Weekend reflections

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

48 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. First!!

    Ok, juvenile triumphalism out of the way: I thought this was a good blog to post this on: Anyone know of a use for Martial Arts belts?

    JQ will know what I mean. Once the sprogs have been doing it for a while, you have a collection of beautifully made, attractively coloured, durable but completely useless cotton tie belts.

    Ideas? (I’m going to run this past craft-y bloggers as well).

    I’m thinking they might make nice colourful, soft halters for the riding school (thus recycling the detritus of one activity into another).

  2. I still have my collection – it will come in handy if I collect demotions in my declining years.

  3. Another case study for consideration of the nature of legitimacy of governments presents itself, Venezuela.

    It will be interesting to see whether Chavez is able to keep his population persuaded that his is a legitimate rule.

    Those who follow the ramblings of this man will no doubt be aware that, along with the UN, he is a believer in participative democracy, not representative democracy. The UN declared, or the writers did, in a tome on improving the UN that, I think it went, the days of the great representative democracies are over, and they sought to include civil society, community groups, ngos etc as delegates and sources for the will of the peoples of the world.

    Chavez has made his move.


    “As the Venezuelan National Assembly approved today a first draft of the Enabling Law that will give Chavez absolute power to legislate for the next eighteen months,…

    In contrast, the current Enabling Bill is simply grotesque, with no guidelines or mandate, almost all encompassing and allowing the President to completely change the social, economic and political structure and fiber of our country in any way he may desire over the next eighteen months. To wit, the Bill, as proposed, will “allow the President to legislate in ample and unlimited manner on”:

    -The transformation of the institutions of the State.
    -Popular participation
    -Public Functions
    -Social and economic spheres
    -Citizen safety and judicial security
    -Science and Technology
    -The National Health System
    -Security and National Defense
    -Infrastructure, transportation housing and services
    -Telecommunications and information technology
    -The penitentiary system
    -Territorial organization
    -Food supply security”

    No doubt he will be consulting with the people before he issues decrees on any of these matters.

  4. Helen, how did you end up with a collection? The color progression in most martial arts are chosen so that you could just dye the things from one color to the next. E.g. white, yellow, green, blue, black. I only ever had one belt.

  5. Ah I see. After a quick look around some online martial arts stores in oz, all they sell now is colored belts.

    White was the only color you could buy back when I did it.

  6. They’ll need to be quickly innoculated against the dire effects of leftism Ros. What’s Venezuelan for Pinochet? OTOH maybe we should relax and let the human shields and similar concerned citizenry spring into action.

  7. Ros and Observa, apart from the fact that GDP continues to grow at an annual average of 3%, secondary school enrolments have risen from 59% to 72% of the relevant age cohort and free public health care has been extended, what else can you find that’s wrong with Venezuela?

  8. One of the claims made by those who denigrate Stern has been the idea that people in the future will be richer than we are today, so the costs of environmental repair will be lighter for them, and this fact in some way justifies or accounts for spending less on that today. So far as I can make it out, this idea comes down to saying let the people who will be born in the future worry about all that, they will be richer than us. I sort of passed by that one pretty quickly, since it seemed too much like something Archie Bunker would say.

    But then I wondered, will they be richer? The usual measure, and after we go through all the fuss about how the GDP is more like a device to measure your RPMs on a motor than a measure of community well being, and we read the article on it in Wiki, it turns out that environmental change, modification, chaos, degradation, is peculiarly one of those things that are “externalities”. Here on the West Coast of Canada we have had, so far, a ferocious winter with a succession of huge winter storms that have caused vast damge to our national jewell, Stanley Park (3000 trees down) and ruined parts of the famous West Coast Trai, and that is just the tip, as they say. And with the rest of the year, the past few years have featured many giant fires in the bush, devastation of millions of trees by an insect that lives through the warmer winters, shortages of water, floods and so on. In the papers we see these chaotic conditions occuring in many places.

    Well, the damage from this year will cost a lot, and we are to look forward to more and even greater intensity of the same? Of course all that is weather not climate. And it is all due to more people settling in not very good spots, and so on. But so what, it still has to be repaired, before we even start to think of substantial environmental repair.

    So if we first of all look to the Statistics Canada numbers for the true or constant value of money in terms of what a dollar will buy which is (laughingly) called constant dollars, then put in some number to reduce GDP for all the bad things that are increasing a (cost of crime , etc.), then take a wild guess at what the last winter cost both to fix up things and to put in some number representing good things gone forever. We are going to get to a point where the bigger GDP, each year, meets large and rapidly ascending totals for damage.

    Then I see that some scholars like Hermann Daly have worked out alternatives to GDP, and they are described in the Wiki entry for GPI (genuine progress indicator). It turns out that by some of these measures, not unreasonable in conception, we are already losing ground generally each year. Of course in this case “we” means the advanced countries of the west, and north.

    I have to conclude that in any discussion of the Stern Review stance which is pretty much not to discount the future at all, the counter arguement depends on an assumption that is no longer secure, if it ever was. That is the assumption that people will be richer in the future. By any reasonable measure that may not be so, especially if we generally follow the advice of the economists who claim to defend the canon of environmental economics (Nordhhaus, and Tol) and put off to the future large public investment in repair. I mean to hell with Archie Bunkerisms, the sound of the thing should tell us it should be told to go round to the back.

  9. garhane,

    I don’t have a lot of faith in GDP as a measure of how well off we are. If you are curious as to why reality and GDP seem to be out of synch I suggest you have a read of http://www.shadowstats.com/cgi-bin/sgs.

    I would love to have GPI calculated as part of the official government statistics.

  10. Helen ……My suggestion would be to adorn the front of your house with the belts in Tibetan Prayer Flag style.

    Air Conditioners……Another great curse of our time. Not only are they the great spoiler of the suburban quiet they are risking the fair distribution of electicity to us all.No probs with their use for the old and infirm but cannot see for the life of me why these big guzzlers are given greater priority than my right to have a few lights and a critical fridge running.I was without power for 4 hours recently and I am not so stupid to believe it was the bushfires but the overwhelming demand of these unnecessary status symbols.

    I would love to see air conditioner become both quieter and with enough complimentary and compulsory solar panels to cover their use. So the rest of us, who still know how to open a window, do not have to pay for more coal burning generators or peak load, rip offs.

  11. Ros – perhaps Chavez is taking his cues from the Great Decider to the north in terms of governing by fiat without the need for the legislative branch. At least he’s not running a war, imprisoning and torturing people all over the world etc etc. And it’s only a proposed Bill, not law. We’ll know if he’s really following GW’s lead if he issues a signing statement when the Bill passes saying he only has to abide by it if it’s convenient to do so.

  12. Well I tried that page but it is a 404. Anyhow, you can’t get far pushing the mountain of GDP if all you can say is, I don’t use it. After that you have to show your alternative.You have to show people with a few details why it is flawed, and you need just a few pretty simple details, then you give the alternative. It is like when a female asks you to fix something, like the TV remote, or the clock on the microwave. They simply do not care about explanations, will not listen to them, and walk off in a huff if you try to explain. You have to show them how things will go better if they do the following, then they will listen a little bit. So you say yes it is a problem, and even worse if the following happens,and I will fix it. After that you can get even better performance out of it if you do the following. ….
    Just keep it down to 3 minutes, the attention span of many is not great and they do not realize the extent to which current technology has dumbed down their acuity. Alternatively, take a pair of pliers and cut the life line of the dam thing, that will definitely get their attention.

  13. garhane
    I think you are saying that without early climate mitigation the wealth curve may never make it to aspired levels. This means that mitigation may not be postponed to an arbitrary timeslot and that the ‘window of opportunity’ is near term. I read somewhere that the Canadian wheatbelt could extend northward with warming. However I guess that would be incremental change over decades not accompanied by violent weather events. One or more bad events can undo the work of an otherwise benign growing season.

  14. “…what else can you find that’s wrong with Venezuela?”
    Just give the leftists time melanie, just give them time. Another Stalinist regime in the making with the golden promise to make the trains run on time. I sometimes ponder why leftists love tyranny so much. Is it because they’re silly enough to believe they’ll be the dictator, or egalitarian enough to think they’ll get a turn. It’s an academic question of course because the outcome’s the same.

  15. Thanks for the suggestions – the rapacious Martial Arts school my sprog attends charges extra fees for gradings and you get your new belt thrown in, so you don’t save anything by re-dyeing.

    Joe2 has a point. It could be like one of those classic fly curtains. But they would pack a hefty whack when the wind comes up.

  16. http://www.shadowstats.com just like that will get you there.

    My reason for being here is to ask Would a Flat Tax be inflationary? I’ve been surfing the web and can’t seem to find a discussion on the matter. So if anyone can point me in the right direction or answer my question, it’d be much appreciated.

  17. Vee, the way I find most helpful to look at whether things are inflationary is to start with unhelpful comments that get made by obfuscators. For instance, back in the ’60s British politicians used to say with a straight face that trade union activism couldn’t possibly be inflationary, because the only possible way you could get inflation was if more money got printed than rising production could soak up.

    There are a lot of problems with that oversimplification, like leaving out the velocity of money and so on. But the big one is leaving out whether the activism was an inflationary pressure, i.e. whether it would work through to cause more money to be printed than etc. etc.

    The obverse of that is leaving out the immediate causes, e.g. these days you see a lot of people saying that US inflation is caused by issuing more government debt, not by “printing money”. Well, that is leaving out the fact that the one leads to the other, focussing only on the policy option cause.

    So, with these insights, the shallow answer is that no tax can possibly ever be inflationary, after all they all remove money from circulation, right? But taxation and government deficits are linked, and in turn flow through to other stuff. The important question becomes, how much does a flat tax affect money supply indirectly, as compared with present day taxes with the same tax take.

    The thing is, if you don’t specify the same take, you aren’t comparing like with like. And if you do, the main effects ipso facto aren’t inflationary. On the other hand, there may well be pressures towards inflation that arise from the different impacts (the incidence might change too). These could end up inflationary in the same sense as ’60s British trade union activism.

    I hope that helps clarify things. I know it only moves things a little forward.

  18. Yes I suppose it means I’m really interested in the follow through impacts to see if it does become inflationary. I understand the idea behind it is to reduce govt spending and effectively give more back which in theory as I understand it should not be inflationary. However, I’m not sure that is the impression the consumer would get. All that said I am struggling perhaps with an intellectual question beyond my ability.

    I tried to see the similar sort of impact with the GST but given not all the taxes that were supposed to be cut were cut. It is a poor guide.

  19. As a road-user, predominantly as a cyclist, I’m very aware of the inequality of power. Pedestrians have very little and this is best illustrated by the contradictions they face on pedestrian crossings. The prevailing orthodoxy is that vehicles will give way to those crossing the road at designated crossings. But first the pedestrian must signal that they are wanting to cross. If you observe vehicles a sizeable minority will only respond once a pedestrian starts crossing the road. In other words a significant number of motorists only acknowledge a pedestrian when they impede their ‘right of way’. This is extremely risky for the pedestrian especially compounded by those who confront drivers who somehow believe that until a pedestrian reaches beyond the midway point in crossing, they (the driver) are not obliged to give way. The cautious pedestrian waits at the crossing for that motorist who will stop but this is hardly a very satisfactory way of preserving life and limb. Pedestrian deaths are a significant contributor to the road toll.

  20. Garhane says: “Of course in this case “weâ€? means the advanced countries of the west, and north”. Actually, it is even further restricted, to a small proportion of the population of those places.

  21. Garhane – perhaps the women in your life are not uninterested but really doesn’t see the need for longwinded and repetitive instruction which are boring, time consuming and unclear. This is not a characteristic of women but human beings.

    This can also be a feature in the broader discourse when some feel that if they repeat an idea often enough then others will see it as important.

    The public is talking about David Hicks more and more – asking those with skills to solve the problems. Phillip Ruddock gives a long explanation, Alexander Downer should have the skills but fails to act whilst telling everyone that there is no problem to be fixed. No wonder Australians are nagging and impatient as they just want it fixed so that justice works properly again.

  22. “Stalinist regime in the making with the golden promise to make the trains run on time”

    Er, sorry Observa, but that was Mussolini, a dictator perhaps more to your liking? I stand to be corrected, but I don’t think efficiency and reliability of service were ever numbered among Stalin’s promises, golden or otherwise.

  23. Steve at the pub,
    So your solution to fixing the remote would be to smash it to pieces – no longer a problem as it no longer exists.

    However your solution shows that you are selecting the wrong skills for the job – it is justice that needs fixing – not a permanent solution for David Hicks.

  24. “I have the skills to fix David Hicks. I can hit 5 gallon drum at several hundred metres every shot with a .308, Hicks will be no problem.”

    I used to think Steve at the pub was a sometimes amusing red-neck buffoon who occasionally had a worthwhile comment.

    Now he would apparently countenance murder.

    David Hicks has still not been charged with anything, let alone convicted, and the Bush cabal is frantically scrabbling around to concoct some charge that might be vaguely plausible.

    I do not romaticise Hicks and regard him as a mis-guided fool for his views on the then Taliban govt of Afghanistan. It appears he has breached no Australian or other law and, lucky for him and SATP, foolishness is not a crime.

  25. When 9/11 happened Hicks was on his way to Australia to become an Al-Quaeda sleeper, upon hearing of the 9/11 attacks he returned to Afghanistan & rejoined his “unit”.

    And you called me a “buffoon”? You suggest I would counteance murder? You must really have it in for Hicks then, I used mere words, Hicks’ deeds speak for themselves. A very sick puppy indeed. (Not Hicks)

    He is a misguided fool? He is an oxygen theif. My sympathies lie with the family of the Australian & other soldiers who died combating the taliban. Hicks ain’t wanted in Australia, which he will find if the fifth columnists get their way.

  26. SATP,
    Hicks may be the biggest villain on Earth, countenancing the death and destruction of all that surrounds him in a bath of everlasting fire – but even if he did he deserves to be charged with a recognisable criminal offence and then have his day (or months) in court. The Australian government’s response is telling – they do not want him back as they cannot charge him with anything. This means one of the following:
    a) Australian (either Federal or State) criminal law did not cover, in any way, what it is alleged he has done;
    b) He has not done anything legally wrong that he can be charged with; or
    c) the evidence is too weak to take him to court.
    I think I got all three of the options – please add if you can think of more.
    Under any of the three situations there is no way that he should be locked up. If you are happy to live under a situation where you can be locked up indefinately without charge or trial for acting in a way that the government says is suspicious then you and I would not be happy to live in the same country. Remember – all that we have heard on what he is alleged to have done is from the US executive branch. None of it has yet even been presented to a court, much less tested by a jury of his peers. It may all be balderdash or it could be the gospel truth. We do not and cannot know which way it is yet.

  27. I suggest to Prof. Quiggin that “civilised discussion” excludes death threats, and that the sort of comment offered above by Steve at the Pub (“I have the skills to fix David Hicks. I can hit 5 gallon drum at several hundred metres every shot with a .308, Hicks will be no problem”) should not have been allowed to appear.

  28. Very high & mighty of you Gordon. You have eschewed primeval savagery, now you can work on improving your reading comprehension.

    Example of death threat: “I will shoot Hicks.”

    Example of non death threat: “Hicks should be shot”, or “I am a good enough shot to shoot Hicks.”

    Back to more sensible matters: Excellent point Andrew Reynolds. Though Hicks has lots of explaining to do, & is unlikely to satisfy the Ozzi street that his intentions had any purity.

  29. “unlikely to satisfy the Ozzi street that his intentions had any purity.”

    And that’s why we have laws and courts. The court of public opinion can no more hold a man for 6 years without trial than shoot him.

  30. What about Bush?

    When is he going to be brought to justice for the thousands of US troops he caused to be killed so he can manipulate oil prices for his political advantage?

    SATP, that skill of yours to hit a 5-gallon drum could come in handy.

  31. What about Bush?

    When is he going to be brought to justice for the thousands of US troops he caused to be killed, just so he can manipulate oil prices for his political advantage?

    SATP that skill of yours to hit a 5-gallon drum could come in handy.

  32. “I have the skills to fix David Hicks. I can hit 5 gallon drum at several hundred metres every shot with a .308, Hicks will be no problem.�

    If an Australian Muslim used similar language directed at a Western leader on an internet chat site, then he might reasonably expect to be placed under immediate surveillance. If it was an American Muslim he’d probably be extraordinarly rendered to Alexandria forthwith.

    Luckily some segments of the population still enjoy freedom of expression.

  33. Biggles talked aplenty about shooting huns & how to do it. Rightly so. Had he started talking about shooting tommies, he would have been clapped in irons & court-martialled. Rightly so.

    It is not only Australian muslims WBB, but any person who used similar language about a western leader, could expect to be placed under immediate surveillance.

    It is a horse of a different colour to use such language about the enemy. Hicks is probably safer where he is, than on the ozzi street.

  34. SATP,
    I remember Biggles. Fiction from my childhood. Mate, don’t confuse it with reality!

    The ‘enemy’ was largely the original creation of the CIA et al because it suited their cold war objectives at the time to give the Soviets a bloody nose.

    If anything, Hicks seems to be guilty of mis-judging at what point they became the ‘enemy’ and not getting our of Afghanistan quick enough.

  35. I don’t expect that Hicks will be on the Ozzie street any time soon. First the new commissions will be challenged in the Supreme Court. I suggest that they won’t survive since the rules of evidence are an affront. If they do survive something will be found to charge him with – possibly something like shooting at an American without wearing a uniform or calling them a bunch of fuckwits? Or maybe they’ve ‘coerced’ him into confessing to something larger. Anyway the Australian government has said that there was no Australian law under which he could be charged, so they’re content to let him rot or, worse, face a penalty which they still officially regard as ‘cruel and unusual’. The US authorities keep saying they expect him to be charged within weeks. I’ve heard that a few times before though. Since terrorism is not going to go away, the War on Terror is not going to end and he’ll be in Gitmo until US public opinion closes it. Which seems likely to happen before our government decides that the rule of law is an important part of our civilization.

  36. I don’t think SATP actually made a death threat, and I’m not sure he should be banned.

    However, he does mix a large portion of lowly and provocative attention seeking and baiting in with his otherwise often perceptive/witty/cutting commentary.

    Presumably he does this because he is small-minded enough to get a kick out of feeling superior and scorning the affront shown by people to his baiting, people he probably perceives as weak bleeding heart hand-wringers.

    So maybe you should just ignore him instead of giving him what he obviously wants/needs?

  37. SATP, I’ll take the comment on Hicks (and a similar one previously) as silly rhetorical bluster rather than a serious threat. But apart from being offensive it’s completely derailed the discussion into the kind of meta-flamewar I try to avoid. So, anything more like that (or any backchat on this ruling) and you’ll be banned.

    Everyone else, I’m going to close this thread to comments, and I don’t want any further discussion of this topic. Please move to the Monday Message Board to continue any substantive discussions that have been disrupted.

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