Friday, July 24, 2009

Beer O’Clock: Epic Armageddon!

As Dale Carnegie surely wished he’d said, every great beer starts with a good idea.  It was of such things that Epic Armageddon was born.

First there was just a brewer with an obsession – how to produced a beer crammed full of hops.  A shed load of hops.  And thus was born Epic Pale Ale, by flavour out of insanity; the beer that won gold medals for brewer Luke Nicholas and launched a thousand local drinkers upon a sea of hops obsession.

And thus was born Epic Mayhem in which, to the delight of the hops obsessives, Luke increased the hops per glass to an even more insane number.  Hosannahs were sung and great things undertaken.

From those great things was Epic Armageddon born, and with it, a mission.  Let our beer correspondent Neil Miller take up  the story at this point:

armageddon-ipa-blog-737677     Pete Brown, favoured beer author of the Handsome and Softly Spoken Scotsman, has just published a rather excellent book– Hops and Glory.  He takes a cask of pale ale from Britain to India by ship, retracing the long journey which helped create this marvellous style of beer.  He even graphically demonstrates some of the pitfalls of transporting beer in warm climes by having a 20-litre cask explode in a rented house.  Apparently you never realise how much beer is 20 litres until you are on your hands and knees sopping it out of the carpet.
   
Anyway, over a quiet pint of Epic one evening, the Malthouse proprietor Colin Mallon had the crazy idea of recreating Pete’s recreation right here in New Zealand.  He asked the Impish brewer to procure some wooden barrels and fill them with Armageddon.  The Impish brewer immediately agreed.  He asked the Interislander ferry if the barrels could go on their ship for up to six weeks.  The Interislander people immediately agreed. 
   
The new oak barrels, called Pete (for obvious reasons) and Melissa (after beer writer Melissa Cole) will experience changes in temperature and constant movement.  Tapping them and finding out what effect the voyage has had will be a little bit of history . . .

Wellington’s Malthouse brewery (which I’m now reliably informed is under water) partook of history last week, and this Friday – today! just an hour and a half from now! – Aucklanders have their chance to taste the results of the hoppic journey for ourselves, the world’s first Inter-Islander Pale Ale, and to launch the newest beer in the Epic stable, EPIC ARMAGEDDON.

Get ye down toBrew on Quay, 102 Quay Street, for an early kick off (more here at the Epic Beer Blog).  And bring your drinking boots.

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Apollo hoaxers busted!

A commenter on one of my many Apollo 11 posts called the moon landings “the biggest lie in the history of the world.”

Um,  leaving aside the obvious fact that history’s biggest lies are obviously a toss up between the teachings of the world’s religions and the teachings of most of the world’s philosophy professors, it’s scary to contemplate just how much context a moon landing skeptic has to drop to maintain their conspiracy theory.

  • that every single one of the hundreds of thousands of participants in the hoax, the vast majority of them government employees,  have managed to keep the secret all these years -- when government employees couldn’t even keep secret the story of something as simple as a break-in to a Washington hotel.
  • that the Soviet Union, with whom the United States was locked in a cold war and space race, and who tracked the journey of the moon landings from their Space Transmissions Corp, would not have jubilantly let the cat out of the bag themselves.
  • that all of the other independent observers who followed the path of the mission by various means, using information released to the public by NASA explaining where third party observers could expect to see the various craft at specific times, were all in on it too.
  • the bringing back of moon rocks almost 700 million years older than the oldest Earth rocks.

To name just a few things you’d have to ignore.  No wonder astronauts are prone to punching loonies in the face.  And not to mention all the science.  Did I mention the science?  There are any number of websites  that will give you chapter and verse on why the conspiracy theorists’ theories are bunk. But tell you what, for sheer entertainment value why not watch the Mythbusters team go to work on every leading claim made by moon landing loonies.  You can see the whole 'Mythbusters' episode in five parts right here.  Go on, watch it.  Watch them slice, dice and then pulverise every single one of the leading claims, and then finish up at the end with a final flourish, and see if you can still maintain your skepticism.

It all ends up game, set, match and grand slam to the Mythbusters and the moon landers – or as one of the Mythbusters team sums up, “in your face, conspiracy theorists.”

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Sexual Consent in the new world

Simon Power’s been watching films like this one:

Get your  sexual consent forms here. Even if it does ruin the sex.

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The Free Man’s Library

BlueSkyBookStackWhat books should the interested individualist have on their shelves and their bedside table? What should the would-be freedom-lover be reading to get up to speed for the intellectual battle?  I’ve offered a few suggestions myself for eager readers, and half a century ago writer Henry Hazlitt (author of the essential classic Economics in One Lesson amongst other treasures) offered his own definitive ‘short-list’ representing the cream of “the liberal tradition.” 

Did I just say LiberalI sure did.

      One of the crowning ironies of the present era [says Hazlitt in the introduction to his reading list]  is that it is precisely … the people who flatteringly refer to themselves as "liberals" who have forgotten or repudiated the essence of the true liberal tradition. The typical butts of their ridicule are such writers as Adam Smith, Bastiat, Cobden ("the Manchester School"), and Herbert Spencer. Whatever errors any of these writers may have been guilty of individually, they were among the chief architects of true liberalism. 
    Yet our modern "progressives" now refer to this whole philosophy contemptuously as "laissez faire." They present a grotesque caricature of it in order to refute it to their own satisfaction, and then go on to advocate more and more governmental power, more centralization of government … more and more discretionary power for an appointed bureaucracy...

Which gives you both the reason for Hazlitt’s list, which appeared in book form as The Free Man’s Library, and the reason you should be interested in it: because if you don’t know capitalism’s proud history and the intellectual tradition of liberty and laissez faire, then you leave your “progressive” enemies free to redefine it and misrepresent it for you – just as they redefined the word “liberal,” and the likes of Mr Trotter will always misrepresent capitalism – and you leave your would-be friends to sell out the very things they, and you, purport to uphold.

    "Oh, Liberty!" Madame Roland is said to have exclaimed as she passed a statue to that goddess on her way to the guillotine, "what crimes are committed in thy name!" Looking at the world today, we are tempted to stress the intellectual crimes committed in the name of liberty as much as the moral crimes. Never were men more ardent in defense of "liberty" than they are today; but never were there more diverse concepts of what constitutes true liberty. Many of today's writers who are most eloquent in their arguments for liberty in fact preach philosophies that would destroy it.

SS468Very true. The greatest tragedy can be to attempt the right things for the wrong reasons. If  take up intellectual arms you’re going to need intellectual ammunition – which means knowing and taking advantage of the intellectual tradition that came before you.

    Now this tradition, rich and deep and noble as it is, is being treated by most present-day intellectuals almost as if it had never existed. . .
    This bibliography, [Hazlitt hopes], will help to clarify as well as to mobilize the case for individualism and true liberalism. It is designed to strengthen individualists in their knowledge and convictions, to place in their hands the intellectual weapons that will help them to combat the totalitarian trend. It is designed, also, to call attention to the richness of the truly liberal tradition, to the excellent books and the many noble minds that have helped to shape it.

Read Hazlitt’s introduction to get yourself started – and to find out his “top ten classics,” his top ten from a half-century ago, and the books he suggests you might want to start with.  And feel free to compare it to my own.

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The Power of The Don

Don-JohnBoy Don Brash has only had the job of closing the gap with Australia for a week and look what he has achieved already!

It’s The Power of The Don.

Next up for The Don: Learnin’ folks about productivity. And realising for himself what little a Productivity Commission can actually do ‘bout it.

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How’s small business doing?

Talking to a few small businessmen this morning, all of them agreed on the view expressed by one chap: "What the politicians don't realise is that small business here is fucked."

Prices and costs for small business all round the country are too high, they agreed (recognising, of course, that one business’s prices are another one’s costs), and small businesses everywhere – especially out of the major centres – are struggling.

What’s your experience?

Sheats-Goldstein house - John Lautner

SheatsGol2 I pinched these pictures from a great post on the great John Lautner at the Art, Love and Philosophy blog.

Head over there to read about the house, about Lautner, and for a link to an extensive interview.

And head here for floor plans and a section.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fed’s Ben Bernanke’s is feeling the auditor’s breath on his collar [updated]

In testimony to Congress and in the Wall Street Journal, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke continues to resist Ron Paul’s bill to audit the Fed.  Indeed, in his Wall Street Journal op-ed Bernanke whinges that Paul’s Audit the Fed will give politicians control of monetary policy, that “congressional audits would expose the Fed to dangerous political pressure,” to which Ron Paul calls horseshit. "It's not like it's not politicized now," he says:

ED-AJ874_bernan_G_20090720153805 And Bernanke continues to insist, both in his Wall Street Journal piece and in his testimony to Congress, that he has an “exit strategy” to ensure that, come recovery time, the US economy doesn’t explode with double digit price inflation as a direct reflection of the double digit monetary inflation.  He will, he says, simply turn off the tap when the first signs of “green shoots”appear.”  That’s his “strategy.”  Peter Schiff calls horseshit on that one:

UPDATE:   About ten years ago, a reporter from the Detroit News did an interview with ‘Austrian economist’ Richard Ebeling about the Federal Reserve and Greenspan's monetary policy.

This reporter  has just reprinted this interview on his blog, pointing out Ebeling’s "prevision" in seeing where Fed monetary policy was leading: serious interest rate distortions, imbalances between savings and investment, and an inevitable economic correction.

Good reading to get a handle on what happened, why ‘The Fed’ was responsible, and why it didn’t need rocket science to see what the Fed’s meddling would eventually lead to – not rocket science, just the sound economics that mainstream economists don’t have.

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NOT PJ: Whitehead's Lines Write Headlines

This week Bernard Darnton lets out an ideological burp while digesting the latest speech from Treasury.

_BernardDarnton The “government employee of the week” award – despite its name – doesn’t get awarded every week. On Monday this week, in a speech to the Victoria University School of Government, Treasury Secretary John Whitehead told the country’s public servants to pull their fingers out.

“Friends, bureaucrats, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury the public sector, not to praise it. The evil that men do lives after them.” For all the media bluster, it was nothing like that. In fact, he praised the public sector, not buried it. Nonetheless, he seems to have irritated a lot of people by speaking the truth, and for that he receives the award. The bar isn’t high.

His speech points out that for years the public sector has sown the wind with very little to show for the billions tipped in. Whitehead warns that unless they start showing results they will reap the whirlwind. Indeed, the speech was more about how to save the public sector than how to slash it.

His greatest fear may be that unless they sort themselves out on their own terms the public will start to realise that we libertarians were right – that the cuts should start with ACC and end with Youth Development, pausing only to gut 400-odd other departments, ministries, offices, commissions, councils, panels, inspectorates, boards, bureaus, agencies, authorities, and “services.”

Mr Whitehead’s advice hasn’t been universally welcomed, however. National Secretary of the Public Slackers Association, Brenda Pilott, contested claims that his proposed changes would lift productivity. I thought about this paradox for a bit but gave up because, as an Irish friend used to say, “it wrecks yer head”: if someone’s employed to get in the way of people who are producing something and they get in the way more – or get in their way the same amount but at a lower cost – has productivity increased or decreased? Answers on a stamped, addressed tax return please.

The solution is not to make state servants do the stuff they do more efficiently. It’s to get them to do much, much less in the first place.

Labour’s state services spokesman Grant Robertson said that contracting out services will do nothing to help New Zealand overall. He’s right. If a job’s not worth doing, it’s not worth doing well.

Sadly, Finance Minister Bill English hasn’t quite grasped how things work yet. On National Radio he said that the government had less money and so there would be less increase in government spending. “Less increase”? You don’t need a degree in differential calculus to know that that arrow’s pointing in the wrong direction and that, once again, the poor bloody taxpayer will be impaled on the end of it.

On the other hand, I was excited to hear him say that the government would cap state sector workers. I would have thought that just making them redundant was enough. Perhaps setting an example with a few gangland executions will encourage others into the “natural attrition” programmes that some departments have announced.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

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Ulysses and the Sirens – Herbert Draper

Draper-Ulysses_and_the_Sirens

Every reader of Homer’s Odyssey knows what this painting depicts – the seductive young women who appeared on board ship and lured sailors to their deaths being manfully resisted by our hero, Ulysses, who’s prepared himself for the ordeal in advance by having his men lash him to the mast. Quite what that particular symbolism means I’m sure I have no idea at all (but don’t mention femmes fatales and sirens to a film noir enthusiast in the same breath), but if you’re confused about the story, the symbolism, or why Ulysses is tied to the mast while his men have wax in their ears then you’re either going to have to read Homer’s Odyssey, which for the right kind of person should be pure pleasure, or try Lindsay Perigo’s much shorter but no less delightful presentation on ‘Swamp Sirens’ to get the drift of it all.

Suffice to say that one should beware of young women who appear on one’s deck dressed in little more than fish scales and singing a siren song. Should that happen to you, then make sure to tie yourself to the nearest pole.  Carefully.

In the meantime, just enjoy Draper’s seductively painted warning.  Or succumb.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The biggest bill in the history of the world [update 2]

Neil Barofsky, special inspector general for the TARP program, says the total cost of the TARP programme – the Toxic Assets Relief Programme that I would characterise as “producing the toxic assets of tomorrow” – says that the total bill for the TARP programme is, wait for it, $23.7 trillion.  “TARP has evolved into a program of unprecedented scope, scale and complexity,” Barofsky said.  HE sure got that right.

Barofsky’s estimates [reports Bloomberg] include $2.3 trillion in programs offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., $7.4 trillion in TARP and other aid from the Treasury and $7.2 trillion in federal money for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, credit unions, Veterans Affairs and other federal programs.

Just to say that again, that’s 23,700,000,000,000 dollars – one billion dollars multiplied 23,700 times – spent on junk.   Not Zimbabwe dollars, US dollars.  More money than was spent on two world wars put together – two wars that bankrupted two continents.  More money than presently exists in the world -- spent on more “toxic assets” than the world has ever before seen, in a “recovery programme” more destructive than any of its progenitors could have fathomed.

And, to add irony to ignominy, the airheads on CNBC are for some reason getting angry at the guy pointing out the size of the bill [hat tip Fred Gibson].

UPDATE 1: Bernard Hickey spots US Congressman Alan Grayson grilling Helicopter Ben overnight on a NZ item in the multi-trillion dollar bill:

Here is some grand theatre in a CSpan video on Youtube from Ben Bernanke’s Congressional hearing overnight where Congressman Alan Grayson grills Bernanke over currency swaps with various central banks, including “New Zealand, who got US$9 billion or US$3,000 per person” (2mins 31). It’s a fascinating watch and all part of the growing momentum to audit the Fed.

“This will go viral,” says Bernard of the video of the confrontation.  Here’s the first re-infection:

UPDATE 2: And the busy Bernard Hickey also links to this short video to help you get your head around the concept of one trillion dollars – which is less than 1/27th of the total bill for the TARP programme.

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Don’t smack.

There are other alternatives to smacking children, you know. The Onion has one: a new baby-safe ball that makes shaking babies safe.  And here’s another: condoms

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Provocation is not a legitimate defence [update 3]

Lawyer Stephen Franks argues at his blog this morning that provocation should be a defence in law, though not to the extent that it’s just been abused in a Christchurch court by a clear-eyed killer and his loathsome legal team.

Self defence (or accidental death) isn’t enough to cover all situations, says Franks, who offers this example:

    If Henk Bouma had been able to free himself to attack Poumako and his henchmen while they were leaving his Reporoa farmhouse no legal system with any respect for normal human emotions should convict him of a wrong. They tied Bouma up, took his wife Beverly to suffer for hours in another room, taunted Henk, then shot her dead.
    Self defence would not be available to someone in Henk’s position if he attacked the home invaders as they were leaving, because they were clearly then ending their threat. If only the facts had played out as proposed in this thought experiment. He would have deserved commendation, not conviction.

I don’t agree.  Don’t agree at all.  Much though it pains me to say it, Henk Bouma would have deserved conviction if he’d lost self control and done to those animals what we’d all like to do in his place. The provocation certainly should have been grounds for a light sentence, but his guilt would be beyond doubt. 

Our right to life gives us our right to self defence – what it doesn’t do however is give us a right to retaliate in cold blood, or even highly-charged blood. The very point of law is to place the retaliatory use of physical force under objective controlto take retaliation away from the lynch mob and place it in the hands of civilising force.

The use of retaliatory force [summarises the Clemson Institute] cannot be left to the discretion of individual men who may disagree about its use in particular circumstances. By delegating this power to their agency, the government, the citizens can ensure that objective rules in the form of objective laws [exist] to guide its use.

We can surely sympathise with a Mr Bouma who had attacked and killed his wife’s torturers. Given the shambles of the present legal system – a place where objective rules in the form of objective laws are celebrated only in their absence – a place where courts put victims on trial and convict people for crimes without any victims at all – where murderers kill while out on bail, convicted criminals remain unincarcerated even after dozens of guilty verdicts, and jailed criminals can enjoy all the comforts of home – a non-objective “system” where there’s every expectation that Mrs Bouma’s murderers could easily go unpunished – in this sort of place we should sympathise if Mr Bouma had given vent to what we all would have felt in his shoes. 

But that doesn’t make it right.  Life is not a Charles Bronson movie.

Let’s use the anger instead to keep insisting that the justice system be just in more than name only, not further contaminated by the existence of bogus defences to compensate for what is becoming a bogus justice system.

* * Other posts on this trial:

the-brainy-guy-defence 

UPDATE 1: The jury has declared Sophie Elliot’s killer guilty of murder.  The correct result.

The job now is to ensure that no other victim’s family has to endure in court and from the country’s media what Sophie’s family and friends had to endure at the hands of this lowlife and his loathsome lawyer – which means working to remove the (now lessoned) defence of provocation from the books.

UPDATE 2: Greg Edwards, who took down his Facebook group last week at the request of Sophie Elliot’s parents – the narcissist’s lawyers were using it as an excuse to delay the trial – has started a new one: No More Provocation Defence for Murder!!! Enough is enough!!!.  Don’t just get mad, let’s get good law.

UPDATE 3: Perhaps something else for which to use this case as a spur: just consider the legal aid bill that the abominable Ablett-Kerr will now be presenting to taxpayers for an open-and-shut case she dragged out for weeks.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Bank-bashing, science-sledging and Todd the Tyrant

richardmcgrath Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath takes an irreverent weekly look at some of the past week’s headlines.

1. Drug dealer ordered to forfeit 40% of home’s value – A particularly cruel sentence on a Rotorua woman found guilty of the victimless non-crimes of growing cannabis and supplying another adult with methamphetamine. (The latter drug, of course, owes its existence to the laws that prohibit other less potent drugs such as amphetamine, Ecstacy and party pills.) After serving a 12 month sentence of home detention, this woman is now about to lose 40% of the value of the equity in her home to the Crown. This is an outrageous punishment manifestly in excess of the non-existent violation of an alleged victim. Those who deride the profit motive in private enterprise should be appalled at this arbitrary and confiscatory tax that now exists on people who manufacture and market those recreational substances of which Nanny disapproves.

2. Hefty fines for illegal sleepouts – Three South Aucklanders who committed the heinous offence of trying to make their properties more attractive to prospective buyers are taxed a total of $33,000. You have to wonder at the mentality of Ms Carole Todd (Manukau City Council’s “group manager of environmental operations”) who said the council was “pleased” that in fining the three property owners the court considered the intent behind the building work which was, and I quote: to improve the value of the properties for sale. How utterly disgusting, to want to improve the value of a property. The Todd maggot added that this should serve as “a warning” to homeowners, developers and builders. It sure does: if you have any desire to improve your home in South Auckland, forget it. This evil bitch and her masters, the Manukau City Council, will fight you every step of the way and will do their best to criminalise your good intentions.

3. Science community fading, says PM’s adviserWell done Peter Gluckman. The PM’s chief science adviser, a leading medical researcher in his own right, says the local science community is in the doldrums. He says scientists are marginalised, and targets the media for its poor reporting of scientific news and developments. I believe he is right. A key problem has been the systematic dismantling of respect in our schools for one of the most sacred of all cows: the scientific method. The importance of grasping this most critical element of analysis cannot be overestimated. Without a grasp of the scientific method a person lacks the most fundamental and essential tool in testing hypotheses and challenging long-held assumptions; thus, to tread down new paths and, ultimately, improve the lot of mankind through the discovery of new technology. The other negative influence on science, to my mind, has been the politicisation of debate, and the influence wielded by non-scientists -- resulting in the biggest and potentially the deadliest hoax ever perpetrated on the masses: the idea that man’s industrial activity has a significant effect on global climate.

4. Don’t take inquiry seriously, says bank expert – As the director of Massey University’s Centre for Banking Studies points out, banks are big, impersonal and appear to have lots of money. Perfect fodder then for the inadequate losers in the Labour and Green Parties, who will be conducting their own inquiry into whether banks should be allowed to make a profit. In a socialist world, all banks would be nationalised and run by political appointees, a system that has worked so gloriously well in the past. By some stretch of his overactive imagination, Labour leader “Fill-In” Goff claims this kangaroo court is not a farce and not a stunt. Yes, Phil; you probably also believe that Clayton Weatherston is a misunderstood lovable rogue and after his acquittal should join David Bain in the next series of Dancing With The Stars. I wonder if the lefties will be taking a close look at the only bank that should actually be closed down because of the damage it has inflicted (and continues to inflict) on the economy – the Reserve Bank.     

See y’all next week!
Doc McGrath

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Cunningham House – Herb Greene

Cunningham Photo 1

Designed by Herb Greene, a student of Bruce Goff, and photographed by the late, great Julius Shulman (who died just last week), this 1963 Oklahoma City house  for a golf-playing couple looks over a golf course at one end, and over a rainwater collection pool at the other.  And in between, it’s all excitement!  Cunningham Section

Herb Greene’s website describes the house.

X_Cunningham Interior 3     The primary spaces of the Cunningham House, overlooking a golf course, are recessed into a slope providing a sense of security and privacy. At the same time a great roof sweeps out to the view in an expression of shelter and aspiration.
    Free-standing, vine covered ornamental trellises and brick piers facing the golf course allow the interior to be enlivened by flecks and rays from the setting sun, addressing the client's request for indirect sources of warm light.
P_Cunningham Detail     The roof extension and orientation of the house protects the vines from most of Oklahoma's ice storms. Vertical rows of dark umber brick headers are placed in a field of common red brick selected by the client. These carry the color of the umber stained roof soffits into the walls and make regular counterpoint with irregular cream-colored flash marks on the brick. The curves of the soffit rhythmically modulate the interiors, which are richly three dimensional. In contrast, street and side facades are neutral in deference to the neighborhood.
    The Cunningham Residence is further described in Herb Greene's
Mind and Image.

See more here at Herb Greene’s website, and more photos of the house here at 'Ralph’s Photography.’

Cunningham Plan

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frighten the buggers, then sack ‘em [updated]

PSA president Brenda Pilott fears that suggestions by Treasury head John Whitehead of sweeping and urgent changes to the government bureaucracy will only make bureaucrats “fearful” – excellent! about time some of the buggers were made to feel a cold sweat --  and “inefficient.”   Does she mean more inefficient?  Hard to believe that’s possible, Brenda.

Pilott also says “1500 public sector jobs have been lost since the general election, and it's hard to see how the economy will be strengthened by sending more public servants to the dole queue.”  Perhaps because if enough of the buggers are sacked, their dead weight will be off our shoulders?

When the economy is heading south and the ratio of worker to bureaucrat is around 1.5 workers to every bureaucrat (and falling), 1500 bureaucrats’ jobs lost is barely even a good start.

It’s not just that we have to pay for the buggers with money that could instead be spent productively, but every one of these bastards is being paid to get in our way. 

By that standard, every bureaucrat job “lost” is a bonus – even if you have to pay ‘em for a year’s holiday first.

UPDATE:  Just an example of the sort of bullshit we’re paying for.  The Ministry of Health yesterday released 4 new research RFPs, i.e., “Requests for Proposals,” or in plain English the step just before calling a tender:

  • Research project to investigate the effect of Electronic Gambling Machine Player Information Display and Pop-up Systems on Gamblers’ behaviour.
  • Research project to investigate how Gambling Venue characteristics influence Gambling and Problem Gambling behaviour.
  • Research project to investigate how Game Characteristics influence Gambling and Problem Gambling Behaviour.
  • Research project to investigate the effect of Gambling advertising, Marketing, and Sponsorship on gambling perceptions and behaviour.

To be fair, these aren’t as destructive to economic progress as the work of agencies like NZQA and the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Building and Housing, but they do give you an indication of the sort of bullshit that bureaucrats and their consultants do every day while thinking they have a real job.

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Central bankers: Out there without a clue [updated]

This video of Federal Reserve chairman Ben  Bernanke puts into perspective the recent predictions of of economic recovery made by our own central banker, Alan Bollard.  Frankly my dears, for all the reverence they’re given, these guys don’t have a clue. 

Bob Murphy calls it “The Best Five-Minute-And-Seven-Second Argument Against Giving [Central Bankers] More Power.”  Enjoy.

UPDATE:  To be fair, it’s not just central bankers whose crystal balls need work.  There’s a Prime Minister not a million miles from here who’s similarly bereft.

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Quote of the Day: On the Apollo landing

There was an aura of triumph about the entire mission of Apollo 11, from the perfect launch to the climax. An assurance of success was growing in the wake of the rocket through the four days of its moon-bound flight. No, not because success was guaranteed—it is never guaranteed to man—but because a progression of evidence was displaying the precondition of success: these men know what they are doing.
SylviaBokor-TheAscentOfMan
    No event in contemporary history was as thrilling, here on earth, as three moments of the mission's climax: the moment when, superimposed over the image of a garishly colored imitation-module standing motionless on the television screen, there flashed the words: "Lunar module has landed"—the moment when the faint, gray shape of the actual module came shivering from the moon to the screen—and the moment when the shining white blob which was Neil Armstrong took his immortal first step. At this last, I felt one instant of unhappy fear, wondering what he would say, because he had it in his power to destroy the meaning and the glory of that moment, as the astronauts of Apollo 8 had done in their time. He did not. He made no reference to God; he did not undercut the rationality of his achievement by paying tribute to the forces of its opposite; he spoke of man. ‘That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ So it was.” 
                                                                           - Ayn Rand, ‘Apollo 11’ from The Voice of Reason 
                                                        [H
at tip Samizdata UK. Painting by Sylvia Bokor]

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Bigger than Ben Hur!

I bet you never realised just how many of the “biggest grossing movies of all time” were produced before the latest decade of blockbusters and brainless garbage – and just how few in the last few years.

In fact, when you adjust for the falling US dollar – which has lost around ninety-five times its purchasing power in the ninety-six years since the Federal Reserve has been “looking after” it – turns out only one film in the past 15 years even makes the top 10, “and the highest grossing movie of the 21st century - The Dark Knight (2008) - ranks 27th overall”!

Click the link to see what are the real top grossing films of all time.

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Monday Morning Ramble #37 [update 5]

Here’s another bunch o’links I’ve been wanting to talk to you about  for a week or so . . .

  • Liberty Scott asks if government censorship of the internet in the name of child porn is a “trojan horse for censoring more than material produced in the context of a real crime.”  Given that the Department of Internal Affairs is intending to take your name, rank and IP number if you access any one of a list of sites that only they are allowed to know (a little like playing Russian roulette with an opponent who’s also making up the rules as you go), you have to wonder.
    And Emma Hart (who believes “the Censor's Office in New Zealand does a very good job”!) is nonetheless sufficiently concerned about government “filtering” of the internet to believe you should be to.
  • MacDoctor suggests we should all be more thoughtful about Chief Justice Sian Elias’s ‘Blameless Babes‘ speech. But his own thoughts, which are representative of many, is that the menu of alternatives for the justice system is exhausted by it being either Restorative, Rehabilitative or Retributive.  Like many others, including Ms Elias, he doesn’t realise its primary purpose is to be Protective – of us.  Not to reduce the number of criminals, but to reduce the number of victims.
  • Warmists are waving the white flag.  While the politicians are insisting “the science is settled” and moving to strangle industry in the name of fighting global warming, leading warmist website Real Climate (“Climate Science from real climate scientists”) is waving the white flag.  Recognising that we’ve now seen a decade of cooling (“or at least flat lining”) instead of the runaway warming their models predict, they’re now retreating to a fallback position: that “the era of consistent record-breaking global mean temperatures will not resume until roughly 2020.” Far enough away to save their careers, perhaps.  See their wriggling at: Warming, interrupted: Much ado about natural variability.
    Anthony Watts gives the obituary for warmist science: “Imagine, twenty-two or more years (1998 to ~2020) of no new global temperature record. What would that do to the debate? . . .  Policy makers and the public can handle uncertainty, its the nonsense they have trouble with.
    And Mickey’s Muses makes it explicit: “I think I hear the fat lady singing.”
  • Meanwhile, Doug Reich “debunks the myth that stimulus programs and/or cap and trade actually will ‘create’ employment, so-called ‘Green Jobs’."
    Read Obama's "Green Jobs" Through a Broken Window.
  • And what about those "well-intentioned idealists" we call environmentalists? Says Doug (again) at The Rational Capitalist, "Given the deadly consequences of implementing the U.S. Cap and Trade Bill, among other environmentalist and leftist proposals, can anyone argue that these people are ‘well-intentioned idealists’?"
    Read Lethal Exposure and see if you still can.
  • Speaking of politicisation of science, Spiked Online weighs in on the “politics” of Swine Flu: “This politicisation of swine flu is bad for our health. There are two swine flus: the real disease, which is proving manageable, and the fantasy catastrophic disease invented by officialdom.” 
    Read This politicisation of swine flu is bad for our health.
  • And now on to the politicisation of economics.   Rational Capitalist Doug Reich invites you to try this at home: “If you want to understand why “stimulus” programs do not work in the sense of generating economic growth, try the following experiment at home or at your place of business.  Go up to someone and hand them $20 and tell them that by giving them this money, you intend to “stimulate” the local economy and observe what happens . . .”  Read on for a simple way to understand stimulunacy: Obama: Please Try This at Home.
  • What about the politicisation of childcare?  Activism on the anti-smacking law shouldn’t overlook that just because something’s legal doesn’t make it compulsory – and just because it’s been made illegal, it doesn’t make it right.
    Fact is, non-punitive discipline of children is possible, but it’s hard.  Kelly Elmore gives a great account of just how hard it is to deal with a tantrum without resorting to what we’d all like to do at such times: Horrendous Tantrum, Desire to Punish, and What I Did Instead.  Good reading.
  • And the politicisation of food?  Executive director of the Organisation for Rare Disorders, John Forman, is aghast at the cancelling of compulsory folate in bread.  He wonders “"Who is going to take responsibility for a couple of classrooms of kids that are not going to be there - every year?"  Says Elliot Smith, the answer is “My Wife.”
    UPDATE: Lindsay Perigo applauds the cancellation: “"There can be no argument about this," says Perigo. "It's solely a freedom issue, not one of the health benefits or risks of adding folic acid to bread. People who want the stuff should go visit their pharmacist, not foist it on the rest of us. . . The point now is to ensure that the wishy-washy John Key doesn't backslide on this, and that the government generally moves in the direction of favouring freedom over fascism in *all* matters. 
    “In the meantime, if bakers wanted voluntarily to enhance the health of the nation, they might consider adding prussic acid to the bread of politicians and journalists with socialist agendas," Perigo concludes.
  • Caught up with the NBR-versus-bloggers kerfuffle yet? National Business Review owner Barry Colman appears to think that bloggers are destroying his business model. Excuse me, that’s  the "huge band of amateur, untrained, unqualified bloggers” who, he says “have swarmed over the internet pouring out columns of unsubstantiated ‘facts’ and ‘hysterical opinion’" who have destroyed his business model.
    Blogger and trained economist Paul Walker destroys that argument in short order,  and then trained international economists pick up the threadBernard Hickey explains why Bazza’s business model needs work (following which Cactus returns the favour).
    Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is celebrating, rather that denigrating, the work of economics bloggers (which rather supports Paul Walker’s argument), and the National Business Review will shortly begin charging for “subscriber-only” content.
    [UPDATE: Russell Brown weighs in.]
  • I guess I should post a link to my own thoughts on the blogger-MSM divide, posted a few weeks back: Just the Facts, Ma’am.
  • Working woman Cactus Kate explains why the most profitable career path for New Zealand women is now . .  wait for it . . . housework
    And she points out why Obama Goes Where White Men Fear .
  • 6a00d83451d75d69e201157217da8b970b-320wi If you thought that the television coverage of the last local election was appalling, then the research of Massey University’s Associate Professor Margie Comrie agrees with you.  Bryce Edwards has details: Television coverage of the 2008 NZ election.
    UPDATE:  What about the newspapers? “How well did the daily newspapers cover the 2008 election campaign? Did readers get good, substantial information to make informed choices between parties? Or did the papers focus on the personalities and events, and more superficial aspects of the campaign? Was the ‘horse race’ given greater coverage than policy? Was ‘there a structural bias towards coverage of the major players?’”
    Bryce Edwards summarises the research on these questions too – and you might be surprised by the answers. 
    Read Newspaper coverage of the 2008 NZ election.
  • colors Here’s a great optical illusion website, full of cool illusions like this one on the right. (If you see embedded spirals of green, pinkish-orange, and blue, then you might like to know that, incredibly, the green and the blue spirals are the same color.)
    Do optical illusions like this somehow challenge our claims to objectivity?  Not at all.  As the One Reality blog explains, “The senses are in fact infallible.  And optical illusions themselves are marvellous demonstrations of this fact.”
    Read Optical Illusions.
  • Ever had your photos ruined by some schmuck who’s either intentionally or inadvertently invaded your frame?  Then the photobomb website is for you, everything from videobombing to jagerbombing.
    Check it out: This is Photobomb:  Photojackers of the World Unite! [hat tip Noodle Food]
  • If you’re in Auckland and you know enough facts about whiskey (or whisky), then you could win a double pass to The Whisky Shop Tasting.
  • Ed Hudgins posts an uncharacteristically good piece celebrating the fortieth anniversary of man first walking on the moon – and explains why NASA’s finest years are behind it, and the future for private space exploration.  Read When We Walked on the Moon.
  • English grammar—it’s not just for good writing, it’s also essential for good reasoning. But it's a subject, notes the Grammar Revolution website, “that fills many of us with frustration, but it doesn't have to.”  Head to the the Grammar Revolution website to find exercises, lessons, and sentence diagrams that will turn you into a grammar pro! 
  • Following up on the July 4 celebrations, Titanic Deck Chairs hosted a spirited set of debates about the American Constitution, the motivations of the Founding Fathers, the understanding of natural rights at the time, the importance of ideas as drivers of history and other light topics. 
    See Debates on the Founding Era, Debates... Part 2, and the post that started it all, ARCTV - Ridpath on Patrick Henry.
    UPDATE: And on the same theme, Stephen Hicks recently interviewed two Adams and Jefferson scholars, Professors Brad Thompson and David Mayer, for his Rockford College  Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. Watch videos of the interviews with Thompson on John Adams and Mayer on Thomas Jefferson.
  • Gus Van Horn “sends the pope a thank-you note for bringing up the moral basis of capitalism.”  Read A Recycled Encyclical?
  • Roderick Fitts,has a new blog focused on his investigations into induction [hat tip Titanic Deck Chairs]. Here’s two goodies already:.
    1. Roderick Fitts presents Aristotle on Induction posted at Inductive Quest, calling it his “first stop on his grand adventure to understand induction."
    2. Roderick Fitts presents Induction's Bad Reputation posted at Inductive Quest, calling it “another stop in which I discuss my problems with ‘induction by simple enumeration.’ I'm with Francis Bacon on this issue, and suggest that you should be too!"
  • All that inflation of the monetary base has to go somewhere.  Right? At present banks everywhere are putting it all under their mattresses until the rainy day is over – to the frustration of politicians worldwide – but just wait ‘till they start injecting it all into the markets!
    Which is why everyone is watching the twitching of various price inflation indicators, and why –perhaps – those price inflation indicators are being tinkered with again.
  • Bernard Hickey argues NZ’s rising debt is due to investment, not extra consumption.  He attracted some good commentary.
  • greenspan-bubble “No one saw the economic collapse coming?”  We know that’s nonsense by now – but now people are starting to examine why those who got it right did get it right.   One recent study suggests that those who use “financial accounting models” rather than “equilibrium models” did best. 
    Read "No One Saw This Coming": Understanding Financial Crisis Through Accounting Models.  The comments are interesting too.
  • No wonder the Austrian school of economics is on the rise.
  • What’s Austrian Economics?  This interview with Austrian economist Richard Ebeling is an easy introduction.
    (On a personal note, it was Ebeling’s brilliantly concise Austrian Economics: A Reader that was my own introduction to Austrian economics, so I retain a certain affection for him.)
  • What’s the lowdown on crude Keynesianism?  Simple, says William Anderson: Keynesians like Paul Krugman do “not differentiate between private and government borrowing.” Business borrowing is primarily done for capital investment, whereas government borrowing is done so governments can spend more than they take in with taxes – the former is investment, the latter is consumption – “yet Keynesians seem to believe that the only benefit business borrowing provides is the spending that takes place, so if government does the borrowing and spending instead, then all the better.”  Sounds like insanity?  It is. 
    Read The Lowdown on Crude Keynesianism.
  • On a related note, Bernard Hickey notes an ASB survey showing “rental property the most popular investment choice again for 1st time since ‘07.”
    “We've learnt nothing,” he says.
  • Gold versus fractional reserve banking.  Henry Hazlitt compares the two.
  • What’s gold up to now?  David McGregor at the Sovereign Life blog offers his thoughts.  He’s a bull.  Jim Rogers isn’t so convinced.  The IMF’s big gold sell-off makes him a bear.
  • Tax 001 Ever wondered how many NZ workers to how many NZ beneficiaries?
    Answer: in 2004, the ratio was 2.5 to 1.
    Now? It’s more like 1:5 to 1.
    And that’s not counting those “workers” who are beneficiaries as well – i.e., those whose wages are paid by the taxpayer.
    Are we at a tipping point yet?
  • And finally, more Richard Feynman brilliance has been released to the ‘net, this time by Bill Gates, who brings you all seven Messenger Lectures that Richard Feynman gave at Cornell in 1964.  [Head here to find out how to watch them].
    Czech physicist Lubos Motl says Gates “considers these lectures to be best ever. He has hoped to bring them to the public for 20 years. Now, two decades and 40 billion U.S. dollars later, he has realized his dream. :-)
    ”The seven parts discuss
    1. Law of gravitation: an example of a physical law
      (includes a funny provost's introduction)
    2. The relation of mathematics and physics
    3. The great conservation principles
      (a clever mother, unlike most, counts the blocks)
    4. Symmetry in physical law
      (includes special relativity)
    5. The distinction of past and future
    6. Probability and uncertainty: the quantum mechanical view of Nature
    7. Seeking new laws”

That’s another ramble for another week, folks.
Enjoy your Monday!

UPDATE:

  • Tim Blair posts on another fortieth anniversary this week that America’s longest-serving beneficiary would like us all to forget:
  • Left? Right? Which side of the divide does this party sound like: “protectionist laws limiting the import of foreign goods. . . giving workers shares in their bosses’ companies. . .  nationalize the public utilities, railroad companies and so forth. Economic protectionism. Worker cooperatives. State ownership. . . “  Sounds like “far right to you”?  As Mark Steyn says, “On closer inspection, Europe’s “far right” doesn’t seem to go very far at all.”  [Hat tip Tim Blair]
    che_killsRead The New Right, er, Left.
  • And Tim Blair also links to the gratifying news that Stephen Soderbergh’s filmic eulogy to one of South America’s most-celebrated mass murders, Che, was “a complete box office failure.”
    Why?
    Because “the fans of a sworn enemy of private enterprise and bourgeoisie property laws” headed out in their droves and downloaded pirated copies” -- an irony that is completely lost on the film-maker.
  • From the Chicago Black Sox to Tonya Harding, sports cheaters are the ultimate second-handers says Stephen Hicks, linking to the fifteen top cheats in sports history.

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