Friday, 14 May 2010

Friday Morning Ramble: The “dinner” edition

Welcome to another ramble round the interweb, another week in which the politicians won while we were all done over like a dinner.  Here are the links and larks from around the ‘net I’ve dug out for you this week:

  • R-150-982555-1265622562KiwiPolitico makes a meal out of John Key’s unfortunate quip yesterday.
    Summary of joke news coverage -
  • “It isn't that the joke was unfunny. It was that he would even think to joke about Tuhoe after just causing them so much pain. That was thoroughly and dismally revealing.”
    John Key, Tuhoe and trust - LINDSAY MITCHELL
  •     “John Key’s fears of being a hangi-filler for the people of Tuhoe pale into insignificance next to the ongoing cannibalism of taxpayers by a multitude of freeloaders, including those moochers currently riding the Treaty of Waitangi gravy train…
        “Maori tribalists are not the only cannibals. Any New Zealander who believes their need constitutes a claim on the life of other innocent New Zealanders accepts the premise that it is right that some humans be consumed by others.”
    Tribal Predators Cannibalise Taxpayers – RICHARD McGRATH
  • Seems like a good time to re-read Paul Moon’s opinion piece from 2008, at the launch of his book on cannibalism in early NZ, This Horrid Practice.
    Cannibalism too unpalatable for some – Paul Moon
    Tales of Maori cannibalism told in new book – NZ HERALD
  • Song of the day really has to be the venerable Puha & Pakeha by Rod Derrett, a “missionary” from a less PC past (kindly pulled out of the ether and dusted off by Keeping Stock)

  • With all the trumpeting last week about the 25,000 “seasonally adjusted” drop in the unemployment rate, no-one seems to have spotted that around 14,500 more people who can't find work and would otherwise have been on the unemployment benefit are now receiving student allowances instead. That is, no-one spotted it until Lindsay Mitchell did.
    Student allowances up 63 percent since 2006 – LINDSAY MITCHELL
  • Let’s have some Q&A on the disastrous. Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
    1.  Who should pay for the clean up?
    Answer:  BP
    2. Should government regulate the transportation and extraction of dangerous goods?
    Answer: No.
    3. Is it proper for the government to oversee activities that represent the potential of mass devastation?
    Answer: No.
    Still, Baby, Drill – YARON BROOK at PAJAMAS MEDIA
    Comment: "There is a mistaken premise in your questions..." – GALILEO BLOGS [hat tip Thrutch]
  • “Instead of moving the debate on energy policy forward, the spill is being used to grind preexisting policy axes. Unfortunately, those axes were none too sharp to begin with, and the grinding now in play does more to confuse than to enlighten.”
    Gulf oil spill: same old arguments - Jerry Taylor & Peter van Doren , L.A. TIMES
  • “It is vitally important that BP, and the oil industry generally, learns lessons from this accident. But it is wrong to overstate what has happened, and it is especially wrong to use this accident as an example of why mankind should stop ‘interfering’ with nature in his various risky ways. Yes, it would be a major step forward to find clean, reliable and economic replacements for the oil we use today, but for now, we’ve got to keep drilling.”
    The low Horizons of modern society: The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is bad, but it is not a warning from nature about mankind's hubris – Rob Lyons, SPIKED
  • Jeff Perren looks over the judicial record of Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. Turns out there’s not much to see, and what there is of it is not very good.
    Elena Kagan, Free Speech Foe – SHAVING LEVIATHAN
  • The death of young James Webster of alcohol poisoning is a tragedy. But a reality check is required for the wowsers: There is no law on earth that you could pass that would have saved his young life.
    Can't Legislate Against (Teenage) StupidityCACTUS KATE
  • Speaking of wowsers, we know that with an intellectual black hole in the Beehive he's incredibly influential, but when exactly did Geoffrey Palmer become "the fourth branch of government”?
    Geoffrey Palmer: the fourth branch of government – MEDIA LAW JOURNAL
  • Another reality check: John Key’s War on (Flu) Drugs is going the same way as every other War on Drugs and every other Prohibition has gone: “Obtaining methamphetamine may be getting easier despite a Government crack down on the drug, a report says.”
    Futility  - NO RIGHT TURN
  • “So how do we get out of this hole?” asks Eric Crampton. “I know! We'll dig our way out! . . . Guys, you've got to dig up, remember?”
    The 'plan' against P – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR (October 2009)
  • Speaking of the failing War on Drugs, Radley Balko updates the story on the video featured around the place last week: “It's heartening that nearly a million people have now seen the Columbia video. But it needs some context. The officers in that video aren't rogue cops. They're no different than other SWAT teams across the country. The raid itself is no different from the tens of thousands of drug raids carried out each year in the U.S….”
    Balko on the War on Drugs -  OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • c4d72d1e96dc981c4eb1 That video is just one demonstration that the War on Drugs leads inexorably to a war on basic freedoms.  The Key Government’s move to enact a complete ban on the NORML News magazine is another.
    Freedom of Speech: Up In Smoke – LIBZ
  • “Why as a society are we determined to stop people hurting themselves?  Part of life is learning to take responsibility when your own choices and actions hurt you – having a government act in a paternalistic way to stop this, and make it harder for people to learn about individual responsibility, seems dangerous to me.”
    Drugs and anti-paternalism – THE VISIBLE HAND IN ECONOMICS
  • In your face, IPCC. The Non-Governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is now up and running.
    Climate Change Reconsidered: The Website of the Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change
  • Medical researcher (and regular here at NOT PC) Dr Shaun Holt criticises Chiropractic quacks  in the wake of the landmark libel case brought by them against Simon Singh being thrown out. Listen here: Radio Live interview on chiropractors - AUDIO
  • Richard Dawkins explaining how science would work if it was like religion:
  • The head of Australia’s biggest mining company Rio Tinto is urging a shareholders revolt at K.Rudd’s iniquitous resource profits tax—and points out something that Rudd and Treasurer Swan don’t seem to grasp: “He dismissed Kevin Rudd's assertion that the nation would have raked in an extra $35 billion in tax in the past decade if the resource super-profits tax had been put in place… [because] $38bn invested in Australia by Rio since 2000 would not have been spent if the RSPT had been in place.”
    Rio Tinto boss urges shareholder revolt – THE AUSTRALIAN
  • Fact is, “the federal Treasurer does not understand the fundamentals of capital management that drive large-scale commercial investment.”
    Swan doesn't appreciate the impact of tax – THE AUSTRALIAN
  • More evidence on that score: “Treasury believes that if miners do make good on their threats to shut projects or expand overseas rather than in Australia, it would help address the problems of managing a two-speed economy. In particular, Treasury believes a slowdown in the resources sector would reduce the need for the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates.” Or, in other words, shoot the more productive and you’ll somehow “fix” the economy.
    Mining delays 'not all bad': Treasury – THE AUSTRALIAN
  •     “As if … the ‘Pink Batts fiasco and the school’s building scandal’ [weren’t enough], we now have the Resource Industry Super Tax Slug.
        “It would appear that our Prime Minister has declared war on anyone who saves and invests in Australia, including every Australian who has a superannuation policy.
        “Wise old Thomas Jefferson summed it up this way:
                “’I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too
            many parasites living on the labour of the industrious.’

        “For me, personally, about to ‘man a resource promotion booth’ in Washington D.C. and Chicago, my job is made a little more difficult but, as usual, always looking for the positive angle, I have a sign for display on the booth which announces:-
        “’THE GOOD NEWS FROM AUSTRALIA! Australia’s natural resources have a longer shelf life than our Federal Government.’
        “What do you think?”
    Canberra Needs History as a Compulsory Subject – PERTH-BASED MINING ENTREPRENEUR RON MANNERS
  • What was Obama’s advice to Europeans trying to rescue Greece? Essentially it was  "don’t face reality" but "carry on with the charade.”  “Carry on spending more than you produce. All you have to do is get people to think everything is ok.”  Doug Reich explains the ideas behind this patent nonsense, and the consequences of faking reality rather than facing it.
    Obama Regifts His Consciousness to EuropeRATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • German chancellor Angela Merkel seems to have this faking reality thing down pat. ““It is a fight against the markets and I am determined to win this fight” – Angela Merkel.  Guess she’s never heard of King Canute, huh.
    The Euro Titanic – SOVEREIGN LIFE BLOG
  • Public debt is not the same as private debt. “When a private person contracts to borrow money, he is entering into an obligation to repay the money – in the full knowledge of the terms of the loan. However, when the state borrows money, it is not the politicians who are taking on responsibility for paying back loans, but the taxpayers
        “The essential point is this: the hapless taxpayer finds himself liable for a debt he did not sign up to, did not authorise. So the moral solution to the sovereign debt crisis is to simply repudiate it – refuse to pay it back.”
    Repudiate Sovereign Debt – SOVEREIGN LIFE BLOG
  • Turns out that economic enlightenment has nothing to do with a university economic education. (No surprise there, some of the dumbest economists are the most mis-educated.) “Based on a  Zogby International online survey of 4,835 American adults, Columbia University psychologist Zeljka Buturovic and George Mason University economist Dan Klein find that economic enlightenment is not correlated to going to college. They also find that it is the highest among those self-identifying ‘conservative’ and ‘libertarian,’ and descends through ‘moderate,’ ‘liberal,’ and ‘progressive.’”
    You Don't Need a Ph.D. in Economics to Think Like an Economist -  VERONIQUE DE RUGY[hat tip Jeff Perren]
  • What’s missing most in mainstream economics is any notion of capital structure, or any capital theory that looks anything like real life.  This lecture by Peter Lewin fills the gap.
    Peter Lewin on Austrian Capital Theory - FEE
  • Speaking  of good economists, the historic correspondence between French economist Frederic Bastiat and anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon [he of the “property is theft” epithet]is now translated and online.  And it’s good!  [Thanks to reader Pierre for the link]
    The Bastiat-Proudhon Debates
  • Latest OECD data suggests NZ is “under-taxed.” However, “even a cursory glance at the data presented would tell you that this is income tax only and does not include any consumption taxes. It is therefore completely stupid…”
    Taxes? What Taxes? - MACDOCTOR
  • “I am sick of the OECD. I am sick of their collective lording over the world. I am sick of banks and financial institutions and money laundering laws being referred to in comparison to these countries. A bureaucracy of 320 million Euros a year and a staggering 2,500 staff… The hypocrisy of the OECD is the US and Euro are in the crapper, Greece is greasy, it is easier for a terrorist to open a bank account in downtown New York than it is for someone with a clean due diligence record to open a bank account in a non-OECD country…
        “I am no longer interested in statistics about the OECD. It is a dying Old Boys club that [no-one should] aspire to join and co-operate with.”
    OECD - Organisation for Economic Catastrophic Disaster? – CACTUS KATE

        “What are all those people counting on? If a [Greek] factory goes
bankrupt, the equalizers will find another factory to loot. If that other
factory starts crumbling, it will get a loan from the bank. If the bank
has no money, it will get a loan from the government. If the government
has no money, it will get a loan from a foreign government. If no
foreign government has any money, all of them will get a loan from
the United States.

    “What they don’t know—and neither does the United States—is that
the United States is broke.

            –Ayn Rand (with only one word altered), speaking as if it
              were yesterday instead of 1974 [hat tip The New Clarion]

  • Britain is already past the point of no return.  Overwhelmed by government spending on the bankrupt welfare state, rather than cutting spending to close the ballooning budget gap the new government is raising taxes.
    Britain Is the New France: UK's Problem is Too Much Spending -  CATO
  • “There were many losers in the election, but none more so than the cultural elite who backed Clegg. They’ve been shockingly exposed…
        “Normally, ‘Lib Dems come third’ would not be a shocking headline. But in the wake of ‘Cleggmania’, when there was a widespread (and wild) discussion of Clegg as a new Obama who would take us into a new dawn and transform British politics forever, the fact that the Lib Dems not only didn’t make any gains, but actually seem to have lost seats, takes on a new dimension. It exposes, not only the well-known fact that the Lib Dems are the perennial third party, but also something more profound: that there is a chasm between the cultural elite and the public today, and the electorate is understandably not enamoured by the argument for a ‘new politics’ that lacks any substance…
        “The problem, of course, is not the electorate. It is the lack of an alternative. The big idea offered by the Cleggomaniac cultural elite, which would apparently shake the foundations of the establishment and seize the voters, was electoral reform. Not any economic solutions, promise of liberty or galvanising vision for Britain, but constitutional tweaking. Such promises of reform were a crutch for an actual political alternative.”
    The message of the polls: ‘We don’t agree with Nick’Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED
  • “The story of the [election], but perhaps the least commented on, was the fact that very few people actually voted… the fact is that the past three elections have seen by far the lowest turnouts in modern electoral history. What that means is that the individual political parties each only have the support of a small share of the electorate… The three major parties together only managed to persuade about 57 per cent of the electorate to vote for them - far from a ringing endorsement of the political options open to us.,,
        “For all the talk in the post-election carve-up about who has a mandate and who does not, the conclusion that commentators seem to be avoiding is that no party has managed to inspire or win the support of even a sizeable minority of the electorate.”
    The General Election that nobody won – Rob Lyons, SPIKED
  • “Hold on. Brown can’t just slink out of office without a final challenge to the idea that he was unspun, decisive and principled.”
    Ten myths about Gordon Brown – Tim Black, SPIKED
  • Prime Ministerial life is hard on the aging process:

  • hooters “An under-16 Australian Rules football team has come under fire for entering a sponsorship deal with a local Hooters franchise. Critics say the move could give adolescent boys the wrong message. The Broadbeach Cats team [from] the Gold Coast [presently touring North America] were cheered on by two skimpily-dressed staff from the Mermaid Beach franchise of the American restaurant chain during their home game against local side Labrador. “The message these boys are getting is that ... as a young footballer you have an entitlement to large-breasted women in skimpy outfits bouncing around at your games,” women’s advocate Melinda Tankard Reist said. Restaurant owner Morney Schledusch called the criticism ridiculous.”
    Good call.
    (Women aren’t decoration, you say?  Surely that depends on the women.)
    Team berated for Hooters sponsorship dealDALLAS MORNING NEWS [hat tip NZ Week]
  • “Around every new social development there arise the shamans. Those who seek to shroud the obvious in mystery to create the illusion that only they can interpret the ‘unknowable.’  And thereby make a buck.
        “For example, look at the hype over ‘social media.’ … The cyber charlatans smell their chance to cloak in complex jargon and gobbledegook what is a rather pedestrian development in the age old behaviour of human conversation and gossip, so as to give themselves an edge and a marketing opportunity. So arises the new priesthood of the  ‘social media expert.’”  -- who are charging $700 a plate for a day of bullshit and jellybeans at Sky City on the mysteries of social media.  Bill Ralston takes aim:
    Social Media – Shamans And Shysters  - BILL RALSTON
  • chaves_hugo_1 This is what lies at the end of price controls under socialism: the gun.
    Hugo Chavez's Response to Beef Shortage: Arrest Butchers - CNBC
  • Architect Frank Gehry makes unusual sense in a talk in Chicago: ‘The costs of making a green building are “enormous,’ he said, and ‘they don’t pay back in your lifetime.’
    Never a truer word . . .
    Frank Gehry holds forth on … why he's not into green architecture – CHICAGO TRIBUNE [hat tip Butterpaper)
  • As it is for buildings, so it is for cars. “Today’s electric cars are “welfare wagons”–overpriced, underperforming novelty items that the rest of us will be subsidizing for upwards of US$7,500 apiece.”
    Reality killed the electric car, taxpayers forced to resurrect it – VOICES OF REASON
  • Buy it at the AYN RAND BOOKSTOREIn the same week as a North Korean torpedo actually did sink a South Korean warship, Pyongyang boasts it has “achieved nuclear fusion.”
    Nuclear fusion achieved?  - LIBERTY SCOTT
  • Roderick Fitts reviews James Valliant’s Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. “Besides demonstrating the truth about Rand's character and the Affair, PARC also discusses some nuances of Objectivism in its applications to one's life.”
    On "Being One's Self": a Review of James Valliant's "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" – INDUCTIVE QUEST
  • I’m no fan of Roy Lichtenstein’s parasitic comic-book borrowings he calls art, but this optical illusion house is ingenious. [Hat tip Eric Crampton]

That’s all for now.
Enjoy your weekend!


Thursday, 13 May 2010

QUOTE(S) OF THE DAY: The Meaning of Life?

Two views of what some see as life’s great question:

_Quote When … anyone …would ask [Joseph] Campbell, ‘Isn’t it basically a meaning of life for which we are all searching?’ Campbell would reply, emphatically, ‘No, that’s not it—it’s deepening and opening the experience of life that we’re really after… Life itself is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it… Being alive is the meaning.”
                   - quoted in  A Fire in the Mind: A Life of Joseph Campbell,
                                           by Stephen & Robert Larsen

And from John Cox’s QuiptoonsQT-reading

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Auckland Bloggers Bar Bash tonight!

Oops.  Forgot to remind you earlier that we’re having the Auckland Bloggers Bar Bash (B3) at Galbraith’s tonight.  (Yes, that’s right, tonight. Yes, it’s usually the first Thursday of very month, but well, last week we were all sort of busy, you know.)

So: B3, be free, be there!

It’s the event for bloggers and blog readers to leave their guns at the door, let their hairs down, and take the grrr out of bloggrrrs.  And you just never know who’s going to show up.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Lady Gaga said about another event.

“I’m going to be there!” John Key did not say.

“I’m having what he’s having,” Phil Goff really did say.

Past blogging celebrities in attendance include bloggers and (blog readers) from Annie Fox, Barnsley Bill, Beretta, The Fairfacts Media Show, Stephen Franks, Garfield Herrington, Bernard Hickey, Cactus Kate, Kiwiblog, MandM, No Minister, Not PC, Roar Prawn, Lolly Scramble, SOLO, State Highway One, Whale Oil and WHOAR! … though he didn’t stay around too long.

So get ye there and buy your favourite blogger(s) a drink.  ;^)

What: Auckland Bloggers Drinks
Thursday 13 May from 6.30pm
Galbraiths, 2 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland
Who for: Bloggers, blog readers, blog trolls.

How to kill saving [updated]

I see that in a desperate attempt to get noticed, the Labour Party now contemplate making Kiwisaver compulsory should they ever get back in power, and allowing the Reserve Bank the power to inflate.

Are they insane?

The latest Morningstar figures on Kiwisaver providers (released yesterday) show that the Kiwisaver scheme is little more than welfare for paper shufflers—a mechanism whereby your money and taxpayers’ money is given to suits for them to make smaller than the rate of price inflation.  (And the funds “managed” by our old mate Gareth Morgan is still doing worse  than most, appearing near the tail end of all them—worst result 24th our of 24th for his ill-named “Growth” fund, which has lost 2.1%pa over the last two years. )

Inflation will only make these losses first.  And frankly, as we should all know by now, inflation is just another word for stealing from savers: stealing from small savers, and giving it to suits to piss up against a wall.  Get rid of monetary inflation, and ipso facto you get rid of the desperate need for fancy schemes that purport to address the superannuation problem.

A comment at Ron Manners’ blog makes this point perfectly:

    “If the Reserve Bank hadn’t presided over such an enormous rise in the money supply, maybe there wouldn’t be such a pressing need for superannuation in the first place. In my grandparents’ day, money in a savings account could be counted on to maintain its value to such an extent that it was perfectly possible for the lay person to budget for retirement just looking at the account balance.”

So the power to inflate is just the power to steal from savers. Nice, huh.

Mind you, with tax rates as they are now, one person in every couple is going out to work just to pay their tax bill, so that hardly leaves them much to save with, does it.

So forgive me, then, if I consider anyone talking “compulsion” when it comes to saving, when every incentive is there at present to discourage it—and nothing is being done or proposed to be done that would change that. 

Not to mention the implicit government guarantee that comes when you make the scheme compulsory, and all the waste and moral hazard that comes with it.

Let’s face it: the Labour Party really cares as much about saving as the other team.  All they’re doing here is politicking.

But you know the best plan a political party could recommend if it truly did want to encourage saving? Here’s a start:

  1. Stop taxing everyone to hell so they’ve got some money left over to save;
  2. Stop taxing interest on savings so they’ve got some real incentive to save; and
  3. Stop inflating the currency so the money that is saved isn’t diluted by every new note flying off the Reserve Bank’s printing press.

That’s what a responsible party would encourage. 

Pity there are none in this parliament then, eh.

UPDATED:  “Are we seriously going to start writing quadratic loss functions into the Reserve Bank Act, with parliamentary debate on the exact weight to put on to each term in the function” asks Eric Crampton Seamus Hogan, in a way that only a born economist could.

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European bailout: “…this is potentially the greatest inflationary plan ever designed.” [update 2]

The Economic Policy Journal sees only “trillion dollar madness” in the European plan “to offer as much as 750 billion euros ($962 billion), including International Monetary Fund backing, to countries facing instability and the European Central Bank [plan to] will buy government and private debt.”

    “There is nothing more to be said other than this is potentially the greatest inflationary plan ever designed. Although statements have been made in the past on which the EU has failed to follow through, the statements issued last night appear to have a sense of seriousness about them, especially the ECB announcement to buy government and private debt, and the Federal Reserve launching of currency swaps.
    “Both these actions suggest spectacular inflation may not be far away.
    “Although the ECB statement says the purchases will be sterilized, meaning they won’t increase the overall money supply in the  system, one wonders how long this will go on. A sterilization of the money printing would mean that money would be drained out of other sectors of the EU economy to be given to the governments of the PIIGS, who are proven irresponsibles with money.
    “Draining from the potentially productive sectors of the EU economy to give to the PIIGS is almost as insane as printing the money without sterilization.
    “That no objection to this madness has come from any finance minister or central banker signals how far down the road we are from any real concern about inflation or the taking away from the productive sectors of the economy.” 

This is what you get with welfare state economics: the bleeding of the productive in favour of the unproductive, while bystanders and bankrupts applaud.

You might call it broken window meets moral hazard.

Or institutionalised parasitism.

Has everyone forgotten that parasitism can only continue until the host dies?

UPDATE 1: More from the Economic Policy Journal on the “currency swaps,” and what it all actually means:

    “It appears, though, that for all practical purposes, the Fed has agreed to bailout the world. Essentially, foreign central banks will print up any amount of money they want  in their currency and the Fed will print up an equal amount of dollars that they will then loan to the foreign central banks (against the foreign banks newly printed money)who will then  loan the funds to the banksters  who will  use as collateral the securities of the PIIGs, to gain the dollars.”

UPDATE 2: “The Federal Reserve's involvement warrants a closer examination," says international asset manager Ganesh Rathnam.

    “The Fed has indicated that it would participate in dollar-swap agreements with the ECB, similar to one it undertook in 2008. Without an audit of the Fed, we can only speculate as to what exactly this swap entails. However, a reasonable guess is an exchange of freshly printed euros by the ECB for freshly printed US dollars by the Fed at the current exchange rates.
    “The Fed would then use the euros to either directly or indirectly purchase the debt of the eurozone nations. The ECB in turn would use the dollars to purchase US Treasury debt. Therefore, this is just a convoluted scheme to monetize government debt. It's a cinch that the funds necessary for this bailout would be created out of thin air rather than raised via taxes or issuing debt. Only in the world of central banking and thin-air money creation can one bankrupt entity bail out another.”

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Love - Sandra J. Shaw

love1sc Sherri Tracinski suggests there have been beautiful sculptures of star-crossed lovers (Rodin’s The Kiss more than any), and of “other-worldly lovers (like Daniel Chester-French’s The Sons of God Saw the Daughters of Man That They Were Fair) but this piece by Sandra J. Shaw, she reckons, is the most satisfying depiction of love she’s found.  The Kiss , she says, depicts love on this earth as tragically doomed; and the French’s creation “isn't a real love,” so is ultimately not emotionally rewarding.

    “It has taken me years [says Tracinski] to find in a piece of sculpture depicting love that was real, benevolent, and untainted by tragedy…
    “The biggest surprise about this piece is that it portrays love by showing us a solitary figure. This isn't a love that is dreamy, otherworldly, and unreal; this isn't a passionate embrace doomed to tragedy; this isn't love conveyed through action. This is love conveyed through thought. Its focus is not on the physical relationship between the lover and the loved; its focus is on the spiritual meaning of love, in the person who feels it.
    "This sculpture shows us, perhaps for the first time, that love is in the mind as much as in the body. It shows us that love is passionate and tender, that love is benevolent and obtainable. This sculpture is a celebration of what love is possible in this world—and it is far better than a dream, because here the love is real."

Read her full evaluation here, which is itself an art class in miniature.

And head here to Sandra J. Shaw’s website see the full sculpture by means of four full-sized photographs,


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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Good riddance Gordon

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

This week’s biggest story: “Good riddance Gordon”

gordon-brown-04Gorgon Brown resigns– The day’s biggest story hasn’t made it to the national newspapers yet. As I write this, Gordon Brown’s flunkeys are carting the lectern, from which the Tartan Terror announced he was quitting, back into his former home in Downing Street. 

The career politician, described by one of his own party’s candidates at the election last week as the worst Prime Minister in British history, has already left the building.

That’s one of the great things about changes of government in the UK. There’s no two-week period of grace where deposed Prime Ministers can wistfully reflect on their time in office, or meddle with the markets. The morning after the bastards get their marching orders by the voters, while they’re still hung over, they’ve got to dust off the suitcases and start packing. Gordon’s four extra days at Downing Street are exceptional, and he can thank the closeness of the election result for his prolonged tenancy.

gordon-brown_03 The Conservatives themselves must have one of the most insipid party logos in existence. I initially thought I was looking at the emblem of the Monster Raving Enviro-loony Party, a zigzag broad brush scribble of green representing the foliage of a tree, with a thin blue trunk and roots. So different to Margaret Thatcher’s inspired flaming torch from the 80s; in fact, absolutely bloody depressing if you ask me, but perfectly symbolic of today’s Conservatives.

The press have been demanding a resolution to the “crisis” of government. Gorgon and David have both talked about the need for stable, strong government. What utter bollocks. The best thing for Britain would be a small and slightly shaky government, beholden to a constitution that recognised the right of Britons to live for their own sake in peace and privacy.   

gordon-brown-02 Well, what should David Cameron do now he’s been anointed Prime Minister? I have a radical proposal, having looked at the election results in each of the four countries of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, home of the Gorgon, the Labour Party won 41 out of 59 constituency seats with 42% of the vote; the Tories won just 16% of the vote and one seat. One miserable bloody seat! In fact there was a small swing from the Scottish Nationalist Party to Labour. The leek-eating Welsh, despite a 6% swing from Labour to Conservative, still only received 26% of the vote and have 8 Tory MPs out of 40 seats. In Ulster, Sinn Fein received more votes than the Tory-leaning Democratic Unionists. The silver lining there is that Sinn Fein  still refuse to take their seats in the House of Commons. (I hope that means they are also cut off from funding by the British taxpayer.)

gordon-brown-01England, on the other hand, is a Tory stronghold. The Conservatives won 41% of the vote, and nearly 300 of the 532 seats. It’s staggering to contemplate that of the 306 Conservative MPs elected, 297 (97%) of them are from England. I believe it indicates that the Tories have no moral mandate to govern Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Clearly, these three festering cesspools of socialism should now be excised from the host that has sustained them for centuries.

The people of England need to free themselves from the engorged parasites to their north and west. It’s time to dissolve the United Kingdom.

Great Britain, while no longer the only sick man in Europe, is still far from well, with a debt-to-GDP ratio not vastly different to that of the People’s State of Greece and the other miscreants such as Portugal and Spain who the German taxpayer are being forced to bail out.

Therefore, as well as granting Scotland, Ireland and Wales independence and home rule, as so much of their respective populations have been demanding for years, urgent and drastic cuts in government spending are needed.  If England is to make any sort of economic recovery within the lifetime of this blog’s readers, this must be coupled with cuts in income tax and the elimination of VAT as quickly as possible.

  Local government in England, long dominated by the Labour Party, needs to be seriously pruned as well. The state needs to sell off vast swathes of urban property including the roads and streets, many of which could then be either closed off to road traffic, or opened up to new parks, thoroughfares or imaginative shopping precincts. Privatisation of property might also mean the dismantling of the bulk of four million CCTV cameras that constantly spy on Britons—another legacy of fourteen years of Labour government.

David Cameron has an opportunity to pull England back from the abyss. But, even more urgently than electoral reform, his Lib Dem enablers should be pushing him to cut free the lesser nations that have wilted in England’s shadow over the past four hundred years. It’s time these nations learnt for themselves that socialism means equal misery for all, and perhaps then the flower of freedom (and when I say that, I assuredly don’t mean the Tory Party) might just start to poke its head above ground in those backward nations.

England’s attachments need to be liberated and their peoples set free to discover the route to prosperity, or the road to serfdom, by their own hands.

So say it with me everyone: “Home rule now!”          

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

- Thomas Jefferson

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The Great Australian Tax Grab is sending the golden goose offshore

The Australian Budget matters to us.  The extent to which we haven’t descended here into a complete black hole of economic depression is in large part because of Australia’s still ongoing resource boom.

But Kevin Rudd and his Treasurer Wayne Swan are doing their level best to kill that particular golden goose.  Last night’s Budget saw them sharpening the axe as they prepare to carry out the plan to decapitate the miners in order to drink their blood.

The tale can be told in four excerpts:

From this morning’s Australian newspaper, we read the budgetary boasts of Kevin and Wayne who, despite still spending like water, are making far-out promises of balancing the budget:

    “Government debt is forecast to return to zero in 2017-18 - also three years earlier than previously predicted. Mr Swan predicted that the budget deficit, already down from $57 billion to $40 billion in 2010-11, would turn to a bare surplus in 2012-13 of $1 billion. “We have to grow together and maximise growth,” Mr Swan said.

From yesterday’s Herald Sun, we find out just how this fantasy is going to be funded.  Not by ending Australians delusions about their taxpaid “entitlements,” but by finding a new sap to fund them: by soaking the miners:

    “[By] the resources rent tax (RRT) , or as it is dishonestly titled, the resources super profits tax …
    “It is not petty cash. The RRT will [they hope] raise $3 billion in 2012-13 and $9 billion in 2013-14 - the last two years covered by the official budget forecasts.”

And from the Herald Sun, we see how illusory those figures (and this recovery) are going to be.

    “Fully half the $30 billion the Government claims as ‘savings’ over the next four years came not from real savings but from just two last-minute grabs for cash.
    “Nearly $5 billion is to come from smokers - for their own good, of course - and another $12 billion from miners, thanks to the new ‘super profits tax.
    “These are huge figures, and the mining tax depends crucially on there actually being ‘super profits’ left to plunder.
    “If China’s growth stalls and our mineral exports shrink, Rudd’s forecasts are finished.  If the miners, furious at Rudd’s smash and grab, keep announcing the cancellation or deferral of big projects in response, his tax take will shrivel, and our economy with it.”

And the miners? They’re already shrugging, as a local blogger spotted:

‘As they will say in Oz: "Where the bloody hell did ya go...?"
    “Well, apparently now its going to be Africa and other parts of Asia.
    “Anywhere but the super funds of working Australians.
    “Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has managed to put a spanner in the works of that troublesome mining industry with his fabulous new taxes.

"Rio Tinto shelves billions in projects
    ”MINING giant Rio Tinto has shelved plans to spend $11 billion expanding its massive iron ore operations in Western Australia because of the wave of uncertainty sparked by the Rudd government's proposed tax on super profits."

If there’s anyone anywhere who really believes that Kevin and Wayne will manage to steal enough from the miners to backstop their budget deficits, without sending their economy’s backstop off-shore in pursuit of safer profits, they probably need their heads read.

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Questions & Tips

Some of my regular reads have added a Formspring account to their blogs, and being an inveterate copycat I’ve added one myself as an easy way to get in touch with me, ask me questions, send me tips, and generally slag me off.

You’ll see it linked at the upper left as “Questions and Tips.”  As they say in boxing, knock yourself out.

PS: If it’s just questions about me you’re interested in (Galt knows why), you might appreciate the ‘Interview with the Blogger’ I ran here in January.  Re-reading it now, there’s some very good questions there--let down only by my answers.  I might add a few of the better ones to the Formspring thing just to get all the good questions in one place.


European Central Bank and its USD$1 Trillion Bailout Plan

Kris Sayce from Money Morning Australia gives an over-the-Tasman perspective on the European Central Bank crying havoc, and letting slip the printing presses of doom.
The Bank of Japan? Check.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe? Check.

The United States Federal Reserve? Check.

The Bank of England? Check.

The European Central Bank? Check.

The Reserve Bank of Australia? [Silence].

Click here to read more ... >>

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: The Key to the Politician’s Blank Cheque

_Quote Any political candidate who proclaims proudly that he or she is a pragmatist must, therefore, be watched very carefully because the pragmatist ploy is, ultimately, a ticket to unchecked power, a world in which trickery, muscle, and such are the arbiters of acceptable policies, never mind whether the rights of citizens are being crushed in the process.”
                                            -  Tibor Machan, “The Fatal Allure of Pragmatism

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‘You Go to My Head’ – Lena Horne

Singer Lena Horne died today. aged 92. 

Here she is (above) singing ‘You Go to My Head’ with Billy Strayhorn on piano—her favourite accompanist because, it was said, he “cushioned Horne’s eggshell voice with gentle support.” 

Together they perform one of their favourite songs, celebrating “drunken delirium as a metaphor for love.”

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Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Nick Smith explains the ETS [update 2]

This mock interview with Nick Thick Smith explaining his Emissions Tax Scam was emailed to bloggers yesterday.  I liked Whale Oil’s title for it:

An Interview with Mad Nick

UPDATE 1:  John Boscawen outlines what upsets New Zealanders so much about Smith’s Emissions Tax Scam, and fisks the lies Smith is spinning:

    “What upsets [New Zealanders] so much?
    – That the unnecessary financial burden imposed on individuals and families, businesses and exporters, workers and beneficiaries by this unwanted and unwarranted ETS regime is unreasonable, irrational and unfair
    – That Nick Smith and his leader have both repeatedly stated that New Zealand will not be a world leader in the imposition of an ETS on its citizens and yet are now pushing on to be THE world leader in ETS taxes
    – That NONE of our largest trading partners, Australia, China and the United States, have imposed such a tax regime on its citizens and businesses…

    “If you have emailed a National MP you may have received a standard email in return, containing these misleading pronouncements. I detail them below and also the truth of the matter so that you, the tax-paying citizens of New Zealand, can reach your own conclusions.

Misleading Statement Number 1
In the next 12 months the government has to pay $1.1 billion to foresters, in the form of emissions credits for forests planted since 1990.
The Truth
Nick Smith’s own officials confirmed to me that this was not correct. This figure is a combination of payments for both pre 1990 forests and post 1989 forests. And there is a very important difference. The first is a lump sum; non-recurring payment ($420 million) and the second ($685 million) covers forests planted in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and has an ongoing recurring element of approximately $228 million per year. ACT says we should defer the ETS and compensate foresters who planted after the forestry aspect of the ETS came into effect on 1 January, 2008 . That would cost no more than $20 million.

Misleading Statement Number 2
The Government’s revenue in the first year from the ETS will be about $350 million.
The Truth
Nick Smith’s official's also confirmed to me that this figure excludes the windfall profit gains from the three government owned electricity generators.  So government revenue from the ETS will be in excess of $500 m, well in excess of the annual ongoing forestry cost. Where is the extra money going?

Misleading Statement 3
New Zealand is not leading the world with our ETS, because 29 other countries have one.
The Truth
The New Zealand ETS is a single country scheme; no other country in the world has a single country scheme. The European Union as a trading bloc has a scheme which covers 29 countries. The European ETS imposes costs on the entire European trading bloc and 80 percent of European exports are internal. In contrast, our ETS will directly penalise all exporters.
The European ETS also excludes major parts of their economy, whereas our government has been very proud of the fact that our all gases/all sectors ETS is a world first.

Misleading Statement 4
New data shows that the moderated ETS has reversed the trend of deforestation which was a major worry under Labour.
The Truth
New Zealand’s plantation forest area grew extensively through the 1990s. In the lead up to 1 January, 2008, there was excessive harvesting of forests, only because people rushed to fell them before January 1 so they wouldn't be subject to a bill of $17,000 per hectare. This would never have happened if it weren’t for the ETS.

The government has made a big point of saying that agriculture doesn't come into the ETS until 2015. This is correct with regard to animal methane and nitrous oxide from fertilizers. However, Meat and Wool New Zealand have calculated that by 2015 these costs will be less than one quarter of what a dairy farmer will incur, and about 50% of what a sheep and beef farmer will incur. By far the biggest cost to a farmer is the petrol, electricity and processing costs of dairy factories and meat works. And these costs start on July 1 this year…

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Greece is the word [update 2]

Greece is “rescued.” One trillion dollars worth of paper. “Europe’s TARP”… and we all saw how well that worked. 

The billion-dollar bailout (a seven-fold increase in just one day) is the signal sign that at the heart of the Euro experiment is the morality of welfare economics that’s dragging down country after country: a system that turns one nation’s “need” into an international claim—that makes resort to inflation “easy, smooth, and above all respectable.” A system promising that those who’ve been profligate will always be able to send the bill for their blow-outs to those who haven’t been; and that to “defend” that currency the strong will always have to stand ready to bail out the weak.

It’s the morality of sacrifice turned into international economics.

Seeking sanity amid the flags and banners of approval at this latest paper shower propping up all the bad positions (which explains in itself most of the cheering from those being propped up), I offer you what sanity I found midst the dross:

_quote Once again the vast majority fails to see a crisis in the making, even as it stares at them from close range. Just as market observers in 2007 told us that the credit crisis would be confined to the subprime mortgage market, current analysts tell us that sovereign debt problems are confined to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and perhaps Italy. They were wrong then, and I believe that they're wrong now.”
            - Peter Schiff, quoted at The Rational Capitalist:
              “Schiff: Is Sovereign Debt Crisis Contained to Subprime?

_quote Basically the European Central Bank is monetizing bad government debt claims.
         - Tyler Cowen, writing at Marginal Revolution:
          “Simple thoughts on Europe

_quote As we see the market rally this morning on news of the near-trillion dollar European bailout, we should keep this point in mind.  What's good for capitalists is often NOT what's good for capitalism, not to mention the long-term well-being of most of the citizenry…
    “The desire for ‘stability’ is indeed the siren's song of the end of freedom.”
            - Steven Horvitz, writing at The Coordination Problem:
              “The "Siren's Song of Stability," European Version

_quote  At a cost of [one-trillion dollars], Europe will pretend to protect Greece from its creditors and the Hellenes will pretend to put their financial affairs in order. Instead, the Greek affair will slide into a larger crisis. As we explained last week, all of modern macro-finance can be understood as an attempt to push problems into the future and onto people who were not to blame for causing them. Now we see the formula at work in Europe.”
            - Bill Bonner, writing at The Daily Reckoning:
              “Say You Want a Revolution?

_quote Notice also that the capital that is used to provide the bailout goes from the hands of savers into the hands of bondholders who made bad investments. We are not only allocating global savings to governments. We are further allocating global savings precisely to those who were the worst stewards of the world's capital.”
            - John Hussmann, linked at Mish’s blog:
              “Greek Debt and Backward Induction

_quote The European Central Bank has flunked the first major test of its independence and its commitment to the single goal of low inflation. It announced yesterday, in so many words, that it will print as much money as it takes to keep prices up and yields low on government bonds issued by Eurozone governments… 
    “This is a solvency crisis, not a liquidity crisis. Eurozone government bond yields have risen not in a scramble for liquidity (base money), but with an upward revision in estimates of default risk. Monetary expansion treats the debt problem only by inflating away the value of the euro.
    “’We are going to defend the euro, [Spanish Finance Minister Elena] Salgado told reporters…  Defending the euro is in fact the opposite of what the ECB has announced it will do. Salgado is not telling the truth. Either she know she is lying, or Europe's fiscal authorities really don't understand. If the ECB is now following the lead of the fiscal authorities, neither of the two possibilities bodes well for the euro.”
            - Larry White, writing at Division of Labor:
               “The value of European government debt is not the value of the Euro

_quote This is a whole new level of global moral hazard - the result of an alliance of convenience between troubled governments in the south of Europe and the north European banks (and implicitly, north American banks) who enabled their debt habit.”
            - Peter Boone & Simon Johnson, writing at The Baseline Scenario:
              “Eurozone: The Kitchen Sink Goes In – Now It’s All About Solvency

_quote Contagion, or contagion theory, is sweeping the euro zone, where Greece’s debt crisis is infecting neighboring countries and threatening to make its way across the Atlantic to U.S. shores.
    “At least that’s what we’re told on a daily basis…
    “I hate to pour cold water on that theory, but healthy countries aren’t susceptible to Greece’s disease…
    “On the other hand, it would be a mistake to interpret the flight-to-quality into U.S. Treasuries last week as a sign of immunity. The U.S. is already infected with the debt virus. It’s still in its incubation period.”
            - Caroline Baum, linked at Mish’s Blog:
              “Greek Contagion Myth Masks Real Europe Crisis

_quote Being Keynesians, the majority of economists primarily only consider aggregate demand/consumption to discern the economy's condition, rarely parsing the relative contributions of the private and public sectors and the sources of growth of consumption, and most always with the assumption that incremental government borrowing and spending will pass through or kick start and sustain private economic activity for the cycle.
    “But when private debt growth and associated increasing returns to financial capital have been the primary source of growth since the early '80s to early to mid-'70s, increasing government borrowing and spending to make up for the loss of debt growth in the private sector only results in government debt eventually growing faster than exponential vs. incomes, production, and GDP, setting the stage for fiscal insolvency atop private sector debt-deflation…”
            - “My Friend BC,” quoted at Mish’s Blog.

_quoteI own the Euro, I hope it rallies. There are gigantic short positions in the Euro, but I would have said that a week ago too and it went down. In the end, I don`t think the Euro will survive, 10 years, 15 years from now. But at the moment it will probably have a rally"
             - Jim Rogers in Bloomberg, May 10

_quote German Chancellor Angela Merkel says this action was necessary to fight a Euro short selling syndicate. ]The eurozone's member states showed yesterday that we have a common political will to do everything for the stability of our common currency,’ she said. ‘This is a determined and united message to those who think that they can weaken Europe.’
    ”I have news for the Chancellor: you are merely building a bigger problem that ultimately will result in a bigger failure.”
            - Bill Cara, writing at his blog

_quoteWhat seems to escape every one of these fatuous macromancers is that, for years now, Greece has been the very essence of Keynesian folly: that the heavy hand of the state, by distributing a corrupting largesse derived from the government-supported evil of fractional reserve banking and constituted of laughably mispriced, fiat-money lending, had so successfully ’stimulated’ the country and artificially boosted the shibboleth of its GDP that it is now reduced to a state of penury so extreme — and is plagued with a false sense of entitlement so engrained — that all conceivable solutions to its woes now seem like bad ones.”
            - Sean Corrigan, linked at The Cobden Report:
              “Greece has been the very essence of Keynesian folly

_quoteThe Wall Street Journal reports on the issue, noting that American taxpayers [and NZ taxpayers!] will be involuntary participants thanks to the financial world’s keystone cops at the International Monetary Fund.”
           - Daniel J. Mitchell, writing at the Cato Blog:
             “Europe’s Über Bailout

_quoteA German reporter with a very poor, or very excellent, sense of humour has been handing out the old Greek currency (Drachma) to Greeks on the streets of Athens, just to record their reaction. He obviously didn't expect to get the worthless paper torn from his hands – literally.”
            - Nickolai Hubble writing at The Daily Reckoning:
              “Chaos No Longer a Theory

_quoteAs the crisis continues in Europe, one aspect remains unmentioned: Why are the Germans the focus of the debate?
    “The answer is of course that they are the Eurozone's centre of growth, stability and fiscal responsibility. Sadly, they gave up their role as the monetary standard of Europe with the Euro. Still, it is the Germans that the world is looking to when it comes to Europe's fiscal crisis.
    “But how did this come to be? Less than a lifetime ago, Germany was little more than a mound of rubble with some metal scraps mixed in…”
            Read on here for the only good-news economics story you’re likely to hear today . . .

UPDATE 1: Who’s been living beyond their means, then?  Here’s a good wee picture of the world’s government debt bubble. It’s easy to see that the counties living most beyond their means are those who’ve been most devoted to the (Keynesian) welfare economics that’s now destroying them.  The colour gives the the debt of the country’s government as a percentage of GDP (i.e., their ability to pay it back); the size shows the absolute size of that debt (i.e., how much everyone else stands to lose when they don’t). Just take a look at the size of Europe.  And Britain…


PS: The tat tip for the map goes to what looks like a surprisingly economic literate British MP, a chap called Steven Baker.

UPDATE 2: Matt Nolan corrects my prose with a point he earlier made here:

    “[The picture] is only telling us government debt as a % of GDP I believe - weirdly, overseas they often called public debt national debt. If we took private + public debt NZ would look a lot bigger ;-)
    “And if we looked at the more important net private+public debt (so taking away assets) NZ looks very ... special.”

I don’t think he means “special” in a good way.

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