Saturday, July 05, 2008

Quote of the week

"Those who keep their values on a shelf too high to reach never really possess them."

A comment by author James Valliant to a post by broadcaster Lindsay Perigo on the importance of really living one's values.

Islamapartheid in the UK

If the reports that Britain's Lord Chief Justice has defended the "right" of Muslims in Britain to live according to Sharia law, and if this is in any way representative of modern British legal thought, then perhaps, after all, it wasn't such a bad thing to remove NZ's link to the Privy Council.  Reports SOLO's Marcus Bachler:

    "I thought at the time similar separatist lunacy was being voiced by the Archbishop of Canterbury he was standing in an asylum of his own building. Supposedly even the Muslim Council of Britain did not support his view. However, today it is reported in the Daily Telegraph that Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, supports him. Baroness Warsi, the Conservative shadow-Minister for Community Cohesion, also backs the judge.
    "Lord Phillips is quoted from a speech he gave to the East London Muslim Centre: 'There is no reason why principles of Sharia law, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.' According to the article, he means that Muslims in Britain should be able to use Sharia to decide financial and marital disputes.
    "This is a scary development, whereby Muslims are being encouraged by wealthy bleeding-heart liberals to embrace their religion and carry on treating their women like cattle and distinguish themselves legally and culturally from everyone else.
"I hope this nonsense will be shouted down again as it was after Rowan Williams's speech.

UPDATE:  On a related note, read  'Then they came for the puppies, and I did not speak out....' posted at Laissez Faire. "The new Islamist Frontier seems to be the removal of images of dogs from society. One can guess what they have in mind for the actual dogs."

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Happy July 4th!

As most New Zealanders won't know, yesterday (our time) was American Independence Day -- and today (our time) it's their time. 

Why does it matter?  Why does it matter to us down here at the bottom of the South Pacific that a bunch of gentlemen over two-hundred and thirty years ago pledged their "lives, fortunes and sacred honour" to erect the first government in history dedicated to the task of protecting individual rights -- as expressed in Thomas Jefferson's magnificent Declaration of Independence, the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? 

Why should that matter to us?  As Michael Berliner explains, "Jefferson and Washington fought a war for the principle of independence, meaning the moral right of an individual to live his own life as he sees fit."  The principle of independence for which they fought is universal. 

The United States of America was the first and still the only country on earth to be founded upon the specific idea that human life and human liberty are sacred.  July 4th is a day when freedom's anthem is heard around the world!

Despite its occasional breaches in upholding the principle of human rights and human liberty consistently, it is for nonetheless for this that we all celebrate (or should celebrate) Independence Day. To found a nation upon the notion that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are sacred - to constrain government to act only in defence of those rights - was not just a unique event in human history, it worked like all hell; it worked because protecting those rights gave individuals the moral space, the freedom, within which to act and to flourish. It was not just that this made America and the world freer and more prosperous, it was not just that this protection for liberty gave a platform to criticise and remedy the breaches of the principle; it is it is the illustration that a country founded upon reason, individualism and freedom works. That liberty is moral. That liberty is right.

The Declaration was made on behalf of every human being.

Said Thomas Jefferson in the last letter he was to write, reflecting fifty years later on the Declaration of Independence and the July 4 celebrations that commemorate its signing:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.
Amen. And let those thoughts be heard around the world! For as one commentator said on this day last year, July 4th is not just a National Day for Americans because the Declaration of Independence really is "freedom's anthem heard around the world":
Whenever you hear news of people fighting for democracy, pause and give thanks for the Declaration of Independence. I am thankful every day that by blind luck I was born in this country. I want the whole world to have the comforts and the opportunities that have so enriched my life. When they tear down a wall in Berlin, when an oppressed group is granted a right in Latin America, when a business is allowed to exist in China, a protest is allowed in a former Soviet satellite, a woman attends a school in Afghanistan or a purple forefinger is raised in Iraq, I think to myself, “the world may not know all the lyrics, but they are definitely singing our song.”

And he's right. America's creation was the great political achievement of the Enlightenment: the full political implementation of the concept of individual rights, with a government constrained to protect them. [What are individual rights, and why do they need the protection of government?  Ayn Rand explains.  What specifically was the nature of the government the American founding fathers tried to erect?  Ayn Rand explains that too.]

With the exception of just a few words, the words could hardly be bettered today (although some of us have tried):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

A wonderful, wonderful anthem to freedom that rings down through the years. If only the real meaning of those words could be heard and undeerstood. As David Mayer says:
To really celebrate Independence Day, Americans must rededicate themselves to the principles of 1776, and particularly to the absolute importance of individual rights – not the pseudo-rights imagined by proponents of the welfare state, but the genuine rights (properly understood) of individuals to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We must also rededicate ourselves to the Declaration’s standard for the legitimacy of government – a government that is limited to the safeguarding of these rights, not to their destruction – and, with this, an acceptance of the principle that outside this sphere of legitimacy, individuals have the freedom (and the responsibility) of governing themselves.

If Americans are to use this day to re-dedicate themselves to the principles of 1776 as Mayer invites, then non-Americans might use it to take up Thomas Jefferson's challenge "to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded [us] to bind [ourselves], and to assume the blessings and security of self-government."

Human liberty is the most sacred thing in the universe, and today is the pre-eminent day in which to celebrate it, and to salute the authors of America's Declaration of Independence. To America's founders, I salute you!

NB:  Some final July 4 snippets for you:

  • In one of those historic coincidences that resonates for centuries, 1776 wasn't just the year in which Thomas Jefferson published his Declaration of Independence, it was also the year that Adam Smith published his world-changing book, The Wealth of Nations.  Appropriate then that on July 4th the city fathers of Smith's home town Edinburgh have unveiled a statue of the genius.  Paul Walker has the details. [And an update.]
  • 1,215 servicemen celebrated July 4th Petraeus style, by re-enlisting in a huge ceremony in Baghdad. "Fittingly," says Powerline, "the re-enlistment took place in one of Saddam's former palaces." [Hat tip Jeff Perren.]
  • Consider the founders' ringing declaration of unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and happiness with the mealy mouthed suck-up-itude of the Obama clown, who on American patriotism is proud to declare "...the call to sacrifice for the country's greater good remains an imperative of citizenship..."  Pause for reflection.  As Myrhaf points out, the "call to sacrifice' is the regular call of those in power to make the people voluntarily enslave themselves to the state.  "Ideologically, Obama is just the latest mediocre representative of the collectivist counter-revolution to the American Revolution. The American Revolution stood for the Enlightenment values of individual rights, liberty and prosperity. The counter-revolution stands for collectivism, statism and sacrifice."
  • For the very best version of Star Spangled Banner to play over a martini, or your Sam Adams, I recommend Licia Albanese's spontaneous combustion at a Mario Lanza ball a few years ago.  Fortunately, Lindsay Perigo was on hand to record the eighty-year-old drowning out the young tenor who was supposed to be taking centre stage.  Listen here. Magnificent!
  • And of course, don't miss the Star Spangled Objectivist blog roundup at Kim's Place.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Beer O'Clock: It's Bock time!

Fresh from a dash 'round downtown on his Suzuki 125, our intrepid beer correspondent Stu from SOBA continues his survey of the world's best beer styles...

pc_bock The bock family of beers are a group of relatively strong lagers originally hailing from Germany. The fact that bocks are all lagers is completely missed by the people at DB, who have labelled the annually-released Monteith's Doppelbock a ‘Winter Ale.’ DB’s snub of tradition (and good beer) doesn’t end at this beer's name, but my study of DB's beer lists does. The Doppelbock is not their worst beer.

Genuine bocks are unfortunately not widely available in New Zealand, but a few of the regional craft breweries do make strong lagers that they name doppelbock - Harrington’s in Christchurch and Tasman and Bays breweries in Nelson definitely brew the odd batch. Bays even follow the age old doppelbock naming tradition with their Exclamator Doppelbock (naming your doppelbock with an ‘ator’ suffix is a homage to the monks who brewed the original version: Paulaner Salvator). Brewer’s Terminator, a rare ‘helles’ (pale) style from the Brewer’s Bar in Mt Maunganui, may well be the only regularly produced bock in the North Island.

On the import front, and probably only available from the best beer off-licences, are a couple of hidden gems: Hansa Urbock is a nice traditional style dark bock from that most untraditional brewing location of Namibia, while Hofbrau Munchen Maibock is a nicely hopped pale version that is absolutely superb when fresh (and is sometimes available on tap). Keep an eye on the newest player in the beer scene – www.beerstore.co.nz – to see if more bocks begin showing up there.

Schloss Eggenberg Samichlaus and EKU 28, at 14% and 11% respectively, are a little stronger than your average doppelbock and may go by the name Eisbock. These beers are occasionally seen in New Zealand and should be treated with caution – more like sherry or port. Share a bottle with a friend or two, they will change your perception of beer. Alternatively, cellar a few bottles for running your car in the future, it may well be cheaper than petrol soon.

Perhaps it is the lack of availability of this beautiful beer style that drove Dan Boyce to brew a traditional bock that was judged the best beer at 2007’s SOBA National Homebrew Championship. Whatever Dan’s inspiration, Hallertau Brewbar are about to release a commercial interpretation of his beer. Its official launch will be at The Malthouse, in Wellington, on International Brewers Day (July 18th). Come in, hug a brewer and enjoy this collaboration of home and commercial brewers (there will be a couple of American Style IPAs there for people like Neil ‘Hopheadache’ Miller too). If you can’t make it to the release, you should be able to taste it at Hallertau Brewbar in Riverhead from mid-July on.

Next time: 'Beers for the Ladies of the World: Wits, Wheats and Weizens.' Stay tuned.

Slainte mhath, Stu

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"Take off your slippers..."

This will be the best thing on radio you'll have heard all month, no question. Trust me. Susan Ryder, AKA Susie the Libertarian, talking to Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB about trucks, John Key and putting the boot in in.

Susie starts about 15 minutes in. It's good.

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Spot the hypocrites (updated)

NZ HERALD: "National attacked the Government yesterday over increased road-user charges ... but won't say it would undo them."

How do you spell 'arseholes'? Does it start with an 'N'?

UPDATE: And here's something else that snuck under the radar in the last couple of days.

With support from the Greens, NZ First and United Future, Labour has just passed legislation allowing all regional councils to impose a new diesel tax of up to 10c a litre, half of this to fund -- wait for it -- public transport!

And once again National has not said it would repeal this. (Ask their MPs specifically when you the chance.)

This will be the first fuel excise tax on diesel since 1977 when the Road User Charge was introduced to replace it, at a time when fuel prices are already at nose-bleeding levels.

Winston Peters, Peter Dunne, the Greens and Labour are all cheering this on - it is a new tax! And National will not repeal it.

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Trucks. Some facts ... (updated)

  • Trucks pay for half the costs of our state highways, but on a normal day they make up just a fraction of the traffic.

    The fact is this sector is truly a backbone of the economy. Everything you're using, wearing, eating and throwing out came to you and will be disposed of by truck.

    Without a railway, a small handful of businesses would face higher costs (and Wellington might need some more buses) - but without trucks, the economy is over.

  • Truckers do not get a 'free ride.' Truckers pay more than 91% of the inflated "costs to th eeconomy" determined in a Ministry of Transport report that monetises stuff like "noise." If there's anyone getting a 'free ride' it's bus and train passengers -- so if you want to hand out 'free ride' posters, hand them to a bus or train bludger.

  • Despite Annette King's lies, not all of the Road User Charge goes to pay for roads. More than fifteen percent goes to pay for public transport, coastal shipping, walking and cycling paths, none of whom contribute at all.

    If there's anybody who isn't paying their way then it's not truckers, it's all the Greens' very favourite things -- the moochers.

  • Remember, there's nothing environmentally sustainable about rail, the 'competitor' on whose behalf the government are trying to stifle the competition -- and given that FailRail will never every pay for itself and will just suck up subsidies for ever, nothing financially sustainable either. As Liberty Scott has said before, the marginal environmental costs of hauling freight on a tonne km basis sometimes are generally much higher by rail than by road.

  • This is the first time ever that any government has NOT provided warning of an increase in Road User Charges, -- it always gave diesel vehicle owners a month to prepay at the original price (and the government would get handy cashflow in that short period).

  • This is also the first time that the Minister has so blatantly lied to the Road Transport Forum about RUC. Assuring that a month's notice would be given, then ignoring it.

  • The increase would also not be needed if the government hadn't applied Green ideas to road building, inflating the cost of projects like the ALPURT motorway bypass of Orewa by as much as 20-25%, and delaying State Highway One between Auckland and Hamilton due to taniwhas.

  • The government's own study a few years ago (which the Greens misuse) said (quote) "Current charges (mainly Road User Charges) are in most cases greater than the level of marginal provider/external costs (principally accident externalities and marginal road wear)" attributable to trucks.

  • Note that this protest opposes the increase by stealth of the Road User Charges. National has NOT said it would reverse this increase.

  • Note too that Labour with support from the Greens, NZ First and United Future have
    just passed legislation allowing all regional councils to impose a new diesel tax of up to 10c a litre, half to fund public transport! Again National has not said it would repeal this. This will be the first fuel excise tax on diesel since 1977 when RUC was introduced to replace it.
[Hat tip Liberty Scott, where there's more, much more, of the same]

TO BE CONTINUED ...

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Truckers deliver, just as they promised

Never say again that New Zealand's trucking industry doesn't deliver on time.

It was gridlock as promised on the Auckland motorway and around the CBD this morning.

The government thought it could put the boot into the trucking industry with an overnight raid on their wallets, at a time when truckers are already on the canvas from spiralling prices.

After this morning, however, the boot is on the other foot. The government itself will be taking a kicking.

And just take note who's giving it to them. This isn't a bunch of braindead students demanding more taxpayer's money -- it's not a bunch of unwashed morons whining about welfare, or trying to stop new businesses from starting up. It's independent producers who are sick of being taken for granted by a bossyboot bloody government doing whatever they can to survive.

They don't want subsidies or special deals -- all they want government is to get the hell out of the way. How appropriate then that their protest is on July 4th, Independence Day! As No Minister says, this morning we are all truckers.

Now that the trucking industry has the government's ear ... in fact, now they have this bossyboot government by the balls ... I do hope they keep squeezing.








More photos at the Herald, and Stuff.

Oh, and just for the record: the roads were clear around Auckland Hospital, and the trucks on the motorway were moving over for sirens.

La Mujer de los Caracoles - Jose Manuel Capuletti

                                        lamujer

Loosely translated as 'The Woman of the Snails,' both style and title should give you a clue as to whom Capuletti was a student with.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gridlock!

The limits to government action are generally measured by the apathy of the populace.  For too long, New Zealanders have been pushed around and trodden up on by scum, with the only response to the bullying being some quiet moaning over the dinner table.  But New Zealanders' apathy has made the scum more  grasping, not less.

For once, tomorrow, the apathy is over.  The anger of New Zealanders at all the thieving and the nannying and all the venal power lust will be directed at government through thousands of truckies in cities across the country protesting the overnight raid on their wallets by Annette King -- protesting against a government, and a minister, who has proved better at doing us over than it has at protecting us, and has now taken the opportunity to prove that by putting the boot into an industry which is already on the canvas from rising fuel prices.

The chaos caused by truckers tomorrow morning is a barb directed at big government on behalf of all of us.  Let's get in behind them.

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'Central Banker' surely rhymes with something

Frank Shostak corrects the erroneous thinking that suggests rising commodity prices are causing inflation, and that the world's central bankers are impotent in the face of this inflationary pressure. US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is just another moonbat in thrall to this flawed economic thinking, as evidenced by his claim made to an audience this week that,

Inflation has remained high, largely reflecting sharp increases in the prices of globally traded commodities.

Is this true? Are price increases in commodities such as oil really responsible for inflation "remaining high"? Of course not, and you don't even need to examine the figures to understand why.

As Shostak explains, Inflation is commonly understood as a rise in the general level of prices -- measured as an 'average' rise in the price of a nominal basket of goods.

We have seen that, according to Bernanke and most economists, it is increases in commodity prices such as oil that are behind the recent strong increases in the prices of goods and services.
If the price of oil goes up, and if people continue to use the same amount of oil as before, people will be forced to allocate more money to oil. If people's money stock remains unchanged, less money is available for other goods and services, all other things being equal. This of course implies that the average price of other goods and services must come down. Remember: a price is the sum of money paid for a unit of a good. (The term "average" is used here in conceptual form. We are well aware that such an average cannot be computed.)
Note that the overall money spent on goods doesn't change; only the composition of spending has altered, with more on oil and less on other goods. Hence the average price of goods or money per unit of good remains unchanged.

It's so obvious, even a central banker should be able to see it. A rise in the price of one, or several commodities, will certainly have an effect on how people spend their money, and what they spend it on, but it can have no effect at all on overall prices across the board. It can't.

There is however one thing that can have an effect on the general price level, something that touches every single thing that is supplied, demanded and for which a price is charged -- something that touches every single thing in every single market: the rate of increase of the money supply. Explains Shostak,

...the rate of increase in the prices of goods and services in general is going to be constrained by the rate of growth of money supply, all other things being equal, and not by the rate of growth of the price of oil.
It is not possible for increases in the price of oil to set in motion a general increase in the prices of goods and services without corresponding support from the money supply...
The key then for general increases in prices, which is labeled by popular thinking as inflation, is increases in the money supply, e.g., the supply of US dollars.

The quantity of money in the system is responsible for inflation, and far from being impotent to act, this is something Mr Bernanke and his colleagues can very much do something about. After all, it's they who are responsible. The culpability is all their's.

The debunking of this error, by the way, highlights another common and important misunderstanding about inflation. While inflation is commonly understood as a rise in the general level of prices, it can now be seen that a rise in the general level of prices is merely the result of the real inflation:, which is a general increase in the money supply.

Price inflation is merely the symptom for which monetary inflation is the cause. And the cause of monetary inflation is Mr Bernanke himself and his colleagues around the world, and the flawed economic thinking that put them in positions of monetary power.

Given the twin threats of inflation and depression -- with the spectre of stagflation again on the world's horizons -- the world's central banks are facing, according to some commentators, the most challenging economic situation for the last sixty years. Given all that, isn't it a bit of a concern that the thinking of the central bankers themselves on so central a topic is so flawed?

** Read all of Frank Shostak's piece at the MISES BLOG: Commodity Prices and Inflation: What's the Connection?.

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Goldfish - Gustav Klimt, 1903

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A cheeky one from turn-of-the-century Vienna.

Subtitled 'To My Critics' (for all too obvious reasons deriving from complaints about his paintings being too erotic for public display) this is one of a collection of ceiling paintings at the University of Vienna.

531620158_29287ae94e_o

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dirty old trains (updated)

Out of all the nonsense spoken on the $1.5 billion renationalisation of FailRail, perhaps the most hyperbolic has been the nonsense spoken about "climate change" and "carbon emissions."

Says Helen Clark, no stranger to nonsense, "With growing worldwide awareness of climate change ... many nations are looking at rail as a central component of their economic infrastructure – and so must New Zealand. A modern and well resourced rail system will lessen the carbon footprint of our transport network, and therefore of our whole economy."

Says Sue Kedgeley, a complete stranger to sanity, "We must encourage people to use the bus and train services... Getting people off the roads has to be a priority for any society that understands the basic reality of peak oil and climate change."

Really? Both Labour and the Greens have peddled the line "we need rail to reduce carbon emissions," and it's a line that the media has bought ("With petrol prices high and climate change haunting public policy, rail's renationalisation is timely" said the Herald yesterday, for example), and commentators have peddled ("rail infrastructure" is needed "to reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions" says Idiot/Savant) but it's a story that has fewer legs than Heather Mills McCartney.

Just to deal with a couple of untruths at once, I wonder if you could, for a moment, view these three modes of transport below and tell me which produces the least carbon emissions per passenger kilometre. On the left is the eco-weenie, 'planet-saving' girly car, the Toyota Prius ('Save the Whales' stickers not included); on the right is a modern diesel 'Virgin Voyager' (the very latest in diesel trains, and a few generations newer from the government's Soviet-era diesel units); and in the middle is a big mother-hugging earth-destroying Jeep Patriot.

Which of the three do you think is the biggest carbon belcher per passenger kilometre, and which the smallest?










Any idea which of them produces the least carbon emissions per passenger kilometre?

No, you're wrong. First of all, it's not the train. A British rail industry study reveals that "Modern diesel-powered trains are so polluting that a family of three or more would be responsible for at least double the carbon dioxide emissions on many routes when travelling by rail compared with driving in a typical medium-sized car." In other words, as the Times' Transport correspondent summarises:
"It can be greener to drive than catch the train."
Can you hear that, Helen? Do you understand English, Sue? "It can be greener to drive than catch the train." If this is true for modern diesels on the well-patronised British rail system, then how much truer is it for FailRail's antediluvian and poorly patronised infrastructure. The fact is, your ancient and poory managed rail system would not "lessen the carbon footprint of our transport network", even if it were modern, well-used and well-resourced -- which it's never likely to be.

So that's one contestant out of the way, and one myth destroyed with it. Rail is not 'green.' Time to 'fess up and sell the system off for scrap.

Now listen to another inconvenient truth, as you would have on Morning Report last week -- the Prius is not green either:
The hybrid Toyota Prius car has been exposed as being less economical than a diesel SUV.
In fact, Environmental website Clean Green Cars has released figures showing "current hybrid cars offer no significant CO2 advantage over an equivalent diesel of similar performance."

So that's another myth destroyed -- hybrid cars might offer posing value at Green Party meetings, but they offer "no significant CO2 advantage over an equivalent diesel of similar performance."

Inconvenient truth for a modern age.

UPDATE 1: Note that the above discussion only looks at passenger travel. Another inconvenient truth for FailRail enthusiasts to get their heads around is that much the same news emerges for long-distance freight. The most recent comprehensive New Zealand study directly comparing rail and road freight environment costs is quoted by Liberty Scott:
What did it say? Well it compared the environmental impacts of freight between Wellington and Auckland, Napier and Gisborne and Kinleith and Tauranga. The comparison is as follows:
.
Environmental costs per net tonne km in NZ$
Wellington-Auckland rail NZ$0.008, road NZ$0.006
Napier-Gisborne rail NZ$0.002, road NZ$0.002
Kinleith-Tauranga rail NZ$0.001, road NZ$0.004
.
So in other words, on average it is more environmentally friendly to send freight by road between Wellington and Auckland than by rail, but the opposite between Kinleith and Tauranga
As Scott concludes yesterday, "So if it's not economically efficient, if the environmental advantages are dubious and sometimes illusory, then why buy the railway at all?" Why indeed? Are even socialists that blind?

UPDATE 2: Another point most of the morons regularly miss when spouting their warmist nonsense about rail reducing greenhouse emissions is that if taxpayers need to subsidise FailRail to the tune of $80 to $100 million per year, then taxpaying industries will need to produce billions of dollars more to pay for this unsustainable white elephant -- with all the emissions that extra production implies.

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Spot the traitor

I'm astonished that there are people calling former National PM Jim Bolger a traitor for agreeing to take the job of chairman of FailRail.

If, as Whale Oil says, "Bolger should have his party membership cancelled, all photos of his potato head removed from all party offices and all mention of him expunged from the record" for the crime of fronting FailRail, then what should the Notional Party do about its leader John Key, who's now on record as promising not to get rid of the damned albatross, and to continue making the taxpayer pay for its losses? Perhaps up to $1.5 billion worth of costs!

If Bolger should be banished, then what about Key?

If Bolger is "a dirty filthy socialist hugger [who] should be avoided" for chairing the damn loss-making so-called enterprise, then what is John Key for not having the balls to dismantle the whole miserable, mouldering, ragtag bundle of dollar-destroying baloney.

Is there a name for him, people?

Answers on a goddamn postcard please.

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Nanny is obviously still hungry

A 7.5% increase in road user charges for transport companies, coming on top of the highest fuel prices in history, increases to the accident compensation levy and wage interest costs ... a 3.5% increase in alcohol excise tax, putting the price of beer, wine and spirits up again ...

As the country slides inexorably into recession, and this government inexorably into ignominy, this confluence of impositions looks like they're enjoying kicking us all while we're down, and they're out.

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On activism

I like this succinct distinction between two kinds of activism made by health activist Lin Zinser, from the US organisation Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM).

Kinds of Activism: Intellectual activism means changing the ideas of honest, intellectually active people. Political activism means directing your legislators on how to vote. Political activism is not primary: the real change must be in the culture.

Downland Gridshell - Edward Cullinan Architects and Buro Happold Engineers

                             12029_image_3
wd2All the architecture of this Sussex, UK, museum is in the shell, made from long thin oak laths 'draped' into place over supporting arches.

downland_gridshell_eca180907_3












    wd4

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What a character

National's Stephen Franks argues that judging a party's politicians is more important than judging a party's policies.  His position, to summarise, is that "policy should not be the first priority of a political party," and "assessing character is the much more important task for voters in an election."  Hence:

The people are right to be more interested in revealing gossip than serious policy pronouncements, because many politicians shuck policies like clothes.

Discuss.

Planners' spin spiked by housing researchers

LargeAerial News posted here recently at NOT PC that "While housing in much of the western world has become seriously unaffordable, the city of Houston remains unzoned, and its housing among the most affordable anywhere" attracted the eye of a vigilant Tauranga City Councillor.  On the basis of the evidence linked to in that post, he asked the Tauranga town planners to justify their stated claim that the so called 'Smart Growth' polices they are imposing on the city have no effect on the cost of housing.

In reply, the planners put together a memo which, in the way of these things, was utterly self-serving.  And also in the way of these things, it leaked. It leaked to Wendell Cox and Hugh Pavletich, who have replied to it online at the Demographia blog: Tauranga Staff Memo on Houston Misleads Council. Their reply concludes:

New Zealand’s housing affordability loss is the result of overly prescriptive land use planning (smart growth or urban consolidation policy). This connection has been identified by some of the world’s top economists and is detailed in our 4th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. The situation was best summed up by former Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor Donald Brash, writing in the Demographia report: the affordability of housing is overwhelmingly a function of just one thing, the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land.. In short, where there are no prescriptive land use policies, housing is affordable. Among the six nations surveyed in our report, there are no exceptions.

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Renaming rail

Susan takes aim at the waste of assets that is renamed nationalised rail:

Kiwirail? Gag. Jim Bolger? Double-gag. What a parasite.

More like FailRail. And Off-track.

Looks like a bullseye.

Jordan Bad Luck

Labour's Hunua candidate, the perennially young Jordan Carter, has made the first foray to inoculate himself from many 'myself when a tad young and resentful' Carterisms that will litter the internet for years to come.

Stuff like "I wouldn’t go into business if my life depended on it," not realising that it does.  Or "I find trade immoral," a statement that trades on both envy and resentment.  Or “achieving a worker’s paradise,” which he's stated as his political goal.  Or of  the need to “rip away” the “non-political” “fig leaf of Parliamentary services”?  What did he mean by this sort of nonsense?  Who knows.  But when he said that and much more like it he was, he tells us, an "angry young activist" who meant it, whereas now he's "older and wiser" he's embarrassed about it.  Since he's braindead and just twenty-six (and still looks like he's about twelve), the explanation doesn't even stack up, particularly when it resonates so well with the statements of his political masters.

All you need to know is that he doesn't resile from any it.  Sure, he's embarrassed about it now he's"taking politics seriously," ie., seeking to suck off the taxpayer's tit permanently, but it's clear enough he still means every word.

PS: Today he's told readers "I'm not interested in money or profit."  Doesn't change, does it.

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Students learn important life lesson

Pigging_Out Students at a Wellington school have been given an excellent lesson in the law of unintended consequences.

Naturally, the lesson itself is unintended:

Healthy eating guidelines for tuck shops have had the opposite effect at Wellington High School - with pupils feasting on daily sausage sizzles and pies from the local dairy.

Let's hope it's a lesson that stays with them.  It's still eluded most of their 'betters' in parliament.

(PS:  Very pleasing too to see there's one dairy owner in the country that is doing well.)

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$4.2 billion spent on destructive economics

Bollocks I bet you didn't know that the Reserve Bank spent $4.2 billion of your money last year in order to prop up its flawed economic model.  $4.2 billion!  Reports NBR:

   " The biggest gambler on the New Zealand dollar is the Reserve Bank, which has been playing the currency market to the tune of $4.2 billion in the last year to try and keep the price of the dollar down, according to figures published by the Bank.
    "This raises two obvious questions: how long can the Bank continue to sell into the market while the dollar remains relatively high? And should our central Bank be taking a punt of this size with public money in the hope that it may be helping exporters keep the dollar slightly lower?"

Here's some questions that might occur to you about now:
Why is the Reserve Bank trying to keep the price of the NZ dollar down?
Because NZ interest rates are higher than the rates of other comparable countries round the world, attracting foreign buyers for local dollars.
Why are NZ interest rates higher than the rates of other comparable countries round the world?
Because the Reserve Bank's flawed economic model requires that it jack up to interest rates to squelch rising prices.
Are prices rising?
Yes.  Partly for reasons of supply and demand -- important price signals the Reserve Bank is trying to squelch -- partly because Government spending is out of control; and partly because the Reserve Bank itself has been inflating the money supply.  (To the extent it's been inflating the money supply by fifteen percent year on year for the last half-dozen years, the Reserve Bank hasn't been fighting inflation, it's been causing it.)
Is this sustainable?
No.
Is this rational?
What do you think. In this headlong and destructive pursuit of what it calls 'price stability', there are two prices which experience rampant instability: the price of the NZ dollar, and the price of  money. That's right, the myopia over price stability has led to galloping instability in interest rates and mortgage rates and the exchange rate -- along with dislocations, malinvestment, and the threat of a lingering recession . The rationalistic "basket of goods" by which price inflation is measure may be made to appear stable, but the prices we actually pay for mortgages, capital and foreign exchange are all over the place, and the economy the Bank was supposed to stabilise is found to be anything but.  The $4.2 billion the Reserve Bank spent last year is only a small part of the cost of this flawed economic model.

In other words: removing real price signals from the market (or trying to) plays havoc with your markets.  The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

NB: If at this stage you'd like to get your hands on a more rationally sustainable economics to understand all that's gone wrong, and why, and what to do about it, The Austrian Business Cycle Theory is online and free, and with essays by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Roger Garrison and others explaining both the Austrian concept of the capital structure, and how governments and their central banks are the central cause of both inflation and depressions, it's timely reading.

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Forty new bloggers

I see Fairfax will be letting go of forty sub-editors in order to consolidate its operations in Christchurch and Dunedin.

Not a good time to be awarded the DCM*.  Does this mean we'll see forty angry bloggers added to the blogroll very soon?

*DCM = Don't Come Monday

Did Crosby text him?

What a kerfuffle over nothing.  So the National Party has hired (or not) a crowd of Australian spin doctors called Crosby Textor to write their lines for them (or not).  And the importance of this is ....  no, it completely escapes me.  Every party lies -- does it matter who writes their lines?

"The SIS were bugging me!"  Tariana Turia came up with that gem all on her own -- with a bit of help from congenital liars Gordon Campbell and Hicky Hager -- and the "holocaust" in Taranaki she invented was also all her own work.  No need for expensive spin doctors for the Maori Party; the in-house skills seem fine.

"Cash for policies!"  "American bagmen!" "The pledge card is not electioneering!"  "Fact is, the Labour Party doesn't have enough money to hire it's liars -- -- unless of course you count Heather Simpson, who is paid by the taxpayer -- and their own in-house liars are clearly good enough at producing their own lies and misdirection to keep the media busy. Just look what a frenzy in a fruit bowl they've created over two Aussie spin doctors.

"We're all going to die!"  "Save the snails!" "We support free speech!" Frankly, if it's pathetic self-serving lies you object to, then the dangerous lies and anti-industrial nonsense peddled by the Greens must surely take the biscuit.  Do their lies, or Hager's own lies, outstrip the lies supposedly paid for by the Tories?

Every party lies.  Every party spins.  Some of them just have to hire others to write those lines for them.  The story is not who writes the lies -- it should be the lies themselves.

UPDATE:  And frankly, as arch-Machieavellians, the Australian spin twins Crosby Textor look about as useful as, well, Murray '0 from 3' McCully.  As Colin Espiner observes,

for all its fearsome reputation, Crosby Textor’s results are mixed at best. It has advised National in its last four campaigns. National has lost three in a row. It advised John Howard last year. Howard lost. It advised Michael Howard in Britain. Howard lost. Its sole recent success was Boris Johnson in the London mayorlty, and Red Ken was history after introducing the congestion charge.

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Expo 2000 pavilion - architect Thomas Herzog and structural engineer Julius Natterer

                       thomas-herzog-wk 

A student of Frei Otto, who produced the astonishing Munich Olympic Stadium roof, architect Thomas Herzog designed these stylish timber shells to shelter temporary displays at the World Expo 2000 in Hannover, Germany.  Architect Penny Richards describes what's going on:

The canopy comprises 10 modular elements, each one measuring 40m x 40m, at a height of 20m above ground level. The elements are timber double-curved lattice shells, each supported on a central structure.

BD29A20C_lowresThe roof shells cantilever out on all sides looking like giant whale tails. The shells are covered by a pre-stressed translucent membrane and the rainwater is collected and brought to the ground through each of the central structural supports. These supports are each cut from a single tree trunk, from the classic Silver Fir, of the Black Forest. Seventy trees 50m tall were selected. The bark was stripped with high-pressure water jets and the trunks were cut in half lengthwise, to form each of the four corner columns.

This elegant but robust canopy is a demonstration of a tree reborn from the forest to the structure. The columns represent the simple vertical structure of the tree, and the filigree lattice shells represent the tree canopy. The timber lattice allows daylight to penetrate below, just as it does in the forest.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Snouts in the Euro-trough

When there's a trough, there'll be snouts in it up to their nostrils. Where there's a gravy train, there'll be politicians riding it. Watch this expose of European parliamentarians caught red-handed by a German TV crew as they show up early Friday morning to sign the attendance register, suitcases in tow, before heading home for a long weekend. Serious disgruntlement starts about 2:30 in. [Hat tip Samizdata.]

Peer-review problems

The peer-review process only developed after World War II, but it is now almost universal. Jerry Kirkpatrick suggests that while it has "perhaps improved the accuracy and reliability of conventional [scientific' research", it has done so at the price of innovation.

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There are some people who *want* higher oil prices

While the world's economies reel under higher oil prices -- higher in large part due to bottlenecks in the limited refining capacity available -- environmentalists are blocking the expansion of two refineries in Roxana, Illinois, and Richmond, California.

But maybe the new refineries aren't clean enough, you say?  The upgrade to the Illinois plant will produce a 95 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions and a 25 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides.(Jeff Perren has the details.)

But maybe 'the planet' can't afford the new emissions, you say?  The upgrade to the California refinery will will actually reduce GHG emissions by 220,000 tons.  (Jeff Perren has those details too.)

But perhaps you cant see the point of this new capacity anyway, since like the opening of new oil fields it will be "too many years" until we see any result anyway. A lot of people talk like that.  If it takes ten years, they say, why bother?  Well, why bother planting new seeds ... ?

As Jeff Perren concludes, "There is much that is decidedly medieval" in the views of the opponents of progress.  Environmental objections to progress and wealth creation can be seen once again not so much as 'pro-planet' as they are anti-human.

UPDATE: On a related note, Paul Walker suggests the Greens are a communicable disease.

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Bookmark this!

The Ayn Rand Institute has been busy, as you can see from the eleven newish websites featured at this link -- which makes a round dozen, because the links page itself is hosted by the newest website, which is for the Institute's new public policy and media center, The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, which opens later this year in Washington, D.C., to promote the philosophical case for individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the public policy and business communities, the media, the general public and elected officials and their staffs. [Hat tip SOLO].

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How many dead rats will John Key make *you* swallow?

Near enough everyone by now is aware that John Key has been swallowing dead rats to make himself look the way he thinks an electable politician should look.  He's swallowed enough dead rats already to make a bishop sick.

Interest-free student loans to bribe university-age voters? Me too. KiwiSaver? Me too. Foreign policy? Me too. Welfare for Working families?  Me too. Waffling on about climate change and emissions trading? Me too. Privatisation?  Cap on GP's fees? Bulk funding for schools?  There's the faintest whiff of controversy? Oh, go on then, me too.

There is nothing National will not do for power, including abandoning whatever principles it ever had, and fooling every supporter it ever had about what it stands for and where it's really going. 

But I'm not really here this morning to remind of the dead rats that Flip Flop Boy has already swallowed, I'd like to point out, or remind you, about just a few of the dead rats he's going to insist that you swallow.  As Steve Pierson says at The Standard (yes, Virginia,The Standard), "It strikes me there is a disconnect between what prospective National voters expect it to do in government and what it has actually promised it would do." 

"Disconnect" is the kindest way to describe the gap between what most Blue Team voters expect, and what National will deliver -- the size of that gap is the measure of cynicism of National's campaigners. 

Think power prices are too high and National will know how to lower them? Think again -- it was them who signed up to Kyoto, and who introduced the RMA.

Think petrol prices are too high and expect National to slash the fuel tax? Hell, no - Maurice Wimpianson has already ruled that out. 

How about reversing the anti-smacking law?  Not a chance -- Flip Flop Boy has already ruled that out. 

'Fixing' law and order?  They've got no more clue than the Red Team what to do. 

'Fixing' the RMA?  Nick Smith couldn't even fix a good going-away dinner - and he should.

'Fixing' the economy?  Who are you kidding.

Or 'fixing' the Electoral Finance Act?  Have you any idea what they will actually introduce as a replacement, or how -- because they sure don't have a clue. 

Reversing Labour's Emissions Trading Scheme? The bastards have got their own anti-industrial wet dream they want to introduce.  

Think they'll fix the die-while-you-wait health system, or the state's factories of illiteracy laughingly called schools? Are you kidding -- the health and school systems are the ones they introduced.

Or make serious tax cuts -- the sort of tax cut that would leave a Treasurer crying?  Hell no. Not in a million fiscal quarters.

So why would you even considering voting for the bastards?  They still don't even know from one day to the next whether they're a party of compulsion or not. No wonder NZers are leaving in their droves, even with the expectation of a National Government come November.

As a commenter says at The Standard, watching National voters after the election will be like watching a friend who starts dating 'HotChickHot4U' off the internet, and she turns out to be a scam artist who ends up with half your house...  Self-delusion is not compulsory, it’s a choice. And if people can’t be bothered to try and find out what they’re getting, they get what they deserve."

How many dead rats can you swallow?  And why on earth would you want to?

Here's Monty Python.

UPDATE: "You vill play schport!" says Nanny Key.  Jawohl, Herr Neville!

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Scientising contempt

monbiot_full Brendan O'Neill at Sp!ked Online has penned a superb dissection of the new environmentalism. "Environmentalism," observes O'Neill, "is [now] a life support machine for the elite’s contempt for the lifestyles of the lower orders.”  Pseudo-scientific bullshit has now replaced sniffy contempt for middle class pleasures, adding "a new, legitimising coating to elite fears and prejudices."

    The most striking thing about the rise and rise (and rise) of the environmentalist ethos is how it has acted as a life support machine for the political and cultural elite’s contempt for the lifestyles of the lower orders, and how it has added a new scientific/end of the world twist to the authorities’ attempts to manage, control and change our behaviour and expectations...
    Everywhere one looks, long-standing snooty prejudices are being ‘scientised’; old-fashioned hatred for mass behaviour is being replaced by new, superbly convenient ‘scientific facts’ which apparently show – on spreadsheets, graphs and pie charts, no less – that mass behaviour is quantifiably, unfalsifiably, unquestionably Harmful...
    Call me a cynic, a doubter, even a denier if you like, I don’t care; but when scientific research continually and conveniently, almost magically, ‘proves’ that people are disgusting and must rein in their desires and change their habits – just as the elite caste, from priests to politicians, have been arguing for decades! – then I get suspicious.
    No, there’s no conspiracy here; instead our rulers and our thinkers and our betters are instinctively feeling around for a new morality, a new form of control and judgement. And what better than easily moulded research which shows that travelling abroad is irresponsible (fact), over-shopping in supermarkets is evil (fact), wanting too much stuff will make you mentally ill (fact), having too many children is lethal (fact), and football fans are fat, foul and smelly (fact). It’s almost as if one of the pious nuns who taught me at school, and who frequently spouted all of the above prejudices, suddenly happened upon scientific evidence to back up her worldview. Well, I say to the new green hectors what I often dreamt of saying to that nun, but never did: Fuck off.

Good stuff.  Good reading.  Check it out.

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