Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The drums are beating again to censor free speech

imageTaking every chance they can, and inflamed by revelations a blogger has been writing some angry posts, the opportunistic trial balloons are going up again to set the censors onto the blogosphere.

The world’s most boring man set the case for censorship yesterday, Wayne Mapp arguing on the back of Geoffrey Palmer’s egregious efforts over the weekend that the blogosphere is “as ungoverned as the Wild West.” 1

 But the revelation that the subject on an SFO Inquiry would allegedly pay a group of bloggers to besmirch the investigating office is surely a new low.

“A new low.” To write a blog expressing an opinion you can take or leave. Mr Boring continues:

[Geoffrey Palmer’s] Law Commission’s report into new media did not envisage that this could happen [!], but now has, or at least the released emails point to that.

This self-appointed paragon of morality elects to elude the fact these emails were “released” only in the sense that animal activists “release” captive animals. That is, they break in to someone’s property first. A very convenient elision.

And New Zealand is already full enough of the vaguely incoherent legislation penned or inspired by Jellyfish Geoffrey and his graduates (alcohol wowserism, the RMA, s9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act, the end to the right to silence, a toothless BoRA, to name just several of his intentionally non-objective laws) without needing any more.

Mapp burbles on towards his conclusion nonetheless, dropping inanities as he goes like a horse dropping road apples:

    One of the strengths of the MSM is that readers can reasonably assume that hard-hitting investigative journalists are not being paid for by one of the protagonists in the issue. While the journalists may have a clearly understood political perspective, this is usually apparent on the face of the news item. This is part of the trust the society has in the idea of a free and independent media.

What a lot of inexcusably execrable humbug from a man utterly ignorant of what an opinion piece on a blog looks like, let alone what constitutes objective journalism. (“Being objective,”explains Paul Blair, “means recognising that not everybody's point of view is equally valid or deserves equal respect.”)

If you can read Mapp’s last paragraph without the help of anti-nausea medication and a large bowl, you’re doing better than I. That blowhard bloviation sets us up for Mr Boring’s payoff, slithered in at the end of a piece supposedly taking about Key’s leadership style:

Can society really afford to have the blogosphere limited only by the criminal law and the law of defamation? The Law Commission’s report into new media is increasingly looking like unfinished business.

To which the only appropriate responses in a free society are: Yes; and: Fuck off.

RELATED POSTS:


1. No amount of repetition makes Mr Boring’s inane analogy accurate.  “We … frequently see claims … that the internet is some sort of ‘wild west’ that is a haven for all sorts of illegality, and that needs to come to an end.
The problem is that this is a myth. It makes for a compelling narrative, but it's a myth nonetheless.”
    Not to mention the myth of the “wild west” itself. “One of the great myths of the Wild West is criminal activity.  The reason we know so much about the criminal activity of the Wild West is because there was so little of it.   Life in the Wild West was generally boring.  It was far more ‘civilized’ than life is today.” Life in the Wild West was generally boring? Maybe Mr Mapp would have been more at home there than us bloggers.

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Quotes of the day: On education

“A Ph.D in education is 'a valid marker' of left wing ideology in education these
days. Anyone wishing to educate children rather than indoctrinate them and
kibosh their chances in life should steer clear of any state validated educational
qualification as the left has a stranglehold on content and delivery.”
- “Teacher,’ commenting at the Spectator

“What you may be used to, if you attend [a] … university that
is committed to ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘diversity,’ is, it’s been said,
being exposed to the ‘multiculturalism’ of experiencing what it’s like to l
ive in the culture of a totalitarian country—on your own campus!—and
to the ‘diversity’ of being taught by Marxists of all races and subcultures.
That is, an environment in which no views are tolerated but those
deemed to be ‘politically correct’—correct by people who don’t know
the difference between true and false or right and wrong and often
attack the very existence of these concepts, and who are thus the last
people in the world to be in a position to judge the actual correctness of anything.”
- George Reisman, ‘The Future of Liberty

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Debate?

No, I didn’t watch it.

I was reading a book.

Books v TV

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Don’t Believe Governments About Price Inflation

The “moderate” inflation figure you hear about conceals the real damage of inflation, and real rising prices.

Richard Ebeling explains how the many distortions and imbalances of inflation “are hidden from the public’s view and understanding by heralding every month the conceptually shallow and mostly superficial Consumer Price Index.” Inflation, and the damage of inflation, is going on whether the Consumer Price Index measures it or not.

It is an old adage that there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics. Nowhere is this truer that in the government’s monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) that tracks the prices for a selected “basket” of goods to determine changes in people’s cost-of-living and, therefore, the degree of price inflation in the economy…
   
By this measure, price inflation seems rather tame. Janet Yellen and most of the other monetary central planners at the Federal Reserve seem to have concluded, therefore, that they have plenty of breathing space to continue their aggressive monetary expansion when looking at the CPI and related price indices as part of the guide in deciding upon their money and interest rate manipulation policies.

Not so.

The first problem is with what is considered “core” inflation. The government’s CPI statisticians distinguish between two numbers: the change in the overall CPI, and so-called “core” inflation, which is the rate of change in the CPI minus food and energy prices.

    The government statisticians make this distinction because they argue that food and energy prices are more “volatile” than many others. Fluctuating more frequently and to a greater degree than most other commonly purchased goods and services, they can create a distorted view, it is said, about the magnitude of price inflation during any period of time.
    The problem is that food and energy costs may seem like irritating extraneous “noise” to the government number crunchers. But to most of the rest of us what we have to pay to heat our homes and put gas in our cars, as well as buying groceries to feed our families, is far from being a bothersome distraction from the statistical problem of calculating price inflation’s impact on our everyday lives.

So that’s the first problem. The Consumer Price Index doesn’t measure what you and I actually have to pay. Here’s the second problem: It doesn’t measure what anyone actually pays. Government statisticians construct the CPI by fanning out across the country, tracking the purchases of households they consider “representative” of everyone else.

The statisticians then construct a representative “basket” of goods reflecting the relative amounts of various consumer items these 6,100 households regularly purchase based on a survey of their buying patterns. They record changes in the prices of these goods in 24,000 retail outlets out of the estimated 3.6 million retail establishments across the whole country.
    And this is, then, taken to be a fair and reasonable estimate – to the decimal point! – about the cost of living and the rate of price inflation for all the people of the United States.

Sounds fine? But there’s a “but” …

Due to the costs of doing detailed consumer surveys and the desire to have an unchanging benchmark for comparison, this consumer basket of goods is only significantly revised about every ten years or so.
    This means that over the intervening time it is assumed that consumers continue to buy the same goods and in the same relative amounts, even though in the real world new goods come on the market, other older goods are no longer sold, the quality of many goods are improved over the years, and changes in relative prices often result in people modifying their buying patterns.

How many smart phone bills were you paying ten years ago? How many iPad apps, or Kindle books, or Netflix movies?  Not even your “average” family stays the same over ten years. And the fact is, there is no “average” family, nor average people within it.

All have their own unique tastes and preferences. This means that your household basket of goods is different in various ways from mine, and our respective baskets are different from everyone else’s.
    Some of us are avid book readers, and others just relax in front of the television. There are those who spend money on regularly going to live sports events, others go out every weekend to the movies and dinner, while some save their money for an exotic vacation.
    A sizable minority still smoke, while others are devoted to health foods and herbal remedies. Some of us are lucky to be “fit-as-a-fiddle,” while others unfortunately may have chronic illnesses. There are about 320 million people in the United States, and that’s how diverse are our tastes, circumstances and buying patterns.

So there’s no point pretending that rising prices affect everyone the same, to several different decimal places. Price rises will always affect every consumer, and every producer, very differently.

This means that when there is price inflation, those rising prices impact on each of us in very different ways, especially when you realise how the different price rises in different categories of the Consumer Price Index are concealed beneath the single CPI figure you hear about. 

This is part of the smoke and mirrors of inflation measurement. Consider food, as measured in US price inflation:

In the twelve-month period ending in July 2014, food prices in general rose 2.5 percent…. However, meat, poultry, fish and egg prices increased, together, by 7.6 percent. But when we break this aggregate down, we find that beef and veal prices increased by 10.4 percent and frankfurters went up 6.9 percent, but lamb rose by only by 1.7 percent. Chicken prices increased more moderately at 2.7 percent, but fresh fish and seafood were 8.8 percent higher than a year earlier.
    Milk was up 5.4 percent in price, but ice cream products decreased in price by minus 1.4 percent over the period. Fruits increased by 5.7 percent at the same time that fresh vegetable prices declined by minus 0.5 percent.

Energy also went up, only by 1.2 percent overall, but if you were a propane user they increased by 7.3 percent, while electricity prices increased by “only” 4 percent. 

So who does a statistician neutrally handle all these changes? How does he pretend he has an index that makes sense? And why does the overall average of the Consumer Price Index always seem so moderate when individual prices are heading skywards? Because of the stats guru’s smoke and mirrors.

We all occasionally enter the market and purchase a new stove or a new couch or a new bedroom set. And if the prices for these goods happen to be going down we may sense that our dollar is going further than in the past as we make these particular purchases.
    But buying goods like these is an infrequent event for virtually all of us. On the other hand, every one of us, each and every day, week or month are in the marketplace buying food for our family, filling our car with gas, and paying the heating and electricity bill. The prices of these goods and other regularly purchased commodities and services, in the types and combinations that we as individuals and separate households choose to buy, are what we personally experience as a change in the cost-of-living and a rate of price inflation (or price deflation).
    The Consumer Price Index is an artificial statistical creation from an arithmetic adding, summing and averaging of thousands of individual prices, a statistical composite that only exists in the statistician’s calculations.

But that’s not even the worst problem. Worse still than the fact the statistical composite is confused for the prices rises you and I actually experience is that  “the obsessive focus on the Consumer Price Index is the deceptive impression that increases in the money supply due to central bank monetary expansion tend to bring about a uniform and near simultaneous rise in prices throughout the economy, encapsulated in that single CPI number.”

In fact, prices do not all tend to rise at the same time and by the same degree during a period of monetary expansion. Governments and their central banks do not randomly drop newly created money from helicopters, more or less proportionally increasing the amount of spending power in every citizen’s pockets at the same time.
    Newly created money is “injected” into the economy at some one or few particular points reflecting into whose hands that new money goes first.

The distortionary effects of those injections can be fatal – especially when, because of greater productivity, prices should really be falling. When prices should be gently falling, making things cheaper for you and I to buy,* governments see this instead as an opportunity to “pump up the volume.”  They call it price stability. What it amounts to is printing money – but more subtly.

Consider this: Russel Norman still thinks governments can just print money to cover their over-expenditure. At least this now recognised as inflationary – but even those who understand that much mostly ignore the distortions that money printing would create.

New money isn’t distributed evenly. Those who get it first get first use of the money before prices rise. As money gets spent, passing into other hands, at each stage prices go up as they spend it on what they want to buy. The process takes time, creating a distortionary wave as it goes…

    Step-by-step, first some demands and some prices, and then other demands and prices, and then still other demands and prices would be pushed up in a particular time-sequence reflecting who got the money next and spent in on specific goods, until finally more or less all prices of goods in the economy would be impacted and increased, but in a very uneven way over time.
    But all of these real and influencing changes on the patterns of market demands and relative prices during the inflationary process are hidden from clear and obvious view when the government focuses the attention of the citizenry and its own policy-makers on the superficial and simplistic Consumer Price Index.

But governments are more subtle these days. These days, “governments and central banks inject new money into the economy through the banking system, making more loanable funds available to financial institutions to increase their lending ability to interested borrowers.”

The new money first passes into the economy in the form of investment and other loans, with the affect of distorting the demands and prices for resources and labour used in capital projects that might not have been undertaken if not for the false investment signals the monetary expansion generates in the banking and financial sectors of the economy. This process sets in motion the process that eventually leads to the bust that follows the inflationary bubbles.
    Thus, the real distortions and imbalances that are the truly destabilising effects from central banking inflationary monetary policies are hidden from the public’s view and understanding by heralding every month the conceptually shallow and mostly superficial Consumer Price Index.

The damage of inflation happens even when the “headline” inflation figure is low.


* M.A. Abrams makes the point clearer:

“In an economically progressive community (that is, one where the real costs of production per unit are falling and output per head is increasing), any additions to the supply of money in order to prevent falling prices will be hidden inflation; and in a retrogressive community, (that is, one where output per head is diminishing and real costs of production are rising), any contraction of the supply of money in order to prevent rising prices will be hidden deflation. Inflation and deflation can occur just as well behind a stable price level as when the price level is rising and falling.”

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Leading Keynesian Economist Uses The “D” Word

Guest post by Hunter Lewis

Keynes graffiti cc

Most Keynesian economists do not want to admit that America and elsewhere is in another depression. They find the word painful.

They find it painful because it contradicts the idea that Keynesian economic ideas have ended depressions forever. It also contradicts the idea that the massive and continuing Keynesian stimulus applied by world governments since 2008 has worked. For this and other reasons, euphemisms such as the Great Recession have been embraced not only by Keynesian economists, but by their allies in government and in the mainstream press.

I argued that we were in a depression in a January article and again in April. Now Brad DeLong, one of the most prestigious Keynesians, a professor at Berkeley and former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury under Clinton, says that he agrees. It really is a depression.

DeLong doesn’t blame Keynesianism; that would be too much to expect. But he does call the thing by its right name, which is a major departure from the usual Keynesian style.

These are after all the people who call the government creating money out of thin air “ quantitative easing,” “ bond buying,” and the like, all of which are parroted by the press. When Keynes did this, he was often being impish, as when he called newly created money “green cheese,” echoing the old nursery nonsense that “the moon is made of green cheese.” His acolytes have adopted the style of dissimulation, but without the slightest trace of a sense of humour.

Although we are in a depression, it is not a depression for everyone, as is by now well known. Even so, the full hit on the middle class and the poor relative to the affluent is not adequately understood. Consider these figures from Larry Lindsey, who served Bush 2 as chief economist at the beginning of the first term, only to be booted from the White House for too much truth telling:

Click here to read more ... >>

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Quote of the day: Happy birthday Maria Montessori

I’m a couple of days late, but never too late to pay tribute to this heroine. Anoop Verma chose this quote to do the job:

In her essay “The Comprachicos,” Ayn Rand lauded the Montessori Method as exactly what children needed to develop properly.
    “The purposeful, disciplined use of his intelligence is the highest achievement possible to man: it is that which makes him human.” “[the best development of intelligence is what] Dr. Montessori had in mind…when she wrote the following about her method: ‘The didactic material, in fact, does not offer to the child the ‘content’ of the mind, but the order for that ‘content.’…The mind has formed itself by a special exercise of attention, observing, comparing, and classifying…which leads them to become active and intelligent explorers instead of wandering wayfarers in an unknown land.’”

PS: If you want to help children become active and intelligent explorers instead of wandering wayfarers in an unknown land, there’s a Montessori training course starting in Auckland this summer

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No sympathy for murder

Astonishingly, the media commentary about the man who slaughtered two people in Ashburton in cold blood is sympathetic … to the murderer. “Suspect had returned to die,” says a puff piece by the ODT, for example.

Pity he didn’t do it quietly. I agree with Lindsay Mitchell.

I have no sympathy for him. He lost his mother while still at college. So he should know what it feels like. Yet he has probably robbed children of a mother; partners, sisters and brothers, parents, friends of someone who added enormous value and meaning to their lives. Someone who was everything to them….
   It is unforgivable whatever his circumstances are. Harsh? I don't think so. My compassion is directed towards those innocent people just going about their work. Trying, in fact, to help this man…
    No. I have no sympathy. It's just a shame he didn't finish himself off and avoid all the further suffering the friends and families will have to endure as he appears repeatedly before them on their TV screens if not in the flesh.

He did have a choice, and he made it; a choice to make others suffer and die. Had I met him, I may have felt sympathy for him 24 hours ago. I have zero sympathy for him now.

Mercy to the guilty is injustice to the innocent.

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Smart green failure

_NOrmanI know nobody’s talking about them, but Russel Norman is still talking about “a smart, green economy” as if that were an actual thing.

The Green Party's plan for an innovative economy includes … $1 billion of new government funding over three years for research and development to kick-start a transformational shift in how our economy creates wealth.

What sort of transformational shift? One less “reliant on exporting commodities like milk powder, which is rapidly destroying our rivers and lakes, and leaving our economy increasingly vulnerable to the
fortunes of one market — China,” and more like the “alternative, and that is the Smart Green Economy.”

We can continue down the path of National’s short sighted Pollution Economy or we can change course and embrace a Smart Green Economy. The choice is ours.

Nice, but what exactly is it?

Apparently it’s an economy in which the government sets up “an expert innovation working group … to decide on the best way to deliver this step-change in innovation funding.” This step change being $1 billion in grants, and even more in tax credits, to companies heading in directions favoured by the expert working group – sorry, the expert innovation working group – “a key criterion for assessing all future industry grants” being a “focus” on “sustainability.”

Future governments will have to accept the inevitable failure that comes with investing in innovation along with sharing in the brilliant successes.

And so will future taxpayers.

This model is not new. It was one of Obama’s flagship “stimulus” projects in recent years, with billions being poured into the smart, sustainable new economy. As it happens, yesterday was the third anniversary of stimulus" benefactor Solyndra officially declaring bankruptcy.

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That was just one failure the American taxpayers had to accept. One among many, including:

Click here to read more ... >>

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Monday, September 01, 2014

The #1 reason for #dirtypolitics: the barrenness of the "centre-right"

The #DirtyPolitics saga saw the commentariat almost immediately begin comparing John Key to their favourite modern-day bogeyman, Richard Nixon.

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On the face of it, the link looks seriously overblown. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy led a shambolic dirty tricks team directly overseen by Nixon’s Attorney General that ran a series of lurid operations including luring political opponents with prostitutes, attempts to destroy political party conventions, and carrying out break-ins of journalists and political opponents.

Cameron Slater runs a blog.

If the commentariat can’t see the difference between a blog post and a break-in, we can only despair.

That said however,on a level deeper than the superficial non-similarities pointed to by the regular critics, with all their wild mud-slinging, there is a connection to which they are and will always remain blind.  The real connection is not so much dirty trick s or Judith Collins’s alleged enemies list; the real connection is ideology – or, to be precise, the lack of one.

Click here to read more ... >>

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What creates wealth

Why are some countries rich and some countries poor?

Is it access to natural resources? Is it tax policy? A motivated work force? These are important, but not determinative. The answer is deceptively simple - it's what's in our heads: knowledge.
    Thus, the surest way to promote economic growth is to cultivate an environment that encourages the spread of knowledge.

Such an environment requires freedom, and intellectual property rights -- which is why the freest and most legally objective societies are the most prosperous. In five minutes, economist George Gilder explains why.

[Hat tip Dale Halling]

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Fairness

You hear it all the time.

That’s fair /that’s not fair.

Life’s fair / life’s not fair / life’s good, but not fair at all.

So WTF does “fairness” actually mean, why is there so much confusion about it, and why is there so much politics that takes advantage of this confusion?

Philosopher Stephen Hicks analyses fairness, politics, ethics … and tennis.

Fairness is a key concept of ethics but if you ask three philosophers what it means, you will get four different answers. Many of our ongoing public policy debates turn on competing conceptions of what is and is not fair.

  • Insider trading: If the seller of a stock knows something the buyer doesn’t and couldn’t know, does that make the trade unfair?
  • Telecommunications and the “Fairness Doctrine”: If a radio station criticises a public figure, in the name of fairness should government regulators require the station to give airtime for the public figure’s response?
  • Campaign finance: If one political candidate raises significantly more funds than her competitor, will the election be fair?

But let’s use [a] tennis match to show how often we appeal to two very different standards in answering questions of fairness….

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“Some of the most serious allegations I’ve seen…”

"These are some of the most serious allegations I’ve seen," said David Cunliffe this morning, about allegations that bloggers Whale Oil and Cactus Kate wrote “attack blogs” at the behest of a paying client and a justice minister “gunning for” a minion.

The Herald publishes a graphic calling a senior bureaucrat the “victim [their word] of a number of highly critical blogs.”

Are these people serious? The victim? What, off mob violence? Of a violent mugging? Of a drive-by shooting? No, of some “highly critical blogs.”

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Fucking. Kidding. Me.  Someone wrote some things about him online, and this bureaucrat is now a fricking victim?

This sort of silliness both overstates and understates the power of blogs – and vastly downplays some of the most seriously serious scandals of recent years. (Did Mr Cunliffe not see Helen Clark buying an election with $800,000 of taxpayer-funded pledge card, then retrospectively legislating to make it all legal?  Or the Winston Peters-Owen Glenn-Helen Clark debacle of 2008  – or Winston’s theft of $150,000 of taxpayer money? Or Don Brash dealing secretively with a small but well-funded religious cult to get around donor rules? Or, even, the blatant theft of emails and correspondence of your political opponents … )

I’m sorry, but if these are truly the most serious allegations he’s ever seen he seriously needs to get out more. (Maybe ask David Shearer about the sort of serious stuff that goes on in the world’s warzones, for example.) So a blogger wrote “attack blogs” about a bureaucrat.  How hurtful. How harmful. I’m amazed the poor fellow wasn’t hospitalised.  Just imagine, being attacked by a blogger!  (Maybe pay a visit to your friend and adviser Greg Presland’s home at the Double Standard, David, or Matt McCarten’s Bradbury Blog, to see how folk do this sort of thing just for sport?)

It rather overstates the effect of bloggers, don’t you think, to take this sort of silliness seriously. To get all sanctimonious about what amounts to a few colourfully-phrased blog posts. As blogger Ruth used to say, a blogger is a brain on a chair. He has a keyboard, not a gun. His influence is precisely as much as the degree to which his stories and smears are taken seriously.

This is basically an online flame war that’s spilled over into real life, and is somehow making headlines.

Is attack politics itself wrong?  Then where’s the condemnation of Trevor Mallard. Or Winston Peters.  Are baseless attacks out of order? Then talk to those two again, or every political blogger ever, everywhere. Are attacks on bureaucrats themselves wrong? Not as long as these pricks hold the power of life, death and penury over all of us.

You don’t like what a blog post says, then don’t read it. Move on. There’s plenty of others saying plenty different.

I’m not sorry Judith Collins resigned.  That was long overdue. Not for things she did in the shadows, but for the many and serious outrageous offences against taxpayers and individual liberty done right out in the open – for which she received and receives nary a condemnatory quip even from her political adversaries.

There is an insufferable whiff of sanctimony wafting over this whole sorry saga. It doesn’t just overstate the importance of this kind of attack blogging, the degree to which it is taken seriously demeans and disregards the real power that bloggers and politicians can wield.

Of that, more here.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Crushed [updated]

Gutless, and gone?

UPDATE: Good riddance. A shame she wasn’t sacked for all her real offences.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Afternoon Ramble

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Mencken called elections “an advance auction of stolen goods” -- in which politicians bribe you with your own money.
At least the Taxpayers’ Union is keeping track of the bribes.
BRIBE-O-METER – TAXPAYERS’ UNION

Everybody’s favourite anti-semite, in the House?
Poll puts Minto into Parliament – Audrey Young, HERALD

International experts stating the obvious.
International expert says land supply is the reason for house inflation – KIWIBLOG

He just can’t keep his hand out of our wallets. 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent rises will be his minimum.
Len Brown details Super [sic] City's 10-year budget – HERALD

Explaining the super [sic] city: “The totality of mankind’s history is dominated by two common yet opposing desires … the fight to concentrate power and the corresponding fight against the concentration of that power.”
It Was Good While It Lasted – RIO NORTE LINE

“Russel Norman says he is more of a disciple of market forces than is the National Party.” This wouldn’t be hard. “‘Everyone says National doesn't pick winners,’ says Norman, ‘but if you look at what they're actually doing, they're not pro-market, they're Muldoonist.’” This too is true. But Russel?
Greens pro-market: Russel Norman – STUFF
Posts at NOT PC on Russel Norman's economics – NOT PC

You know, there’s no reason it should cost taxpayers a red cent to make housing more affordable.
ACT's plan to reduce the cost of new housing by $100,000 and it does not cost the taxpayer a cent – Jamie Whyte, ACT

“With an indication from this week's TV3 poll that the Conservative Party will be in the next parliament I am interested in their welfare policy. But I can't find one.”
Where or what is the Conservative's welfare policy? – LINDSAY MITCHELL

“Socrates was an early whistleblower. He exposed many leaders of ancient Athens as hot-air know-it-alls and was executed for his efforts.
Today, whistleblowers usually avoid execution, though the enemies of Edward Snowden would like to bring the death penalty back for him. Most whistleblowers are harassed, labeled as troublemakers and, perhaps, as unstable; they are demoted, fired, prevented from collecting unemployment insurance, blacklisted from obtaining new employment in the same field, and sometimes sent to prison.
    “This is the reward they get for exposing the sleazy, dishonest practices of their superiors in the political-power-laden bureaucratic management of government.”
The Whistleblowers: An Indictment of the Mixed Economy and Bureaucracy – JERRY KIRKPATRICK’S BLOG

“A "progressive" income tax means this: The
harder you work, the more you are punished.”

- Will Spencer

“Let’s be clear: Al Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Boko Haram, the Shabab and others are all violent Sunni Salafi groupings. For five decades, Saudi Arabia has been the official sponsor of Sunni Salafism across the globe.
Saudis Must Stop Exporting Extremism – Ed Husain, NEW YORK TIMES

“There is outrage in the press this morning about the sexual abuse of 1,400 girls by Asian gangs in Rotherham in the north of England…. The abuse scandal exposes the dangers of welfarism and multiculturalism.”
What Rotherham reveals about the corrosion of community life – Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED

Britain’s die-while-you-wait health system is at least even-handed.
Ex-NHS chief dies waiting for op at her own hospital – DAILY EXPRESS

“Have we reached “peak progressive”? You know, like “peak oil”, except dumber, less useful and more dangerous?”
Peak Progressive? – RIO NORTE LINE

Where the progressives come from: “A new book reveals the damage education schools have done to pedagogy.”
When the Instructors Need Instructing – Sol Stern, CITY JOURNAL

“Progressives often insist they are “on the right side of history,” but their ideas failed 100 years ago… Today, progressives have recently raised tax rates on entrepreneurs, on capital gains, and on dividends—and they are surprised to see economic stagnation and record debt levels. What didn’t work a century ago is also not working now.”
The Progressives Are On The Wrong Side Of History – BURT FOLSOM

“[B]lurring the lines between civilian policing and military action is dangerous, because soldiers and police have fundamentally different roles. . . . The people [police] are policing aren’t enemy combatants, but their fellow citizens—and, even more significantly, their employers.”
Reynolds on Militarised Police – RATIONAL BEACON

“It is what you read when you don't have to that
determines what you will be when you can't help it.”
- Oscar Wilde

“Global sea level rise a bit more than 1mm a year for last 50 years, no acceleration. Pretty constant for hundreds of years actually.”
Global sea level rise a bit more than 1mm a year for last 50 years, no acceleration – JO NOVA

“From the University of Washington  and the department of Trenberth’s missing heat comes a claim that we’ll have to wait another 15 years for global warming to resume. Sounds like a goalpost mover to me.”
Cause for ‘The Pause’ #38 – Cause of global warming hiatus found deep in the Atlantic Ocean – WATTS UP WITH THAT

The sound of unsettled science: The guesses just keep a’coming.
39 guesses (and counting) about the global warming pause – GLOBAL WARMING POLICY FOUNDATION
Excuses for the 18 year 'pause' of global warming take a quantum leap up to #52 – HOCKEY SCHTICK

“Among his messages Wednesday, the oil industry needs to do a better job of selling itself. And that, according to Alex Epstein, begins with the premise that using fossil fuels is a good thing. In fact, the more the merrier."
The moral case for fossil fuels – KTVQ.COM

"Nitish who was happy to see the metamorphosis of the village, with its houses and streets illuminated with the two-week old 100-kW micro-grid installed at a cost of Rs 3 crore, was met by village youngsters carrying placards demanding 'real source of energy', and 'not the fake solar powered' one."
Bihar village clamours for real electricity – INDIA TODAY

“What you owe yourself is to work for your living; what
you owe your neighbour is not to interfere with his work.”
- Ayn Rand

“Don't screw with the markets.”
The Venezuela Case Study In How Not To Help The Poor – Tim Worstall, FORBES

“The multitudes who splurged $21.99 apiece on the Kindle edition of French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, also spent about 20 minutes reading it. Based on Kindle-generated data, most readers lost interest in the 600-page tome by page 26 … 
    “The majority, then, have formed an opinion by reading what others have written.…”
Piketty: A book more often purchased than read – Gene Epstein, LOCKER ROOM

If they’d read it, they might have realised Piketty shows inequality falling sharply during the capitalist era …
Forget Piketty: How Sweden combined wealth and equality through capitalism – Andreas Bergh, CITY A.M.

“It would seem that the rosy picture of the Fed fixing the economy does not look as rosy to central bankers themselves once they have supposedly fixed the economy!”
Trouble at Jackson Hole = CIRCLE BASTIAT

“Make no mistake with QE still going on …  combined with Japan, China, England and the ECB all providing loads of liquidity to the financial system, risk-taking is off the charts … and the entire financial system is setting itself up for another massive, deleveraging crash once again.”
Even Mainstream Academia Worried about Massive Bubbles in Markets – ZERO HEDGE

“The current bubble in financial assets -- in both equities and bonds of all grades and quality -- raging in every major market across the globe is no accident. It's a deliberate creation. An intentional result of policy.
    “Therefore, when it bursts, we shouldn't regard the resulting damage as some freak act of nature or other such outcome outside of our control…  Blame can and should be laid where it belongs: with the central banks.”
I Blame The Central Banks – Chris Martenson, PEAK PROSPERITY

“I haven't failed. I have just found
10,000 ways that didn't work.”
- Thomas A. Edison

“It is well-known that World War I was expensive for Britain.” Maybe twice as expensive, at least, as previously thought.
Walking wounded: The British economy in the aftermath of World War I – Nicholas Crafts, VOX

Just as Hoover was a gift to Roosevelt.
Bush's Gift to Obama and the American Left – Michael LaFerrara, PRINCIPLED PERSPECTIVES

“[Alleged] actor Leonardo DiCaprio has declared war on Western industrial civilisation by funding and narrating a series of short eco documentaries urging us all to leave fossil fuels in the ground, cripple our economies with carbon taxes and embrace bird-frying, bat-chomping renewable technologies such as solar and wind.
The first film in the series on Carbon – co-written by liberal activist cum talk radio host Thom Hartmann – is riddled with basic errors, extremely dubious propaganda claims, and flagrant politicking on behalf of the more left-wing elements in the Obama administration...”
Leo DiCaprio declares war on Western industrial civilization – BLAZING CAT FUR

Too many libertarians still ignorant about property rights.  “It is bewildering, for example, to find a libertarian think tank arguing that government projects are superior to private property rights as a means of directing resources to innovative activities.” This might help …
Intellectual property and economic prosperity: Friends or foes? - Adam Mossoff & Mark Schultz, TECHPOLICY DAILY
Intellectual Property, Innovation and Economic Growth: Mercatus Gets it Wrong – Adam Mossoff & Mark Schultz, CPIP BLOG

Poor boy still hasn’t grown a brain either.

image

“This 1,600-year-old Viking war game is still awesome."
Viking War Game – GEEK PRESS

“From Nero’s decadent Golden House in Rome to Charles Fourier’s orgiastic “courts of love”; public toilet glory holes to Eileen Gray’s sexy Mediterranean hideaway.”
Erotic architecture: the sexual history of great buildings – NEW STATESMAN

“One of the great things about medieval art and architecture is that people just went in and did things. They didn’t build models and scale them up, building great cathedrals and abbeys was a learning process as much as anything else. This means many of these apparently perfect aspirations to the Heavenly Jerusalem have some often quite comical mistakes, corrections and bodge-jobs that once you see, you can’t unnotice.”
Great Mistakes in English Mediaeval architecture – STAINED GLASS ATTITUDES

Dane Swan suggested plastic wrapped butter slices. But this is more awesome.
Butter Knife 2.0 – GEEK PRESS

Just in case you missed this earlier …

It’s the Holy Bibles 20th birthday this week. No, not that Holy Bible.

I was doubtful too, but this definitely grows on you.

Hey, Kristin Hersh is in town Sunday!

[Hat tips Alex Epstein, Lindsay Perigo, Rational Beacon, Richard Goode, Peter Linton, Carbon Dioxide, FOЯEVEЯ DELAYED, Alex S, Perspective Pictures, TakingHayekSeriously, Buddha Teachings, Timothy Sandefur, The GWPF, Old Whig, Famous-Quote.net, Archinect]

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.
PC

PS: This weekend I’m tracking down some of NZ’s just awarded champion brewery, Townshend Brewery. There’s a hell of a lot to choose from.  Here’s a few other prizewinners to check out:

Champion New Zealand Brewery: Townshend Brewery
Champion New Zealand Manufacturer: Townshend Brewery
Champion International Brewery: Boston Beer Company
European Lager Styles: Emerson’s Brewery Gladiator Bock (Gold)
International Lager Styles: Monteith’s Black (Silver)
British Ale Styles: Wigram Brewing Company Tornado Strong Ale (Gold)
Other European Ale Styles: Emerson’s Brewery JP 2014 (Gold)
US Ale Styles: ParrotDog BloodyDingo (Gold)
International Ale Styles: Panhead Custom Ales BossHog (Gold)
Stout and Porter Styles: Three Boys Brewery Oyster Stout (Gold)
Wheat and Other Grain Styles: Renaissance Brewing Black the RIPA (Silver)
Flavoured Styles (including Fruit, Spice, Herb, Honey and Smoked): Wigram Brewing Company Captain Cook Spruce Beer (Gold)
New Zealand Specific Styles: Townshend Brewery Oldhams Tap Riwaka Pilsner (Gold)
Speciality, Experimental, Aged, Barrel, Wood-Aged Styles: Panhead Custom Ales Black Sabbath (Gold)
Cider and Perry Styles: Zeffer Cider Company Slack ma Girdle Cider (Gold)
Cask Conditioned: Moa Brewery Five Hop Handpull (Gold)
Festive Brew: Behemoth Brewing Company Brave Bikkie Brown Ale (Gold)

That should keep you off the streets.

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Montessori Education & the Development of the Self

Now, this is something to get to, a fascinating event organised by Auckland’s Maria Montessori Education Foundation …

Don’t miss out – come and hear world leading paediatric neuropsychologist, Dr Steven Hughes present

Igniting the Flame Within –
Montessori Education &
the Development of the Self’

on
Thursday September 11th
7.00p.m. (doors open @ 6.30p.m.)

Auckland University of Technology (A.U.T.)
Northcote campus

image

Proudly sponsored by MMEF & AUT

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Debate

The whole setup was ridiculous.

In a proper debate – in a properly moderated debate – the moderator sets the topic, the first fellow then gets a minute or two to address it, the second fellow gets the same time to address it and to  respond, and then the first fellow gets a very short time to respond. If they want to challenge their opponent’s facts, then they do it in their appointed time, integrating it with their planned response. Contestants alternate with each topic, giving it at least the appearance of fairness

That’s a debate.

It’s not a debate when contestants are simply invited to talk as long they like, over whomever they like. Sure, they can talk over each other even in properly moderated debates, but then at least it’s clear who is supposed to be talking, and viewers can decide for themselves what that tells them about those who butt in.

Sheesh. Moderators in high-school debates do the job better.

And that’s not all.

Click here to read more ... >>

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Austrian Capital Theory and ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

Guest post by Mark Tovey

During an early scene of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which the hyper-intelligent apes were depicted hunting for deer in the forest surrounding their settlement, someone behind me interjected “if those apes are so smart, how come they’re hunter-gatherers?”

This decent question received nothing but a shush from his more etiquette-conscious companion.

While there are many factors other than intelligence that are relevant to a society’s choice of an agricultural or hunter-gather economy, Austrian capital theory can go a long way in helping to explain why the apes featured in the film could be highly-intelligent while still remaining hunter-gatherers.

Austrian Capital Theory: Convoluted and Time-Consuming

The adoption of ever-more roundabout and convoluted production processes is, paradoxically, the hallmark of economic development. This is not, of course, because time-consuming methods are inherently more productive. If that were the case, we could increase output by simply working more slowly!

To solve the paradox,

Click here to read more ... >>

Experiments in Economics: Playing “Fair”

Here’s your info on what the Auckland Uni Economics Group is getting up to tonight …

Hi all,
This week are pleased to be joined by Professor Ananish Chaudhuri, Professor of Experimental Economics and Head of the Department of Economics, who will discuss the topic of Experiments in Economics: Playing Fair, including

  • the role of experiments in economics;
  • how experimental economics became a part of the mainstream; and
  • a brief overview of his own experimental work exploring the role of “fairness” in economic transactions.
Click here to read more ... >>

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On the political and social rights of Palestinians

“Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of the Palestinians living in Israel is far longer
than many Arab states and they
enjoy far better political and social freedom than many of
their Arab brothers
. Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip enjoy more political and social rights than some places in the Arab World.”

- Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, retired Royal Saudi Navy Commodore,
writing a couple of years ago in Arab News, and quoted this morning on Kiwiblog

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The Only Email System DotCon and the NSA Can’t Access

Guest post by Hollie Slade

When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”

There was a massive response, and of the 40 or so active in the discussion, six started meeting at CERN’s Restaurant Number 1, pooling their deep knowledge of computing and physics to found ProtonMail, a gmail-like email system which uses end-to-end encryption, making it impossible for outside parties to monitor.

Encrypted emails have actually been around since the 1980s, but they are extremely difficult to use. When Edward Snowden asked a reporter to use an end-to-end encrypted email to share details of the NSA surveillance program the reporter couldn’t get the system to work, says Yen.

“We encrypt the data on the browser before it comes to the server,” he explains. “By the time the data comes to the server it’s already encrypted, so if someone comes to us and says we’d like to read the emails of this person, all we can say is we have the encrypted data but we’re sorry we don’t have the encryption key and we can’t give you the encryption key.”

“We’ve basically separated the message that’s encrypted apart from the key — all the encryption takes place on your computer instead of our servers, so there’s no way for us to see the original message.”

This is different from all other systems, says Yen. While Gmail has implemented some encryption, they still have the encrypted message and the key to decrypt the message.

Cofounders
Cofounders, from left to right, Jason Stockman, Wei Sun, Andy Yen.

While half the team is now at MIT, some are still in Switzerland where the ProtonMail’s servers are housed for extra protection.

“One of the key things we want to do is control our servers and make sure all the servers are in Switzerland which will increase privacy because Switzerland doesn’t do things like seize servers or tape conversations,” says Yen.

This will help avoid a situation where the U.S. government could forcibly shut them down, says Yen, similar to what happened to Lavabit last year.

Click here to read more ... >>

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The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars

Guest post by Ronald Bailey

Tesla, Nissan, Google, and several carmakers have declared that they will have commercial self-driving cars on the highways before the end of this decade. Experts at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers predict that 75% of cars will be self-driving by 2040. So far California, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, and the District of Columbia have passed laws explicitly legalizing self-driving vehicles, and many other states are looking to do so.

The coming era of autonomous autos raises concerns about legal liability and safety, but there are good reasons to believe that robot cars may exceed human drivers when it comes to practical and even ethical decision making.

More than 90% of all traffic accidents are the result of human error. In 2011, there were 5.3 million automobile crashes in the United States, resulting in more than 2.2 million injuries and 32,000 deaths. Americans spend $230 billion annually to cover the costs of accidents, accounting for approximately 2 to 3% of GDP.

Proponents of autonomous cars argue that they will be much safer than vehicles driven by distracted and error-prone humans. The longest-running safety tests have been conducted by Google, whose autonomous vehicles have traveled more than 700,000 miles so far with only one accident (when a human driver rear-ended the car). So far, so good.

Stanford University law professor Bryant Walker Smith, however, correctly observes that there are no engineered systems that are perfectly safe.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Venezuela proves Hayek right again

Writing in the Road to Serfdom, Hayek pointed out that socialism inevitably ends up in tyranny. In his book, Government Against the Economy, George Reisman outlined the process in detail.

Socialist controls creates higher costs and partial  shortages, which inspire partial price controls and/or rationing, which creates more shortages and more controls, which creates even greater chaos in the production and distribution of goods, which leads to more shortages and universal controls, which leads to the seizure of production and distribution and even greater shortages and more and more controls – an inevitable and unsustainable process leading inexorably to bankruptcy, to starvation and to the tyranny and terror necessary to maintain the now-utterly corrupt system against those forced within it.

The process lasts either as long as a country has something to loot – or until its citizens wake up.

Venezuela continues to perform today’s demonstration of this tragic process.

Image: Wikimedia CommonsNot only has Venezuela imposed price controls, it now seeks to “cure” shortages by cracking down on shoppers. “Venezuela’s food shortage is so bad the country is mandating that people scan their fingerprints at grocery stores in order to keep people from buying too much of a single item,” Fox News reports.
   

Click here to read more ... >>

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Now, these are what I call doors!

Home-grown horror [updated]

“The Duke of Wellington famously said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the
playing-fields of Eton: and if that is the case, then the advance of the Islamic State was
begun in the nice, tolerant, liberal academies of Britain and other parts of western Europe.”

Mary Kenny, - 'Isis will never be defeated until Western societies
stand up for their own values,'
– IRISH INDEPENDENT

Many folk otherwise supportive of allowing peaceful people to cross borders freely (a policy well-articulated here) argue this policy can’t survive Muslim immigration; they argue the policy is untenable since Muslims constitute an objective threat, to whom western borders must be irrevocably closed. But as many Britons are slowly realising, especially after the jihadi killer of journalist James Foley was revealed as a comfortably-off Briton from Maida Vale, the threat comes not from Muslim immigration: the threat is homegrown.

And as Daniel Murray points out in the Spectator, “This is not even the first beheading of an American journalist to have been arranged by a British man from London.” Daniel Pearl was the first to so suffer, at the hands of a north London-born graduate of a private school and the London School of Economics.

Locally-born too were the suicide bombers of the London Tube, the killers in cold blood of drummer Lee Rigby, and the bomber of Glasgow airport – a registered doctor born and raised in Aylesbury.

The threat they point to is not at the borders; it is being nurtured within. And not just a threat at home. 

4,000 people from Britain are thought to have gone to train or fight in Afghanistan. Estimates of the number of British citizens who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq range from just over 500 to 1,500 …  significantly higher than the number of Muslims currently serving in Britain’s armed forces….. But it is now obvious that whether we like it or not, this is Britain’s problem…
    The country that brought liberty to much of the world is now exporting terrorism to large parts of it.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Monday, August 25, 2014

QUOTE OF THE DAY: On ‘planning,’ and compulsion

“What is politically defined as economic planning is the forcible
superseding of other people’s plans by government officials.”

-Thomas Sowell

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School breakfasts?

These days, everything is political. Even breakfast.

"Thousands of children are getting a healthy start in the morning thanks to [National’s taxpayer-funded] programme which is growing across schools throughout the country each week," says Paula Bennett.

The only evidence Paula cares about is votes. Because there is no other.

"We have little information about adolescents, little information about the benefits of breakfast in well-nourished kids, and little information about how variation in the composition of breakfast figures into the mix," says David Katz, director of Yale University's Griffin Prevention Research Center.

“On my best read of the literature, it's hard to make a case for that we'd get any great benefit from the programmes. Rather, we often find that they don't even increase the odds that kids eat breakfast at all,” says Eric Crampton, having studied the literature.

Politics is never about evidence, however -- and now National is serving up breakfast, every other party wants to deliver lunch.

It’s a fair metaphor for government creep, don’t you think?

  • Breakfast Downgraded From 'Most Important Meal of the Day' to 'Meal' – ATLANTIC
  • Breakfast in schools: it just doesn't work – Eric Crampton, NBR
  • Labels:

    EARTHQUAKE ENGINEERING OF THE DAY: Early-warning system

    Astonishingly, an early-warning system at UC Berkeley was able to give a 10-second alert before the Napa earthquake struck this morning.

    That might not sound like much, but that is precisely 10 seconds more warning of destruction than anyone has been able to enjoy before. Even better…

    California is working to complete a statewide system, which could be unveiled in the next few years.

    An earthquake early warning system in California would be like one now operating in Japan, providing valuable seconds to prepare for the shaking.

    Once fully developed, the system could give downtown Los Angeles 40 to 50 seconds of warning that the “Big One” was headed from the San Andreas fault, giving time for elevators to stop at the next floor and open up, firefighters to open up garage doors, high-speed trains to slow down to avoid derailment and surgeons to take the scalpel out of a patient.

    It’s not magic.  It can’t look forward in time or anything.

    The system works because while earthquakes travel at the speed of sound, sensors that initially detect the shaking near the epicenter of a quake can send a message faster -- at the speed of light -- to warn residents farther away that the quake is coming… “even a few seconds of warning will allow people to seek cover…”

    So, if you’re at the epicentre you’re still stuffed. But anywhere further afield, and this could save your life.

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    Malthus explains the problem with #TeamKey’s first-home buyer subsidy [update 2]

    National launched their election campaign over the weekend, the headline grabber being a $20,000 taxpayer subsidy to first-home buyers.

    Even Hard Labour knows this is risible electioneering, but they have no more real answers to fix housing than the Nats.  Not that long ago, socialist Venezuela experienced the same problems with toilet paper as NZ has with housing, and for similar reasons.  Eric Crampton summarises how NZ’s two main parties would be dealing with it:

    Eric CramptonLabour would put capital gains tax on toilet paper.
    National would subsidise first-time toilet paper buyers.

    Neither would have any effect. That is, neither would have any positive effect.

    We’ve known for at least two-hundred years that subsidies don’t work the way politicians say they will – at least since British classical economist Thomas Malthus wrote his seminal Investigation of the Cause of the Present High Price of Provisions, which even Uncle Keynes thought was top stuff.

    To make it easy for Bill English, I’ve translated the relevant passage into modern idiom:

    Click here to read more ... >>

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    #TeamKey: the best left-wing team since the last one [update 2]

    #TeamKey and #TeamCorkery agree on one thing at least: they both want talk to be about policies, not dirty politics.

    #TeamCorkery’s wish didn’t come true however because her Sugar Daddy wanted to talk about hacking. So, thought the media, hacking it is.  [UPDATE 1: Curiously, the story, which was all over the news yesterday, is in the process of disappearing down the memory hole. UPDATE 2: Or is the story’s disappearance ‘round the net just a correction, all having previously said DotCon had “admit[ted] to hacking.”]

    Hard to complain about their subsequent questions when they were being taunted from the stage.

    On the other hand, maybe it’s better if the media didn’t focus on National’s policies, because what they’ll find if they do is pretty damned limp – an effective vote of no-confidence in their own stated values.  From the point of view of the left, as Danyl McLaughlan summarises, they’ll find a virtual reverse takeover:

    National’s ideology and values are not (yet) delivering any policy ideas during this campaign. Free money for first home buyers, free doctor’s visits for children and MOAR ROADS are not right-wing (or ‘centre right’) ideas, in the way that the partial sales of the energy companies was. Having a popular right-wing party simply unable to campaign on its values or ideas is a pretty sweet place for the left to be, long term. It would be nice to be in government, but having National in there implementing left-wing policies for us is the next best thing. 

    John Key: the best left-wing Prime Minister since the last one.

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    Paleo-Greens

    An early meeting of the Greens’s “brains trust”:

    image

    [Cartoon by Alex Gregory from the New Yorker, hat tip Chris Les]

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