Friday, 19 January 2007

Beer O’Clock – Heineken Mini-Keg

Here for your delectation and delight is our first beer column for the New Year from our regular beer correspondent, Real Beer's Neil Miller.

A long time ago, in a country just like this one, the beer scene was pretty sad.

Two mighty Empires had divided up the entire country between them. While competition between them was fierce, their products were virtually identical – brown, fizzy, sweet.

Beer was to be drunk in volume and as quickly possible. It was often served through a pressure hose from an underground tank. It was not a classy age.

Before the development of the Rebel craft brewing scene, the few rays of hope were often provided by imported beers. While not always the freshest, these imports had qualities that many local products lacked at that time – things like hops. And flavour.

One of those beers was Heineken – the original Dutch classic lager. It was hugely prestigious, it was popular and it was expensive.

Today, the beer scene is much changed. Heineken is now made in Otahuhu, and there is a huge variety of products with whole ranges of flavoursome beers from here and overseas that we can also enjoy, meaning Heineken doesn’t stand out as it once did.

But it’s still pretty expensive. However, having attended a number of Wellington corporate Christmas parties I can testify to its continued popularity. These days Heineken is a simple, easy drinking lager with just a hint of dry hops.

The other day there was a knock at the door of my secret overground headquarters. It was a courier guy with a large and heavy cylindrical package. Inside was Heineken’s latest invention – the 5-litre mini keg (or “large can of beer” as I like to call it). My spirits rose immediately.

I’ve had mini-kegs before. Warsteiner and DAB from Germany regularly have kegs available here. I quite like them – you can sit down next to the keg and don’t have to keep getting up to go to the fridge and missing three Black Cap wickets while you are there. If you take a mini keg to a party you can say “I just bought one beer” and then laugh and laugh. Well, I do.

The difference here is in the space-age dispensing system which claims to keep beer fresh for up to 30 days after opening. I tried a beer after about 10 days in the keg and it was still pretty darn fresh as promised.

Providing the keg is chilled for 10 hours and kept stable it pours pretty well too. If you break these rules though you had better have a hankering for beer foam because that is what you will get.

I find the Heineken from the keg fresher, more aromatic and more sociable than the same beer from the bottle. It is a talking point and one of the best ways to drink Heineken. Plus it will look so cool in your recycling bin. You will be the envy of your neighbours!

Heineken mini-kegs are available in most supermarkets.

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere

Oh Brother.

I confess I have no idea why non-news makes the news , and it's not just because it's still silly season that some slapper spat on UK TV show Big Brother is news even here in NZ. Slappers sell, it seems. If you want to know why the Big Brother spat is the biggest news in the UK, for goodness' sake, and even contaminating our own news, then Liberty Scott has the links and the lowdown. If you can be bothered.

UPDATE 1: Bernard Darnton observes the irony that "Sadly, far more people are interested in Big Brother the TV show than in Big Brother the all-seeing state that punishes thought-crime." And he also finds the most sensible of common-sense comments on the brouhaha from the unlikeliest of commentators, David Cameron, who observes of the hordes of Britich complainants complaining to the regulator, “There’s a great regulator called the off button and I think we should use it.” Amen.

UPDATE 2: That's a gratuitous picture of Shilpa Shetty there, just so you can try and work out why the slapper might just be jealous. Any idea?

LINK: The rise and fall of Jade Goody - Liberty Scott
'East Angular' momentum - Section 14 (Bernard Darnton)

RELATED: Nonsense

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An urban sprawl junket for Heatley

NZ HERALD: National takes aim at house prices
The National Party is about to tackle the Government over the rocketing price of housing, and is spending $10,000 on an overseas study of methods to solve the problem it is creating

National's housing spokesman, Phil Heatley, is going to the United States and Britain to study ways of resolving the predicament of steeply rising house prices blocking many people from owning a home. The average home now costs about seven times the average annual income... He is visiting Houston, Dallas and Washington DC, then going to the International Housing Conference in London to hear speakers talk about how to solve urban sprawl, deal with planning issues and end the divide between rural and urban areas.
What a nice trip for Phil, but a tax-paid overseas junket really isn't necessary. A helpful 'Not PC' correspondent who's read our archives on the subject has the answers for which Phil is seeking (thanks AB):
Here's the solution: get rid of fiat money, get rid of zoning, don't fight so-called sprawl and let people free to develop according to demand, and let development "end the divide between rural and urban areas" by having the council-imposed 'Urban Wall' removed.

A cheque for $10,000 to be made out to the Libertarianz, please.
In short, sprawl is good. Don't fight it.

LINK: Some Auckland mayors realise ring-fencing the city is 'unsustainable' - Not PC (Aug, 2006)
Sustainable cities are unaffordable cities - Not PC (July, 2006)
Dream of home ownership is just that - Not PC (Aug, 2006)

RELATED: Urban Design, Politics-NZ, Politics-National


Thursday, 18 January 2007

Scalping the Big Day Out

Big Day Out promoters are bleating about ticket scalpers, meaning (to the promoters) everyone who bought a ticket and then resold it. Naughty people. People who buy these tickets face being barred from the venue tomorrow, says a snippy Big Day Out promoter, Campbell Smith.

What a dickhead. A voluntary seller does a deal with a voluntary buyer; they both get what they want, no-one misses out ... and Campbell Bloody Smith and Trevor Bloody Mallard want to pass laws to put a stop to it. What a pair of dickheads. I could explain at length why they're dickheads, but I don't need to: you see, I'd hardly need to change a word from what I said when I explained how the U2 promoter was just as economically illiterate, another poor lamb who simply doesn't understand a good thing when it leaps up and helps him out financially...

LINKS: Scalpers cash in on Big Day Out - NZ Herald
Scalping U2 - Not PC (Dec, 2005)

RELATED: Economics, Music, New Zealand

Does business need Wellington to manage wages

A lot of tosh has been talked about the the ten percent increase in NZ's minimum wage from April next year, much of it by those who had been active in pursuit of that increase as a way of radicalising new activists for their socialist agenda. (Look for even more mechanisation of unskilled jobs beginning in about April next year.)

Does business need Wellington to manage wages? That question is powerfully argued in the negative at the Mises Daily (just read "Wellington" for "Washington") in a response to arguments by Clinton's former Labor Secretary Robert Reich in favour of the Democrats' plan to hike the minimum wage by $2.0/hour.

Reich offers all the usual wrong arguments, all soundly dismissed.
  1. "Businesses can pass the hike along to consumers." Not true. Consumers may simply stop buying the hiked stuff altogether.
  2. "The minimum wage increase wouldn't be a minimum wage increase ... [since] the new proposed minimum is more like an inflation adjustment than a real increase." Not true: "To "adjust" the regulation for inflation will simply force businesses to lay off some of those marginal workers and to restrict the quality of their products, not to mention hiking prices."
  3. "The minimum wage increase would actually help small businesses." Yep, Reich even tries that line of 'argument.' The Mises Blog summarises: "First, Reich argued that the minimum wage hike wouldn't hurt businesses because the damage would be passed on to another group. Then, Reich denied that the hike would be a hike. Now, in his third argument, Reich is claiming that the non-hike hike, the harm of which could be shunted to others, is actually not harmful. OK?"
Okay? Got that. It's really worth reading the Mises Daily's whole demolition of Reich's fatuous fart on minimum wages. Enjoy.

LINK: Does business need Washington to manage wages - Robert Murphy, Mises Daily

RELATED: Minimum Wage, Economics


Sad news about a great man

Frédéric Bastiat exploded more protectionists myths more succinctly than perhaps any other writer; described as "the most brilliant economic journalist who ever lived," he was perhaps the nineteenth-century's greatest proselytiser on free trade.

The idea that protectionism works is satirised in his now famous Petition from Candle-makers for legal protection "from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price" -- in other words, a petition from candle-makers against the sun.

The idea that destruction is good for the economy is exploded in his story of the Broken Window -- to story around which Henry Hazlitt based a whole book: Economics in One Lesson. And the ridiculous twaddle that advocates of free trade are just theorists, who don't take actual practice sufficiently into consideration is dismissed unceremoniously in Theory and Practice. And that's just a small taste of what lies in Bastiat's arsenal.

All this is to say that if you don't have a well-thumbed copy of this great Frenchman's Economic Sophisms in your library, then you're missing out.

And to point out a very unfortunate fact that a friend of mine just pointed out to me, one almost the opposite of Dave Henderson's great victory over the grey ones: the house in which Bastiat had lived for long in Mugron is now lodging the “perception des impost,” the French IRD office…

Poor Bastiat.

LINKS: What is seen and not seen - Bastiat, Economic Sophisms (free online edition at EconLibrary)
The petition of the candlemakers - Bastiat, Economic Sophisms
The balance of trade - Bastiat, Economic Sophisms
Theory and practice - Bastiat, Economic Sophisms
Economic Sophisms - Amazon.Com
The man who took on the IRD and won - NZ Herald (May, 2006)

RELATED: Economics, History


The main problem with Bush's new Iraq strategy

Cartoonists Cox and Forkum summarise the main strategic problem with Bush's new Iraq strategy:

In case the point still isn't clear enough:
The plan, it appears, is to limit our military to attacks against terrorists and their supply lines within Iraq and refrain from attacking the source of those terrorists and supply lines: Iran. Bush is attempting to cure the symptoms while ignoring the disease. As such, the weapons and terrorists will keep flowing across the border, and the chaos in Iraq, though it may rise and fall, will ultimately continue because Iran needs it to continue. How can we expect our troops to win a war in which we don't allow them to directly attack the enemy?

In World War II, we didn't stop with engaging enemy soldiers at the front lines; nor did we stop at disrupting their supply lines. We took the fight all the way to the weapons factories and the command centers from which the war emanated.
LINKS: Dead ball - Cox and Forkum
The 800-pound gorilla - Cox and Forkum

RELATED: Politics-World, War

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Wednesday, 17 January 2007

A question to ponder over the coming year

How much of your stolen $800,000 spent on buying the last election has Helen Clark paid back yet?

How much of the $158,000 Winston 'misappropriated' has he paid back?

Back in October when Don Brash reminded punters that Heather Simpson's validating legislation meant there was now "no legal obligation on anybody to pay back anything," The Popular and Competent Leaderene responded: "You have to take parties at their word and [when] they say they will refund that becomes a matter of honour."

Honour? Honour? From politicians? As I said back then, the irony really is palpable. Time for that old, old joke:
Q: How do you know when a politician's lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
More seriously, and as Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis once reflected, "Our government ... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."

So, any bets as to when any of it will be paid back? Or if? Or if either the media or Key's National Socialists will bother pursuing this?

Politics-NZ, Darnton V Clark, Politics-Labour


Idle Auckland

If you haven't added Mrs Smith's Idle Vice to your regular reading, then you must. She's a hoot. Describing herself, 'Mrs Smith' says, "I am a repressed minority; I stoically face up to discrimination and hostility everyday. It's not easy being a born-and-(well)bred Aucklander with loads of money." Times are tough all over.

Today 'Mrs Smith' is offering readers "a few facts about Auckland." Sample:
There are air-raid shelters under Albert Park, with a capacity for 20,400 people. They were built during WWII, when it was feared we might be bombed by the Japanese. The excavation was done by up to 100 council staff, by hand, without the aid of excavating equipment. It was the last time council staff did any real work.
Read on here.

LINK: A few facts about Auckland - Idle Vice

RELATED: Auckland, Humour

Five things you didn't know about me

Lots of bloggers round here have been doing the 'Five Things You Didn't Know About Me' meme. Being a conformist from way back, here's mine.
  1. Never liked tagging. My only tagging adventures as a youngster involved the Mangere train station, where a mate and I spray-painted 'PUNK' in huge red letters on the walls of both North- and South-going stations on the way home from school one day. That is, I spray-painted 'PUNK' in the South-going station, but he was interrupted in his and painted only 'PUN.' The words stayed there for many years, and on reflection 'PUN' seemed rather better. More layered.
  2. As a youngster I used to work in Foodtown packing groceries for about $1/hour. Ric Salizzo started as a checkout operator while I was there: he used to come to work dressed as a Mod (anyone remember the late-Seventies Mod revival?), riding a small scooter -- not a Vespa so much as a beige Vespa-ish sort of thing. One night we decided it might be fun to pick up the scooter and park it in amongst the trundler bay for 'safe-keeping,' placed as I recall in a fairly difficult-to-extricate part of the trundler bay. We thought it was hilarious. Ric didn't. Our boss, agreed with him. :-/
  3. I worked for a short while at the Mangere East Service Station, behind which a small band called Herbs used to practice. They were pretty good as I recall, and they were one of the biggest purchasers of our pies. I sometimes forgot the exact prices when I took their money.
  4. The Mad Butcher's first shop was at the top of our street (just a few houses along from David Lange -- but that's another story -- David Lange diving into a small swimming pool!). When lamb flaps and Povi Masima started being big sellers for him and he started to expand, I started delivering circulars for him for a short while. Turned out however that his plans were rather bigger than a few thousand circulars around Mangere and Papatoetoe. Ask me later about his sausages.
  5. I started out on building sites as a labourer, at a site in Leys Crescent, Remuera in which the sewage had to be pumped up to the street. All waste went to a large man-hole where an eviscerating pump chewed it all up into small pieces and then pumped the stuff uphill into the main sewer. The eviscerating pump was, however, rather temperamental, and even years after the house sold and the buyers moved in, my boss and I used to take turns climbing down into the sewage repairing the pump when it regularly malfunctioned (he was a very humane boss). The problem was that no matter how many times I reminded the residents before I ventured down into the manhole, they would still forget and go right ahead and flush ... right down onto my poor, over-worked head. Uughh.

More marketing shite

Tom Beard comments on the book 8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of New Zealand, another "attempt by marketers to conjure up demographic or psychographic clusters among New Zealanders."
While I haven't read the book, I have plenty of reservations about what I can gather from the articles and the web site. First, the word "tribe" seems inappropriate [he sure got that right], since it conjures up images of tightly defined and feuding clans: "tendency" might be more accurate. Attempts to promote it as a "new class system" seem way off the mark, given that it's not a hierarchy. The online "Find your tribe" quiz seems hardly more substantial than those cheesy memes, and the descriptions of the eight tribes seemed to leave out substantial chunks of New Zealand (especially those whose main allegiance is to tribes that existed long before PR consultants).

But it's definitely fun...
Well, I don't know about fun, or even about accuracy, but here, according to the marketing graduates, are my own 'tribes':

Raglan I like. But Grey Lynn? Anyway, find your own 'tribe' here.

LINKS: Find your tribe - 8 Tribes
Tribes of Wellington - Tom Beard

RELATED: Quizzes

Market forces in the Amazon?

"The market forces of globalization are invading the Amazon, hastening the demise of the forest and thwarting its most committed stewards."

So begins the latest National Geographic cover story, documenting the Amazon's demise in pictures and stories -- "during the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rain forest has been cut down, more than in all the previous 450 years since European colonization began" -- and sheeting home the blame to the ubiquitous enemy named in that opening line: "market forces and globalization."

The destruction of the Amazon has been a common theme for journalists and professional busybodies more than a decade. Today's highest profile busybody Al Gore wrote in his 1989 vice-Presidential manifesto Earth in the Balance that the devastation of Brazil's forest was "one of the great tragedies of all history." Gore, too, blamed the desire of "large landowners to earn short-term profits," ignoring "long-term ecological tragedy."

But there's a problem with this analysis. As Tom Bethell writes in his book The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages,
Although he visited Brazil and is a professional politician, Gore showed little interest in the political origins of the Brazilian debacle. [Neither does the National Geographic.] ... It's real cause, however, was not greedy landowners, but unwise laws governing land ownership.
Those familiar with the subsidies and destruction wrought in rural New Zealand by Muldoon's Marginal Lands Board would recognise the debacle in the Amazon, but on a very much larger scale. You might say that (just as with the land clearances promoted under Muldoon's programme) the forest clearances were not so much a sign of market forces and globalization, but instead of government forces and nationalistic sentiment.

Here's the story that's not told by either Gore or the National Geographic. Notes Jorge Cappato, writing for the UN Environment Programme,
Towards 1970, the Brazilian president Medici decided to build a Transamazonian highway of 5,000 kilometers to offer "a land without men to men without lands". However, neither the land was fertile nor was it empty: there were natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest.
The project, run by Brazil's military government, was funded by the World Bank over opposition from its own ecological officer. Said Adrian Cowell in his Decade of Destruction documenting the disaster,
The momentum of the Bank's financial machine, the need to lend money to Brazil as its debt developed, had overidden the practical warnings of its specialists.
As Tom Bethell notes in his book, the construction of the Federal road
opened up access to the Amazon region, and a competition for the (state-owned) land ensued. Squatters received the right to 100 hectares if they could show effective use of the land for a year. The problem was that only cutting down the trees counted as effective use...
And here's where the "unwise laws governing land ownership" come in. None of those people displaced by the military government's project -- in Capatto's words, the "natives, riverside people, seringueiros, and people who lived from and took care of the forest" -- none of them had their pre-existing property rights protected, or their rights to the use of the forest protected. Instead, the military government claimed ownership of all land 100 kilometres either side of their highway (as Bethell notes, such a claim made in the US would see "most of the US mainland nationalised") and then parcelled it out to friends, fellow-travellers and squatters who could clear trees fast enough to claim 'their' 100 acres. Bethell again:
Only the traditional "sustainable use" of harvesting rubber and nuts did not count. For those who had already arrived and staked their claims, the best way to guard against competition from newcomers was to cut down trees as quickly as possible... In effect, if not in law, "the land-claiming process itself has required deforestation," the economist Gary Libecap wrote.
Even the World Bank's own advisers belatedly acknowledged the problem they themselves had helped cause:
Governments responsible for the Amazon region, for example, have exacerbated the negative environmental externalities. Public subsidies and tax incentives to large cattle producers and loggers were responsible for more than 50 percent of the deforestation in the Amazon region in the 1970s and the 1980s (Binswanger 1991). Moreover, public investments in infrastructure into the frontier areas have magnified the externalities associated with the lack of well-defined property rights in such areas.
So there you have it.

And now ask yourself: who's the real villain here then? Market forces and globalization? Greedy landowners? Or, as Bethell and others argue, Big Government, nationalistic sentiment, a lack of real property rights and "unwise laws governing land ownership."

And why doesn't National Geographic tell this side of the story at all?

LINKS: Last of the Amazon - National Geographic magazine
The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages - Tom Bethell, Amazon.Com
Who was Chico Mendes? - Jorge Cappato, Global 500 Forum, UN Environment Programme
The Decade of Destruction - Adrian Cowell, Bullfrog Films [film review]
Land Reform Policies, the Sources of Violent Conflict and Implications for Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon - Gary Libecap, Social Science Research Network [Abstract]
The Quality of Growth - World Bank, 2000

RELATED: Politics-World, Property Rights, Environment, History-Modern

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Claude Monet's 'Impression - Sunrise'

Claude Monet's Impression - Sunrise (1872), the painting that gave the name to the movement. Painted of the sea outside his Le Havre window after lengthy study, and pressed for a name, Monet said he could hardly just call it 'Le Havre.' Impressions - Sunrise it was. Said critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary,
If one wishes to characterize and explain the [new artists] with a single word, then one would have to coin the word impressionists. They are impressionists in that they do not render a landscape, but the sensation produced by the landscape. The word itself has passed into their language: in the catalogue the Sunrise by Monet is called not landscape, but impression.
You can see his use of colour briefly explained here.


Tuesday, 16 January 2007

The Real Dream of Martin Luther King Day

[Reposted from Not PC, 20/01/06] What's the message of Martin Luther King Day, celebrated today in the U.S.? It's a message that should resonate just as loudly here in New Zealand too. Edwin Locke reminds us of 'The Dream':
What should we remember on Martin Luther King Day? In his "I Have a Dream" speech Dr. King said: "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"...

On Martin Luther King Day--and every day--we should focus on the proper antidote to racism and the proper alternative to racial thinking: individualism. We need to teach our children and all our citizens to look beyond the superficialities of skin color and to judge people on what really matters, namely, "the content of their character."
Character is all. Skin colour is just something you're born with. Recognition of that fact is what King called his Dream.

How about making that Dream a reality here in Enzed?

LINKS: What We Should Remember on Martin Luther King Day: Judge People by Their Character, Not Skin Color - Edwin Locke, Capitalism Magazine
"I Have a Dream" - Martin Luther King, LearnOutLoud [audio]


Cleaning your monitor

I spent much of yesterday trying to work out why my main computer wasn't working. Fortunately, I eventually got it sorted: a small amount of dust had settled on the bastarding video card, making the whole machine disfunctional. Grrrr.

Fortunately, the solution was easier (and quicker) than the diagnosis, and while I was cleaning the inside of my computer, I took the opportunity to also clean the inside of my monitor. I'm glad I did. Download your own screen cleaner here. As the man says, men only (or women who can appreciate a good thing). Enjoy. NSFW.


It's becoming a common theme here at Not PC ... bagging the gross National product of John Key. But not today -- at least, not directly.

Here instead is an interview with British Tory leader David Cameron, whom Key has been aping. (What's hilarious is that Cameron's 'strategy' is to simply me-too Tony Blair, so with Key we get a cheap knock-off of Cameron, who is little more than a poor knock-off of Blair but without the conviction; and the policies of both Key and Cameron -- what few are discernible through the mush -- are nothing more than Labour-lite. To a conservative, is known as "strategy.")

Anyway, back to the interview [a hat tip for which goes to Andrew Falloon], in which Cameron lays out his stall for the next political year. At least, he's invited to lay out his stall -- and if you relax and turn your brain off he does sounds very good -- but when you watch with full focus and then try and summarise once he's finished where exactly he stands on anything, you're left with nothing more than froth and a handful of air. Hot air.

Comedian Peter Sellers once famously delivered a five-minute Party Political Broadcast with a semantic content of exactly zero. Cameron can do the same for twenty minutes -- and you would swear he could keep going in the same vein for ever. If you want to watch twenty minutes of a polished politician saying nothing while sounding like he's saying a lot, a foretaste of things to come in New Zealand, then click here and then watch and learn. The Cameron emptiness starts around 37:30.

LINKS: Sunday AM - BBC News
Key on crack - Andrew Falloon

RELATED: Politics-UK, Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Hollow_Men


Warmists, lies, and 3000 deaths per day from malaria.

Stop this obsession with global warming says the Neo-Jacobin, an obsession he says that "threatens to marginalize and overlook more pressing problems for humanity in the here and now – like, for example, the fight against malaria in Africa, and other Third World countries."
Environmentalists constantly bang on and on about forcing the most powerful leaders of the Western world to do this, that or the other, in order to ‘save us all from global warming’, but meanwhile in the real world, the body count for malaria in Africa alone is a million per year, and rising. What makes me really angry is that these deaths need not have occurred. In fact, all those death lead right back to earlier environmentalists political obsessions – the banning of pesticides [and in particular of DDT].
But, say the warmists, global warming is itself exacerbating malaria! Isn't it? Well, says malaria scientist Paul Reiter in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, no it isn't. Not only is the self-claimed warmist consensus a "mirage," but the idea that warming is causing the disease to spread is what Reiter calls an "unsubstantiated claim." That's scientist-speak for "the bastards are lying."

The claim in the Blair Government's Stern Report, for example, "released with much fanfare in late October, predicted increases in temperature will produce up to 80 million new cases of malaria."
This claim relies on a single article that described a simplistic mathematical model that blithely ignored the most obvious reality: Most Africans already live in hot places where they get as many as 300 infective bites every year, though just one is enough. The glass is already full.
Or the claim made by Al Bore in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, "which claims that Nairobi was established in a healthy place "above the mosquito line" but is now infested with mosquitoes — naturally, because of global warming." Notes Reiser:
Gore's claim is deceitful on four counts. Nairobi was dangerously infested when it was founded; it was founded for a railway, not for health reasons; it is now fairly clear of malaria; and it has not become warmer.
In other words, it's a lie, just like all the other warmist's lies. Says Reiter, "We have done the studies and challenged the alarmists, but they continue to ignore the facts."

Ignoring the facts while ignoring real issues. That's so like a warmist, isn't it.

LINKS: Climate change in Africa? Fight malaria instead - A neo-Jacobin
Malaria is alive and well and killing more than 3000 African children every day - World Health Organisation
Dangers of disinformation - Paul Reiter, International Herald Tribune
Global warmist - Urban Dictionary

RELATED: Global Warming, Science, Health, Environment, Politics


Monday, 15 January 2007

Touch not these unhot lips

This is what's known as a strong argument for drinking to excess:

Public Service ads. Scaring the public into behaving otherwise since 1925.

RELATED: Beer & Elsewhere, Cartoons

Missing the meddling?

Cactus Kate asks a question you should all have been asking by now:
9. Doesn't New Zealand run smoothly when all the MP's are on holiday?
I suggest you give that one some serious thought. And here's another urgent question:
10. Craig McMillan. Scored any runs yet?
Is he ever likely to?

LINKS: Random impertinent questions - Cactus Kate


Russel's State of Sanctimony speech

The Greens's Russel Norman has issued his state of the planet speech -- sorry, that's his State of the Planet Speech: Russel (with one 'l') of course has delusions of adequacy -- in which according to Stuff he gets sanctimonious about global warming, and according to David Farrar he unsurprisingly ranks his own party as the one with the best policies to counter said warming. That this is considered newsworthy is hopefully a sign we're still in the silly season, not that our media are utterly unable to think critically.

You can read Stuff's summary of Russel's warmism if you must, if you really want to hear all the nonsense he's found fit to recycle, but Zen Tiger's republication of Russel's original speech notes is far more entertaining.

LINK: Russel Norman: The war on climate change - Zen Tiger, Sir Humphrey's
Shock horror - a political party ranks itself highest - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-Greens, Humour


John Boy Key = Gross National Product

Several sun-filled weeks spent away from politics have left me just as disgusted with the latest scum vomited up by NZ's party-political system as I was before I hit the beach. I refer of course to the gross National product of John Boy Key. Phil Sage does his best to defend the indefensible, and in so doing inadvertently puts his finger on my greatest concern over John Boy, greater even than his inability to stand for anything. (As they say, a man who stands for everything really stands for nothing. Such an observation could almost have had John Boy in mind when it was first made.)

Here's Phil's mercifully brief apologia for John Boy. Key, argues Sage, "has succeeded in the biggest genuine open market of all - currency trading. Sound ideology does not count [in such a market]. What works counts. " At this stage you can almost here the word "therefore" being polished up for use, even if the effect is only the following non sequitur: "I think he will bring that [same] approach to bear on NZ politics... The same things apply to making money long term in currency markets as applies to running a successful economy, spotting and getting ahead of global trends."

Now, all credit to John Boy for his success as a currency trader, but only a moron could equate trading currencies successfully with "running a successful economy," the goal as such a trader being very much narrower, and requiring no "ideology" beyond the necessary commitment to making money rather than losing it. It's a truism a six-year-old would understand to say that "ideology does not count" in such a market.

Anyone however suggesting that the same things apply to making money in currency markets as applies to attempting to run an economy from the Beehive can only be considered dim, if not totally braindead.

Indeed, after several centuries of failure at the job, only a moron or a National Socialist (or Jim Anderton) would look to or expect a politician to "pick winners" or to "run an economy," let alone expect any success from such a venture -- even Tony Blair and Michael Cullen seem to understand this much, however dimly. As the industrial Legendre answered when asked by Louis XIV's economic dictator Jean-Baptiste Colbert what he could best do to help him and his fellow industrialists, "Laissez-nous faire!" -- leave us alone!

"What works" in currency trading is clearcut: ie., ensuring you advance your trading positions. "What works" in politics however is very different, and very far from clear cut -- and politicians "picking winners" let alone "running a successful economy" is emphatically not something that works. Never has. "What works" with an economy is not tinkering (or worse), it is leaving entrepreneurs and industrialists alone to either back or become their own winners.

Many politicians have tried to fake reality, have tried themselves to "run" a successful economy. Stalin. Roosevelt. Stafford Cripps. Robert David Muldoon.

All tried. All failed.

To venture such a thing, for whatever motive, is to totally misunderstand the difference between political power and economic power, or (in the case of Stalin) to rely upon that misunderstanding in others. As Harry Binswanger points out so memorably, the symbol of political power is the gun, whereas the symbol of economic power is the dollar. There is a distinct difference between the two.
The only power a business has to induce customers to give it money is the value of its products. If a business started to produce an inferior product, it would eventually lose its customers. By contrast, the only power that the government has to offer is a threat: "We'll dictate what businessmen can and cannot do—and businessmen better toe the line or we'll throw them in jail."
Muldoon was a man who never understood the distinction, but who enjoyed the effect of making such threats. I once heard a radio interview with Muldoon in his prime. Running an economy, he said, was rather like driving a car. He had no idea, he boasted, what pushing the pedals and playing with the car's knobs actually did 'under the bonnet', and nor did he need to (in other words, he had no interest in what actual effect his threats had on those he bullied) -- all he needed to know was the effect of the levers being pulled and the pedals pushed -- that is, the effect of his threats as far as his latest prescription for economic rescue was concerned.

As many of us will still recall, the long term effect of more than a decade of Muldoonist intervention was not something that could be described by the word "works," let alone "successful." The result instead was the creation of a minor economic dictator, of businessmen and journalists like scared rabbits, and of an economy like a Polish shipyard. The worry is that John Boy sees himself in the same mould. Not necessarily as an economic dictator in the completely Muldoonist mould, but certainly as a meddler. A tinkerer. One able and willing to try and pick winners and to run the economy from the Ninth Floor of the Beehive.

Not even Alan Greenspan with all the many levers at his command would ever have countenanced such a thing.

Muldoon didn't fail at economic management because he was no good at economic management; he failed because economic management and economic planning by government must always fail -- because only individuals acting in their own interests have the knowledge and the 'asymmetric information' to entrepreneurially plan their own lives and their own efforts ... and because only individuals have the right to do so. As Friedrich Hayek observed:
The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess. The economic problem of society is thus not merely a problem of how to allocate "given" resources—if "given" is taken to mean given to a single mind which deliberately solves the problem set by these "data." It is rather a problem of how to secure the best use of resources known to any of the members of society, for ends whose relative importance only these individuals know. Or, to put it briefly, it is a problem of the utilization of knowledge which is not given to anyone in its totality.
In other word, it is not given to anyone to know all that would be necessary to run an economy, no matter how good a currency trader he or she once was or how vicious the threats he or she os prepared to make. As Ludwig von Mises points out in Planning for Freedom, it is not the government that runs the semi-capitalistic economy we enjoy and from which we all benefit, but the sum of voluntary choices made by individual actors, ie., the market.
It [is the market that] directs each individual's activities into those channels in which he best serves the wants of his fellow-men. The market alone puts the whole social system of private ownership of the means of production and free enterprise in order and provides it with sense and meaning... All that good government can do to improve the material well-being of the masses is to establish and to preserve an institutional setting in which there are no obstacles to the progressive accumulation of new capital and its utilization for the improvement of technical methods of production.
Who runs the economy? Not politicians, they just get in the way. Who really runs the economy? You do. You run your part of the economy every time you make an economic choice, every time you save or invest, or produce or consume a good or a service. The sum total of the spontaneous order created by such choices is what creates an economy, not the ignorant meddling of politicians -- which invariably serves only to get in the way of such freely-made choices.

In short then, it is not "economic management" that is wanted from government, or from those who would aspire to be in government: It is the institutionalisation of the rule of law, offering legal protection for the economic choices we make, and then getting the hell out of the way.

Recognising and implementing such a thing is what is known as taking a principled stand. If nothing else, Don Brash understood if not fully endorsed such a role for government, and to that principled stand New Zealanders responded -- to such an extent that he doubled National's vote at the last election from that achieved by its current deputy leaderette at the previous election.

"I do not expect Peter Cresswell to endorse John Key any time soon," observes Sage. He got that much right.

LINKS: The use of knowledge in society - FA Hayek, Library of Economics and Liberty
Planning for Freedom - Ludwig von Mises, Mises Institute [book]
Cue Card Libertarianism: Power - Not PC

RELATED: Politics-NZ, Politics-National, Hollow_Men

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Sunday, 14 January 2007

What I did on my holidays...

This picture perfectly sums up my holiday.

In a phrase, "Relax, and assume the position..." [Picture credit, Peter Smale] Thanks to the many friends who joined me, and who helped make it the superb holiday that it was.

Schrodinger's Cat novelist dies

I've just seen the news, courtesy of blogger Benzylpiperazine, that novelist Robert Anton Wilson has died.

Wilson's best fiction inhabited the many wrinkles and fertile wormholes of surrealism, quantum physics and the speculations therefrom, and were never less than entertaining -- and provided perhaps the best and only decent use of the ultra-speculative physics of alternative universes. You might call him a gonzo Douglas Adams.

My own favourite, his Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy, is brilliantly imaginative science fiction. Wilson's own review of a novel within the novel -- in which the world is saved from nuclear destruction by the far-sighted actions of a presidential intern -- gives you the flavour:
The whole novel was rather didactic, Simon decided. It was written only to prove a point: Never underestimate the importance of a blow job.
Always good advice. In any universe.

LINKS: Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007) - Erowid Character Vaults
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy (excerpts) - Robert Anton Wilson website
Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy - Amazon.Com

RELATED: Books, Obituary, Science


Your regular Sunday Bible nonsense

Now that Not PC is back up and running, here's another reading from the 'Word of God' that you're unlikely to hear preached by your local shaman:
And Er, Judah's firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. Then Judah said to Onan, “Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.” Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also.
Genesis 38:7-10
As this chap comments, "Not only do you have to carry the body out, but you have to mop the floor too."

UPDATE 1: By the way, if you're wondering just how many people the Bible describes as slain by the loving God (often for reasons as risible as that above), Steve at 'Dwindling in Unbelief' has the figure for you: 2,270,365+. The number for Satan? Just ten.

And God is supposed to be the good guy?

UPDATE 2: But which is more violent, the Bible or the Quran? Glad you asked. Turns out they're both dripping in blood. "The Bible has more cruel or violent passages than the Quran. But the Bible is a much bigger book. How do they compare when size is taken into account? [Find out here.]" Fact is, as Steve at 'Dwindling in Unbelief' concludes,
A good argument could be made that either book is the most violent and cruel book ever written. The award would go to one or the other, for neither has any close competitors. It is frightening to think that more than half of the world's population believes in one or the other.
Isn't it just. And not just believe, but use them as the basis for a system of ethics, yet! Sheesh.

LINKS: Ten verses never preached on - Church Hopping
Genesis 38 - Skeptics Annotated Bible
Satan vs God: Past & future killings - Dwindling in Unbelief
Which is more violent, the Bible or the Quran? - Dwindling in Unbelief

RELATED: Religion, Nonsense