fire this weekend: all black beers...

   Set before my favourite taste testers -- me and my favourite drinking companions -- are a champion line up from the fridge of the local Glengarry's, most of which were included in a recent Consumer magazine taste test: Monteith's Black, Speight's Dark, Guinness (from the can), Moa Noir, Speight's Porter, Emerson's Organic Oatmeal Stout, Mac's Black, Cooper's Best Extra Stout, and with them a pen and a sturdy piece of notepaper for writing about them all that you could now wring out and use to sedate a small animal.
   I won't keep you in suspense for too long: from last to first, the list above reflects the order in which our experts ranked them.
   Monteith's Black beer poured a good crisp brown in the glass with a very neat head, and a lightish nose - maybe too light for a dark beer. It's taste is pleasant but overly fizzed, and overall it just lacks gumption in the glass.
    I've found the Dark a good session beer on many an occasion, but compared to the others it looked like 'pop' in the glass, with a head that quickly disappeared and a nose that was barely a nose at all. Its fairly full and faintly biscuity flavour leaves a slightly clinical aftertaste, and a slight odour of cleaning products (it has the effect as if a table has just been wiped down after a hefty session.)
    Drinking Guinness in New Zealand labours under the problem that Guinness tastes best from the tap, and that the Guinness brewed under license in New Zealand for pouring out of those taps isn't a patch on the British or Irish-brewed drop. The problem is said to be that New Zealand's water is too clean, or at least too lime-free, making the local liquid bitterer than its more favourable forbear, and giving it for some reason just a hint of a metallic taste. The second problem is that the liquid in Irish-brewed cans just doesn't travel well. It looks good in the glass (though without that classic 'Jerry Collins' look), has a great nose, but compared to the top-ranking drops in this test (and to rosy memories of drops consumed long ago and far away) it just seems a little thin and disappointing. Kilkenny or Murphy's Stout on tap are really the two to drink locally for your Celtic cred.
    The Moa was a disappointment. Great packaging and a high price, but while pleasant the beer inside the package just doesn't merit the expense. Presents well, good nose, good taste, smooth velvety finish, but while everything's "good" with the Moa it's just not "great." "Could do better" is what I've got written on my beer-stained bit of paper among many other things which are now illegible.
    So that leaves the Porter, Emerson's Oatmeal, the Black Mac, and the Coopers Best Extra Stout. The latter two were head and shoulders above all the others and were difficult to separate -- indeed the separation was only possible after extensive sampling, a job for which your indefatigable taste tester was prepared to sacrifice himself -- whereas the Porter and the Emerson's were clearly better than all others but these two.
    The Speight's Porter is like the Moa in that it has everything it needs to have, but just not in the same quantities or in quite the same degree of delight that both the Black Mac and the Coopers have. The Emerson's is a superb winter beer with a clean finish and definite hint of good morning porridge; a few points were lost for a head that looked good but didn't last, and a flavour that wasn't full enough to stand up to the other combinations. (I suspect that the subtleties of both the Moa and the Emerson's Oatmeal would be better enjoyed on their own, without the stronger flavours of competitors to overpower them).
    So to our two close finishers. Both Macs and Coopers look superb in the glass: big head, beautiful deep mahogany colours, huge malty nose (with a slight hint of molasses in the Coopers); it took much serious tasting to establish the winner, and (let's be serious about this) the tasting was all pleasure. Rich, full, smoky tastes, and in both cases an aftertaste that said things like "pick me" and "open another" and "who cares how many metres ahead that dumb Swiss boat is" -- these subliminal messages in fact became more pronounced as evening became morning and as our yacht began looking like it was going backwards.
    In the end it was the Coopers Best Extra Stout by a nose from the Mac's. Everything about the Australian was just a shade better than the local boy. The price ratio is a fair measure of the superiority: $16.20 for a six-pack of the Coopers as against $13 for the Mac.
    (And I have to report too that very late in the evening a bottle of Founders Long Black was also put to the test, but beyond something on my beerstained bit of paper saying something like "f97&wq#@rhqvc" and the distinct memory of it rating somewhere in the night's top five, I'm afraid I can report no more.)
    A decent taste test then offering you a selection for a wintery evening supporting a back-jerseyed fifteen. Buy an extra six-pack: if the boys let you down, at least you'll get something pleasant out of the evening.


Wealth destruction through paper creation

Here's the 'thought for the day' from NZ's Foundation for Economic Growth:

    Since the beginning of the year almost all the stock markets of the world have gone down by around 20%, according to the latest issue of the Economist covering 48 major countries.
    The Dow by 15%, Japan (Nikkei) by 15%, China 49%, Britain 20%, Euro 28%, France 27%, Australia 22% and on and on. Venezuela gained 3% in its own currency but lost 34% when measured in $US.
    When we understand that all countries are also inflating their paper currencies by 10% to 15% or more thus reducing the value of their currency, we can see that the loss of wealth is truly impressive for the last six months.
    As the Central Banks work more and more closely together to "solve" their inflation problems so they are beginning to synchronise their times of boom and bust.
We live in interesting times, indeed.

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Nose to nose with bullshit

Imagine, if you will, that a savage murderer has been moving up the country, and he's heading your way.  He seeks refuge in your large, rambling property (which you share with extended family).  Instead of either handing him in or doing him in, you choose instead to join him in his savagery and plunder, heading out on expeditions of rapine and looting before coming home to hunker down in the least accessible parts of your refuge to fend off John Law, who naturally wants to put a stop to the lawlessness and brutality.

The law decides the safest option is to starve out you and your partner in crime, a strategy that meets with success.

Years later, the whole experience is reported thus by Herald reporter Yvonne Tahana:

In the 1860s, much of the tribe's land was confiscated and given to settlers.  This was after British soldiers had burned crops, leaving people to starve.

Such is the way "the long history of strife behind Tuhoe claims" is reported in yesterday's Herald.  The report does not deliver quite enough of that long history.  It utterly ignores the primary reason that land was confiscated and people were starved, the reason fro which was that those people had chosen to harbour the murderer, Te Kooti, and to join him in his campaign of human destruction (I gave some of the history here the other day). 

Reports like this is are historical context-dropping in the pursuit of injustice.   To ignore the context for the burning of crops and the scorched earth policy is either mendacious, if intentional, or ignorant, if accidental.  Either way, it's inexcusable, particularly when such context-dropping is used to justify scores of millions  of taxpayers dollars heading towards the wallets of the descendants of those who helped harbour the thug Te Kooti all those years ago. 

It seems the Herald simply doesn't do history -- but then neither does the Government, or the Waitangi Tribunal. A reporter might be excused for not knowing (or reporting) history accurately. A government and a government agency may not be, particularly when the government is represented by a person, Michael Cullen, whose doctorate is supposed to be in history.

Cullen-Iti230Yesterday's 'historic' agreement with Tuhoe was a farce -- presaging a Waitangi deal with a tribe who never signed the Waitangi treaty, for an injustice that was anything but.  A farce that is so richly symbolised in the historian, Cullen, who wants taxpayers to ignore history, rubbing noses with the thug Tame Iti, who wants tino rangatiratanga -- to be paid for out of taxpayers' pockets!

The only injustice perpetrated here is that being dealt to the taxpayers of New Zealand -- who once again will be forced to pay large amounts of money to tribalists for things we didn't do -- and to the tamariki of Tuhoe, who are being taught once again that tribalism and a focus on the imaginary grievances of the past will have a bigger payoff for them than will addressing and meeting the real challenges of the future and taking up the genuine opportunities of the present.

The whole damn thing is a disgrace.

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Blocking business

Warehouse_180 For eighteen months now Foodstuffs and Woolworths have been wanting to act on a very basic business decision: to buy Warehouse shares from Warehouse shareholders, who for eighteen months have mostly been indicating they're wanting to sell.
Willing buyers, willing sellers -- the very basis of the market economy we're supposed to have -- but for eighteen months the agencies of The State have been refusing to let this voluntary deal happen -- and the more The State has got in the way, the more the shares in the Warehouse have been losing value, from a high over over seven dollars at the start of 2007 to just over four dollars yesterday morning (right). Yesterday the company last about twenty percent of its value (right) as the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Communist Commission to block the voluntary sale of shares by Warehouse shareholders.  This is a ban on business. [News here.]
The ban was obscene enough, but more obscene still was the statement made by the egregious bully Paula bloody Rebstock, whose belligerent presence as the head of the Communist Commission has done more to kill this deal than anything else.  Rebstock showed she's not just a thug, but an ignorant thug when she said after the decision: "We do see this as a victory for consumers and for competition, in what is a very important market to all New Zealanders."
The ignorance is breath-taking.  A decision to block a voluntary sale is to this entity "a victory for consumers."  A decision in favour of a monopolistic state agency -- her's -- is a "a victory for competition." The woman is a deluded self-important bully, which no doubt makes her the ideal choice to head a state agency whose mucky hands are thrust into  every significant business deal done in this pathetic authoritarian backwater.
"In coming to its decision to decline the acquisition," said Rebstock, "the [Communist] Commission considered that The Warehouse had already brought important new dimensions to supermarket competition, and potential competition, through its innovative supercentre stores."
In other words, I'm punishing investors because of the innovative business they chose to invest in.
The ignorance, and the argument for the existence of her agency, rests on a fundamental Marxist myth: that left to itself, a free-market will result in the formation of coercive monopolies.  This is an utterly flawed platonic  idea of competition -- a notion of “pure and perfect competition” totally unlike anything one normally means by the term “competition -- that results in the banning of freely made business deals, and the destruction of real property. 
Nothing could be further from the truth than the idea that entrepreneurs in a free market need to be overseen by ignorant bullies like Rebstock.  As a former Libertarianz leader said when her Commission was bullying Telecom (a softening up on which Labour's Minister for Nationalisation David Cunliffe later capitalised):
The only thing that needs to be regulated is the government, the only price that needs fixing and reducing is government spending, the best savings for the consumer will come when the government abolishes outfits like the interfering Communist Commission—and many more government departments besides.
[For a bonus point, can anyone tell me which scum-sucking statist politician set up the agency Rebstock heads up? Here's a clue: he's not the free-market hero you think he was.]

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Mad Hatter's Tea Party - John Tenniel

All this talk of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, here's the memorable original illustration by John Tenniel.

                      1115 john tenniel


Thursday, 31 July 2008

Moving in

PICT0256I've just returned from helping some very special clients move into their freshly renovated California Bungalow in Mt Eden.  Very satisfying.

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.

Political survival by a thousand cuts

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.

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Give them the tools and they'll finish you off

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.

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Buy foreign-made

Another economist takes up the challenge of explaining to the Greens why trade deficits don't matter.  Explains Paul Walker,

    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.

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"Undecided" are the third most popular

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:

366 National
203 Labour
110 undecided
36   Greens
27   NZ First
17   Maori
6    United
1    Act

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The Poet - Auguste Rodin


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.

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Heads up for this afternoon

_indexprodosbridgeroad Tune into 'The Panel' at 4:45 on Jim Mora's afternoon radio show on National Radio. 

Chris Trotter, Joanne Black, and Australian Objectivist and internet radio host and blogger Prodos (right) lock horns over Austalia's new ban on smoking in your own car.  It should be entertaining.

National Radio's frequencies and online archives can be found here.

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.

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Another 'me too'

National001 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.'

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The Joy of Not Lobbying

n1036967428_9502 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.

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Breast is best, says Labour

Mark Hubbard reckons that at least Labour are honest:

    From the latest site update,
    "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."

Interesting, is it?

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.


How cuil is Cuil?

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.


Who's this?

WhoIsThis 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.  :-)

Pjcigar UPDATESean has the answer: it's Alexander Kerensky,  head of the lamentably short-lived Russian Provisional Government after February 1917's "good revolution" that peacefully overthrew the Czar.

And that's PJ O'Rourke at left.  Do you think by any chance they could be related?

Drill now, pay less

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.

 As Robert Murphy explains:

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."

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Anyone got any stories after last night's heavy rain?

I trust everyone is safe and sound?

'The Kiss' - Auguste Rodin


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...

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Tuesday, 29 July 2008

More 'trade deficit' nonsense

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."

Uh, no it doesn't.  To base a metaphor on the analsyis of the Visible Hand in Economics, it's more like we each spent $675 to start an oil well  in the back garden.  Read on to see why.

So is there a problem with global "trade imbalances" anyway? No, there's not. As George Reisman points out, so called global “trade imbalances” are not a problem.

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?

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Suck it up, whingers

New Zealanders, you just like big government, don't you.  That's what this poll is telling Liberty Scott.

So stop whinging when that's just what you are given.  You vote for it; you suck it up.

Decay and degeneracy

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.

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Post-colonial stress bullshit

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.

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PJ on Adam Smith

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.GuessWho?

See PJ talking about his book here [hat tip Paul Walker].

BTW, any idea who this is pictured right?  Think carefully now.  First correct answer receives a loud cheer.

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Who to vote for

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 !

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Tuhoe grievance industry gearing up for a payout process

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.

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Lincoln the railsplitter - Norman Rockwell


Analysis of this brilliant portrait here at the 'Rule of Reason' blog.  There's much, much more than meets the eye.

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Monday, 28 July 2008

Heads up this afternoon

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.

Why I'm a leftie - Trotter

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.

UPDATE: Ironically, blogger David Farrar, who on Facebook calls himself a "libertarian" , has this to say on the most crucial part of Trotter's sophistry:

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.

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Happy birthday, Kiwiblog

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!


Does calling a spade a spade dig your own hole?

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:

  1. Colour.
  2. 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]

The 'I wish' presidency

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."

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Flip Flop Watch: Another 'me too'

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 2John 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:

"Me too."

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Heads up this morning

Keep an eye out this morning on TV One, 11:30 am, for Lindsay Perigo appearing on Eye to Eye to discuss 'Mordi Language Week.'

Behold, the Christ Child has appeared amongst us!

Full report at the London Times!

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