Friday, 9 April 2010

Interactive Ramble

Yes folks, today we’re going to try something different.

I don’t have time this morning to post the regular Friday Morning Ramble—the regular read of links and websites that lasts you all weekend!—but I’d hate for you all to miss out.  So let’s use the sort of division of labour that the internet does so well.  How about we try an Interactive Ramble, where each of you posts in the comments a site or blog or news story—or YouTube clip, what have you—that you think everyone else just has to enjoy too.

Post the title, a link, and a short note telling other readers why they’ll get something out of it.

And to start you off, here’s Dvorak—with Mr Karajan holding the baton.

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KRIS SAYCE: Why Interest Rates Aren’t What They Used to Be

_Kris_Sayce_headshot Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia serves up a lesson on interest rates that is far too simple for any of the mainstream commentators to understand.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a general election. Unless we’re mistaken, it’ll be the first-post stimulus election for an incumbent leader of a major economy – Obama’s election doesn’t count as Dubbya was prevented from contesting a third election.

As for the UK election. We’re not sure it matters who wins, whether it’s Labour, the Tories, or a hung parliament. As far as we can see, it’ll be the same muck just a different spreader.

And finally, before we get on to today’s Money Morning, we did have a little chuckle at the misprint in today’s online edition of The Age. It seems that even in retirement, Malcolm Turnbull is having trouble getting his global warming message across:
Malcolm Turnbull having trouble getting his global warming message across
The Age later corrected their mistake to read “Threat of global warming remains.” Bless!
Then again, we’ve long suspected the global warming fear campaign is seen as a treat for those in the public service that get to spend all the expropriated tax dollars.

But today we’ll take a look at interest rates. Before we do, one thing struck us as we flicked through the Australian Financial Review (AFR) this morning.

It was the table illustrating the effect of the “Loan hikes.” In English it means how much your monthly mortgage payments will increase thanks to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) 0.25% rate rise.

The thing that struck us was the loan examples used. We’re sure it wasn’t so long ago they used numbers such as $100,000, $200,000, $300,000 and $500,000.

Not anymore. Today it’s $250,000 as a minimum. Followed by $500,000, $750,000 and to top it off a whopping $1 million.

But who knows, maybe it’s been like that for some time and we’ve never noticed. But then again it’s hardly surprising when the median home price in Sydney is over $600,000.

Anyway, back to interest rates.

Quite frankly, the new attitude towards interest rates is perhaps the most troubling of all the issues facing the Australian and international economies.
Click here to read more ... >>

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‘Revolution is in the Air’- Michael Newberry


Michael Newberry, Revolution is in the Air, 2010, charcoal and pastel on Rives BFK, 25 x 18 inches

Says Michael of this simple gem,

    “I planned this using symbols of color: white for purity and idealism; red for blood and passion; and black for oppression. They converge in the individual and transparent glass–which only has air inside.”

One of a collection of piece in a 'Symbolic Still Life' Group Show at the Newberry Gallery in Santa Monica, coming soon.

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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Greenpeace activist warns: “We know where you live” [updated]

Shills for big government and attackers of the means by which human beings survive, the lid is every now and then lifted on who Greenpeace really are, and what they’re about. Which is clearly neither peace nor non—violence.

The violence was always there, however carefully it was often cloaked.  When Patrick Moore left the organisation declared ing “they [were evolving] into a band of scientific illiterates who use Gestapo tactics to silence people,” his former co-founder Paul Watson was already sinking ships in violent actions on the high seas. Scratch a “non-violent” mung-bean eating Greenpeace activist, you see, and you reveal the naked hatred beneath. The latest example is a Greenpeace zealot who declares it’s time for “direct action” against those who get in their way:

    _quote The politicians have failed. Now it’s up to us. We must break the law to make the laws we need: laws that are supposed to protect society, and protect our future. Until our laws do that, screw being climate lobbyists. Screw being climate activists. It’s not working. We need an army of climate outlaws.
    “The proper channels have failed. It’s time for mass civil disobedience to cut off the financial oxygen from denial and skepticism…
    “If you’re one of those who have spent their lives undermining progressive climate legislation, bankrolling junk science, fueling spurious debates around false solutions, and cattle-prodding democratically-elected governments into submission, then hear this:

        “We know who you are. We know where you live. We know where you work.

“And we be many, but you be few.”

Liberty Scott has the story and background to the threats: Greenwar, what happens when environmentalists get angry.

Someone should ask the the Green Party if they endorse threats like this from eco-terrorists. Or (with a cloak of Greenwash to mask the eco-terrorism beneath) they themselves are simply the Gerry Adams to the aspiring Provos of Greenpeace.

UPDATE: Julian has a great idea:

    “That quote from Greenpeace now sits on a bit of paper in my wallet. The next time a Greenpeace volunteer in the street tells me why I should share their vision, the only thing they will get from my wallet will have this quote on it.”

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Freedom within a prepared environment

Montessorian Susan Stephenson has just opened the first AMI Montessori classroom in Bhutan. Here’s the story in just two pictures:

BEFORE:  Children sit still on plastic chairs at group tables in a dark, dowdy classroom.  They learn from listening to the teacher, and from posters on the wall that are all well above head height:


AFTER: A clean, sunlit classroom in which children are invited to choose their own work lesson, on which they can work at their own pace in a peaceful, beautifully appointed environment without interruption—a great example of what Dr Montessori called “freedom within a prepared environment”:



Which would you choose for your child?

Visit Susan Stephenson’s website here for more on her Bhutan adventure, or the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) website for more on the Montessori method and movement.

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John Key is a sleeper agent for the Greens

He must be.  Why else—with the global warming priesthood on the run—would he and his special mate Nick Smith insist on introducing their Emissions Trading Scam on July 1st, despite business here already being in a hole, and businesses elsewhere (all our major trading partners for example) having no such imposition forced upon them—and the top twenty carbon emitters having no intention at all of shackling their producers in a similar fashion.

Calling this stupid is way too kind.  Saying it’s irresponsible state’s the obvious, but with insufficient vehemence.

Frankly, there are many more accurate words to describe it. Feel free to leave a few of them in the comments.

UPDATE: Slightly edited.

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TV3 has axed its Sunrise breakfast show, effective immediately.

Both viewers are said to be upset.

Welfare for everyone?

If stimulus and bailouts are welfare for bankers-who’ve-failed, and Kiwisaver is welfare for suits-with-nothing-in-them, then surely the new politically-correct Whanau Ora scheme is just welfare for “welfare providers,” isn’t it? Welfare that is primarily to keep the likes of John Tamihere and Rongo Wetere in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. Welfare for a Browntable of well-heeled ambulance chasers. Welfare that will end up costing us all more in the long run than the current welfare bill.

Cactus Kate reports. Here’s a slight edit of her thirty-second summary:

    _quote Quite clearly this is not some new private-sector initiative to provide services. It just means more money for Maori troughers--a transfer of your tax dollars from the black-suited hole of the public sector into the deep brown hole of the Maori troughdom upon whom are bestowed such "private" contracts…
    “All in all it doesn't solve any problems, just creates a movement of money from state sector and political apologists to Maori, many of whom have troughed for years with no measurable results to date.”

You think the Koru Club lounge is full of bone carvings now heading down to Wellington to pick up their cheques?  Then just wait until this welfare-for-Maori-Troughdom kicks in—Rob Fyfe will need to build new Koru Club lounges full of all the usual PC paraphernalia just to fit them all in.

To update what I said a couple of years ago when Turia and Sharples started floating this “war on the culture of dependency,”

    _quoteWhy's everybody so gosh-darned excited about Sharples and Turia high profile scheme—with uncapped budgets delivering unlimited payments to their mates.
    “Remember, these are still the same people who want ‘rangatiratanga’ -- which all too clearly to them just means 'independence' at your expense.  They still want something for nothing.  They're still tribalists and collectivists who think government should "fix everything, fund everything and give the Maori Troughdom the money and power to veto and control anything in their communities."

If the nature of this unabashedly race-based nonsense isn’t apparent enough now to the various cheerleaders for it, then I look forward to watching their howls of outrage when the likes of Tame Iti and Brian Tamaki start registering to be “providers.”  At least that will be some recompense for being forced to help pay for it all.

Whanau Ora? Just call it bullshit.

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“Conditions left unchanged will invite a credit boom and, inevitably, a bust” [updated]

Some exceptional links indicating that while it may yet be too late, economic sense is slowly going mainstream, among commentators and even Fed officials, if not yet politicians. Gerard Jackson reckons,

    _quoteGiven the America's horrible fiscal condition I cannot see how higher interest rates can be avoided. The demands now being made on the economy by government must result in a significant reduction if not an actual end to the rate of capital accumulation exceeding population growth. This can only mean a general fall in real wages. furthermore, the government — or a government — will be driven to use inflation to engineer a very large partial default

Driven? They’re compelled:

    _quoteObama has nominated Janet Yellen to be vice chair of the Federal Reserve. This is very bad news for the US economy and signals that Obama intends to pursue a purely Keynesian approach to government. . .
    “Janet Yellen is an inflationist first and foremost. She has made it abundantly clear that all of her policy suggestions will be geared to promoting an inflationary policy. Like all Keynesians she seems congenitally incapable of grasping the dangerous microeconomic consequences of inflation for investment, jobs and the standard of living. She is in fact a very dangerous woman.

But there is at least one senior Fed official (sounding like an Austrian economist) who seems to know what time it is::

    _quote A senior U.S. Federal Reserve official said on Wednesday that interest rates kept too low for too long encourage risky financial behavior and recommended raising borrowing costs to prevent another boom and bust.
    “ ‘I am confident that holding rates down at artificially low levels over extended periods encourages bubbles, because it encourages debt over equity and consumption over savings,’ Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Thomas Hoenig told a group of business people.
    “ ‘While we may not know where the bubble will emerge, these conditions left unchanged will invite a credit boom and, inevitably, a bust,’ he said.”

Too right.

Inflation won’t save America: it will only dislocate the capital structure, continue to prop up malinvestments, and destroy whatever pool of real savings still exists.  Not to mention the destructive effects of a cheap dollar:

    _quoteWhy a "cheap dollar" would not save the US economy: Do the advocates of a depreciating dollar think that by merely increasing exports the US would enjoy rise in per capita investment, especially in view of Obama's crippling fiscal policies? Have these people ever given any serious thought to the actual nature of economic growth?

And the proven preference now of Warren Buffett’s bonds over US Treasuries are simply a sign that investors are now seeing the inevitable: the U.S. government is on its way to bankruptcy:

_quoteWhen it becomes clear that the U.S. government can not make good on its mounting debt obligations by taxing its citizens, its creditors, fearing the debasement of the dollar and therefore the value of their investments, will go from friends to foes, from eager buyers of those treasury bills, notes and bonds to eager sellers. It won't be pretty.

Leaving Nancy Morgan to draw a conclusion that seems almost unavoidable:

_quoteUnder the leadership of my fellow baby boomers, there is a very good chance that the America that we all know and love could end up on the ash heap of history. . . My generation could well be the first generation in American history to leave [the] country worse off than we found it.”

The conventional wisdom of the baby-boomers has been proven destructively wrong on just about everything, hasn’t it.

Just as a recovering alcoholic first needs to confront reality, effective recovery requires immediate recognition of the reality of the problem.  Sadly, if Yellen’s appointment isn’t a sign that faking economic reality via inflation is still the order of the day at the White House (just as it is here in John Key’s office), the Chairman of Obamas’s Council of Economic Advisors shows that full-blown, hog-tied, piss-blind evasion of reality may be next.

Whatever pragmatists and politicians might think, economic reality is not infinitely malleable.  There will be a reckoning, whether Summers and his clique of alleged economists recognise that or not.

UPDATE:   Perhaps to help relieve the unrelenting pessimism suggested by focussing on the destruction that has been and is continuing to destroy America—in other words, what is—to focus here on what could be and should be, and (at one time in history) almost was. i.e., Capitalism Without Guilt: The Moral Case for Freedom, a compelling 2009 lecture to London’s Adam Smith Institute on the necessary moral revolution that is needed if capitalism is to survive—or even to be discovered. (Part 1 of this 11-part video is below; the complete series is available on a single YouTube Channel.)


    _quoteCapitalism [explains Yaron] has an undisputed record of wealth generation, yet it has always functioned under a cloud of moral suspicion. In a culture that venerates Mother Teresa as a paragon of virtue, businessmen sit in stoic silence while their pursuit of profits is denounced as selfish greed.
    “Society tells businessmen to sacrifice, to serve others, to ‘give back’—counting on their acceptance of self-interest as a moral crime, with chronic guilt its penance. Is it any wonder that productive giants from John D. Rockefeller to Bill Gates have behaved as if profit-making leaves a moral stain that only tireless philanthropy can launder but never fully remove?
    “It is time America heard the moral case for laissez-faire capitalism.
    “Two centuries ago the Founding Fathers established a nation based on the individual’s rights to life, liberty, property—and the selfish pursuit of his own happiness. But neither the Founders nor their successors could properly defend self-interest and the profit motive in the face of moral denunciation. The result has been a slow destruction of freedom in America, leading us to today’s economic mess.
    “In this lecture, Ayn Rand Center Executive Director Yaron Brook demonstrates how Ayn Rand’s revolutionary ethics of rational self-interest supplied the moral foundation that previous proponents of capitalism lacked. Dr. Brook explains why individual rights are crucial for capitalism’s survival—why productivity and profit, the ‘selfish greed’ that conservatives abhor, are not vices but cardinal virtues. He explains why the world must reject sacrifice and ‘national service’ and instead proudly embrace the radical individualism their lives and happiness require.”


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Auckland Bloggers Drinks tonight [updated]

I’ve been a bit tardy in reminding you about the monthly Bloggers Bar Bash (B3) tonight. So let me remedy that now: 

“Don’t forget  Bloggers Drinks tonight!”

Come along and join the collegial crew around the Galbraith’s fire telling tall tales and stories, some of which are true. Allegedly.

Everyone’s welcome, from bloggers to blog readers to people who just want to buy their favourite blogger(s) a drink.  (Naturally, the last are especially welcome.) Just make sure you leave your guns at the door, like everyone else does.  Well, except for Phil U.  And Cactus.

See you there!

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
Tonight, 8 April from 6.30pm
Galbraith’s, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, and blog trolls.

NB: Yes, as some of you will be protesting, the B3 is normally the first Thursday of every month.  But Easter stuffed that up this month.

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‘Autumn in New York’ – Billie Holiday

It’s Billie Holiday’s birthday, so here’s ‘Autumn in New York’:



Wednesday, 7 April 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Bludging MPs & enviro-scum

Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath ransacks the newspapers for headlines and stories on issues affecting our freedom.

This week: More bludging MPs, and enviro-scum

1. “We’re paying for MPs’ legal bills, but it’s a secret – Yes, we are footing a large part of the bill for these clowns when they are taken to court. Green Party mole Nick Smith landed himself in hot water, accused of defamation by a timber preservative company, and we are paying for some of that. I wonder if we will be liable for any of the damages, said to run into the millions of dollars, should the Minister lose his case? 

Now it has been revealed that Gerry Brownlee tried to milk the public to the tune of nearly $50,000 for a court case in 1999. He now acknowledges his application for a handout was “not appropriate.”  (Sure wasn’t!) It appears that, since 2001, taxpayers can be forced to help pay the legal bills of MPs, and that non-ministerial MPs can thumb their nose when we ask how much it’s costing us because they are not subject to the Official Information Act.     

Kudos to Labour MP Trevor Mallard who has been man enough to pay several of his own legal bills himself. Why shouldn’t MPs be accountable for their own legal expenses?

2. “Pull head out of scrum and say sorry” – Herald columnist Chris Rattue joins the unedifying parade of apologists –- among them Tiger Woods and Krudd (Kevin Rudd) –- who feel the urge to say sorry for things they haven’t done, or to people they haven’t wronged. This time Mr Rattue says sorry on behalf of “whoever would like to join this movement,” to the Maori people and rugby players, for the NZ rugby union’s policy of selecting whites-only teams for tours to South Africa until 1960. Well, count me out, Chris, because I wasn’t born until after 1960.

But isn’t there a delicious irony in Mr Rattue’s description of the South African rugby union’s policies as “[a] crime against rational thinking and behaviour”? What about the existence of the NZ rugby union’s Maori Board, and the exclusion of non-Maori players from its Maori rugby teams?

Will we see Mr Rattue apologising for the selection policies that consign a large proportion of current rugby players to “second class citizenship” on the basis of skin colour? And would he have been happier if the rugby union had fielded a team called the White All Blacks in 1928, 1937, 1949 and 1960?

The Libertarianz Party stands for freedom of association. The rugby union should be able to send teams based on whatever selection criteria wherever they like, and be prepared to receive criticism from those who don’t agree with their decisions. But the government should not interfere unless the rights of others are being infringed. And there lies a whole new can of worms. Perhaps the rugby union should apologise for its race-based selection decisions of the past, but why is Mr Rattue not indignant about the existence of Maori rugby teams?

3. “Planner against new supermarket in Ilam – Par for the course, really. A City Council planner opposes the construction of a new supermarket in Christchurch. Admitting that some local residents may benefit from more convenient access to a supermarket (fancy that!), Planner Clare Revell is concerned that an existing supermarket could lose $10 million in the first year. Lady, that’s called competition – you know, the thing that keeps downward pressure on prices and offers people choice (and, as patrons of the Glenfield Pak’n’Save on Auckland’s North Shore understand, something the Resource Management Act is able to squash for up to seventeen years).

Ms Revell’s job would cease to exist under a Libertarianz government. All council “planners” would be retired and their positions dissolved, making life just that little bit easier for developers and entrepreneurs. The resource consent industry would be a thing of the past –- making life a lot easier for those who want to develop the land they currently “own” in name only.

4. “Dam approval threat to all rivers” – Whinging bloody enviro-mentalists are snivelling about plans to construct an efficient and emissions-free source of power – a hydro-electric dam  on the South Island’s West Coast. The chickens are coming home to roost for the mentalists –- their no-carbon-emissions greenwash leaves very few affordable clean methods of generating electrical power –- namely, nuclear and hydro-electric. Wind and solar power are still not affordable after decades of development –- they are becoming cheaper, but very slowly. And not yet efficient enough to be real substitutes. And out of the two cheap options, hydro is the cheaper.

The Libertarianz Party says the electrical generation and supply industries should be fully privatized, with people able to generate and distribute electricity by whatever means they wished, subject to redress under common law if anyone is adversely affected by their actions.


When the people fear the government, there is tyranny - when the government fear the people, there is liberty.
- Thomas Jefferson  


Your chance to take the stage. . .

Since I’m away for the day lecturing on Froebel (Google it if you’ve got any questions), here’s your opportunity to take the stage with whatever you want to talk about.

Something to get off your chest? Something you just have to say?  Then now’s your chance to take over the comment to talk about anything you want.  This time, nothing is off-topic.

So talk away about whatever you like. Even if it’s just to ask me what the hell I’m doing lecturing on a nineteenth-century German pedagogue.  :-)

Quote of the day: Liberty or coercion

_quote All men's impulses, when motivated by legitimate self-interest, fall into a harmonious social pattern... 
[It] will depend greatly upon whether men's interests are, in fact, harmonious or antagonistic to one another.
“If they are harmonious, the answer to our problem is to be found in liberty; if they are antagonistic, in coercion.”

        - Frederic Bastiat

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‘Two Men Contemplating the Moon’ - Caspar David Friedrich, 1825–30

Friedrich’s Romantic paean to the fascination of the moon for poets, philosophers and musicians the world over.  And being a thorough-going Romanticist himself, Friedrich offers us his figures from behind, so we can join in their communion with Nature, “which the Romantics saw as a manifestation of the Sublime.”


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Easter aftermath [update 2]

Now that Easter is over, it looks like there will be 38 people prosecuted by the Labour Department (15% up on last year) for the crime of selling things that people want at times the Labour Department didn’t want them to.

    _quoteThe Department will consider the prosecution of 38 retailers after 19 were caught trading on Good Friday and another 19 on Easter Sunday.
    " ‘We still have to assess the information the inspectors come back with,’ Labour department communications adviser Colin Patterson said.”

That would be 50 inspectors who went out to work to make sure other people don’t.  In order to stop other people doing things that religionists don’t want them to, and unionists won’t allow them to.

Stupid? It sure is. Confused? Everyone certainly is.

But at least we now know that “nowhere in the Bible does Jesus have a sword fight.” [Hat tip Imperator Fish]

UPDATE 1PZ Myers spotted some strange Easterly goings on over the Tasman:

    _quote First, they had their church leaders focus their Easter sermons on how yucky those atheists are. Then one fanatical group decided to show how wonderful Christianity is by staging a crucifixion in public, complete with blood and nails and moaning dying hippie.


    “I find this hilarious.”

Especially hilarious when good Christian folk start complaining the barbarity might frighten the children.  Haven’t they read their Bible?

UPDATE 2:  And always, in the Easter Aftermath, is the media’s statistically inept navel-gazing about The Road Toll . . .

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Tell your stories

Anne McElhinney tells an audience (in this video I’ve posted before) that the more-freedom side of the aisle have better stories to tell than the left, but for some reason they don’t tell them often enough.

And John Ansell reckons they also don’t use the heart-strings enough (although unfortunately he equates “more freedom” with “the Right”).

    _quote Why should the Left have a mortgage on talking to the heart?
    “The big problem with the Right is that they don’t understand the emotional power of a few short words and pictures.
    “Especially pictures.
    “They think the force of their logic should be enough to persuade people to make sensible decisions. Logic laid out in longwinded articles, speeches and press statements.
    “Maybe it should be. But clearly it isn’t.
    “Our long history of socialist governments making short-sighted decisions (both Labour and National) shows that.
    “I’ve made the poster [below] to show how a punchy pictorial message can trump the most elegantly-crafted 1000-word article on the same subject. . . ”

He’s got a point, hasn’t he.

So often the 1000-word articles are talking to the already converted. Ansell reckons they’d be talking to far more if they recognised the power of “easily-digestible, posterised morsels that can be fed to the general public one bite at a time.”  In other words, good old-fashioned propaganda to teach the freedom message.

Read his plea for a “teach tank” here: Think tank + teach tank = sea change.

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Monday, 5 April 2010

In government, less is more

Great point this morning made by Lindsay Mitchell:

  “An AUT survey shows that,   

    ‘Feeling as though the Government is listening to them is one of the most important things to New Zealanders, but it is the area where the country scores the worst.’

   The best remedy for this [says Lindsay] is not more democracy, more participation, more consulting, more select committees, more representatives, more commissions of enquiry, etc.
  “It is LESS government. If government weren't so pervasive in all aspects of our lives its non-responsiveness would be less of a problem.”

Exactly right. 

And it shouldn’t take a moment on that basis to work out what the real problem is with “campaign finance reform” (if politicians weren't so pervasive in all aspects of our lives the origin of the money that elected them would be less of a problem) and with the super-bureaucracy Rodney Hide is building in Auckland (if local government weren't so pervasive in all aspects of our lives then the unresponsiveness and inapproachability of its super-bureaucrats would be less of a problem).

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So you think we’re all out of the woods? [updated]

Every drinking orgy has its hangover.  Every spending orgy has its credit card bill.  Every stimulus season has its winter.

It’s now winter. The leaves are already brown and the debt sky is very grey indeed.  The Economist charts the increase  in governments’ debt since stimulus season started, projected out to 2014. (The little boxes on the right give you the absolute percentage as compared to GDP).

Interesting that Japan still tops the list.  Interesting, because Japan has been trying to stimulate its economy with government debt now for two decades—which has now been the longest “lost decade” in history. Front and centre evidence that stimulus doesn’t work—that you can’t avoid the pain; the only choice you have is whether it’s short and sharp, or extends out over many years.

From the size of those bars on the bar chart, you can see the choices your governments have made on your behalf.

It’s winter.  We’re still not out of the woods. And it’s suddenly cold.

Here’s Greg Johnson (or it should be if this song appeared on YouTube, which it doesn’t.  So head here instead and click on “Suddenly Cold,” and enjoy an excerpt.)

UPDATE 1: Oh and  what do you do when you have a record budget deficit?

Answer: You go to an election promising to EXPAND the welfare state, of course.

UPDATE 2:  The Huffington Post, yes folks, the Huffington Post, figures out that the only ones to win out of the TARP & Stimulus were the crony phony capitalists. [Hat tip Willie S.]

Orren Boyle wins again.  And while you lose, you still keep right on paying for him.

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