Roundup October 16

The media watchdog. The cost, supply and use of power across the states. Check out the Coal Tracker especially Units Planned and Under Construction. China 583, India 217, Indonesia 145, Turkey 71, Vietnam 84, Japan 43, Australia 0. Total exceeding 1500. I appreciate that most Cats are up to speed on the power situation and it is important for everyone else in Australia to be familiar with these numbers and to appreciate what they mean for the future of our industries and family budgets.

Alternative ideas. Mark Steyn on Line. For booklovers, Mark’s serialized “Tales for our Times“, now reading The Prisoner of Zenda following Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent which is the story of a terrorist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory circa 1900. Intellectual Takeout. Accuracy in Academia. The American Scholar.

Dan Mitchell. The IMF urges higher tax rates.

Local. Mannkal read the latest. Don Aitkin. Centre for Independent Studies, Ideas: The Elephant in the Classroom, More Community Control of Indigenous Lands, The Tragedy of Zimbabwe. Articles from Libertyworks, IPA Weekly What Did I Miss?

Posted in Rafe, Rafe's Roundups | 5 Comments

Q&A Forum: October 16, 2017

Posted in Open Forum | 194 Comments

Arky on Hollywood

Man is a strange critter.

Part predator, part herbivorous herd animal.

Jordan Peterson has an interesting commentary about zebra stripes. They aren’t camouflage against the landscape. The black and white stripes are camouflage against the rest of the herd. Once the lions can identify a single zebra they can strategize to bring it down.

This is a head slap moment: when you realise herd animals camouflage themselves against the herd, a whole heap of human doings make more sense.

Before generals dressed their soldiers in camouflage they dressed them in bright uniforms. Red, blue, grey, navy, tall hats, shiny brass bits and white belts. Surely being in a mass of men all dressed in red coats provides no protection for the soldier under fire?

But imagine you are pointing a musket at a rank of men all dressed in red, except one guy who is wearing yellow. Who are you going to shoot at? The next best thing to being invisible is being the same as everyone else.

In the corporate world companies spend large globs of money on advertising and PR, supposedly in order to stand out from the competition. But do they really want to stand out? Standing out makes you a target. This might explain why all advertising you have ever seen has been a same- same, boring load of old cobblers.

It might explain why corporate leaders feels the unquenchable urge to jump aboard every single progressive, irrational bullocks themed fiction falling from an ivory tower.

Cookie- cutter housing. Identikit architecture. Cars that all look like over- sized suppositories. The latest brain- dead buzzword. Crazes in policy that sweep the whole world.

The thread that runs through all this is the imperative: Don’t stand out. Watch for the signal, then do what everyone else is doing.

You can stand out from the crowd only if you can beat off the predators.

This is exactly what has happened to Harvey Weinstein. When one person stands up to the predator and does not get eaten, suddenly the tables turn: the hunter becomes the hunted. The herd watches, and learns. Until the predator is bested, the herd beasts strategy is to blend in with the general air of cowardice and denial.

Why the mental disconnect between years of turning a blind eye and the instant condemnation once permission is given?

How could so many people ignore or joke about this man’s alleged conduct (remember the 2013 Oscars and Seth Macfarlane’s quip: “Congratulations ladies, you no longer have to pretend to find Harvey Weinstein attractive” received with hearty guffaws) all the while producing on film endless politically correct morality plays. Then, to top it off, once someone else takes all the risks of revealing the truth, what do they do? Without an ounce of self- reflection condemn the man.

A curious and important lesson in herd morality.
All this, not on the plains of Africa, but mapped out in the minds of men and women of considerable influence.

If you want to be a contrarian you have to have the strength to stand up to predators. And beat them off.

In the Weinstein saga there are all sorts of moral lessons. The beaten predator becomes the new means for the herd to signal their sameness. Even as they understand the damage caused by their old camouflage, (oh yes, they understand all too well the damage done)  the members of the herd pull on the new uniform of self- righteous condemnation.

Are you a predator, a herd beast or a contrarian?

Posted in Guest Post | 45 Comments

Monday Forum: October 16, 2017

Posted in Open Forum | 1,549 Comments

David Levy and Sandra Peart on the problems with experts

The Queen of England famously challenged the economists to explain why they didn’t see the approach of the Global Financial Crisis. It is not clear that anyone provided an answer although the Austrians would claim that they did better than most but their voice was too small to be heard. There is another episode which would have raised the Queen’s eyebrows. This was the dismal performance of most economists who wrote about the progress of the Soviet economy during the Cold War. This is described by Levy and Peart in a new book Escape from Democracy: The Role of Experts and the Public in Economic Policy.

Most commentators thought that the Soviet economy was doing very well, with some exceptions such as Warren Nutter. The outstanding optimist was Paul Samuelson who predicted in successive editions of his best-selling textbook that the Soviets would match the US GNP per capita by the turn of the century and most likely earlier. Levy and Peart’s Table 6.2 shows the sequence of Samuelson’s prediction from 1961 to 1980 with the best case for the Soviet overtaking time, the worst case, and the ratio of the initial US:USSR GDP per capita in the year of each new edition.

The “best case” Soviet overtaking times ranged from 23 years in 1961 to 22 years in 1980. The “worst case” numbers ranged from 36 years to 32 over the same period. It is surprising to see that in 1980 the USSR was only four years out from the optimistic forecast of the overtaking time, but the predicted overtaking time was still 22 years ahead. It is difficult to see how Samuelson’s optimism survived his own figures because in addition to the numbers cited above the ratio of US:Soviet GDP per capita only changed from 100:50 in 1961 to 100:55 in 1980.

Commentators might have been more careful in the light of observations by astute travellers. Bryan Magee visited extensively in Marxist countries during his time with the leading British weekly TV news program and he wrote that he had difficulty persuading even his conservative friends of the extent of squalor (and repression) that he observed behind the Iron Curtain.

It was much the same with US estimates of the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles in the Soviet arsenal. Alan Carlin reported on work in the RAND corporation in 1959 when the US Air Force claimed that the Soviets could have hundreds of ICBMs, the CIA estimated about a dozen and later it transpired that the actual number was four (Carlin in Environmentalism Gone Mad).

Levy and Peart attribute Samuelson’s misplaced optimism regarding the Soviet economic performance to his adoption of the production possibility frontier (PPF) approach which is a curve of economic output on the assumption that all inputs are used efficiently. This approach is blind to historical and institutional factors. It is described as a “thin” approach as opposed to a “thick” approach which takes account of social and institutional factors such as the rule of law (or its absence), property rights and the moral framework which helps or hinders cooperative trading and business practices.

After the Fall of the Wall Karl Popper wrote a foreword to a Russian edition of The Open Society and Its Enemies. Popper was no economist but he was onto something when he suggested that economic reforms in the direction of a free market would not work without the Rule of Law. Given the absence of the rule of law (and a moral framework) for several generations in Russia he suggested a transplant of the French or German legal codes, supported by training in France or Germany for legal officers.

Posted in Rafe, Rule of law | 10 Comments

ACCC offers some clarity but much obfuscation in its report on electricity price rises

The battle of the causes of Australia’s excessive electricity prices is well and truly on.  Having moved from the world’s lowest cost electricity to among the highest cost in less than a decade, finally questions are being asked.

The government commissioned the ACCC to provide advice on the elements bringing about the price increases and in a selectively released  “draft” Rod Sims has said about seven per cent ($100) is due to renewables.  A great chunk of the increase was blamed on ‘”strategic conduct” by companies to bid or not to bid to supply the National Electricity Market and manipulate the price’. This provides a foot in the door for the competition regulator to act.  But its report seriously misrepresents the issues.

The ACCC analysis of price increases and its attribution of blame is shown here.  Aside from the 40 per cent due to network prices the costs increases are put as being due to generation (17 per cent), green energy (16 per cent) and retail (26 per cent).

The numbers for retail are especially problematic since the integration of generation and retail makes the cost allocation difficult to estimate, something the AEMC (responsible for the electricity market rules) in its own work on prices has recognised.  Integration of retail and generation leads to massive uncertainties that appear, for example, to show retailers in Victoria are earning far more than in other states.  Doubtless there are differences in the costs by state because of the different regulatory impositions but these are insufficient to explain the divergence.  Such high and growing retail margins that the ACCC estimates are not plausible in a market that has the big three heavily competing with each other and something like a dozen other retailers seeking to find gaps and take share from the majors.  (Though the ACCC has, as in other cases, sought to blunt the competitive rivalry by inhibiting marketing).

The energy companies, while feeding the propaganda debate in favour of renewables, are not acting in any form of collusion.  They are simply operating in the market like any other business: looking at their costs, looking at what their competitors offer and bidding in to maximise profits.  The big three (AGL, Origin, EnergyAustralia) have 60 per cent of the market but concentration is far less than in many other markets where competition does its job: telecoms, domestic air travel, IPADs.  Outside of the big three are several independent large generation portfolios: the two state owned Queensland businesses (although reducing them from three has had deleterious competition consequences), Engie, Snowy, Tas hydro.

The fact is that aside from the 40 per cent price increase attributable to poles and wires (some of which is due to the need to service less concentrated wind supplies), the other 60 per cent cost increase is all due to renewables.  This is brought about either directly through the renewable subsidies (and not all of these are factored in by the ACCC since direct support for renewables from Commonwealth and State budgets is not included) or as a consequence of the renewable programs.

The increase in costs from generation and from retail is all due to the renewable energy program increasing costs of doing business and forcing out low cost coal generators.  It is these measures that have led to the wholesale price of electricity rising from under $40 per MWh in 2015 to $90 per MWh today.

The wholesale component of household bills is about one third.  So this cost increase has led to as much as a $400 per household increase on top of the $100 directly paid in green energy subsidies.  The wholesale price effect is far greater for business customers where the energy component can be up to 60 per cent of costs.

The only solution to the regulation-induced crisis we face in energy involves abandoning immediately all subsidies, a solution championed by Tony Abbott, One Nation, the Liberal Democrats and Cory Bernardi.

Posted in Uncategorized | 56 Comments

Go on, what’s the plan to deal with Iran and North Korea?

I won’t say they won’t get him in the end, but he’s been everything I had hoped for, and for good measure he’s doing a damn site better than Malcolm and Theresa. Yet here we have a typical MSM bit of insanity: ‘The incredible shrinking President’: Republicans look forward to life without Trump. Here’s the key para:

“I’m not willing to say it would have been preferable to have had a President Hillary Clinton, but it would have been better for the GOP if any of the other 16 Republican primary candidates had won. The Republican party is completely at sea. With Trump, we can’t get anything done. There is no trust; no strategy. In terms of our foreign policy, America is at its lowest ebb. Allies can’t rely on us; no one knows where we stand. We’re in a dark cellar. It’s hard to think of a more dangerous moment.”

As if any of the other 16 could have won, never mind how wet and useless each and every one would have been. Well let us compare the above sentiment with this: Trump’s Iran Fury.

President Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran is complying with its nuclear deal came after he “threw a fit,” according to a source of the Washington Post. The president was, the Post reported, “incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits.” That left Mr. Trump, the Post’s source said, “furious. Really furious.”

Well, why shouldn’t Mr. Trump have been furious? The Post seems to suggest that he is somehow unstable, a line that’s being hawked by the New York Times. By our lights he was right to blow his celebrated stack. He had run for president, after all, on a bright line promise to exit the Iran deal. The deal itself was entered into by President Obama and Secretary Kerry with the full knowledge that both houses of Congress were against it.

Not only that, they plunged ahead in the face of warnings by, in Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East. Nor was it just Israel’s right-of-center government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu. It was also the left-of-center opposition, the Zionist Union, which warned against the appeasement. Yet someone in the Obama administration — our own theory is that it was the president, though Secretary Kerry denied that — set down Israel’s leader as “chickenshit.”

Plus, too, Messrs. Obama and Kerry took the aforementioned articles of appeasement and brought them to New York City, where they asked the United Nations Security Council to approve the deal. They voted in the Security Council against what they knew to be the wishes of our own United States Congress. So where did Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis come off trying to maneuver Mr. Trump into certifying a deal he’d specifically opposed in his campaign?

And lest we forget, there is this:

NKorea calls Trump ‘strangler of peace’…
UPDATE: ‘Readies missile launch’ ahead of US-South naval drill….

Well, go on you big mouths – give me the plan to deal with Iran and North Korea. Make a suggestion, formulate a plan, sketch out the end point of a proper crafted policy program. It’s all these moronic Monday morning quarterbacks who will tell you how the Nazis should have been stopped in 1936 etc but have not a single idea about what to do about the problems we actually have right this minute, today, in this world, the one we are living in at the present moment in the actual here and now.

Posted in American politics, International, Media | 28 Comments

Poetry evening in Sydney 25th

The Lindt Cafe An elegy
and other poems by Alastair Spate
8pm October 25
Willoughby Hotel 315 Penshurst St Willoughby

– Lyric poems by program and by demand
– An Anglo-Celtic exclusive! Earliest English poem not heard since 732AD! Caedmon’s Hymn recited with harp accompaniment.
– Upstairs in the Henry Lawson room with its own bar

Inquiries to 0432 153362 or [email protected]

Posted in Books and writing, Rafe | 9 Comments

It’s homicide not suicide – let’s get the language right

Language is a very powerful tool and it must be used properly.

The definition of homicide is – a person who kills another.

The definition of suicide is – the intentional taking of one’s own life.

Suicide is the killing of oneself.  Homicide is the killing of another.  The former one does to oneself.  The later one does to another.

We need to stop calling Australia’s energy policies “economic suicide”.  They are not.  They are not.  They are not.  Australia’s energy policies are “economic homicide”.

Spartacus did not do this to himself nor did a vast majority of Australians do it to themselves.  This is an act of economic homicide perpetrated by Australia’s elite.

Follow I Am Spartacus on Twitter at @Ey_am_Spartacus

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments

OMG – no wage growth bad for government revenue

Spartacus has now absolutely positively heard it all.  Pack it up.  It is all over.

On Insiders this morning, there was a discussion of the Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates.  During the discussion, Gerard Henderson observed that the FWC decision may positively impact youth unemployment.

On the point of the lack of wage growth in the western world, there was a general agreement from the “couch” that this was a bad thing.  But then Barrie Cassidy said the following:

that’s (lack of wage growth) not a good thing because it is impacting on government revenue.


The view of ABC commentator Barrie Cassidy is that the general lack of wage growth is bad because it is impacting GOVERNMENT REVENUE.

WHAT IS GOING ON AT THE ABC?  This is not just bias.  This is something else

Follow I Am Spartacus on Twitter at @Ey_am_Spartacus

Posted in Uncategorized | 25 Comments