Saturday, December 22, 2012

It must be holiday time

I always like piling up my my holiday reading ready to pack.

Isn't it fortunate I can get most of it now on Kindle. But not all...

 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Oh look , it’s a pay rise…

Here’s what else John Key and Bill English* just dropped into your Christmas stocking this week: a pay rise for every MP. Every single one of them.

While many people struggle financially at Christmas, politicians will be enjoying early holiday cheer with a pay rise.
   
The independent Remuneration Authority has again made an end of year recommendation for a pay increase for the MPs.
   
Prime Minister John Key said said today he was comfortable with politicians getting more in their pay packets this year.

Arsehole.

While you and I get a tax rise from this creep—in a week in which they hope you won’t notice and won’t remember by next year—the overpaid Beehive bludgers give themselves a pay rise.  Perhaps as a reward for all their excellent work this year?  [Insert

What a fucking disgrace.

Oh yes, and their pay rise will be backdated, “giving politicians a Christmas lump sum.”

Words fail me.

* * * * *

* Don’t give me that bullshit about how the “Remuneration Authority” is “independent”—they’re about as independent as the Treasury, whose fictional projections of rapidly-falling unemployment and balanced budgets by 2014/15 would be laughable if not so obviously shilling for the government.  If Bill and John wanted the pay rise annulled, they could stop it by the flick of a pen. Instead, Key has “written back [to the Authority] saying in principle we're comfortable” with the recommended pay rise.

Is he really that desperate for MPs’ votes?

Carols by Flash Mob

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh look, it’s a new tax

Here’s what John Key and Bill English just dropped in your Christmas stocking: a new tax.

3 cents a litre on your petrol every year for the next three years to pay for the govt’s asphalt machine—that’s 9c a litre in total by 2015 on top of the petrol taxes they already fleece you for every time you go to the pump.* Plus increased road user charges for the next three years.**

Arseholes.

It’s been obvious to everyone with a calculator that unless it stops spending so goddamned much its pledge to be in surplus by 2014/15 is as likely as those “ongoing” and “substantial” tax cuts they bogusly promised to get elected in 2008.

This is really nothing more than a new tax to stop them driving over their own fiscal cliff. Which, unless they stop spending  so goddamned much,*** they will.

* * * * *

* Real price of petrol last time I checked was round $1.20 plus taxes, around one dollar being the cost of crude oil and 20c what the oil companies take to import, refine and distribute. All the rest already goes to the grey ones.
** And, since you’ve never seen a new tax yet that a govt hasn’t wanted to stick around and keep paying for its largesse, you just know these new taxes will be permanent.
*** Which is as near to a certainty as you ever get in politics.

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The 12 beers of Christmas

2102 was the year of craft beer—the year when craft beer was everywhere. Even in Lion Breweries’s portfolio.

So what was my own personal 12 beers of 2012—beers I noticed1—beers with a summery tinge2—beers above and beyond my usual favourites3—beers I’ll be making a special point to track down and consumer over the summer?

  1. Harrington’s ‘Rogue Hop’
    'An organic pilsener, this surprisingly hoppy pilsener is perfect for summer. Seen about in a few shops now in surprisingly affordable slabs. And if you’re visiting Christchurch, visit the brewery and load up some riggers to take home in your spare suitcase. I know I have.
  2. Garage Project’s ‘Day of the Dead’
    Why would you add chilli to a porter? You’d only ask that question before you’ve had one of these. The one exception to the rule that beer only has four ingredients.
  3. Yeastie Boys’sRex Attitude’
    A beer that truly grows on you, in every sense.  In 2012 it finally made itself indispensable.
  4. Little Creatures Pale Ale
    While bumptious NZ beers tried the extremes, Little Creatures kept making damn fine well-crafted pale ale. And in 2012, with Lion acquiring the company, you can suddenly find it in every good bottle store in the country. And even some of the bad ones.
  5. Epic ‘Message in a Bottle’
    If this is truly a recipe from days gone by, as the advertising argues, then it’s easy to see the days went by very well indeed. Hard to get, but worth the effort.
  6. Epic ‘Zythos’
    Another bumptious beer by the Hop Hooligan. I recently made the mistake of drinking an Epic Pale Ale straight after one of these. There are few other beers that can make an Epic Pale Ale taste ordinary. This is one.
  7. Emerson’s ‘Bookbinder’
    I discovered the perfectly-crafted session beer, and it is called Bookbinder. Well-tested now over several sessions (hic) I have hopes that with Emerson going mainstream you might soon find this everywhere. (One can hope.)
  8. Hallertau ‘Statesman’
    This is an old favourite I’m gratefully discovering on tap around the traps—most notably at Ponsonby’s Golden Dawn. So good it makes you want to suffer Ponsonby to enjoy it—or better yet, to drive to Riverhead to drink it straight from the brewery’s mouth.
  9. Mountain Goat India Pale Ale
    One I enjoyed in Melbourne this year.
  10. Feral Brewery’s ‘Hop Hog’
    Another Australian, the name says it all.
  11. 8 Wired ‘Fresh Hop Wired’
    Wow. The original hard-to-find-but-worth-the-effort.
  12. Leigh Sawmill ‘The Doctor’
    A flavourful fellow, I predict generous helpings fresh from the brewery door will adorn our Christmas table this year. And moisten much of the after-match. We will, after all, be just down the road…

Cheers, and what are your 12 beers of Christmas, 2o12?

1. Some for the first time, some I just noticed properly this time.
2. By which I means beers with a summery tinge that taste like beer. Which excludes your DB Summer Ale.
3. Take a bow Epic Pale Ale, Galbraith’s Resurrection, anything else by Renaissance or Three Boys…

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Jingle Bells

The only time you’ll ever hear it on this blog—and possibly the fastest you’ll ever see it performed…

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Quote of the day: On the reaction to a shooting

“’Tough cases make bad law,’ it is often said. I suggest
a corollary: extreme events make bad legislation.”

- Gene Callahan, “A*** L****, the Perfect Cypher upon Whom We Can Project Our Agendas

Will the catalyst be Japan?

Which country has the biggest government debt-t0-GDP ratio in the world?

Which country went into recession two decades ago, and has never really emerged?

Which country’s leader has signalled he intends to print money, QE to infinity, to monetise that debt?

The answer to all of these questions is not Greece, Spain or Italy. Nor is it the U.S.

It’s Japan.

With interest rates at zero and government debt more than double its GDP—and rising—and an aging population who have virtually denuded their savings in patriotically buying govt bonds, it has little hope of ever reducing that debt honestly, and no hope at all if interest rates ever rise.

Japan is the world champions at kicking the can down the road—zero interest rates and piling up govt debt for two decades in a desperate but vain attempt to create the “stimulus” theorists say should have resulted in prosperity—consuming capital and chewing up the pool of real savings like a shark at a city beach—producing only more debt, more “deflation,” falling wages, falling production, falling demand,  and two decades of stagnation.

And over the weekend, the Japanese election gave victory to the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, whose leader Shinzo Abe has for months been saying he will engage in quantitative easing beyond even the dreams of Bernard Hickey, printing paper money to monetise the debt and beyond—enough to turn “deflation” into raging inflation, and Japanese paper and government bonds into toilet paper.

‘He’s also on record as saying:

“he went into politics to help Japan ‘escape the postwar regime" and throw off the shackles of wartime guilt. In its place he has talked of creating a "beautiful Japan" defended by a strong military and guided by a new sense of national pride.

He also intends

to change the constitution to allow Japan to "have a proper military and defend its own territory, including every inch of Japan's sacred land and sea - including the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands”… Mr Abe belongs to that part of Japanese society that does not really believe Japan's wartime aggression against China and South East Asia was a crime.

The world is carefully poised for catastrophe. Something profoundly bad is going to happen somewhere to set it off.

Will the catalyst be Japan?

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Quoting on Auckland…

Phil McDermott on “A Flawed Case? Auckland’s City Rail Link Project

“One of the reasons as I understood it for creating a single Auckland Council was to reduce wasting money on uneconomic and unwarranted projects. Well, this obsession with the CRL simply demonstrates how a bigger council can make even bigger mistakes…”

I have still yet to hear a cogent reason for creating a super-sized bureaucracy in Auckland.

I don’t think one ever existed.

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Why? And how? [update 3

WHY?

THAT’S THE FIRST question everyone asked after another idiot committed suicide by massacre, shooting twenty-six adults and youngsters in cold blood in a school in Connecticut before—well, who the hell cares what happened to him after that. Twenty-six human beings died, and something non-human.

Why did he do it? Why do any of these random shooters do it? An email doing the rounds attributed* to Morgan Freeman (the modern American “voice of God”) has one answer:

This may sound cynical, but here's why.
    It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. [The Columbine murderers] are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.
    CNN's article says that if the body count "holds up", this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day-care center or a maternity ward next.
    You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.

Sound comments. As a news consumer myself, I’ve never found it hard to turn of the news at times like this.

And at this blog, I’ve always followed the policy of never naming murderers. Why give them the oxygen of publicity.

THE NEXT QUESTION EVERYONE was asking was How?

How can this be stopped from happening again? Answers were rolling in even before the mourning started, and well before facts started to come in. President Obama said “meaningful reform” must be enacted so it won’t happen again. Rep. Dianne Feinstein has a bill all ready to put to Congress in the first week of the next session, banning … something. And talking heads and talkback callers everywhere are calling for guns to be made harder to obtain, semi-automatic weapons to be banned,  gun licensing to be made harder the “gun culture” and gun ownership to be throttled by lawmakers bringing a clipboard to a gunfight.

Throttling gun cultures with more laws. Prohibition. This surely ignores that only the law-abiding listen to such laws. 

Newtown officials: Principal shot lunging at Adam LanzaAnd what have all the laws against guns in schools done but disarm everyone there—leaving defenceless the people who run them and all the youngsters they should be protecting, and telling murderers they get at least thirty minutes of safe shooting before any threat to their life is likely to arrive.

It is said that as the armed idiot roamed the corridors bravely killing unarmed six- and seven-year-olds, a very brave school principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung (right) charged him in a desperate attempt to stop him. She died in the attempt.

Imagine yourself in that position, desperate to save the children in your care and utterly powerless to do anything about it.

I wonder what you would have wanted in your hand when you confronted the gunman: a small handgun? or a clipboard?

* * *

*Probably incorrectly. But since Morgan Freeman is the name most Americans would come up with if asked to name the man to play the voice of God, he’s the obvious choice for the actual author(s) to pick.

UPDATE 1: Lenore Skenazy from Free Range Kids comments:

It’s impossible not to feel afraid, sad, sickened and deeply pessimistic when something like this occurs. However, “something like this” — well, there aren’t a lot of somethings like this, and that’s a truth I am desperately trying to remind my heavy soul. It may feel like “school shootings happen all the time,” but they don’t. They are rarer than rare. They are as unpredictable as anything can be. And if today we find ourselves making a mental list, “Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook,” that’s because they are few enough, in a country of 300 million, that we know their names.
    This does not mitigate our sorrow, but it can — with some effort — mitigate our fear. It is not to dismiss the parents’ pain that I encourage you to turn off the TV. It is to keep some perspective…

And she points out the deadliest school massacre in US history was in 1927—and why its aftermath matters now .

UPDATE 2: Foregoing the knee-jerk, Australian Tim Blair takes the wide perspective, observing there are both more guns in the US, and fewer deaths

There is always a bigger picture. In the case of the latest horrific US mass shooting, the bigger picture is this:
    There are around 310 million non-military firearms in the US, basically enough to equip every man, woman and child with a deadly weapon. Close to 5.5 million new firearms are produced within the US every single year – two million more than the entire amount of firearms owned by Australians. Another three million firearms are imported to the US annually. Nearly 50 per cent of Americans have at least one firearm in their house. The market for firearms has increased constantly since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, with Smith & Wesson expecting almost $400 million in gun sales during 2012.
    And the rate of firearm-related murders keeps falling.
    You read that correctly. As the number of guns in the US increases, the deaths keep going the other way. “The rate of gun-related murder and manslaughter fell 11 per cent from 2008 to 2010, the most recent year for which comparable statistics are available,” Businessweek reported in October. Moreover, “the gun-killing rate has fallen a total of
51.5 per cent since 1993.”

UPDATE 3: Fred Rogers talks about discussing tragic events in the news with kids, which at the moment encompasses everything from Newtown Connecticut to Apia, Samoa. It includes this piece of advice for all of us:

[Hat tip Noodle Food]

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