Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So That's the problem

Here's a neat piss-take on the Scary (well, scarily bad) Science behind the Beeb's recent trip to the thinner atmospheres of unreason, re WiFi radiation in the home.

Sort of reminds you of all the other Chicken Little fads that we, as dumb humans, seem to need to work through every once in a while:

'A Blueprint for Survival' - I still have a yellowing copy (you'd think they'd have printed the damn thing on Sustainable Paper, no?). Hmm - Amazon have it for $USD78.71...Cash registers signs go up in the eyes. Well, after all, the Sunday Times did say 'nightmarishly convincing - after reading it nothing seems quite the same anymore'. Funny - I had that same reaction about 'America Alone'.

'The Population Bomb' - count the kids in Your household and tell me this one didn't seize hold. Pity they never told those Others...

'The Coming Ice Age' - a perennial favourite.

Why, there's a pattern there!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Agriculture in NZ - the no-subsidies version

This international article is a good summary of the last 20 years' experience of unsubsidised farming in our fair land. The Social Laboratory Syndrome strikes again!

I do remember a leetle anecdote about those last glorious days of Supplementary Minimum Prices in the late '70's, way down South in a tiny self-governed town called Otautau.

Y'see, SMP's were counted on certain days. And the basis for Price Support (gawd, what a totalitarian title That was...) was per live stock unit. $/sheep: nice and simple. Oh, and some more for the wool.

Only problem was that 3 days before Count Day, a major (150 year return period - we had 3 of those in 18 months...) flood went down the Aparima, and a lot of the SMP'able stock drowned. Or so you would have thought, seeing them in fences, under willows, and in the middle of paddocks, on their backs with their legs in the air, bloated like Michael Moore.

But by strange circumstance, as far as the SMP count went, the very same stock units had held their breath underwater for 3 days, and survived just long enough to pass Go and collect their $200.

They breed 'em tough in Southland.

Whoever said economic incentives don't work?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Housing Bubble

A useful post here from another bubbular location: Southern California (SoCal, for short).

What can happen there can happen here, too. The post is quite good on the accelerated effects of information flow about housing, and the relationship between credit card debt and higher mortgage payments as fixed-rate or sweetheart deals reset to mrket levels.

In the '80's, Muldoon borrowed and hoped. We have lived through what it took to get us out of that hole: the best part of 20 years of work and better productivity.

And now, two aspects of the zeitgeist are putting us back in a similar hole:

1 - a Gummint hell-bent on buying enough votes for the next election, via various income redistribution schemes. Personal Tax cuts? Nah, Nanny knows best, you lot will simply add demand to the economy if we let you actually keep your own money. Speak for yourself, Michael bloody Cullen: I would pay down what minor debt I may have, and put the rest into Aussie shares and another super fund.

H L Mencken had it right in the '20's: an election is 'an advanced auction of stolen goods'.

And we are about to find out the hard way, yet again, that you cannot redistribute yourself rich.

2 - There is undoubtedly a local housing bubble. When it corrects, from a point where house price to income levels are around 5-7 i.e. unsustainable, to a level of say 4, look out below. 4/5 is $100,000 on a $500,000 home: a $100K loss. But 4/7 is $300,000 on a $700,000 home, and there's plenty of those just along my own street. So if you are one of the Feckless Many who have ratcheted up their debt anywhere north of 75% of current house valuation, you're gonna be hurting soon.

In effect, in the '80's, Muldoon borrowed and hoped at a public-sector level.
But in the aughties, borrowing and hoping is a private-sector pursuit.

And as the poster points out, in an environment where news and sentiment get around at the speed of light, that 'when', as in when the correction happens, might be a lot sooner than you would like.

SoCal catches the flu, we all cough.

Lileks Local News

As anyone with a passing acquaintanceship with the blogosphere knows, James Lileks has been bumped off the Strib's columnist list, and assigned to local news stories.

But I would bet that the dopey exec's who handed out this demotion, aren't prepared for this sort of reporting of their hallowed local events....