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Archive for March, 2011

Birdie

For a couple of people who asked about it.

Larger Pic.   (Click to get full size)

Pretty huh…

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… and if you are into birds, here’s a couple more.

To quote Yves – Antidote de Jour

 

 

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No one wants to be told  NO!

People don’t want to change, what they want is to find a way they can continue on as before. Even better, then want to be told how they can continue on as before – no matter how stupid that statement may be. It doesn’t matter how messed up and stupid what they are doing is, it is what they know and what they are comfortable with, and they want to be told it’s OK carrying on doing it.

…What can you do?  😦

Of course the fine art of politics is cajoling and sheparding people into a direction they wouldn’t normally have chosen to go. Sometimes that is a good thing, sometimes not. The dark side of politics is about suckering people into destructive and harmful paths.

So, often there is merit in resistance to change, it can give time to examine and assess what is going on. Sometimes though there is no time, you either move now or your chance is lost. But more frequently, there is time and there are warnings, but they manage to be completely overlooked and ignored.

Which is much of the reason that tipping points are “only” ever seen in retrospect. Although of course that’s nonsense, the convergence of forces is almost always seen well in advance by some-one. But actually acting proactively, or even acknowledging the need to be proactive requires effort and change. Both things which are resisted and unwanted.

So, if you can’t move Mohammed before the mountain falls on him, how about afterwards? Unfortunately you are probably still in for a fight, but at least you should have peoples attention by then.

For instance – Oil has become such a huge part of our normal lives we almost don’t even think about it, except when the price goes up.  It is so ingrained into society and has shaped our lives in so many ways that we like, that we can’t imagine our livesany other way. But if you were to tell people that they couldn’t have their car, boat or holiday flight abroad, you would be met with incomprehension, then shock and then resistance and anger. On the other hand, if the price of oil goes high enough, the pain will grab their attention, focus their thinking and open them to the possibilities of doing things differently.

Pain actually is a great way to focus people’s minds. Which isn’t to say that they will necessarily start thinking well. After all, thinking is the hardest thing in the world to do – which is why so few people do it. But I guess you have got to start somewhere.

Focus people, focus… is the pain of not doing anything reaching the point yet of motivating some action?

I keep dreaming that it would be possible to simply say – No, you cant do this, or that, or whatever.  But if they don’t want to be told no in the first place, then what is there to make anyone take any notice and comply anyway. Writing laws for instance has never stopped people breaking them, no matter how sensible the law may be. That drink-driver just wants to do what they want to do. In some ways that’s fine, if they aren’t crashing into some one else, but of course they do. My problem is that I look around and it looks like most of the world is liquored up on pride, greed, arrogance and hopium – and driving around with their accelerator flat to the floor. That’s not a combination that ends well. But how do you tell them, and who wants to hear that they can’t be allowed to do that any more.

Probably the basic error here is thinking it is about dictating this and allowing that. If you try and be a parent all the time to the whole world you are bound to fail. Any alternative is going to be different and difficult, but hey, if you have run out of options, then that’s a start of sorts.

Sometimes all you can do is lead by example. And if you are running the show, then that applies doubly. From my experience of life, if the example set at the top is lacking then the worker ants sure as eggs aren’t going to be working above and beyond. The chief can’t just be doing a good job, he must be seen to be doing it too. Often the two go hand in hand. But the converse of that is the poor performers are expert at hiding behind procedure, protocol and B/S. The more they can do in the dark the better they like it. Having control provides them the illusion of security. Control over information, control over access, control over decisions.

Currently we have a situation in Japan where we are facing a potential major nuclear emergency. All the officials want to do is say – Don’t panic, we have it under control, stay calm, we’ll let you know if there is anything to tell.

Ummmm… WHAT???

How is this for a change – don’t tell me what I need to know, let me decide for myself what I need or want to do. What is the information YOU are getting? How about you broadcast exactly what you know and what you are hearing as you are getting it. Not only does that give me the right to decide for myself what is in my best interest, but I also get to see what sort of job you are doing too.

Politicians and bureaucrats are actually public servants, that means they are working for the public. There is NO reason why anything they are doing should be conducted behind closed doors and in secret. What’s more, we now have the technology available to make all their meetings and work accessible over the internet and open for inspection. Whatever the justifications they will come up with for not being open is all B/S and obfuscation. Do your job in the open – or piss off/you’re fired. Secrets and the dark are the refuge of the scoundrel.

And just as they can bear to have the light shone on their work, they certainly don’t have the right to decide for the rest of us what we need to know. Who cares if we make stupid decision, that is our right and our choice, where do the officials get off telling us what’s right. its not like their decisions are so smart either. Sure telling us the worst case scenario(or even just plain wrong information) might get a lot of people all worked up, but if it is wrong it will pretty quickly get exposed as such and the credibility of the speaker is reduced. Particularly if everything is open and accessible. Closed-shops just mean people can talk crap, and then get away with it because no one knows what happened.

Now this all does tie back to the start of the article. I am saying people mostly are intent on doing what they are doing for essentially two reasons.

One:  they know they can get away with stuff they should be getting pulled up over, because they know it will never see the light of day.

Two: There is so much ignorance and confusion because there simply isn’t any light or attention shone on things that desperately need it. If you don’t know that a mountain is about to fall on you, why would you move out of the way of it.

Getting people to wake up, smell the smoke and change direction, at the very least requires that we shine a little more light around and get rid of all the gate keepers who rather like that they control their little secrets and enclaves.

The more you look around and realise the full extend of this, the more you realise how far you could take the whole concept. Sure it would be hard to do, but I guess it depends on setting the lead from the top, and just how hard it is getting to hang onto the current situation.

Actually, I think just about everyone knows things are pretty seriously messed up all over, but in order to see alternatives, first you have to be able to see.

Sure that’s not the whole answer, but every great journey starts with a first step, and it helps if you can see it.

Having the “high priesthood” of anything, dictating where we should all go, because they know best, is obsolete, dangerous and dumb, my concept is more akin to “crowd sourcing” and “expert networks”. Give people the info and the freedom to experiment, learn and improvise for themselves. The best paths forward will find themselves. Which has got to be better than trying to dictate everything.

 

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This is a concept I will return to (open government/management) in more articles.

For instance; why could we not have the population decide individually what uses they are prepared to have their taxes used for. If no-one wants to allocate any of their taxes to some dept, then that budget would simply fall to zero. That stops unwanted expenditure and also removes any requirement for parliament to decide a budget. That would be literally a finance vote. There simply is no reason anymore why it has to go through a House of Representatives. The internet really can bring democracy to the people.

Except that it would take the control of money out of the shadows and the hands of politicians. Gosh, there wouldn’t be much point in being a Polly if you couldn’t control the dosh now would there.

…que all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about how it would be too hard… blah, blah, blah.

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Here is the link to a pretty astute AlJazeera article.

Where are the Arabs ~ Robert Grenier

Now he is a pretty interesting chap in his own right – Robert Grenier was the CIA’s chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002. He was also the director of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre.

Here is some extracts from his essay on issues that I have also been pondering.

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“ If Arab states are serious about ending Gaddafi’s menace to his people, they must take the lead in helping the rebels “

Today, in the deserts along the coast of Libya, patriots are fighting to liberate themselves and their country from over 40 years of brutal, arbitrary misrule. Although tribal and other social divisions are no doubt playing a role in determining the fault lines of the civil war progressively settling over Libya, the primary motivating principles of the rebels have been clear: A desire for personal liberty, dignity and collective social empowerment. In this they have been transparently inspired by the courage of their brothers and sisters in Tunisia, in Egypt, and in many other parts of the Arab world. But as they attempt to withstand the onslaught of Muammar Gaddafi’s better-armed loyalists, and as those rebels most hard-pressed repeatedly plead for at least limited outside assistance, well they might ask: “Where are the Arabs?” A new day is dawning in the Arab world. The revolutions underway have only just begun, and there is much to be sorted out in the countries where the democratic wave has taken hold…

Nonetheless, the latest indications of Arab intent in the context of Libya are positive, if as yet insufficient. The Arabs are deferring action to the international community without suggestions as to how that action should be implemented, and with no firm commitment for their own direct involvement. At the same time, evidence is mounting that the international fixation on a no-fly zone may be a distraction from more urgently-needed action, and may in fact be counter-productive. First of all, it is not at all clear how great a threat is posed by Gaddafi’s air strikes, per se. While the military situation remains confused, it seems more likely that Gaddafi’s armour and artillery pose the more lethal danger to both rebel and civilian targets.


Taking the lead:

If the Arab League is serious about ending Gaddafi’s menace to his people, they should focus on providing the National Transitional Council with the means to defeat him and his loyalist forces. The US, the EU and NATO have all made clear that they will only act with a clear legal mandate and with regional support. Therefore, it is up to the Arab nations to take the initiative. Those whose commitment to support of the rebellion is notably strong – Egypt and the GCC countries in particular – must be prepared to take the lead from here. First, they should move quickly to recognise the Council in Benghazi as the legitimate government of Libya, and immediately request modification of the current UN arms embargo to exclude its forces. Meanwhile, a rapid assessment of the rebels’ military requirements is needed; these would likely include ammunition, anti-armour weapons, and perhaps rockets or artillery. It is clearly within the capabilities of at least some of the Arab countries to provide these rapidly by air, most likely with logistical assistance from the US or NATO. Otherwise, they run the risk, in what is supposed to be a transforming Middle East, that when the last Libyan rebel lies bleeding in the desert, the boot of a pro-Gaddafi thug upon his neck, his last gasp will be: “Where are the Arabs?”

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If you are going to rebel then you should probably get your alliances sorted out first, or there is a serious danger that your Revolution is going to fall to the forces of Reaction.

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In this instance specifically; The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt obviously inspired events in Libya. And the Tunisians and Egyptians now need to seriously consider whether the rebels in Libya are indeed their brothers in arms. Because if there is going to be anything that comes to the rescue of the Libyan rebellion, that realistically is the only thing it could be. The Egyptians and the Tunisians are going to have to stand side by side with the Libyan revolution – with armed force.

As it happens, Egypt probably has more than enough military power by itself to resolve this whole issue.  And the question does need to be asked, why has the Egyptian army not crossed the border to safeguard the rebellion? Equally, Tunisia should be a part of that. Because if not them, who – and in not now, when?  If Libya’s neighbouring countries and fellow travellers cannot act, why should anyone else? Who else has a greater stake in the issue?

If the free people of North Africa will not stand together, then they will fall separately.

I will add one final military observation.

The rebel retreat towards Benghazi is no great problem in and of itself. In fact it is a significant strength of sorts. As was demonstrated during the second world war and the fight between the German Africa Korp and the British Eight Army, fighting in Libya can be a deceptive beast. Stretching and outrunning your supply lines can get you thrashed. The Rebels have just been experiencing something of that now. But falling back to Benghazi solves that problem for them, while imposing it on Gaddafi’s forces.

A strike to remove his military advantage is actually just sitting right within the reach of the rebels now. Assuming they can get the support they need.

As Gaddafi pours his forces east to confront the centre of rebel power, he actually leaves all his force sitting exposed right out in the middle of a desert. And we know just what that can mean from the example of Saddam Hussein’s army in the Kuwait war and the Highway of Death.

If all the ingredients were to come together serendipitously, this war could all be over very quickly. Gadaffi could loose his army in one day.

But it would need cooperation and coordination by Libya arab neighbours, as well as probably the help of western/Nato power.

Also, unless the pro-Gaddafi forces suffer a major military defeat, there simply isn’t going to be any subsequent peace to keep. It will be Iraq sectarian conflict redux .

Revolutions are a fraught business. You don’t want to get caught out in the cold with your pants down. Look to secure your alliances.

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Anthem 😉

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Purportedly, A99 is “Anonymous”, the Hacker group that has taken down a number of companies IT systems (and secrets – to wit: HBGary )

Operation Empire State Rebellion
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Is there anything to this at all?
It will be fascinating to see what develops.
…if anything!

More power to them if they can.

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(Update – 16 Oct 2011)

Well…

Not like you would notice recently…

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Cyberwar

What goes on under the cover of darkness… what goes bump in the night?

When does a cold war become a hot one?

And what are the spooks doing in your name?

An interesting article by Al Jazeera.

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What a Twit.

This clown works as a presenter for Television New Zealand as their economics/business reporter. Good grief. (Correction: he currently works for them as their Breakfast TV presenter – economics commentary is just a sideline now)

His asinine fumblings are what pass for economic commentary and analysis in this country. I am still trying to figure out whether he is an idiot or a shill.

This is one of his latest articles – link

Let me just extract and redact some of it for you.

” when you think of the dozens and dozens of similar communities that have suffered the same fate across Christchurch it is hard not to think that the downstream impacts of this quake could end up being truly enormous. It is because of this uncertainty and lack of confidence that Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard was absolutely right in cutting the official cash rate(OCR) by 50 points yesterday. I have little time for those who argue that we have an inflation threat and should wait. I know it is tough on those with bank deposits, but this is a national emergency like we have never seen, we have no choice here. Confidence in Christchurch has been shattered and with the New Zealand economy already on the brink of recession it was in my view too risky not to cut. Sure inflation – not to mention oil prices – might be a problem in a year’s time when the rebuild starts proper. But we can deal with that by putting rates back up a little quicker than normal. By next year the economy should be strong enough to take it. “

… what???

Ohh, you have little time for those arguing an inflation threat – good to know – …and your opinion is worth what exactly?

You know it is tough on bank depositors… good to know that too, thanks.

we have no choice… –  thanks again for that inspired analysis.

The New Zealand economy is on the brink of recession… – What? What??? No, actually you dickwad we are already neck deep in a recession and have been for two years now. What is more, we are going to be falling deeper into it for at least another two years, if not longer. Our risk is Depression, not Recession.

It is, in your view, too risky NOT to cut … thanks for more of your brilliant analysis there champ, but we already know what that’s worth.

Inflation might be a risk in a years time when rebuilding starts… Let me educate you  a smidgeon here, we already have inflation, we don’t have to wait a year for it. And it isn’t coming from domestic sources, it is coming from Quantitative Easing by the United States and it is happening world wide. The global economy is sliding into the crapper and you are blathering about our OCR and risk of recession. Your head is buried so far up your arse you can’t even see daylight anymore.

We can deal with it by putting rates up a little quicker… Hmmm, best of luck with that fool. When the driver is United States monetary/fiscal policy, our OCR is a fart in a hurricane. The last time this stuff happened back in the 80’s interest rates went over 20%. How quickly do you reckon we should do that?

” By next year the economy should be strong enough to take it. “

… And there we have it: Corin (the genius) Dann’s prescription for making everything better again.

Actually Dann, you are not a twit, I misspoke – you’re a MORON.

By next year the economy should be strong – No I am sorry Corin, that is a wish, a hope – that is not a PLAN.

A plan is something that has logic and reasoning behind it. A plan is based on having a clue about what is going on. You obviously have none of these things.  Good grief – “we should lower rates now, because the economy should be better in a year – and that’s your plan…

On what basis do you conclude that the economy should be strong next year? Or even stronger than it currently is? Go and have a good wee chat with the Prime minister or Bill English and see what they think. Because they sure as hell aren’t saying anything even remotely like that. (you would imagine, given their jobs and backgrounds they might have a pretty good take on the situation)

We have got dramatic cost-push inflation, high and rising unemployment, dramatically higher oil prices, rising inflation, a slowing world economy/global stagflation, monstrous sovereign debts, global Banking contagion, widespread political revolutions and maybe even peak-oil. Where exactly do you see the growth and recovery coming from Sparky?

Now let me fill you in on another few little points.

Half the problems we already face are the result of Central Banks holding down interest rates far too far, for far too long. The world-wide property bubble was blown on cheap money (that would be the low interest rates you are so keen on). What exactly are we supposed to do with low rates anyway? Borrow more and go spending again? Do we solve our problems of too much debt by taking on even more? Or is lowering peoples mortgages supposed to free up the cash needed to stimulate the economy? You are such a clown Dann. Any dollar saved by a borrower is balanced straight out by the loss to a depositor, net result at best – neutral. Except that there is always a fiscal drag to this sort of thing, because bank loans are taken out over long fixed terms, whereas interest paid changes pretty much instantly. So the OCR changes, depositors start losing now, but borrowers on fixed terms take months to see any benefit. Yeah, I see how that works nicely for the Banks(who would also be the people who sponsor your show?) – but not so much for anyone else.

So let me be very specific. Interest rates are already very low, lowering them a smidgeon more isn’t going to save us, not even close. But it does facilitate more of the stupid things we don’t want people doing – you know like… Speculating. Property prices are so far out of whack that nothing is going to be resolved economically until they collapse. Which would be the “enormous impacts and grave risks” you are talking about no doubt.

Well tough, it doesn’t matter if you like it or not, it is what it is and doesn’t care about your opinion. Nothing is going to recover until we take the hit on that, and contract our economy back to a realistic and sustainable level. What is the alternative? Try and prop up any and all markets by borrowing or printing money? Ohh wait – we are already trying that, and look how well that is working!

Frankly, I was wondering why Alan Bollard went along with all the carping from the likes of you to lower the OCR, but then I realised what he probably has as well. It shuts you up but doesn’t really affect anything. Fifty basis points is neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things. Our economy is being carried along on a much larger wave than the OCR, so whatever Hopium you and the rest of your ilk are smoking doesn’t matter in the end.

In the meantime though, how about you try some real economic analysis instead of vomiting up the shit you currently do. That would make for a refreshing change.

But I guess that also depends on whether you are just a fool, or a shill.

Although I suppose I should really be asking what is TVNZ’s agenda here too, seeing as they employ you. They are looking more and more like the Ministry of Truth every day.

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About the only economic commentator in New Zealand worth listening to currently is Bernard Hickey.

Link

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The hard part isn’t the Doing – it is the Paying.

I am sure going Further – Faster – Higher, is all terribly impressive. We can make space-rockets, and run marathons, and build monuments. But actually none of that is the really impressive part of the equation. The part that is really impressive, is that somehow the people who do these things managed to talk someone else into paying for it.

The trick is not to build it, the trick is to sell it.

That applies in so many fields. I have been contemplating on this quite a bit recently. I saw a documentary recently about about the early years of flight, and Amelia Earhart and Jean Batton were mentioned. Now yes I am sure that what they achieved was terribly impressive, but what I really wondered about was who on earth paid for it? Then there was a Triathlon race recently, and we had the presenter gushing over what magnificent athletes the two men who finished first and second were. Again, yes that is correct, they are amazing athletes. But more to the point they are full time professional athletes – in other words, someone else is paying for them to be amazing athletes. Who… why?

America put a man on the moon, well in fact they put quite a few men on the moon, and while that definitely is impressive (and there is no shortage of people who will trot out no end of reasons why it was worth it) it still cost billions of dollars. I wouldn’t mind going to the moon for a visit, is there someone out there who would like to stump up a couple of billion dollars for me to go too? No…?

Now, if you can stump up a billion dollars for something, and then make that something, and then have a great product you are able to sell to millions and millions of people, and make a profit on the process… well, that’s one thing. But there seems to be an awful lot of stuff going on that has absolutely no practical utility and yet still seems to get funded. How does that happen exactly?

By what magic is it that projects that have a maximum ratio of navel gazing to usefulness, get the money to make it happen.

Seriously, I would be fascinated to know!

There is an expression in motor racing – how fast can you afford to go. How do cockamamy, pointless endeavours ever manage to get off the ground? Because first you need to generate a torrent of cash.

I can list legions of things that fall into this category – and no doubt you can also. In fact I would be interested to see what you can come up with – put your own list into the comments section.

My list would cover a lot of “sports”:

-Horses (anything)

-Triathlons and ultra-marathons

-Swimming

-Free diving

-Cycling

-Skiing

-Actually… anything “Olympic”

Good grief, who on earth pays for this stuff – and why???

I guess I can understand the big sports like soccer, there is a big audience who pays good money to be entertained(we won’t analyze that too deeply).  But the rest of them? Truly?

Then there is a bunch of stuff in other categories too:

-The worlds (latest) tallest skyscraper.

-Dubai (in general)

-Giant religious monuments

-…”Art”…

-The entirety of the Guinness book of (stupid) records

-Paris Hilton

And the list goes on… & on & on.

On a related theme;

There has been quite a bit of controversy recently over the situation in Christchurch regarding where-to-now in the aftermath of the earthquake. The minister appointed by the government to oversee the response has generated a bit of a storm of protest by suggesting almost all the “Heritage” buildings should be demolished forthwith, because they are old/unsafe/poorly constructed/uneconomic/a public hazard. In so far as that goes he is absolutely correct. They are a menace, in an earthquake they are deathtraps. They are probably deathtraps in a fire too, or any other emergency you would care to name. They were built way-back-when, as pretty cheap commercial buildings to just get the job done. They weren’t built to still be standing a hundred years later as architectural icons. 99% of Christchurch’s “Heritage” buildings were/are flimsy ticky-tacky. And why would you want to live in a museum anyway. It is a nonsense. They went up where it made sense at the time, but that was a hundred years ago, time moves on. So what… we are supposed to treat them like precious treasures?

People like things to stay the same though, they like things the way they have always been (in their lifetimes at least). OK, I get that. But seriously, get a grip.

I was watching on TV an argument between a pro and a con on this. One talked about safety/practicality and the other talked about heritage/beauty. They were talking straight passed each other without addressing the issues the other articulated. So far so normal for any argument/debate I guess. But one thought did come to mind for me.

So if we were to try and save all the heritage buildings – who exactly was supposed to pay for it?

And that is the question that just keeps on coming up in politics isn’t it.

People are all very ready to pontificate on about all the things we SHOULD do, but get all a bit evasive when it comes to nailing down how it is supposed to be paid for. Lets look at all this Heritage issue again for a moment.

Currently there are a whole raft of rules and laws about heritage buildings and what you are allowed to do with them. So if a property owners has a Listed building they are obliged to follow all sorts of rules and restrictions regarding the use of that property – they cant do that, they must do this. However, if they could do anything they wanted with the property, what are the chances they would simply demolish it and build again new from scratch? Well of course they would, old buildings are pretty well completely impractical  for modern purposes. But if you need to be in the middle of town for your business and that is the only option available and those are the rules, then you work with what you have got.  Except, that by calling anything old “heritage” and not allowing anything to be demolished, you eventually end up with a built environment that simply doesn’t suit the current uses desired. And more particularly, the costs of compliance are passed off onto the building owner who didn’t really want the building as-is anyway.  All the people who campaign for saving-the-heritage have managed to fob off the cost onto some-one else. If they want to save the buildings, then it’s simple, buy it themselves. But actually that isn’t what they really want is it. What they really want is for someone else to pay for what they want.

Yes we can do it that way, we can do anything, but who exactly is paying for it all.

Gosh there is a lot of dodgy stuff going on in the world were some amazing things get done, and built, and preserved… but the whole paying-for-it side of the equation doesn’t stand up to too much analysis.

… On the other hand, perhaps I should just find out the secret to getting stuff paid for – by someone else.

I have got some magnificent obsessions I would love to indulge.

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