Friday, 4 June 2010

FRIDAY MORNING RAMBLE: The ‘Money’ edition

Hi there readers, and welcome to another regular ramble round the interweb.

  • If Rodney Hide had any evidence at all the his new super-bureaucracy for Auckland would save ratepayers any money at all, you can be damn sure he’d be shouting that news from the rooftops.  So when instead he’s insisting “it isn’t being set up to save money” you can be damn sure it won’t be.
    So given that the transition costs alone will be upwards of $266 million—over one quarter of a billion dollars of yours and my money—just what the hell is the reason for it all then? Is this really the way ACT members want to spend their little remaining political capital?
    Can someone please tell me in words of one syllable?
    Super City's set-up costs top $200m and counting – NZ HERALD
    Hide spins on super city costs – hold the front page – RED ALERT
    Super-city not created to save money - Hide – RADIO NZ
  • For one brief moment this National Government looked like it might have remembered one or two of its principles.  But in one brief statement yesterday afternoon John Key killed any speculation it might, jut might, float part of Kiwibank. “The Government has 'no intention' of selling Kiwibank, Prime Minister John Key says.”  So much for that hope then that we might hear the ‘P’  word in their second term.
    Kiwibank sale ruled out - for now  - THE PRESS
  • Real bloggers submit their best work for the Air New Zealand Blog Awards.  Check them out for a great way to find new blogs to add to your regular reading.
    Air New Zealand Best Blog Award
  • “Politics is not about entertainment.”  And on that both I and Idiot'/Savant can agree.
    Politics is not about entertainment – NO RIGHT TURN
  • Telecom run a new ad saying "we've sacked the pricks responsible and now it's working.” Leastways, that’s what Cactus Kate reckons it says.
    Million-dollar Man Up To His Waders – CACTUS KATE
  • “Was the Gaza flotilla really humanitarian aid, or a push from enemy combatants? And, is the current crisis in Israel a potential flashpoint for a major clash between the nations?” Steve Green, Bill Whittle & co analyse what is next for Israel.  Money quote comes from Whittle in the conclusion:
            ”"You show weakness to these people and more flotilla ships are coming ... You have
        got to now be brutally firm with these folks and I'll put this to you as plainly as I can.
            "You mention Ahmadinejad. If it turns out that this ability to look reasonable
        and measured gives this man the impression that he can ... See Morelaunch a
        nuclear attack on Israel hundreds of millions of people are going to die because
        Israel didn't do what they needed to do to stop a ship that had 50 people on it.
            "This is the reality of how the world works and people better understand this
        principle or things are going to get very, very ugly."
    Flotilla Dissent: What Should Israel Do Now? – PAJAMAS MEDIA
  • Joe Biden’s broken linkage between brain and tongue finally hits on the truth: “[The Israelis have] said, 'Here you go. You're in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we'll get the stuff into Gaza.' So what's the big deal here? What's the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it's legitimate for Israel to say, 'I don't know what's on that ship. These guys are dropping …3,000 rockets on my people."
    Say It Isn't So, Joe – ROADKILL DIARIES
  • Even some of America’s liberal media have been doing a serious rethink.
    The Fraudulent Flotilla: Even Some Liberals Get It – VITAL SIGNS
  • Shame Biden’s boss lacks the same ability.
    Obama Abandons Israel to UN Feeding Frenzy – FOX
  • Um, why is Obama’s Administration helping protect kiddy fiddlers?
    Is the Vatican a Sovereign State? – CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
  • In fact, Obama only fiddles while a communist dictator sinks an allied ship, Islamic fanatics build nuclear bombs while threatening to annihilate Israel, and hostile socialist dictators in South and Central America flourish.  “America's enemies are swarming and attacking with impunity, filling the relativist vacuum generated by Obama's ideology of appeasement and anti-American apologism. However, lest you think Obama incapable of leading a military campaign, consider that Obama stands at the vanguard of at least one inauspicious police force - the thought police. “
    Obama's Thought Police Are Coming  - RATIONAL CAPITALIST
  • Still, there is something Obama is good at. Politically correct verbal vacuousness.
    Obama's Nobel Prize for Rhetoric- ROGER BATE
  • Kate wonders whether  we’re seeing “the Greater American Theocracy? ... or just a trifecta of clowns.”
    Progressia: What Did You Elect? – ROADKILL DIARIES

  • The murders in Cumbria are tragic.  Another twelve people killed because nobody was allowed to shoot back.
    Another gun massacre that nobody could interrupt because they didn't have the guns handy  - SAMIZDATA
  • Noting that “no industry in living memory has collapsed faster than daily print journalism”, P. J. O’Rourke proposes a wild print-rescuing innovation: the pre-obituary, “official notices that certain people aren’t dead yet accompanied by brief summaries of their lives indicating why we wish they were.” [Via Tim Blair]
    Not Dead Yet: Introducing the pre-obituary: a few choice words before you go – PJ O’ROURKE
  • You think business corporations are the most powerful entities in the world? Stephen Hicks contemplates a simple event that demonstrates that one mid-level bureaucrat is more powerful than even the world’s third-richest man, and the profound implications of that.
  • Warren Buffett and the power of corporations – STEPHEN HICKS
  • The so-called climate consensus continues to collapse.  Britain’s scientific Royal Society is force by its scientist members to redact its support for the global warming mantra, and for the so-called consensus.
    Rebel scientists force Royal Society to accept climate change scepticism – TIMES ONLINE
  • Oops.  Just when you thought the reputation of so-called climate scientists couldn’t get any lower … looks like NASA’s been caught deleting inconvenient temperature data again.
    GISS Deletes Arctic And Southern Ocean Sea Surface Temperature Data – WATTS UP WITH THAT
  • You thought Enron was a scam?  Just wait ‘til you see the new economic alchemists using Emissions Trading to turn carbon into gold.  Latest example on that score: South African company Eskom, who’ve sucked down a multi-billion World Bank loan to build the world’s fourth-largest coal-fired power station, for which Eskom will also suck down several million dollars in carbon credits. “This is of course a sort of magical solution that I have written about before,” says Roger Pielke, Jr.  “Of course a new coal plant, even if built with the best available technology is going to dramatically increase emissions, regardless of the accounting tricks of offsets and emissions trading. This alone is farcical, but it gets even better….”
    Environmental Defence Fund to Win World Cup for Chutzpah? – ROGER PIELKE JR.
  • Speaking of scams, how about this doozy that the stimulunatics have been playing with.  “The Fed has inflated the available money supply by 1 trillion dollars while simultaneously paying banks to not loan 1 trillion dollars.” So where’s the (hyper)inflation?  “Killing loans is how they are hiding the evidence and disguising the potential hyperinflationary effect of monetizing.”  So what’s the effect of all this?  The “stimulus” and excess-reserves-interest transactions “are taking vast sums of money out of the private sector and distributing it to political factions.”
    Money supply, the stimulus & where is the inflation? – SAMIZDATA
  • More on the intellectual bankruptcy of stimulunacy: “Prof. Paul Krugman asserts in his New York Times column of May 31st that ‘Both textbook economics and experience say that slashing spending when you’re still suffering from high unemployment is a really bad idea — not only does it deepen the slump, but it does little to improve the budget outlook, because much of what governments save by spending less they lose as a weaker economy depresses tax receipts.’ But while Prof. Krugman and most other fiscalists believe this to be self-evident, it is not.  Indeed, this fiscalist dogma fails to withstand the indignity of empirical verification.”
    In other words, the facts say otherwise, Paul.
    Prof. Krugman Is Wrong, Again  - STEVE HANKE
  • The Welfare State of Greece learns a lesson: Reality can’t be avoided indefinitely.
    Second firm withdraws drugs from Greece over cuts – BBC
  • The economic tragedy unfolding in Greece is the welfare state taken to its logical conclusion.  When groups of people use the state to live at the expense of others, the feedback loop about the costs of those transfers is attenuated — often by design.  The welfare state therefore makes commitments that it cannot honor.  By the time creditors or taxpayers say, “Enough,” the welfare state has created a clash between expectations and means that leads to unrest and hardship
    The Welfare State, Taken to Its Logical Conclusion – CATO@LIBERTY
  • MiserDespite the abundant evidence to the contrary provided by the European government-debt crisis, some economists still insist that governments can create something from nothing.
    Beware Dr. Galbraith's Snake OilPAUL HSIEH
  • Guess what.  Rudyard Kipling saw it all coming decades ago.
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings – ROBERT TRACINSKI
  •   Let’s hear it for misers!
    Defending the Miser – WALTER BLOCK
  • More on BP’s crony capitalism. In last week’s ramble we talked about BP’s strong financial links to government, asking “Has BP been too busy spending money to [buy politicians, and to] impress the government and the public with how ‘green’ it is to look after safety adequately?”  This week the Washington Post picks up on BP’s relationship with green groups with whom its’ gone into business partnership, making the question even more pointed.
     Washington Post Exposes BP ties to Eco-Groups, Other Media Ignore Controversy  - BUSINESS & MEDIA INSTITUTE
  • So, pace Russ Roberts, who will be the first alleged economist to commit the Broken Window Fallacy over the oil spill by talking about all the alleged economic benefits that will come from the clean-up?
    Cleaning up after the black swanCAFE HAYEK
  • Many people are confused by the Bible.  They think it’s full of good family values.  These are people who need to read The Dark Bible.
    The Dark Bible (version 2.10)
  • Christopher Hitchen explains the origins of Islam, and The Koran--and how it’s even more confusing than The Bible:
  • It’s been fifty years since the launch of The Pill (so important, it’s still the only pill to be capitalised). And asinine  religious arguments  have been going just as long—and showing no sign of stopping.  The latest example: Think of the fish!
    "The Pill kills" – REASON PHARM
  • Here are the fifty best science blogs, and counting…
    Wanted: The hottest science blogs on the world wide web – THE GUARDIAN
  • Who’s responsible for your credit card debt?  You?  No, say behaviourist excuse-makers, it’s all the fault of the credit card companies. Welcome to the conjunction of bad psychology and financial planning.
    Behaviorism in Financial Planning - TWIN TIER FINANCIAL
  • It is commonly believed that to be a just person, one who treats others fairly, one must be selfless. Ayn Rand demonstrated that nothing could be further from the truth. She held that justice is a selfish virtue.
    In this talk, Dr. Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas and author of Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist, explores Ayn Rand’s unique conception of justice. After explaining why it is in one’s self-interest to be a just person, Dr. Smith explores several related topics, including: the emphatic need to judge other people; how today’s pervasive egalitarianism is completely anti-justice; and when, if ever, forgiveness and mercy are justified.
    A fuller understanding of the virtue of justice, Dr. Smith believes, can enable each of us to live more successful, happy lives.
      Passing Judgment: Ayn Rand’s View of Justice – ARC-TV
  • 9780470603017 Regular readers here might remember our friend Robert White, formerly of Hamilton and Auckland, who’s now employed as a philosophy professor at the American University in Bulgaria.  And he’s getting published, including in a new book on Mad Men & Philosophy, a “pop culture” look at the insufferably bad TV series, in which he has a chapter on "Egoless Egoists: The Second-Hand Lives of Mad Men.”
    Well done, Robert.
  • A new magazine article looks at “the surge of Atlas Shrugged during the financial crisis, what its ideas expose about the crisis, its concept of moral selfishness, and its Americanism. Worth checking out for the cover."
    The Surge of Atlas Shrugged – CYRANO RISES
  • Education vouchers are not the way to liberate education from the state’s hands.  New Jersey provides the latest evidence against them.
    The Voucher Trojan Horse – PRINCIPLED PERSPECTIVE
  • More good parenting tips from Rational Jenn and friends, this time a podcast on “Free Range Kids”, and a post on how kids can get good experience with money--AND with contract negotiations!
    Podcast #5: Free Range Parenting – JENN CASEY & KELLY ELMORE
    Kids and MoneyRATIONAL JENN
  • I know at least one NOT PC reader who’s heading to Atlanta for the Objectivist Mini-Con soon. Anyone else?
    MiniCon Registration is Live!RATIONAL JENN
  • The Liberating Education blog links to this “fantastic TED talk by music expert Benjamin Zander about how to teach understanding and appreciation of classical music. His comments on "shining eyes" should be the sine qua non of all teachers.”
    Benjamin Zander on music and passion – TED

  • There’s one event every four years when soccer finally earns its place in word affairs.  You know what it is? No, not the World Cup, stupid. It’s the World Cup girls in bodypaint!!!!
    World Cup Girls in Bodypaint will make you drool - BROSOME
  • Eric Crampton talks sexual economics and…
    The Benefits of alcohol – OFFSETTING BEHAVIOUR
  • And speaking of sexual economics again (how’s that for a segue, boys), here’s a trailer for the American adaptation of Kiwi TV show ‘Outrageous Fortune.’ [Hat tip Public Address]
  • It’s the opening night of Hone Harawira: The Musical -- the dancers and singers bustle around crates of live ammunition and dozens of guerrilla fighters, and Danyl from Dim Post is on had to interview Hone just moments before his coup to overthrow the government.  Yes folks, it’s fine satire time again.
    An interview with Hone Harawira – DIM POST
  • Remember when Ragnar Danneskjold reckoned he’d chosen a special mission of his own; to destroy the man who legend says stole from the rich to give to the poor? It looks increasingly like Ridley Scott chose a different approach: to turn him into George Washington.
    Robin Hood and the Tea Party Haters – DAVID BOAZ
  • Here’s an old favourite from some of the Buena Vista Social Club boys [hat tip Jazz on the Tube]
  • And finally, a topical song from Bob.  If you’re not sure what he’s singing about, and I’ll wager you won’t be, then check out Bob’s lyrics. And reflect this was recorded just two years after Israel bombed Iraq’s nuclear reactor.
        ”Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
          The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
          He’s the neighborhood bully…”

That’s all for this week.
Have a great weekend!


Megson House – Claude Megson


From the Auckland Architecture Archive’s 'Megson in Auckland' guide:

_quote Megson created this house [at 40 Fern Glen Rd] for himself and his wife Cherie by partially demolishing and building over a modernist brick house by architect Professor Richard Toy (right), a senior colleague of Megson’s at the School of Architecture. (Remarkably, the Megson’s had lived in Toy’s house for 15 years before commencing work). The site – a corner section located on the brow of a steep rise - is vertiginous, and Megson’s extensions further emphasized the vertical. Toy’s house became a brick base over which a new timber superstructure was placed. Fixed to the downhill façade, a series of balconies – cages of mesh and red-painted steel tube - project the spaces of the house out into the treetops.”

40FernGlenn004 A two-zoned house* with the kitchen acting as the “hinge” between the zones—a kitchen opening up to terraces and the sky, since Megson’s death in 1994, it has been bought and sold and renovated “utilising [says the estate agent now trying to sell it] the skill of a London-based architect and former student of Megson to ensure a reverential transformation.” For reverential, read “sterile.”

132468380_full Nonetheless, you can head to the agent’s site to see more pictures showing the house as it is now. 


Writing about Claude's house a few years ago, fellow-lecturer at Auckland’s Architecture School John Dickson said of it,

_quoteIt is impossible without the process of Megson's imagination to connect the cluster of small, confined rooms of the house as it was (right) to the expansive, multi-levelled, vertical-fissured, spatial-phantasm that it has become."

And English architectural critic Professor Geoffrey Broadbent, writing after a 1992 tour of Claude's Auckland houses had this to say:

_quoteThis," I said to myself, "is work of a very high international standard indeed." ...One is constantly struck by the surprise around the corner, the bright shaft of light penetrating from above into the softer glow of the main living spaces -- especially in Megson' own house – that give his work such very special qualities...
    “There is an essential "rightness" about Megson's spaces, for pleasant occupation by ordinary, normal human beings. Such things, says Dickson, have gone out of fashion with today's students. Well, so much the worse for the students [and their clients!].
    “Perhaps it hasn't occurred to them that if they design real spaces for human
comfort and pleasure, then even those anguished souls overwhelmed by post-Heideggerian problematics’ about the nature of their existence might, given spaces like Megson's to contemplate that nature of their ‘Being,’ come to more positive conclusions! Because that's the point about Megson's spaces; they are life-enhancing.”

Broadbent, for once, is exactly right; even if “the softer glow of the main living spaces” has now been transformed into something more stark, as below, you might still get a sense of what he meant.


Cross-posted at the Claude Megson Blog.

*Two-zoned house: A family home giving room and space to both parents and teenage children, with separate "parent's realm" and another realm -- either for children or for guests—which meet around kitchen and family areas.

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Thursday, 3 June 2010

John Clarke explains who owes what to whom

John Clarke skewers the European government-debt crisis.

They’re loving it over there.

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Spain’s garden of Islamic delights?

Guest post by Jeff Perren 

Ayaan-Hirsi-Ali Robert Andrews has a terrific smackdown of Nicholas Kristof's utterly revolting New York Times review of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book, Nomad

Since she is one of the finest public personalities on the planet, defending the uber-heroic Ms. Ali is of course completely appropriate. Rational, factual, totally dedicated to the right and the true, and with the most horrific bona fides of any public intellectual in memory. How ironic the timing, then, that PBS should choose this week to re-broadcast a documentary called Cities of Light: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain (2007) I confess I haven't even seen it and I can already safely predict it's point of view. There's a big clue in the dead-giveaway title. One usually applies “Rise and Fall” to glorious civilizations (though there are exceptions, like the Nazi regime). But the "Cities of Light" moniker is the real kicker. Still, it's the program description that really cements my certainty:

_quote An examination of a time during the Middle Ages when Christians, Jews, and Muslims peacefully coexisted in southern Spain, and what led to the disintegration of the society.”

I researched Moorish Spain fairly well for a novel some time back, and I can assure you that all was not sweetness and light in early 8th to late 15th century Al-Andalus.

Set aside that nobody had any rights in Iberia during those years. That region had been, and continues to be, dominated by the Catholic Church (now overlaid with a huge dose of modern socialism). The results were not pretty even before the Islamic invasion. But forget that for now. Ask yourself instead what kind of 'peace' individuals in those groups would have enjoyed during the period.

Then, as now, any non-Muslim was a second-class citizen and, at that time and place, "second class citizen" meant something a good deal more onerous than even that of nomad-from-islam-to-america-a-personal-journey-through-the-clash-of-civilizationsa black person in Georgia circa 1960. To a Christian or Jewish male it was: just pay your Jizya and keep your mouth firmly shut or suffer the consequences.

And what were those consequences? Then as now: imprisonment, beheading, or banishment (which often meant death by starvation). Women, of course, didn't even register on the scale as fully human, a situation that persists in Islamic countries to this day. And, as a side note, Kristof's (and the filmmaker's) belief that Christians got by real well during that time is belied by the many armed revolts led by Christian kings over almost the entire period. That continued until Queen Isabella and her husband completed the final transfer that ended the Caliphate in all of that region. The fate of Jews, not only in Spain but everywhere prior to the mid-20th century, is too well known to require discussing.

How modern so-called liberals can decry Randal Paul's mild disapproval of one aspect of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and enthusiastically embrace Islamic Spain as a garden of delights and an era of religious brotherhood is almost beyond comprehension. It's as if one were to look at the Soviet Union in 1933 and declare that everything was hunky dory because there was 'peace' among Kulaks, Tartars, and Russians. Peace under rule by gangsters is not the same as peace of mind under freedom.

Truthfully, I don't think creatures like Kristof and that documentary maker lack historical knowledge nor are lying. I suspect their minds simply refuse any connection to reality when the facts are not as they wish. It's cherry picking raised to the level of a psychotic break. Fortunately for us, we have Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a counterweight, and that slender woman's weighty thoughts far outweigh any foolishness the Kristofs of the world can spew.

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Gaza: A reality check [updated]

Gazans are suffering under a yoke of Israeli-inflicted poverty. Yeah right.

Hamas just wants peace with Israel. Yeah right.

Their peace-loving government is unmercifully oppressed by Israel. Yeah right.

Palestine is at the mercy of America’s pro-Israel foreign policy.  Yeah right.

Palestinians just want peace and a better life. Yeah right.

There can be no justification for Israel’s blockade against Gaza. Yeah right.

The peace flotilla was organised and manned by peace activists. Yeah right.

It’s all about getting aid to suffering Gazans. Yeah, right.

UPDATE: The convoy: another reality check courtesy The Roadkill Diaries:

Peter Hitchens on a certain "Aid Convoy":

    “If you want to be wholly dispassionate, you might call it a 'convoy' without adornment. But to call it an 'Aid Convoy' is itself a departure from neutrality. I myself would call it a propaganda fleet, but then I am openly partisan on this issue. The use of the expression 'humanitarians' is likewise suspect, as is the use of the word 'activists' without saying what sort of activists they are. ..
    “It emerges that these ships were not entirely peopled by pacifist vegetarian idealists from the Isle of Wight.
    “For instance…”

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Save the whales?

Pete Bethune is prepared to go to jail to save whales, but I don’t recall him or anyone else throwing acid at cattle trucks, or trying to occupy abattoirs so cows can’t be killed.

He’d look a bit stupid, wouldn’t he. Hard to get any sort of traction for a “save the cows” campaign.

But what’s the essential difference between marine cattle and land cattle?  Well, one essential difference is that unlike land cattle, the marine cattle aren’t owned by anyone.  Just one simple reason cows aren’t an endangered species. Fact is, says Christopher Costello, a professor of natural resource economics at UC Santa Barbara, as long as you treat the ocean and everything in it like a commons, “then people will treat the ocean like a public bathroom.”

How to save a dying ocean?  Easy. Recognise ownership rights in oceans.

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Whisky-Tasting If that heading above got yoiu excited, then you’ll know why I’m thanking the fine men and women at Auckland’s Whisky Shop for conducting a very enjoyable whisky tasting last night: introducing us to the beautiful Ardbeg whiskies from the Scottish island of Islay, accompanied by perfectly matched foods, perfectly weighted commentary, and perfectly knowledgeable hosts---and a perfectly packaged gift pack to take home containing two tasting bottles of Ardbeg 10 year, and Ardbeg Blasda.

Very nice.

If you get a chance to attend one of their regular whisky tastings, I’d definitely recommend you get along.

And speaking of Islay … it reminds me of a story that helps explain why the wonderfully warming Islay whisky is so popular there. When I was working in London a few years back, a colleague married an Islay girl and moved up there, to that small windswept island thrust into the North Atlantic, and he asked me to design a few renovations for the traditional stone cottage they were moving into. He returned from Islay with plans of the cottage for me, and photos of the island and his cottage, perched on a windswept plain sloping down to an iron grey sea.  They were perfect photos for what I needed, but I complained to him that the photos must have been damaged in some way, because they all had these strong horizontal lines running back and forth across them.

“Those aren’t lines on the photos,” he replied.  “That’s rain.”



Britain’s Sports Pro magazine has selected what they call “the world’s best sports venues” based on ''legacy, location, history, size, versatility, grandeur and technology'--and Melbournians are up in arms that the MCG, AKA the Melbourne Cricket Ground, AKA the Cathedral of Sport, only ranks fifteenth, a lowly ranking they say for "the spiritual home of Australian sport"; a place oozing with history that hosts an average crowd of around 50,000 spectators twice a weekend over the Australian winter, and over 90,000 in AFL finals season.

I must confess, I’m not too happy myself.  But there are some stunning stadia that are on their list.

WorldGamesStadium-taiwan-600x400 World Games Stadium, Taiwan


Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit, Abu Dhabi (above and below)



Cowboys Stadium, Dallas


Wembley Stadium, London

NouCamp-barca-600x400 Nou Camp, Barcelona

MeydanRacecourse-dubai-600x400 Meydan Racecourse, Dubai


Flushing Meadows, New York


“The G” in action

No-one will be surprised to hear that Eden Park didn’t make the cut.

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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A simple point from a master writer

Donald Boudreaux’s letters to the editor are small masterpieces of economic proselytisation--like Bastiat in miniature. Here’s his latest to the New York Times (pinched from Cafe Hayek):

Dear Editor:

Suppose Uncle Sam orders you to raise by 41 percent the price you charge for subscriptions to your newspaper.  Would you be surprised to find a subsequent fall in the number of subscribers?  If you assigned a reporter to investigate the reasons for this decline in subscriptions, would you be impressed if that reporter files a story offering several possible explanations for the fall in subscriptions without, however, once mentioning the mandated 41 percent price hike?

Unless you answered “yes” to this last question, I wonder why you published Mickey Meece’s report on today’s record high teenage unemployment rate (“Job Outlook for Teenagers Worsens,” June 1).  Between 2007 and 2009, Uncle Sam ordered teenage workers (who are mostly unskilled) to raise the price they charge for their labor services by 41 percent.  (That is, the federal minimum-wage rose from $5.15 per hour in 2007 to its current level of $7.25 in 2009 – a 41 percent increase.)

Does it not strike you as more than passing strange for your reporter – assigned to help explain why teenagers today have an increasingly difficult time finding jobs – to ignore the fact that these teenagers are ordered by government to raise significantly the wages that they charge their employers?

Donald J. Boudreaux

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There’s no charity in Viva Palestina [updated]

Following the appearance  of Gaza faux-tilla fool Nicola Enchmarch last night on the alleged current affairs show Sunday,  I’m re-posting this critique from last week of the organisation for which she works.

Repeaters have been reporting that New Zealand woman Nicola Enchmarch, being held in Israeli custody, works for what they is an “aid organisation” called Viva Palestina.

HERALD: “Enchmarch is a member of the British aid group Viva Palastina
STUFF: “ ... one of a number of people[working for] aid organisation Viva Palestina
TV3: “…working for a British aid organisation - Viva Palestina

If Viva Palestina is an aid organisation, then I’m the UN Secretary General.

Viva Palestina was founded by George Galloway.  Remember him?  The former British MP who received millions of dollars stolen from the United Nations Oil-For-Food Program, in exchange for his public denunciations of the UN sanctions against Iraq.  Who once told Saddam Hussein, "I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability.” Who recalls the day that the Soviet Union fell as the worst day of his lifeWho used to fly the Palestinian flag over the Dundee Town Hall. Who set up the Mariam Appeal as an anti-sanction “charity”  whose stated purpose was "to provide medicines, medical equipment and medical assistance to the people of Iraq.” But a four-year inquiry by the House of Commons Select Committee on Standards and Privileges found massive amounts of incontrovertible evidence -- including bank records and Iraqi government vouchers -- that Galloway had used the money largely to enrich himself, suspending from the House of Commons for his egregious breach of ethics.

This is the founder of the front organisation for which Miss Etchmarch works—an organisation founded by Galloway holding up a bag of money and declaring: “This is not charity ... This is politics.”  One set up explicitly “as a challenge to international law”; one that has given given millions of dollars as well as non-cash aid directly to Hamas.  “It’s not about charity ... but in every way that we cut it, it is political.” That’s how Lamis Deek, a member of both Viva Palestina and Al-Awda, described it.

Viva Palestina does not hold formal charity status; rather (like other radical organisations) it uses the tax-exempt status of The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization/Pastors for Peace (IFCO) as a conduit to funnel funds and materiel to Hamas.

Their last convoy, in January, saw Viva Palestina protestors erupt in violence at the Egyptian-Gaza border, leaving dozens injured and an Egyptian soldier dead.

Viva Palestina is not about charity ... but in every way you cut it, it is political.  And can be violent.

So let’s stop this nonsense about calling it a charity organisation, shall we.

[Thanks to David Horowitz’s Discover the Networks for many of the links.]

UPDATE: It now appears the “peace activists” on board the Mamara who confronted the boarding Israelis with peaceful iron bars, knives and molotov cocktails were recruited by Turkish  organisation IHH, who co-organised the flotilla with the Free Gaza Movement.

    “Better known by its Turkish name (Insani Yardim Vakfi) and acronym (IHH), the Foundation's initial mission was to supply aid to Bosnian Muslims during their conflict with Christian Serbs in the Yugoslavian civil war. To this day, IHH continues to send aid to distressed areas throughout the Middle East – in the form of food, medicine, vocational education, and the construction of schools, hospitals, medical clinics, and mosques. According to Reuters, IHH “has been involved in aid missions in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Indonesia, Iraq, Palestinian territories and other places.” In recent years, IHH has also established branch offices in a number of European countries.
While IHH is involved in the foregoing humanitarian activities, its overall objectives are much broader…”  Read on here.

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

This week: Key cutting

Our Prime Minister created ripples this week that extended well beyond the borders of the Shaky Isles when he shared the fact that he has been vasectomised.

In fact he thought getting a vasectomy was such a good idea that he now wants to make the process compulsory, starting with his Cabinet Ministers. [Some of us would advocate a much deeper cut – Ed.] Given that last month was NZ Music Month, ministers were asked to nominate a song they would prefer as background music while their work is done.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English nominated Rod Stewart’s ballad ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest.’

Maurice Williamson could only think of the Joy Division dirge ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart.’

Gerry Brownlee betrayed possible hillbilly ancestry when he suggested Lynard Skynard’s ‘Gimme Back My Bullets.’

Murray McCully came over all misty-eyed as he recalled the Neil Diamond/Barbra Streisand classic ‘You Don’t Bring Me Condoms Any More.’

Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins had to be restrained from launching into a rendition of ex-Kiss member Ace Frehley’s number ‘Rip It Out.’

Wayne Mapp, a golden oldies fan, suggested ‘Great Balls of Fire’ by Jerry Lee Lewis.

Chris Finlayson may have an S&M streak as he recalled 80s band Culture Club and their song ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’, along with John Mellencamp’s ‘Hurt So Good.’

Nathan Guy thought ahead to possible future children post-vasectomy with his suggestion, Jim Croce’s 1973 hit ‘If I Could Save Sperm In A Bottle.’

Tim Groser winced as he hummed the tune to REM’s ‘Losing My Religion.’

Georgina Te Heu Heu cackled as she remembered a song by Queens of The Stone Age: ‘Suture Up Your Future.’

Tony Ryall contemplated elective surgery of a sterilising nature to Nirvana’s tune ‘Half The Man I Used To Be.’

Paula Bennett’s ideal background music as she supervises Phil Goff’s family planning with a rusty tin lid would be Gloria Estafan’s ‘Cuts Both Ways.’

Jonathan Coleman, a medical doctor, said he would prefer to do his own vasectomy with the benefit of local anaesthesia to a medley by Nine Inch Nails – ‘The Beauty of Being Numb’, ‘Somewhat Damaged’ and ‘Mr Self Destruct.’

Toward the end of his media conference yesterday, the Prime Minister said real men bike home after their vasectomies. He was then asked how things are in the nutsack region these days.

‘Love Hurts,’ he replied.   

[Note: The Libertarianz Party’s policy on vasectomies is that they should be done by mutual consent in the private sector, by whatever practitioner a person wants to employ. The medical monopoly and crumbling public hospital system should be opened up to competition, thus putting downward pressure on the cost of this surgical procedure.]

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

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Thursday: drinks, nibbles, and a bit of a ‘do’

Now, on the face of it you’d say that tomorrow night, Thursday, we’ve got a bit of a timetable clash here in Auckland, because tomorrow night, Thursday, we’ve got both bloggers drinks at its regular spot at Galbraith’s at the top of Mt Eden Rd—which is always good fun—and another alluring session down the road at the Uni.

chalkboard summary But worry ye not, ye fine folk.  I’d suggest getting along to both: i.e., head along to to blogger’s drinks either before or after the economics do, or else grasp the opportunity with both hands to enjoy blogger’s drinks without the educated noise of educated economists drowning out your theorising—at least until the lecture is out.

So that looks to me like a very good night all round, really.

PS: I’m told that Wellington bloggists can enjoy their own bloggers drinks tomorrow night as well, at The Occidental, Wellington. “All bloggers, readers, fans, trolls and stalkers are invited. And a splendid time is guaranteed for all.” Apart from the stalkers.


‘Seasonal Migration’ - Ningeokuluk Teevee

Seasonal Migration

A humorous art print by Cape Dorset Inuit printmaker Ningeokuluk Teevee.

For a neat story about the printmaking, including its link with a famous cigarette pack, check out one of Eric Crampton’s entries in the Air New Zealand Blog Awards, “50 Years of Cape Dorset prints.”


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

‘Atlas’ starts shooting in two weeks! [update]

atlas-shrugged-book-cover-175x300 IN THE FIFTY-THREE years since is publication, there have been many twists and turns in attempts to get Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged to the screen, and many studios and many names associated with those attempts, ranging from The Godfather producer Albert Ruddy, to Russell Crowe, Mr & Mrs Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron. 

Now that the book is enjoying unprecedented popularity once again, it looks like another attempt will be made.  Indeed, rights-holder and Cybex exercise equipment owner John Aglialoro has just announced plans to begin shooting June 11 on the first of a projected four three movies based on the book, this time without the backing of a major studio, and more than likely with a cast made up of actors rather than established stars.

Story here.

UPDATE: Make that “a three-movie sequence, following the structure of the novel” – which makes much more sense, each of those three parts being almost a dramatic whole.

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Tragedy off Gaza [updated]

It’s obviously too early to know just exactly what went on when Israeli commandoes boarded the ill-named freedom flotilla last night, but their tragic overreaction has turned a rag-tag bunch of useful idiots, human shields and publicity-seekers into at least nine dead martyrs Israel could do without.

Yes, Israel was entitled to inspect the boats to ensure they weren’t bringing more rockets to Gaza to be fired into Israel—which was the very real reason for Israel’s blockade on Gaza.  But they should have been prepared for some sort of aggressive response from the thugs they should have known would be on board.

Yes, Israel was goaded into the killing (“Right now we face one of two happy endings,” said one woman idiot on board, “either martyrdom or reaching Gaza.”), but their intelligence must have told them that was what the jihadists on board were waiting for.

Yes, it’s true the commandoes were goaded by the so-called peaceful activists chanting “Remember Haibar, Oh, Jews,” a reference to Mohammed’s historic genocide of Jews at Haibar—were attacked by thugs wielding knives, catapults, iron bars, baseball bats, stun grenades and firebombs, and guns ripped from the commando’s hands——were well aware the jihadists on board were using the peaceniks as a cover for something more sinister. But these would have been well-trained troops immune to being taunted by a simple tune, however inflammatory, and well able to assert some sort of firm crowd control on even a reasonably well-prepared and well-armed bunch of jihadists—and given that they knew the whole world would be watching, if they couldn’t, they shouldn’t have been there.

Yes, it’s true that the “aid” the boats were bringing in was not the humanitarian lifeline the flotilla organisers claimed it to be; that Gaza is adequately supplied in most of the things it can afford, thank you very much, including arms; that the flotilla was not manned just by innocent, civilian humanitarians; that it was fully intended to be a provocation to intafada; but the commando’s ill-advised overreaction shows they took the bait, turning this ill-starred publicity stunt into something much more tragic all round.

Israel, it seems, was provoked into exactly the reaction that Hamas and its fellow-travellers would have been hoping for with this flotilla, even as the jihadists cried crocodile tears over the dead and wounded they themselves helped put in harm’s way, and the .  But this deadly overreaction will win Israel few friends, and has left at least nine people dead.

Tragic.  Just tragic.

UPDATE: What exactly happened on board is still largely unknown, but the aftermath to it is oh so predictable.

“Now that the thugs on board the Mavi Marvara have gotten the violence they wanted and instigated, the second stage of Hamas's operation has begun:  protests against Israel around the world .”

These are people who think the BBC is pro-Israeli, for goodness’ sake.

“Enraged by the BBC's bias against them, supporters of the Jihad Flotilla storm the BBC offices in Manchester…”

And don’t think the propaganda war isn’t important.

Turkey has led international calls to isolate Israel…

Israel was under pressure to lift its blockade of Gaza last night…”

Will those applying the pressure on Israel last night apply it the other way when the lifting of the blockade sees an avalanche of rockets heading towards Israel out of Gaza?

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KRIS SAYCE: Why Scrooge Isn’t The Bad Guy

Guest Post by Kris Sayce of Money Morning Australia 

* * * *

_Kris_Sayce_headshot_thumb[2] So, was Ebenezer Scrooge really such a bad guy?

He’s certainly got a lot of bad press. Especially for a fictional character.

Now, I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since we read A Christmas Carol, but you could argue that all Mr. Scrooge was trying to do was run a business.

Sure, he could have let Kermit the Frog, er, I mean, Bob Cratchett put another coal on the fire, and he could have given him a pay rise. But then again, maybe Bob Cratchett was just grateful he had a job.

We’ll have to assume employment prospects couldn’t have been that great at the time if Bob considered working for Mr. Scrooge as the best alternative. The worse alternative would be a stint in a workhouse we’ll guess.

The reason we bring this up is the headline on page 13 of today’s Australian Financial Review (AFR), “Czechs choose Scrooge.”

And then it has a photo of Czech president Vaclav Klaus. Who isn’t the Scrooge in question, but a glance at the headline and the photo could easily leave you with that impression.

In fact president Klaus wasn’t even up for election, it was a parliamentary rather than a presidential election being held by the Czechs.

Headlines are a tricky thing. We know that. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we get it wrong. Ideally the headline should offer something that encourages you to read the accompanying story.

And equally ideally, the headline should accurately reflect the story as well.

Anyway, we read through the article that the AFR had syndicated from Bloomberg. And then we searched online for the original Bloomberg article which the AFR article was adapted from, which you can read here. Although Bloomberg’s headline was, “Czech Deficit Cutters Plan Coalition Cabinet, Boosting Koruna.”

Funnily enough, the Czech article in the AFR is below another headlined, “Spain loses AAA credit rating.”

But if the Czechs chose Scrooge, surely the headline for the Spanish credit downgrade could have been a little more colourful. What about, “Spain punished for p***ing tax dollars up against the wall.” Or what about, “Spain loses rating after blowing dough.”

It seems as though the headline writers and indeed the majority of mainstream financial journalists just don’t understand the massive debt problem the Europeans have gotten themselves into.

While the AFR writes, “All three campaigned for reduced spending, indicating they may be able to form a cabinet committed to cutting a deficit that swelled to 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product last year, almost twice the EU limit.”

It forgot to point out that Spain has a deficit of 11.2% of GDP. To read that you’d need to read the article on Spain that I mentioned before. And if you want to see just how the Czechs stack up compared to the Eurozone countries, just take a look at this:

Deficit disasters:

Source: BBC

Seems to us that the Scrooge-like Czechs have decided to vote for a bunch of people who don’t want to send the taxpayer and country broke.

Although to be fair, there’s barely a politician we’ve got a positive thing to say anything about, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the new mob in the Czech Republic fell into the same old tax and spend trap.

Perhaps the Czech people have good memories. They probably remember what it was like to live under a regime that believed it had all the answers. A regime that left nothing up to the individual citizen and instead made all the spending and investing decisions for them.

Dare we say that the Czechs remember what it was like to have bureaucrats pulling levers and thinking they know how to micro-manage an economy.

Not that the old Czech government is innocent of being spendthrift. The online version of the Bloomberg article points out, “The Czech Republic’s debt will rise to about 40 per cent of gross domestic product this year, from 18 per cent in 2008.”

That seems bad enough to us, but almost nothing when compared to many of the Eurozone countries:


Source: BBC

Perhaps they’re keen to avoid debt reaching the 53.2% level of Spain, or the 73.2% of Germany, or even the 115.1% level of Greece.

It seems they are. According to Bloomberg,

    “In rejecting parties that promised to increase welfare spending, voters sent ‘a very clear message’ to politicians that they want ‘a stable fiscal path,’ Simon Quijano-Evans, head of emerging-market research at Credit Agricole Chevreux in Vienna, said in a note to clients.”

It’s a contrast to the mainstream thinking in the West. Perhaps that’s because the West still has the misplaced view that government knows best. That welfare spending is essential to ensure the overall wealth of an economy and society.

That’s why you’ll have seen the ridiculous arguments supporting [Kevin Rudd’s] new mining super tax. The case is made that it’s essential that profitable [Australian] mining companies pay for welfare and other [Australian] government spending. Because it’s right that everyone pays their fair share.

We look at it differently. We believe that initiative and endeavour should be rewarded, not punished. And we certainly don’t believe that initiative and endeavour should result in you being fined (taxation) for having taken the risks.

The way we look at it is like this – but the end result is the same.

In some economies you have governments going heavily into debt now to pay for bureaucratic spending, requiring its citizens to repay the debt in the future through higher taxes.

While in other economies you have governments imposing higher taxes now to pay for bureaucratic spending and will require its citizens to become indebted at a later date as productivity and entrepreneurial activity are extinguished through excessive taxation.

The former would include the Europeans and the US, the latter would include Australia.

As I say, the end result is the same. Both involve hapless bureaucrats spending money which isn’t theirs on projects which no-one really needs. And furthermore coercively controlling the lives of its citizens at its own whim.

And none of it provides any benefit to anyone. Take the following as an example of coercive government incompetence, cruelty and wasteful spending. This headline from ABC News last week really says it all, “Government to get tough with jobless.”

The article says,

    “More than 350,000 job seekers will be targeted as the Federal Government toughens the rules for obtaining unemployment benefits. From July, those that do not turn up for regular interviews with Centrelink will risk losing the dole.”

As you know, we’re no fan of welfare. But it comes to something when a government punishes the very people that its own rules cause to be unemployed.

Yep, that’s right, it’s one of our favourite subjects, the minimum wage. The government implements an arbitrary minimum wage level that means tens or hundreds of thousands of people are prevented from getting a job.

Because it’s against the law for an employer to pay even 1 cent below the minimum wage, many people become unemployable. Their level of skill makes it uneconomic for a business to employ them and therefore the business will seek alternative solutions, such as exporting the jobs overseas.

Not content with having forced these people out of work and onto welfare, the government is then determined to punish them a second time. This time for not having a job.

But get this, it’s comments quoted from Human Services minister Chris Bowen:

    “This is about making sure that they are … doing their bit to get a job and that we are doing everything we can do to assist them get a job. It’s about mutual obligation. It’s about them doing their bit and us doing our bit. The interviews in the past for many years have been largely, frankly, a ‘tick and flick’ exercise. In the past they’ve been one-minute interviews with about 30 seconds focused on compliance, which is not capable of allowing Centrelink to come to a considered view of the individual’s efforts. These will be interviews that are five times as long and with a very substantial proportion devoted to compliance measures and making sure that the person is looking for work and actively seeking work and checking to ensure that what they’ve told us is correct.”

Talk about victimisation. Whether you like it or not, the fact is simple, without a meddling, coercive and victimising government and bureaucracy, odds are that each one of those 350,000 people would be gainfully employed.

It may not be their perfect or ideal job, and it may pay less than they’d like, but they would have a job.

Scrooge may not be the most popular fictional guy in town, but it should be remembered that at the end of the story, Scrooge does give the Cratchett family something they actually need, a slap-up feed, oh, and a job for Bob.

Meanwhile in the old days the government shoved the poor in the workhouse to do such enlightening work as stone-breaking, corn-grinding, and bone-crushing. Today they may not physically put them in the workhouse, but is it less cruel to forbid someone to work at a wage they’re willing to accept and then force them to beg and plead from the same government that put them in that position?



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Radius House – Daniel Liebermann


The San Francisco ‘Radius House’ by Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice Daniel Liebermann has just been given a sensitive revitalisation. Story at Inhabit.Com [hat tip Prairie Mod]





Monday, 31 May 2010

Walter Williams on discrimination

Hat tip Vulcan’s Hammer.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: The ghosts of left & right

Novelist Edward Cline reckons both left and right are beholden to a similar fiction:

_quote Leftists are beholden to the great ghost society; rightists are beholden to a ghost of indeterminate gender and appearance in the ether (or perhaps He’s a resident of the constellation Orion, no theologian in history has been able to pinpoint his whereabouts on the map). The leftists have been able to put over their ghost because society is ostensibly tangible: it’s you, and me, and our neighbors all over the country. The rightists can only cite belief that the creator of individual rights and freedom exists -- somewhere, as an entity of semi-infinite dimensions, armed with the contradictory powers of omniscience and omnipotence -- and that everything good emanates from Him, including that incidental, unimportant thing called capitalism.
    “In terms of
metaphysics and epistemology, the leftists have a leg up on the rightists. They can ‘prove’ their ghost exists, and why everyone should defer to it today, in personal relationships on up to coercive legislation, while all the rightists can trot out is a tooth fairy on steroids who mandates selflessness and self-sacrifice in the name of life after death.”
        -Edward Cline, ‘Hollywood vs. America