Monday, 21 May 2012

NZ Music Month: ‘Wintersturme’ sung by Simon O’Neill

New Zealander Simon O’Neill is now one of the world’s leading Wagnerian tenors. And I bet most of you didn’t even know that.

Here he is singing “Wintersturme,” from Act I of Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure (part of Wagner’s famous “Ring Cycle”), sung at the 2008 Ravello Festival in Italy. The woman he’s making love to is the amazing Waltraute Meier; conducting him is Daniel Barenboim; and playing for him is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra—an orchestra made entirely of musicians from both Israel and Palestine.

Not a bad place to be be for a boy from Ashburton.

(Another one-NZ-music-post-per-day for NZ Music Month.)

PS: Here’s Part 1 of a short doco on Simon done when he was understudying Placido Domingo at The Met a few years ago in the role he’s now singing  around the world as lead.  Naturally, it’s called ‘The Understudy.’

Now: Debt unsustainability in Japan and Europe. Next … ?

Kyle Bass made headlines last year when he talked about making money out of financial crises—especially in Japan and Europe. (As if making money for your clients when there’s blood in the street is a bad thing.). Things haven’t quite hit the skids yet, but he’s positioned when they do.

Japan is the next in line to face a sovereign debt crisis, says Bass, and very soon the markets’ focus will turn on it. He expects monetary deflation that will lead to a correction in equity prices because such economic shock will spread to the world economy .. leading to a stock market correction of 40-50%…. 
He mentions that Japan is next after Europe … and it depends on Japan and Europe, how long time USA has until a debt crisis. In his opinion it is 3-5 years away.

Here are his thoughts (from late last year) on the reason for the crisis: the total unsustainability of government debt in Europe and Japan. Japan, he argues, “is the most complex spring-loaded situation in history.”

ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: “The international financial system in the age of complexity”

Exciting news this week from our friends at the Auckland Uni Economics Group, with two events to put in yoru diary—including a public celebration for the very first Austrian economist to be appointed to a chair at Auckland Uni!

Hi everyone,
    This week we have two events. Tonight is our weekly meeting, as per usual. On Thursday night, however, we are attending Antony Endres's Speech: The international financial system in the age of complexity. The details for both events are below. 
    Please note: If you want to come to Professor Endres’s Inaugural Lecture, you must RSVP. This is very easy to do, just click on the link provided in the description below.

Event #1. Econ Group Weekly Meeting: “What’s in a Firm?”

    What really and truly is the nature of a business? An enterprise. A firm?
    And how does the Socialist Economic Calculation Debate help us answer the question?
    Last week we discussed the economic calculation debate—which shows how the price mechanism plays a central role in the success of any economic system, and the chaos that results without it.  It turns out that understanding the signal importance of the price mechanism also gives insight into further questions, including (who knew?) many questions within The Theory of the Firm such as:

  • Why do firms exist?
  • Why do firms not just grow and grow until one day there is just one large firm in the whole world?

    The ideas used to answers these questions shaped many of the economic reforms that we saw during the 1980s and 1990s, especially in New Zealand.
    In tonight's seminar we shall see that the Economic Calculation Problem is fundamental to a proper theory of the firm.
    This seminar will broaden your understanding of an important real-world economics problem.

            Where: Room 321, Level 3, Business School Building
            Date: Tonight, Monday, May 21
            Time: 6pm

Event #2: Professor Anthony Endres’s Inaugural Speech: “The international financial system in the age of complexity”
    The viability of the current financial system is being questioned. We only need to look at Europe today to see this. Is a new blueprint needed?
    This coming Thursday evening the University of Auckland presents a lecture to celebrate the appointment of Anthony Endres to a full professorship. Professor Endres specialises in the history of economic thought and is highly regarded worldwide. This will be a fascinating lecture—not just for students of economics but for anyone seeking to understand events in the world today.
    Don’t miss this opportunity to hear one of the very best academic economists from this part of the world.

Abstract of the lecture:

    International financial manias, panics and crises have raised doubts about the viability of the present international financial system. Is it in fact a "non-system" in urgent need of a new blueprint or at least more extensive regulation?
    Professor Anthony Endres will answer this question in his inaugural lecture by discussing the nature of crises, the problem of financial contagion, international creditworthiness, currency competition, big player effects and the "too big to fail" problem. In this discussion New Zealand will feature as a small player.

            When: Thursday, 24 May at 6pm
            Where: Business School: OGGB 5, Level 0.

PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU MUST RSVP TO ATTEND!
To RSVP and for further details, go to:
http://email.business.auckland.ac.nz/2012/0524-Inaugural-Lecture/

Look forward to seeing you on tonight and on Thursday,
Riko Stevens
On Behalf of the UoA Economics Group

--
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The All-Important Question

Guest post by David Galland of Casey Research 

For pretty much everyone, no matter where they are located in the economic strata, few if any questions are more germane to making plans for the future than whether the US and other major global economies are in recovery.

Getting the answer to that question right is of special importance to investors and businesses.

Stating the obvious, if the broader economy really is in recovery, then investors would be well served by investing in the equities of solid companies positioned to take advantage. Similarly, those very same solid companies would be rewarded by increasing their productive capacity through investments in the plants and people necessary to meeting growing demand.

On the same side of the ledger, bond investors would want to begin shorting up their durations or leaving the bubbly bond market altogether, in anticipation that the flood of funds into fixed income would reverse, sending rates higher (and bond prices lower).

Conversely, if the recovery is a head fake, then an entirely different course of action is called for. For instance, one would want to adopt a cautious attitude about common stocks. And because of the nature of the crisis – crushing levels of sovereign debt – one would want to take advantage of pullbacks in precious metals to buy more, along with other so-called "tangibles." That way they would have some measure of protection against the inflation that fiat-currency powers make all but a certainty.

In addition, reducing personal and business spending in order to conserve rainy-day cash would be advised.

And what about US bonds in the no-recovery scenario? A sound case can be made for including them in a portfolio as that puts you in lockstep with the government's desperate need to keep interest rates down – or, better yet, have them fall further still. Given the highly politicized nature of our economy, that seems reasonable – and anyone who has been long bonds over the last few years has done very well, indeed.

While you'll have to make your own call on bonds, my own enthusiasm is curbed by looking at the charts of the upwards-spiking interest rates on the bonds of Spain, Greece, Italy, and so forth. When Mr. Market ultimately becomes disenchanted with the fiscal excesses of the sovereign deadbeats, he can express his ire most energetically. When the current bond bubble here in the US ultimately bursts, as it must, it's going to be a bloodbath.

Of course, there is much, much more at stake to coming to the correct answer on the recovery, or lack thereof, than that.

For instance, poor economies make for poor re-election odds for political incumbents. And when it comes to maintaining a civil society, the lack of jobs inherent in poor economies often leads to a breakdown in civility. On that note, overall unemployment in Spain is now running at depression levels of almost 25%, and youth unemployment at close to 50%. How long do you think it will be before the citizens of this prominent member of the PIIGS will refuse being led to the slaughter and start taking out their anger on the swine (governmental and private) seen as bearing some responsibility for the malaise?

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the commander-in-chief is striding around the deck of the ship of state trying to look like the right man for the job in the upcoming election, despite the gaping hole of unemployment just under the economic water line. His future prospects are very much entangled with this question of recovery.

So, what's it going to be? Recovery… no recovery… or worse, maybe even a crash?

We all have a lot riding on getting the answer right.

The Quest for Confidence

Ultimately, the purpose of searching for the truth about the recovery isn't about either fear or greed. It's about confidence.

If you really knew what's coming, then the right moves to make become obvious. You could then make those moves with the calmness of spirit that comes from certain knowledge and get on with your life. While others struggle or miss an opportunity by betting on the wrong future, you'd have set up your affairs to survive and prosper.

Of course, given that we are talking about a complex system – the economy – total certainty is never completely possible. But for reasons I'll share, the nature of the current crisis paradoxically allows for more certainty than would normally be the case.

And so I want to share my conclusion about how I believe things will unfold from here, followed with some support for that conclusion.

While, as readers of any duration are well aware, we at Casey Research foresaw the current crisis years in advance and have remained firm in our conviction that the recovery is a charade… based on my own readings, and after spending the last two weeks in the company of a couple dozen very plugged-in economists, top-performing money managers, and top financial analysts, my conclusion is thus:

The world's largest economies, including the US, Europe, Japan, and China are speeding for the equivalent of a brick wall. In short, I believe that before this crisis is over, we will experience the Greater Depression my dear friend and business partner Doug Casey has long anticipated.

In case that conclusion fails to communicate my current view sufficiently clearly, I will condense it as follows:

The world's largest economies are screwed.

And I will even set my conclusion to music, in the form of the song Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye, which seems appropriate because the economy that we used to know won't be back again for many years to come.

Trust me, stating an opinion on the direction of the economy in such unequivocal terms troubles me. For starters, I wish my conclusion could be otherwise because no one likes to be a harbinger of doom. Mostly, however, I have long resisted adopting a set-in-cement position on something as wiggly as the future. In my experience, anyone who absolutely, totally buys into a particular future is almost always proven wrong by time.

Yet, as my quest for certainty unfolded, I could come to no other conclusion than that the world as we know it is headed for an economic catastrophe.

Allow me to explain.

The quest started with our Casey Research Recovery Reality Check Summit, April 27-29, in Weston, Florida. We took our mandate of getting to the bottom of this matter of recovery seriously, including faculty members with a variety of perspectives to see if an overarching conclusion about the recovery could be ascertained.

In addition to our own team of Doug Casey, Bud Conrad, Terry Coxon, Louis James, Marin Katusa and Jeff Clark, included in the faculty were: Lacy Hunt, former economist with the Dallas Fed and the world's most successful bond manager; Jim Rickards, money manager and author of Currency Crisis; John Mauldin, best-selling author of Endgame and the just-released The Little Book of Bull's Eye Investing; John Williams of ShadowStats fame; Porter Stansberry, founder of Stansberry Research; Michael Lewitt, editor of The Credit Strategist; Gordon Chang, China analyst; Harry Dent, author of The Great Crash Ahead (who also debated James Rickards on the question of inflation or deflation); Andy Miller on real estate; Greg Weldon of the Weldon Report; John Hathaway of the Tocqueville Funds; resource market guru Rick Rule of Sprott Asset Management; Caesar Bryan, a senior portfolio manager for the Gabelli Fund group; and David Stockman, the head of the Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan administration.

(Plus, on the taking-action front, there was a special panel on international diversification as well as panels where a dozen or so experts on everything from gold stocks to uranium, to rare earths, to graphite, to technology, to energy gave their best picks.)

In other words, a full program.

Then, immediately following the conclusion of our summit, Olivier Garret, Casey Research CEO and partner, and I climbed on a plane for California and John Mauldin's Strategic Investment Conference.

John's event was geared more for hedge fund and very-high-net-worth investors and, as such, included a more mainstream slate of speakers, but what a slate it was.

For the better part of three days, Olivier and I hunkered down to hear presentations and meet with the likes of: David Rosenberg, the star analyst of Gluskin Sheff; H. "Woody" Brock, an economist with some of the deepest credentials in the business (you can Google any of these guys for bio info); economic historian and best-selling author Niall Ferguson; Marc Faber of the Gloom, Doom and Boom Report; David McWilliams, the popular and very erudite Irish economist; David Harding of Winton Capital Management; Jeffrey Gundlach of DoubleLine Capital; Lacy Hunt again… and my favorite for this conference, Mohamed El-Erian of PIMCO fame.

In other words, for the better part of two weeks, I was immersed in presentations and one-on-one discussions with truly some of the smartest, best-studied people in the world today on economics and investment markets – with the primary topic being whether the so-called recovery is real, and the consequences if it falters.

While the speakers used a variety of methodologies to approach the topic, when all was said, the only conclusion that could be reached was that the world is headed for a very challenging period.

That conclusion was for the most part derived from three aspects of the many presentations:

  1. Hard data. Tallying up all the charts and tables I viewed and heard discussed over the last couple of weeks, if such a thing were possible, would produce a number well in excess of 1,000. While there were some that dealt in forward-looking projections, the vast majority dealt with the here and now, as well as the historical context of how we got here.
  2. What wasn't said. For business reasons, many of the big-name money managers couldn't come right out and say that we were heading for a crash, but they all took pains to communicate in not so subtle ways that this was a likely outcome. Tellingly, not a single speaker over the entire two-week period – at either event – came out and said that we could expect a normal business-cycle recovery to continue.
  3. The complete lack of practical discussion about how the world can avoid hitting the wall. While the pessimism was palpable, even among the usually perma-bull Wall Street types, at no point did anyone espouse a politically feasible solution to avoid the coming crash. The few who even attempted to point to a solution, at best, mumbled platitudes about the politicians finding the spine to adopt fiscal-austerity measures. One of the speakers – something of a gas bag, it must be admitted – pronounced in all seriousness that the only solution to the economic malaise was for everyone in America to rush out and read his book.
    As an aside, over the course of lunch with that same gas bag, we had a discussion that went something like this:

[Me] "All of the speakers, you included, point to the current trend of higher debts and deficits and say they are untenable, and so the big economies will hit a wall in the not-too-distant future. Yet hardly anyone actually then defines what hitting the wall will look like."

[Him] "Yes, well, things will likely get a bit messy if the politicians can't pull together to address the structural problems in the economy."

"But wouldn't you agree that, given the nature of our democracy, the odds of the politicians taking action before we hit the wall are almost nil?"

"Not at all. If everyone in this country would read my new book, they would understand the situation and rise up to force their elected representatives to take the right action."

"Seriously? The only way to avoid the next leg down is if everyone in the US reads your book? That's it?"

At which point – I kid you not – he picked up his plate and changed tables. (There's a reason I am only rarely allowed out in public.)

But the fact remains that other than perhaps Doug Casey and a small handful of other presenters at our conference, almost no one even attempted to anticipate just what happens when the crisis swells up to its full height and then comes crashing down.

Or, specifically, what the consequences are likely to be when the world's largest economies all hit the wall at more or less the same time. For the record, I have compiled a list of the ten largest economies in the world, and a reasonable assessment of their current situation follows in descending order by size of GDP:

United States – screwed
China – really screwed
Japan – massively screwed
Germany – pretty screwed, especially in that export economies take a big hit in a crisis
France – le screwed!
Brazil – somewhat screwed
United Kingdom – blimey, screwed too
Italy – properly screwed
Russia – hardly screwed at all (lots of resources and next to no government debt)
Canada – pretty screwed, eh?

As concerning as it is to see how many of the world's largest economies are in trouble, the biggest problem of all is that the central bank reserves of virtually every country in the world are stuffed with US government IOUs masquerading as tangible assets.

So, what happens when the world's reserve currency enters collapse and the dollar turns into a hot potato? Don't know, but I'm pretty sure we'll find out in the not-so-distant future.

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research

Reposted by permission from Casey Research.
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Sunday, 20 May 2012

NZ Music Month: ‘Dies Irae’

Music by Mozart, performance by Auckland Choral Society with the APO.

(Another one-NZ-music-post-per-day for NZ Music Month.)

Saturday, 19 May 2012

NZ Music Month: “Travellin’ On”

Remember this? Midge Marsden, Murray Grindley from the Underdogs (and countless TV jingles) with the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan roped in to set the song afire.

Not bad for a TV ad!

Another one-NZ-music-post-per-day for NZ Music Month.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Friday Morning Ramble #666

Welcome to another end-of-the-week ramble. Here’s some stuff to check out over lunchtime—or maybe over the weekend.

Not exactly busy, are they.
The Ministers respond to the Christchurch housing crisis… – Holly Walker,  F R O G   B L O G

Winston is going gaga? Or Winston always was gaga? No matter, the evidence is now more clear.
Lunch with Winston Peters – Stephen Stratford,  Q U O T E   U N Q U O T E

Dunedin’s “stimulus” stadium continues to weigh them down. (It’s like the sovereign debt crisis in microcosm.)
Stadium blew budget by millions -  S T U F F

Every time the NZ Parliament passes a new act it costs the country an average of $3.5 million, according to a new study. And even just a piece of regulation costs around $530,000.  They included the cost of Parliamentary time and the cost of the policy analysts’ time. What they didn’t include was the effect of every piece of new legislation, and every new  regulation, in slowing down and making it harder for the folk who actually get things done to get things done.
Cost of legislation – V I S I B L E   H A N D   O F   E C O N O M I C S

Despite his many errors as a commentator Brian Gaynor is without doubt one of the country’s most successful fund managers. So when he notes the widespread impact of the Commerce Commission’s wealth destruction, it’s worth listening.
Shaky telco regulation spooks investors – Brian Gaynor,  N Z   H E R A L D

Set up by Roger Douglas, the culture of the Communist Commerce Commission needs to change. And the simplest way to change it is to close it down.
Sadly, a slap is all it gets.
Auditor General letter slaps Commerce Commission – W H A L E   O I L

The Green Party took forty years to gain currency. Lesson for those who choose to take it: in politics, ideological victory is a marathon, not a sprint.
Beyond Today: a values story, and the Greens’ story -  Claire Browning, F R O G  B L O G

There is no such thing as ‘rational’ debate. Well, certainly not at the Labour Party blog The Double Standard.
"There's no such thing as 'rational' debate!" – T H E   C O N T R A R I A N

“Sin taxes” on cigarettes and alcohol  are not designed to create abstinence. “Taxing goods which are price inelastic, especially those which are addictive, is far more likely to impoverish consumers than it is to turn them into abstainers.”
Sin taxes – Paul Walker,  A N T I    D I S M A L

Just in case you didn’t realise: “Sin taxes” on cigarettes and alcohol are not designed to improve public health; they are designed to boost revenue.
The Wages of Sin Taxes: The True Cost of Taxing Alcohol, Tobacco and Other "Vices" 
-  P I N   F A C T O R Y    B L O G

I hear folk screaming about the undue influence of Murdoch et al on politics. “What I am suggesting though is that those screaming about how awful it is that a private sector company should try to suck up to those with political power is, well, what the fuck did you expect? Your permission to run a newspaper business is dependent upon those politicians. Your spectrum allocation is dependent upon those politicians. How much domestic shite you’ve got to pump out over that spectrum is dependent upon those politicians. Which sporting events you’re even allowed to bid for is determined by those politicians. Whether you’re allowed to buy out the other shareholders in a company you already have management control of is determined by those politicians.”
When legislators decide what can be bought and sold…. – T I M  W O R S T A L L

In the USA we don't have a dictator controlling thought; we have a
culture of conformity that gets people to censor themselves.

        - William Greeley

“The nature of the regime created by Hamas in Gaza, and its strength and durability, has received insufficient attention in the West… An Islamist one-party quasi-state has been built in Gaza over the last half-decade. The prospects for this enclave and its importance in the period ahead have been immeasurably strengthened by the advances made by Hamas' fellow Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.”
A Bracing Look at the Reality of Hamas -  Jeffrey Goldberg, T H E   A T L A N T I C

The use of private prisons continues to increase. No wonder. Private prisons have a very simple blueprint for success: more lobbying, less security.
Private prisons' blueprint for success: more lobbying, less security – D E N V E R    W E S T W O R L D

Why is Louisiana the “prison capital of the world”? Simple: A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.
Incentives matter: prison file – Paul Walker, A N T I   D I S M A L

A plea from a European supply-sider:  Couldn’t every economy be more like Germany's - by embracing radical supply side reforms?
The importance of the supply-side – Ryan Bourne, C E N T R E   F O R  P O L I C Y   S T U D I E S

"[T]he present breakdown of America is not the failure of Capitalism,
but the result of men abandoning the principles of Capitalism...."
- Ayn Rand

Statisticians really will do anything to follow the government’s line, won’t they.
U.S. Government Spending Has Shrunk…When You Ignore 44 Percent of Government Spending
-  M E R C A T U S   C E N T E R

“Do reduced banking controls always equate with free market?” A free-marketeer makes a principled case for more regulation in the banking sector.
Does JP Morgan’s massive loss favour the argument for more controls?
– Frank Shostak, C O B D E N C E N T R E

Political leaders are always saying we should follow Sweden. This is what happened in Sweden following the GFC under Premier Anders Borg: “His ‘stimulus’ was a permanent tax cut. To critics, this was fiscal lunacy — the so-called ‘punk tax cutting’ agenda. Borg, on the other hand, thought lunacy meant repeating the economics of the 1970s and expecting a different result…. He continued to cut taxes and cut welfare-spending to pay for it; he even cut property taxes for the rich to lure entrepreneurs back to Sweden. The last bit was the most unpopular, but for Borg, economic recovery starts with entrepreneurs.,,
Three years on, it’s pretty clear who was right.”
The Swedish model – Steven Kates,  C A T A L L A X Y   F I L E S

Want to end financial repression? Then end the rule of the central banks.
Leave Money Production to the Market – Jeffrey Herbener,  M I S E S   D A I L Y
How Central Banks Are Delivering A Financial Repression 
– M O N E Y   M O R N I N G   A U S T R A L I A

Should insider trading be banned?

“Senior politicians must realise that hard work cannot produce prosperity without the right institutions. In addition to Adam Smith’s “peace, easy taxes and a tolerable administration of justice”, hard work must be rewarded with honest money which holds its value, not money which the commercial banks and the [central bank] can produce at the touch of a button.”
Hard work needs honest money – Steve Baker, MP,  C O B D E N    C E N T R E

“The economics and politics of the West are being ruined by the 101%, that brigade of citizens who feel it is their right to consume at least 101% of the value of the taxes they have themselves contributed. And, of course, we are not really talking about a mere 1% above their contributions but vast amounts beyond anything they have contributed themselves.”
The 101% - Steven Kates, C A T A L L A X Y F I L E S

If there is one thing about which to be happy: at least Greece is not Japan.
Japan's WTF Chart – Z E R O   H E D G E

Greece's tragedy should be a lesson in reality evasion - there is no alternative to living within your means.
Greece's tragedy should be lesson to all – L I B E R RT Y   S C O T T

As its “bad bank” becomes worse, Europe’s fourth-largest economy very publicly hits the skids,.
The Pain In Spain Is Mainly, Well, Everywhere -  Z E R O   H E D G E
Rearranging the New World Order - Bill Bonner,  D A I L Y   R E C K O N I N G ,   A U S T R A L I A

If you think this will be the first time there is a break-up in Europe, think again. 

“Serving others, I believe, is the highest calling for a person in our society.” Bollocks. Don’t serve: create.

Obama might yet regret making up his little state-worshipper, Julia.

What would Chicken Littles do if enough resources existed to fuel the world for a thousand years even with our present technology? Better not tell them about methane hydrates then.
The World Is Running Out Of Energy Scares – Stephen Milloy, J U N K   S C I E N C E

Meanwhile … last winter, on several occasions, Germany escaped only just large-scale power outages. Next winter the risk of large blackouts is even greater. The culprit for the looming crisis is the single most important instrument of German energy policy: so-called “Renewable Energy.”
Germany Faces Energy Disaster Next Winter – Stephen Milloy, J U N K S C I E N C E

Disobedience is not an issue if obedience is not the goal.
        - Daron Quinlan

From an interview with a safecracker:
Q: How realistic are movies that show people breaking into vaults?
A: Not very!
Interview With A Safecracker -  G E E K   P R E S S

Life’s too short to read some books. Like this latest piece of excrement by Sam Harris.
Life’s Too Short to Read Some Books -  T H E   P U R P O S E F U L   R E A D E R

Book porn. No, seriously.
B O O K S H E L F   P O R N

You want good food? Do ya?
Where do you get yours? (Food Edition) – Russell Brown,  H A R D   N E W S

Answering the vexed questions of the modern-day world: how to give Power Point presentations on your iPad:
Giving iPad PowerPoint Presentations Just Got a Lot Better -  R E A D   W R I T E   W E B

The Auckland Philharmonia were immense last night playing Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Best I’ve heard them. But the Vienna Philharmonic are no slouches either.

Donna Summer has died. She did one sixteen-minute song every teenage boy loved, whatever his musical persuasion—supposedly containing the sexiest "simulated" orgasms ever found on vinyl.

Your NZ Music for today is “Humanised,” by Sola Rosa (although Tommy Dorsey would recognise the main riff):

[Hat tips and thank yous to Nick Allen, Oren Kessler, Auckland Libraries, Maria Montessori, Oliver Cooper, Eric Crampton, Marijuana, Inc., Steve Baker MP., Daniel WahlStephen R. C. Hicks]

Cheers, and thanks for reading
Peter Cresswell

Thursday, 17 May 2012

NZ Music Month: “What Sound is This?”

Oops. I just remembered that May is NZ Music Month.

And since I’m really enjoying The Verlaines’s new album* ‘Untimely Meditations,’ here’s the album’s closer. Bastard has been stuck in my head for a week.

Maybe I’ll try to post one great piece of NZ music a day to make up for my oversight. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments, (which, of course, I’ll feel perfectly free to ignore).

* Well, new to me ‘cos it’s been sitting around waiting for me to start playing it.

Key Derangement Syndrome

There are certainly things about which the media should be attacking John Key. (Me, I’ve been doing it for years.) But attacking him for attacking them? Well, I heard Key’s interview on Leighton Smith’s show—heard it at the time—and I heard no attack. No whining. No slamming of the media. None at all.  Just comments about how the media seemed to have ended their love-fest with him, and a few (accurate) remarks about how the Herald and Sunday Star Slime have gone tabloid.

So subsequent stories and press suggesting there was a tantrum looks like a clear case of Key Derangement Syndrome.

And it leaves me in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with Bill Ralston.*

Mind you, it’s not a bad thing that the media’s rose-tinted Smile and Wave glasses have receded if it means we’ll now see honest criticism of the man instead of the hagiography we’ve been served up over the last four years.

Because there is so much to criticise--and you do not need to make it up.

* * * *  *

* Mind you, Ralston is completely wrong in that same post in defending Murray McCully. Not just because he’s defending a turd like McCully (something that should revolt every human being).  But, well, what exactly would be wrong with Foreign Ministers having meetings on Skype? Eh?

How (not) to design anything

Every designer will be familiar with how this story pans out. It starts with a commission to design a stop sign…

[Hat tip Noodle Food]

The philosophical baby: What children’s minds can teach us about the big questions

Here’s an event tonight worth putting on your winter coat for. A lecture on what children’s minds can teach adults.

Until recently, researchers thought that babies and young children were irrational, egocentric and amoral. But the last 30 years of scientific research has completely overturned that view - in some ways children are smarter, more caring and even more conscious than adults are.  This new view of babies and young children has brought new and sometimes startling insights about some of the Big Questions of philosophy: questions like How can we find the truth? Where does consciousness come from? What is the nature of morality?

Professor Alison Gopnik from California is a world leader in this research, which she presents in Auckland in three lectures tonight and next week.

Babies aren’t just defective adults, her research shows. Children are for learning she says, and—and this might surprise you—baby’s minds are the most powerful learning machines on the planet. This confirms some of what Ayn Rand observed, based on Maria Montessori’s work:

At birth [observed Rand], a child’s mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness—the mechanism of a human consciousness—but no content. Speaking metaphorically, he has a camera with an extremely sensitive, unexposed film (his conscious mind), and an extremely complex computer waiting to be programmed (his subconscious). Both are blank. He knows nothing of the external world. He faces an immense chaos which he must learn to perceive by means of the complex mechanism which he must learn to operate.
    If, in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius. To focus his eyes (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking—and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation and learn to speak—these are some of an infant’s tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their lives.

What’s it like to be a baby? Says Gopnik, “It’s like being in love in Paris for the first time after you’ve had three double espressos.” 

So maybe instead of getting children to be more like adults, we adults should become more like children. 

It could be the pathway to genius.

* * * * *

See Alison Gopnik tonight and next week at Auckland University:

Thursday 17 May 2012 to Wednesday 23 May 2012, 7pm
Venue: Fisher & Paykel Auditorium, Owen G Glenn Building, 12 Grafton Road
Cost: Free admission and all are welcome. No booking required
Contact info: For further information phone 373 7599 ext 87698
A series of three lectures by Professor Alison Gopnik.
17, 21, 23 May 2012.
More details here.

And until then (or if you can’t make it), enjoy her recent T.E.D. talk “ What Do Babies Think?:

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Still no need to panic about global warming

It sounds like the start of a joke, i.e.:

Q: What do you get when two economists argue about global warming?

But the answer is less of joke than you might think.  In fact, in the exchange between William Nordhaus and Bob Murphy there’s more way more light than heat—much more than any exchange, rare as they are, between climate scientists who hold different views.

Nordhaus, a professor at Yale University and “one of the pioneers in the economics of climate change” took it upon himself to write a piece in the New York Review of Books  answering—or attempting to answer—the claims of 16 skeptical scientists  published in the January 26 Wall Street Journal as “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.”

The title fairly expresses the view of the 16 scientists. The title of Nordhaus’s response, “Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong,” fairly represents his.

Murphy takes up the cudgels against Nordhaus because, he notes, “the article was an instant hit in certain circles [because] of Nordhaus’ stature in the profession, and because of his supposedly definitive claims.” Supposedly definitive claims which Murphy proceeds to demolish: “What Nordhaus gets wrong about climate change.”

Sinclair Davidson, David Friedman and David R. Henderson summarise Murphy’s devastating critique, which begins by showing Nordhaus was just a trifle naughty in his explanations.

Nordhaus identified six allegedly misleading claims made by the skeptics in their WSJ article, and proceeded (in his mind) to dismantle their bogus views. In the interest of brevity, I will in this post focus on just four of the claims. As we’ll see, it is Nordhaus who is playing fast and loose with the readers. Many of the objections raised by the skeptics are indeed legitimate.

Murphy proceeds to dismantle Nordhaus’s arguments on

  • climate models (climate models continue to be unable to accurately replicate the climate behaviour of the observable past, instead—and virtually always--predicting more warming than has actually occurred. “It is foolish to think that they will produce reliable climate projections of an uncertain future… Consequently, it is reckless to go forth with trillion-dollar taxation schemes on the basis of our limited understanding.”)
  • economic damage from global warming (the very study on which Nordhaus, “one of the pioneers in the economics of climate change,” relies is shown to assert the opposite to that which Nordhaus claims for it: quite clearly indicating the consensus of economic studies finds that global warming would be on net beneficial to human welfare, at least through 2C degrees of warming.” On this basis, using Nordhaus’s own preferred studies and the standard IPCC simulations, “the best estimates currently predict that unregulated greenhouse gas emissions will provide net benefits to human welfare for at least the next sixty years”)
  • the benefits or harms of carbon taxes (Nordhaus’s very own  model demonstrates that, even is the threat is as alleged, the dangers of an overly ambitious or inefficiently structured policy can easily swamp all the alleged benefits of even a perfectly calibrated and efficiently targeted tax of Emissions Trading Scheme. And a perfectly calibrated scheme does not exist. “The worst is Gore’s 2007 proposal to reduce CO2 emissions 90 percent by 2050; Nordhaus’s own study estimated that Gore’s plan would make the world more than $21 trillion poorer than it would be if there were no controls on carbon.”)

But perhaps the soundest thrashing is on global temperature, where Murphy takes to task the “gee-whiz graphs” used by Nordhaus and so beloved by his warmist colleagues.

It’s also interesting that Nordhaus invites his readers to not get caught up in the tiny details, and instead to take a step back and survey the grand picture of global temperatures. I agree. In that spirit, I suggest it can be misleading to focus—as Nordhaus does—on deviations of temperatures. Instead, let’s look at a graph of actual global temperatures, using the same three standard data sets that Nordhaus used for his own graph. (All we’re doing here is adding a base of 14 degrees Celsius to the deviations that Nordhaus plots.) The graph looks like this:

SOURCE: Data sets cited by Nordhaus, with 14C base global temperature added to deviations.

Seen in this light, it’s still true that temperatures of the last decade are higher than at any point since the late 19th century, yet this chart isn’t nearly as scary as the one Nordhaus showed.

It’s hardly scary at all, is it. Which is no doubt why warmists prefer the “gee-whiz graphs” and the tricked-up hockey sticks. Sinclair Davidson has his own plot of global mean temperature, with his source being the US Bureau of Meteorology:

imageSOURCE:  US Bureau of Meteorology Data http://www.bom.gov.au/web01/ncc/www/cli-chg/timeseries/global_t/0112/global/latest.txt

Gee. Barely scary at all, is it. 

And no sound reason to believe that’s likely to change soon.

Europe on the edge

Here’s a short video with the great Johan Norberg on Europe’s woes. [Hat tip Cafe Hayek]

What Isaac Newton Knew About House Prices …That the IMF Should

_Kris_SayceGuest post by KRIS SAYCE, from MONEY MORNING AUSTRALIA

‘Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.’
          – Law Three, Principia Mathematica Philosophiae Naturalis,
Sir Isaac Newton

Or to non-Latin speakers (including your editor)…

‘To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and in the parts directed to contrary.’

Apparently, this is a new idea to the guys and gals at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But thanks to ‘three decades’ of research, the boffins at the IMF have finally found out what Sir Isaac Newton knew 325 years ago.

That is, every action creates an opposite and equal reaction.

It’s Newton’s Third Law.

OK. Newton’s third law doesn’t directly relate to house prices. And strictly speaking, he’s not saying that what goes up must come down.

Even so, you can easily apply the words from the Third Law to asset price action. And we strongly suggest you pay close attention to them.

Because the latest IMF report (World Economic Growth 2012: Growth Resuming, Dangers Remain) reveals the central bankers’ plan to ignore the laws of maths and physics. Instead, they’ve got their own ideas on how things should work.

Only this time, they assure you, things will be different…

We were stunned when we read this statement buried on page 89 of the latest IMF report:

‘Based on an analysis of advanced economies over the past three decades, we find that housing busts and recessions preceded by larger run-ups in household debt tend to be more severe and protracted.’

Really?

They’ve only just figured that out?

It’s taken them ‘three decades’?

Oy vey.

But that statement was nothing. We read on…

‘Based on case studies, we find that government policies can help prevent prolonged contractions in economic activity by addressing the problem of excessive household debt. In particular, bold household debt restructuring programs such as those implemented in the United States in the 1930s and in Iceland today can significantly reduce debt repayment burdens and the number of household defaults and foreclosures. Such policies can therefore help avert self-reinforcing cycles of household defaults, further house price declines, and additional contractions in output.’

Bottom line: it’s not the job of the State and the central banks to prevent asset bubbles. It’s the job of the State and central banks to inflate asset bubbles and then make sure they don’t burst.

How?

By implementing ‘bold household debt restructuring programs…’

You understand that’s shorthand. It means using private savings and taxpayer dollars to bail out those who get over their head in debt.

Of course, as we see it, the State and central banks cause the asset bubbles in the first place. So it’s no wonder there isn’t a peep from the IMF about government and central bank intervention causing price bubbles.

No, in their view the market causes all the problems and so the government must intervene.

Bubbles are good…busts are bad. That’s why they’re so keen to keep the ‘good’ stuff and get rid of the ‘bad’ stuff. Trouble is they ignore the fact that too much of the ‘good’ stuff causes the ‘bad’ stuff.

But the IMF commentary is more than just about house prices. It gives you a sneak peek inside the maniacal mind of central planners.

The Market is Sending Warning Signals

All around you, the market is screaming out. It’s sending warnings left, right and centre that something isn’t right. The message?

That the market needs a natural purge of all that’s bad…bad banks…bad economies…bad governments…bad central banks…

The whole darn lot needs a dose of economic Metamucil so world economies and the free market can start from scratch.

But that won’t happen anytime soon, because, as the IMF notes, it has a different take on things:

‘We also highlight the policy implications. In particular, we explain the circumstances under which government intervention can improve on a purely market-driven outcome.’

This morning Bloomberg News reports:

‘Spain said it would take over Bankia (BKIA) SA and may inject public funds into the banking group with the most Spanish real estate as the government prepares the fourth attempt to overhaul the financial system.’

According to the report, Spain will use 4.5 billion euros of taxpayer dollars to buy a 45% stake in Bankia.

And as the chart below shows, Spain’s biggest bank, Banco Santander, S.A. has fallen 64.2% since reaching a post-bust high in 2009:

Spain's biggest bank, Banco Santander, S.A. has fallen 64.2% since reaching a post-bust high in 2009Click here to enlarge
Source: Google Finance

Meanwhile, in the U.S., JP Morgan Chase & Co. [NYSE: JPM] announced a USD$2 billion loss due to… ‘synthetic credit securities…’

The banks will never learn as long as they know there’s a government and central bank to provide the ultimate backstop.

And finally, Bloomberg News reports the following comments from U.S. Federal Reserve chairman, Dr. Ben S. Bernanke:

‘If no action were to be taken by the fiscal authorities, the size of the fiscal cliff is [so large that there's] absolutely no chance that the Federal Reserve would have any ability whatsoever to offset that effect on the economy.’

In other words – you got it – the government must spend more so the economy keeps growing. And as a result, they delay the necessary bust yet again.

We’re not a fan of former U.K. PM, Margaret Thatcher, but she got one thing right: ‘You can’t buck the market.’

It’s just a shame to see so much taxpayer money wasted in order to refute her—or rather, to save the bacon of politicians, bankers and other vested interests.

Cheers,
Kris.

This post originally appeared at Money Morning Australia on 11 May 2012

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Brian Edwards gets a puppy dog [updated]

This is the funniest thing I’ve seen all morning. Yes, Labour’s gagging of David Cunliffe is funny enough [if true]. But Brian Edward’s description of Silent ‘T’ and his speech-making had me rolling around the floor.

But the real reason [for the gagging] was the party’s reaction to a ‘positioning’  speech given by Cunliffe to the New Lynn Women’s Branch of the Labour Party on 29 April. Judy and I both considered the speech brilliant…
    Anyway, ‘the top team’ didn’t like Cunliffe’s brilliant speech and he was apparently bawled out by Shearer and others and told the  speech was’ naive and stupid’ … This is so utterly stupid that it beggars belief. Cunliffe is not only intellectually brilliant, he is by far Labour’s most accomplished debater in the House and on television and radio.

I love it. Did you spot the use of the word “brilliant”? Brilliant, isn’t it.

And not only is The Great Man intellectually brilliant (and it’s the way the “not only” is used that really gets me—like “not only is Antarctica cold, it has penguins as well!)--not only is The Great Cunliffe intellectually brilliant but he can talk as well!  My god!  ( Can he can walk on water too, Brian? Be sure and let us know, won’t you.)

And that speech!  Not only brilliant, but doubly brilliant.

- We both considered the speech brilliant! 

-  Yes! Both me and my wife!

Boy, oh boy!  You can just feel the puppy dog’s tail wagging, can’t you.

It’s just possible the only one with a higher regard for Cunliffe’s brilliance than Cunliffe himself (and that’s saying something) is Brian. And his wife.

But seriously, Brian (and Judy, if you’re reading) you surely both have to be kidding. 

Because if your evidence for this “brilliance”  is that speech you and your wife both loved (“we both considered the speech brilliant”), then I hate to break it to you. Because of brilliance or vision there was none.

UPDATE: It gets even more hilarious. Chris Trotter goes in to bat for the “compellingly radical” Cunliffe, concluding “this sort of overt factional squabbling has not been seen in the Labour Party for more than fifteen years.” Just imagine: not since Helen Clark started squatting over the Labour Party’s tribal divisions like Marshal Tito once squatted over the traditional tribal conflicts in the Balkans.

And it’s taken a few years, but just as when Tito’s dictatorship collapsed (in his case with his death) the scab was well and truly ripped off every tribal and fratricidal conflict in the Balkans, so too with Clark’s departure  the scab has been well and truly ripped off every tribal and fratricidal conflict within Labour.

Which, this time, is fun to watch.

PS: Has it ever struck you that David Cunliffe looks like a hairy gibbon?

imageDavid Cunliffe

imageHairy Gibbon

So, how about those melting ice caps then?

Five years ago climate “scientists” were saying, predicting, expostulating that the Arctic Ice Caps were going to disappear in five years time!  Gone away. Disappeared. Never to be seen again.  All our fault.

“The Arctic is screaming!” screamed Mark Serreze from the US govt’s snow and ice center in Boulder, Colorado.

“At this rate the Artic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012,” hyped the delightfully-named Jay Zwally, a “climate scientist” employed by NASA.

Yes, it’s only the start of the Northern Hemisphere summer at present. But d’you think this looks like those alleged scientists are going to win their bet?

image

More and more these “predictions” by alleged climate scientists look like the predictions made by those who formulated the Soviet Union’s Five Year Plans, when very five years they would announce the last five years went poorly, but this five year plan would take the Soviet economy to new heights. Five years later: rinse and repeat.

These days, with these alleged climate scientists, they just shrug, say their models have “improved,” and continue taking government money for pouring out bullshit.

More money, higher house prices…

I’ve been interested at all this talk of rising house prices—houses, in our little economy, being one of the main reasons for which New Zealanders borrow money.

Or to put it another way, one of the main reasons for which debt is created.

In our system—and in most of the western world—the way new money comes into the system is by means of this new debt; debt organised into currency. An elastic currency:

And in New Zealand in recent years, new debt has been coming into the system at an increasing rate in recent years—almost at the pace it was coming in during the 2003-2007 boom. Which is to say, the year-on-year growth in our elastic currency is taking off again:

ReserveBankMay2012.
Growth in M2 and M3 Money Supply, 2003 to March 2012. Source: Reserve Bank: C1, Monetary Aggregates

So no wonder folk expect house prices to keep growing at the rate they were then.

Or to put it another way, no wonder some folks expect to see anther unsustainable “boom” in the housing market. And few, if any, affordable homes for a very long while.

It’s worth noting there is no social benefit whatsoever from attempting to accelerate economic growth by inflating the currency. Never has been; never will be:

The alleged benefit is that monetary inflation through credit expansion builds up the capital structure of the economy more fully than otherwise. Monetary inflation and credit expansion generate the boom-bust cycle, however, not economic growth

PS: It’s not an ideal graph by which to compare the year-on-year increase in money supply with the year-on-year increase in house prices, but the match between the two over the last decade (with a slight time lag to allow the money to flow from the money spigots into the market and do its inflationary work)  is unmistakable.

image

PPS: Yes folks, this is what inflation always  looks like. In fact, this is what inflation is: the organisation of new debt into new currency put into new buyers hands for new purchases--as this study of American inflation across the whole of the last century fairly clearly demonstrates:

imageSource, http://www.nowandfutures.com/

You want to slow down (house price) inflation? Then slow down the creation of new money.

Monday, 14 May 2012

We’re going to need a bigger stadium

Remember this billboard from 2008:

image

John Key’s party didn’t make too many promises when they got elected in 2008 (their promises were as blancmange as their campaign), but these were two of them.

You didn’t get lower taxes—instead, GST was put up. 

And we didn’t see fewer people leaving the country in disgust—instead, we’ve had more.

A brighter future? More than 40,ooo people every year since John Key took office have been saying “No.”

In 2008 John Key stood in Wellington’s Cake Tin stadium lamenting the departure of a stadium-full of good New Zealanders every year under the stewardship of Helen Clark.

Yet very year since John Key took office, the numbers leaving for better things elsewhere have failed to reduce. Instead, they’ve climbed. And now with 53,330 New Zealanders last year seeing more opportunity overseas than here at home—a record high number at a time when things overseas are hardly optimistic—it’s clear that more than a stadium-and-a-half full of NZers have looked at what John Key’s government has done to New Zealand and concluded they have done nothing to give them any hope.

We’ve all heard the “Catch up with Australia” mantra. But with govts like we’ve endured in recent years, NZ can’t even catch up with Tasmania! We’re clearly going to need some actual ambition for New Zealand, and damn so0n.

Or else with figures like those below, we’re going to need a bigger stadium.

image

Friday, 11 May 2012

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: It’s the ‘Gay Marriage’ edition

Big news of the week appears to be the issue that Dick Cheney and Joe Biden got to before Barack Obama: agreeing that same-sex marriage will not end civilisation as we know it. Or in Obama’s case: realising that same-sex marriage might be the only electoral issue on which he can separate himself and his 2012 Republican presidential opponent.
As such, it’s the first “real” salvo of the 2012 campaign.
One decision, many ripples – Steve Benen, M A D D O W   B L O G
Gays/Lesbians Should Not Fall for Barack's Gay Marriage B.S. – Michael Hurd,  D R   H U R D . C O M
MiSDiReCTioN... – Z E R O   H E D G E
Gary Johnson on Obama's Gay Marriage Remarks: "I guess the President is still more worried about losing Ohio, Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia than he is in doing the right thing" – R E A S O N
"It is good to see that after intense political pressure that President Obama has finally come around to the Dick Cheney position on marriage equality." -  R E A S O N
Gay 'Marriage' vs. 'Civil Unions': What's in a Name? – R E A S O N
Should same-sex marriage be legalized across the nation? – Tibor Machan, F R E E D O M  P O L I T I C S
President Obama Gets His Groove Back -  C A T O @ L I B E R T Y
Guest Post: Louisa Wall – Louisa Wall,  W H A L E   O I L
Major nz party leaders all support same sex marriage – David Farrar,  K I W I B L O G
When gay marriages are not being recognized it isn’t just that one is opposed to them 
– Tibor Machan, C L O V I S   N E W S   J O U R N A L

More important news this morning:
Survey shows porn habits start early -  N E W S T A L K   Z B

It’s odd there should any controversy about this: Of course people should take some responsibility for investing with schmucks.  And of course Brian Gaynor would disagree.
Missing the point on financial literacy – V I S I B L E   H A N D   I N  E C O N O M I C S

Government is the great fiction through which everybody
endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.

               - Frédéric Bastiat

Q: Why does the entitlement state grow despite its obvious unaffordability? A: Because no one is willing to challenge the altruistic notion that we are our brother’s keeper. The only way to stop its growth is to reject this notion.
Why Making Altruism Voluntary Can’t End The Entitlement State – Don Watkins, L A I S S E Z   F A I R E

The latest concerted onslaught on the freedom of competition is licensing laws—laws “for your own good” that make goods and services less good, less available and more expensive. The American-based Institute for Justice summarises the he effects and requirements of licensing laws in all 50 states of the US.

TIME magazine has just given Ben Bernanke the kiss of death. They’ve put him on their cover.  (Be ready with your sick bag when you click the link.)
The men who caused the Great Recession  - P R A C T I C E   G O O D  T H E O R Y

Russ Roberts on Europe’s non-existent “austerity experiment”: “I’d like some facts. I have seen many articles on austerity. I can’t remember seeing any that suggest that government spending in any European country has actually fallen. Yes, there is talk of spending cuts or cuts in growth rates. But I’d like to see the data that shows the cuts have actually been implemented.
” How can a thoughtful journalist at a serious publication write that the Europeans have ‘carried out that experiment?’”
The austerity experiment – Russ Roberts,  C A F E  H A Y E K
Alternatives to austerity - Russ Roberts, C A F E    H A Y E K

Even mainstream economists aren’t impressed by government over-spending.
Robert Barro: Stimulus Spending Keeps Failing – W S J

image

He wasn’t just a beloved children’s author, you know. But here’s what happened when he wrote a book for adults…
Dr. Seuss's Little-Known Book of Nudes – A T L A N T I C

Australian Alan Moran says history suggests we have nothing to fear from China. “The implications of [China’s transition towards property rights and the rule of law] are that no longer will countries seize other countries’ resources. They, or their firms, can buy everything they want from willing sellers and such voluntary exchange has been central to achieving success. This respect for existing property rights means we have little reason to fear that the Chinese, if their march to world leadership is inevitable, will seek to project that leadership and use military means to impose unwanted economic outcomes.”
Which means we are at the end of history again?
End of History again – Alan Moran,  C A T A L L A X Y  F I L E S

“Bribery is made possible and necessary only by government interference in the marketplace.” Discuss, with reference to this case.
Don’t Blame Walmart for Bribery in Mexico – O B J E C T I V   S T A N D A R D

If this is Britain in 2020, is it NZ in 2025?
A Vision Of Future Britain? – D I C K  P U D D L E C O T E

The US is about to post a budget surplus you say? Come on, who are you kidding.
US Posts First Budget Surplus In 42 Months, And It Is Less Than Meets The Eye 
– Z E R O   H E D G E

Yes, they’re trying the same fiddles in the Australian budget. (Don’t think a struggling Bill English won’t be taking notes so he can try them all himself!)
The (Australian) Budget – C A T A L L A X Y  F I L E S

Should We Drop The Term “Capitalism”?


Interesting news for warmists relying on the argument from authority: more than 1000 dissenting scientists have now signed a report challenging man-made global warming claims made by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- almost 20 times the number of UN scientists who authored the media-hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers. Time for independent thinking, you think?
More Than 1000 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims 
- C L I M A T E   D E P O T

Man cannot exist without some form of philosophy, i.e., some comprehensive
view of life. Most men are not intellectual innovators, but they are receptive
to ideas, are able to judge them critically and to choose the right course, when
and if it is offered. There are also a great many men who are indifferent to
ideas and to anything beyond the concrete-bound range of the immediate
moment; such men accept subconsciously whatever is offered by the culture
of their time, and swing blindly with any chance current. They are merely social
ballast—be they day laborers or company presidents—and, by their own
choice, irrelevant to the fate of the world.
          - Ayn Rand, “What Can One Do?” in Philosophy: Who Needs It

Obama’s election campaign started with a flip flop on gay marriage, and was continued by the release a cartoon-based eulogy to cradle-to-grave government programmes and what they will do for a “composite” woman called “Julia.” The Iowahawk couldn’t help himself, however, and had to make a few changes…
Julia's Circle of Life: The continuing adventures of Barack Obama's favorite eyeless, mouthless government dependent – I O W A H A W K
Who the hell is "Julia," and why am I paying for her whole life? -   David Harsanyi, H U M A N  E V E N T S

Mitt Romney is “down wiv da kidz?” Uh, maybe not.
Mitt Romney Completely Misreads the Hopes and Dreams of Youth Voters
– Patrick Michaels,  F O R B E S

No, no, no, not that Julia – not our next-door neighbour’s PM. Mind you, her “composite cabinet” is a piece of work!

A group of concerned citizens is taking on the fight against fake pharmaceuticals. Is it a group of government bureaucrats? No, silly, it’s a group of entrepreneurs.
How entrepreneurs are leading the fight against fake pharmaceuticals  - A . E . I .

I’ll give you three guesses why you never heard about Steve Jobs’ Willy Wonka routine.
Steve Jobs, Willy Wonka, and Good Reason for a Torrent of Expletives – O B J E C T I V E  S T A N D A R D

Is Apple exploiting Chinese workers?


A question every youngster needs to ask and answer at some point in their lives:
What does one owe one’s parents? – A P P L Y I N G   P H I L O S O P H Y   T O   L I F E

A few tips here on how to develop your own Bullshit Detector.  Basic tip, tread cleanly and keep your shoes clean…
Tread Cleanly! -  G U S   V A N  H O R N

Did I just see another batch of graduates undergoing capping? Here’s some advice.
'Don't Go To Law School,' 'Move To Asia,' And 28 Other Pearls Of Wisdom For 2012 Grads -  F O R B E S

And if you’re staying on in academia, these are the degrees you should have taken.
World class delusions  – Eric Crampton,  O F F S E T T I N G   B E H A V I O U R

imageNow for the really important news: techie-friendly seating so you can cuddle up better with your tablet.
21st-Century Reading Chairs – W S J

It’s true:
25 YouTube Comments That Are Actually Funny – B U Z Z F E E D

This looks like a free event to bookmark for the weekend: A presentation by Barbara Arrowsmith on her Canadian Arrowsmith Program, founded on the philosophy that it is possible to treat learning disabilities by identifying and strengthening cognitive capacities.  If only someone could tell her how the Montessori system could underpin her work…
Helping Children with Learning Disabilities: Saturday 12 May, 10.00am - 11.00am – T H E  E D G E
The Woman who Changed her Brain: Sunday 13 May, 4.00pm - 5.00pm – T H E   E D G E
Interview [audio] – R A D I O   N E W   Z EA L A N D

And finally, if you haven’t yet been up Auckland’s North-Western motorway to the Hallertau brewery, you really haven’t lived.
NZ Craft Beer TV – Hallertau. Awesome. - B E E R   R E V O L U T I O N

Cheers, and thanks for reading
Peter Cresswell

[Hat tips and thank yous to Don Watkins, Yaron Brook, Maria Montessori Education Foundation, Practice Good Theory, Eric Crampton, Geek Press)