Friday, July 02, 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The “going wrong with confidence” edition

From the G-20’s 20-2- ability to go exactly wrong, to Gen. David Petraeus’s hope things don’t keep going wrong, to the new Australian PM’s desperate attempt not to go quite so wrong, to New Zealand’s announced intent this week to go completely wrong--it’s been a very, very interesting week for all sorts of interesting reasons.
So let’s take a ramble round the net and see what good people have been saying about it all…

  • “Obama’s letter to the G20 a few weeks ago imploring Western leaders not to embark on austerity measures to rein in their expanding budget deficits but instead to continue stimulating their economies has been the starting gun to an immense battle between the forces of rational economic management and Keynesian claptrap.
    “This is a battle full of misinformation and one needs to remain on their toes to see through the fog.”
    The Keynesian Illusion – Murray Dawes, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA
  • The G-20 met, and saw that the world was rooted—and pledged thereat to stabilize public debts by 2016?
    Stabilize public debts by 2016? By then, the US and other major economies “will have more government debt than GDP. It is bound to be too late for many of them.
    “And even this modest goal presumes that economies are able to grow faster than their debt – in real terms. When you get debt equal to 100% of GDP, you’re over a barrel. If interest rates were to return to the double digit levels of the ’70s—and they could—it could cost more than 10% of GDP just to pay the interest.
    ”The recovery won’t work…”
    G20 Meddlers At It Again  - Bill Bonner, DAILY RECKONING
  • If you’ve liked what you’ve heard about European governments cutting their coats according to their dwindling cloth, about talk of “austerity” in their government budgets, perhaps you’ve been under some illusion as to what they mean by “austerity.”
    Austerity, European Style – Doug Reich, THE RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • ”Deficit Hawks” at the G-20?  Yes, they really are intellectually dishonest.
    ”At Casey Research, we like to focus on facts. Unfortunately, when it comes to government deficits (which beget debt), the facts aren't pretty. They show that the country is already sliding towards financial collapse that will ultimately result in a hyperinflation not dissimilar to the Weimar Republic.
    ”Even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasts that the U.S. government will accumulate total deficits in excess of $6 trillion over the next decade. But we think it will be much worse than that….”
    Deficit Hawks at the G-20? – Chris Wood, DOUG CASEY’S DAILY DISPATCH
  • PS: Bye, Bye! G20 summit drops 'climate-friendly' energy pledge -- 'Went through document with vacuum cleaner to remove any reference to clean energy'

"If Gov't spending created wealth
then Greece would be a superpower!"
-@
JonathanHoenig

  • Please consider Krugman’s article ‘The Third Depression.’
               “We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably
            look more         like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great
            Depression. But the cost — to the world economy and, above all, to the millions
            of lives blighted by the absence of jobs — will nonetheless be immense.
                “And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. “
    I completely agree with those statements.
    How Policy Errors Cause Depressions (and how "in isolation" some things Krugman says make sense) – MISH’S GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYSIS
  • In the now much-quoted  Paul Krugman column, our generation’s second coming of Keynes shows just how thoroughly he embraces what Ludwig von Mises called the “Inflationist View of History” by espousing the ridiculous notion that the late 19th century, a time of unprecedented economic growth, was dominated by a “Long Depression.” If only what is in store from us were similar to the economic growth of the late 19th century!
    Krugman and the “Long Depression” Myth - Grayson Lilburne, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • The key fallacy embedded in Keynesian economics is the idea that government spending adds to an economy’s health. In reality, the opposite is true. So let’s bury that GDP equation baloney and get back to work.
    C + I + G = Baloney – Phiipp Bagus, MISES ECONOMICS DAILY
  • “As with inflation, there is a great confusion as to what deflation is. The people who steadfastly insist that inflation is raising prices are consistent in insisting the deflation is falling prices. This is why, time and time again, since the 1930s, they insist that prices need to be kept at least level when the economy hits a bad spot. They hold this position in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary... Maintaining price levels has resulted in some of the most insane actions that we have seen in the free world…”
    Deflation – KRAZY ECONOMY
  • Sschiff “The current economic path of the United States, some argue, is unsustainable. Americans understand this, yet many have been misled into believing that economics is hopelessly complex and the country would be at sea without a paddle if the government weren't around to sort through the mess.”
    In their new book How an Economy Grows & Why it Crashes, Peter and Andrew Schiff “seek to provide readers with a "basic tool kit for cutting through the economic clutter" by sharing a revised and updated version of ‘The Fish Story’ that their father, Irwin A. Schiff, presented in the well-known illustrated book ‘How an Economy Grows and Why It Doesn't.’"
    Cutting through economic clutter  - WASHINGTON TIME'S
    How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes – GOOGLE BOOKS
  • “The fact that there is no apparent end to this crisis gives rise to the question, ‘How much longer might it actually last?’
    ”The accurate answer is that no one can know… for the simple reason that the market is so heavily skewed by government interference. In other words, no one can say what hijinks they’ll get up to next or what the consequences of those hijinks will be.
    “That said, the signs that the end of the crisis is approaching will be unmistakable in that it will coincide with the government capitulating in such a way that makes it clear it will no longer squander the nation’s future in the failed attempt to spend, tax, and regulate the crisis away. Given that none of those standard ‘tools’ of government make things better – quite the opposite – makes the capitulation assured.
    “But when? I have some thoughts on the timing…”
    Monster Money PrintingDavid Galland, CASEY’S DAILY DISPATCH
  • I said it here already at NOT PC: we have no choice about having a recession, the only choice was how long recovery would take. All the world’s  stimulus has merely ensured that what could have taken ten months may now take ten years—and leave multi-generational debt to pay for the failed stimulunacy.  Yet as the US irrevocably enters the double-dip recession, they’re already talking about not just Quantitative Easing (i.e., printing shitloads of money) but Super-Quantitative Easing (i.e., printing so much money you could wallpaper the Grand Canyon with it).
    USA enters the double dip – Sean Corrigan, COBDEN CENTRE
    RBS tells clients to prepare for 'monster' money-printing by the Federal Reserve - Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, TELEGRAPH
    corrigan-image001
  • The Cobden Centre (add them to your blogroll) recommend that in reference to Sean Corrigan’s piece linked above on the problems that Ben Bernanke is facing, you may want to refresh your background to this story by watching this nicely produced YouTube video first broadcast seven months ago, featuring Ron Paul, Peter Schiff, and Marc Faber:
  • New Aussie PM Julia Gillard will be announcing this morning, Friday, at 10am NZ time, what she will be doing about the Kevin Rudd/Wayne Swan Resource Super Profits Tax, and how she will attempt to solve her budget problems if she cans it. How will she square the circle? And will she even try?
    What is the Future of the Resource Super Profits Tax under Prime Minister Gillard? – Dr Alex Cowie, MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA
    [UPDATE: Gillard cuts a deal. Super-theft only applies to iron ore and coal; theft capped at 30%; company tax cuts halved. 
    News of the tax changes saw the value of BHP Billiton rise by $600 million. Rio Tinto is up by $1.2 billion.
    TIM BLAIR: “If you want to change the tax,” we were told, “you have to change the government.” In fact, all we needed to do was scare them.]
  • Australia’s Catallaxy Files blog is happy at its now-recognised role in overturning some of the major spin of the Rudd government, and ipso facto Rudd himself.
    The power of blogging: Henry edition – CATALLAXY FILE
  • Meanwhile…
    Thanks to Tax Competition, Corporate Tax Rates Continue to Fall in Europe – Cato @Liberty
  • The Afghan War—what was it for again? “We must dramatically reduce expectations for Afghanistan,” says Michael Yon in recommending this article. “It's not suddenly going to wake up from its prehistoric slumber.”
    Taliban rule out negotiations with Nato – BBC
  • Joe Maurone summarises the latest rounds in the Great Objectivist Mosque debate:
    The Mosque Debate Continues: (Paul) Hsieh and (Amy) Peikoff – OBJECTIVISH
  • Time for a reality check on the historical successes of Islam: the error “is in attributing to ‘Islam’  the accomplishments of the Arab world of a thousand years ago. The [error] couldn't be more wrong. It was Arabs qua Aristotelians and not Arabs qua Islamists who are responsible for the accomplishments…”
    The United States Of America And Islam Have Nothing Fundamental In Common – Andy Clarkson, CAPITALISM MAGAZINE

“’The great struggle [is] between the...radicals of all faiths and the
moderates of all faiths.’
No, the fundamental
struggle is between faith and reason.”
- Ari Armstrong

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it
exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and
applying the wrong remedy.
~Ernest Benn

  • Sad news: Christopher Hitchens diagnosed with esophageal cancer
    Christopher Hitchens' Cancer: Author Undergoing Chemotherapy For Esophageal Cancer – HUFFINGTON POST
  • As tribute to man who will hopefully be with us some time, here’s Olivia’s  favourite Hitch interview:
  • Stop with the BP-bashing already, says engineer Matthew Novak. “ I want to illustrate that while BP is being bashed for the company-wide effort to contain its recent spill in the Gulf of Mexico (amidst cries for government to "DO SOMETHING!"), the spill is so difficult to deal with precisely because of government intervention in the marketplace.”
    Bashing BP — When We Should Be Bashing the Corporatist State – Matthew J. Novak, MISES ECONOMICS BLOG
  • President Obama spoke this morning at American University on the need for comprehensive immigration reform, calling for “comprehensive reform” while neglecting to advocate the expansion of legal immigration in the future through a temporary or guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, “the necessary “third leg” of immigration reform.
    But as Daniel Griswold at CATO has pointed out plenty of times, without accommodation for the ongoing labor needs of our country, any reform would repeat the failures of the past…
      President Obama’s Incomplete Speech on Immigration – Daniel Griswold, Cato Institute
  • Read this.  Go on, read this. Alexander Marriott has a lengthy but superb post on immigration, especially good on the situation at the Mexican Border.
    Immigration: A Problem in Need of Principled Application – ALEXANDER MARRIOTT’S WIT &WISDOM
  • “There seem to be a lot of young people who sing the praises of anarchy…
    ”Last weekend Toronto got to see what anarchy really breeds. It’s not peace, it’s not freedom, it is brutal, mindless violence and destruction. It is the law of the pack, and as an individual you are one with the pack or you are its prey.”
    The Face of Anarchy – UNCOMMON SENSE
  • Ari Armstrong looks at the resurgence of Atlas Shrugged and the various controversies surrounding it.
    Americans Look to Big Ideas of Liberty: Resurgence of Ayn Rand – FREE COLORADO
  • On a related note, when Glenn Beck attempted to get deep with Atlas he more than met expectations by failing to get beyond the shallows, and sticking with his conservative, concrete-bound ways instead.
    Glenn Beck Gives Birth To An Ant – Andy Clarkson, CHARLOTTE CAPITALIST
  • judith-lean You’ve had all you can hear about ClimateGate? Then come on in JudithGate. Yes, she’s cute isn’t she, but the IPCC relied on one person—her--citing her own work to deny all solar influence in global warming
    Judithgate: IPCC relied on one solar physicist – Lubos Motl, REFERENCE FRAME
    http://bit.ly/alPfbY IPCC Relied on a Single Scientist to Deny Solar Influence – HEARTLAND INSTITUTE
  • Confused by them all? Here’s an abridged list of all the various  '-gates' in climate science—from AmazonGate to HimalayaGate to YamalGate--for your future essential  reference. Gate Blowup! Come On In Gate Lovers! – CLIMATE NEWS
  • Penn State clears Michael Mann in Climate-gate probe (Full 19 page report here.) Reaction: 'It has been designed as a whitewash...To admit that Dr. Mann is a conman now would be extremely embarrassing for Penn State. But the scandal will not be contained no matter how many whitewash reports are issued. The evidence of manipulation of data is too obvious and too strong' [hat tip Climate Depot]
    Penn State clears Michael Mann in Climate-gate probe – WASHINGTON POST

  • And “A bombshell from the [Con man] Lord Oxburgh's Climategate 'inquiry': Oxburgh: The 'science was not the subject of our study.” Climate Audit's Mcintyre mocks: 'Why would anyone have expected that science would be the subject of study of the Science Appraisal Panel?'
    Oxburgh and the Jones Admission – CLIMATE AUDIT 

  • Oh, Julia Gillard gives her first interview as PM.  Naturally, it involves John Clarke.
  • And this was ‘her’ last as Deputy PM:
  • If you think the 2010 FIBA Soccer World Cup is whacky, and it is, you haven't seen anything yet! Check out this story about the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup showing how the delights of perverse incentives ended up with both teams trying to score own goals. 
    Says the Samizdata blog, “Read the whole thing. Really, read the whole thing. It's a classic of perverse incentives, showing how the wrong kind of rules can cause everyone to want to do badly. It's about much more than football, in other words.”
    Soccer Shennanigans – KIDS PREFER CHEESE
  • I’ll bet you didn’t know that your favourite blogger Lindsay Mitchell also has her own art blog, and by “her own” I mean her own art. 
    See, she’s multi-talented: that’s one of her incredible pastels on the right!
    LINDSAY MITCHELL, Artist
  • Young mum Kelly Elmore has a handy helpful guide to a host of children’s books including maths, history, science, and good fiction.
    What Livy and I Have Been Reading – REEPICHEEP’S CORACLE
  • Obseration looks outward, Introspection looks inward. One of the most important ways by which we get to know ourselves is introspection. “Ultimately, just as with all knowledge, the reason to seek introspective knowledge is to guide action, but the first purpose is to gain knowledge.”
    Introspection as a Cognitive Tool – SHEA’S BLOG
  • Who knew that one of the best ways to lose weight would be philosophical—checking your premises. “I have been re-evaluating my premises about eating and health,” says Rational Jenn, and “I've lost 30 pounds so far this year! :o)"
    Checking Premises, Part 2 – RATIONAL JENN
  • Sarah from the Summer Aesthete reviews the film Bright Star, an intensely romantic and tragic film about the 19th century English poet, John Keats, and his love, Fanny Brawne, although she didn’t see much of it. Too much time spent sobbing!
    Bright Star (movie review) – SUMMER AESTHETE
  • Lindsay Perigo posted this clip by pianist Freddie Kempf, the chap responsible for a magical musical weekend in Auckland’s Town Hall a couple of weeks ago.  Magnificent!
    Music Gem of the Day: Fabulous Freddy! – Lindsay Perigo, SOLO
  • And conductor Antonio Pappano, Music Director at the Royal Opera House, has begun  "a journey through the most thrilling art form of all"—Italian Opera, beginning with Claudio Monteverdi. (Keep up with these at SOLO, where Perigo is posting and discussing them all.)
    Here’s Part One:
    And finally, here’s a young chap called Chris Botti playing the Rogers & Hart classic, ‘My Funny Valentine.’  Apparently, as of June 2009, Botti has released twelve solo albums, his latest being  "Chris Botti in Boston.”  Twelve. Who knew!? 
    For added interest, see if you can work out whether his version owes more to Miles Davis or to Chet Baker, or to Chris Botti.

    Thanks for reading.
    Enjoy your weekend.
    PC

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street - Georgio de Chirico

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, by Spanish artist Georgio de Chirico, (1888-1978).
1914. Oil on canvas. 88 x 72 cm

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The green dream team

Every bullfrog and his left-leg-legrope are up in arms today about Nick Smith’s Emissions Tax Scam, which purports to fulfil “our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol.”

Too late! Far too late.

The time to be up in arms was … about twelve years ago when the Kyoto Protocol was signed by National’s Simon Upton; about the time Auckland was suffering the first of what have become regular recent power-cuts; which was the time I penned and sent out this press release below, pleading for some sanity and some sense of the future we’re now living through:

GREEN DREAM TEAM PROMISES FURTHER CHAOS

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE LIBERTARIANZ POLITICAL PARTY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Friday, 6 March 1998 4:54:08 p.m.)

New warnings today that Auckland’s current power crisis is only a dry run for worse to come. Future restrictions on industry arising from ‘The Green Dream Team’ will dwarf our current problems, according to the Libertarianz Party. The Dream Team’s two players are the Resource Management Act and the Kyoto Protocol: The RMA we know about by now; the Protocol, signed by Simon Upton earlier this year, came out of a Government talk-fest in Kyoto, Japan, and extracts promises that governments of wealthy, industrial nations will ‘work towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions’ - the inescapable by-product of the burning of fossil fuels. Stripped of its worthy glow this means nothing less than a promise for the reduction of industry!

“The greenies’ anti-development crusade reached its climax in this country with the RMA, an act making the future construction of necessary infrastructure (like power stations and hydro dams) virtually impossible. The anti-energy crusade has reached its climax with the Kyoto Protocol, promising measures to strangle our existing infrastructure (like power stations and industrial plants). The current power crisis offers a precursor of what life will be like as a result of these measures - together, these bureaucratic monsters will act like a calicivirus on industry, and on all who depend on industry for their survival; which means all of us," said Libertarianz Environment Spokesman Peter Cresswell today. ”

“New Zealanders’ natural and trusting benevolence allows environmentalists’ bizarre claims to pass largely unchallenged. The bogus claims by self-serving, populist myth-makers have been swallowed whole and are being used to camouflage a creeping socialism; the pseudo-scientific, jargon-ridden utterances, and the carefully worded epistles describing what ‘might’ happen (if they can only get their computer climate models to work properly) are being used to conceal the dangerous lack of any real scientific basis to their claims. The Kyoto Protocol, for example, rests on the fraudulent claim that emissions of carbon dioxide are causing a catastrophic warming of the planet, and promises to curb this ‘possible outcome’ by curbing industry.

“The environmentalists’ false claims for disasters that ‘might’ occur will be dwarfed by the disasters that will occur if we continue to blindly accept their rantings. You think that the loss of power to our industrial capital for nine weeks is bad news? Just wait until the Dream Team kicks in - you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

ENDS

Just coincidence that Nick Smith is minister for both members of the dream team, eh.

The time to kick against these pricks was some time ago, but it’s never too late to wake up.

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Would-be Queens Wharf architects would throw their toys over two sheds [updated]

Shed01 It’s amusing to hear that twenty-one Auckland architects have signed a letter protesting the demolition of the Queens Wharf cargo sheds, otherwise known as eyesores in the face of one of the world’s great harbours.

It’s amusing for one reason, because they say these eyesores are in fact “among the few good examples of early industrial architecture left in Auckland.”  They call them “noble,” without any hint of a wink. That’s highly amusing.

And it’s amusing for another reason because of the eight architects listed by the Herald as having signed the letter, at least four of them sent designs into the original Queens Wharf ‘Party Central’ competition (Gordon Moller was so excited he sent in two entries), at least three were slated to be part of the second stage once the competition winners were thrown out, and at least two were seriously upset to later get canned.

Not one of them, at any stage, in any of their designs, retained the sheds.

Yet now they’re all bemoaning their demolition.

Can anyone spell “sour grapes”?

Or is this just twenty-one under-employed architects saying a very loud “Gizza job.”

PS: For your homework, a) see if you can spot how many on the list are or have been part of Auckland City Council’s “Urban Design Panel,” who have total subjective say-so over so much of Auckland’s architecture, with complete veto powers over your next project; and b) what their aesthetic judgement about these sheds says about their qualification for such a position?

Shed02 PPS: “I’m fed up with the bloody sheds… Forget about the sheds, they don’t matter.”

UPDATE: AUT historian Paul Moon, for whom I have increasing respect, argues in the Weekend Herald that we should shed no tears over those eyesores.

_Quote Their aesthetic value, even if they were restored to pristine condition, would be negligible, except for those with very fanciful imaginations… The fact is that the sheds on the Wharf were designed purely for functional reasons, in an age where aesthetic appeal in industrial buildings was considered even less important than it is now. To elevate them to anything even resembling architectural merit is disingenuous…
   “… it is surely a fallacy that just because something is (relatively) old, it therefore deserves a protective case placed over it so that it can be preserved in perpetuity. And all the time that the space is being held hostage by these grim buildings, the opportunity for our present generation of architects to shine by designing something genuinely inspirational on Queen's Wharf is kept out of reach.
    “That, surely, is the bigger architectural offence.”

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Battle of the Toons, 4: It’s July Fools Day [update 2]

When Black Thursday comes . . .

ets-july-fools-day-smith-and-key2 Produced by John Ansell and Grant McLachlan “in honour of possibly the stupidest tax in New Zealand history, which comes into effect today.”

_Quote In her first speech as Australia’s new prime minister, Julia Gillard assured her nation that she will not be rushing in any climate change policies, and certainly not carbon taxes, because there is no consensus on the need for carbon taxes.
Read the full story...

So that’s just us then, shooting ourselves in both feet.

UPDATE 2: It’s only lunchtime on the First July Fools Day, and already businesses are heading offshore.

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Battle of the Toons, 3: Do you recognise this Dick? [update 2]

Cartoon by NICK KIM

Anyone he reminds you of? Do you need a clue? 

Here’s the scam this entity is introducing this morning: forcing you to pay the govt for having the temerity to use petrol, power or anything relying on those boons, and pay foresters for not cutting down the trees they grew to cut and sell.

_Quote The government’s budget documents this year also showed that the payment due to foresters who planted post-1990, is $1.6 billion over the years 2008-2012 . This $1.6 billion is based on an assumption that 67 percent of eligible post-1989 foresters will take up their entitlement. Unfortunately for National, government officials have advised me that recent projections show that some 87 percent of foresters may now be planning to take up their entitlement. If this happens, the $1.6 billion will blow out to over $2 billion.

And who gets all this dosh? Well, here are the main owners of the trees in NZ’s main plantation forests:

MAF-Forestry OwnersYes Virginia, that’s where the bulk of those billions are going.  So that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars of your money going to the likes of Weyerhauser Global Forest Partners (a huge player in Nick Smith’s electorate)*, Juken Nissho, and the Harvard University Endowment Fund for the boon of leaving their trees uncut.

Thanks Nick.  You Dick. You haven’t got a beard like that cartoon above, but you sure as hell have a head full of hairballs, and a tongue so forked you could hug a tree with it.

* In 2007 Weyerhauser sold its 51% stake in the Nelson plantation forest joint venture to its partner, Global Forest Partners.” The figures in the chart above come from MAF’s 2009 survey …

UPDATE 1: About Global Forest Partners
Global Forest Partners LP is an SEC-registered investment adviser, specializing in the structuring and management of sustainable forestry investments. Founded in 1982, the firm is recognized as a leader in forestry investing and for its unique global perspective and experience. GFP, which is headquartered in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, currently manages a USD 1.5 billion portfolio of closed-end commingled timberfunds and separate accounts on behalf of institutional clients and other qualified investors. Additional information about GFP can be found at http://www.gfplp.com

UPDATE 2: Dr Richard McGrath has sent me his latest press release to post here:

PRESS RELEASE: Thank You For The Tax Increase, Mr Smith
   
Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath heaped praise on Climate Change Minister Nick Smith for lifting energy prices today, but said the BlueLabour Government was far too lenient on Big Business and should have increased petrol and diesel prices by 50 cents a litre and imposed power blackouts on private homes in the face of the global warming Armageddon.
    “Everyone who voted BlueLabour in 2008 will think back to 1 July 2010 as the day Dr Smith got medieval with free markets, with yet another shiny new tax. He’s right of course—what has capitalism ever done for humankind? And what hypothetical problem can’t be fixed by taking more money from private individuals and passing more legislation?”
    “As we head into the coldest month of the year, pensioners and those on fixed incomes will nevertheless feel a warm fuzzy as they turn their heaters down to save power, knowing that Mr Key has more of their tax dollars to use keeping prisoners warm in their cells and to put aside for helping the poor darlings stop smoking next year.
    “There’s no way Mr Smith or anyone else in the BlueLabour government could be profiting from this tax, is there? No way any of them could be planting trees on their land to exploit the laws they imposed on those same pensioners and fixed-income New Zealanders? No way this could result in transfers of money from said pensioners and others into the pockets of said politicians? Surely not.
    “I do have one question, Mr Smith. I know we are being rapidly boiled alive because of the climate cataclysm, but with global temperatures dropping for the past twelve years despite a steady rise in carbon dioxide emissions, can you just remind me again why this tax was necessary?”
    “And don’t forget you farmers, business owners and industrialists out there – but most of all you consumers to whom these tax increases will be passed – don’t forget to vote for those nice BlueLabour people in 2011. And keep your party hats and balloons handy to celebrate the GST increase in October.
    “Finally, Mr Key, if you’re reading this, could I suggest a slogan for BlueLabour’s election campaign next year:

Taxation – I’m Lovin’ It.”

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Battle of the Toons, 2: How many others do you recognise?

And could you put a name to one or two?

Who_Owns_Your_Life

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Battle of the Toons, 1: How many libertarians do you recognise?

And can you put a name to them all?

Cartoon by Leftie Barry Deutsch

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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Emissions Tax Scam Day almost upon us

This time tomorrow, you’ll already be paying more for petrol, diesel, power and everything else that uses any of these things—which means you’ll be paying more for everything—paying more because Nick Smith and John Key have been hell-bent on signing you up to a scheme few want, nobody can afford, whose alleged “benefits” will do precisely nothing to fix the alleged problem, and whose economic impact no-one will even be able to quantify.

But just because “it will be difficult if not impossible” to quantify its economic impact—except to say that we know it will be wearing a negative sign in front of it--that doesn’t mean we can’t quantify the sort of impact it’s going to have on our hip pockets, and on the expenses columns of every would-be producer.

So the money you would have spent on more food, more books or a new pair of shoes for your kids—or that a business might have spent on new investment or, you know, creating new jobs--will instead now be going every week to… well, no-one can really tell you where the hell it’s going, can they. Around a billion dollars a year going … somewhere.

Meanwhile, the coal that would have and could have been burned here to provide warmer homes and cheaper power will instead be shipped to China to provide more and cheaper power there.

But don’t complain about it.  This is what madman Nick Smith has been touting since at least 2006. This is exactly what you voted for.

And tomorrow you’re going to get it good and hard.

It really isn’t about science; it’s about control.  After all, even if the IPCC’s worst prognostications came to pass, it doesn’t follow that we all need to stick our head in Nick Smith’s noose. As Bernard Darnton says, we know that socialism doesn’t work at fifteen degrees, so why will it work at seventeen?

So what would a libertarian do about global warmingPlenty. Property rights can still work over international borders. Fact is, it’s not sacrifice and self-abnegation that’s needed, but more self-interested pursuit of technology, more freedom to adapt to price signals -- and what's needed to pursue that is more freedom and less big government.

Tomorrow, John Boy will deliver the opposite. 

Smile.  He might wave back. And remind you there’s more hikes to come

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Banks banks on his reputation for profligacy?

banks_3006_2 In just two days John Banks has destroyed whatever reputation he was trying to construct for being economical with other people's money--a reputation that can hardly be taken seriously in any case, having presided over rate rises every single year of his mayoralty.

But it's a reputation that can hardly have been enhanced by his claim that, unlike his colleague to the south, he--John Banks, Honest John--has never, would never, and hasn't ever “charged a sandwich, lunch or coffee to the ratepayers of Auckland"…  Well, apart from-–Oops! What are those!—those receipts in his office files showing him spending ratepayers' money on some mighty fine entertaining.  (Hey, I forgot, they don’t even serve sandwiches at Euro.)

And its a reputation that has now been delivered a fatal blow by his kite-flying suggestion that as president dictator-for-life mayor of the new uber-city he wants to play host to, wait for it, an Olympic Games

An Olympic Games, yet!! The event that left Sydney with a bill it’s still paying for, and London with one it never will. And you want to hand that sort of Olympic-sized bill to this humble little city!!

What an idiot. What an ego. No more perfect method could have been dreamed up to convert Auckland's millions of dollars of debt into billions.

Just more evidence how "uber-cities" beget uber-egos with uber-power lust, who peddle uberly-stupid ideas that will cost us all dearly.

More evidence, it should by now be clear, that Rodney's uber-bureaucracy is not going to go well.

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PUBLIC NOTICE

A few readers have been sending me the story about Al Gore. Please don’t. We don’t run that sort of rubbish here.

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR'S: How To Win The Drug War

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for stories in issues affecting our freedom

This week: How To Win The Drug War

_richardmcgrath The other day I was reading a regular column in one of our local giveaway midweek rags, penned by a former Wairarapa mayoral candidate, giving his opinion on the woefully lenient 34 month sentence handed down by Judge Judith Potter to the vicious killer of Hawea Vercoe. This brute not only punched Mr Vercoe in the head but kicked him in the swede as he lay unconscious on the ground.

Unfortunately, after calling for a more appropriate sentence commensurate with the scale of the crime, the writer suddenly  dropped in from left field a suggestion that drug dealers be summarily executed with no recourse to the appeal courts. I wasn't overly surprised at this turn of reportorial events, as the author of this piece was the worst sort of teetotaller—one who had for many years enjoyed a tipple but now seems to believe that if he doesn’t drink, no-one else should either.

No doubt writer Walter Block would take issue with this gentleman, as Block considers drug dealers, pimps, slum landlords—even corrupt cops—to be heroes. He lavishes praise on them in his book Defending the Undefendable. Indeed it is hard to feel warmth for some of the people Block idolises—the blackmailer, the slanderer, the strip-miner and the employer of child labour—but he makes a solid case in support of each of them, using the argument that the best, fairest and most socially just way for people to interact is via the free market.

Remembering the Cato Institute’s report on the success of drug decriminalisation in Portugal, I flicked the local rag a response:           

_Quote RL's recent column (June 16) suggested bringing in the death penalty for drug dealers. I suspect the underlying motivation for his radical proposal is a desire to lessen the harm done to others by people who use drugs. Such a sentiment I find commendable. But quite apart from the fact that the state often gets it wrong and ends up killing the wrong person, if the government started executing everyone involved in selling drugs, there would very soon be a grave shortage of liquor outlets, corner dairy proprietors, chemists and pharmaceutical companies, not to mention some very overworked funeral directors.
    “A far more effective way to put the current generation of drug dealers out of business would be to legalise the manufacture, sale and consumption of their merchandise - which sounds crazy, but just think about it for a minute. The people currently selling illegal drugs love the current law because it guarantees them control of the market along with enormous profit margins. The last thing these dealers want is the sort of competition they would face if other vendors were allowed to sell better quality product at a lower price, openly and legally. 
    “R speculates on the motives behind the actions of the thug who robbed and murdered an elderly South Auckland woman. This heinous and disgusting crime may very well have been perpetrated to help finance a drug habit. But has R ever asked himself why illicit drugs are so damned expensive? Could it have something to do with the fact that they are illicit?
    “Just in case anyone is wondering: I don't use currently illegal drugs, I don't promote their use, and I spend one day a week working at the local addiction service trying to help people into a healthy alternative to a drug-centred lifestyle. And I can attest that the exorbitantly high price of drugs does not stop people using them. It just makes them poorer, and makes the people selling these drugs wealthier.
    “R may dislike the thought of other adults taking drugs, but if no-one gets hurt in the process, it's really none of his business. Like it or not, for a multitude of reasons, there will always be a segment of society wanting to self-medicate with whatever drugs they can lay their hands on. I believe the scope for harm to the greater community would be lessened if these people had access to cheap, high-quality product sold by reputable traders. Ideally, they should also have access to education on the risks of drug use. “

If R doubts whether substance decriminalisation works, he should look to what has happened in Portugal, where personal possession of all drugs was decriminalised in 2001. It now has the lowest adult rate of lifetime marijuana use in the European Union. The United States, home of the War on Drugs, has proportionately higher rates of cocaine use than Portugal has of marijuana use. Rates of new HIV infection in Portugal are dropping, and the number of people coming forward for drug treatment has doubled.

R clearly sees the use of drugs as a scourge on society. There is a kernel of truth in what he says. There are more constructive ways of addressing the stresses of past traumas than clouding one's brain with mind-altering medication. But a bigger evil, perhaps, are the laws that drive the market for intoxicating drugs underground, and into the hands of gangs and other organised criminals.

There are so many arguments that can justify legalising the use by humans of any and all drugs immediately. My letter  appeals to the disgust many people feel for the violent and terrifying gang culture enmeshed in the New Zealand drug trade. But more importantly, I should remind readers that it is everyone’s right to self-medicate with whatever they wish, just as it is everyone’s responsibility not to harm other people or their property. My body belongs to me, yours to you. Most emphatically, your body does not belong to the state. It is yours to use or abuse as you wish, depending on what standards you set for the quality of the short time you have on this planet. That is the libertarian view, and that is the view a Libertarianz government would take. It’s nobody’s business but your own what you choose to eat, smoke, snort or inject.

Not only have the Portuguese got a pretty useful football team, they’ve got some inspired politicians willing to give people the freedom to learn from their mistakes they make, and not turn a health issue into a legal one.

Someone is bound to complain that once again I have chosen to support an unpopular cause – drug legalisation – just as I backed the harvesting of sea cattle a week or two back. But issues like these, steeped in controversy and emotional overlay, serve as a litmus test as to whether one’s libertarian values apply to all peaceful people, not just the good-looking ones.        

When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the government
fear the people, there is liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson  

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BBC goes not-so warmist? [update 2]

BBC’s Panorama programme has done the free world a great favour.  Last night Channel Warmist  undertook to look at how e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit caused the climate change debate to turn nasty, and (following their balanced charter)  sought to suss out “both sides” on the climate debate post-ClimateGate.

WATCH: How 'climate-gate' turned nasty- video preview

It was carefully done. Tom Heap tackled the debate over the certainty, or not, of the global warming hypothesis, by emulating Top Gear’s ‘Cool Wall’ to produce a heavily simplified ‘Wall of Certainty,’ on which their interviewees placed their answers to Heap’s questions.

Which is a very cool idea—although as atmospheric scientist John Christy points out, there is no category for “I Don’t Know” on the wall, which is where he would put the crucial “Is it us?” question; and, too, there’s a lot of fudging about what each of the little markers means.

The end result of which is co-opting sober statistician Bjorn Lomborg and sensible scientist John Christy into appearing to confirm the warmist mantra.

Yet even as mild and slanted as this is, it still got some British warmists apoplectic.

One thing the BBC reporter might have mentioned, but didn’t, is that a large part of the £8 billion BBC Pension Fund is invested in carbon credits … indeed, the head of the BBC Pension Fund is the chair of the (Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) in which much of the money is invested.  Which somewhat gives the lie to the BBC’s talk of neutrality on the issue.

UPDATE 1: Skeptic site Bishop Hill thought the programme “toe-curlingly awful.” From the comments:

  •     “The programme gave the impression that even skeptics agreed on the scientific arguments for AGW by carefully avoiding asking the right questions, their chain of logic went: "Is CO2 a greenhouse gas... does human activity generate CO2...has human activity contributed to global warming ..?" Leading to even the skeptics interviewed answering "Yes" and the uninformed viewer wondering why the skeptics were rocking the boat of scientific consensus.
        “The missing question was ‘has human activity contributed significantly to dangerous levels of global warming?,’ and that was carefully never asked.”
  • “Just watched it. Very superficial even by the BBCs low standard.”
  • “How utterly dumb. Panorama used to be an hour long, didn't it? Now they struggle to produce a narrative for half that time that would prove interesting to the intellectually subnormal.  The world really is going to hell in a handcart. But not from CO2 emissions.”
  • “I found the questioning of the public and the questioning of the experts on how likely climate change was manmade, very frustrating. The public had one simple question which either made them out to be thick or to be on the side of the great and the good. When the questions were put to the experts, they were re-worded to allow for the obvious nuances with the issue.”
  • “Would I be over cynical if I observed that it has taken [Michael] Mann 12 years to notice that the Hockey Stick has been over hyped.”

UPDATE 2: Hockey-stick producer Michael Mann was interviewed on the programme, expressing surprise that his infamous Hockey Stick (the one that “hid the decline”) was made “an icon of the climate change debate.”

_Quote … Prof Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, said he had always made clear there were ‘uncertainties’ in his work.
    “’I always thought it was somewhat misplaced to make it a central icon of the climate change debate,’ he said.
    “In a BBC Panorama programme, scientists from both sides of the debate agree that global warming is happening and it is at least partly caused by mankind.
    “But they differ on how much the recent rise in temperature has been caused by man made emissions and what will happen in the future.
    “Professor John Christy, an atmospheric scientist from the University of Huntsville in Alabama, said just a quarter of the current warming is caused by man made emissions. He said that 10 to 30 per cent of scientists agree with him and are fairly sceptical about the extent of man made global warming…”

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A useful world map

To help English football fans find their way home again, their supporters support team very kindly prepared for them a helpful map showing what they thought would be the world’s main points of interest.Map I understand that most of them are expected home eventually. [Thanks to reader Graham for a copy]

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A tale of two Davids

Today I want to tell you a story of two Davids, made by two artists, produced in two different artistic periods.  One David was a thinker; the other a brute. The difference explains the difference between the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, and the two artists.

The chief artistic difference between the Renaissance period and the Baroque period that followed it was the difference between learning and applying. Come the Renaissance and for the first time in centuries, classical technique had been rediscovered and the masters of the Renaissance used it produce figures representing ideal men instead of metaphysical waifs, and art that glorified this earth rather than some other dimension. It was the most important artistic turning point of the last two-thousand years.

Standing on the shoulders of those making this rediscovery were the later Baroque masters, who made the most of the lessons learned to do something quite new in artistic history. What the classicists and the Renaissance masters had done was to produce idealised figures, but they were figures without motion. That was what the Baroque masters added.

In the Baroque, for the first time in art, we see dramatic movement, great power, intense emotion; the expression of each of these became possible to the artists in the Baroque period because of the lessons learned earlier by the Renaissance masters.

michelangelo_david_detail These two great statues of David that are separated by just over a century give the lesson. In Michelangelo’s famous depiction of the great Biblical hero, above and right, he fuses classicism with Florentine humanism. Selecting the psychologically-charged moment of calm -- the centre of the storm just before battle -- he depicts the moment of decision, the act of mind that won the battle of boy against giant.

Bernini however, at left and below, shows something quite different.  For his piece he chooses the moment of action; the instant in which the battle is joined.

Where Michelango's David of 1501-04 is static, suggesting the later movement rather than showing it, Bernini's of i623-24 is all motion, all power, and displays the inner emotional intensity of the shepherd-warrior.

Motion and purpose, fused with emotion - all the very real essentials of life; this fusion was the leitmotif of the very best of Baroque expression.

bernini_david2 

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Reputation, reputation, reputation

cadbury There’s been a lot of talk about Cadbury’s slide down the rankings of NZ’s most-trusted brands, from being judged the most trusted company in the country lat year down to a meagre 36th out of 133rd this year (if those rankings themselves can be trusted, being based on a survey of only 500 people).

For its part, Cadbury has resolved to earn back the public trust it has lost in the past year.

But you might be wondering, why on earth would companies care what people say about them?  Especially when so many of the left’s luminaries insist that companies, especially multinational companies in headlong pursuit of profits, are essentially an irresponsible law unto themselves?

The answer is as simple as the nose on your face, really.  It’s because a seller’s reputation is the key to their long-term profits.

If companies have their own long-term interests at heart then, as all good companies should, then maintaining their reputation with their customers is essential. This is why good companies spend so much time and energy protecting their brand, and lesser companies do not. It’s because in the final analysis it’s not multinational corporations who decide the long-term direction of production, it’s consumers.

_Quote Neither the entrepreneurs nor the farmers nor the capitalists determine what has to be produced [explains Ludwig Von Mises]. The consumers do that. If a businessman does not strictly obey the orders of the public as they are conveyed to him by the structure of market prices, he suffers losses, he goes bankrupt, and is thus removed from his eminent position at the helm. Other men who did better in satisfying the demand of the consumers replace him.
    “The consumers patronize those shops in which they can buy what they want at the cheapest price. Their buying and their abstention from buying decides who should own and run the plants and the farms. They make poor people rich and rich people poor. They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. They are merciless bosses, full of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. For them nothing counts other than their own satisfaction. They do not care a whit for past merit and vested interests. If something is offered to them that they like better or that is cheaper, they desert their old purveyors. In their capacity as buyers and consumers they are hard-hearted and callous, without consideration for other people.”

The consumer is king, and she is a hard task-master—and it is the very profit system that those leftist luminaries denounce that is the key to ensuring a company’s responsibility. Because if long-term profits are important to a company, then keeping their customers happy must be paramount.

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Auckland Bloggers Bar Bash (B3) this Thursday!

It looks to me like this Thursday is the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time for Bloggers Drinks! For the monthly Bloggers Bar Bash(B3) at Galbraith’s, Mt Eden!

So: B3, be free, be there!

It’s the event for bloggers and blog readers to leave their guns at the door, let their hair down, and take the grrr out of bloggrrrs.  And you just never know who’s going to show up.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Lady Gaga said about something else.

“Ecstasy!” Phil Goff did not say.

“I’m going outside for a cigarette,” Judith Collins might have said.

“It’s the second-most arresting thing I attend,” Cameron Slater probably would say, but hasn’t yet.

Past blogging celebrities in attendance include bloggers and blog readers from Annie Fox, Barnsley Bill, Beretta, The Fairfacts Media Show, Stephen Franks, Garfield Herrington, Bernard Hickey, Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog, MandM, No Minister, Not PC, Roar Prawn, Lolly Scramble, SOLO, State Highway One, Whale Oil and WHOAR! … though this last one didn’t stay around too long.

So get ye there and buy your favourite blogger(s) a drink.  ;^)

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
When:
This Thursday 1 July from 6.30pm
Where:
Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, blog trolls.