Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Increased unemployment. Still no recovery.

A few months ago the government made a very great deal indeed about a fall in the unemployment figures, even though

a) they made them up, and
b) youth unemployment was still soaring, and
b) the real reason for the “drop” was that 7,198 people left an unemployment benefit in February to go on the student allowance.

The massaging of the figures was as transparent as the American trick of subtracting temporarily-hired census-workers from their unemployment numbers.  Nonetheless, the “dramatic drop” her department had engineered allowed Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to enthuse about a “recovery,” Alan Bollard to start raising interest rates, and Treasury to start pretending the NZ economy was going to grow at around three percent over the next year.

So what are they all saying now that the latest unemployment figures show unemployment is still rising (up 329 to 60,106)?  That total benefit numbers are rising even faster (up 1887 to 329,349, about one in every eight New Zealanders of working age)? Are they conceding their earlier errors?  Are they admitting that talk of a “recovery” is premature, if not pure fantasy? Are any of them admitting they were wrong?

No, of course not.  The spin this quarter is that we should all be happy that nearly 2000 more people are now on a benefit because this increase remains “below forecast.”

What a lot of cant.

Still, no-one’s using that word “recovery.”  And it’s been a long time since I’ve head anyone say “green shoots.”

Unless they’re laughing when they say it.

The Gaza Flotilla Choir presents: “We Con the World”

A classic song from Gaza’s Peace Faux-Tilla [hat tip Prodos]:

Classic tune.   Classic chorus:

We’ll make the world
Abandon reason.
We’ll make them all believe that the Hamas
Is Momma Teresa.

If you enjoyed that, you’ll enjoy Craig Biddle’s new piece in ‘The Objective Standard.’

_Quote It considers the essentials of the recent ‘peace activist’ effort to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the pathetic nature of Israel and America’s responses to the assault, and the principles that should have governed their responses.”

Read it here: “Israel and America’s Flotilla Follies (and How To Avoid Them in the Future)

In the trough: Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Almost the whole mountain of available paperwork on the country’s biggest beneficiaries has just been released to the public, with the request that you join in and help the media to sniff out all the rorts of all the Ministers in all 16,522 pages.  There’s guidance from both Idiot/Savant and David Farrar:

_Quote Start here, click to get a random Minister's file, page back and forth within it (or just download the whole thing), then when you're done, mark it as not interesting or worthy of further investigation. (Note: if you're not sure what's allowable or not, check out schedule 2 of the Travel, Accommodation, Attendance, and Communication Services Available to Members of the Executive).”

And Whale Oil has just released into the wild 74 pages of bank statements and expense claims from Auckland mayoral wannabe Len Brown that you can trawl through to your heart’s content to see just how he likes spending your money on himself.

So for full completeness now, from all the higher-profile trough-dwellers, all we’re missing now is the same thing showing us Bob Parker’s and John Banks’s own similar spending over that same period.  Anybody on the hunt for that? Conor…? Mike…? Anyone…?

Rolling, rolling, rolling: The Treaty gravy train is still rolling

As usurpation is the exercise of power, which another hath a right to; so tyranny is
the exercise of power beyond right, which no body can have a right to.”
            - John Locke

The Foreshore & Seabed deal is complicated enough already without Hone Harawira muddying its far from pellucid waters.  But bear in mind that when Hone complains the government has “pandered to rednecks” and he calls the agreement “bullshit” [audio] he’s just playing politics with you.  He just wants mainstream New Zealanders* to think his tribalists have been shafted so they won’t look too deeply into what’s just been given away.

Hone is obviously upset that the government has (quite properly) refused to make a gift to iwi of that which they were previously required to go to court to prove. From Lew at KiwiPolitico (who, it seems, agrees with Hone):

_Quote “‘[The government, says Hone] took the two things which would make Pākehā happy and refused to give the one thing which would make Māori happy.’
“The two things are guaranteed public access and inalienability [clarifies Lew]; the one thing is Māori title.”

I disagree.  I’d say the government got one thing right and several things wrong. But I’d go further. In opening the door for iwi to make a form of common law claim to property in specific tracts of foreshore or seabed, on that at least the government has done well. This would be using power to recognise right. So too would have been recognising the right to alienate (sell) that to which title had been proved. On that, the government has done poorly.  That too would have been using power to protect right.

What Hone wants “mainstream” New Zealand to overlook however is what has been given beyond right.

The devil seems to lie in what changed between yesterday and the government’s offer last month to allow this deal to happen. There appear to be two new things handed over:

  1. A unjustified declaration in law that Maori have mana over the foreshore and seabed.
       The universal recognition or mana tukuiho--“recognition for all iwi with a coastal connection, whether or not they meet the test for customary title”—will “cite iwi and hapu with specific coastal areas,” says the Herald, spelling out out “to councils and other statutory organisations what rights the recognised iwi and hapu have on conservation issues in their area.”
    In other words, the door has been opened now to grant Maori leaders a “partnership” in law that the Treaty itself never promised, but which the myth-makers have been agitating for for at least two decades. 
    A form of partnership that will make a gift to iwi of unspecified political power over aquaculture operations, minerals claims, harbours, ports, airports and more.
    A gift that has just opened the door to a world of trouble.
  2. “The Government also agreed [says the Herald] that iwi which have already had a Treaty of Waitangi settlement can make a new claim for customary title in the foreshore and seabed.”
    So much for all those “full and final” settlements too, eh?

And so much for one law for all.

So the scorecard to me on yesterday’s agreement looks like one step forward, and three back.  And in every direction, these are big steps.

The gravy train is still rolling.

* * * *

* Yes, Virginia, it’s now PC to use the “mainstream” word.  You now have Aunty Tariana’s permission.

UPDATE: Dim Post has a similar view of Hone’s politicking.

_QuoteThis is just cynical politics: Harawira’s censure is beneficial to National – it’s voters hate him and see his anger as an indication that their party has done the right thing. And it lets the Maori Party pretend it has at least one member who speaks for those who don’t like their coalition choices which is obviously not the case.”

“Only a few dozen” IPCC “experts” support their so-called consensus [update 3]

In his widely reported attack on climate change skeptics last week, John Key’s Chief Science Adviser Propagandist for Global Warming Zealotry Peter Gluckman conceded that he himself is “not a climate scientist…

_Quote_Idiot But suffice to say that I accept the weight of evidence that anthropogenic climate change is real and at some time in the not too distant future there will be significant impacts. This is the consensus view reached by every credible scientific body that has examined the question.”

He went on to insist again yesterday, in response to further criticisms of his non-scientific tirade, that there is “an international scientific consensus that the world is warming,” so skeptics should essentially just go away and shut the hell up.

But as I asked last week after his outburst,  if the science is truly settled, then why has the IPCC felt the need to manufacture evidence, and the government scientists on which it relies felt the need to massage data and alter temperature records? To have departed from science so severely “that they have become advocates for one particular set of hypotheses, and have become militant fighters against all others”?

If the case is closed, then why has a cross examination of global warming science conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics just concluded that virtually every claim advanced by global warming proponents fails to stand up to scrutiny?

If there is a scientific consensus, then why has Britain’s Royal Society of scientists, of which I believe Professor Gluckman is a member, just released a statement saying quite explicitly that “any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect.”

In fact, in his own words Professor Gluckman places this so-called “consensus” above the scientific evidence itself—as you can see if you read his original speech—but even as he insists that politicians and the news media talk only about this so-called consensus, instead of those who point out its non-existence, he concedes that “the [consensus] conclusions are not universally accepted.”

So at the same time he submits the so-called consensus is his strongest argument, at the same time he agrees that the consensus itself is not universal.

In fact, as the Royal Society points out, the “consensus conclusions” are not even so widely accepted as Professor Gluckman would like us to think—not even by the IPCC, upon whose pronouncements he wishes us to rely. As a prominent IPCC insider has declared unequivocally in the last few days, the IPCC consensus on climate change is phoney.

_Quote The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider.  The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was ‘only a few dozen experts,’ he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.
    “‘Claims such as ‘2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous,’ the paper states unambiguously, adding that they rendered “the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism.’
    “Hulme, Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia –  the university of Climategate fame — is the founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and one of the UK’s most prominent climate scientists. Among his many roles in the climate change establishment, Hulme was the IPCC’s co-ordinating Lead Author for its chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for its Third Assessment Report and a contributing author of several other chapters.
    “Hulme’s depiction of IPCC’s exaggeration of the number of scientists who backed its claim about man-made climate change can be found on pages 10 and 11 of his paper, found here.”

No wonder so many many once celebrated climate researchers are now feeling like the used-car salesmen of the science world—and that Professor Gluckman feels called upon to step in and defend them.

UPDATE 1 [9:52am, Tue]: If you’re near a radio, Leighton Smith at NewstalkZB will be interviewing the Pennsylvania law professor responsible for the cross-examination mentioned above at 10:30 this morning.  Listen in at the NewstalkZB website if you can’t get near a radio. (And I’ll try to get an audio link up as soon as I can.)

UPDATE 2: Here’s the audio link for Leighton’s interview with Jason Scott Johnston, Professor and Director of the Program on Law, Environment and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, who found in his cross-examination of global warming science that “on virtually every major issue in climate change science, the [reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and other summarizing work by leading climate establishment scientists have adopted various rhetorical strategies that seem to systematically conceal or minimize what appear to be fundamental scientific uncertainties or even disagreements.”  In short, that “it doesn’t withstand scrutiny.”

The interview starts at 35:20: “Interview with Professor Jason Scott Johnson

UPDATE 3: A related point made by Andrew Bolt:

    “But this raises the question: how easy is it for such a small group [or a senior science adviser] to become slaves of group think - or, indeed, to become intoxicated with their enormous and flattering influence on …politics?
    “In 2006, Professor Edward Wegman raised this very fear in his report, commissioned by the United States House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee to examine the IPCC’s discredited “hockey stick”, devised by Michael Mann, which purported to show unprecedented warming last century:

_Quote One of the interesting questions associated with the ‚"hockey stick controversy’ are the relationships among the authors and consequently how confident one can be in the peer review process. In particular, if there is a tight relationship among the authors and there are not a large number of individuals engaged in a particular topic area, then one may suspect that the peer review process does not fully vet papers before they are published…
    ‘However, it is immediately clear that the Mann, Rutherford, Jones, Osborn,
                   Briffa, Bradley and Hughes form a clique
, each interacting with all of the others. A     
                   clique is a fully connected subgraph, meaning everyone in the clique interacts
                   with every one else in the clique....
                   ‘Michael Mann is a co-author with every one of the other 42 [in his clique]. The
                   black squares on the diagonal [fig. 5.2] indicate that the investigators work
                   closely within their group, but not so extensively outside of their group.’

“Note those names again: Michael Mann, Scott Rutherford, Phil Jones, Tim Osborn, Keith Briffa, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes are all climate scientists implicated in the Climategate scandal.”

How to bluff your way through an abstract art opening

artshow John Cox’s Art blog tells you how to bluff your way through your next local abstract art opening:

_Quote I thought it might be fun to offer up a few samples of ArtSpeak and then translate them for your edification:

HOW ORIGINAL! = ( I've never seen this level of crap before.)

HIS USE OF SPACE IS EYE-POPPING! = ( He ran out of canvas.)

HIS COLOR CHOICES ARE UNBELIEVABLE! = ( Is that puke green or baby shit yellow?)

WHAT A SURPRISING TALENT! = ( I thought he parked cars at the Cheese Factory.)

( This zinfindel isn't bad.)

Okay, now....get out there and support your local art scene!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Foreshore & Seabed agreement: One cheer please.

The government had essentially five choices how to deal with the foreshore & seabed around New Zealand.  It could be, in ascending order of superiority:

  • Government-owned in perpetuity, i.e., nationalised
  • Unowned in perpetuity, i.e., collectivised
  • Iwi owned in perpetuity, i.e., tribalised
  • Iwi-owned until sold, i.e., privatised by fiat
  • Unowned until or unless right to title is established in court, i.e., privatised by right

It appears that today’s agreement moves it from being nationalised to being collectivised, i.e., from the lowest rung of hell to the second-lowest.

One cheer please, for that.


Despite my worst fears, it turns out from results over the weekend that there really are three good reasons to like soccer.

  • Australia are pummelled (how terribly sad)
  • The poms are humbled (how terribly unfortunate)
  • And South African police have just warned World Cup-goers to be alert for a pack of marauding Argentine hooligans, of which they have now released pictures:


So that’s what they call it the beautiful game?

Meanwhile, in other sports news from the weekend

BP: Too big to fail? [update 4]

OB-IV874_bpvalu_D_20100611163307 IT’S ONE OF THE OLDEST rules in the common law book: Produce something unsavoury on your property, or unleash something extraordinarily unsavoury, and you bear sole responsibility for whatever damage it might do to your neighbours.

That’s the rule that might bury BP.

The calculation is simple. The cleanup bill for BP’s fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico fiasco looks to be around $100 billion. And after last week’s collapse in its share price, BP’s market capitalisation is still around $100 billion, just enough to pay the costs of all those whose livelihoods have suffered damage by their actions.  And therein you see the big problem for the big oil company—and for the big British pension funds that have relied on BP’s returns to bankroll Britons’ retirement

It’s not good enough to argue that BP is too big to fail. Damage your neighbours’ property—or the fishing grounds and shrimp harvests in which your neighbours have property—and it’s your responsibility to pay for the cleanup, even if that buries you.  (Note that it buries you, but not your assets, which still go on after your demise, just in other hands.)

And it’s not going to be good enough to argue that British pension funds are too big and too important to be able to fail. Risk must come with consequences, if law is to mean anything at all.

SO WHAT WENT WRONG and who was responsible?  The mainstream answer was put up by Rachel Maddow last week, who demonstrates that brains are no good unless you use them. “Tonight on the show,” she says on her blog, "we're looking at why BP wasn't prepared to deal with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Short answer: No one made the company get ready.”

It might  be a short answer, but it’s sure as hell a wrong one. It isn’t a who that makes a company formulate plans to mitigate or avoid disasters, it’s a what.

Contrary to Rachel’s contradictory world-view, what does (or should) motivate companies like BP to mitigate or avoid disasters is one very basic thing, and that’s their own long-term self-interest.

I can almost hear Rachel’s “WTF?!” as I say that. But as BP’s imminent demise demonstrates, if you’re not set up to properly handle the many things that can go wrong in unleashing something as unsavoury (in the wrong places) as BP’s product, then your long-term future is a dismal one—as is the future of all those who were relying on your acumen and decision-making ability, like the beneficiaries of those pension funds for example.

Clearly, if your long-term survival and prosperity is important to you—and why wouldn’t it be?—then the more unsavoury the stuff with which you deal, or the more damaging the consequences of its uncontrolled release, then the more care you must take to insure against  its unplanned release, and to deal with it if that happens.

On the basis of BP’s obvious unpreparedness, it looks like BP has betrayed its own self-interest, and after paying the bill for that failure they will be left only to provide the fertiliser for the better management of their assets by others.  In that, there is a powerful ethical lesson for everyone involved in business.

    “…the likes of Tiger Woods and Bernie Madoff and Elliot Spitzer, all of whom would conventionally be called “selfish” for what they did, should actually cause you to call into question your conventional view.  None of these mean at all look like they’ve been rationally selfish—in fact they’ve all been decidedly unselfish in any rational sense--and that, in fact, is the leading cause of their downfall.”
The Unselfish Actions of Today’s “Selfish” Men - THE UNDERCURRENT

UPDATE 2: Another memo to Rachel Maddow [hat tip Gus Van Horn]:

    "’If you could control an oil spill with lawyers and regulation-writers, and by signing papers and obtaining court injunctions . . . then maybe the U.S. government could do something’ said Byron W. King, an energy analyst at Agora Financial. ‘But really, Uncle Sam has almost no institutional ability to control the oil spill. For that, you need people with technical authority, technical skill and firms with industrial capabilities.’"

And also, one might add, a keen sense of their own rational self-interest.

UPDATE 3: You think maybe a tantrum from the president might fix things?  Um . . .

    “’Since the oil rig exploded, the White House has tried to project a posture that is unflappable and in command.
    “’But to those tasked with keeping the president apprised of the disaster, Obama’s clenched jaw is becoming an increasingly familiar sight. During one of those sessions in the Oval Office the first week after the spill, a president who rarely vents his frustration cut his aides short, according to one who was there.
    “‘Plug the damn hole,’ Obama told them.’
    “That’s the politician’s answer to every intractable problem: give orders, issue threats, and wait for obedience. But the creative human mind cannot take orders like that. Notice I didn’t say, ‘refuses to take orders.’ I said, ‘cannot take orders.’
    “By that I mean, the task of plugging a leak 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico is an engineering feat. BP’s acknowledged role in causing the leak does not alter the fact that careful study, creative thought, and the exacting deployment of technical and mechanical skills over long distances are all necessary in order to fix the leak. No amount of jaw clenching or bug-eyed threats from politicians can bring the solution one inch closer to reality. The human mind does not operate by force from outside. If engineering achievements could be conjured up by barking orders, the Soviet Union would be a thriving nation overflowing with engineering marvels, instead of a dead husk…”
“Plug the damn hole!” – THOMAS BOWDEN

The implacable enemy that Obama faces is not BP, but reality:

    “Now, as the economy implodes under the weight of government debt, taxes, and every manner of statist intervention, (including environmental regulations that resulted in deep water drilling! [HT: Gus Van Horn] and now, the shut down of oil rigs that work!) Obama and his supporters find themselves up against an intransigent and implacable force - reality.”

Which as King Canute should have taught them, is the one thing over which politicians really do have no power.

UPDATE 4Noodle Food has another good link:

    “The standard argument [made by Maddow and others is] that the problem behind the BP oil spill was a problem of capitalism. Instead, [this article by Wendy Milling] shows how it was an industrial accident significantly worsened by anti-capitalist government policies to become a disaster.”

Read Milling’s article, "No Thomas Frank, Capitalism Is Perfect.”  Great title, great arguments. For example:

    “Assaults on capitalism are rooted in a crybaby metaphysics, and they rely on obfuscations, equivocations, and an attitude of militant evasion. One trick is to make inappropriate demands of capitalism, then stomp and pout and denounce capitalism when those demands are not met.”

Stomp and pout?  You’d think she’d been reading Martyn Bradbury. 

Friday, 11 June 2010

The power of Beck

I logged on this morning to find a huge spike in my readers.  Hundreds of readers had beaten a path to my door to read a 2008 post on a Rudyard Kipling poem.

Why?  Because, as I soon discovered, Glenn Beck mentions the poem—or at least plagiarises it—in the trailer for his new book, The Overton Window

Love him or hate him—and there are sound reasons for both--such is the power of Glenn Beck.

But that’s only a trivial example of his reach.  Here’s something even more powerful.

On Tuesday night in the States, Beck ran a special on F.A. Hayek’s classic 1944 warning to the world about incipient totalitarianism, The Road to Serfdom, the book that woke up a whole generation, including Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Within minutes, the server for the Mises Institute website was starting to smell the way servers do when they’re being asked to do too much by too many —they called it The Beck Bomb— and  Hayek’s Wikipedia entry had crashed; the GOOGLE search phrase “The Road to Serfdom” was #1 on Google Trends; the audio version of The Road to Serfdom was #2 on iTunes; and within hoursAmazon were reporting that the book was now their number one best-seller.

From zero to number one in just a few short hours.  Not bad going for a book few had read in years.

That’s the power of Glenn Beck.

I look forward to his show next week on Atlas Shrugged.  :-)

In the meantime, here’s the whole ‘Road to Serfdom’ show in four parts.  Here’s a link to download a cartoon version of the book (which has the virtue of brushing past Hayek’s [let’s be kind here] limp defence of laissez-faire capitalism and the free market), here’s the Reader’s Digest condensed version of Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”and here’s the Google Books online version.

Oh, and don’t forget to grab Beck’s guest Tom Woods’s great books either while you’re in a book-buying mood.  He’s one of the good guys:

Beehive bludgers

Wasn’t last night’s news hour-and-half delicious.  Just for once, instead of watching the usual footage lauding your politicians as demi-gods, it was possible to sit back and bask as both news teams went to town and put their talents to use picking apart the venal bastards who pick your pocket for their own peccadilloes.  Instead of lauding the Beehive bludgers for their ability to perform miracles, as they usually do, Campbell and Sainsbury and the main news reports before them took apart the Ministerial heavy spenders and their hefty case of entitle-itis.

"It's the sort of thing that can undermine confidence in politicians," said your Prime Minister.  No, John, it’s the sort of thing that can allow us all to see the scum for what they are: sordid little power-lusters. 

Dear Professor Gluckman . . . [updated]

Dr Shaun Holt responds to Professor Peter Gluckman in a letter to the Herald:

_quote John Key’s Chief Science Advisor Peter Gluckman says that people who question the theory of and data supporting runaway global warming are comparable to those who question the links between tobacco and cancer and those in the HIV-AIDs denial movement. Yet according to the IPCC's own data, global temperature has not increased since 1998. Scientists should always be open and accepting of new evidence, should revise their theories accordingly, should argue with data not ad hominem attacks, and should not declare a legitimate debate over and call anyone who questions it crazy. It is sad and ironic that the Chief Science Advisor is not behaving like a scientist.”

‘In the Stillness’ - Bryce Cameron Liston

BryceCameronListon-InTheStillness Bryce Cameron Liston
In the Stillness
Oil on Linen
19 x 24 inches

Just one of hundreds of beautiful paintings in this year’s Art Renewal Center awards. (Go on, visit the ARC site, where there are 286 images from the competition.) 

This year over 1700 entries were submitted, with 34 awards given out in each of the six divisions, for a total purse of $80,000. And this beauty was only a highly commended!

Visit the artist’s website here: The Artwork of Bryce Cameron Liston.  And buy the painting here.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Blog Awards awarded [updated]

Damn. Bugger.  Blast.

The first annual Air New Zealand Best Blog Award has just been announced, and I didn’t win.

Damn. Bugger.  Blast.

Congratulations however to Cactus Kate, Dim Post, No Right Turn and Whale Oil who between them hoovered up the top prizes in what looked like a pretty fair judgement. Well, mostly fair.  ;^)  [Scroll down from the announcements to see some of the judges’ comments.]  This, in awarding Cactus the palm leaf was right on the money in describing her blog:

_quote Intelligent, persuasive and influential, with the sort of investigative journalism Metro should be publishing.”

So true.

So congratulations to Cactus and the runners up, and thanks to all of them and my regular reads, and everyone else who entered, for helping make to make it worth logging on to the internet every morning.

Still and all: Bugger.

UPDATE: The gracious and the not-so gracious:

**What** climate consensus, Oh Great Science Adviser?

_Quote Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about
freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each
and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”
- Vaclav Klaus, Blue Planet in Green Shackles

If you're wondering why on earth John Key is pushing ahead with his "world-leading" Emissions Tax Scam in the teeth of a recession and the face of widespread opposition—wondering perhaps just where in hell he’s getting his advice from—then wonder no more: it's because of increasingly shrill “advice” like this from his so-called science adviser, Peter Gluckman: that “the climate row” is “undermining “ confidence in science.

_Quote_Idiot‘ There is a growing concern among those of us who have some role in marrying science and policy that the way the debate is being framed is undermining confidence in the science system,’ he told a Victoria University seminar series on key policy challenges facing New Zealand.”

Oh forfend us, oh Great Science Adviser from challenging figures that don’t stack up!

The Great Science Adviser  is a fine scientist  in his own field, but he is not a climate scientist.  Further, since his association with the Prime Minister—and his elevation to having a role in “marrying science and policy” (you can just hear the smug, self-satisfaction in that phrase, can’t you)—he appears to have eaten of the power-lust tree, peddling the mistaken idea that when government-appointed scientists talk, we should all just shut up and listen.

Scientific debate is undermining science, you say?  Well, forgive me Oh Great Science Adviser, but your political slip is showing. Whatever your scientific credentials, there is not and never can be a time or a means by which scientific debate can undermine science.  Scientific debate underpins science, it does not undermine it.  To not know that is, frankly, ignorant.

What does undermine science  is the shutting down of debate by claims of a non-existent scientific consensus, which is what Professor Gluckman explicitly relies on in his argument.  What does undermine science  is its politicisation, which is what Professor Gluckman specifically endorses, and enjoins.

And there is never a more important time in which to challenge the politicised science, and to demonstrate that there is no consensus whatsoever.

The science is settled?  Then why has the IPCC felt the need to manufacture evidence, and the government scientists on which it relies felt the need to massage data and alter temperature records? To have departed from science so severely “that they have become advocates for one particular set of hypotheses, and have become militant fighters against all others”?

The case is closed? Then why has a cross examination of global warming science conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Law and Economics just concluded that virtually every claim advanced by global warming proponents fails to stand up to scrutiny?

There is a scientific consensus? Then why has Britain’s Royal Society of scientists, of which I believe Professor Gluckman is a member, just released a statement saying quite explicitly that “any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect.”

No wonder so many many once celebrated climate researchers are now feeling like the used-car salesmen of the science world—and that Professor Gluckman feels called upon to step in and defend them.

But in defending these scientists, in endorsing the politicisation of science, he is doing irreparable damage to science itself—and in propping up John Key’s Emissions Tax Scam he is endorsing inflicting irreparable harm on New Zealand agriculture, and New Zealand business. 

Shame on him.

Movies. Massages. Golf clubs: "Using their ministerial credit cards like personal cheque accounts," bless ‘em. [Update 3]

Yep, the latest spending figures are out for the country’s biggest beneficiaries, your politicians, who spend your money like water when they’re signing off as ministers, and spend it like a torrential flood when they’re signing off on their own personal spending—at least when you’re paying for it.  Chris Carter. Tim Groser.  Shane Jones. Parekura Horomia.  Mita Ririnui. Drinks. Movies. Magazines. Massages. Golf clubs. "Using their ministerial credit cards like personal cheque accounts."  Just another day spending ministerial perks, eh bro.

Chris Carter for one has gone on the offensive, saying his own spending (if not that of his colleagues) is mistaken rather than dishonest.

And sure, the amounts we’re talking about in absolute terms here are risible, at least in comparision with the multi-billions of your dollars they spend in their day job; but what their willingness to whip out their taxpayer-funded credit card to spend up large on themselves demonstrates all too well is the attitude in which they hold your money, and the care with which they spend it (or lack thereof).

And you might want to ask yourself, if they’re this careless over their personal spending, do you really want people like this in charge of spending 43% of this country’s GDP?  Because you keep voting for them as if you do.

Which means, dear reader, that their wastefulness is really your fault.

Bless you.

UPDATE 1: Naturally, when someone mentioned Shane Jones the first thing Motella thought of was HOTEL PORN!!

UPDATE 2: Clearly missing the attention herself, Annette King offers up some unfortunate imagery in response to Plane Shane’s taxpaid porno problem: 

_Quote_Idiot “I think he's very embarrassed [says King].
We've said to him what he has to do now is put his head down and his bottom up and rebuild his reputation."

I think she needs a new quip-writer.

UPDATE 3:  For those who say that Kiwiblog is dead, it’s worth pointing out he can still spot gold like this:

“Twitter has been hilarious today, with scores of people tweeting suggested titles for Shane’s movies. The Twitter channel is here, and well worth following. Some of the suggested titles are:

  • Hung Parliament
  • Black Rod
  • Foreign Affairs
  • Chief whip
  • The Honourable Member
  • Erect Committee
  • Private Secretary
  • Ministerial Probe
  • De-Briefing the Minister
  • Yes! Yes! Minister
  • Anti Smacking, Pro Spanking
  • Loves Labour Tossed
  • Withdraw And Apologise
  • Mixed Member Proportional
  • The bi-election
  • The Thick Of It
  • Parliamount
  • Ejaculated from the house
  • The State of Head
  • Crouching Taniwha, Horny Dragon
  • Debbie does Dannevirke
  • Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Rainbow Lay-bour

“And many many more. They keep coming in every few seconds. So many wits.”

KRIS SAYCE: The Sweet Smell of Cheap Money

Guest post by Kris Sayce of Money Morning Australia

_Kris_Sayce_headshot_thumb[2] Forget Greece. Forget Spain. And forget Dubai… Oh, you’ve already forgotten Dubai, fair enough.

The biggie could be just about to hit the fan.

Not the real big one – the United States. But one of the other big ones, the UK.

According to ratings agency Fitch:

_quote The scale of the UK’s fiscal challenge is formidable and warrants a faster pace of medium term deficit reduction than set out in the April 2010 Budget. The rise in public debt ratios since 2008 is faster than for any other ‘AAA’?rated sovereign and the primary balance adjustment required to stabilise debt is amongst the highest of advanced countries. The primary deficit is nearly twice as large as that seen in previous episodes of fiscal deterioration in the UK in the 1970s and early 1990s.”

Oh dear.

And if you look at the chart below from Fitch, you’ll see that the UK is keeping pretty bad company:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge . [And for reference, New Zealand’s figure is 13 %, according to Bill English, placing us between Cyprus and Italy.]

There’s no getting around it, the UK economy is in big trouble.

You can see how big, by looking at a few of the figures compiled by Fitch.

Take a look at these numbers showing the state of the UK government budget expressed as a percentage of GDP:


Click to enlargeSource: Fitch Ratings. [For reference, according to the OECD, New Zealand govt spending as a percentage of GDP is 43%.  Its tax-take is 40%]

It’s pretty unbelievable to begin with that the UK government takes 36.1% of the economy’s GDP in taxation. A number forecast to rise to 38.3% by 2015.

But worse than that is the expenditure. Not content with taxing too much, the UK government has been spending a lot more than it takes in taxes. The expenditure accounts for a massive 47.9% of GDP.

In other words, nearly 50 pence of every pound spent in the UK economy is spent by the government.

No wonder it’s in such a mess. And with gross debt estimated to reach 89.2% of GDP by 2014 UK taxpayers appear destined to have a government debt albatross around their neck for many, many years to come.

And what does the new Conservative and Liberal Democrat (ConDem as it’s been labelled) propose to do about it?

[Hehem] It plans on cutting spending by GBP6.24 billion. It sounds a lot, but when you put it another way, it’s just a puny 0.4% of GDP.

Makes you wonder why they’re even bothering.

And considering one of the biggest expenses to the UK government is the untouchable National Health Service (NHS), which cost the UK taxpayer GBP92.5 billion in 2009, it’s hard to see how the government can either cut spending or pay down the national debt…

Unless it inflates its way out of trouble.

Which of course it has already tried to do with the so-called quantitative easing policy implemented by the Bank of England.

But it’s not just public sector debt that’s crippling the UK. The whole rotten economy is at it.

Our pals over at Wikipedia have compiled this table showing total external (public + private) debt per country:


Click to enlarge. [For reference, the per capita debt for New Zealand is $13,636 per capita, which as a percentage of GDP is 50%]

The UK is second only to the United States in debt owed to foreigners. A whacking great USD$9 trillion of debt, or amazingly, 416% of GDP, or a USD$147,060 per person!

You’ll notice Australia puts in an appearance with USD920 billion, or 92% of GDP.

And globally the debt figure stands at USD$56.9 trillion, which is only just less than the entire global GDP of USD$61.1 trillion:


Click to enlarge

Look, when you’re dealing with numbers this big it almost becomes incomprehensible. After all, many will argue that it doesn’t matter what the size of the debt is, but rather the ability to service it.

We’ve heard that argument plenty of times recently. It’s been applied to companies, to property buyers and investors, and also to individual countries.

The thing is, the size of the debt does matter. The argument about it being about the serviceability of the debt is just a smokescreen. In fact, you only ever hear someone talk about the serviceability of debt when they or the institution they’re talking about is in too much debt.

The total debt matters because that is the amount owed to the creditor, plain and simple.

The debt must eventually be repaid. Arguing that the size of the repayments is all that matters just doesn’t make sense. Besides, it encourages and leads to ever larger debt levels, which is what we’ve seen the world over.

Think of it this way. If you lend a mate $20,000 and he agrees to pay you back $100 per week over 4 years then you might be happy with that. He’s a mate and you’re sure he’s good for it.

But then in a year’s time when he still owes you $15,000 he asks you for another $20,000 for which he’ll pay you another $100 per week, you might think, “Hang on, that’s 35 grand I’m lending here…”

And then another year passes and he wants another $20,000… and so on.

At some point, as a creditor you’re gonna start to get concerned about whether and when you’re going to get your money back. Because all you’ve done so far is lend out money. You’ve received the weekly repayments but somehow you’ve got less money in the bank because you’ve continued to lend it out.

And of course, you don’t know how much your mate is borrowing from someone else either. Can he really afford to pay you back? Where’s he going to get the money from?

You soon figure out that you’re getting a raw deal, and there’s no guarantee you’ll ever be repaid.

It’s the same, but on a much bigger scale in international finance. Creditors are lending money out getting repayments in return, but the principal is never actually repaid. Refinancing or new borrowings are just added on to the old debt and the repayments just get bigger.

At some point it breaks down. Not just because of the serviceability of the debt, but rather because creditors realise they’ve been stitched up.

They want their money back or they want better terms – i.e., Higher interest rates. Or both!

Think about it. Greece was more than able to service its debt. But only so long as creditors continued to lend it more money to pay for it. As soon as creditors started to ask questions and get toey then the whole thing fell apart.

You see, it’s vendor financing on a massive scale, “Here’s a billion dollars so you can pay back the billion dollars you owe us. Now you owe us a billion dollars.”

That can’t last forever. It’s absolute madness and it’s unsustainable.

Yet the idea of serviceability of debts is gaining more traction among the mainstream drones. We witnessed the excitement on CNBC a couple of weeks ago when Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer went bonkers after figuring out the US debt costs were less today than they were two years ago, even though the debt is larger.

Why? Because interest rates are lower. The size of the debt doesn’t matter, it’s the ability to service the debt, was their claim.

But this is what happens when you have a central bank manipulating the interest rate. Luring investors and speculators in with sweet smelling cheap money.

However, the endgame won’t be so sweet when creditors decide they want their money back, want a higher rate of interest, and/or they realise cash is being devalued at such a fast rate that they no longer see any value in it or in lending it, but instead prefer real assets.

That’s the point at which inflation gets out of control. As individuals and investors seek to dispose of cash as quickly as possible in exchange for something tangible.

And don’t for a moment think that it can’t happen because thanks to the central bankers, bankers and governments, it’s destined to happen.

So next time someone tells you it’s the ability to service the debt not the size of the debt, don’t believe them.


GUEST POST: Natural Laws of Innovation – 2

Another great guest post here by Dale Halling, the second in a series on The Laws of Innovation.  The introduction is here.

Conservation Law of Innovation:
    All innovations are combinations of existing/known elements.
    Conservation of matter (and energy) means that you cannot create something from nothing.  As a result, all innovations must be a combination of existing or known elements.

Causality Law of Innovation:
    Invention precedes production, production precedes consumption and discovery precedes invention.
    In order to consume an item it first has to be produced.  Production may just be the act of finding food for a hunter gatherer, but this has to be done before it can be consumed.  With the possible exception of some very simple things, mother’s milk and air for instance, things have to be invented before they can be produced.  The elements of all inventions are made of known items, so they had to be discovered before they could be incorporated into an invention.

Set Law of Innovation:
    The number of potential innovations is essentially infinite.
    There are essentially an unlimited number of potential innovations.  Paul Romer, a professor of economics at Stanford, uses the following example to illustrate this point:

_quoteOn any conceivable horizon — I’ll say until about 5 billion years from now, when the sun explodes — we’re not going to run out of discoveries. Just ask how many things we could make by taking the elements from the periodic table and mixing them together. There’s a simple mathematical calculation: It’s 10 followed by 30 zeros. In contrast, 10 followed by 19 zeros is about how much time has elapsed since the universe was created.[1]

    Someone might object that Paul Romer has overstated the number of possible chemical inventions, since not all elements are able to chemically bind to each other.  On the other hand, this calculation only includes one of each element.  Some of our most important chemical compounds contain long chains of carbon and silicon atoms.  In addition, the elements can bond to each other in multiple ways, ionic bonds, covalent bonds, polar covalent bonds and hydrogen bonds.  Elements may also have double, triple and quadruple bonds.  When you add in all these variations, Dr. Romer probably underestimated the number of possible chemical inventions.  This calculation is only for chemistry.  When you consider computer networks or electronic circuits with millions of transistors or nodes the number of different possible connection is n(n-1)/2 or easily equal to the number of combinations described for chemistry.  This does not begin to name all the possible number of inventions.  Previous innovations often are the basis of future innovations.  As a result, the development of an innovation acts as node for additional innovations and increases the potential number of innovations rather than reducing the potential number of innovations.
    Another example that Romer uses to illustrate the unlimited number of possible combinations is all the possible bitstreams you can turn into a CD-ROM.  The number is something in the range of 10 to the power of 1 billion, which virtually ensures that we will never run out of software to discover.  He notes that there is not enough mass in the universe to make that number of CDs.[2]

The total number of innovations may be limited by the total mass and energy of the universe and the laws of entropy that limit how many elements can be combined.

Rate Law of Innovation:
    The rate of innovation is dependent on the number of innovators, the size of the set of elements the innovators can access, and the size of the set of goals.
    Innovations are combinations of elements and connections, but an individual has to put together these combinations.  If more individuals are involved in the process of trying out combinations, then there is a greater likelihood they will find a useful combination or innovation.  In a rough analogy, the more samples or children in an genetic algorithm, assuming they are diverse, the more likely or sooner you will find an acceptable solutions.  Silicon Valley often creates many companies in a particular space, which function like a large population in a genetic algorithm, and results in an optimized solution (company) more quickly than only having a few companies in the space.  Individuals create these sample combinations and test them against a selection criteria.  If more people are creating these samples then you increase your probability of inventing a useful product of service.  The corollary is that you have more “failures” than you have success.
    A successful solution to a particular selection criteria or fitness criteria has an increased probability if the creators (inventors) have access to the complete set of elements available in the world.  When the inventors are limited in their selection or application of existing elements, then it reduces the potential number of combinations.  It is possible in this case, that many solutions meeting the fitness criteria will not be part of the search space.  This deceases the probability of finding a solution that fits the selection criteria.  When innovators’ freedom of action is restricted it will decrease their chance of creating something useful.  This is consistent with the tenet of academic freedom and consistent with the principles of a free market.
    Innovators as a group will be more successful if each individual innovator is allowed the freedom to pursue their own invention goal.  There are at least two problems with restricting the goals of innovations.  One, the individual talents and interests may fall into a forbidden area.  Two, unexpected results may fall into a forbidden area and therefore not be pursued.
    As a result, we see that freedom fosters innovation.  This is consistent with both our academic institutions’ policies and with a free market.  Innovation is not encouraged by plagiarism.  Plagiarism results in wasted resources, because the plagiarizer is reinventing the wheel and they erode the valve of the original innovator.  Innovators are the first person to develop an innovation because they add to the store of human knowledge.  Even innocent copycats do not add to the store of human knowledge.  Note that freedom as used herein applies to everyone.  Forcing someone to support your innovative activities, restricts their freedom to innovate.
    A corollary is that innovation is fostered by wide dissemination of earlier innovations.  Without this dissemination, individuals will waste time recreating innovations.

Commons Law of Innovation:
    Innovations are not subject to overuse.  The creation of innovations is subject to under investment without property rights in innovations.  The diffusion of innovations is subject to under investment without property rights in innovations.
    Although there are unlimited number of potential inventions, this does not mean that creating them is free.  The U.S. spends over $300 billion a year on research and development to discover inventions.[3] Just like real property conceiving inventions takes scarce resources.  The number of researchers, research facilities, and research equipment are all limited.  Each researcher’s ability to pursue various inventions and discoveries is limited.  It will always cost less for a copier to produce existing items than create their own innovations without property rights in innovations.  This will result in an under investment in the creation of innovations.
    Once an innovation or discover is made it still costs considerable resources to distribute the innovation.  For instance, scientific principles are not subject to intellectual property rights and therefore can be freely disseminated.  Calculus was discovered over 300 years ago and is not the subject of intellectual property rights.  Despite this, only a small percentage of the population understands it even in the most advanced economies.  Those people that do understand calculus generally paid an instructor to learn this area of math even though books on the subject can be reviewed for free at many libraries.  Almost everything a student learns through formal education, even in graduate school, is information that is readily available.  Even if the text book is copyrighted, the information is usually available in a non-copyrighted form or available for free from a library.  In spite of this, the U.S. spends over $500 billion a year on all forms of education.  Clearly, adopting and distribution ideas including inventions is not free.
    According to venture capitalists, most start-ups will spend 2-10 times the amount on marketing their inventions than on developing them.  If the distribution of ideas was free, not subject to scarcity, this would clearly be unnecessary.
    University professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers, judges, marketers, sales people and computer scientists are mainly in the business of distributing or implementing known information.  Most of these professional would be unnecessary if distributing information was frictionless.  Distributing information is extremely costly, especially new information.
    Without property rights in innovations, most people and institutions will not spend the additional money required to create and distribute innovations.  This will result in an under investment in innovation.

Income Law of Innovation:
The per capita income of a large group of people can only increase over the long term if their level of technology increases.
    If we had exactly the same technology now as we did in 1800, would we be any better off per capita than the people of 1800?  You might think that we would live longer.  But, why would we live longer.  We would have the same nutrition, sanitation, and medicine as them.  We would have no advantages over our ancestors if we were limited to their technology.  Our per capita income would be the same as the people of the 1800s.
    Modern economists have studied this issue and found that increases in capital goods are not nearly as likely to result in economic growth as innovation.[4] Robert Solow won the Nobel Prize in Economics because of his work on the causes of economic growth.  His model suggests that fourth fifths of the economic growth of the U.S. is the result of technological progress.  The other one fifth of growth was due to increasing population.
    Real per capita increases in income can only be the result of innovation.  Adding capital without any innovation associated with the capital will result in elevating every worker to a certain efficiency level, however never above that level.  Once every worker has the all the capital resources they can use in their job they have hit a maximum output without innovation.

[1] Bailey, Ronald, “Post-Scarcity Prophet: Economist Paul Romer on growth, technological change, and an unlimited human future,” Reason, December 2001.
[2] Kelly, Kevin, “Paul Romer: The Economics of Ideas,” http://www.versaggi.net/ecommerce/articles/romer-econideas.htm, viewed July 4, 2009.
[3] Kao, John, Innovation Nation: How America is losing its Innovation Edge, Why it Matter, and What We Can Do to Get it Back, Free Press, 2007, p. 39.
[4] Clark, Gregory, A Farwell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 197.

Dale Halling is a patent attorney, and the author of the book ‘The Decline and Fall of the American Entrepreneur: How Little Known Laws are Killing Innovation.’  Visit him at his blog, the State of Innovation.

Exciting news for lovers of great art!

If you’ve been one of the many thousands of people who’ve seen some of the art posted here at NOT PC over recent years and wished you could afford come of it, I have some very exciting news that I’m now allowed to share with you.

My friend Terry Verhoeven has been travelling the world to meet and negotiate with some of today’s most inspirational artists, to bring their work to you!  Affordably!!

Matching the world’s most inspirational art with some of history’s greatest quotes, he calls what he’s about to launch “the next generation of motivational posters.”

Worry not. These artists are not painters of dead fish, or assemblers of stained blankets.  Terry has an amazing eye for art and a world-leading collection of motivational quotes that he’s matched up with an all-star line up of sculptors and painters including past masters Antonio Canova, Henri Regnault, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Beatrice Evelyn Longman, Daniel Chester French, Auguste Rodin, Jules Dalou, Caspar David Friedrich, Lord Frederic Leighton, Antoine Bourdelle, Ivan Shadr, Antonin Mercie, Giambologna and Lorenzo Mattielli, as well as renowned contemporary artists Joseph Sheppard, Martin Eichinger, Philippe Faraut, Michael Newberry, Paige Bradley, Michael Wilkinson, Bill Mack, Karl Jensen, Gabriel Picart and NZer David Knowles.

If you aren’t salivating already, you sure as hell should be!

Launching at the end of June (yes, yes, you’ll have to wait before you can get your cheque book out), Terry has sent me this very short taster video of his Inspirationz Gallery, below, and he’s set up a website that by late June will host his catalogue of revolutionary motivational posters.

As he says, they should ignite your soul!

And if they don’t, your soul must already be dead.