Sunday, February 28, 2016

Richard Epstein from the US: Apple’s iPhone Blunder

Can the United States government compel Apple to help break into the phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who, along with his wife Tashfeen Malik, gunned down fourteen innocent people last December at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino? 

That question has sparked fireworks in recent days. The dispute arises because Apple has equipped its new iPhones with encryption settings that erase the data contained on the phone whenever ten false password entries have been made. It was agreed on all sides that only Apple has the technology that might overcome the encryption device.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Matt Ridley: Leaving the European Union would be a leap into the light

For me, in the end, it’s all about innovation. The European Union is bad at doing it, good at discouraging it, repeatedly sides with those who have vested interests in resisting it, and holds Britain back from achieving it.

This may not be a fashionable reason for voting to leave. Pollsters tell us that safety is the first wish of most voters, not exciting change, and it’s clear that both sides are playing to that rule book: one side arguing for us to take control by leaving, the other saying we are more secure if we stay in. But if history teaches us anything it is that enterprise is the father of peace, that innovation brings not just economic but ethical improvements: it demonstrably makes us kinder and safer as well as richer. There is no security in stagnation.

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant

Things you know that ain't so - Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant ”

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency and many environmental groups and governments around the world carbon dioxide is a pollutant that needs to be regulated because it may endanger public health or welfare.

But is it? To most people, “pollutant" is something that we would be better off without. Carbon dioxide is a trace gas that is essential to life on earth. If the level falls below about 180 ppm plant growth will suffer and, at lower levels, will cease.

Frank Newman: Givealittle proves a lot

The long reach of the internet was proven yet again last week. More than 39,000 individuals pledged over $2m to buy a 7.3 hectare waterfront property in Awaroa Bay, at the top of the South Island. It's a very nice piece of land and sand and will be a valuable addition to the Able Tasman National Park which is managed by the Department of Conservation (DoC).
The final purchase price was $2.85m. Of this $2.3m came from the public via the crowd funding site Givealittle, $350,000 from the Government, and $250,000 from a private charitable trust.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Mike Butler: Large-scale immigration not good

Research presented by the Superdiversity Centre and the Department of Labour does not support a policy of large-scale immigration, Ian Harrison of Tailrisk Economics said today

Harrison assessed the evidence cited by public law specialist Mai Chen in an online book titled “Superdiversity Stocktake: Impact on Business, Government and on New Zealand”, released last November. He also looked at official thinking on immigration.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bruce Moon:The Power of Language

April this year (2016) will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.  Just five years earlier, the King James Bible was published in England.  Millions of people around the world today continue to enjoy the works of Shakespeare and take comfort and advice from that Bible's words.  They can do this because those works were written in English 400 years ago and understood today.

Less than half that time in the past, Royal Navy Captain William Hobson was charged to obtain cession of New Zealand to the British Queen, given the "free intelligent consent of the natives, expressed according to their established usages" to whom he was to "frankly and unreservedly explain ... the reasons which should urge them to acquiesce."[1]  Those words are clear to us today.  As an experienced naval officer, Hobson was accustomed to giving orders to men of little education – often lives depended on it.   He will therefore have understood exactly how he was to proceed.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Karl du Fresne: What will these trials achieve?

Former SS sergeant Reinhold Hanning is on trial in Germany for his involvement in the deaths of 170,000 people at Auschwitz. He is reportedly hard of hearing and in poor health. He is 94.

His trial will be followed by that of Hubert Zafke, who is alleged to have been a paramedic at the same concentration camp. Zafke is 95 and suffers from dementia.

What will these trials achieve? That’s what I ask myself when I read of feeble old men being called to account for things that happened more than 70 years ago.

Mike Butler: Insulation benefit grossly overstated

Government claims that $1 spent insulating rental properties brings a $2.10 benefit are grossly over-stated, Ian Harrison of Tailrisk Economics said yesterday. The error in the analysis used to promote insulation was uncovered as submissions on the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill, which involves insulation, get under way.

That amendment would require landlords by July 1 this year to disclose in tenancy agreements the extent of insulation in their properties and install smoke alarms.

Mike Butler: Water and deceit, part 2

Part 1 of water and deceit took place in 2012 when the current government declared while preparing to sell 49 percent of State-owned electricity generators that no-one owns fresh water but Maori have rights to it. Part 2 has materialised in part of the Government’s consultation document on fresh water.

The Government is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the way fresh water is managed. Part of the consultation is on how “to deliver better environmental and economic outcomes and better outcomes for iwi”.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Brian Gaynor: Oil’s plunge all about supply and demand

Price cuts are good for consumers, but markets don’t like volatility. 

The sharp decline in oil prices is a simple case of economics 101, in particular the laws of supply and demand. Brent crude oil prices surged from a low of US$20 a barrel in 2001 to US$128 a barrel in 2011.This led to a sharp increase in exploration and production while consumers sought ways to become more energy efficient and reduce their reliance on high priced oil.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mike Butler: Kura proceeds as schools struggle

A very public stoush is going on in Hastings over a plan to build a new Maori immersion school in the predominantly non-Maori suburb of Havelock North while primary schools there are bursting at the seams.

Education Minister Hekia Parata is pushing the plan while a recently retired long-time primary school principal and first-term Hastings district councilor Malcolm Dixon is leading the opposition.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Richard Rahn from Cato: Socialism Means Coercion

Do you know what socialism is? Hillary Clinton struggled to find an answer when recently asked. Socialism is a system in which the government owns or controls the means of production, and allocates resources and rewards.

Sen. Bernie Sanders proudly proclaims himself a “democratic socialist,” and many in the Democratic Party seem to have no problem with it and, in fact, are embracing him and his ideas. Listening to all of this, one gets the feeling that for a significant portion of the population, history began in the year 2000. Where have been the great socialist success stories? Much of the world’s population greatly suffered under various forms of socialism in the 20th century. Not one of the various socialist models proved to be a success.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Matt Ridley: Reflections on The Selfish Gene

Books about science tend to fall into two categories: those that explain it to lay people in the hope of cultivating a wide readership, and those that try to persuade fellow scientists to support a new theory, usually with equations. 

Books that achieve both — changing science and reaching the public — are rare. Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859) was one. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is another. From the moment of its publication 40 years ago, it has been a sparkling best-seller and a scientific game-changer.

Karl du Fresne: The arrogance of the self-righteous

A letter in Wellington’s Dominion Post last week said that if you wanted a good reason to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, you only needed to look at the people supporting it.

Funny, here was me thinking exactly the opposite. You could turn that statement around 180 degrees and be right on the nail.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Matt Ridley: Staying in the European Union could be the riskier option for Britain

Public opinion about the European Union is divided, like Gaul, into three parts: one third are already firmly in the “leave” camp, one third would remain in whatever happens, and the tussle is over who gets the middle, undecided third. It’s like pulling a Christmas cracker — part of it will go one way, part of it the other; it’s what happens to the middle bit that matters.

The infighting that has broken out among those campaigning to leave is partly about personalities, of course, but it is also about how to appeal to those swing voters in the middle.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Richard Epstein from the US: Why Fiscal Stimulus Fails

Over the past several weeks, we’ve once again seen how the Federal Reserve’s stimulus policy has done nothing to help the economy. Fourth quarter growth for 2015 was a disappointing 0.7 percent, and there are no obvious signs of improvement in sight for 2016. Nonetheless, as the U.S. economy continues to smolder, the Fed acts as though pulling levers on interest rates will get us out of this seemingly endless trough.

In December, the Fed thought that the economy was turning around and accordingly raised the federal funds rate from one-quarter to one-half percent, with the prospect of further increases down the road.

Viv Forbes: Cosmic Cycles, not Carbon Dioxide, Control Climate

Those who think the political war on carbon will lower Earth’s temperature or keep climate stable need to study climate history.

Temperatures on Earth dance to a cyclic rhythm every hour, every day, every month, every season, every year, and to every beat of the sun-spot and glacial cycles.

The daily solar cycle causes continual changes in temperature for every spot on Earth. It produces the frosts at dawn, the mid-day heat and the cooling at sunset. It is regulated by rotation of the Earth.

Karl du Fresne: Masterton deaths bring out the excuse-makers

Driving down the main street of Masterton last Sunday morning, I noticed a cluster of traffic cones on the footpath. A few metres further on, a photographer was taking a picture of the street.
I didn’t give it another thought at the time. It was only later that I learned two 15-year-old boys in a stolen car had hit a pole and been killed while fleeing from police. A 14-year-old survivor has since been charged in connection with the crash.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Bryan Leyland: Things you know that ain't so - 2015 was the hottest year ever

Things you know that ain't so - 2015 was the hottest year ever”

The mainstream media has inundated us with reports that 2015 was the hottest year ever. But was it?

Of course not. Many reliable records show that it was warmer in the mediaeval warm period, the Roman warm period and the bronze age warm period.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: The return of the Cold War – the upside

The Cold War is back. Or maybe we could call it Cold War 2 given that CW1 was with the USSR and CW2 with the Russian Federation. Some say it (re)started with the Ukraine, some say it (re)started with Syria. Either way, it’s back.

Those who speak thus usually do so in despondent tones. But is a ‘Cold War’ such a bad thing? I’d like to put the case that it could actually be a good thing.

Lindsay Mitchell: " incentive to work."

A Blenheim single mother of three (aged 10,15 and 17) has found she is only $34 better off working.
"When you weigh it up, is it worth going to work? The Government is trying to get everyone off the benefit but there is no incentive to work."
This line bugs me. The incentive to work lies in being self-supporting, in joining the community that provides the productivity and taxes to run the benefit system. In being a giver instead of a taker - especially after having been a taker for an unspecified time.

Matt Ridley from the UK: The ecological restoration of South Georgia

The success of a bold bid to rid a subantarctic island of rats and deer - how South Georgia's environment has been repaired.

In claiming the Falklands, the Argentinian government also claims South Georgia, even though it is 700 miles further away from its coast, was unambiguously claimed by Captain Cook when uninhabited, and is run as a separate territory by the British government. Indeed, as I found out last week when I was lucky to visit courtesy of the island’s government, it is a place where something truly astonishing has been achieved in the world of conservation.

Michael Gousmett: "Voluntary" Donations - a National irony

There is a (N)ational irony in the recent debate about state-funded “free” education and “voluntary” donations.  The irony is that it was a National government which introduced the concept of a rebate, now known as a tax credit, for donations “to approved charitable, educational, and welfare institutions.”  That was back in 1962, just over 50 years ago, and the rationale for the rebate as stated by Keith Holyoake when he was on the election campaign in 1960 was “to encourage a greater degree of community self-help and initiative.”  

When debating this concession in Parliament in 1962, Holyoake stated that the rebate on donations of up to £25 a year would be “an incentive to our people to give.”