Friday, October 03, 2008

N O T P C ' s W E E K - (Sep 26 to Oct 3, '08)

A week of crime, violent crime and assorted financial crimes -- most of them emanating from the US Congress. And another big week here at NOT PC in both readership -- for which I humbly thank you all for coming (would have been awfully lonely if no-one showed up) -- and analysis -- which I humbly think was pretty damn good this week. Here's what you, the readers, seemed to like most:

  1. Murder? It's not OK.
    It's murder out there on the streets of Auckland, but some commentators insist it's nothing to worry about ...
  2. Time to make a stand!
    So what will it take for politicians to focus on the focus on the one thing they're legitimately supposed to be doing, which is protecting New Zealanders from violence? The question is more than just rhetorical.
  3. Good news: The 'bailout' has crashed
    And thank fuck for that! Quite aside from the absolute irresponsibility of printing $700 billion of bailout cash to further inflate the money supply -- more of the same rocket fuel that caused the problem in the first place -- the plan to keep prices high is precisely the opposite of what's needed in a depression.
  4. Borrowed time - the anatomy of recession
    Somebody has blundered, and we'll all be paying for it again, but who and how and why?
  5. Don't Vote Green
    Allow me to direct you to a valuable new election website...
  6. "For the naive mind there is something miraculous in the issuance of fiat money..."
    As if he too were writing yesterday, economist Ludwig von Mises has advice for those contemplating the imminent nationalisation of Wall St's debts via one trillion dollars of printed money.
  7. More bailout crack
    Just when you thought that the bailout crack might have been put back in the box, we hear that the bastards are setting up to deliver another fix. A trillion-dollars straight into the veins.

All this, plus being damnably insulted as a "centre-right" blogger. Outrageus!

So enjoy, and don't forget to check out the Objectivist Blog Roundup at Crucible & Column, which this week is a special Financial Crisis Edition.

Enjoy, Peter Cresswell

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Beer O'Clock: Billy Beer

On this fine Friday avo in our regular Beer O'Clock post, reflections on beers past from Real Beer's Neil Miller:

I had never seen an empty beer can used a prop at a political science lecture before. Professor Stephen Levine from Victoria University of Wellington was using a thirty-year old can of Billy Beer to make the point that even the President of the United States of American cannot choose his family.

Billy Carter was a constant embarrassment to his brother one-term President Jimmy Carter. Despite promoting “Redneck Power” pickup trucks, Billy is best known even today for the beer that briefly carried his name.

Billy Beer was launched in 1977 by the Falls City Brewing Company. Although the can states that the beer was “brewed expressly for and with the personal approval of one of America's all-time great beer drinkers - Billy Carter,” Billy himself had no input into the design of the beer. He was selected as the spokesman because, frankly, his brother was the President and Billy was already very well known for enjoying his beer.

The beer was actually produced by four different breweries in the seventies – Falls City Brewing Company, Cold Spring Brewing, West End Brewing and Pearl Brewing Company. Around 2 billion cans were produced so even today the cans are not as nearly rare as people think.

They are so common that the Brewery Collectables Club of America – who should know about these things – note “most of these [1970s] commemorative cans are still incredibly abundant and virtually worthless, most notably the ubiquitous Billy Beer.”

While there are frequently adverts offering to sell Billy Beer for hundreds or even thousands of dollars a can, the experts warn that these are basically fraudulent. Billy Beer sells for around US50c to a couple of dollars on eBay but the actual value to a collector is probably around 25c but only if it is in good condition and the collector – for some reason – really wants one.

So, all those people who were hoping that old sixer of Billy in the basement was going to see them through retirement should probably consult a financial planner. Billy Carter should have done that– after Billy Beer collapsed, he had to sell his home to settle the back taxes he owed the IRS.

Cheers, Neil

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Nats' RMA confidence trick exposed

There's been a whole lot of bullshit written about National's policy on the Resource Management Act, released this week -- "National plans big changes to RMA" -- "National's National's RMA reforms will get business moving again" -- "Nat's RMA reforms endanger environment" -- but this morning for the first time I see some sensible commentary on their risible policy prescription: National's RMA Buzzword Bullshit.

    National's Resource Management Act policy, released this week, is more than just a missed opportunity to help a parlous economic outlook: it almost amounts to a confidence trick.
    While the world economy reels on the back of central-bank bungling and serious problems in the American housing sector, and as local building activity takes a nose-dive - building consent numbers are down by a third - a political party truly 'ambitious' for New Zealand might have grasped the opportunity to help an ailing economy and a struggling housing sector by releasing a bold new Resource Management Act policy that would take the weight of the RMA from the shoulders of struggling builders, home-buyers and property-owners. 
    But that is not what National's Nick Smith has served up.   Smith's policy overflows instead with buzzwords like 'fix', 'streamline', and 'get business moving', but closer scrutiny demonstrates Smith's large print giveth, but his small print taketh away."

Read on here, and don't be too surprised the commentary is so sensible: I wrote it.  ;^)

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Explaining the "credit crunch"

I've been a little surprised that George Reisman hasn't commented at his blog on all the recent financial turmoil, but the more I read the more I wonder whether he's simply resisting the urge to say "I told you so" -- because he has.

So let me do it for him by republishing just some of what he's had to say.

Back in his 1996 book Capitalism he summarises what we've seen happening  these last few years -- the boom -- the prosperity delusion -- using your house like an ATM -- the "reversal of safety" -- the malinvestments -- the destruction of capital ... and then the inevitable bust -- the decline in stock markets -- the credit crunch -- the collapse of local finance companies as their "business model" failed -- the decline in commodity prices -- the credit crunch again -- the onset of depression -- and the cause of it all ... the inflation of credit over recent years.

What he's describing is an "inflationary depression," something in which we're already up to our frilly knickers.   It's not a failure of free markets, as Roger Kerr says that idea doesn't even pass the laugh test, it's a failure of politicians and policymakers to understand the damage their intervention does to markets.

It's a shame so many mainstream economists still don't get it -- in fact, as Reisman and other students of Ludwig von Mises have pointed out for many years, they've largely been the cause of the problem

Mainstream economists, and mainstream commentators like the risible Brian Fallow, think all will be well just as long as the credit spigot at the central bank remains turned on -- but they're never truly understood where credit actually comes from, which is real savings.  Their ignorance is a result of the total failure of mainstream economics to integrate their "microeconomics" and their "macroeconomics," leaving theories about the latter floating about in the breeze like a hydrogen-filled balloon just waiting to catch light and spray destruction over real economic activity.

For anyone who wants to get their head around the crisis that will define the next decade, I urge to you get your head around what economists like Reisman have been saying for years, some of which I've reprinted below from his book.  For Reisman's whole discussion I recommend Chapter 19 of his book, 'Gold & Inflation' [the whole book is online at George's website ], of which the section below is the most directly topical to current events  -- and remember that "inflation" as accurately used here by Reisman means not the symptom of across-the-board price rises, but the cause of those rising prices: a rise in the quantity of money, usually because the central banks have had their printing presses running again.

Printed money is backed by nothing more than the goods that already exist, and every new dollar lies as a claim on future production.  It acts as a drain on real capital formation.   The more money that's printed, the more  capital formation is eroded -- the signs are there for many years for anyone who knows what they're looking for (see for example Misesians Mark Thornon, Stefan Karlsson, Anton Mueller, Thorstein Polleit (and again), and Robert Blumen).  The first public sign of the inflation-induced collapse of the bubble appears in the stock market -- this is also the first time mainstream economists realise there's a problem, and it's cause by the effects of the inflation itself:

    The fact that inflation undermines capital formation has important implications for the performance of the stock market. In its initial phase or when it undergoes a sufficient and relatively unanticipated acceleration, inflation in the form of credit expansion can create a
stock-market boom. However, its longer-run effects are very different. The demand for common stocks depends on the availability of savings. In causing savings to fail to keep pace with the growth in the demand for consumers’ goods, inflation tends to prevent stock prices, as well as wage rates, from keeping pace with the rise in the prices of consumers’ goods...
    At some point in an inflation, business firms that are normally suppliers of funds to the credit markets—in the form of time deposits, the purchase of commercial paper, the extension of receivables credit, and the like—are forced to retrench and, indeed, even to become demanders of loanable funds, in order to meet the needs of their own, internal operations. The effect of this is to reduce the availability of funds with which stocks can be purchased, and thus to cause stock prices to fall, or at least to lag all the more behind the prices of consumers’ goods.
    When this situation exists in a pronounced form, it constitutes what has come to be called an “inflationary depression.” This is a state of affairs characterized by a still rapidly expanding quantity of money and rising prices and, at the same time, by an acute scarcity of capital funds. The scarcity of capital funds is manifested not only in badly lagging, or actually declining, securities markets but also in a so-called credit crunch, i.e., a situation in which loanable funds become difficult or impossible to obtain. The result is widespread insolvencies
and bankruptcies.

The other result is the sight of mainstream economists running around with their heads cut off attempting to explain what, to them, is inexplicable: a "credit crunch" when the central banks' credit spigot is still pumping out paper (more than two-trillion dollars worth in recent weeks).  You see, eighty years after the first central-bank-induced inflationary depression, they still don't understand the cause of that one, or yet the cause of this one.  See if Reisman's description of the process sounds familiar:

Inflation as the Cause of Depression & Deflation
    Inflation, especially in the form of credit expansion, sets the stage for financial contractions and deflations— i.e., for depressions. It does so in several, related ways.
    It undermines the perceived need and the desire to own money balances.  As a result, it causes a more rapid spending of money ...
    [This occurs] in large part because credit expansion creates the prospect of being able to obtain the money needed to make purchases and pay bills, easily and profitably through borrowing. The prospect of loans manufactured out of thin air by the banking system is
substituted for the holding of actual money...
    These mechanisms are reinforced by the fact that after a while inflation -- even in the form of credit expansion -- raises interest rates...
    The other side of spending, of course, is people’s revenues and incomes, since one man’s spending is an-other man’s receipts. Obviously, in superinflating the volume of spending in the economy, inflation also super-inflates people’s revenues and incomes.
    Inflation also does something else. It encourages people to pile up a mass of debt that they can pay only so long as their revenues and incomes hold up—indeed, only so long as their revenues and incomes go on increasing. Inflation in the form of credit expansion encourages
borrowing by holding down the rate of interest in relation to the rate of profit. It makes borrowing exceptionally profitable; and the more so, the more leverage the borrowing
provides.

Sounding familiar so far?  Just to summarise: inflation of credit, ie., of the money supply, "does two critical things. It super-inflates people’s revenues and incomes, while making them correspondingly illiquid, and it leads them to pile up substantial debts against those revenues and incomes."

Now, let's bring on to the stage both the banks and the bailout, and the reason bankers and Ben Bernanke have been losing their hair, and their shirts:

    This alone must set the stage for a depression if and when inflation [of the money supply] stops. Because then the causes of the reduced demand for money balances are removed. At
that point, people start trying to rebuild their cash holdings. As a result, spending and the velocity of circulation fall, with the further result that people’s money revenues and incomes fall. The effect of this, in turn, is that they cannot pay their debts. A substantial number of business and personal bankruptcies occurs.
    The consequence of this, of course, is that the assets and capital of banks which have lent to such borrowers is correspondingly reduced, and many of them also fail. The failure of banks, of course, causes the money supply actually to be reduced, since [in fractional reserve banking] the banks’ outstanding [current account] deposits are part of the money supply. The reduction in the money supply then leads to a further decline in spending, revenue and income, and thus to still more bankruptcies and bank failures. The process feeds on itself ...  The reduction in the quantity of money can be avoided only if the government is prepared to create additional fiat standard money to whatever extent may be necessary to guarantee the fiduciary media of the
failing banks. But this lays the foundation for a still greater expansion in the supply of fiduciary media in the future.

And so we hear the cry, 'Bring on the bailout!'  In other words, more of the same poison that caused the problem in the first place: more paper money pouring off the government's printing presses.  The whole process is like a giant pyramid scheme, with the pyramid inverted and resting on that printing press in Ben Bernanke's basement.  "This," says Reisman, "is the essence of the inflation-depression process.  The critical factors are: artificial inducements to illiquidity and to a corresponding superinflation of revenues and incomes; the piling up of a mass of debt against these superinflated revenues and incomes; and then a contraction in spending, revenues, and incomes following the
end of the inflation. The contraction phase leaves people with no means of paying the mass of debt they have accumulated, and can operate to produce a self-reinforcing downward spiral of deflation of the money supply."

And now we come to the "credit crunch," exacerbated by efforts to stop prices falling and minimum wage laws set in a different economic environment:

     The inflation-depression process is reinforced by the fact that inflation in the form of credit expansion causes malinvestments—investments which are profitable only on the basis of inflation itself. When the inflation comes to an end, the unprofitability of the malinvestments is
revealed.
    The onset of the depression is precipitated by the fact that inflation and credit expansion undermine the avail-ability of real capital and thus of credit, too, in real terms.
    In particular, when credit expansion stops, a “credit crunch” develops. This is because the existing capital funds of many enterprises are made inadequate by the rise in wage rates and materials prices caused by the previous injections of credit in the form of new and additional money. The consequence is that firms requiring credit turn out to need more credit than they had planned on, while those firms normally supplying credit turn out to be able to supply less than had been counted on, and may even need credit themselves in order to meet the requirements of their own internal operations at these higher wage rates and prices. Thus, as the need for credit surges and as suppliers of funds become demanders of funds, or at least supply less funds, firms that had counted on borrowing money, or on refinancing their existing
borrowings, find that they are unable to do so.

It's not that "credit has dried up" from the central banks as so many contemporary reports would have you believe -- see Jeffrey Tucker's graphs and Rebert Higgs' report at The Independent Institute exploding this particular myth -- it's just that so much of that credit is now needed to fuel the daily fires of business, to just keep the accounts books ticking over, that little is left for the likes of Craig Norgate to effect Wrighton's merger with Silver Farms.

Nonetheless, we're going to see "credit crunch" after "credit crunch," as the amount of credit needed top keep those account books ticking over only keeps increasing as the emergency measures keep accelerating; you could almost say a "credit crunch spiral":

These results can occur not only when inflation [of the money supply] stops, but also when it merely slows down or even when it fails to accelerate sufficiently. To postpone the onset of a
credit crunch, it becomes necessary to provide the victims of previous credit expansion with additional funds, in order for them to be able to pay the higher wage rates and materials prices caused by the previous credit expansion.
    Then still further inflation and credit expansion become necessary in order to overcome the resulting inadequacy of the funds of still others, possibly including the funds of the initial recipients of credit expansion, who perhaps are now themselves faced with unexpected in-creases in wage rates and materials prices. If at any point, the necessary additional credit expansion is not forthcoming, a credit crunch develops. If it is forthcoming, people soon begin to borrow on a larger scale, in anticipation of the possible inadequacy of funds in the face of
higher wage rates and materials prices. If that additional demand for loanable funds is not met by still more credit expansion, the result is a credit crunch at that point. If it is met by still more credit expansion, the result is a still greater increase in wage rates and materials prices, which nullifies the value of the greater borrowing and requires still more credit expansion to avoid the onset of a credit crunch. Whenever the necessary additional credit expansion
is not forthcoming, some firms find that they lack the funds they require, and thus [another] credit crunch develops.

Now, you might object that wage rates and material haven't been rising, so Reisman's analysis is incorrect.  But as he explains, "it should be realized that in order to produce a 'credit crunch' and the onset of a depression, it is not necessary that credit expansion result in an actual rise in wage rates and materials prices. It is necessary only—as is inescapable—that it make wage rates and materials
prices higher than they would otherwise have been. If wage rates and materials prices fail to fall, or fall by less than they would otherwise have done, the effect is still to render existing capital funds less adequate than they would otherwise have been and to create a need for more capital funds than would otherwise have been the case."  Let me just repeat the crucial lines above describing our present situation, the beginning of an “inflationary depression.”

This is a state of affairs characterized by a still rapidly expanding quantity of money and rising prices [that is, rising ahead of what they would be without the credit inflation] and, at the same time, by an acute scarcity of capital funds. The scarcity of capital funds is manifested not only in badly lagging, or actually declining, securities markets but also in a so-called credit crunch, i.e., a situation in which loanable funds become difficult or impossible to obtain. The result is widespread insolvencies
and bankruptcies.

Remember, this was written in 1996. It must take a manful effort for Reisman not to say "I told you so" ... but he did.

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Ward Willits House - Frank Lloyd Wright

                fig07s

In the 1902 Ward Willits House, Frank Lloyd Wright first found his full three-dimensional voice.  It's ground-hugging horizontality reaching for the horizon; the entrance that 'winds in' to the centre of the house; the low sheltering roofs springing from the central vertical core; the 'pinwheel' spaces revolving out around the hearth ... this was a revolutionary new form of space and domestic architecture not seen before, patterns that would be seen in most of his 'Prairie Houses' for the next ten years.

The perspective above was drawn by his talented delineator Marion Mahoney.

                          willplan

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

A photo for the Nico Nazis

         lighting-a-cigarette-off-a-100-candle-funny-old-la1

Farewell, Valjean

You've probably heard that NZ singer Rob Guest died this morning in Melbourne of a stroke.  I never saw him sing live, but by all accounts he was a fearsome Valjean in one my favourite musicals, Les MIserables.

So as a tribute, not by Guest himself unfortunately, here's a YouTube excerpt from the Finale of Les MIserables, sung at the death of Valjean.  It's a real tear-jerker.  (For maximum effect, click on the clip 'Les Miserables. Final Act II. 10th Anniversary Concert' immediately the first clip finishes).

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More bailout crack

They're doing it again. 

Just when you thought that the bailout crack might have been put back in the box, we hear that the bastards are setting up to deliver another fix.  A trillion-dollars straight into the veins.

Even the New York Times calls these actions “printing money” in a report that (says NBR)

    describes how the Fed has already poneyed up more than the $US700 billion bailout plan in the past week for an emergency-lending programme for banks, swap lines with foreign central banks to help money markets from Europe to Asia, and the cost of propping up AIG and other institutions.
    The Times says there is “more money where that came from,” citing sources that say the Fed could add debt of $US1-2 trillion...

That's nearly three times higher than the present bailout plan -- a sum almost equal to all the loans currently extant in the United States [see charts here]!  For what?  To delay the necessary correction -- one of the reasons the 1930s depression dragged on for so long -- and to keep prices from falling that desperately need to fall -- one of the other reasons the 1930s depression dragged on for so long.

And to delay it by means of the same method that inflated the boom, leading inexorably to the bust: printing more money, as if pieces of printed paper over which the Fed has waved its magic wand are in and of themselves able to turn stones into bread, and toxic bank reserves into solid capital.

I got a phone call the other day asking me to come and talk to a group of people about the causes and implications of the present financial turmoil.  "I'm no expert," I demurred, and my caller replied, "Neither are the bastards who caused it."  Good point.  And the bastards who caused it are still doing their best to make it worse.

UPDATE 1: Reports are in that the dumbarses in the Senate have voted in not just Bailout II, but Bailout II with Extra Pork.  Pork with dripping,  A package totalling for every wallet in America.  
So that's more pork, more credit made up out of thin air, and all with the result of putting off the inevitable pain of correction for ... another few weeks.

And next time the fix will need to be even stronger.

UPDATE 2:  This is not a bailout package, says Robert Murphy writing before today's decision, it's a crime scene.   

    This is not an economic plan: it is a heist.
    It will go down as The Great Bank Robbery of 2008.
    The economics behind it are nonsense, but we are naïve if we spend much time even considering the "arguments" for it. This is a money and power grab, pure and simple.
    Just as magazine covers today feature scantily clad women that would have been scandalous a generation ago, in the same manner Paulson's proposal — made in broad daylight and on national TV! — is almost naked in its audacity.
And since there's no real money created here (reality doesn't allow real money to be created out of thin air) someone has to pick up the tab. Guess who?
    It is the crudest Keynesianism to view the Paulson Plan as an injection of capital or "liquidity." That money has to come from somewhere. If it is taxed or borrowed, then it is just a shell game; the liquidity is drained from elsewhere, to be injected into Wall Street.
    Besides taxing or borrowing, the government has a trump card: it can have the Federal Reserve simply create the new money out of thin air, by engaging in some "Open Market Operations." Yet even in this case, real wealth still hasn't increased. Certain nominal figures, like "aggregate asset values" might go up. But that's not very relevant, because the economy isn't really richer. After all, there aren't more tractors or office buildings just because Bernanke allows the monetary base to grow more rapidly. So what happens in this case is that prices rise; people find it harder to buy milk, bread, and gasoline. But the Wall Street fat cats are fine with the general price hikes, because they got their hands on the newly injected funny money early in the game
And as for talk of "a breakdown" in the financial system without a bailout, this too is a bogeyman, says Murphy. "Just because the banks disappear doesn't mean [genuine] lenders will."

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Two Essential Bailout Readers

HelpCoyote I posted yesterday a link to one site set up to ensure  sure you're armed with the necessary intellectual ammunition to understand and appreciate the cause of the present economic turmoil, the cure, and the means by which it can be prevented from happening again.  The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights'  new Web page defends a very different view from the interventionist mainstream—that the actual cause of the crisis is government intervention, and the only cure, laissez-faire capitalism.   Check out their collection of essays, op-eds, lectures, and interviews arguing for a rational approach to this crisis—an approach you will not find anywhere else.

And today I can point you to another comprehensive site offering a rational approach to understanding the causes and the cure, and the people who saw it coming: the Mises Institute's Bailout Reader, with readings that thoroughly and clearly dissect:

  • Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac
  • The Housing Bubble
  • Inflationary Finance
  • Community Reinvestment Act
  • Short Selling
  • The Reasons for the Business Cycle
  • Who Predicted This?
  • What to Do?
  • Books to Read & Distribute (most of them available free on PDF)

Don't accept the lies and untruths about the crisis promulgated by statists who wish to use it to promote more government intervention, or by the time-servers whose economic theories were responsible for it. 

Instead, I thoroughly recommend these two sites whose rational commentary will arm you, educate you, and thoroughly debunk the nostrums and 'bailout crack' presently being peddled -- and without the lies, self-serving nonsense and bloody jargon that infests so much of the other commentary I've been reading.

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Blog stats for September '08

Another good month here at NOT PC, a month in which Sarah Palin emerged from Wasilla, Malaysian bloggers were submerged under the Internal Security Act, New Zealanders were overwhelmed by violent crime, I was underwhelmed by Fiji Bitter ... oh yes, and I believe someone here said something about an election. Here's some of the main stats for NOT PC last month:

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: 7th (August, 6th)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 577th (last month 687th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 255,965th (last month 252,163rd)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1345/day (1091)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 39,618 (30,481)
Page views [from Statcounter] 59,647 (47,029)

Top posts this month:

Top referring sites:
Search engines 3421 referrals; Rocky's Bru, 1762; Kiwiblog 1428; No Minister 1243; Libertarianz 641; Whale Oil 367; NZ Capitalist 250; Chris Trotter/Mathew Hooton 198; Liberty Scott 195; Lindsay Mitchell 178; RealBeer 162 AntiDismal 151; Public Address 144; Tumeke 144
Top searches landing here:
not pc 448; nude olympians 359; broadacre city 74; sean fitzpatrick libertarian nz 48; heineken mini keg 43; crypto-individualist 40; nipcc 40; elijah lineberry pinochet 38; beer songs 36; greens ban word appears site 30; bavinger house 25; christus hypercubus 25; william van allen 25
They're reading NOT PC here:
MapSept08
Top countries/territories (measured this month by Google Analytics):
NZ 46%; USA 23%; Malaysia 5.5%; Australia 4.3%; UK 4.0%; Canada 2.1%; Germany 1.2%; India .9%; Italy 0.9%; Brazil 0.7%; Singapore 0.6% (and not one visitor from the proud state of Alaska).
Top cities (measured by StatCounter):
Auckland 30%; Wellington 7.7%; Christchurch 4.8%; Kuala Lumpur 3.0%; Sydney 2.3%; London 1.5%; Palmerston North 0.9%; Hamilton 0.8%; New York 0.6%; Tauranga 0.6%; Brisbane 0.6%Readers' Browsers
IE Explorer 45%; Firefox 43%; Safari 7.6%; Opera 2.3%; Chrome 1.5%
Readers' Connection Speeds
Unknown 37%; DSl 35%; Cable 17%; T1 8.0%; Dial-up 3.6%
Cheers, and thanks to you all for reading and linking to NOT PC this month,
Peter Cresswell

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Avery Coonley House - Frank Lloyd Wright, 1907

                                rear_coonley

The Coonley House was another of Wright's masterpieces from his 'Prairie House' era -- presently being restored.

                              coonley

And it was pictures such as these from Wright's 'Wasmuth' portfolio, published in Europe in 1910, that inspired a new generation of young European architects to take the scales from their eyes and the artifice from their work and learn to make their architecture sing.

And pretty soon, young Austrians like Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra were making their way to the US to work work with Wright and seek their fortunes.0423

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Outraged, of Tunbridge Wells

Cactus just insulted me. She called me a "centre-right" blogger.

I'm outraged. "There is no higher insult!" [See Rection E., 'Harden Up,' ed. Woody H.O., Feb. 1998]. I fancy pistols at dawn.

Apparently there's such a thing as "a centre-right blogosphere." People subscribe to that slop. Fancy people trying to make the world safe for the centre-right! What sort of people would waste their life on such an enterprise?

Soft cocks.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Contact!

Labour, National, Grey Power and Contact's customers should all stop whinging about Contact raising its prices, says Liberty Scott.  There's something simple you can all do about it, he says.

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Economic crisis site

America's historic economic crisis is no less a crisis for us. A new web-page offers some answers on cause, effect and prevention:

What was the cause? What is the cure? How do we prevent it from happening again?

While pundits and politicians blame the current housing and financial crisis on "greedy" businessmen and lax regulators, and are frantically urging the government to expand its control over our economic lives, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights has launched a new Web page to defend a different view—that the actual cause of the crisis is government intervention, and the only cure, laissez-faire capitalism.

We invite you to check out our collection of essays, op-eds, lectures, and interviews arguing for a rational approach to this crisis—an approach you will not find anywhere else.

Visit and have your myths exploded. As the Ayn Rand quote at the top of the page says, "

"One of the methods used by statists to destroy capitalism consists in establishing controls that tie a given industry hand and foot, making it unable to solve its problems, then declaring that freedom has failed and stronger controls are necessary."

And they're doing it again. Make sure you're armed with the necessary intellectual ammunition to counter the latest statist ruse.

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Bad news for PJ O'Rourke

PJ O'Rourke has been diagnosed with cancer.  Ted Kennedy has cancer of the brain; PJ has cancer of the arse -- appropriate for both, he suggests.

I have, of all the inglorious things, a malignant hemorrhoid. What color bracelet does one wear for that? And where does one wear it? And what slogan is apropos? Perhaps that slogan can be sewn in needlepoint around the ruffle on a cover for my embarrassing little doughnut buttocks pillow.

It might not be fatal.

I'm told I have a 95% chance of survival. Come to think of it -- as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat hound -- my chance of survival has been improved by cancer.

Tim Blair reports this rules out PJ's Australian trip in December, and presumably his trip here as well.

National's RMA Policy "like a chocolate-coated turd"

National's Nick Smith released National's Resource Management Act policy yesterday.  Smith said within 100 days of forming a new government National would introduce a bill to "streamline" the Resource Management Act.

Responding for the Greens, co-leader Russel Norman says "the National Party's plans to reform the Resource Management Act are a misguided 'business-first, community-second, environment-last' policy:

Dr Norman says National's RMA gutting will undermine New Zealanders' ability to protect our environment..."

Actually, they're both wrong -- although they both gain politically by the ruse.

  • At the moment the RMA removes from property-owners rights over their own land, including the common law right of recourse over pollution by neighbours or downstream polluters.
  • It locks up land around the country's major cities, jacking up the price of new housing for new home-buyers.
  • It gives large polluters a "license to pollute" -- meat processors to dump their wastewater into rivers and oceans; farmers, pulp and paper mills and landfill sites to discharge their waste (with a license to pollute gifted to them by the RMA) into lakes and rivers; a developer to  dump sewage effluent directly into an ocean outfall at Akaroa with no recourse in law for those polluted by such discharges.
  • And the lengthy delays and seemingly arbitrary basis on which consents are granted makes it virtually impossible for producers to plan ahead, adding huge costs to every new project.

'Smith's dream' does nothing at all to address these serious problems, on top of which he wants to introduce two new bureaucracies -- an Environmental Protection Agency to make things even more restrictive, and a toothless "independent complaints mechanism" to give the appearance that someone gives a shit when the council stuffs you around.

The guy's a fool.

Smith's on record as calling the RMA "far-sighted environmental legislation" -- it isn't. 

Remember that Smith had three years as minister in charge of the RMA back in the nineties to change things -- he didn't. 

He promises nothing fundamental now, either.  The policy overflows with buzzwords like "fix," streamline" and "get business moving," but closer examination demonstrated Smith's large print giveth, but his small print taketh away.

Does he promise to put protection of New Zealander's property rights at the heart of the Act?  No.

Does he promise to take power over your property away from planners and council bureaucrats?  No.

To make it easier for a builder to get a subdivision consent and lower the price of land to buyers?; or for a supermarket owner to build a new supermarket in the face of a competitor?; or a developer to build a new village in the face of council opposition?  No, of course not -- not when you read the fine print. 

Will they abolish the likes of development levies, and squash the huge delays and rises in consent costs that add thousands, and sometimes millions, to every private project in the country?  No, of course they won't. 

Will they do anything at all to increase the supply of suitable land available on which to build houses, or to remove council planners the power to zone private land, and the power to set urban walls around New Zealand towns and cities?  No, emphatically not.

Not one of these things will happen under National.  Here's what they  promise instead:

"We want to get business moving again by addressing the needless bureaucracy that is frustrating so many homeowners, farmers, and businesses, and to enable New Zealand to get on and build much-needed infrastructure," he says.

Well adding a new bureaucracy is hardly a good start, is it?  And since there's nothing here to kill off planners, consultants and the sundry other needless parasites who leech off the Act and destroy enterprise, there's hardly cause to celebrate. (And don't forget, National have their own Emissions Trading Scheme to roll out as well, and don't think you'll be seeing any details of that before you go into the polling booth in November.)

National supports the underlying principles of the Resource Management Act...

The underlying principles of the RMA uphold the toxic collectivism of kaitiakitanga - or stewardship - while completely ignoring property rights; they uphold the nonsense of 'intrinsic values' while destroying distinctively human values; they tout 'effects-based planning' while prescriptively regulating and prohibiting human activities; they have empowered an enormous army of consultants to interpret and manage it; they protect trees, rocks and mud puddles while providing no protection for human life; they "protect" "future generations" while making it virtually impossible to build the infrastructure these generations will need. The RMA fails to even mention property rights in its 455 pages, while harbouring a savage penalties regime of fines up to $200,000, and up to two years in jail!

These are the underlying principles that the National Party supports.

National will simplify the Act by limiting the definition of environment to natural and physical resources...

Hardly a king hit to bureaucracy and red tape, just a very small baby step that consultants will very quickly learn to exploit.

...  and prohibiting objections with respect to trade competition.

The Act already prohibits trade competitors using the RMA to stifle competition.  But as North Shore supermarket and shopping centre owners will know, it hasn't stopped them using proxies.

We will also reduce the number of consent categories ...

But the increase in the number of consent categories has made consent applications easier (if only slightly); reducing them is going to make applications harder, not easier.

...replace the broad reference to Treaty principles with specific requirements for iwi consultation...

Which means the present vague references to consultation over taniwhas will be replaced with explicit demands for consultation over taniwhas.

...and remove the ministerial veto on coastal consents.

Which will be retained for much of the northern North Island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, introduced by Smith in his previous term as minister.

The ministerial veto on coastal consents adds time and unnecessary uncertainty to applications. This was emphasised by the political interference of the Conservation Minister in the Whangamata Marina.

And as this dickhead is well aware, the Conservation minister's political interference with the Whangamata Marina -- and with the Whitianga Waterways -- was necessitated by his own Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.  The man has a tongue so forked he could hug a tree with it. What else does he promise with it?

Tens of thousands of people every year apply for smaller consents and are frustrated by breaches in statutory processing times, excessive fees, and unreasonable requests for further information from consenting authorities The bill will provide an independent complaints mechanism for these issues, where there will be a power to discount or waive consent-processing fees where statutory processing times are breached.

This is about as attractive as a chocolate-coated turd; it looks almost edible until the sugar coating is removed. 
    Councils are already adept at asking pathetic and irrelevant questions to extend the nominal twenty-day limit they have for considering resource consent applications without the delays being recorded as such; Smith's proposal just invites more of the same ruses.
    An "independent complaints mechanism" won't make consents arrive any earlier, or save anyone any money: instead we'll simply have yet another useless bureaucracy, while applicants will be assailed by councils processing their consents with even more stupid and irrelevant questions than they do now just to justify them "stopping the clock." 
    And although it's hard to image how much more stupid some of those questions can get, it's clear enough that the stupid questions will increase under Smith's stupid proposal. That he wants to hang his hat on this is a sign of how little he really understands the Kafka-esque problems with making and receiving Resource Consent applications.

The bill will simplify the process for councils amending and updating their plans... We will encourage regional and district councils to develop a single plan.

Irrelevant window dressing.

We will also encourage greater use of the Internet to replace onerous paperwork requirements.

Even more irrelevant window dressing.

We will provide for a system of approved contractors in areas like tree trimming to reduce the number of minor consents required.

Jobs for the boys.

And now, with the window-dressing out of the way, we come the crux of National's RMA policy -- at least, the crux of the policy for National:

National’s Resource Management Amendment Bill will provide for ‘Priority Consenting’ of major infrastructure projects.

This is what is gets Smith and his colleagues excited -- removing the major legislative impediment to "Thinking Big" -- requiring that projects unilaterally deemed to be of "national significance" to be consented in nine months, or else.

That won't help you or I get our projects built or our property rights protected, but it would allow a National government to steamroll over people's property rights to push through projects like the Waikato pylons.

Which all makes one thing very clear: They don't want to protect your property rights -- they want to promote their ability to steamroller over them.  They don't want to make it easier for you to build -- they only want to make it easier for them to build, using borrowed money.

Taken together then Smith's proposals are a mixture of irrelevant, meaningless, hopeless and more damaging -- much like himself really.

Nothing will be fundamentally altered.

The productive will still have to go cap in hand to to ask permission from the unproductive in order to produce.  It's just that under Smith's regime the unproductive would be saluting a different coloured flag.

Alas for the opportunity lost -- for the chance to tear down the bureaucratic monster of the RMA altogether, to drive a stake straight through its heart, to dump the RMA once and and for all, and to uncover the property-rights protection of common law that has over seven-hundred years of sophistication and success in protecting both property owners and environment.

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'The Rabbi's Cat' - Joann Sfar








A friend lent me a French graphic novel by Joann Sfar because it sems as if the 'Rabbi's Cat' is modelled on our own -- and what a charming wee piece it is.

Here's just a few frames.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good news: The 'bailout' has crashed

Good news this morning: it looks as if America's trillion-dollar nationalisation of bad assets won't be going ahead. As readers of my earlier posts on this should realise, this is good news. Investor Jim Rogers encapsulated last week the bad news at the heart of the now-dead bailout plan:  "This is madness, this is insanity, they [want to] more than double the American national debt in one weekend for a bunch of crooks and incompetents."  Ain't that the whole truth.

Quite aside from the absolute irresponsibility of printing $700 billion of bailout cash to further inflate the money supply -- more of the same rocket fuel that caused the problem in the first place -- the plan to keep prices high is precisely the opposite of what's needed in a depression. 

Herbert Hoover's plans to keep prices high after the 1929 stock market crash was an object lesson in what not to do after a crash -- as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke conceded last week to House Republican Ron Paul (see the video here). Hoover's plans, continued by Roosevelt in 1932, did precisely the opposite of what he intended: instead of protecting failing businesses and providing the funds necessary for recovery as he hoped, the failure to let the market contract and flush out the dead wood and malinvestments as is necessary for recovery merely prolonged the pain.

Today's American bailout plan made the same mistake, and would simply have prolonged the pain (and with that cash injection, even enhanced it).  Allowing the market to cut its losses and cut out the dead wood -- which is what a contraction consists of -- is painful for a year or two, but prolonging the contraction only ensures it's going to be painful for a whole decade (just as it was for Japan when it applied the same medicine in the early nineties, ensuring their necessary recovery was delayed for a decade, a point made on Morning Report this morning by Jim Rogers) with good money being poured after bad long after the time to cut the losses is over. 

How long must the necessary contraction take?  "Until," says Ludwig von Mises, "the illusions of the boom have been dispelled and economic activity has readjusted to the realities of the existing conditions. Attempts to interfere with free and flexible prices, wage and interest rates prevent recovery and prolong the depression period."

Let's repeat: you can't fake reality.  The contraction and both recovery need to happen; they can't be avoided.  The only choice is whether that takes a year or two, or whether the process is prolonged for a decade. 

Which of the two would you prefer?

And, too, by bailing out the assets of incompetent banks, it would have punished the shareholders and directors of competent banks and businesses.  As John Allison of North Carolina's BB&T Bank said late last week, the Paulson Plan is aimed at helping poorly run banks -- it has nothing at all for competently run banks:

    U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposed $700 billion bank rescue aims to help ``poorly run'' companies and the primary beneficiaries would be Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley, said BB&T Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Allison in a critique of the plan.
    Treasury ``is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers'' and ``cannot be relied on to objectively assess'' the impact of government policy on the financial industry...
    ``There is no panic on Main Street and in sound financial institutions,'' Allison wrote. ``The problems are in high-risk financial institutions and on Wall Street'' ... 
    The market should be allowed to eliminate ``irrational competitors,'' he said. ``There were a number of poorly managed institutions and poorly made financial decisions during the real estate boom,'' Allison wrote. ``It is important that any rules post-`rescue' punish the poorly run institutions and not punish the well-run companies.'

You can read the full statement from John Allison here.

UPDATE 1:  The always astute Frank Shostak affirms the argument: "The Rescue Package Will Delay Recovery," he says.

UPDATE 2:  In An Open Letter to My Friends on the Left, Steven Horwitz answers the many critics who say this is a crisis of free markets; people like the two US presidential candidates who say erroneously it's a result of "shredding regulations" (as if!) and a "lack of regulatory oversight"; or local Marxist Matt McCarten, who says "the US example puts paid to the free market idea":

In the last week or two, I have heard frequently from you that the current financial mess has been caused by the failures of free markets and deregulation. I have heard from you that the lust after profits, any profits, that is central to free markets is at the core of our problems. And I have heard from you that only significant government intervention into financial markets can cure these problems, perhaps once and for all. I ask of you for the next few minutes to, in the words of Oliver Cromwell, consider that you may be mistaken. Consider that both the diagnosis and the cure might be equally mistaken.

Consider instead that the problems of this mess were caused by the very kinds of government regulation that [were] now proposed...

And in an older article Frank Shostak, again, points out how regulations allowing banks to inflate their own money supply (what's known as "fractional reserve" banking) accelerates both booms and busts, and how under fractional reserve banking (in which all banks are inherently bankrupt) , the various means by which their "reserves" are met are inherently flawed, and when the ineveitable crisis does come "the collective attempt of banks to improve their solvency actually runs the risk of making them less solvent, thereby deepening the liquidity crisis."

In every sense then, we're now paying for the bad decisions of regulators and the government's central bankers.

UPDATE 3:  On the question of this being a "failure of free markets," it's worth re-reading this article by George Reisman, in which he points out  both the ack of a free market, and the reason for there being "very little, if any, rise in real wages" in the recent booms:
    In contrast to the experience of the 1920s, in the two great recent credit expansions, i.e., the dot.com bubble of 1995-2001 and its successor the presently collapsing housing bubble that began not long thereafter, there has been very little, if any, rise in real wages. Most commentators appear to attribute this to nothing more than the unrestrained greed of businessmen and capitalists. They apparently go on the theory that if there is anything in the economic system that breathes or moves other than at the command of the government, or other than with the active supervision and control of the government, it is proof that we live in an era of “laissez-faire"...
    This alleged laissez-faire environment, such writers pretend, has enabled businessmen and capitalists shamelessly to enrich themselves at the expense of increasingly impoverished wage earners, to whom nothing any longer even “trickles down.” {Are you listening, Barack Obama?]  Increased free trade and “globalization,” of course, are attacked as part of the process and as greatly contributing to the stagnation or outright decline in real wages.
    In sharpest contrast to such blather, in the real world there are innumerable rules and regulations enacted by the Federal Government to control virtually every aspect of economic activity. They are contained in the more than 70,000 pages of The Federal Register. The overwhelming mass of government interference described therein, and in its counterparts at the state and local level, is a glaring refutation of claims about the existence of any kind of laissez faire in the present-day world. The very description of such interference, in tens of thousands of pages of official text, is a refutation of such size and literal weight as to render any claims about laissez faire or insufficient government controls or regulations utterly nonsensical.
    This truly massive body of material also suggests that the actual explanation of the stagnation in real wages is precisely an ever growing burden of government intervention in the economic system. The intervention is in the form of policies that undermine genuine saving and in numerous other ways undermine capital accumulation and the rise in the productivity of labor. Personal and corporate income taxes, the inheritance tax, the capital gains tax, and government budget deficits—all entail the taking away of funds that if left in the hands of their owners would have been heavily spent, indeed, overwhelmingly spent, in the purchase of capital goods and labor services. Instead, those funds are diverted into financing the consumption of the government and those to whom the government gives money.
    Inflation and credit expansion greatly exacerbate this diversion of funds, because their effect is artificially to increase the incomes subject to these taxes and to thus to deprive business firms of the funds required to replace assets at prices made higher by the same process that increases their taxable incomes. The progressive aspect of income and inheritance taxes also worsens their effects, because incomes tend to be saved and invested the more heavily the larger they are; at the same time, substantial inheritances are more likely to be retained in the form of accumulated savings and capital than are modest inheritances.
    Because of the reduced demand for labor that results from the taxation of funds that would otherwise have been used in employing labor and in buying capital goods, wages are substantially less than they otherwise would have been. At the same time, the buying power of those reduced wages is also sharply reduced in comparison with what it would otherwise have been.
UPDATE 4:  From Noodle Food:
Reading that NY Times article in full, I'm impressed by the seemingly principled opposition to the bailout. See these descriptions and quotes:
Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, said he intended to vote against the package, which he said would put the nation on "the slippery slope to socialism." He said that he was afraid that it ultimately would not work, leaving the taxpayers responsible for "the mother of all debt."

Another Texas Republican, John Culberson, spoke scathingly about the unbridled power he said the bill would hand over to the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., whom he called "King Henry."

A third Texan, Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, said the negotiators had "never seriously considered any alternative" to the administration's plan, and had only barely modified what they were given. He criticized the plan for handing over sweeping new powers to an administration that he said was to blame for allowing the crisis to develop in the first place.
In contrast, consider what the supporters of the bailout are saying:
When it comes to America's economy, [Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Democratic Majority Leader] said, "none of us is an island."

Representative Maxine Waters, a Democrat, said the measure was vital to help financial institutions survive and keep people in their homes. "There's plenty of blame to go around," she said, and attaching blame should come later.
UPDATE 5:  Jeffrey Tucker at the Mises Institute is cock-a-hoop!

House rejects the bill. This is a magnificent repudiation of the Fed, the Treasury, Bush, Wall Street welfarists, inflationists, and stabilizers of all sorts. The costs of what the Fed has already done are going to be massive and felt for many years. But at least Congress has so far, and this time only, not participated in the evil.

It's a great birthday gift for Ludwig von Mises.

Whatever the case with stock markets--and we can be confident that whatever prices emerge are truer than they would be with a bailout--it is fantastic that oil prices have retreated so dramatically. Drivers cheer. May all commodities follow. How this can be spun as dreadful news is beyond me.

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Debating leaders' debates

There is more heat and light generated in getting to a leaders debate these days than there is from the damn debates themselves. 

We can all remember last election how Jim Neanderton and Peter Dunne-Nothing stamped their feet like spoiled children when TV3 took away their rattle -- in the end TV3 were unable to rule the Tantrum Twins out of the leaders' debate only because the twins used the power of the state to force a private broadcaster to act in a way they, the politicians, wished them too.

So much for their respect for the freedom of the Fourth Estate.

This year they're throwing the same tantrum again, joined this time by Rodney Hide and Jeanette Fitzsimons who've also been excluded from the playground main leaders' debate this time.  It looks at this stage as if TV3 have shrugged rather than capitulate again, but TVNZ resolutely continues with plans to hold "two head to head debates between Miss Clark and Mr Key and a separate debate for minor party leaders."

Good.

Despite the wishes of all the minor party leaders, the best evidence suggests that either Clark or Key will hold the office of Prime Minister after the election, and a thorough examination of both, without the distractions of bevy of other buffoons, is essential. What's needed is less of a gameshow, and more of a grilling.

And a thorough examination of the buffoons minor leaders is also necessary, but with the emphasis here mostly on what they consider crucial to coalition, without the distraction of hearing them comment on issues on which their views are almost wholly irrelevant. And on this former Alliance leader Laila Harre has a plan.

Since the needs of both debates are different, so too should the debates themselves be separate. And since the need for a thorough examination is paramount, what's needed is interviewers able to give a thorough examination of their interviewees -- something of which NZ's two main broadcasters are sadly lacking -- instead of becoming the main event themselves (something of which NZ's usual stock of interviewers  are all too adept).

UPDATE: Jim Mora has invited me on Radio NZ's Panel this afternoon to debate the debate about the debates with Chris Trotter and Jeremy Wells.  Should be a good ... discussion.

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"Me too" and mendacity on Nats' Maori policy

Despite talk that National has formed an understanding with the Maori Party that will allow them to do a deal after the election should both have the votes (a deal putting National into government and Pita Sharples into the Maori Affairs ministry), National has just released a Maori Affairs policy suggesting either a few problems for the talked-about deal -- or a few problems with the honesty of National's policy commitments.

As Liberty Scott accurately characterises it, it is "me-too" all over again:

  • "Me too" on continuing to support (read - use your taxes to spend money on) Maori broadcasting, Kohanga Reo, racially-based housing, racially-based "professional development," racially-based health provision and the like," despite this "support" having led to what Scott describes as "appalling violence, abuse and intergenerational criminal underachievement of the underclass of predominantly Maori families, failing again and again, and worst of all breeding children in a climate of fear, abuse and neglect." National is for more of the same.
  • "Me too" on "recognising the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand," despite it being too hastily written and lacking too much to bear the weight of such an accolade.
  • "Me too" on "more support" i.e., taxpayers money, for the kangaroo court that is the Waitangi Tribunal. (National's David Farrar says "I especially like the commitment to speeding up the Treaty settlements by shifting the office to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, having independent facilitators and greater resourcing for the Waitangi Tribunal."
  • "Me too" on their backsliding on the deadline by which the Waitangi Gravy Train will be brought to a halt, and nothing at all about the fullness or finality of settlements. Scott has more on both these points.
  • "Me too" on establishing "post-settlement governance entities that best meet [Maori's] multi-dimensional roles and responsibilities," which presumably includes even more veto powers for iwi under the Resource Management Act.
  • "Me too" on the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Yes, they do promise to "reform the Resource Management Act to facilitate growth and development in the aquaculture industry" -- and the prospect of giving some weight to property rights to achieve this is dangled -- and they do promise to abolish the Maori seats, but it's this last and their position on the Foreshore and Seabed Act that will, at least on paper, pose the greatest problem for any coalition with Hone and Pita and Tariana.

And a deal with National is on the cards. Since the notion of reducing state spending on racially based policies is alien to National's policy document, one has to wonder if, like the Treaty Settlement policy, it's primarily about keeping the Maori Party happy?

But what about the policies on the Maori Seats and the Foreshore & Seabed Act? Opposition to Labour's Foreshore and Seabed Act, which removed from Maori the right to go to court and prove in common law their ownership rights over foreshore and seabed, led directly to the formation of the Maori Party. As Hone Harawira said recently, why would they give support to the party that introduced what is the worst violation of Maori rights for one-hundred and fifty years? (On which he's correct, incidentally.)

Pita Sharples said after National's policy release that abolition of the Maori seats is for Maori to determine (not as long as it represents a racial gerrymander it isn't) and National's stated policy on foreshore and seabed is "problematic" for any coalition deal ... "but they expect to see changes."

Now, John Key refuses to either confirm or deny whether or not those specific, high-profile marquee policies, either of them, are negotiable, but yesterday morning on National Radio he explicitly refused to rule it out -- and we all know what that means in politics, don't we.

So this looks like talking out of both sides of the mouth, doesn't it. Promising something in public to the electorate that the electorate wants to hear, while in private promising the Maori Party precisely the opposite in order to keep them on side.

Which all suggests that National intends either to break their promise to the electorate by backtracking on one or both of these big ticket policy commitments, or to break an understanding with the Maori Party -- that they will go easy on abolishing the Maori seats, and work towards abolishing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Which do you think is most likely? And what does this say about National's honesty?

UPDATE:  Pita Sharples confirms the analysis in an interview to air tonight on Alt TV.

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How House - Rudolph Schindler

       HowHouse01 

Another beauty by Viennese-Californian architect Rudolph Schindler, from 1925 when he first settled in California, in that marvelously creative period between the wars when he helped define the best of Californian 'modernism' -- which said modernists were mostly too dim to appreciate.  Said Schindler in a letter to the Museum of Modern Art in 1943,

   I consider myself the first and still one of the few architects who consciously abandoned stylistic sculptural architecture in order to develop space as a medium of art. ... I believe that outside of Frank Lloyd Wright I am the only architect in U.S. who has attained a distinct local and personal form language.

And so he had.  Frank Lloyd Wright, never one to overpraise a colleague, allowed in references that Schindler "has built quite a number of buildings in and around Los Angeles that seem to be admirable from the standpoint of design, and I have not heard of any of them falling down...   He has a good mind, is affectionate in disposition, and is fairly honorable I believe. Personally, though strongly individual, he is not unduly eccentric and I, in common with many others, like him very much."

Like Schindler's own house on Kings Road, the How house also features concrete, redwood and glass.  Says the Schindler House website of this beauty:

The How House sits on top of a steep ridge, angled to the street, with a gorgeous view of the Los Angeles River. It is one of the best examples of Schindler’s use of geometry and proportion in order to manipulate space. The main volume of the house is shaped as a cube with smaller spaces extending out from it.

It's now on the market, and can be picked up for a modest US$4.9995 million...  [Hat tip Prairie Mod]

HowHouse02 HowHouse03

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Exit Maid Marian

Twice in her parliamentary career I've been surprised to find myself cheering on Marian Hobbs, who gave her valedictory speech to parliament last week.

Who wouldn't be surprised?

The  first time I found myself in her corner was with her resolute defence of science and genetic engineering in the face of Nicky Hager and "little creep" John Campbell's pathetic 'corngate' beat-up in the run-up to the 2002 election, when civilised New Zealanders were silently and not-so silently applauding Clark and Hobbs for allowing a GE crop to reach maturity, and reflecting that things could have been a lot worse with Nick Smith in the Environment chair, and will be a lot worse if rumours about Jeanette Fitzsimons taking the chair in a post-election Labour Cabinet were to come to pass.

The second time I applauded Hobbs was just yesterday when I came across her valedictory speech, and not just because she's leaving parliament, but for for her observations on the state of journalism which she identifies is more focused on personalities than it is policies.   This is not just the complaint of someone who's had a bad run with the media -- although it is partly that -- it's also right on the money.

    "Politics is about making decisions, be it the laws we pass or the budgets we approve," she said.  "But modern news media doesn't evaluate our decisions in the light of which policy is best.
    "Instead they build a web around personalities and behaviour. It's about a smiley new face versus the one we are familiar with. The news is about decision makers, rarely about decisions."

This is the reason scandal-mongering and smiley faces flourish in the corridors of power, while policy-makers are either ignored or pursue their work in the shadows - often to the detriment of those whom their policies damage.

"You need only to sound assertive, even when you don't know what you're talking about," she said.

There's a lot of that about, isn't there. When the focus of reporting is on "the game," and who's "winning it" rather than on policies and who's being done over by them, it's no wonder that flatulent fools like Winston Peters -- who's never read a whole policy document right to the end, but is a master at sounding assertive -- gets all the media time he does, while policy analysis -- even on the blogs -- is little more than left versus right.

UPDATE: "As the media often rate how well MPs are doing," David Farrar asked MPs to reverse the favour, and score the media and press gallery.  The results are here: MPs survey of the media.  On a scale of 0-10, very few scored over 5, and then only barely.

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