Friday, September 16, 2011

John C. Pew house – Frank Lloyd Wright

PewView

FLWPew3FLWPew2Elevated on its site to overlook Lake Mendota (". . .probably the only house in Madison, Wisconsin,” said Wright, “that recognizes beautiful Lake Mendota, my boyhood lake") this is a relatively early house in Wright’s mature “Usonian” style.

FLWPew4Built by Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship in 1940 for John and Ruth Pew using lapped cypress boards and local stone, it cost just US$7,850 (around US$120,000) in today’s diluted money).

They finally sold it in 1983, and it was sold again in 2006 -- for US$1.5 million.

FLWPew1

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Auckland Art Gallery

To my shame, I’m still yet to visit the new Auckland Art Gallery a week after its opening.

Everything I’ve seen about it suggests its one of the best uses of taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money since, well, ever.  (You know, if you are going to steal money out of people’s pockets, at least when you get a result like this you can’t grumble about the quality.)

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The ‘lost’ individual right

imageA guest post by Gen La Greca and Marsha Enright on “the ‘lost’ individual right.”

Constitution Day (September 17) commemorates the 1787 signing of the document that established the United States of America. But like the victim of a terrible accident, the government that was formed that historic day in Philadelphia is hardly recognizable today, and the heart that propelled it — the principle of individual rights — is on life support.

Ironically, what started as a government of radically limited powers now mandates that the nation’s schools “hold an educational program on the United States Constitution” on the holiday of its signing.

In fact, the best “educational program” comes from James Madison, the man who scoured political thought and history to create the blueprint for our government, earning him the title “father of the Constitution.” He has a crucial lesson for us on property rights.

To prepare for his lesson, let’s contrast today’s treatment of our First Amendment rights with that of property rights.

People would be shocked if the president of the United States said: “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough speeches,” or “you’ve given enough sermons” or “you’ve authored enough books.” Virtually all Americans would protest such remarks and boldly assert that it’s a free country, so they can say, preach or write whatever they please.

Yet the president can get away with saying: “I do think at a certain point, you’ve made enough money.” And he can get away with seizing and redistributing our money in order to “spread the wealth around,” with only a minority shouting in disbelief at the outrage. These dissenting voices have been unable to stop a century-long growth of the welfare state.

Consider the onslaught against property in recent years: The city of New London, Connecticut can seize Susette Kelo’s house and land to sell to a shopping mall developer. Congress appropriates billions of our dollars and redistributes them to the companies of its choice, including failing banks, auto manufacturers and solar panels producers. And businesspersons like Warren Buffet blithely suggest that the wealthy be taxed more.

Are these attacks on our possessions accepted because the right to property is a lesser right, one that isn’t inalienable like the others?

In his article “Property,” Madison emphatically says no. He explains that our right to property is as untouchable as our freedom of speech, press, religion and conscience. In fact, he views the concept of property as fundamental, pertaining to much more than merely our material possessions.

In the narrow sense, Madison says, “A man’s land, or merchandize, or money is called his property.” But in a wider sense,

“A man has a property in his opinions and the free communication of them … in his religious beliefs … in the safety and liberty of his person … in the free use of his faculties and free choice of the objects on which to employ them.”

He then concludes:

“[A]s a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”

This statement represents a profound expression of the individual’s sovereignty over his possessions of every kind: spiritual, intellectual and material. According to Madison, a human being is master of his mind and body, his beliefs and possessions, his person and property. It is all the province of the individual to create and control.

Madison argues that there is no parceling of rights. Our rights to life, liberty and property are indivisible. The reason for this was explained with unusual clarity by Ayn Rand two centuries later:

“The right to life is the source of all rights — and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life.”

Government, according to Madison, is “instituted to protect property of every sort,” and is judged solely by this yardstick:

“If the United States mean to obtain or deserve the full praise due to wise and just governments, they will equally respect the rights of property, and the property in rights.”

But what does our current government do? Instead of respecting our material property at least as well as it does our other rights, its redistribution of wealth, strangling regulations on business and deeply ingrained entitlement mentality are blatant assaults on our right to property. As Ronald Reagan famously remarked:

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

It’s as if Madison looked into the future as he observed:

“When an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected.”

That is precisely our current situation.

Today, the huge onslaught of regulations such as Dodd-Frank, Obamacare and the EPA’s controls on energy production has brought us almost to the point of economic paralysis. Buying and selling homes, as well as autos, has all but halted. Companies are hoarding cash and not hiring as they fearfully watch the latest attempts by government to control them. The stock market is epileptic, with seizures up and down triggered by the latest political and economic news. With these curtailments on our right to acquire, use and control our property in the economic realm, the very essence of our liberty — the right to free action — is lost.

Even worse, government’s violation of property rights isn’t limited to the economic realm. Because our rights are interconnected, it’s spreading to all aspects of life.

Consider the trial balloons we’ve already seen to limit free speech, such as the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” or “Net Neutrality.” Or consider the expanding government grip over deeply personal areas of our lives, such as regulations on what fats or sugars we eat, what physicians we see, what health insurance we buy, what treatments or drugs we’re allowed to have — and what our children may bring to school for lunch.

Because our rights can’t be divided, if we lose one, we could lose them all. That’s why we have to fight against government intrusion in the free market with the same moral certitude — and the same fire-in-the-belly — that we’d have if the government invaded our homes without a warrant, or forbade us to peacefully assemble. We have to treat the government’s encroachment on the economy as we would an encroachment on our opinions, beliefs and conscience.

On Constitution Day, let’s remember Madison’s lesson on the full meaning of property — and fight for our right to property as if our life depended on it, because it does.

Gen LaGreca is author of Noble Vision, an award-winning novel about the struggle for liberty in healthcare today. Marsha Familaro Enright is president of the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States.
This post originally appeared at The Daily Caller. It appears here by permission.

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Record covert taxes

Receipts from two of the government’s covert taxes have gone up in record numbers.

In 2009 they gave the courts power to confiscate property from folk before them, even without a person being  convicted. In the two years since they have taken from people art collections, vintage cars, homes, jewellery, boats and farms. $48 million worth of people’s assets stolen from them by the agency—i.e., the government—supposedly devoted to protecting them from theft.

And a few years before the government gave the police power to set up hidden speed cameras, which they’ve done in record numbers in a record number of places where speed has never been a factor in an accident. No surprise then that  in 2010, nearly 628,000 speed camera tickets were issued, almost twice as many as the year before. No surprise either that although National considered speed cameras to be revenue collection before the 2008 election, now they’re  the recipients of record revenues they’ve resiled.

Taxation is theft. Covert taxation is covert theft.  Just more examples then of a government (and a police force and justice system) more interested in doing us over than protecting us.

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America Invents No More

“Sure, free riders can have a great run, up to the
point that they run out of creators to steal from.”
- Lawrence Ebert, IPBIZ blog

You might be aware that the American Senate recently passed what it calls the “America Invents Act”—more accurately described by some as the America Invents-No-More Act, “which will stifle U.S. innovation, growth of new American businesses, and long-term job growth in America.” In short, it is a disaster.

This legislation should more appropriately be called the ‘Leahy-Smith Trade Secret Protection Act of 2011,’ because it will encourage and reward keeping America’s innovation and new discoveries secret.  This concept of secrecy attacks the very foundation of our patent system put into place by our Founding Fathers.

In response, our regular Guest Poster and patent specialist Dale Halling explains what real patent reform would have looked like, and why.

I have written a number of times on what real patent reform would actually accomplish.  One of the major problems with our patent system is that your rights stop at the border.  This is different than any other property right.  For instance, if I drive my car across the border into Canada, I still own my car.  If I drive my book across the border into Canada I still own both the physical version of my book and the copyrights to my book.  But, if I drive my invention across the border I no longer own my invention.  This situation existed for copyrights 150 years ago and it was recognized that there was no logical reason for copyrights to end at a countries border and it discouraged the publication of domestic authors.  The same is true of patents.

I suggest a system of reciprocity in which an inventor who obtains a patent in Canada, for example, has patent rights in the U.S. and vice versa.  This would decrease the duplication of efforts across patent offices around the world and significantly reducing the present backlog in the U.S. patent office.  More importantly, it would increase the value of a patent and increase the chance of obtaining funding for technology startups.

A friend of mine, Jim Lauffenburger, explains in practical terms why this important.  His company has found trade secrets to be a much more useful tool, because of the lack of patent reciprocity.

It is interesting that in my company, EM Microelectronics, the best method for protection is definitely keeping a secret, not filing for patent protection. (And keeping those secrets is extremely challenging and difficult.)

Why, you ask?
Because we are unable to enforce patent protection in Asia, and unable to prevent literal copying.

We spend man-decades of highly skilled (and expensive) engineering time to design a new IC. The IC goes into mass production in some successful product. It gets rapidly reverse engineered in Asia. Nearly direct copies of the part soon appear, and can be priced at only silicon-cost, without the huge development costs.

We visited several of these Asian “design centers” to ask them how they do it, under the guise of possibly utilizing their services. But even that guise was not really necessary, because they were proud of their “design method”: They do a layer-by-layer stripping and micro-photographs, and create a direct schematic from that. They convert the digital logic into standard cells, and then re-Place-and-Route using “their own IP” (the standard cells). For the analog portions, they use the layers as-is, but rotate or flip them 90 degrees so that it looks different. Then end result is what they claim is their own IC and their own IP, and it looks quite a bit different from our ICs. But, during that entire process they were simply “turning the copy crank”; not actually designing anything from concept.

Fighting this copying at a trademark level won’t work (it looks different). Fighting this at a patent level is extremely time consuming and expensive.

Thus, the only way to fight it is to try to hide features and make very special implementations that don’t work correctly in a layer-by-layer copy. (This of course, is very difficult, and expensive, and MUST be kept fully secret.)

This shows (to me) once again, that most of our law (and society) only works if the we all generally agree on the moral and ethical basis undergirding our actions and laws. Once that is lost, chaos follows. (And “messes get created” by all the reams of laws generated to try to make up for the lost ethical basis.)

While Jim’s company has made a logical decision under the present law, part of the reason for having a patent system is to encourage the spread of technical information.  Trade secrets inhibit this dissemination of technical information and slow down technological and economic progress.  The America Invents Act does nothing to solve this problem.

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Nobel Prize winner resigns–global temperatures "amazingly stable"

A Nobel Physics Prize winner has resigned from the American Physical Society over its decision to officially back the  warmist fiction promoted by assorted ragtag Nobel Peace Prize winners. Said Norwegian physicist Ivar Giaever in his resignation letter:

"In the APS, it is okay to discuss whether the mass of the proton changes over time and how a multi-universe behaves, but the evidence of global warming is incontrovertible?"
    "The claim (how can you measure the average temperature of the whole earth for a whole year?) is that the temperature has changed from ~288.0 to ~288.8 degree Kelvin in about 150 years, which (if true) means to me is that the temperature has been amazingly stable, and both human health and happiness have definitely improved in this 'warming' period."

Hard to argue with any of that.

In addition to Giaever, other prominent scientists have resigned recently from APS over its attempted of warnism from hypothesis to new religion. See: Prominent Physicist Hal Lewis Resigns from APS: 'Climategate was a fraud on a scale I have never seen... This is not science'

[Hat tip Jeff Perren]

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Spirit Level delusion: It’s not about the evidence

Whether you’ve noticed it or not, the chattering classes have been all abuzz over recent months about a book called The Spirit Level purporting  to demonstrate, by statistics aplenty, that places with less difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots” are happier places—where everyone lives longer, has better health and happiness, and has far more sex on Sundays.

The conclusions have been embraced here in EnZed.  “An unequal society is a sick society. It’s a simple, powerful idea,” enthuses the Double Standard: “These people’s work can not be dismissed,” says a hopeful Grant Robertson at Labour’s other blog. “It is important!” pontificates Scott Yorke at his. “It's to ideological politics what An Inconvenient Truth is to climate change,” assesses Tim Watkin accurately at the Pundit blog.   And Colin James, the country’s most stale pundit, wonders if the 300-page tome might not become  “a sort of guidebook for the next Labour ministry,” should there ever be one.

Now, the figures on which these hopeful conclusions are based have been solidly debunked as cherry-picking in books and reports like The Spirit Level Delusion: Fact Checking the Left's New Theory of Everything,  When Prophecy Fails: The Spirit Level and the Illusion of Scientific Socialism, The Spirit Illusion and Beware False Prophets.  As Luke Malpass  at Australia’s Center of Independent Studies point out,

the income statistics are faulty … the authors ignore some key countries which don’t fit their hypothesis … [and] ignore social indicators where equal countries tend to perform badly…
    The authors present a series of graphs plotting the income distribution in each country against selected social indicators, and in each case they claim to show problems getting worse as we move from less to more unequal countries.  In fact, however, most of their graphs show no such thing
.

Despite the huge disparity however between what the authors claim and what they can actually prove, the book has taken the whole world by storm, with one uncritical Guardian journalist, Polly Toynbee, calling co-author Richard Wilkinson “the 21st Century’s equivalent of Charles Darwin.” Charles Darwin!

In a sense however, Polly is right. Darwin used the evidential methodology of his day (observation and integration) to replace previous bogus theories with sound science. And now Wilkinson and his co-author are using the methodology of the post-modern age (fiddle and fudge)  to do the reverse.  As Chris Snowdon points out in his own book on the delusion, both Spirit Level authors have prior form in generating crap statistics to bolster shoddy politically-driven arguments. About which, and about the bogus figures, the chattering classes have no apparent interest.  Which is really the leitmotif of our postmodern 21st Century age, isn’t it: never mind the quality of the research as long as your conclusions are supported by those who can shout the loudest.  (Of such “research” are this century’s “Charles Darwins” undoubtedly going to be made.)

Or to put it bluntly, it’s not about the evidence. Because if it were, a few other things would arise.

Just consider for a moment an observation made by Ludwig von Mises:

"The European worker today lives under more favourable and more agreeable outward circumstances than the pharaoh of Egypt once did, in spite of the fact that the pharaoh commanded thousands of slaves, while the worker has nothing to depend on but the strength and skill of his hands."

Now any honest commentator would notice that, wouldn’t you think?  And anyone truly concerned with lifting up the “have-nots” would be trumpeting the system that raised from them and all of us from dirt-poor slavery to a time when virtually anyone can live better than the kings, pharaohs and pashas of the past ever did.  Even a day labourer these days has the capacity to live well, eat well, and have at his or her command a library of the world’s greatest books, a collection of the world’s greatest music, access to enjoy the greatest sporting contests on the planet, and the ability to sip ice-cold martinis while flying at enormous speeds ten-thousand feet above the Tasman. And that process didn’t happen because Karl Marx and his confreres got hold of the economy’s commanding heights.

So if its not about evidence or helping the “have-nots,” then what is it all about?

imageSimple. It’s about politics. And morality. It’s about using sacrifice to power politics, and the have-nots to build a power base.

The point was made by Andy Kessler in an interview about his book Eat People, when asked to explain why he repeatedly slams Obama’s hero Saul Alinsky:

Saul Alinsky was a community organizer who, in the early 70s, built a movement based on the disparity of the haves and have-nots, then have them elect someone to office who would take from the haves and give to the have-nots.

It’s not complicated. It’s not about evidence; it’s not about research; it’s certainly not about facts: it’s about building a power-base on the morality of sacrifice. (And as Yaron Brook and Don Watkins argue, “no system that treats you as other people’s servant can be called moral.”)

Because if it were really about helping the “have-nots,” the chattering classes wouldn’t be so excited about fudging figures about haves and “have-nots,” they’d be asking instead how someone becomes a “have” in the first place—which, if he does it right, is by driving productivity and thereby making us all wealthier—and doing everything they can to turn today’s “have-nots” into tomorrows “haves.”

But we see, however, by their embracing of bad statistics and their resolute intent to keep educational standards low (“Labour would ditch national standards” is this morning’s unerringly accurate headline), that helping have-nots become haves is not any part of their project.

Because if they got rid of the “have-nots” altogether, what then would happen to their power base?

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How to speak New Zillund

For the many foreign readers of this blog struggling to know what’s going on down at the park, here’s a handy guide put together by our Australian friends:

image

Alright? Got that?

And just in case any of our Australian friends missed the apology to their good selves from NZ’s Minister of Bad Manners, which is currently circulating around the interweb:

I would like to extend my heartfelt apologies to the members of the Australian Rugby Union contingent for my behaviour at the corporate facilities at North Harbour Stadium during the Wallabies’ frankly unconvincing win against Italy on Sunday.
    My conduct was unbecoming a government minister, let alone one charged with the duty of hosting overseas guests even if those overseas guests happen to be Australian.
    The barrage of abuse I hurled against not only the playing fifteen, but the very character of Australia and Australians — while at times hilarious and often technically accurate — was not acceptable, and for that I sincerely apologiSe.
    “Cheating convict scum” is not an expression I should have used.  If I had my time over again, I would allude to Australia’s past as a convict colony, along with its historical propensity to violate the rules and spirit of rugby, in a more dignified fashion.
    I have called James O’Connor — who I can confirm is absolutely not Justin Bieber’s gay twin — to apologise directly.  Similarly, I tweeted an apology to Quade Cooper — whose name is spelled Q-U-A-D-E and not Q-U-N-T as I may have implied a few dozen times on Sunday.
    Finally, to the catering staff at the box, I would like to thank them for their encouragement and occasional applause during this unfortunate episode. I will autograph the remainder of your drink coasters today and get them sent over right away.
    Thank you.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The jobs machine

Peter Cook shows How to Cure Unemployment with just a small sacrifice and a little push. For which, fast forward immediately to 2:05.

Or if you prefer, a short lecture first on the causes of unemployment. Obvious really, and no less insane than most of what you hear from around the cabinet table ...

[Hat tip Russell W.]

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iPad Atlas

atlasStarting today, iPad users can download an app for the book rated America’s second-most influential book after the Bible and described by the New York Times as "one of the most influential business books ever written" –a book that still sells 130,000 copies a year fifty years after publication.

The enhanced version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged that has been released by Penguin,

contains the text as well as manuscripts hand-written by Rand along with extracts from her journals.
    As befits the medium of the iPad as well as several photographs and the manuscripts, the app contains a number of video and audio recordings of the author that have been provided by the Ayn Rand Archives. In addition there are full length audio lectures and a look at the state of business and government in the lecture, “Is Atlas Shrugging?”
    To addd to the functionality there are a number of features that are aimed at the teaching environment plus articles on the author, her life and her philosophy: Objectivism.
    More information is available on the iTunes store (
Atlas Shrugged) or on the Penguin web page about the App release, which has a large amount of detail concerning the app as well as [ironically] a 52-second Flash video …

How cool is that!

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DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: It is, quite literally, a National-isation

_richardmcgrathYour weekly prescription of good hard sense from Libertarianz leader Dr Richard McGrath.
This week, how to stop MPs and immigrants from gouging NZ taxpayers.

  • NZ HERALD: “Waterfront move an 'overreaction'Auckland Council transport chair Mike Lee says Murray McCully’s move to nationalise Party Central is an over-reaction…

THE DOCTOR SAYS: For the first time I can remember, I find myself agreeing with Mike Lee. This National-led Government, voted in on the pretext of rolling back Clarkism, has turned instead into Blue Nanny, seizing control of the Auckland waterfront in a crude and blatant power-grab.
    It is, quite literally, a National-isation of Auckland’s crown jewels.
    And for what? To “create more space for partying.” So that more JAFAs can get pissed. Is that really a legitimate government activity? Should local or central government have even become involved in staging a pissup? Or a rugby tournament?  (Answers on a postcard, please.)  Because this, right here, is the logical outcome of having pollies plan your sporting contests.
    Politicians like Murray McCu**y and his National Socialist cohorts see a situation that has been screwed up by a simpleton (who Aucklanders must now be embarrassed at voting into the mayoralty). McCu**y seizes his opportunity, and with it Auckland’s transport, Auckland’s wharves and Auckland’s downtown, showering over the newly National-ised piss-up infrastructure yet another golden shower of taxpayer money.
    His plan? That one week after a ginormous 200,000-strong party, few, if any, punters will be willing to try repeating the experience anyway.  Ergo, pictures on Monday morning of Wellington’s shortest cabinet minister crowing over his “success” in quelling Auckland’s crowds.
    So what would a Libertarianz Party MP have suggested doing instead? Easy: have the politicians stay the hell out of the Rugby World Cup altogether; don’t give the IRB the power to shut down local businesses; leave the Rugby Union and Martin Snedden to organise their own tournament using their own money; Let the IRB subsidise them if needed. Leave private enterprise to organise the after-match piss-ups however and wherever they wanted. Why? Because how a person or group of people amuse themselves (provided they don’t hurt anyone who doesn’t want to be hurt) is none of John Key’s damned business.
    It may come as a surprise to McCu**y and even to many New Zealanders, but one of the core functions of government is not facilitating the kicking around of a pointy ball and the drinking of piss.
    However, my final prescription is this: forget the parasitic politicians for the next month or so and just enjoy this veritable feast of rugby. I know I will be trying to.

See you next week!
Doc McGrath

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I cover the waterfront

Today’s World Cup anthem.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten years after…

Both the horror and the loss of that September day ten years ago were brought back to all of us by the recent commemoration. The simple nobility of the ceremony and memorial at Ground Zero made the tragedy much more real again.

And with that, much more bitter.

Because the tragic site at which speeches were made and wives and children mourned was the scene of mass murder. Of a declaration of war. Of an intentional, ideologically motivated mass killing. Yet a decade after the greatest peacetime attack since Pearl Harbor, western troops are still carrying out “peace keeping” missions in its name in places that don’t want peace, put in harm’s way by leaders with no idea what they are really there for. 

Why this agonising slow bleed? Because if American (and western) reaction to it over the last ten years could be summed up in one sweeping leitmotif, says historian John Lewis, it would be this: Apologetic self-abnegation.

Attacked on our own soil and across the globe, we have refused to accept that the cause of the slaughter is the openly stated commitment of clerics, pundits, and political leaders to a barbaric ideology of religious war…
    To explain [the] aggression we search doggedly for evidence of our own malfeasance. We atone for our alleged sins by showering foreign dictatorships with money and the sanction of diplomatic discussions. We apologize for every dead civilian, even as the enemy hides behind defenseless children and flees into safe havens across foreign borders. We offer constitutional protections to murderers pledged to destroy our Constitution.
    Why are we doing this? What has brought us to this state? …  [Because] self-abnegation is the new path to atonement.
    This is the intellectual climate we have steeped in for decades. Is it any wonder that we are acting as these ideas demand?
    This is why, ten years after 9/11, we have not defeated the enemy that used hijacked airliners to murder thousands of Americans before our eyes…
    The deepest cause of this malady oozes out of the ideas that permeate our culture. Intellectually, we have refused to face the fact that we are at war and should act to end it quickly. Morally, we have denied all principles except one: moral goodness means self-sacrifice. Psychologically, we lack confidence in our efficacy, and have murdered our self-esteem by leaping into the quicksand of sacrifice. Politically, we are at perpetual war, because to win decisively would be an act of self-interest—and that is the one action we dare not take.
    These are the fruits of the philosophy of self-abnegation.

Self-abnegation is the west’s default position today.

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Government fiddling while house-buyers burn

Before the last election, National were going to “take aim” at house prices. They spent $10,000 on an overseas study on ways to “solve the problem.”  National's housing spokesman, Phil Heatley, “went to the United States and UK to study ways of resolving the predicament of steeply rising house prices blocking many people from owning a home.” Heatley identified “tight land supply” as “one of the factors which had driven up prices,” and said he “favours re-zoning more rural land for urban development.” All good stuff.

But this was before the last election.

Since then? Nothing.

Since then, we’ve had a Prime Minister confiding he’s quite happy about house prices becoming rapidly less affordable, because the price inflation problem (which he can control) will “fix” the leaky house problem (which he can’t).

Since then, we’ve had everyone from Canterbury to South Auckland still struggling to find serviced land on which to build a new house—and with tight land supply and rapidly increasing levies, charges and “contributions” forced on them by council, land developers have been unable to provide it.

Since then, we’ve discovered the National Government is a pack of lying hypocrites taking voters for fools, and Phil Heatley is a  blubbing woosie limpdick more interested in the baubles of office than battling for would-be new home-owners.

Since then, even Phil Goff has conceded that the single biggest cause of the affordable-housing problem is tight land supply (conceded reluctantly, under pressure, under questioning form a journalist who obviously gets it, bit concede it he did)—and relieving this supply stoppage is the best way to get earthquake-ravaged Cantabrians into new affordable homes.

And meanwhile, we have a Prime Minister who can offer only weasel words on Christchurch housing and land supply.

Prime Minister John Key responded by saying the government was dealing with the issue well.”

What a cock.  What an absolute weasel.

[Hat tip Hugh Pavletich]

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Montessori education is cool!

Montessori education is cool!  How cool? Well, here’s a smart new (short) video from “that FastDraw bloke” that does a pretty good job of explaining it. It’s all about following the child …

[Hat tip Maria Montessori Education Foundation]

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ECONOMICS FOR REAL PEOPLE: Are we nearing the end game of paper money?

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Here’s tonight’s invitation for you from our friends at the UoA Economics Group:

Hi all,

With Europe’s debt problems growing worse by the day, the prospects 
for Europe are bleak. Not that they are any better over the Atlantic 
where President Obama has just put forward a job’s plan that will 
only increase the massive deficit and add to its debt mountain.
    So where is all this headed?
    Tonight we will look at a view that this is the end game of the 
forty-year experiment with paper (fiat) money.
    What economic ideas lead to this view and if true, what should we 
expect over the next few years.
    Join us tonight as we discuss what is one of the most important 
topics of the year.

        Time: 6:00pm
        Date: Tuesday 13 September
        Location: Case Room 1, Level 0, UoA Business School

See you tonight!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

A tale of two parties [updated]

Guest post by Julian D.

What a night!

200,000 revellers filled downtown Auckland last Friday. They danced. They cheered. They were filled with life and spirit and the thrill of just being here!  This couldn’t be New Zealand, I thought, joining in. Surely a carnival in Brazil, or a World Cup victory party in Spain or Italy.

Have we ever seen such grand displays of joie de vivre in these normally stoic isles? Have we ever seen New Zealanders so thrilled—so openly excited—about being just being here. At this time. At this place. At this event.

These were people out making their own fun. I’m not talking about the folk in the government’s Slug (Cloud) on Queens’s Wharf or drinking down at the Viaduct. No, we were out there waving flags in Queen Street or dancing with random strangers in Quay Street--banging drums; waving whichever flag we found in our hands; dancing in the streets, or on tops of our cars, or on the roofs of bus shelters. It was entirely spontaneous. There was no outside organisation needed, just the freedom to get out and celebrate life.

What a sight!

After three years of depression and a year of hell for many, it sure as hell felt for a moment like this was nothing but the very best of times.

It was also the worst.

Because Friday’s story is a tale of two parties:

It was fun, it was excitement, it was dancing in the streets. And it was also people stuck in trains, closed off behind  red gates, and being rescued from ferries that failed to go. On the streets and in the city’s bars it was people organising their own pleasure and negotiating with  others of a similar mind. And elsewhere it was the incompetence of government to organise anything—even when they’ve got umpteen years and several hundred million of our dollars to do it with.

Something went wrong on Friday night, and something also went happily, gloriously. thunderously right. What went right was what you and I and every other private person and organisation put together. What went wrong is what always goes wrong: the stuff that governments tried (and failed) to organise.

The trains failed. The ferries failed. The “park-and-rides” and “fan zones” failed. Party central wasn’t big enough. The World Cup stadium wasn’t close enough. All of them failed because of decisions and blunders made by government. Let’s mention just some of them.

AUTHORITIES BACKED A STADIUM in the middle of a residential suburb-- far from the central city, away from its transport hub, miles from motorway connections and car parking facilities. A stadium at Carlaw Park close to the centre of the city and with plenty of room to expand would have had access, parking, and transport options aplenty (as was pointed out at the time here at Not PC).  A bedpan at the waterfront wouldn’t (as we saw from how poorly the waterfront handled Friday night’s throngs.  Eden Park couldn’t. It never could.

The disaster was predictable as soon as you realise the chosen location of the World Cup stadium—a 60,000-seat stadium surrounded on all sides by private houses—a situation deemed unsuitable worldwide for great stadia--was the decision that generated so many of the problems. But don’t expect the bureaucrats to consider the location of the venue away from the CBD and transport centres as a contributing factor when they write their promised reports.

AUTHORITIES ENCOURAGED FANS AND REVELLERS to take public transport. Encouraged? They made it a matter of national importance that everyone use public transport (everyone except for Mayor Len Brown, of course, who elected to drive to Eden Park so he “could be sure to arrive on time” with all the other car-using big-noters who helped pull the shambles together). At the same time, they discouraged individuals from using private transport by closing roads and imposing severe parking restrictions. This meant that a time-tested method of transport to Eden Park was foregone. Witness the lack of cars around Eden Park on the Friday night and near-empty car parks around Eden Park. (In one instance, a car park for 30 vehicles harboured one car only!). And yet this was not the biggest rugby crowd ever at Eden Park. That honour belonged to the 1956 All Blacks v South Africa game when 61,240 fans crowded into the park. I don’t recall hearing of people having problems getting to that game on time.

And it wasn’t even the biggest crowd at a central city event. We’ve had several hundred thousand enjoying Symphonies Under the Stars at the Domain, with all their friends and family around them, and getting there and home quite peacefully.  Or the Santa Parade in downtown.

Mind you, most of them went home in their own cars.

What failed was the authorities and their transport plan. It was a “plan,” if we can use that word, to use a rail network that struggles most days to move a few thousand folks over the whole day to move several tens of thousands of  fans –every single one of them desperate to get to the park on time. And yet, any train passenger in Auckland you ask knows that even the smallest incident often brings that network to a standstill. It was inevitable that with the pressure on the network in Friday a few problems would occur, and any one of those problems would cause havoc. Why are they so surprised by what happened? Are they that incompetent? And why did so many Aucklanders believe the bureaucrats when they said they’d have it all sorted?

WE SHOULDN’T EXPECT TO see any of these points mentioned in the official report.

We shouldn’t expect them to mention the empty motorways that meant it took just minutes to drive from one side of the city to another, while it was taking hours to move just one-hundred metres on the main rail line from Newmarket. 

We shouldn’t expect them to mention the privately-owned taxis, which whisked people to the game when the publicly-paid-for trains and buses couldn’t. We shouldn’t expect them to talk about the privately-owned downtown bars and bottle stores where you could easily get a drink, while people struggled to get near one in the government’s Slug—or you could easily find a TV screen to see the festivities, while they struggled in The Slug to see anything at all on the large screens that went resolutely blue screen for most of the hours of the game.

We won’t see any intelligent discussion at all, because any report that does eventually emerge (if isn’t suppressed altogether) will just be an exercise designed so bureaucrats can cover their arse, and the scum who were responsible for the shambles can use it as an excuse to pick our pockets again. (In fact, Len Brown already sounds positively excited knowing that he can use this shambles as justification to build a bigger train set in Auckland, even if he himself has no plans at all to use it when it matters.)

Of course they will ignore the most important lesson from Friday. And that is this: it seemed that wherever the government was, so were the problems. Wherever they were not, there were none.

That’s the real moral from Friday’s Tale of Two Parties. A Friday night that (for good reasons and bad) most of us will remember for the rest of our lives.

UPDATE: Owen McShane makes points in the comments worth noting:

This classic “group think” behaviour and decision making reflects the rail worship documented in “The Mythical Conception of Rail in Los Angeles.”
Rail mythology leads people to believe that rail solves all problems. It is a short trip from Len Brown saying of airport rail links “Build them and they will come” to “use rail and rail can respond”. There is no way a rail system can operate efficiently at one set of volume and then respond immediately to a four fold increase in demand. Trains are not silver bullets that can work miracles at the wave of a want. IT would take years to increase the capacity of the current network fourfold.
Any modelling of the convergence of people arriving into Britomart in huge numbers while huge numbers were trying to leave for Eden Park would have revealed that the rail system would fail. But the “mythical concept” is that rail solves all problems, and to admit doubt is a heresy. The Taxis of Auckland carry more public transport trips per year than rail ever will, but they were told they were not needed because rail and buses would cope.
Taxis are cars and hence ‘unblessed’.
Rail systems are inherently fragile and only seemed reliable were cars and buses weren’t.
Visions and Myths are no substitute for sound analysis.
The normal pattern is that the actual analysts and engineers etc. sound all the warning about the weakness of rail but are over ridden by the “myth makers”.. But when their predictions prove correct the engineers get the blame.

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