Friday, September 30, 2005

Happiness through exercise of Intellect

Found this (circuitously) from Leighton Smith's well-organised web site (asp's, no less). The money quote (got to stop using that phrase - ed. OK, boss):

"If happiness comes from a sense of competence and efficacy, the welfare state is worse than a lottery. If the welfare state does what it is supposed to do, abolish problems and risks and guarantee a certain material result whatever we do, then it deprives us of many of our challenges and our responsibilities. That actions have consequences, both rewards and punishments, is not just good because it helps us make better decisions, it is also important because it gives us the sense of control. Without this direct feedback our sense of hopelessness and frustration grows."

Just wander to down the nearest ghetto Glorious State Housing area (if you dare) to get a taste of the aforesaid hopelessness and frustration.

And then move right along. Couldn't possibly be such a linkage. Nothing to see here. Glorious Leader has said so!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fisking Nipper(t)

Matt Nippert is a young Lefty (what else?) journalist at the Listener and has an article in this weeks' issue. Fisking this is the old story - fish - barrel - shoot. But someone has to do it.

His Hitchens vs Galloway debate reportage seems to have been penned from the point of view of a fellow brawler.

The page was titled "Celebrity punch-up" Oh please.

The debate was like Margaret Atwood vs Pamela Andersen, held at Hooters. That is: a total mis-match, viewed from nothing but partisan seats. Far from 'meeting his match', as Nippert's sub-head has it, Hitchens outclassed both his opponent and the crowd.

Hitchens is a frequent contributor to Atlantic Monthly (a publication with rather discerning editorial tastes), has a long and erudite publication list, and has for most of his life been an ardent and articulate supporter of the Left. And that, rather than being a 'gung-ho ally of the neocons', Hitchens has been a long-time supporter of the Kurds, and has heavily critised aspects of the Iraq war.

Nippert could have reported, to balance the ledger, that George Galloway stands accused of Oil-for-Fraud bribes via the Mariam Appeal, has called for a jihad on British troops, and was expelled from the British Labour Party for that act. He could have reported that Galloway gained his Parliamentary seat of Bethnal Green and Bow from Oona King, a long-time critic of Saddam Hussein, partly by a populist appeal to local militant Islamists, but also by a whispering campaign against King based on her sex and her African/Jewish ethnicities.

In fact, Nippert would probably have been better to just point to this rather better article about the debate, from another Leftie but somewhat more well-regarded rag.

Instead of just apparently cutting and pasting the juicy bits.

In fact, he missed a nice ending quote from the Granuardi piece, so I'll do the honours:

"So it was left to the market to decide. A post-event book signing was convened and it was noticeable that the queue was almost twice as long to see Hitchens."

Germany, Canada and lil' ol' NZ.....

David Warren has another swipe at the management of long-term decline: the money quote:

"The SPD is to Germany as the Liberals to Canada: the party to manage national decline. The long-term success of each has depended on turning "voters" gradually into "clients". From the humblest welfare recipients, up to big businessmen whose fortunes depend on sweetheart regulatory arrangements, each party pitches itself, as crassly as necessary, to the beneficiaries of state largesse. Their supporters therefore become quite inured to massive corruption, and revelations of ineptitude -- and remain so, as long as they are guaranteed preferred access to the government trough.

The intention of such governments is not to run the economy into the ground, nor even to destroy the moral order through experiments in social engineering. That is simply the natural consequence of their way of doing business. "

Does this guy have Labour Party HQ miked and wire-tapped, or what?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

About that German election

As usual, Mark Steyn draws an apt analogy. Now consider our own fair situation once we hook up all those viable wombs hard-working families to the welfare teat of Nanny State carefully crafted policy of Working For Families.

Then ask them to vote.

Possibly for some party or other that proposes to wrench the teat away for the greater good or even just economic sustainability.

Ho hum, it's Tui time. Tax minimisation time, anyone? Vote-with-feet time? This whole election bribe is certainly a powerful perverse incentive to negative wealth generation.

Looks up, cups hands to industrially deaf ear, why, is that the sound of fiscal pigeons coming home to roost?

Listening to

As little TV and radio as possible. The shallowness of what passes for dear little NZ's public political commentary is just too much. The blogs, of course, rule as always. I tend to read financial papers' analyses (Australian Financial Review, Independent, Financial Times) to get a nuanced and intelligent picture.

Which is not looking too pretty, frankly; we are in for another three years of a redistributionist, lame-duck gummint about to encounter a perfect storm:

- Labour and its coalition partners (whoever they turn out to be, and for how long) are effectively shorn of a political mandate by the near-enough 50/50 split between social engineers of any breed and those interested in individual rights, freedoms and responsibilities. There will be considerable social resistance to further meddling, nanny-state-ing, and tribalism.

- And at the end of three long years (or maybe much sooner) Labour will lose office, for certain. Why?

- There is an economic storm brewing, composed of about equal parts external shocks (commodity prices, oil, energy) and internal mismanagement (energy and transport infrastructure provision, industrial relations expectations, welfare entitlement expectations), all considerably highlighted during the election campaign. These are not well managed by even conventional centre-right gummints, let alone leftish ones.

- The Minister of Finance is comprehensively discredited. Hid a bag of goodies under a Budget carpet, claimed they weren't there (oh, no room for Tax Cuts!) then flourished them with glee at key points during election campaigning. Financiers take a dim view of such obfustication. The MoF will have a long, torrid three years.

- Election bribes will cost dearly - Student Loans at 0% interest (you heard that right - and so has practically every arbitrageur in the First World) is costed by Treasury at close to $NZD1 billion.

- Existing financial cock-ups will cost more too: Kyoto was costed at roughly $USD15-20 per carbon tonne, but current world trading prices are close to twice that. So a $NZD 600m credit has turned into close to $NZD 2 billion debit. Funded by You Know Who.

- Turning working families into welfare beneficiaries is not going to do wonders for entrepreneurship or wealth generation generally. The signals are confused, and the deadweight inherent in getting, counting, redistributing taxes is considerable. And think of the stigma in waiting to apply for some of your own money back, in WINZ queues with hoodies, druggies, buskers and assorted rent-a-scum!

- There will be a vigourous, vocal and high-business-IQ Opposition snapping at the heels of every Gummint initiative, action, perk, slip-up, and SNAFU. The election campaign for the Centre-Right has effectively started now.

- The public at large has heard (if not acted on) a key message about tax - "Hey, that was My money first!" This will continue to grumble away in tax-payers' gizzards, and may have some surprising and unpleasant results during the term.

So after three inglorious years, during which time a fragile, electorally barely-sanctioned gummint muddles its lonely way through this swamp, all it will have to show for it is exhaustion, a more completely demonstrated lack of competence, an ecomony several clicks further down the OECD scale, and a greatly deepened resentment amongst voters. Who will then vote for? Anyone But Labour......

For a working example of what this looks like, read almost anything about Germany.

So even though I'm tempted to break out the 2005 Schadenfreude, I do have to remind myself that this is My country I'd be toasting.

So back to the title of this rant: I'm listening to Marta Topferova - Czech, gorgeous contralto voice, best harp playing I've heard in my life. And soon to be experienced with a replacement speaker set-up: budget price but decent sounds - KEF Q1's bookshelfs, and a little KEF PSW1000 subwoofer in the corner to round out the bass a bit. The great big ol' Infinity RS4001's move to the B speaker wires - they are sounding quite flat now.

A Czech, singing South American genres, in flawless Spanish. A telling line from one of the reviews: She is living proof that gaining a deep spiritual connection with a country and its music does not require hereditary ties .

Tell that to the new tribalists.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Metal in Melbourne

Back in the glorious city (and a great boutique hotel) for a whole week, in the implementation phase of a leetle project. Let no-one kid you: replacing a core system is like tuning a running engine: it's hard not to get your fingers in the fan. 'Nuff said, perhaps.

It struck me during one of my rambles around the Yarra and inner city, just how much metal is used in artworks here. There's the obvious arty steel rivetted cover on the freeway in, the artily angled steel close by and at the convention centre, the gorgeous bridges (currently being re-painted as part of the Games preparation). But a whole lot of less monumental artwork is all around, and a considerable proportion is metal.

Now obviously Oz is a mine and a beach, so one can expect a lot of familiarity with the raw material. And equally obviously, the attraction of metal in public pieces is resilience and strength: hard for your average vandal to make much of an impression on a 40mm steel plate compared to (say) a routed wooden sign. But there's a little more to it, perhaps.

It takes a good craft knowledge to actually do much with metal, and a certain apprenticeship. Unlike say painting, where the tray-and-roller school can be faked pretty convincingly after a quick trip to the DIY shop. And it takes capital plus confidence to start, too. Oz has a larrikin, confident edge to its persona, and that might help. But I can't help wondering if the great open spaces here do encourage a wider, larger, more full-blooded response to things, compared to the incestuous, walled-in, me-in-my-little-valley artistic hothouse flower one sees so much of in NZ?

(And which latter one does not encourage, might I add, by ever, ever buying the results. Give me technical mastery first, then design, execution, quirkiness. Then I just might buy. And if you ever write words in a painting, see me turn around and keep looking elsewhere. That's why we print books.)

Perhaps Oz metal art is like the CEO's preference for a corner office: the wider vision which gets stuff down, with the materials at hand?

And talking of corner offices, the new Eureka Apartments (554 apartments, 88 storeys, all corners, a blade shape, not imposing, more growing than being built out of the South Bank): a floor layout that sees every apartment at a corner? Amazing building: they are still building around floor 70 and up (central lift tower is at full design height of about 300m). The crane on top of the lift tower is lit at night: just think of how much you would want to be paid to go up the boom (it's a conventional angled jib) to change the flood if it went out.....

OK, so if words are out, my favourite painting?

J W M Turner: Rain, Steam and Speed: Great Western Railway. 1844.

National Gallery, London, last time I saw it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Monday, September 05, 2005

That ol' welfare state shtick...

This post linked by Bill Quick hisself, encapsulates all that is wrong with the welfare state. There have always been two broad ways to get something that you want: make it/make the money to buy it yourself; or just go and take it off someone else who has it, but cannot defend it. Guess which path the WS rewards?

Yup, it's the someone else's money/property every time. Never your own damn fault.

Polls, Katrina and Gaia

Great to hear the Colmar Brunton polls (insert usual caveats here) having National leading. On the Aged parents run last night, interesting to hear that THAT pamphlet (you know, the one that has the Greens running round in small circles bleating 'smear' while hastily cooking up a few of their own) has had an effect! I.e. the pamphlet has been read and taken to heart. And that Labour will be short at least one more AP vote...... Bwahahahaha!

Yes, I've put my money where my mouth is and contributed $US100 to the Sallies for Katrina relief. And logged that with NZ Bear. Do the same, why don't you.

The inevitable crap surfaces, linking Katrina with global warming, building on river deltas or under sea level, and similar statements of doom-mongering. Rather reminiscent of our own little bout of tsunami-related verbiage here in poor, tribal NZ. A certain elderly gay seagull has evidently squawked on about the local tsunami nonsense. Donald Sensing brings some balance to the overseas debate, and the crew at Tech Central Station are as usual onto it immediately with healthy doses of fact-based commentary.

Moral of the story is: those Civil Defence advices, about having 3 days worth of water, food, essential supplies and a way to heat stuff readily to hand in the home, are really pertinent. An SUV and a way of defending oneself aren't on the CD list, but maybe should be......