Thursday, November 27, 2014

"I've been wondering why it's taking twice as long to build a house now than it used to”

Why do we take these things for granted? 

Why have New Zealanders taken it lying down?

John is 78 years old. He spent most of his working life in the construction industry. He tells me there are still far too many elderly people [in Christchurch] who have not had their damaged houses fixed.
   This is a bloke who can look at how a house is being built and provide a real, educated assessment of the situation.
    "I've been wondering why it's taking twice as long to build a house now than it used to. We used to price a three-bedroom house on a timeframe of 400 to 600 hours. In those days everything was made on the job. We dug out the foundations with shovels, mixed the concrete on site, nailed up the frames and pitched the roof."
    "Now everything comes ready-made. All they do is set up the ready-made frames and fix the ready-made trusses. Everything is prefabricated. Yet despite this, it's taking six months or more to build a house. It is also often taking over 18 months to get to the building consent stage."

More of John’s story here.

More stories about why things take so long here.

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4 Houses You Couldn’t Build in New Zealand

Despite everything you’ve heard, New Zealand “enjoys” some of the most restrictive building regulation on the planet.

Here are four houses built “at the edge of the earth” that a NZ building inspector would love to get his hands on – every one breaking a rule (sometimes more than one) they wouldn’t be allowed to get away with here!

For which we are all the worse.

Can you spot the “illegalities” in each one?

WARNING: Not all rule-breaking shown in these photos. Head to the main story to see the story and full slideshow: ‘All the Possibilities: 4 Homes at the Edge of the Earth.’

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Quote of the day: "We can’t keep on blaming the white man."

‘In 1961, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a congregation in St. Louis. He challenged his black audience in a way that few black leaders, including President Obama, do today.
    ‘“Do you know that Negroes are 10 percent of the population of St. Louis and are responsible for 58 percent of its crimes?” he told a congregation. “We’ve got to face that. And we’ve got to do something about our moral standards.”
    ‘He also said that, “We know that there are many things wrong in the white world, but there are many things wrong in the black world, too. We can’t keep on blaming the white man. There are things we must do for ourselves.” …
    ‘No one is saying that raw racism is dead and buried. In a country of more than 300 million people that’s expecting too much. But white racism in 2013 is the least of the problems facing black America. Imagine if President Obama had said that. Imagine if the president would just take a fraction of the time he spends talking about renewable energy and the supposed great things that will come from ObamaCare, and use that precious time instead to echo the words of Martin Luther King. If he did that all Americans would be the better for it – especially young African American men.’
- Bernard Goldberg, from ‘What President Obama Left Out of His Talk on Race

[Hat tip TakingHayekSeriously]

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Sock puppets & the PM’s texts

If you want to go down the rabbit hole, read about “the person who –allegedly – leaked the details of Key’s recent text conversation with Slater.”

It’s possibly not who you think it is.

But it might be.

Money-Creation & Society

Well, let’s be honest, you don’t hear debates like this in any parliament normally, but we should.

Yet here we are in the mother of parliaments debating the destruction caused by the way money is now created.

“No one can argue prosperity has not increased [since 1974], but if distributional effects matter at all, one must ask “Who benefits?”

This was a backbench debate, which means that no vote is taken at the end and no laws are changed; it is simply an opportunity to discuss important policy issues outside of the government’s agenda.

Well done Steve Baker, MP!

NB: Not for everyone  (it is over two hours long) but given the almost unacknowledged impact of Quantitative Easing, and the destructive effect of modern money creation on house prices and the business cycle, perhaps the most important parliamentary debate of modern time.

Here’s a written summary for those short of time – and the full official transcript.

[Hat tip Rupert A.]

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"’Ullo, I recognise that ol’ leitmotif!"

When George Harrison was sued for plagiarising the Chiffons – when Men at Work were sued for plagiarising the melody of a Boy Scout song – when Radiohead are sued for plagiarising Albert Hammond, or Coldplay for plagiarising Joe Satriani -- the common response is “Look, there are only so many musical notes, chords and riffs that a person can string together into a song.”

But while that’s technically true, it’s practically just bollocks.

Because, practically speaking, the number of possible notes and chords you can can combine together to form a melody is … well, practically infinite.  The number of potential melodies within just one octave is:

image

So, a mere ten note melody will produce over 75 billion potential melodies of 13 notes within the octave! It's going to take [any] composer a while to work his way through those.

Add in rhythmic subtlety…..

There are around 82,500,000,000,000,000,000 melodies that are 10 notes long.
    That's a fair few to work through! A very rough approximation shows it's over 2.6 trillion years worth of material. And as mentioned at the start, this doesn't even begin to take into account the variations provided for by harmonisation, orchestration, tempo, or heavens above — bringing in a new counter melody!
    So I think the message is: there is no excuse for writers' block.

Or for musical plagiarism.

Or for borrowing this lousy boring turgid fricking earworm!!

Enjoy, legally:

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This 3-Question Quiz Predicts Whether You Believe in God

To quote philosopher Stephen Hicks, this quiz is “fun [with an] intriguing inference”:

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A question about NZ temperatures

So the answer is “temperatures in New Zealand have been plummeting since 1998, and are cooler now than they were 60 years ago.”

ScreenHunter_4788 Nov. 25 00.49

I’ll let you work out what the question is.

[Source Real Science, hat tip Climatism

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“The Real Reason Ferguson Burns”

The Real Reason Ferguson Burns, by Michael Hurd

In the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer for killing a black man, websites such as HuffingtonPost.com are offering commentaries under the heading of “Black Voices.”
    This title really struck me — as an indication of something wider and deeper that’s really, really wrong.
    What exactly is a “black” voice as opposed to a “white” voice, or any other non-black voice for that matter? Do black people think of their minds and reasoning process as specifically “black” reasoning?
    What if the Huffington Post titled a commentary section “white voices”? What kind of greeting do you think they’d receive? Of course, they’d never do such a thing because writing from the “white” perspective would seem (and would likely be) racist. It would imply that whites have their own way of looking at facts of reality, and perhaps (to some) it would insinuate that the “white” way of looking at things is the superior way.
    But we’re forgetting the definition of racism here…

Read on here.

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On political behaviour

If you’re trying to understand the ramifications of and behaviour behind all the various reports released yesterday then fear not, because Don Boudreaux has extracted a pertinent quote from Jonathan Haidt’s excellent 2012 book, The Righteous Mind:

Alpha-male chimps are not truly leaders of their groups.  They perform some public services, such as mediating conflicts.  But most of the time, they are better described as bullies who take what they want.

Politicians are not very far removed genetically from chimps, politics being “the province, not of civilized men and women but, rather, of brutes in suits.”

Understand now?

[Hat tip On Liberty Street]

Arthur C. Clarke explains the internet … in 1974

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke – for those who don’t know him, he was author of 2001: A Space Odyssey – describes the internet, telling Australian television that by 2001 every household will have a computer and be connected all over the world, allowing you to work and live wherever you like. “He’ll take it as much for granted as we take the telephone.”

[Hat tip Hilton H.]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quote of the Day: On National’s Security Service

“Not entirely convinced that the government really ought to be rushing through
stronger powers for the security apparatus until they've sorted out perhaps a few
better control mechanisms preventing partisan use of the security apparatus.”
- Eric Crampton, ‘No, sir, I don't like it

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#JohnKeyHistory: Peaceful Settlement? [updated]

The PM wasn't exactly right suggesting settlement in NZ was entirely peaceful -- although it was far more peaceful than western settlement elsewhere. (Just ask the Incas how they got on against the Spanish, for example.)

And this morning he’s been tangled up in ridiculous obfuscation between the meaning of the words “colonisation” and settlement,” opening himself up to mostly deserved ridicule.

One can only imagine he tried the defence of obfuscation at the behest of a spin doctor.

What would have been far more accurate to say would be that western settlement of NZ brought peace to NZ for the first time.

“War appears to be as old as mankind,” wrote jurist Henry Maine in the middle of the nineteenth century, “but peace is a modern invention.”1

The peace invented by the thinkers of the Enlightenment .. has been a common enough aspiration for visionaries throughout history, but it has been regarded by [western] political leaders as a practicable or even desirable goal only during the last two-hundred years.2

It was within that two-hundred year window in which westerners began arriving here.

Up to that point, peace had been absent from NZ since the first canoes arrived here. It came here with the culture that brought the Treaty.

The Treaty not only liberated the slaves – which describes virtually every Maori in the country back then, outside the tribal chiefs – it put an end to the vicious fratricidal warfare that had been going on ever since the seven canoes landed.

Two simple examples tell the story….

Click here to read more ... >>

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Five NEVERs of Self-Defence

From an email doing the rounds …

There are some things you must never do when confronted with an armed assailant. We mean never, ever, not because these events never end well, but because they usually don’t, and because violating these hard and fast rules takes the agency of your survival out of your own hands. You owe it to Adam and Eve and all the rest of your bloodline to preserve your life.

- #1: NEVER go with the assailant to a second location. Why do you think he wants you to go there? (There are actually several possibilities, but they’re all bad).

- #2: NEVER give up your gun. This standard Hollywood trope, where the hero gives up his gun because the villain is threatening Sweet Polly Purebred or whomever, and then manages to free them both through some brilliant stratagem, *only works in the hands of a trained and certified member of the Writers’ Guild.
Don’t let him have your gun: just “Let him have it.”

- #3: NEVER get in a car with someone threatening you with a gun, or even with someone who might threaten or harm you or who has an incentive to harm you.

Here’s what happens to real people who violate Nevers #1, #2 and #3, from the non-fiction movie The Onion Field (1979)… The Onion Field killings not only led to a great book and good movie (of which the above is a chilling excerpt), but they changed police training forever.
Now cops are told these Nevers. It shouldn’t just be cops who follow these rules: you should, too.

-*#4: NEVER let someone tie you up. He doesn’t mean you well to begin with, and you have just made the decision to outsource your survival to him. Being bound is an intermediate station of the cross on the way to dusty death for many homicide victims.
    Here’s what happens to real people who violated Never #4, a non-fiction scene (with dialogue perhaps fictionalized, although the male victim survived) from the fact-based movie Zodiac (2007). Start 2:18 in to focus on the tying-up business — and to see where it leads. You can slider forward to the start of the four-plus minute clip if you want to see where it leads.
    Always, fight or run. The cop who ran in the onion field survived, by finally doing something right after doing so many things wrong. Run away from the assailant. If you think he can run faster than you, jink and dodge, and use terrain, obstacles, and darkness. IF you think you’re faster, run straight away on the most level, smoothest ground you’ve got.
    What if he shoots at you? Consider this:

  1. 1. He probably won’t shoot. Shooting complicates his life, while yours is pretty simple at this point (Run, Forrest, run!).
  2. If he does shoot, he probably won’t hit. Most criminals can’t hit the broad side of a barn, from inside the barn. Contrary to their portrayal on TV, they’re not IDPA competitors who spend their spare time doing ball and dummy drills.
  3. If he does hit you, it probably won’t kill you. You are not out of the fight (or flight) until you give up. Which brings us to the encapsulation of all rules, the one rule to rule them all:

- #5: NEVER give up. Never give in. Never surrender. Run, fight, attack. In the aftermath of the Onion Field, LAPD Commissioner “Two-gun” Powers told his men to use any weapon they could, and pointed out that a #2 pencil can kill. (Exercise for the reader: how many ways can you kill someone with a sharp pencil? For extra credit: which way disables him fastest?)


From an email doing the rounds, and more via the Sunni and the Conspirators blog. If you know who wrote this originally, please let us know in comments. UPDATE: Possibly from the WeaponsMan blog originally. (Thanks Terry.)

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The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

Guest post by Patrick Michaels

“I am at war with the Perfect Planet Premise: the dogma that human impact can only make the
planet worse. Overwhelmingly it makes it better… The environmental benefits of using fossil
fuels far outweigh the risks. Fossil fuels don't take a naturally clean environment and make it
dirty; they take a naturally dirty environment and make it clean. They don't take a naturally safe
climate and make it dangerous; they take a naturally dangerous climate and make it ever safer.”
- Alex Epstein

Book Cover: The Moral Case for Fossil FuelsIn his new book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels energy expert Alex Epstein argues that we are only hearing one side of a critical story. We are taught to think only of the negatives of fossil fuels, not their positives — their ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for a world of seven billion people. The moral significance of cheap, reliable energy, Epstein illustrates, is woefully underrated. Energy enables us to improve nearly every single aspect of life, whether economic or environmental, and if we look at the big picture of fossil fuels compared with the alternatives, the impact of fossil fuels is to make the world a far better place.

Epstein confronts the most common myths about fossil fuels: they are dirty, unsustainable, and harm the developing world. Drawing on original insights and cutting-edge research, Epstein offers facts to the contrary. Fossil fuels take a naturally dirty environment and make it clean; they take a naturally dangerous climate and make it safer; the sun and wind are intermittent, unreliable fuels that always need backup from a reliable source of energy — usually fossil fuels; and, fossil fuels are the key to improving the quality of life for billions of people in the developing world. Calls to “get off fossil fuels” are calls to degrade the lives of innocent people who merely want the same opportunities we enjoy in the West.

Will The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels become the Silent Spring of its time? Decide for yourself after hearing Alex Epstein discuss this powerful, highly innovative book.


Patrick J. Michaels is the director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute.
This post first appeared at the Cato at Liberty blog.

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So why should we care about Sutton? [updated]

In our office, sexual harassment is marked out of 10. 

There are people who care about Roger Sutton, about Ian Rennie and Gery Brownlee the rest of the big-government crew drawn wriggling into the light by the complaint about Sutton, about the “debate” about sexual harassment it has supposedly begin and the “conversation” about state services procedures it has apparently inspired.

I am not among them. Nor is anyone around my office.

Sutton should be shamed not for what he allegedly did in the privacy of CERA’s Christchurch offices, but for what he and CERA’s officer’s have done to Christchurch.

If Sutton and his motley crew had simply sat on their hands that would have led to fewer complaints. They stuck them instead into everyone else’s business – achieving their apparent goal of all-but ending the business of business in central Christchurch.

Thank goodness then that there are businessmen around like Richard Driver who, while Sutton played games, got on with doing what Christchurch businesses urgently need: building buildings.

Click here to read more ... >>

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Just a wee mini-ramble

When American presidents still remembered how things work…

The wonders of division of labour.
Extreme commute: From New Zealand to rural Iceland – BBC

“The purpose of [Putin’s] media offensive isn’t so much to present an alternative point of view as to create a parallel reality where crackpots become experts and conspiracy theories offer explanations for the injustices of the world. The target audience is Western citizens skeptical of their own system of government. The goal is obfuscation.”
Putin waging information war in Ukraine worthy of George Orwell – Lucian Kim, REUTERS

Irony alert: Islamic State is set to become the only 'state' to back its currency with gold (silver and copper) as it unveils the new coins that will be used in an attempt to solidify its makeshift caliphate.
ISIS Unveils Its New Gold-Backed Currency To Remove Itself From "The Oppressors' Money System" – ZERO HEDGE

“The financial system is lurching towards the next round of the Great Crisis that began in 2007… Moreover, this time around, entire countries are on the verge of being bankrupt.”
The Next Round of the Great Crisis is Just Around the Corner – Phoenix Capital Research, ZERO HEDGE

Still no philosopher-kings out there, notes Stephen Hicks:

World leader education

“As Reuters comment: The 2030 target should be fairly easy to meet. By then, the most manufacturing-intensive phase of China’s development will be complete and hundreds of millions more people will have been lifted into the middle class. Emissions are likely to stabilise by that date even without the joint statement.”
Analysis: ‘What China have really agreed to’ – Marc Morano, CLIMATE DEPOT
Watch: Morano on TV on China deal: ‘There is nothing here. China agreed to a non-binding deal to peak their emissions around 2030 — which is happening anyway’ – Marc Morano, CLIMATE DEPOT

Alex Epstein: “I have come to believe that the moral case against fossil fuels is not only false, but is the exact opposite of the truth. Fossil fuels don’t take a clean environment and make it dirty, they take a dirty environment and make it clean. They don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous, they take a dangerous climate and make it safe. The industry doesn’t deplete resources, it creates resources out of once-useless raw materials.”

I confess, I’m one. This helped.
#Grubergate for Dummies  - POWERLINE

The dangers of hitchhikers.
Abe Listening to Krugman After Tokyo Limo Ride on Abenomics Fate – BLOOMBERG

It’s a common question…

“Mentions of Ayn Rand in the media show no sign of slowing down…”
Why Rand Still Matters – TIMES OF ISRAEL

“One of the underlying causes of the Great Recession and its abnormally slow recovery is a failure of leadership.”
America's Leadership Crisis--And Its Economic Implications  John Allison, FORBES

“When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it.” - Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart)
30 Quintessential Noir Films For Noirvember – BUZZFEED

“For almost 60 years, he has been offering up a cash reward to anyone who could demonstrate scientific evidence of paranormal activity, and no one had ever received a single penny. But he hates to see them lose, he said. ‘They’re always rationalizing…’”
The Unbelievable Skepticism of the Amazing Randi – NY TIMES

I don’t know about you, but my first thought was “Why!?”
Nasa Funahara Creates Colorful Replicas of Famous Paintings Using Masking Tape – SPOON & TOMAGO

“It is believed the men may have become radicalised after repeatedly watching southern cooking shows.  They may also have downloaded recipes and cooking tips from the internet and stored them on secure hard drives.”
Potential Major Culinary Outrage in North of England Foiled – VIZ

The modern hausfrau:

By 2106, up to 16 US states will likely have or be considering legalising marijuana. “Do these developments mean that full legalisation is inevitable?”
Why Congress Should Legalise Pot – Jeffrey Miron, CATO

Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time

It lives again!
Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Usonian' house rises again in Arkansas – THE ART NEWSPAPER

image

Hat tips Anoop Verma, Dakta Green, Jeff Perren Novelist, The Undercurrent, Samizdata, Archinect]

Quotes of the day: On deflation

imagePictures of people not buying due to falling prices

image

“Economists have come up with the bizarre concept that falling, or even stable, prices squelch demand and deter consumption. The idea is that if consumers know that something will cost less in the future (even if it's just 2% less) they will defer their purchases indefinitely, perhaps waiting for the cost of their desired product or service to approach zero. They argue that this can push an economy into a deflationary spiral of falling prices and diminished demand which may be impossible to escape.
    “But this idea ignores the time value of a product or service (people will tend to pay more for something they can enjoy sooner rather than later) and the economic law that shows how demand goes up as the price falls. But common sense has absolutely nothing to do with the current practice of economics. Instead, the dominant argument is that inflation is needed to seed the economy with demand. 
    “However, this argument is merely a smoke screen. The only thing that inflation can do is to help governments spend.”
- Peter Schiff, ‘Governments Need Inflation, Economies Don't

“Traditionally, deflation has been defined as a decrease of a supply of money which has previously been artificially inflated.”
- Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Deflation & Liberty

“There are two kinds of ‘deflation’: progressive and destructive. Central banks and their 'stabilisation' make the first impossible, and the second more likely.”
- Peter Cresswell

“Thanks to the spread of electricity and other such wonders in the final quarter of the 19th century, prices dwindled year by year at a rate of 1.5% to 2% per year. People didn’t call it deflation – they called it progress.”
- Jim Grant, ‘We’re in an Era of Central Bank Worship

“Deflation is usually thought to be a synonym for falling prices. There could be no more serious error in all of economics. Calling falling prices "deflation" results in a profound confusion between prosperity and depression. This is because the leading cause of falling prices is economic progress, whose essential feature is an increasing production and supply of goods and services, which, of course, operates to make prices fall.”
- George Reisman, ‘The Anatomy of Deflation

“Both deflation and inflation are … zero-sum games. But inflation is a secret rip-off and thus the perfect vehicle for the exploitation of a population through its (false) elites, whereas …the true crux of deflation is that it does not hide the redistribution going hand in hand with changes in the quantity of money. It entails visible misery for many people, to the benefit of equally visible winners. This starkly contrasts with inflation.”
- Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Deflation & Liberty

“As for mass unemployment: If there is a deflation, in the correct sense of a decrease in the quantity of money and/or volume of spending, then falling prices, so far from being the cause of deflation/depression are the way out of it. … Confused concepts result in catastrophic consequences.”
- George Reisman, ‘Deflation & the Gold Standard

“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
- Henry Hazlitt,’ Economics in One Lesson

“You should not be afraid of deflation. You should be afraid of policies attempting to fight it.”
- Mike “Mish” Shedlock, ‘Is Debt-Deflation Just Beginning?

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The One Statistic Climate Catastrophists Don’t Want You to Know

Guest post by Alex Epstein

Alex Epstein’s much-anticipated book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels has now been released by Penguin. Climate scientist Patrick Michaels reviewed it as, “simply the best popular-market book about climate, environmental policy, and energy that I have read.  Laymen and experts alike will be boggled by Epstein’s clarity.”
   “By explicitly holding human life as his standard of value, “ says reviewer Erin Connors, “Epstein argues that what makes the industry virtuous is its ability to improve the life of human beings. While other books may offer a defence of the industry by pointing to economic or political benefits, Epstein goes on offense and shows that the fossil fuel industry is actually good.”
    “We—the men and women in the fossil fuel industry—promote human flourishing.”
Here’s a small sample.


If you ever get asked the vague but morally-charged question “Do you believe in climate change?” someone is trying to put something over on you.

Climate change is a constant of nature and everyone agrees that fossil fuels have some impact on our naturally variable, volatile, and often vicious climate.

The question is whether change will have a catastrophic impact—one so bad it justifies restricting the only practical way to get energy in the foreseeable future to the 3 billion people who have next to none of it: fossil fuels. (No country relies on the sun and wind for energy, but rich countries can afford to pay tens or hundreds of billions to install and accommodate allegedly virtuous wind turbines and solar panels on their grids.)

The real issue is climate catastrophe. I’m not a climate-change sceptic. I’m a climate catastrophe sceptic—and here’s one graph that shows why you should be, too…

Click here to read more ... >>

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Japan’s Abenomics Death Spiral

The Berlin Wall hasn’t been the only near-scientific experiment in recent decades testing political and economic ideologies to destruction. As Peter Schiff writes in this Guest Post, in recent years Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe (pronounced Ar-Bay) has turned his country into a virtual petri dish of Keynesian ideas. The result, as even he has now had to concede -- and as has been reported many times here at NOT PC --  is a rolling economic disaster.

As Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has turned his country into a petri dish of Keynesian ideas, the trajectory of Japan's economy has much to teach us about the wisdom of those policies. And although the warning sirens are blasting at the highest volumes imaginable, few economists can hear the alarm.

Data out this week shows the Japanese economy returning to recession by contracting for the second straight quarter (and three out of the last four quarters). The conclusion reached by the Keynesian apologists is that the benefits of inflation caused by the monetary stimulus have been counteracted, temporarily, by the negative effects of inflation caused by taxes. This tortured logic should be a clear indication that the policies were flawed from the start.

Although the Japanese economy has been in paralysis for more than 20 years, things have gotten worse since December 2012 when Abe began his radical surgery. From the start, his primary goal has been to weaken the yen and create inflation. On that front, he has been a success…

Click here to read more ... >>

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NOT PJ: Sexist Pigs in Space

This week saw a perfect storm of spacefaring milestones, loud shirts, and crying. It was enough to bring Bernard Darnton (right) out of retirement.

Last week’s landing of the Philae spacecraft on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko gave us insights into not just the earliest epoch of the solar system but also the postmodern political universe.

Through the comet lander’s separation, descent, and landing sequence, project scientist Dr Matt Taylor gave a television interview explaining the progress of the spacecraft, its experiments and scientific goals. He concluded his interview by saying, “everyone should enjoy it because we’re making history.”

Not everyone enjoyed it. Because, as well as landing a robot spacecraft on a comet five hundred million kilometres away, he was also wearing a saucy shirt. Twitter, that bastion of reasoned debate, erupted in a shitstorm. Or #shirtstorm.

MattTaylorsShirt.jpg

The tweet at the eye of the storm was snarky, but not unhinged. Unhinged is where the debate quickly headed, aided by both man-hating identity-warriors, desperate to be offended, and woman-hating trolls, desperate to offend, a cyclone of artificial anger fuelled by artificial hurt.

Shortly afterwards, Taylor apologised. All of this would be understandable if Dr Taylor had actually done something nasty, like land his probe somewhere it wasn’t wanted. Instead, he is guilty of that most modern of crimes, wearing an amusing shirt. Or, more to the point, a very unamusing, oppressive, patriarchy-reinforcing shirt that tells girls they’re not welcome in science.

By the way: if you want one of your own, you’ll have to make it yourself but you can order the fabric on the web. If it’s men you’d rather objectify this Christmas, there are plenty of other pin-up fabric options for the lady or out-and-proud homosexual in your life. The International Union of Lesbian Rocket Scientists is split between those who want to order a souvenir set of sexy shirts and those standing with their Twitter sisters, who are not gonna take it any more.

Closer to home, another sexist pig got his comeuppance on Monday. Roger Sutton was forced to resign as head of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. You’d think it would be because, four years after the earthquake, Christchurch still looks like the surface of a comet, five hundred million kilometres from civilisation. But no. Sutton is supposedly guilty of calling a senior CERA staff member “sweetie.”

Chch_CentralLibrarySite1.jpg

That doesn’t sound like a firing offence to me and rumours of worse are swirling. But even if Roger Sutton were actually Jack the Ripper, and what we’ve seen were a plea bargain down to the lesser charge of ‘male patronises female,’ the fact that this justification can be used with a straight face is telling. It’s supposed to sound reasonable that calling someone “sweetie” is a resignation offence. The zeitgeist quote from the Stuff article: “I will become a better person. I'm going to tell fewer jokes.”

Offence-taking has become a trump card in modern political debate, an attempt to silence dissent. But it shouldn’t be. Claiming to be offended is just whining, and in the words of Stephen Fry, “so fucking what?”

There’s nothing wrong with saying what you think about a political or religious claim, a dirty joke, or a comedy shirt, but it should be the start of a debate, not the end. Rose Eveleth’s initial criticism could have started that debate: is the dearth of women in science and technology due to Matt Taylor’s shirt? No, of course it bloody isn’t.

But, more interestingly, is there a dearth of women in science and technology? Does it matter? Is there a gender bias in science? How do three-year-old girls who want to know how everything works turn into sixteen-year-old girls with no desire to attend a physics class? And just how casual are casual Fridays at the European Space Agency?

Those who leap to offence don’t care about actually answering the complex questions and today we’d rather judge people on trivia than their real achievements.

It doesn’t matter whether you oversee the exploration of a comet left over from the formation of the solar system, or whether you oversee the smothering of a city that was already on its knees, success or failure in your chosen path is irrelevant in today’s sensitive, censorious society. Just maintain the inoffensive veneer, sweetie.


Bernard Darnton writes regularly for NOT PC. He promises.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spin

Sorry to be away so long. Been busy.

But the news of Labour’s new leader so excited me I felt I had to return!

No, not really. I’m about as inspired by him as everyone else has been. Which apparently isn’t very much.

Even Russell Brown is underwhelmed, blogging before catching a plane that

Labour's leadership result and the means by which it was achieved both seem disastrous for the party and for the prospects of the centre-left.
    Little didn't win the support of the party or the caucus, he loses his electorate more badly every time he contests it, and he's vowing to dump all the intellectual capital built up by David Parker. I can't see any good thing about this.

The comment is made more underwhelming still by observing that anyone who has formed the view David Parker has amassed “intellectual capital” is already fairly easily excited.

Mind you, even Red  John Minto is underwhelmed, reckoning Little election foreshadows

a Labour Party which seeks power not because it has a policy programme to make a big difference for working New Zealanders but because senior Labour MPs hope they will soon get another turn to run the free market economy and receive the baubles of power which go with it.

Not all bad then. And maybe some truth there emerging there from a somewhat jaundiced direction.

Mind you, the spin that Little was only voted in by union delegates is not quite true, not if you look at the third ballot anyway.

The man almost got a majority in his caucus.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Q: So why aren’t ordinary people earning more money? A: The dismal failure of the Keynesian Consensus

Bill Bonner

American voters don’t like the Republicans any better than they like the Democrats. But last week, Obama and the Dems were held responsible for the economy.
    They got off easy. A hanging would have been more appropriate.
    We have mentioned many times how U.S. median household income is now lower than it was when the 21st century began. The median household had $57,000 in income when the big ball came down in Times Square and closed out the 20th century. Today, it has $52,000.
    Stocks are substantially higher. So are corporate profits. So why aren’t ordinary people earning more money?
    After all, we live in the greatest economy man has ever created. More people have more money than ever before. So there’s plenty of capital to fund new enterprises.
    Also, more people have college degrees. So there’s no shortage of educated people to fill office seats. And there are more scientists and engineers busy developing new drugs, new machines and new chemicals.
    The economy should be exploding with growth, jobs and higher incomes for everyone.
    And don’t forget there are more people than ever before whose explicit role in our economy is to make things better – more government agencies, more programs and more bureaucrats…. 
    Surely the combined efforts of so many smart people have resulted in a better economy?
    Apparently not.

Instead of producing general prosperity, their combined efforts have instead concentrated it.

Since 1979, incomes of the top 1% have gone up three times. But when you get down to the average American, his income has gone down over the last 35 years. At the bottom – where you find the poorest 20% of the population – incomes have gone down an unbelievable 60%….
    For some, the frustration is unbearable. In 2001, about 16 men out of every 100,000 killed themselves. Now, the figure is 25 out of every 100,000 – a 56% increase.
“Stimulus” Claptrap
   
You’d think this kind of feedback would force economists and politicians to take notice. They might want to reconsider the policies of the last few decades…

Read more at ‘The Keynesian Consensus Has Been a Dismal Failure.’

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So just how much do “adjustments” adjust down the CPI? [updated]

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used as a benchmark for policymaker’s worldwide and influences trillions in payments, including:

  • calculating cost-of-living adjustments
  • deciding on central bank interest-rate rises, and changes (or not) in LVRs
  • calculating payments on inflation-protected securities
  • determining pay-bands in public and private entities
  • cost-of-living adjustments to collective bargaining agreements
  • determining tax brackets and numerous tax-related levels (exemptions, for example)

Since economists are largely concerned with “real” prices (actual prices scaled by inflation as measured by the CPI), any error in the calculation of real prices introduces a bias that propagates to every corner of economic thought. This is a central flaw in economics that largely explains the gap between actual human experiences (“Wow! Things are expensive!”) with central bankers gambling our collective future on fighting “deflation.”

Yet while just a 1 percent difference in the CPI makes a trillion dollar difference in these changes and payments, the adjustments made in calculating the CPI are too often simply taken for granted.

The biggest change is probably what’s called Hedonic Quality Adjustments, wherein raw price data is manipulated so that  large increases in the actual prices of certain products can be transformed into decreasing prices when calculating the Consumer Price Index – and even a 400% price increase can be transformed into a 7.1% Decline.

So just how much do “adjustments” adjust down the CPI?

… today we will look at an index compiled by PriceStats, an off-shoot of MIT’s Billion Prices Project, which scrapes the internet for prices and compiles a daily index that aims to track inflation in real-time.
    The time series eschews
hedonic and seasonal adjustments and relies on sampling over 5 million products to produce a very different look at inflation (US official CPI included for comparison):

Since starting calculation of the index in mid-2008, PriceStats inflation series has remained consistently above the official US CPI. Considering the differences in methodology this provides an estimate to how much Hedonic Quality Adjustments have been used to understate the head-line CPI figures.

UPDATE: To keep the perspective on just how much the price of technology is falling – how dramatic the fall -- check out the cost of computing power equal to an iPad 2 through the decades:

Graph showing the falling cost of computer power

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Quote of the Day: ‘In the modern age war is futile…’

“In the modern age war [is] futile because the winning power would gain nothing by it. In the economically interdependent world of the twentieth century, even powerful nations needed trading partners and a stable and prosperous world in which to find markets, resources, and places for investment.
    “To plunder defeated enemies and reduce them to penury would only hurt the winners. If, on the other hand, the victor decided to encourage the defeated to prosper and grow, what would have been the point of a war in the first place? Say …  that Germany were to take over Europe. Would Germany then set out to ransack its conquests? 
    “‘But that would be suicidal. Where would her big industrial population find their markets? If she set out to develop and enrich the component parts, these would become merely efficient competitors, and she need not have undertaken the costliest war of history to arrive at that result. This is the paradox, the futility of conquest – the great illusion which the history of [the British] Empire so well illustrates.’
    “The British, [so argued Norman Angell], had kept their empire together by allowing their separate colonies, notably the dominions, to flourish so that all had benefited together – and without wasteful conflict.
    ‘If the Statesmen of Europe could lay on one side, for a moment, the irrelevant considerations which cloud their minds, they would see that the direct cost of acquisition by force must in these circumstances necessarily exceed in value the property acquired.’”

- Margaret MacMillan, The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War

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First image from a comet!

image

It doesn‘t look like much of a photograph, but just think about where it was taken!

This is the amazing first image from the Philae lander as it drops away from the Rosetta spacecraft on its journey to land on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the most daring robotic space landing everMovie Camera.
    The body of Rosetta is in the upper right-hand corner of the image, with its solar panel stretching into the centre of the frame. The sun peeks in from the left, blanked out at the middle where its brightness overwhelms the camera.

Read more at New Scientist: ‘First image from comet lander as it drops to surface.’

And the Guardian: ‘Rosetta comet landing: everything you need to know.’

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Quote of the Day: On Inflation

“The definition of inflation as rising prices says absolutely
nothing about any specific cause of rising prices. It implies,
therefore, that inflation can be caused by anything that
raises prices. Having accepted this definition, it is no
wonder that people are confused about inflation.”
- George Reisman, Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics

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“Abenomics” is testing nonsense to destruction

Japan’s irrational terror of “deflation” encouraged Japanese voters to favour Prime Minister Abe’s experiment with “reflation”—an experiment being performed on an unprecedented scale.

Economist Ludwig Von Mises used to say trying to “reflate” the money supply after a catastrophic deflation was like reversing your car over someone after just running them down, and thinking that would make them feel better.

“Abenomics” is testing that to destruction.

Japan is where the Keynesian economic model rubber hit the road. In April 2013, the Bank of Japan announced a staggering $1.4 trillion QE program.
    In today’s world of Central Banking madness, $1.4 trillion no longer sounds like an insane amount. So let me put this number into perspective…
    $1.4 trillion is…

  1. The equivalent of 24% of Japan’s total annual economic output.
  2. Enough to fly every human being in Japan to California for a 2-week vacation.
  3. The equivalent of writing a check for $11,200 to every man, woman, and child in Japan.

Moreover, with $1.4 trillion, you could…

  1. Buy Australia’s entire economic output for a year.
  2. Fund NASA for the next 82 years.
  3. Treat every person on the planet to a $200 five-star dinner at one of New York’s top restaurants.

imageThe program however has been a complete failure. Japan’s GDP growth accelerated for only two quarters before turning down again. The misery index in Japan has hit a 33-year high as households were crushed by rising prices.
    Even exports, which were supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of a weakening Yen, have tanked. According to CLSA, real exports remain 16% below the 2008 peak in real terms. Sony, the once great electronics giant of Japan slashed its profit outlook by 70% and cancelled its dividend for the first time in
50 years.
   
In simple terms, Abenomics has failed to revitalise Japan. In very specific terms, a single QE program equal to over 24% of Japan’s GDP FAILED to generate sustainable growth in GDP, jobs, or even exports.
    So what did the Bank of Japan do?
    It increased its QE efforts.
    It is now clear that Central Banks will do absolutely anything but admit failure.

Anything but challenge their faith-based model.

When evidence meets faith, it doesn’t stand a chance.
    When a year and a half of aggressive quantitative easing failed to produce a recovery in private demand for funds, the government should have realized that the answer to the economy’s problems was not in monetary policy and shifted its focus to the second and third arrows of Abenomics.
    But the reflationists in academia and bureaucracy who are unable to accept that monetary policy is powerless in a balance sheet recession have basically said that if one pill doesn’t cure the patient, try two, and if two don’t work try four, 16, 256....
    Most patients would start to question the doctor’s diagnosis before they agreed to swallow 256 pills. But such voices have been erased from Japan’s policy debate….
     For those who believe monetary policy is always effective, no amount of evidence that there are times when monetary policy does not work will convince them otherwise.

Ironically, instead of boosting the economy, Abe's latest lunacy will merely lead to even greater Japanese economic devastation and the inevitable quadruple dip. That, or an outright economic depression, one from which the country will not emerge.

Oh, and from the Herald this morning: ‘NZ dollar soars to 7-year high against weak yen.’

“Soaring” being a relative thing in a currency war.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

We will remember them

History’s most disastrous, most tragic, most pointless mass slaughter finally ground to a halt on the 11th hour of the 11th month of the Year of Destruction 1918.

“Utterly incredible,” confided Arthur Ponsonby to his diary on 13 August 1914 …

The long expected European war has come. A dozen or so diplomats, a score of ministers, and two or three monarchs have been offending one another, so to make things straight they have ordered out millions of peaceful citizens to go and get massacred. The Government have been telling us lies and we believed them. We were committed and we did not know it, so without being attacked or our own interests in any way threatened we joined in. It is an end of Liberalism, of social reform, of progress itself for the moment. And no one can see what the future has in store.1

This year the Tower of London put on an extraordinary display to commemorate just some of those slaughtered millions: 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each Commonwealth soldier killed in World War I, filling the moat surrounding the Tower. And each evening, during the weeks leading up to Britain’s Remembrance Sunday, someone would read a list of some of the World War I dead. The picture above shows what the Tower looks like now.

Each one of them representing a human life snuffed out.

If there had been a poppy for all the sixteen million souls snuffed out during the mass slaughter,2 and another 100 million more for the souls taken in the following influenza epidemic3, the ceramic poppies would have buried the tower and the reading would have taken not just a few weeks, but more than thirty years – around the time it took for the forces this war unleashed  to embark on another Great War that unleashed many more destructive forces, killing many millions more.

Those dozen or so diplomats, score of ministers, and two or three monarchs still have an awful lot to answer for.


1. Quoted in Hell-Bent: Australia's leap into the Great War, by Douglas Newton
2. Ref: ‘World War I casualties’ – Princeton.Edu
3. Ref: “1918 flu pandemic” – Wikipedia

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Berlin Wall: Weasel Vs Hawk

Andrew BatesWas it some kind of "collective will" that caused the Berlin Wall to fall, or some kind of individual agency that pushed it over? Our guest poster Andrew Bates characterises the makers of these two arguments as Weasels and Hawks respectively.

London’s normally excellent paper City AM also publishes a fellow called Dr John C Hulsman, described as “a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations,” and a political consultant “explaining American politics and policy to the wider world, while also assessing the broad contours of the new multi-polar era we find ourselves in.” In other words, a long-time member of the Weasel vanguard.

For the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, City AM have published Hulsman’s take on ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’: “The weary West,” he says, “has forgotten how it won the Cold War.”

Mark Steyn has also written an essay to commemorate the occasion, ‘The Will to Fell.’ Steyn could fairly be called a Hawk.

Click here to read more ... >>

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