Saturday, March 21, 2009

The strongest, hardest, highest, fastest game on the planet

You’ll forgive me if I’ve been unable to muster any enthusiasm for what the Warriors might do in this year’s NRL, or whether Canterbury Crusaders will lift their game in time to make this year’s semi-finals – or which which Super 14 team might (or might not) eventually knock off the Bulls, the Sharks or the Waratahs (or even whether they already have).

Why bother with those uninspired contests when you could be watching this: the strongest, hardest, highest, fastest game on the planet. One glimpse of the AFL’s latest promotional video below – there’s even a wee All Blacks cameo -- and you’ll never see your own favourite sport the same way again.  (Click on the pic to go to the vid.)

edm_1Gives me chills just watching it!

And if that isn’t enough for you, why not check out some of the amusing ads the AFL put together back in 1996 for the game’s centenary featuring the likes of Carl Lewis, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, John McEnroe, Donovan Bailey (then the fastest man on the planet) , Bishop Desmond Tutu and loads of other luminaries.  Damned funny.  Here’s one:

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Beer O’Clock: In praise of the eloquent insult

We have twin goals here at here at NOT PC Towers on a Friday afternoon. 

While raising our glasses we also wish to raise the standard of what’s in those glasses - and the quality of insults we hear while drinking from them.  Not for us the simple four-word epithet, not at least when a more silver-tongued sally could prove more devastatingly effective.

That, at least, is our goal.

To this end, why not shake up your martini and peruse the following.

The famous exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor: She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison." He said, "If you were my wife, I should drink it."

Lord Sandwich to John Wilkes: "You sir, will either die on the gallows or of the pox." "That must depend, Sir," said Wilkes, "whether I embrace your lordship’s principles or your mistress."

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.” – Tom Waits on wowsers

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr on an actor

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

“The trouble with the world is that everyone is two drinks behind.” – Humphrey Bogart

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." - Moses Hadas

“A triumph of modern science – to find the only part of Randolph that wasn’t malignant and remove it.” – Evelyn Waugh on Randolph Churchill

“A difficulty for every solution.” – Herbert Samuel on the civil service

“I admire him, I frankly confess it; and when his time comes I shall buy a piece of the rope for a keepsake.” Mark Twain on Cecil Rhodes

“Do you pray for the senators, Dr Hale?”  “No, I look at the senators and I pray for the country.” – Edward Everett Hale

“Like being savaged by a dead sheep.” - Denis Healey of a verbal attack on him by Geoffrey Howe

“Is there no beginning to your talents?” - Clive Anderson to Jeffrey Archer

“Mr Speaker, I said the honourable member was a liar it is true and I am sorry for it. The honourable member may place the punctuation where he pleases.” - Richard Brinsley Sheridan, MP

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend.... if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." - Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." - Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating

"In order to avoid the scandal of coquetry, Mme de Genlis always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork."  - Mae West

“When they circumcised Herbert Samuels they threw away the wrong bit.” - David Lloyd George (attrib.)

“You were born with your legs apart.  And they’ll send you to the grave in a Y-shaped coffin.” – Joe Orton in What the Butler Saw

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts... for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"You have Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder to Cliff Osmond

“Five bowls of muesli looking for a spoon.” NME magazine on prog-rock group Yes

“Her voice sounded like an eagle being goosed.” – Ralph Novak on Yoko Ono

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." - Groucho Marx

And finally, George Bernard Shaw who, when asked by the conductor of a restaurant orchestra if he would like to request the orchestra to play anything in particular, replied, “Dominoes.”

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The blog of Barack O'Prompter's teleprompter

I posted a week or so ago about the Obamessiah's penchant for the teleprompter
He's now President Teleprompter.  "Yes, even the New York Times is saying he's addicted,” notes Jack Wheeler, who reckons he can't give a speech or make the simplest announcement without it.  There's even a website now: teleprompterpresident.com.
And now the teleprompter itself has a blog!  It's true, see: Barack Obama's Teleprompter's Blog.

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Christopher Monckton's OPEN LETTER to John Key: “Global Warming” Is Not A Global Crisis.” PART TWO: The Policy Responses

As the government’s Select Committee inquiry kicks off with all manner of fabricated non-science presented to it, The Free Radical is thrilled to be publishing an Open Letter letter from one of the world’s leading climate ‘skeptics’ to the world’s newest Prime Minister on the very subjects the Select Committee says it is considering.

Monckton-OpenLetter The last Free Radical magazine, issue #80, featured this world exclusive: Part One of ‘Christopher Monckton's Open Letter to John Key’ on the science of so called Climate Change: a thorough debunking by Christopher Monckton of the apocalyptic vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.

The so called science, says Monckton in that Letter, is “a lurid and fanciful account of imagined future events that was always baseless, was briefly exciting among the less thoughtful species of news commentators and politicians, but is now scientifically discredited. “

Since featuring Part One Monckton’s letter in The Free Radical, the Open Letter on the science of so called Climate Change has gone far and wide -- thanks to Free Radical and NOT PC reader, who asked for electronic copies to pass on to “opinion makers.”

In the forthcoming issue, out Monday, Monckton completes his Open Letter, this time covering the political responses to so called Climate Change. 

Below are just some of the many highlights in what is a thorough debunking of any of the political prescriptions chosen for what is a thoroughly politicised pseudo-scientific phenomena.

(And, by the way, if you want to make sure your letterbox will be in the first mailout of this latest Free Radical, now is the time to subscribe, or resubscribe.)

From: The ViscountMonckton of Brenchley
To: John Key, Esq.,
Prime Minister of New Zealand and Leader of the National Party.

OPEN LETTER TO JOHN KEY:
“Global Warming” Is Not A Global Crisis
PART TWO: The Policy Responses

Dear Sir,

  • We have in Part One thoroughly examined the scientific propositions that you and your colleagues have advanced in support of global warming – the basis of what your Climate Change Inquiry calls “the central/benchmark projections which are being used as the motivation for international agreements to combat climate change.” We have examined them, and found them wanting…
    We now turn to your policy prescriptions and the basis for them. . .

Your proposed remedy for "market failure"

  • By now I hope I have established in your mind the possibility, at the very least, that there is no need whatsoever for any controls on the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has previously and harmlessly contained 20 times today's concentration.
  • By citing the need for such “tools” as “a well-designed, carefully balanced emissions trading scheme” (should such a thing even be possible) . . . you are saying, in effect, that the free market on its own is incapable of acting fast enough to prevent worldwide damage caused by anthropogenic "global warming," and that your approach to your domestic economy will be to institute government action to limit private action.
  • The free market can scarcely be blamed for having failed to address an imagined "problem" that has not long been widely talked of; now that the free market has been made aware of the imagined "problem," it will be able to deal with the "problem" (to the extent that the "problem" is real) far more quickly and effectively than the State.
  • Even if the fancifully-exaggerated estimates of climate sensitivity generated by the UN's climate panel were correct (and they are not), the world will have largely run out of the fossil fuels that are the alleged cause of the alleged "problem" long before any significant environmental damage can occur. And long before the fossil fuels become exhausted, their price will rise (thanks to the free-market law of supply and demand), so that the market will ration them by price long before any State-imposed system of rationing, whether by "cap-and-trade" or otherwise, could possibly have gained sufficient public acceptance to make any difference.
  • Russia, India, and above all China have made it abundantly plain that they do not propose to reduce their "carbon emissions". . . Even if the West were to close down all of its industries and transport systems and factories and hospitals and schools and power stations, and even if we were all of us to revert to the Stone Age but without the ability even to light carbon-emitting fires, the growth in China's and India's emissions would entirely replace all of the West’s emissions within little more than a decade.
  • It is a scandal that your farmers are included at all in the Emissions Trading Scheme. Farm animals do not eat fossil fuels; they eat grass, and they sink most of the carbon into meat, milk, wool, and blood and bone fertilizer. They should receive carbon credits for doing so.
  • In sum, all that you will achieve, if you inflict upon yourselves a severe enough system of rationing actually to reduce your emissions by the one-half you have suggested, would be to transfer your industries, your workers' jobs, your emissions, and your well-controlled environmental pollution to China, which is opening one or two new coal-fired power stations every week, and whose record of pollution is currently the worst on the planet.

Some defects of your proposed "cap-and-trade" policy

  • No matter how well “balanced” you think you can make your “cap-and-trade” system of emissions trading, any such proposal would require a vast, complex, costly, bureaucratic nightmare of controls, regulations, intrusions, and interferences that would swiftly and forever destroy the economic vigor of New Zealand.
  • The facts are that "cap-and-trade" is simply a market in hot air – a “cap in hand” concept invented by the Environmental Defense Fund - no friends of either human freedom or prosperity. . .
  • It is, first and foremost, a complex regime of State-inflicted rationing, by which government officials interfere in the free market by arbitrarily deciding which industries shall or shall not be permitted to emit, and how much each of them shall have the right to emit.
  • You cannot escape the central flaw of the Environmental Defense Fund's "cap-and-trade" system. If carbon trading is to work, it will not be cheap; and, if it is cheap, it will not work.
  • If you introduce cap-and-trade, you will destroy thousands, and probably tens of thousands, of jobs throughout New Zealand and in all sectors of the economy – with perhaps a large number of those being your own supporters from the agriculture and forestry sectors.
  • Those jobs - the livelihoods of working people and their families throughout the country - will have been sacrificed for no environmental benefit whatsoever: for whatever you cease to make, China will make in your place; whatever you cease to emit, China will emit in your place, and will emit in greater quantities because her systems of power generation are far less efficient than our own. You will not only destroy the livelihoods of tens of thousands: you will also increase the planet's total emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • If you actually believe (per impossibile) what you have said in your speeches about the imagined dangers of increased emissions of carbon dioxide, then you had better abandon "cap-and-trade" at once: for the policy you propose would be calculated to increase the world's carbon footprint, not to reduce it.

The chimera of "market rewards for alternative energy"

  • The greatest market incentive is price. Yet, since governments are in no position to make the prices of the things they wish to promote any cheaper in a global sense (and as we know, governments’ ability to dispense subsidies and “pick winners” has never been a successful strategy) then there is only one possible mechanism whereby they can change existing market incentives: by making things dearer. This is not so much to offer a price incentive, as it is to offer a price disincentive.
  • If you persist in attempting to “pick winners” by subsidizing that which you wish to encourage at the cost of that which you wish to discourage, you are certain to encounter the same problems that every system of subsidies ever imposed upon your country has encountered.
        May I remind you of the effects, for example, of your Prime Minister Muldoon’s marginal-lands subsidies, which had the effect of bringing huge environmental damage to eroding land that was never productive enough for genuine agricultural production? The folly of “picking winners” continues today in a new form, encouraging, for example, vast acreages of agricultural land to be taken out of food production to grow biofuels, even though biofuel production emits more carbon dioxide than oil production. These are the results of what can be more accurately called “price distortions.”
  • The greatest barrier to your country’s economic recovery in this time of depression will be to impose needless costs on the creation of new sources of energy, or the unnecessary expense of subsidizing that which should never be encouraged.
  • Even if there were a scientific case for cutting carbon emissions (which there is not), there is now not the slightest economic case for doubling the damage already caused by global recession by imposing "cap-and-trade" on top. If you were to impose "cap-and-trade" – or carbon taxes -- on top of the already harmful costs of world economic and financial collapse, you would merely drive the economy from recession to destruction.

Capital in the service of freedom: Smith's "invisible hand"

  • It is precisely because entrepreneurs only prosper by giving people what they want that capital and liberty go everywhere hand in hand. Directly contrary to what you suggest, it is not in the least hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, and small businesses working together to the same good purpose – should the purpose to which they are called be a worthwhile one. The extent to which the big stick is needed is, I submit, the extent to which the purpose is one based on hot air and little more.
  • As I’m sure you are aware, however, environmentalists are not always working to a good purpose. They are a narrow, special-interest group just like any other. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that, after the Berlin Wall fell, many on the Left found a new home in the environmental movement, seeing it as the new hope for the destruction of the Western, capitalist hegemony that they so detest.
  • The environmental movement in general, and the "global warming" alarmists in particular, may have an agenda that is political rather than environmental - an agenda that is a serious, strategic threat to the peace, security, prosperity, and liberty of the West, and an immediate and pressing threat to the very survival of the poorest peoples of the world.
  • At the very least, there is an obvious coincidence of interest between those who persistently exaggerate the supposed adverse consequences of "global warming" . . . and those who have long planned and intended to dismantle and destroy the economies and liberties of the free and prosperous West from within.
  • In our schools, the slick, relentless propaganda of the alarmists - based not on fact but on fear - infects the minds of innocent children.  Gripping children in a self-serving, manipulative state of fear robs them of their childhood.
  • Among our classe politique, "global warming" is seen not as a crusade to "Save The Planet", but rather as a priceless opportunity to extend the empires of the new and growing aristocracy of overpaid, over-privileged bureaucrats and the politicians who cravenly serve them, and to increase the taxes and imposts inflicted on the people, and to intrude into every aspect of our lives, from the light-bulbs we use to the automobiles we drive.

The heavy cost of the economic destruction you propose

  • Whatever may have been true about the “targets” being talked by other countries when you announced your ‘50 by 50’ target – which even at its announcement was more about politics than it was about either science or economics – there is no way that pipe dream of last year matches the present-day reality.
    Both Europe and Australia have sensibly backtracked on their targets in the face of overwhelming economic reality.
  • Said Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian, “Kevin Rudd's announcement of a carbon emissions reduction target of 5 per cent by 2020 demonstrated that his pre-election claim that climate change was the great moral issue of our time, and demanding that Australia lead the way, was what Winston Churchill would call a terminological inexactitude: a whopper, a piece of bare-faced duplicity of epic proportions. But thank goodness Rudd and his colleagues deceived us.”
  • Reporting on the outcome of the Poznan conference on climate change, which history will probably record as the conference that sounded the death knell or climate alarmism, the Wall Street Journal recorded that “Instead of standing by plans to cut CO2 emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, [Europe’s] actual reductions might be as trivial as 4% if all exemptions are factored in…
  • And in the US, while addressing global warming is certainly said to be a “top priority” of the Obama administration, a recent Pew poll shows it ranks low among the concerns of the American public. Among the 20 policy issues people were asked to rate, global warming ranked last. . . “People are sick of the hype,” said Patrick Michaels, a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. “If they really believed global warming was a threat, it would be higher on the list.”
    No politician as astute as Mr Obama can afford to ignore a signal like that. Frankly, sir, nor can you.
  • Let us translate what ’50 by 50’ means into plain English. This means that within 41 years - the working lifetime of a high-school graduate today - the policies which you propose to introduce will have shut down, deliberately, consciously, and to no environmental benefit whatsoever, more than one-half of the entire New Zealand economy.
  • You have repeatedly stated your support for a target for so called renewable energy of fully 90% of your country’s needs. Let us briefly examine the credibility of this assumption. At present, fossil fuels and nuclear power, between them, provide more than 98% of the energy used in the developed world. So-called "renewable energy" accounts for less than 2%. Even the UN's climate panel no longer believes that you can close down 98% of a nation's power supplies and retain anything more active than a Stone Age economy.

MONCKTON-carbon dixode emission control authorityThecarbon footprint” of the economic interferences you propose

  • By any definition, emissions trading is not really trade – it’s rationing. The government puts a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide industry is allowed to emit (a “cap”), and then unused quotas can be sold. It is certainly not a market operation because the key feature is not the buying and selling but the government limit.
  • Remember Friedman's multiple. The State consumes twice as much resources as the private sector in performing any given function. Therefore, if you truly believe that the planet is menaced by an insignificant and harmless increase in the atmospheric concentration of a trace gas that is essential to life, then your first duty as Prime Minister will be to do the reverse of what you propose: in short, to shut down all unnecessary functions of the government altogether, and to transfer as many as possible of the remainder to the private sector, which has already done a better job of disincentivizing the consumption of fossil fuels in just two years than your proposed "cap-and-trade" system is expected to do in almost a third of a century.
  • We can no longer afford the luxury of over-extended, over-ambitious, centralized government. Yet the call for “action” in the face of climate change is overwhelmingly for government action to place limits on private action.
    Since this will of necessity concentrate vast additional powers in the hands of government it is not merely doomed to ignominious failure; it is not merely guaranteed to increase your nation's "carbon footprint" under the guise of taking steps to reduce it; it is an explicit and abject abandonment of the individual freedom for which the National party is supposed to stand.

Conclusion

  • The "serious dangers" threatening the planet are not dangers arising from the very slightly warmer weather that the world may enjoy as a result of enrichment of the atmosphere by fractional increases in the proportion of the air we breathe in that is occupied by carbon dioxide such as that which we breathe out. The climate scare is, as you will now realize, a mere bugaboo - a horror story for children, that only children and those with a mental age on a par with children can be expected to swallow. The real, pressing, "serious dangers" to the peace, prosperity, and freedom of the world are the dangers that spring from the very measures you propose to drive away the fearsome-sounding but harmless climate bugaboo.
  • Monckton-bio The citizens of New Zealand need their country to continue as an engine-house of prosperity, and the people of the world need New Zealand to continue as one its few ongoing and successful “food baskets”. . . Exercise your good sense, I urge you; use the opportunity of this review to mend your ways.
    You have changed your own mind on this issue once. Let me implore you to change it once more.

Like I say, these are just some of the highlights of Monckton’s thoroughly delightful debunking – and the Open Letter is just one of the highlights of a thoroughly entertaining and informative magazine!

So if you do want to make sure your letterbox will be in the first mailout of this latest Free Radical, now is the time to subscribe, or resubscribe.

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Thank You, Mr Edison – Sylvia Bokor

thankyoumredison-lgr

Next week, on the 28th, don’t turn your lights off for Earth Hour, turn them on for Edison Hour.  Ignore the calls from people who want to damn technology and industrialisation, i.e., those things that keep us alive, and celebrate them instead.  “Please be a responsible and grateful Industrial Revolutionist,” says one Edison Hour enthusiast, “ and TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS.”

And if you’d like to know more about Sylvia Bokor’s tribute to Thomas Edison, why not read her interview with Prodos here on the theory and practice of Romantic Art, which includes a discussion of this piece; join the Edison Hour Facebook goup; or buy a print of ‘Thanks You, Mr Edison’ here at the Cordair online gallery – which will also give you a clue to the title, if you haven’t worked it out already.  ;^)

And if you like her work, why not visit Sylvia’s blog.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stephen Schneider: A stranger to honesty

Expect to hear the name “Professor Stephen Schneider” used frequently around the local warmist traps in days, weeks and months to come. 

The government’s Select Committee Inquiry into so called Climate Change has begun, with the alleged scientist – described in this report at Stuff as a “Stanford University environmental scientist” – demonstrating how ridiculous it was to explicitly exclude the science from the inquiry by delivering a whole slew of warmist propaganda on “the science” to the Select Committee, without (presumably) opponents being given the opportunity to debunk the nonsense. 

Which allows Schneider (much like Warmist William Schlesinger did in his recent debate with John Christie) to just skip the the hard science (and any hard questions) and instead head straight for the “projections” and the scaremongering.

You know the sort of stuff: temperatures going through the roof, glaciers melting, sea levels rising catastrophically.  All delivered with a straight face and no particular evidence to speak of even needed to back it up.

    He [Schneider] spoke about a potential 5m sea level rise if the Greenland ice sheet melted, but said there were only theories as to what level of global temperature increase would induce such a catastrophe.*
    His own assessment was that a rise of over 2degC was more likely than not to cause the sheet to melt. . .

Well, good for Professor Schneider (whose qualifications are not in fact in climatology, but in mechanical engineering and plasma physics) but perhaps we should remember just what “his own assessment” is actually worth.

  • He was the endorser, in 1976, of Lowell Ponte’s book The Cooling, in which Ponte blithely declares, “This cooling has already killed hundreds of thousands of people. If it continues and no strong action is taken, it will cause world famine, world chaos and world war, and this could all come about before the year 2000.
  • That’s right, Schneider the Global Warmist was once Schneider the Global Kool-Aid promoter.  Back in 1978, before his big career change, he declared, "There is a finite possibility that a serious worldwide cooling could befall the Earth within the next 100 years."  Really, Stephen?
  • In 1971, Schneider claimed that an 800% increase in CO2 would be needed to raise global temperature by +2 deg. But by the late 1980s, he was promoting the UN view that a mere 100% increase in CO2 would be enough to raise temperature by +1.5 to +4 deg.  Now, apparently, he’s promoting the notion that a 50% increase is sufficient to make it rise by +1.1 to +6.4 deg.  He’s got wilder as he’s got more alarmist.
  • When we were cooling: "....our calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5 degrees Celsius. Such a large decrease in the average temperature of Earth, sustained over a period of a few years, is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age."
  • When were were warming: "We're increasing the number of heat waves."
  • When we were cooling: “A cooling trend has set in, perhaps one akin to the Little Ice Age."
  • When we were warming: "The rate of change is so fast that I don't hesitate to call it potentially catastrophic for ecosystems."
  • When we were cooling: "Temperatures do not increase in proportion to an atmospheric increase in CO2 ... Even an eight-fold increase... might warm earth's surface less than two degrees Centigrade, and this is highly unlikely in the next several thousand years."
  • When were were warming: "It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides [of the global warming theory] as though it were a question of balance. " [Says the Washington Pest, from whom a drew some of these quotes, “apparently, journalists should have ignored him when he said we were heading towards an ice age?”’
  • When we stopped warming: "[Global warming linked to emissions of CO2, methane and other gases] is a scientific phenomenon beyond doubt. It's only a question of how much warming there will be.”

You get the picture.

The case of Stephen Schneider demonstrates, said David Frum, that "it was less important to the new apocalyptics to know which catastrophe was going to ravage the world than to agree that some catastrophe was sure to do so."

No wonder “global warming” has been renamed “climate change.” It’s to save catastrophists like Schneider from being embarrassed.

Don’t expect science from this professor anyway, since he’s no fan of looking at evidence (which makes him an ideal advocate for warmism, since warming presently appears nowhere except in the warmist’s doctored computer models), as evidenced by this admission from a 1990 interview:

Looking at every bump and wiggle of the record is a waste of time - it's like trying to figure out the probability of a pair of dice by looking at the individual rolls. You've got to look at averages. So, I don't set very much store in looking at the direct evidence.

It was on this basis, i.e., not looking at the direct evidence, that Schneider was able to dismiss the mountain of evidence that, for example, Bjorn Lomborg brought forward in his book The Sceptical Environmentalist, and even berate the Cambridge University Press for its publication.  The Danish Space Research Institute, who considered Schneider’s jaundiced allegations against Lomborg stated, in their low key Scandinavian way: "It is ironic that Stephen Schneider accuses Lomborg for not reading the original literature, when in his own arguments he becomes liable to similar criticism."

And of course, this alleged scientist is on record as telling Discover magazine back in 1989 that,

To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. This "double ethical bind" we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.*

I wonder if any Select Committee members considered asking of Schneider the question asked by Julian Simon:

Does this sort of person ever stop and ask himself such questions as: Why should anyone believe me now if I was so wrong then? Would it have been a good thing if I had then been more effective in getting the public's attention? What about if I had stretched the truth then as I now advocate doing - would that have been a good thing?

Or if anyone asked him which of the two approaches he had decided to take with them?  Which “balance” between “being effective” and “being honest” he had decided to adopt that particular afternoon?  Or, after three decades of lying for a living, if he even knows what honesty looks like any more.

* NB: On Schneider’s sea level story, which he’s been putting about for some time, the Science and Public Policy Institute issued a “Scare Note” back in January:

   [Schneider’s claim], “We cannot pin down whether sea levels will rise a few feet or a few meters in the next century or two” is unfounded. The UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, says sea level will rise just 17 inches in the 21st century, compared with 8 inches in the 20th. The IPCC also says Greenland would only lose half of its vast ice sheet if global surface temperatures remained at least 2 degrees Celsius higher than the present for several thousand years. Since the turn of the millennium on 1 January 2001, global temperatures have fallen for eight straight years at a rate equivalent to 1 degree Celsius per century.
    The
SPPI ScareWatch briefing note also contains photographs of two US early-warning radar stations taken 20 years ago and more recently, showing a very rapid increase in snow and ice surrounding the stations. Greenland’s ice sheet has been thickening at an average rate of more than 2 inches a year, probably contributing a small overall reduction to sea level in the past decade or two. This considerable increase in the ice-mass of Greenland more than compensates for a reduction of just 0.3% in the area covered by ice over the past 30 years.
    Bob Ferguson, President of SPPI, said: “Mr. Schneider does not cite a single scientific paper or fact anywhere in his [blog post on which he fist made the claim]. A recent
paper by me, also available at our website, points out that many of Greenland’s glaciers have stopped receding and are advancing again.
    Adds SPPI adviser, Christopher Monckton, “Temperatures in
Greenland are actually lower today than they were in the 1930s and early 1940s. And there was no ice anywhere in Greenland 850,000 years ago: the whole ice sheet melted away. We cannot have been to blame, because [our industrial civilisation] did not exist that long ago. Even if Greenland were to melt again, it would be impossible to state that humankind was chiefly to blame. As it is, there is no danger of major ice loss from Greenland at any time in the near future. To suggest otherwise is fantasy.”
    SPPI’s  paper can be accessed here:
ScareWatch: Melting Greenland ice “will drown coastlines” by Christopher Monckton

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Your invitation to a fundraiser

1989001 If you remember my post last week on the plight of quadriplegic John Whittaker and his daughter Alix, pictured here, then you might like to know there’s a fund-raiser for them tonight at Auckland’s Academy cinema in Lorne St.

poster_110 After reading about them in the SST, John Davies at the Academy has kindly offered to donate the takings from tonight’s 6pm preview screening of the new Claude Lelouch thriller Roman de Gare, starring Dominique Pinon and Audrey Dana.

Says John Davies, “Every single dollar from the ticket sales go to Alix and John.  Their fund raising goal isn't huge and if we can get 150 to 200 along to this fund raising screening with $10 tickets and some extra donation buckets, I guess we can get a couple of thousand dollars almost to pop in the kitty.  We're delighted to help such deserving folks.”

Cry havoc, and let slip the printing presses of doom [update 2]

So, the US Federal Reserve Bank’s Ben Bernanke announces he’s going to print money – another $300 billion to add to the doubling of the money supply they’ve effected over the last few months.  That’s another $300 billion to add to that enormous, and historic, spike you see here:

Ouch

Can anyone spell hyperinflation?

Meanwhile, straight after that news, gold prices take a jump. . .

GoldPrice 

You think by any chance these things might be connected?

You remember ‘Helicopter’ Bernanke saying back in 2002 “The US government has a technology, called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes...” ? 

He meant it.

UPDATE 1: Notice, by the way, that when central banks hyperinflate their currency they like to do it in concert, as Bernard Hickey notes:

The US Federal Reserve has announced plans to buy back US$300 billion worth of Treasury bonds and to lend an extra US$750 billion in its Term Asset Backed Securities Loan Facility (TALF) to kick start car loans, student loans and mortgage lending.

The Bank of Japan also announced plans overnight to buy up to US$18.3 billion a month of Japanese government bonds. The Bank of England has already started its gilt-buying programme.

This is money printing on a grand scale that threatens to create a “very nasty” inflation problem in a year or two, according to Alan Bollard last week in his parliamentary appearance after he cut the Official Cash Rate by a less-than-expected 50 bps to 3%.

UPDATE 2: Of course, the $300 billion of banknotes roaring off the presses to buy bonds will be accompanied by another $700 billion of electronic counterfeit capital to buy mortgage securities, making a grand total (to use arithmetic even Ben Bernanke could understand)  of over $1 trillion of pumped into the “financial system.”

Naturally, most commentators have noted only the “surprise and enthusiasm” of the holders of bonds and mortgage securities, as if they’d be a reliable standard by which to judge the wisdom of a move that basically sees them winning the Government’s lottery, at the expense of savers and creditors and everyone whose dollars in their pocket have just been diluted by nearly a third.

You’d think that this avalanche of  unbacked paper money and the smiles of those in whose hands its being put would cause even the braindead commentators who pass for economic experts today would notice that this might give them cause to reconsider their notions about the non-neutrality of money?

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NOT PJ: Wheel of Misfortune

This week Bernard Darnton watches telly and gets dumber, both from the news and from the ads.

BernardDarntonSquealing aside, big bossy government was still the winner on the day.

I cheered when I heard the beginning of a beat-up story on One News on Tuesday night claiming that the road safety budget has been “slashed.” My hopes of a bigger tax cut and relief from the nagging were dashed when some actual facts accidentally crept into the piece.

TVNZ was probably right to be concerned about any reduction because most of the road safety budget seems to have very little to do with road safety and quite a lot to do with laundering part of the tax grab through TVNZ's advertising department.

A vast amount of the “road safety” spend is wasted. A whole lot of it is spent propagating lies.

Take the ad alerting us to the danger of intersections. Eerie fairground music plays while a funereal attendant spins a wheel of fortune as motorists pass through an intersection. Your options are “Near Miss”, “Minor Crash”, “Major Crash”, and “Death.”

Let's assume as fact that some people die in crashes at intersections. What are the odds? The wheel in the ad implies that your risk of death is one in four. Even allowing for a bit of artistic licence, that seems a bit high.

Let's come up with a more realistic (but obviously still made up) number. Say that on any one day half the population drives somewhere. And say that each day you drive you go through, I dunno, 50 intersections. (Make it 20 or 500 and redo the maths – it doesn't make much difference.) And then say that every single road death in New Zealand is caused by a “bad call” at an intersection – just to really overestimate. You get one death per hundred million intersection traversals.

To say that the ad overstates the risk is to understate the degree of overstatement. It's like saying that Stalin was a bit of a scallywag or that creationists sometimes get their dates mixed up.

A wheel of fortune that showed the actual risk at an intersection would have “Death” written on it in very small writing. Writing so tiny it'd be no point. With the odds above, a wheel of fortune the size of the Earth would have a “Death” segment four millimetres wide at the edge. You're more likely to die of exasperation from being subjected to this woeful innumeracy.

Unfortunately, after all the wailing, the punch line is the government will still spend about $820 per family over the next three years ($40 less than Labour's plan) nagging you about your driving and getting in the way of innocent motorists, setting up roadblocks at three o'clock on Tuesday afternoons to meet the breath-testing quota without the inconvenient paperwork that comes from actually arresting people.

Perhaps the road safety savings can be made because there are fewer drunk drivers in the new cabinet than the old. Perhaps there are no plans for speeding motorcades. But it's early days. When the current lot revert to type and start abusing their power, I hope to see Judith Collins supervising the crushing of a few ministerial limos.

* * Read Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column every Thursday here at NOT PC * *

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Bloggers: B3, be bold, be there!

Anna Woolf, aka blogger Annie Fox, has a bright idea: B3 - Bloggers Bar Bash.

It can be a lonely life, that of the blogger, as we thump away on our keyboards so we can inform, amuse and yes sometimes even bore our fellow man.
But fear not, we have a solution: bloggers are welcome to join the Bloggers Bar Bash - B3 - which is to be held the first Thursday of every month. The next B3 is on the the 2nd of April from 6.30pm onwards at Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland.
There are many seating areas in Galbraiths, so you may need to look around. Last time we were outside, but it might be too cold/wet for that? Peter and I have committed to attending so just look out for me in the head scarf and Peter, he's tall.
Non-Dorklanders: please stop in whenever you are in town, it would be great to meet you.

The Art of Painting – Johannes Vermeer (1665-67)

Vermeer_The_Art_of_Painting

Vermeer painted light.  It’s sometimes hard to see in the stained old canvases on which his images are now seen, but that was Vermeer’s thing.  Light. 

A fascinating article by Fred Ross argues, convincingly, that Vermeer and artists of his calibre should also be considered as an abstract artist.  Not in the meaningless sense in which modern “abstract” non-artists present a series of stained blankets or a shark in formaldehyde on which they’ve bestowed the bogus accolade of art, but in another, truly meaningful sense:

    Folks, I want to point out that there is more than one meaning to "abstract". The modernists have tried to collapse two important senses of the term into one, to bolster their ludicrous claims. For modernists, "abstract" means "non-objective" or "non-representational" or "non-figurative". For them, abstract means that which does not have any meaning outside of itself. In a very real sense "abstract" modern art is actually meaningless. . .
    But truly, that is a fabricated meaning for the term “abstract.” The real meaning of that term, which modernist critics have systematically sought to distort, is where an abstraction stands in for something - in other words, where it represents something, as a form of communication.

Or as architect Claude Megson used to say: if it doesn’t have meaning, then you’re just wanking.

    The word "carnation" is an abstraction for a genus of botanical objects in the real world. Other words refer to places, persons, objects, colors, textures, feelings, and ideas. But no one thinks that the printed word "carnation" is the flower carnation; or the printed word "love" is the experience called love. It is an abstraction in words for those things or experiences in the real world. . .   In painting, real art is when a painter can take a flat canvas, and with paint and brushes create abstracted recreations of reality, shaped by consummate craftsmanship and a poetic soul. Real art communicates or expresses compelling stories about the odyssey of human life. .  .
    The chances of an artist forming a successful abstraction (or representation) are greatly improved if he has some knowledge and understanding of the things he turns his eye to. . . the imagination does not work ex nihilo, from nothing. Like our dreams, it is made on the stuff of life: our histories, our actions, our passions, treacheries, sacrifices, acts of love and acts of malice. Our imaginations are pregnant with abstractions - but these abstractions come from the real world, from humanity, from nature.
    Therefore, there are no more successful abstractions in art than those dreams on canvas conjured by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer, William Bouguereau, John William Waterhouse, or Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Think about it while reading the whole article: Abstract Art is Not Abstract and Definitely Not Art.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

“Why the Meltdown Should Have Surprised No One” – Peter Schiff [updated]

From last weekend’s Austrian Scholars’ Conference

Put aside an hour and fifteen minutes, and learn about the meltdown from one of the most in-demand pundits around . . . and don’t miss him talking about buying up the whole of New Zealand!

Or his recommendation that the US government shouldn’t put Bernie Madoff in jail, they should make him Treasury Secretary!  Who else has the very skills that job requires?

NB: Astute readers will notice that I posted the notes to Schiff’s presentation on Saturday.

UPDATE: David McGregor -- author of what is still the 3rd most popular post ever here at NOT PC --  offers this advice:

    I'm going to keep this real short.
    I've just finished watching [this] 1 hr 16 min YouTube video of Peter Schiff…
    If you have any interest in fully understanding why this meltdown has happened, why government 'remedies' will fail, and what will be the consequences, then I suggest you turn off CNN, Fox, CBC, BBC - or whatever TV channel you normally watch - and devote 1 hour 16 minutes to being exposed to some hard truths and realities.
     Peter Schiff blows up popular perceptions of what is happening and why, and focuses his razor-sharp mind on the real causes and issues.
    Common sense with brilliance and clarity - that's how I'd sum it up.

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“Supporters of capitalism are crazy!” [updated]

“Supporters of capitalism are crazy!”  Says who? Says a whole conference of academics at Harvard, so it must be true.

Tom Woods, featured in the forthcoming Free Radical magazine sums up the conference’s theme:

Why do people still think the interaction of free individuals is a superior economic system to one directed by Harvard Ph.D.s like us?”

Read Woods’ summary amusing and perceptive analysis of the high-powered pow-wow:
Supporters of Capitalism Are Crazy, Says Harvard.

UPDATE: Listen to Woods talking about his New York Times best-seller Meltdown in this sparky eighteen-minute video.

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Failing all ‘round

richardmcgrathLibertarianz leader Richard McGrath digests, consumes and evacuates some of this week’s news …

  1. Conference to look at causes of crime – The Gummint is to hold a talkfest on crime and the causes thereof next month. What’s the bet you won’t hear mention of the following as possible causes:
    • the lack of constitutional and legal support for property rights in this country;
    • a welfare system that encourages solo parenthood by financially rewarding broken families;
    • an education system that acts as de facto jailer for thousands of angry, bored teenagers;
    • lenient sentencing for child murder and other horrific crimes; and
    • active discouragement of innovation and the penalizing of private enterprise.
  2. National Front targeting kids – Race relations commissar Joris de Bres says the right-wing National Front xenophobes are trying to recruit schoolchildren into their ranks. Well, I guess the fringe element should be allowed to enjoy freedom of speech and expression; but policies based on racial separatism, opposition to immigration and other economically destructive absurdities have very limited appeal to rational New Zealanders.
       I say Mr de Bres should resist calls to gag these right-wing imbeciles, and simply let them self-destruct. 
  3. PM recommends SIS stops monitoring MPs – Did he say stop monitoring MPs! On the contrary, there should be an open dossier on every MP, updated regularly, in the public domain. Any MP that oversteps the strict boundaries of our constitution should be asked to explain their actions, and prosecuted where breaches have occurred. Of course, this assumes that New Zealand had a decent constitution, such as the one here.
  4. Heroin eating away at nationThe Russian government’s answer to a growing heroin problem has a familiar failed ring to it:
        * first, allow police to access the details of drug addicts who seek help for their
           problem so they can then be arrested;
        * second, ban methadone treatment for the addicts;
        * third, drive drug users further underground by staking out needle exchange centres.
    Sound like a prescription for success to you? Prohibition didn’t work in 1919 – why do the Russians think it would it work in 2009?
  5. Strict German gun laws fail to prevent school shooting – A common sense headline, and from the left-wing Guardian, no less!
        The obvious conclusion to draw from the recent school shootings is that licensing firearms is a waste of time. Worse still, banning firearms from schools is a guarantee that any deranged would-be mass murderer can fire at will, unopposed, on disarmed sacrificial lambs.
        When people are not allowed to defend themselves against armed criminals, tragedies such as this are inevitable.
  6. Socialist red eclipses Coke’s hue – Hugo Chavez continues his all-out assault on individual rights. The President-for-life has accelerated his seizure of private property: three factories belonging to U.S and Venezuelan businesses, and a plantation owned by an Irish paper company. A former central bank director says: “Frankly, I don’t see why anyone would invest in Venezuela.” Zimbabwe all over again.
  7. Bernanke forecasts ‘an end to the recession’ – Ben Bernanke is the 500 pound elephant in the room that the leftist media ignore when they blame the current economic correction on the free market. They forget that central bankers don’t exist in a free market.
        Those Americans angry that their Red President, the Community Organiser, has thrown billions of their dollars at dysfunctional insurance companies, car companies and banks should remember that this would not have occurred in a free market. In a free market, companies like GM, AIG and Citibank would have been allowed to fail, as a warning to others not to go down the same road. By rescuing these delinquent corporations, the American government is encouraging more of the same misbehaviour.
        Bernanke claims the Bolshevik Bailouts and forcing banks to lend money – which was part of the recipe for the current problems - will “probably” mean an end to the recession within nine months.
        Pull the other one, Ben.

See y’all next week!
Dr Richard McGrath

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The Gates of Dawn – Herbert Draper (1900)

herbertdraperthegatesofdawn-thumb

Now concentrate people. This here is Aurora, Goddess of Dawn.  The painting was done for the dawning of the previous century . . . Draper was . . . are you listening?  You there.  Come on, concentrate . . .  because if you want to learn more and see more, you should head to UltraOrange.

Now, enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Atlas sells [update 2]

Over fifty years after its publication Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged hit number one over the last week on Amazon’s best-seller lists for Fiction and Literature.  (It’s currently at number 11.)

And no wonder.

As The Economist pointed out recently, it’s usually Hollywood that takes fifty-year-old novels and makes them best-sellers again.  This time however it’s Washington that’s boosting sales, where they’re now doing everything Rand said they would do when the world starts turning into the place she said it must under their meddling.  A complicated sentence (perhaps) but an important point.

It wasn’t crystal ball gazing that allowed Rand’s predictions to come true – it was her understanding of cultural trends and what causes them.

The fact that Atlas is tops again is frightening some people.  “Of all the scary things you can get a graph to show, surely the most terrifying is a surge in sales of Ayn Rand novels,” says a Guardian literateur who does her best to shut her eyes and stamp her feet and insist it go away.

“An analysis of the reasons it was so hated,” notes Lindsay Perigo, “yields also the reasons it is still so loved.

    Atlas, far more explicitly than Ayn Rand's previous best-seller, The Fountainhead, challenges, in Rand's own words, "the cultural tradition of two thousand five hundred years." It demolishes the sacrificial ethic that permeates the belief systems of that entire period. It repudiates the proposition that man's highest purpose and duty is to sacrifice himself—be it to God, the state, society or his neighbour. It roundly condemns the equation of ethics with suffering. "The purpose of morality," says one of its heroes in a startlingly direct and outrageous formulation, "is to teach you not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live."
   
Say what?!
   
Thus did Ayn Rand enrage religious conservatives and secular "liberals" alike.”

Still does, as the reactions from around the place to Atlas’s renaissance demonstrate. Edward Cline notes that the rise of Atlas. the re-emergence of John Galt and the whole Tea Party phenomenon looks like a hopeful sign amid the political and economic gloom, that “the nation -- indeed, the world -- is waking up to the idea that ideas have consequences.”

    The world seems to be emerging from a moral and intellectual coma . . It is discovering that other ideas have other consequences, as well, ideas that promote life, promote prosperity, promote ambition and personal success, and that they are possible only in political freedom, and that this freedom has been violated, abridged, and nullified by the first set of ideas. True, politics is the last thing to be affected by a philosophical revolution. But one cannot help but be pleased with how startled the collectivists and altruists are now by the knowledge that they have not successfully pulled a fast one on Americans. These Americans have come knocking on the doors of elitists or leaning over the café railings or invading their legislated smoke-free bars and restaurants to ask: What in hell do you think you are doing?
    The Americans who recently protested the spendthrift policies of the Obama administration and Congress with “tea parties,” and who plan to protest them on an even larger scale in the near future, one can wager are not regular readers of The New York Times. They cannot have much in common with its columnists and editors, nor with the news media.
    So the collectivist and altruist elite become very touchy when the people for whom they are “doing good” for their own sake, even to the point of enacting coercive and felonious legislation, exhibit signs of intelligence, resistance and anger. How dare these yokels!
    And nothing raises their hackles higher than any mention of Ayn Rand.

For the self-anointed and the power hungry, the idea that people see through their scam must be truly frightening.

Fact is, as Ayn Rand Institute head Yaron Brook says in the Wall Street Journal, what’s most frightening is the constant calls for more and more government power, and deeper and deeper sacrifices, every time the previous sacrifices and the earlier abuses of government power get us in yet another hole.  And what’s most necessary is to grasp the fundamental cause of today’s crisis, which as Brook makes clear is not primarily economic, but moral.

    Economic crises and runaway government power grabs don't just happen by themselves [says Brook]; they are the product of the philosophical ideas prevalent in a society -- particularly its dominant moral ideas. . .
    Rand offered us a way out . . .

Which is the chief reason she’s both so loved, and so hated  . . . and presently so popular again.

Read Brook’s short piece – Is Rand Relevant? – and then print it out and stick it inside the front page of your new copy.

UPDATE 1:  Pajama TV interviews Yaron Brook about “Going John Galt” and the Atlas phenomenon.  Don’t “Go John Galt,” says Brook: fight back!

Watch: Is Atlas Shrugging? – PAJAMAS TV

UPDATE 2:  Philosopher Greg Salmieri says ATLAS SHRUGGED: It's more than just a political novel.

Most of the recent discussion of Atlas has focused on its political themes, creating the impression that the novel is essentially a condemnation of government intervention in the economy. However, its scope, its relevance to the current crisis, and the reasons for its enduring appeal go much wider and much deeper than this. . .

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Right decision. Wrong decision. [Update 3]

Two decisions in on one -- one of which is sensible, the other of of which is completely f'ing ludicrous.

The first decision is the right one: to scrap Labour’s ridiculous Auckland regional petrol tax.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the government will not proceed with regional fuel taxes, which are an "expensive and inefficient" means of collecting revenue.

Good decision.

Here’s the bad one.  To raise the national petrol tax to make up for it. To allow Labour’s planned additional theft to go through, and to add another impost of their own on top.

From 1 October this year motorists will pay an increase of 3 cents per litre in fuel excise duty and drivers of diesel vehicles will pay the equivalent in road user charges. A second 3 cents increase will occur at October 1 next year. Each 3 cent per litre increase includes an annual increase of 1.5 cents per litre scheduled by the previous government.

Bad decision.

After last year’s increases we’re already paying the government over fifty percent of every litre we put in our cars.  They already take more in excise taxes and GST on petrol than the local petrol companies earn for importing, refining and selling the stuff.  And rather than dropping fuel taxes, we’re all going to be dunned even more to increase the government’s revenue, and to pay for Labour’s ridiculous plans for an electric train set around Auckland.

Just dumb.

Why can't electrification be paid for out of the profits made by the existing train set?  Oh, that's right . . .  there aren't any. The ‘system,’ used by just 30,000 Aucklanders out of a population of 1 million, is parasitical on the real transport system – and on the rest of the country.

Just like the government.

UPDATE 1:  Despite being at work in downtown Cairo, Liberty Scott is still all over this, and with details a'plenty on why the decision to raise the tax is is wrong, ill-thought out and a waste of our money -- he kills of a few myths raised by Idiot/Savant, which Scott says are "just pure posturing. In short, he doesn't know what he is talking about."  Not for the first time.

It's also, says Scott,

a lost opportunity to make Auckland councils think about a user driven transport strategy instead of the failed "Smart Growth" rail fetish that has done nothing to relieve congestion in US cities.

    ARTA/ARC have dressed up the rail business case to suit the answer they wanted, on grounds that the government's own funding agency would question. It will continue to cost taxpayers $5 per trip when electrified, it will generate very modest benefits, and most of those who benefit will be those who get their trip subsidised. It will make diddly squat difference to those using the road network, at best it might increase property values for those living nearby a station and work nearby one on the same line, or businesses who may have a catchment from those able to use the train.
    At best, it needs independently appraised - not by anyone in Auckland local government - to determine if the appraisal itself is robust, the levels of confidence and optimism bias around costs and benefits, and whether a thorough appraisal of alternatives has been included.
    Sadly, National has been taken for a ride, and you're being asked to pay.

UPDATE 3:  Bernard Hickey, bless ‘im, reckons this Auckland electrification decision is just as bad as Cullen’s Kiwirail debacle

Why on earth is the National government making the same mistakes as Labour did with rail? . . .  Surely someone has to point out that pouring good money after bad money is still a bad idea. Where’s the analysis saying it makes sense for KiwiRail to run this?

Good questions, to which he gives a thorough fisking.

(Be careful clicking the link, however.  For no apparent reason It contains pictures of a grown man wearing a bicycle helmet!)

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LIBERTARIAN SUS: Fighting Fire with Fire

Susan Ryder is fighting fire with fire . . .

susanryder Sit back and relax because I’m going to tell you a wee story. It took place in mid-town Manhattan, on a Saturday afternoon in the summer of 1986.

I lived an hour away in neighbouring Connecticut and had dinner plans in the city that evening, so had gone in earlier to do some shopping. As it transpired, I ended up with time to kill and noticed that the newly-released film A Room with a View was showing at a theatre on Central Park adjacent to The Plaza Hotel, the timing of which suited perfectly.

I ducked in seconds before it started to find the theatre about two-thirds full, with plenty of spare seats. I selected one in the middle of an empty row of seven or eight not too far from the entrance.

A good twenty minutes into the film, the door opened and a chap ambled in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him search for a seat. Passing numerous vacancies en route, he made a beeline for my row and sat directly to my right.

I was instantly wary. You see, that never happens. In public places, people do not sit next to strangers if there are other seats to be had. This man had his pick of vacant seats - blocks of them - and yet he chose one right beside an unaccompanied female.

There was every reason to be uncomfortable. Everything about him screamed out of place. He smelled badly and his appearance was decidedly unkempt. More than that though, he showed no interest in the film. I decided the best course of action was to ignore him as I would any other patron.

But I couldn’t. Even though I was staring straight ahead at the screen, I could sense him staring at me and it was no longer creepy, but scary, particularly as he was sitting very close and to make matters worse (for me), I was wearing shorts. So to create a physical barrier between us, I made quite a production of transferring my several bags of shopping from my left to my right, while shifting my weight as far as I could to the left, hoping like hell that he would take the hint.

He didn’t. He just kept staring and leaning towards me breathing audibly while I became more and more agitated. I was watching the screen but seeing nothing. My mind was racing, my pulse was throbbing and I was trying hard not to panic. All manner of scenarios were flooding my mind. What would I do when the movie finished? Would he follow me out of the theatre? Perhaps I could run straight into The Plaza for help? This was pre-Giuliani New York City after all, when crime was endemic.

To this day I’m not exactly sure what happened next but I think I felt a hand on my leg. I say “think” because by that point I was so keyed up I may have imagined it. No matter – I’d had enough, anyway. I made a split decision and let rip.

I turned to look him straight in the eye and yelled at the top of my voice “Stop it right now! And get out this minute!!”

That did it. His eyebrows shot up and he jumped up in shock. And then he ran for his life. He was up the aisle and out the door before I could tell him to bugger off a second time. It’s strange how your mind’s eye is capable of seeing things in slow motion that in reality happen quickly. In the blink of an eye, the power base had shifted and I was in control. The victim had turned victor – and the bully didn’t like it one little bit.

I was reminded about that with the weekend news that “bullying was rife in New Zealand schools” - note the use of the collective once again - and that authorities were “discussing measures.” Expecting nothing of use then, the Children’s Commissioner, (no stranger to futility), still managed to beggar belief with the suggested solution to “stagger the lunchtimes.”

Te Kiro can suspend the lunchtimes altogether if she wants to, but nothing will change. Nasty little bastards will still behave like nasty little bastards before, during and after class. And that’s ignoring technology that has created a whole new sphere of 24 hour text-torture.

Bullying is as old as prostitution. It’s not new -- it’s just nastier thanks largely to policies of appeasement by the usual suspects. There's a time-honoured tradition of dealing with bullying, and that's to meet it head on.  The usual suspects can hand-wring and chest-clutch all they like to no avail. Knock it on the head, hard.  It's the only thing that has ever worked.

Bullies know exactly what they're doing.  My heart goes out to the poor little mites they choose to terrorise ... and delight in doing so. And as for the usual claptrap about bullies and backgrounds, well, if nowhere else they’d soon learn to at least behave at school. I’m over the excuses.

I don’t enjoy making scenes; I don’t know anyone who does. I certainly didn’t that afternoon in New York with everybody in the theatre turning to stare after I shouted. But desperate situations call for desperate measures and there is little more important than one’s personal safety. The measure I chose did the trick and ten seconds later everyone was back watching the film and my problem had vanished.

I was taught that bullies were cowards at heart. Stand up to them and they usually dissolve. I sure as hell wasn’t going to tolerate that loser picking on me for his own screwed-up pleasure because he (wrongly) deduced that I was an easy target.

I wonder if he ever tried it again. One thing’s for sure: just like the school bully given a dose of his own medicine, he’d certainly think twice before doing so.

Cindy Kiro et al might like to think about that, too. Twice, if need be.

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Rain – Bertha Lum, 1908

Rain-BerthaLum

A heavily stylised emulation of the Japanese wood block prints that so influenced Western artists from Degas to Frank Lloyd Wright.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Pathology of the hampered market

Here’s a simple recipe:

  1. Take a free market.
  2. Add politicians, bureaucrats and rent-seekers, and then stir.
  3. Leave to bake for decades, and voila!  What you have is this:

Hicks-MixedEconomyMess

It’s what Stephen Hicks, the academic who drew it up, calls it “The Sociology of Dysfunctional Nonstandard Political-Economic Systems” – or in simpler terms, “How We Got Into This Friggin’ Mess.”

Visit Stephen’s site to download your own copy, or for an even longer version, with even more details.

(Public Choice theorists, like new blogger Eric Crampton, will love it.)

Bailouts & Bullshit

Last Friday John Stossel’s special TV investigation ‘Bailouts & Bull’ aired in the States – but TV3, who have the rights here in New Zealand, won’t be airing it here.  Why?

Too controversial.

Stossel points out that the US bailouts and stimulus will be costing each American worker $16,000 each -- $16,000 with which they could have stimulated their own personal economies.

He talks to economists who say we should just let the bubble burst: that the market needs to self-correct.

That more government action only causes more damage.

That it was the government’s own policies and organisations who inflated the bubble, and the government is not the answer to it – especially if their best answer is to reinflate it.

That instead of increasing spending, government should cut spending.

That all the action promised by the government only impedes and delays the necessary private action from investors and entrepreneurs . . . just as it did in Great Depression I.

And it’s not just about the Bailouts themselves– Stossel dynamites plenty of other bullshit too, like what the “stimulus” is being spent on!

Watch all six parts of the Stossel Special below.  It’s the best thing you can do today.

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