Saturday, June 28, 2008

Check out ...

Whatever you do this weekend, don't forget to check out the latest Objectivist blog carnival at Titanic Deck Chairs.  A whole plethora of top posts ... just skip quickly past the picture of the baby at the top ...

More music!

More filing by lying around on a relaxed Saturday morning-- -- here's what's currently lying around my stereo looking well-used from annoying the neighbours in recent days, filed here in no particular order:

  • BENNY GOODMAN - Live at Carnegie Hall, 1938
  • DIZZY GILLESPIE - Cognac Blues
  • DUKE ELLINGTON - Jump for Joy
  • LEONID KOGAN - Russian Revelation
  • STOKOWSKI - Wagner Symphonic Synthesis
  • WAGNER - The 'Ring' Without Words (Lorin Maazel & Berlin Philharmoniker)
  • 'AMADEUS' - Soundtrack
  • LIZST - Piano Works (Tzimon Barto)
  • TOM WAITS - Mule Variations
  • JULIAN COPE - Floored Genius
  • GRAHAM PARKER - Anthology: Passion is No Ordinary Word
  • BEETHOVEN - Late String Quartets (Emerson String Quartet)
  • TERENCE DENNIS - Liszt & Wagner Piano Works
  • JAZZ 101 - "Jazz with no prerequisites" - Introduction to Latin Jazz
  • PHIL JUDD - Novelty Act
  • WILLY DIXON - I Am the Blues
  • AIDA - Leontyne Price/Georg Solti/Teatro dell'Opera di Roma
  • TUWHARE
  • ELIZABETH SCHWARZKOPF - Operetta Arias
  • LOUIS ARMSTRONG - Hot Five & Hot Seven (vol. 3)
  • JAZZ CLASSICS IN DIGITAL STEREO - Vol. 3: New York
  • ANN MOFFO & RUDOLPH SCHOCK - Die Schonsten Melodien ...
  • WAGNER - Flying Dutchman (Karajan & Berlin Philharmonik)
  • BEN FOLDS FIVE -Whatever & Ever Amen
  • DRESDEN DOLLS - Yes, Virginia...
  • W.B. YEATS - Now & In Time to Be
  • BOB DYLAN - Modern Times

What's lying around your sound equipment looking well used?  And, just as a wee quiz, any idea what the connection is between the first and last artists in that list above?

Right, off to file everything away alphabetically again ...

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Get your best posts here ...

Once again, here's the best half-dozen barbs against barbarism posted at NOT PC this week, based largely on what got readers stampeding to the site.   If you missed out, here's what kept readers most informed, enlightened and entertained this week:

  1. A Gordon Gekko drive by. Who to get angry at when dishonest scum like Rod Petricevic and Mark Byers keep floating to the surface -- and how their thieving helps to explain inflation.
  2. Robert Heinlein's house. A house for fans of Robert Heinlein, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra -- or people whose souls are stirred by efficiency.
  3. Scum.  What Labour brains think of hiring labour.
  4. Privatising the forests. One of New Zealand's largest privatisation was effected this week.  How come the usual suspects didn't notice?
  5. Falsely inflated drug harms.  "Spectacular but useless" is  just one description for an index of the costs of drug harms that ascribes all the  the costs incurred due to prohibition to the costs of the drugs themselves.
  6. Its Kelo Day! Take one day out to remember those people whose houses are taken by government to give to crony phony “businessmen” like Donald Trump.

And of course the best news all week, without question, is this news at Annie Fox's ...

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Beer O’Clock: Go wild with beer and food!

In another of our regular Friday Beer O'Clock posts, Neil Miller from radio, TV and Real Beer wants to tell you all bout the frustration of bad beer lists.

I went to a very good French restaurant last night but the best beer I could find to go with my trio of duck was a Stella Artois. Today, I’m heading to an excellent European bistro which has all the teas available listed on their website, but sadly none of their beers. It got me thinking again about how beer is treated in many eateries and it reminded of a column I wrote last year for The Wellingtonian:

I once bemused an impeccably dressed waiter in a fine (and expensive) Wellington restaurant by asking to see the beer list when ordering. “We do not have a beer list, sir. Why don’t you tell me what beer you would like and I will see if we have it?”

Of course, wine drinkers were not forced to guess the cellar selection. The establishment took great pride in its extensive wine list. It even offered eight different types of tea. As it turned out, it had exactly six nondescript beers, none of them deemed important enough to be put on paper.

This sent the clear message that they assumed all beers tasted the same (fizzy, cold, sweet) so there was really no reason to offer a selection. Underlying that was an assumption was that only wine can match with food.  Beer – they believed – was just beer.

Sadly, this attitude is all too common in many otherwise excellent eateries. It is a genuine shame because customers are missing out on all the variety and the flavours contained in a fine beer and food match.

A well-made beer can provide a depth and range of flavours which can compliment or contrast with quality food. A bitter beer also has the ability to cut through oiliness or richness in a dish in much the same way the tannins in red wine can do.

In Wellington, bars like The General Practitioner, The Tasting Room, Leuven and the Malthouse have made a commitment to using beer as an ingredient in a number of dishes and also recommending well-considered beer matches on the menu. It is a real attraction.

I noted in the column that much of the momentum behind beer and food matching has been generated by the Monteith’s beer and Wild Food Challenge. The 11th year of the Challenge begins shortly. The contest dates are:

North Island: 13th July - 3rd August 2008
South Island: 20th July - 10th August 2008

Full details will be posted soon on the Monteith’s website and keep an eye out for the signs around town.

Go wild with beer and food!

Cheers, Neil

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Bullshit & bad news

It's been amusing over recent days to hear so many so-called economists predicting what just happened over three months ago, which is what happens every time "the latest" GDP figures are released.

Such is the dismal 'science' that is mainstream economics, they've only discovered this morning, at the end of June, what was happening to the economy from January to March. Turns out (according to Statistics NZ figures) the economy as measured by GDP shrank by 0.3% in what they call "the March quarter."

Bad news.

But as the latest newsletter from the Foundation for Economic Growth points out, weren't economists in 2007 predicting growth of 2% (plus or minus about 0.6%) for 2008?  What happened to those predictions -- or indeed to any predictions made by mathematical economists?  Turns out most of these predictions aren't worth the paper their invoices are printed on.

Frankly, they got their predictions completely wrong.  As they usually do. Which means, just to summarise the position with respect to the profession on this particular news: they didn't know before the event what would happen, they didn't know at the time what was happening, and now it has happened they're not quite sure exactly why it did.

No wonder most economists are held in deservedly low favour.  Give one a kick if you see one out loose in the wild.

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Sundakov slams shut emissions trading's broken window

01815-36med I'm very pleased to add one more local economist to the list of those who understand the 'Broken Window Fallacy.'  Alex Sundakov of Castalia completely dismantles the dripping wet nonsense put out by the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development that the Emissions Trading Schemes proposed by both major parties will "lead to economic benefits in the form of new investment, jobs and wages."  As Sundakov points out,
    the claim that “creation” of jobs and investment in particular sectors and industries under the scheme equates to an economic overall “benefit” reflects a lack of basic economic literacy.
“Workers and capital will not magically appear following the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, rather some capital and employment will be reallocated to different areas as relative prices change.”
    “If that capital and employment is reallocated to areas of lower economic return or if the policy encourages “new” investment by artificially shortening the economic life of existing assets, that must be wasteful on economic grounds”.
    Alex Sundakov points out that, under the logic applied by the Business Council for Sustainable Development, a Government policy that required every homeowner to demolish and then rebuild their family home would create economic “benefits”. Replacement of destroyed property would require investment and employment. “But it’s fairly obvious such a policy doesn’t make economic sense. In a fully employed economy, resources would simply be sucked away from areas where they can be used far more efficiently and contribute more to building New Zealand’s wealth.”
Bravo, sir!  If only more economists understood the 'Broken Window Fallacy' and were prepared to point out basic economic literacy when they see it, we'd be living in a wealthier instead of a wetter place.  As Henry Hazlitt says, "Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other science known to man [most of them demonstrated on the front page of any newspaper you care to pick up."
    The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be 
reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely 
at the immediate but the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing 
the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.
NB: Read Frederic Bastiat's entertaining essay That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen in which the parable of the broken window originally appears, and Henry Hazlitt's use of it in his book Economics in One Lesson.
Economics in One Lesson: 50th Anniversary Edition
by Henry Hazlitt

Read more about this book...

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"You can't take that away from me"

art.scotus.gun.gi Good news this morning as the Supreme Court of the United States confirms there are some times that the protection of the  US Constitution can't be taken away from American citizens: the SCOTUS has just ruled that the desire of Washington DC politicians and bureaucrats to legally disarm honest citizens has been squelched by the justices, and the right to bear arms in self-defence -- a right unambiguously protected by the constitution -- has been upheld. {Full decision here [pdf].]  Reports CNN:

     The U.S. Supreme Court ruled ... that Washington D.C.’s sweeping ban on handguns is unconstitutional. The justices voted 5-4 against the ban with Justice Antonin Scalia writing the opinion for the majority ...
    The case's lead plaintiff, Dick Heller, applauded the decision, saying, "I'm very happy that I am now able to defend myself and my household in my own home" ...
    At issue in District of Columbia v. Heller was whether the city’s ban violated the Second Amendment right to ‘keep and bear arms’ by preventing individuals — as opposed to state militias — from having guns in their homes. …
    The Second Amendment says, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ The wording repeatedly has raised the question of whether gun ownership is an individual right, or a collective one pertaining to state militias and therefore subject to regulation. The Supreme Court has avoided the question since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791. The high court last examined the issue in 1939 but stayed away from the broad constitutional question. (06/26/08)

"Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command," Justice Scalia wrote in the decision affirming the right. "We start therefore with  a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans."

Good news, and a good demonstration to those of you befuddled by the question I put to you yesterday as to what the US is if it's not a democracy, which it isn't.

America is not a democracy -- let me say it again: America is not a democracy. The erudite Dr  McGrath got it right:

    As anyone who has studied the American system knows, the United States is a constitutional republic. Democracy offers no protection for individual rights; it doesn't prevent Big Government.

Let me say that again: the United States is  a Constitutional Republic, not a Democracy -- a republic in which the Government was chained up constitutionally to act as the guardian of its citizens' rights and liberties, rather than left unleashed to savage them.  That, at least, was what the Founding Fathers intended. 

It's a form of government that puts the things of importance beyond the vote; those things are each individual's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness, which the government is constituted to uphold.  These are the things that mustn't be taken away from you -- the intention of the constitution is to ensure that they can't be. The role of the Supreme Court is specifically to ensure that those rights can't be taken away by government.  This decision of the Supreme Court shows that despite the many indignities inflicted upon the constitution, the checks and balances it created do still sometimes work to do that.

The checks and balances of the United States Constitution was described by Ayn Rand as "the great American achievement."  Since so few people today understand those checks and balances, it's worth reading the the convenient summary provided by a course offered by the Ayn Rand Institute:

    A Constitution is "[t]he system or body of fundamental principles according to
which a nation, state, or body politic is constituted and governed."
   
Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, a proper government protects men from criminals and
foreign invaders and provides for the settlement of disputes according to objective laws. A government, therefore, does three things: it makes laws (the legislative function), enforces them (the executive function) and runs law courts (the judicial function).
   
The United States Constitution divides these functions into separate departments; this is the doctrine of separation of powers. It also divides governmental powers between the state and federal governments by enumerating the powers of the latter and by specific limitations on both. Thus, both the federal and the state governments have sufficient powers to secure rights, and are limited in their ability to violate them [and the Supreme Court has veto powers over both federal and state governments to strike down legislation when it does].

Simple but effective. Not democracy then but constitutional government - a constitution protecting essential liberties through a government constrained only to those protections. It's a model that failed states and would-be freedom fighters around the world would do well to understand and emulate.

Anyway, enough of that. To celebrate the SCOTUS decision here's Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong : "You Can't Take That Away From Me."

UPDATE: Eric Crampton suggests we not get too hasty in our celebrations.  He points out that Eugene Volokh, who was quoted three times in the decision itself, suggests "it was a very limited decision. Blanket bans like DC's are forbidden; regulations elsewhere are specifically not struck down."  Keep up with the commentary at Volokh's blog, the Volokh Conspiracy.

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'Antilla' - Perkins + Will

                    
1831_Antilia 1  2007_06_25_01
The world's first $1 billion, 27-storey 170m tall house now under construction will soon be home to the world's fifth-richest man, industrial Mukesh Abani.  The house, named Antilla and designed by Dallas & L.A. architects Perkins + Will, will be the Mumbai home to Abani, his family, and 600 staff. 

As Nevil Gibson, points out, "the money is now being made in what used to be called the Third World. The fastest growing Rich List numbers are in Brazil, China, India and Russia, the so-called Bric economies.."

More details of the house here and here.

house-1

 


 

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bernard the blogger

Bernard Hickey explains succinctly why he gets a real buzz out of being a blogger, and as you read further down (and I really hope you do) you'll understand why he also gets a permanent hat tip from me -- his piece made me also "feel a little bit prouder about being a blogger" --  even if he does favour the introduction of a capital gains tax.  Bad Bernard.

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Recession

The Herald would like to make it official -- "recession bites: consumer outlook lowest since 1991" says the front-page headline in this morning's Auckland edition -- but at this stage still needs Friday's GDP figures for the March quarter to be negative "as expected" to make the headline a dead cert. Still,

    "Consumers are squealing due to the high cost of living," Westpac chief economist Brendan O'Donovan said. 
    High food and petrol prices were the biggest concerns, though the "litany of woe" also included rising debt servicing costs, falling house prices and job losses.
    "It's consistent with what we are hearing from businesses," he said. "It's pretty dire out there. Auckland retailers particularly are struggling."

Also "expected" is that GDP for the June quarter will be even worse -- "the worst of the lot" says Westpacs's Brendan O'Donovan.  Figures for the June quarter, by the way, will not be out until September.

Such is the difficulty of determining the present state of the economy by GDP figures alone: as John Clark so insighfully satirises here [scroll down to 'Update 1'].

BARRISTER (in the Royal Commission on What the Hell's Happening to the Australian Economy): So what are the current figures based on?
MR TROUSER (from the Treasury): They're based on the information available at the time the current figures were being prepared.
BARRISTER: Which was when?
TROUSER: 3 months ago.  The figures take 3 months to assemble.
BARRISTER: Is it possible for you to tell what's happening now?
TROUSER: Yes, of course it is.
BARRISTER: When could you do that?
TROUSER: In 3 months.

George Reisman offers a more general rule of thumb for measuring whether we're in schtuck.:

A depression is characterized not only by falling prices, but also by a plunge in business profits (which may even become negative in the aggregate) and by a sharply increased difficulty of repaying debt. It is also characterized by mass unemployment.

By Reisman's rule of thumb then we're still only two out of four on the recession scale -- although with dodgy dealing on unemployment figures and and the Reserve Bank creating a phony 'price stability,' how would you really know?

Recession In any case, two things that particularly caught my eye this morning were the graph in the print version of the Herald's article (pictured right) and the many excuses given by the CEOs of collapsing finance companies for being short of the readies, most of which include the phrases "liquidity concerns," the "difficult credit environment," and a failure of clients to "reinvest."  These excuses indicate that the growth of many of these finance companies have been built on little more than pyramids formed by new deposits, and on the ability to pull down new tranches of counterfeit capital rather than on making sound investments that are reliably repaid.  Bring on the malinvestment!

There is a link between these two things (the Herald graphic and the excuses of the finance companies) and how one measures whether or not one is in a recession -- and a graph of the True Money Supply can sort that out.

By 'True Money Supply' I do not mean the figures of M1, M2, M3 or MZM that are commonly used to measure the money supply.  As Frank Shostak explains [pdf], each of these measures is flawed:

... M2 double counts some aspects of money and since M3 incorporates M2, it is equally flawed right off the bat. M2 also counts savings accounts which are really credit transactions and MZM is hopelessly flawed as a money definition because it attempts to count things that can easily be converted to money as opposed to money itself.
M1 is flawed by the inclusion of travelers checks and the exclusion of demand deposits with commercial banks and thrift institutions + government deposits with banks and the central bank. M1 also has another huge problem and that problem is 'sweeps', [which are used ] "to lower statutory reserve requirements on demand deposits. In a sweep program, banks “sweep” funds from demand deposits into money market deposit accounts (MMDA), personal savings deposits under the Federal Reserve’s Regulation D, that have a zero statutory reserve requirement ratio. By means of a sweep, banks reduce the required reserves they hold against demand deposits."

What we want is an accurate measure of how much ready money is flushing around the system. courtesy of the central bank.MPrime-2006-12  So how do we measure that if the present measures are flawed?  Says a student of Shostak who's drawn up the graph on the right: "The definition I am now working with is Cash + demand deposits with commercial banks and thrift institutions + government deposits with banks and the central bank + sweeps + other checkable deposits."  He calls this figure M', ie., M Prime.  The graph on the right shows M' for the US measured for the last forty years. [See Mike Shedlock's website for a more thorough explanation, especially: Money Supply & Recessions.]

The importance of this measure can be seen by comparing the period 1998 to present to the Herald's graph above (do those peaks and troughs ever match up, do you think?), and by understanding the implications of that match-up for three things:

  1. this indicates that the booms and inflations of recent years have been driven (at least in part) by expansion of the money supply;
  2. that finance companies and banks are experiencing a credit crunch largely because the continued expansion of the money supply (and the phony credit on which they rely) has stopped, for the time being anyway; and
  3. if you want a good way to measure recession (and inflation), look to the money supply as a leading indicator, and in particular to the figure of "M Prime" as adjusted by the CPI. Says Sherlock, using this last figure allows one to see "that there has been a recession on 6 of 7 sustained dips below the zero line of year over year growth in M'." 

In other words, it's a reliable way of measuring booms and busts and credit crunches.  No surprise really, since the expansion and contraction of the money supply is the single greatest factor in causing booms and busts.

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Privatising the forests

Privatisation is about as popular in the present political environment as Clint Rickards doing stand-up in a home for battered women.  No airport shares must be sold to Canadians.  No Air New Zealand shares must be sold to New Zealanders.   And the likes of TVNZ, NZ Post, Kiwibank, Solid Energy, Landcorp, Ontrack, Broadcast Communications Ltd, MetService Airways Corporation and the state-owned power generators ... well, don't even think about it.   Keeping state assets in state hands is supposed to be a "public good," no matter how badly mismanaged the asset.

There are people who will die in a ditch to fight any privatisation of state assets.  That is, any privatisation except one. On this one they have a blind spot.  It's when state assets are given to people with brown faces as payment for things we haven't done.

Note that $400 million of state forestry assets are being given to Maori, not to Maoris -- that is, they are being given as one lump to seven central north island tribal leaders, not as shares to individual iwi members (not to mention the $40 million that lawyers involved have pulled down for doing the deal).  Just as with previous "treaty settlements" that handed over forests and fisheries to a Browntable of  tribal leaders whose snouts are raw and bellies full from years of feeding from the trough, control and privilege is being handed over to a those at the top tribal table, leaving individual iwi members unlikely to see any benefit. 

This is the Maori version of trickle down

Frankly, whatever the injustice of taxpayers paying tribalists for things they didn't do, I'm all in favour of taking land out of the commons, and taking state assets out of state hands -- removing assets from the state's cold dead hands by any means necessary -- but there's no point in simply transferring assets from one munted bureaucracy to another. 

A property right has been created where it didn't previously exist, and that's a good thing.   But yet another opportunity has been lost here to take tribalism out of the mix altogether.  Instead of being detribalised, Maori are being retribalised -- and this is to no-one's benefit but the tribal leaders themselves. The answer would have been to transfer title NOT to tribal leaders in one lump, or to iwi as a whole, but to individuals in the form of transferable shares that would give them control over the asset they've been granted.  Those who've been awarded the shares will be able to do anything they wish with their own share -- which will give an accurate indication of how much they really value this land -- and as Ronald Coase points out (for those who object to privatisations effected in this manner), it's in the nature of things that land titles so created will eventually tend to end up in the hands of those who most value them.  All that's needed is to start the process.  [More on the process proposed here.]

Everybody would win if things had been effected in such a fashion -- except of course for the Knights of the Brown Table for whom fame and fortune now await.  

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Sexing up your story

brtribe460x276 It seems that "right thinking" people don't mind someone "sexing up" a story -- it all depends on the story being sexed up.

Hot on the heels of warmist-in-chief James Hansen telling the US Senate that oil company executives need to be locked up for "crimes to humanity" -- this after two decades of placing "emphasis on extreme scenarios" in order to gain attention or his issue de jour -- comes an admission from the chap who "discovered" the "lost tribe" in the Amazon that made news earlier in the month that a) he hadn't discovered them at all, and b) the tribe wasn't lost.

In fact, both the existence and location of the Amazon Indians'  was already known, and have been known since 1910 --he simply "hoped the publicity would lift the threat of logging." Story here.  And here.

And that's our present culture -- a place where honesty and clear thinking is valued less than dishonesty in the name of "right thinking."

Frankly, if you have to lie to make your point, you haven't got one.

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America is a ...

Historian Scott Powell makes a worthwhile point:

In my view, anyone that uses the term “democracy” to describe America is so ignorant as to be criminally negligent of history.

Discuss.

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Now this is what I call control

                     

It's not the world's most attractive building, but Taipei 101 is one of the tallest.  And when you're that tall, you need something extra to help you out when the earth moves -- in this case it's a huge brass ball in the belfry that sways back and forth to damp down the shaking caused by earthquakes: the largest 'tuned mass damper' in the world.

Watch it in action during the recent Sichuan earthquake.  It's as astonishing as the reaction of the people in the tower  as it hit.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tanking the Tank Farm before building even begins ...

It would be amusing to watch all the political wrangling over Auckland's Tank farm precinct if only the future of one of the most important pieces of Auckland's future wasn't at stake.

As the Herald says, "just average" is just "not good enough for the waterfront," but with some exceptions "just average" is all we can expect from what's become a highly politicised wrangle.

point_park_plan_lgThe present hearing, which that Herald article presaged, was ostensively designed to "plan" the future of what's now being called Wynyard Quarter -- "the former bulk oil storage facility and industrial properties will house bars, restaurants, office blocks and apartments, while a 4 hectare harbour-edge park will form part of the development," insist the politicians -- but as we know politicians couldn't organise a piss in a paper bag. 

Radio NZ's Todd Nyall summarises the problems so far [audio here], which include the inability of the competing political bodies to agree, the inability of politicians and planners to understand that current owners and tenants of long-standing such as most of the fishing and marine industry might have some rights too -- and that there are good economic reasons why they're there -- and the largely arbitrary placement and decisions regarding apartments and office space and 'boulevards', which have largely ignored the existing owners and tenants, and in the case of one boulevard, runs right over one corner of Sanfords' fish processing plant.

PICT0013 Just think for a moment about that quote two paragraphs above about what "will" go there -- there at the will of time-servers and power-lusters, not because they necessarily make any sense.  These are people who only know what's been done before, not what's possible to the imagination in this world class location!  That is, I suggest, the biggest (and unspoken) problem.

08bridge435bFrankly, these are people with all the imagination of, well, politicians and planners.  They neither know enough to know what should go there and nor do they have the imagination to wonder about what might go there, in other words what makes both economic and architectural sense in this once-in-a generation opportunity for Auckland to get it right and transform itself, and nor do they have the right to go trampling over existing ownership rights. 

Tannhauser_Tower_Sketch_NW I suggest there are two simple ways to depoliticise the whole process before it turns into the Sovietised centrally planned suburban embarrassment it is likely to become, instead of the urban waterside jewel in Auckland's crown that it should be.  Instead of braindead political wrangling over what will form part of the development, here's what the two competing councils could do:

  1. Tannhauser_Tower_Sketch Announce that the whole precinct is to become an officially mandated Enterprise Zone in which all zoning, planning and other restrictions on imagination are removed -- hell, why not go the whole hog and make it a Free Tax and Free Trade zone and really let enterprise rip -- leaving property owners and entrepreneurs free to give vent to their own imaginations, instead of being held down to the imagination of those who couldn't get a job outside the council, and protected in their property rights by a simple codification of common law rights that could be introduced as voluntary covenants.  Can you just imagine the wonders we would see?
  2. Announce that the property interests that both councils hold in the area will be sold to lower the council rates bill (which is going up for another year, in case you haven't heard), but not before announcing that one special part of the area will be subject to a competition for an iconic building -- something of the stature of Sydney's Opera House -- something that is backed by a private development team -- something that will proudly hold its place, and recognise the special place that is the Waitemata waterfront.  Who knows what delights we might see emerge, and what opportunities?

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Driving in international waters

hilux5 I didn't see this on Sunday, but Sus emailed to tell me how bloody good it was:

Don't know if you watched Top Gear last Sun night, but if you didn't, the guys raced each other to the [Magnetic] North Pole.  That is, Jeremy & James in a seriously modified 4WD using GPS raced Richard on a dog-sled with one of the world's leading dog-sledders and her team.  It was amazing and insane and almost impossible.  At one stage it took J&J 20 solid hours to travel one mile through hills of solid ice.

These are Clarkson's closing comments, word for word:

"As James tucked into his ruined Spam, we thought a little bit about what we’d actually achieved.

"We’d set out to prove that polar exploration could be easy, but it isn’t. It’s brutal and savage. The fact is though, that two middle-aged men, deeply unfit and mostly drunk, had made it, thanks to the incredible machine that took us there.

"They’d said we’d never get to the (North) Pole because of the damage the car has already done to the ice cap. Perhaps then, that’s what we proved most of all.

"Really, the inconvenient truth is … it doesn’t appear to have even scratched the surface." (end)

All this, and on the BBC, too!

Good old You Tube -- the episode is already online.

Now remember, if you will, that this was not  for the most part driving across land.  These guys were driving across the Arctic Ocean -- the same Arctic Ocean that worry-worts say is thawing "dangerously" -- the World Wildlife Fund, for example, who declared back in April " that Arctic sea ice is melting so fast that it may soon reach a tipping point where irreversible change takes place..."   Well, no, actually. As Christopher Brooker notes in the Telegraph, and this is the reason Clarkson's trip was so (relatively) easy, is this simple fact:

What the WWF omitted to mention was that by March the ice had recovered to 14 million sq km (see the website Cryosphere Today), and that ice-cover around the Bering Strait and Alaska that month was at its highest level ever recorded. (At the same time Antarctic sea ice-cover was also at its highest-ever level, 30 per cent above normal).

There's  an inconvenient truth you can think about over your ruined warmist spam.

UPDATE:  Check out the production notes on the episode here and here,for answers to all those important questions.

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Scum

Christian Enzensberger started his 'classic' book Smut by declaring ""There are twenty-five forms of excretion known to man." He should have added, "Man's twenty-sixth excretion is politicians."  After all, he likes filth.

In this vein,you might be interested to know what Labour brains thinks of labour hire companies -- those people who help businesses to smooth out the demand and supply of labour to ensure productivity when it's needed.  Says Labour's client blog, 'The Standard': "labour hire companies are scum."

"Scum"!  Revealing, don't you think?

This of course is just a specific view of which Labour's Hunua candidate has the general statement: "I wouldn’t go into business if my life depended on it.  I find trade immoral."

This is the ilk that's considered the future of the Labour Party.  As Cicero used to say, "politicians aren't born, they are excreted."  

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On not smacking Helen

Helen Clark says there's no way the referendum on the anti-smacking law can be held at the same time as the general election since there's just no way it can be organised in time.

For her part, Sue Bradford says she says she is "quite relaxed" about the timing of a referendum because she "respects the democratic process" and the work people went to to get the signatures on the petition.

Why the difference?  Obvious, really.  Whatever the extra cost involved in a later referendum, Clark doesn't want the referendum held at the time of the general election since she doesn't want the election itself to be a referendum on the nanny state -- which is what the anti-smacking law represents to many people, including moi.

And is there "no way" the referendum on the anti-smacking law can be held at the same time as the general election?   Of course not.  Not even Clark believes that.  Not unless she's planning an early election...
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* Not that the reasoning makes complete sense, mind you, since both Labour and National voted for the anti-smacking-bloody-law, and neither are any less nanny state than the other -- nor are their respective supporters any less deluded.

And National haven't even promised to repeal the damn law, not even if a referendum were successful.  All Key has said if the process under way to force a referendum was successful was it would be something "National would take very seriously."  WTF?

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Winning news

erakovic_yell_d Fantastic news overnight as NZ tennis star Marina Erakovic progresses to the next round at Wimbledon by beating her doubles partner Michaella Krajicek.

She's gone up the rankings like a rocket, a tribute to her coach Michiel Schapers, the early coaching of Chris Lewis (her coach from eight years of age to seventeen), and of course her own talent.  (No thanks to NZ Tennis, I'm afraid.)

In her second set against world number three Jelena Jankovic at the French Open last month, she shows she has what it takes to foot it on the world's biggest stage -- and now she confirms it.  Her career is going to be exciting to watch, as is the next fortnight.

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No benign strategic environment in this place

F-16I_2 What was the Israeli Air Force up to in the first weeks of June, and what does it have to do with Iran?

 Prodos has a worthwhile summary.

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Robert Heinlein's house

            Heinlein-House

Engineer, author and genius Robert A. Heinlein, one of my own favourite authors, used to contend that architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Robert Neutra were geniuses in their own right, but they "needed to learn from the Gilbreths."

Heinlein-Skylights The Gilbreths were Frank & Lillian Gilbreth, famed in the fifties for their time-and-motion studies and work-flow studies to increase production efficiencies. Their skills were used mostly on the commercial front; on the domestic front however, and they were parents to twelve children, they suggested such time-saving techniques as using once bar of soap in each hand to speed up bathtimes.  Explained one of the twelve later in Cheaper by the Dozen, "Yes, at home or on the job, Dad was always the efficiency expert. He buttoned his vest from the bottom up, instead of top down, because bottom up took only three seconds and top down took seven. For a while, Dad even tried shaving with two razors, but he finally gave that up - he grumbled, ‘I can save 44 seconds, but I wasted two minutes this morning putting this bandage on my throat.’ It wasn't the slashed throat that really bothered him - it was the two minutes."

Anyway, ever since I first read Heinlein's comment I wanted to know more about the Gilbreth's, and about Heinlein's own house in Colorado that he designed and built for himself in the late forties.  And here it is, presented in a 1952 Popular Mechanics article in all its rude efficiency.  It's an engineer's house all right, but he has learned form the Gilbreths. 
                          Heinlein-Plan
    

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

News from the Woolf lair

Good news here in the most recent posts from Anna Woolf/Annie Fox. Did I just say "good" news? It's flaming fantastic news!

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It's Kelo Day!

Today is Kelo day, an American project when you all get to highlight the government taking people's property to give to crony phony “businessmen” like Donald Trump. 

The day is named after Suzette Kelo, whose house and land was taken by her local council so a developer could build condominiums on it. [STORY HERE. Background here.]

If you think this "eminent domain" abuse is just an American abuse, think again.  It's been ACT party policy for years.  And as I pointed out earlier this year, both Helen Clark and John Key have now told us they want to force land-owners to build even when they're unwilling to build, or else.

    Clark has signalled she intends to strip land-owners of their property if in the view of state goons and council planners their land isn't being used as the goons and the planners would like, and give that land to other developers to use.  John Key agrees, just as he announced at last year's National Party conference.  
     We knew that property rights were almost dead in New Zealand; we didn't know we'd be slapped in the face with that fact from both sides so soon. If you want a simple image of why this is wrong, think of Daryl Kerrigan in The Castle.  
   As is the case with the growing abuse of 'eminent domain' in the U.S., this is a signal for the government to play favourites with large private partners, giving them the power to steal from smaller property owners.  Donald Trump used it to have the New Jersey legislature try and throw people out of their houses in Atlantic City, so that he could build a new parking lot for his casino. It was in the 'public interest' he argued. General Motors had Detroit City authorities condemn a whole neighbourhood to make way for a new auto plant.  This too was in the 'public interest,' they argued.  70 families in Fort Trumbull, New Connecticut were targetted by the City of New London to make way for a 90 acre private development -- 'public interest' was once again (mis)quoted, and once again private interests used the government's gun to steal what they couldn't have acquired otherwise.

If you'd like to help the American Kelo project, then donate and then pass it on to the people you know.  And maintain your vigilance here.

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Falsely inflated drug harms

If you want to make both head and tail of the scary drug numbers that were poured across the front page of your Herald this morning, a so called "Drug Harm Index" that  is "more or or less explicitly a public relations tool for police," then head to Russell Brown's post this morning (and the mostly sane comments that follow the post).  "Spectacular but useless" is one of his nicer descriptions for an index of the costs of drug harms that ascribes all the  the costs incurred due to prohibition (i.e. cost of jail, courts, policing) to the costs of the drugs themselves. The words "falsely inflated" are two more that spring to mind as descriptions of this bogus "index."

UPDATE 1:  More sober and dispassionate commentary on the Index here from Liberty Scott.  And a clutch of sober links here pointing readers to what a real economist says about drugs.

UPDATE 2: Eric Crampton, another real economist, notes that Des O'Dea, one of the authors of this new study, was also the author of a cost-benefit analysis of smoking which Crampton tore apart here. "I wonder," he wonders, "if the same errors repeat themselves...."

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History for home-schoolers

You've heard me talk before about Scott Powell's history course for adults.  Now here's some news for home-schoolers wanting a rational history course for their students.  Registration for historian Scott Powell's two courses on American History and Ancient History for home-schoolers are just about to open, and he promises incredible savings for home-schoolers who enrol their children in American history with HistoryAtOurHouse when registration opens this Friday, June 27th!  Here at Scott's HistoryAtOurHouse blog are details about the upcoming registration special for new clients. 

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Last call

Last call here to spend a few minutes helping out a young student with his research on that most unusual species of human beings: those that regularly read political blogs.  To join in, just follow this link which will take you to the survey, and also provide you with further information on how and why this research is being conducted.

George Carlin, R.I.P.

Comedian George Carlin has just died.  It must have been the after-effects of drinking all that water.  (Some good Carlin advice on water, "If you want flavored water, pour a glass of scotch with some ice and let the ice melt. There's your flavored water.")

Despite being a bloody hippy, Carlin was also bloody hilarious.  His record 'Jammin' in New York' has to be  one of the funniest pieces of vinyl ever produced.   Yes Virginia, vinyl.

And here's some good advice for people everywhere who say there are things you can't joke about -- been a few of those blowhards around over the last few days, haven't there:

"Ohhh, some people don't like you to talk like that. Ohh, some people like to shut you up for saying those things. You know that. Lots of people. Lots of groups in this country want to tell you how to talk. Tell you what you can't talk about. Well, sometimes they'll say, well you can talk about something but you can't joke about it. Say you can't joke about something because it's not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time... I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is. What the exaggeration is. Because every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion..."

This, by the way, was by way of introduction for Carlin's monologue on how rape can be funny.

As he used to say, "These are the kind of thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools."

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Most popular link

You have to laugh.  I posted half-a-dozen gems of wisdom yesterday with several links in each to further wisdom elsewhere -- something like forty or fifty invitations to readers to surf the net to acquire erudition, knowledge and greater perspective on the news of the day -- and can you guess the link that was most popular?

Any idea at all?  It was the one in this post that said "hookers."

"Lock up the oil men"!?

James Hansen -- the man who last year likened the construction of a new coal-based power plant as equivalent to the holocaust; who said that trains bringing coal to the new power plant are like than the "death trains" that moving Jews to extermination camps; that Duke Energy's James Rogers is a prospective killer for supporting the new plant -- -- now tells the world that oil companies need to "be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature" -- crimes against humanity and nature, yet! -- for, quote,  "putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks."  Unquote.

Hansen is not a lone nutter who marches up and down Oxford St with a cardboard sign saying "We're all going to die in five minutes." No, Hansen heads NASA's climate team, and he takes his sign around the world's capitals to spread his message of doom. He is "the world's leading advocate of the idea of catastrophic global warming, and is Al Gore's primary climate advisor..." For twenty years now he's been marching around the world's capitals predicting climatic disaster with absolutely nothing to show for it* -- he recently had to admit that the warmest decade in the last one-hundred years occurred before he was even born -- and any lingering remnants of sanity are now being replaced by shrillness and increasingly vicious hyperbole.

This is a dickhead who launched his warmist place in the sun by sexing up his evidence, and looks likely to end his career exposed as a man whose organisation has had to resort to cooking the figures to make even his less extreme claims begin to look semi-sane.  Christ, it's not like they're even good at that job: they even lost Wellington recently.

Frankly, if it's "misinformation" that he thinks oil company executives should be locked up for, you have to wonder why he's excluded himself and Al Gore from his fatwa.

NB: To those people who object that once can't criticise a scientist, I respond that Hansen stopped being a scientist that hot day in 1988 he started sexing up his figures in order to grab the limelight for his pet theory, and stopped being sane when he started talking about death trains.  If it's not obvious to you by now that this politics, not science, then I have an engine that can run on banana skins I can sell you.

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* When NASA’s James Hansen first sounded the alarm in Congress 20 years ago, says Steven Milloy at Junk Science, "he predicted that rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, would drive global temperatures higher by 0.34 degrees Celsius during the 1990s. But surface temperatures increased during that decade by only 0.11 degrees Celsius and lower atmosphere temperatures actually decreased. "  He's got even worse since.

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Cynical crackdown on honest alcohol outlets

"This is not a nanny state measure," says Commerce Minister Lianne Dalziel this morning, announcing the biggest nanny state measure since ... the last several.   This claim has about as much veracity as the Prime Minister's claim last week that the number of bottle stores in Manukau were contributing to violent crime in the area: Exactly zero.

What Dalziel was announcing was a raft of new restrictions on bottle stores -- Not nanny state, but "something with teeth" she says limpidly. These include:

  • the size, location and layout of bottle stores,
  • how many bottle stores Ms Dalziel will allow in an area,
  • when they will be allowed to open,
  • their proximity to other premises like schools.
  • something called "one way doors".

Remember, this is not a nanny state measure.  Yeah right. [More details of nanny's wish list at Stuff, and here in an interview with Dalziel at Radio NZ.]

But can you spot anything there, anything at all, that would have saved the life of Navtej Singh?  Because, if you remember, it was the murder of Navtej Singh that necessitated this new piece of knuckle-dragging nanny statism.

Frankly, Dalziel's  crackdown on bottle stores in the wake of Navtej Singh's murder is as cynical as her 'crackdown' on oil companies announced last week -- neither is intended to achieve anything substantive (although they will both make conditions more onerous for honest businessmen); all they are intended to do is convey a picture of a government who will do something, anything, to bad news off the front page.

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Giacomuzzi House - Angelo Masieri (1948-50)

Immagine3 Immagine2

An Italian courtyard house in which the garden is made private by garden wall on two sides and the siting of the house on the others -- the house itself has been withdrawn from the road to make the garden larger, the garden here being an extension of the inner space.Masieri-PIANTA

Immagine5 
Immagine4  Masieri-SEZIONI
Pictures from the Angelo Masieri blog.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

More non-warmist news you won't see in your newspaper

News is just in from NZ's Climate Science Coalition that 1100 people have now endorsed the International Climate Science Coalition's 'Manhattan Declaration' on climate realism, including several dozen New Zealanders. News here at Scoop.  Notes Vincent Gray, one of those who've endorsed it,

    The high numbers of well informed signatories to the Manhattan Declaration on Climate Change should help end the unjustified reverence granted the pronouncements of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
    Contrary to the impressions one gets from media reports, global temperatures have not been rising for eight years. New Zealand temperatures in the last 50 years have gone down with volcanoes and up with El Niños but have no signs of ‘warming.’ Christchurch has not warmed since 1917. The sea level in Auckland has been much the same since 1960.

“The claims of the IPCC are dangerous, unscientific nonsense,” concludes Gray.  The Manhattan Declaration itself concludes,

Attempts by governments to legislate costly regulations on industry and individual citizens to encourage CO2 reduction will slow development while having no appreciable impact on the future trajectory of global climate change. Such policies will markedly diminish future prosperity and so reduce the ability of societies to adapt to inevitable climate change, thereby increasing, not decreasing human suffering.

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Tsvangirai had no choice

                             23junttm232311cc385_355919a

In the face of widespread threats and bloodshed, with almost a hundred people killed already by Mugabe's thugs as they cling to power, Morgan Tsvangirai had no choice but to call off his participation in the weekend's 'election.'  Any idea the elections are either free or fair is farcical.  Blogger 'Adam Smith' has the cartoon above, and this comment that sums up the situation:

A madman who thinks he is appointed by God; unleashed his army of thugs on his people so that he can retain power. The world stands by and does nothing.

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What crime?

A correspondent writes:

I’m horrified that I have paid for God knows how many police investigators to fly to Christchurch, stay at some posh hotel – probably get tickets for the Rugby game as well -- to interview a group of people who have stated their intention not to talk to anybody in pursuit of some alleged crime about which there has been no formal complaint.

What the bloody hell is going on here ?

Fair question.

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Gekko drives by

Aston Martin DB9 Convertible At the end of last week an Aston Martin DB9, a Bentley Continental and a late model Mercedes owned by former Blue Chip magnate Mark Byers were put up for auction. Bryers himself didn't show up to see his cars auctioned off; he was out playing golf. In Scotland.

Corporate trustees joke that "the acquisition of a status symbol like a jet, a Rolls-Royce or Ferrari by a company's top executive is one of the early warning signs of impending insolvency." Big swinging dicks who've built empires based on borrowed money consume other people's capital on toys, hookers and fine living, and then, once the credit on which they've splurged has disappeared, they head off to pastures (and creditors) anew -- leaving behind them a trail of creditors to pick up the pieces that still have to be paid for. Paid for with real money.

Not just the money of hurting creditors -- your money, as we'll see.

Blue Chip's modus operandi was simple, as former Blue Chip flunkie Stewart Goldstone explained in The Herald: "Bryers' answer to keep ahead [of the game] was "to go faster and faster", to sell more while "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul"."

It sounds just like a pyramid scheme, doesn't it -- and it was: A whole pyramid based on lies and phony credit that destroyed the real capital of real people.

200px-1Gordon-gekko Bryers appears to subscribe to the child's view of economics personified by Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's ignorant snorefest, Wall Street. Says Gekko in a speech written by an economic illiterate:

"It's not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another... We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price of a paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of a hat while everybody sits around wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naïve enough to think that we’re living in a democracy, are you, Buddy? It’s the free market, and you’re part of it."

Actually, that's not the free market at all that Stone is describing, and this isn't the way the free market works. Stone has an excuse for peddling this crap -- he's an ignorant Marxist -- but those who worship Gekko as the personification of capitalism need a lesson:

Gekko is not your God.

Capitalism is not a zero sum game.

At least learn that much. Economics is the science of wealth creation -- do you hear me, of the creation of genuine wealth -- which in its most basic free market form is the production of actual goods that stand in a direct causal relationship to the satisfaction of our needs and wants.

In short, it's wealth creation, not the destruction of other people's capital. It's production, not passing around money from "one perception" -- or one con man -- to another.

And deals aren't a matter or one person stealing from another -- somebody winning and somebody losing. In every deal done without fraud (something the likes of Mark Bryers knows little about), we both receive something we want more in exchange for something we want less. For example, when I buy a bottle of milk for four dollars from my local dairy, it's because I want the bottle of milk more than I want the three dollars, and the shop owner wants the four dollars more than she wants the bottle of milk. We both win, just as we do in every honest deal, which is why rational economists call trades like this the "double thank you moment." The principle is the same whether it's a bottle of milk we're talking about, or a whole shipload of refrigerated dairy products, and it's deals such as this one on which world trade is based.

It's deals such as this that Gekko is not talking about.

Oliver Stone is not talking about a free market -- he's talking about the mixed economy created by the politicians in which there are crevices for cockroaches like Gekko to flourish. As far as Stone is concerned, it's these crevices that define capitalism, but there's no reason to make Stone's vapid view your own. If you're angry at vermin like Mark Byers and Rod Petricevic and their ilk, then get angry where it matters. Get angry that cockroaches like this are only able to exist because we don't have a free market where it really matters: in money. In the words of George Reisman, "Get angry

not at the existence of a market economy and the way the market economy works but at the presence in the market of a vast gang of dishonest bidders and dishonest buyers, a gang that bids and spends dollars created out of thin air in competition with their earned dollars." [Emphasis in the original.]

Despite all the securities law and regulations on financial markets, there's a fraud right at the centre of it all that makes a mockery of all the regulators. These dishonest bidders aren't using earned dollars to blow up their bubbles -- they're overwhelmingly using this credit created out of thin air.

What allows this destruction of your capital and the presence of these dishonest bidders is very simple: there is not a free market in money. In the present setup, governments and their central banks create counterfeit capital that eventually destroys real capital. Various explanations are given for this creation, the most idiotic being the preservation of price stability -- but it's an idiotic claim, since it's the creation of all this bogus credit that creates all the inflation that central banks are supposed to be fighting.

It's important to understand that inflation is not rising prices. It's so important that I'll say it again: inflation is not rising prices. In the normal course of events, prices rise and fall according to supply and demand, and it is important for the smooth functioning of the economy that these price signals are left unmolested.
Rising prices right across the board however are more accurately the symptom of inflation. Inflation itself is the injection of currency or credit into an economy by government, ahead of productivity and production. It is the inflation of the money supply. On the back of this injection of paper into the purchase of production, producers charge higher prices for their products in response to the extra “demand,” other producers raise their prices to compensate, the labour force seeks to do likewise, and the spiral has begun. Those who raise their prices at the beginning of the spiral come out ahead (as do those who get first use of each new tranche of paper), but when the spiral is really underway one raises prices simply to keep up, and those on fixed incomes are left behind.

The direct relevance of that quote to the likes of Mr Petricevic and Mr Byers (and Mr Gekko) is that each new tranche of paper pumped out by the central banks is injected into the economy by the likes of Mr Petricevic and Mr Byers (and Mr Gekko). It's them who gets first use of each tranche of paper, before prices have risen -- going "faster and faster", to sell more and more while "borrowing from Peter to pay Paul".

In fact, it's overwhelmingly their spending of credit created out of thin air that is the direct driver of inflation -- -- and in the case of Mr Byers where it inflates first is in the markets for fast cars and faster women -- and of the destruction of real capital that is the result.

Now I hasten to point out that not everyone who borrows money is a parasite - far from it. And not every corporate raider using borrowed money is dishonest -- most of them take honest advantage of companies that are under-using their assets, and they use these resources in new ways to create new wealth. That's a good thing. No, what I'm talking about is the scum who use the opportunity of all the counterfeit capital washing around to consume the real capital of others in frauds and malinvestments like those of Mr Byers, Mr Petricevic and (in an earlier decade) Mr Hawkins. Scum like these exist in every culture, but in the present mixed economy in which the use of credit created out of thin air is encouraged, the scum rise to the top on a wave of phoney money -- their smoke and mirrors concealed by the fraud at the heart of central banks and their monetary inflation. Their bad money drives out the good, and is eventually paid for out of the genuine savings created by hard work.

If you want to get angry at these dishonest scum, get angry at those who are responsible for the scam: the politicians and the central bankers who've made fraud a central feature of the banking system.

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