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Die MSM, Die – A blast from their lying past

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Anybody who has followed US politics over the last few decades will remember a minor kerfuffle that occurred during the 1992 Presidential election.

Earlier that year the GOP primaries were happening and while not as exciting as the Democrat ones, because the incumbent President usually has no real challengers, people did pay some attention.

While conducting one of the usual election campaign photo opportunities President Bush dropped by a National Grocers Association convention in Orlando. One of the exhibits Bush visited was a demonstration of NCR’s checkout scanning technology, and he’s seen here at that point.

Following the triumph of Desert Storm, Bush was still riding reasonably high in the polls, even if they had declined a bit as a shallow recession appeared in late 1991 and pushed on into early 1992. But like most incumbent Presidents he was expected to win, so much so that several Democrat heavy hitters decided not to run that year, leaving the field to unknowns like some guy from Arkansas called Bill Clinton.

Still, the recession was seen as Bush’s weak spot and the Democrats began to chew away on this, along with their faithful lackey, The New York Times. The chosen narrative was that Bush didn’t really care about ordinary people, which was why he wasn’t doing anything to end the recession, so the idea was to produce endless articles showing how he was “out of touch” with the average American after decades in Washington D.C.

As you can see from the MSM coverage today of the current POTUS, an even more long-term incumbent of Washington D.C., narratives can be turned 180 degrees when the political and ideological need arises.

So when this photo and story appeared it was a gift to the NYT, and one of their lead reporters jumped all over it:

Today, for instance, [Bush] emerged from 11 years in Washington’s choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket.Visiting the exhibition hall of the National Grocers Association convention here, Mr. Bush lingered at the mock-up of a checkout lane. He signed his name on an electronic pad used to detect check forgeries.

“If some guy came in and spelled George Bush differently, could you catch it?” the President asked. “Yes,” he was told, and he shook his head in wonder.

Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.

Because the NYT was regarded as the lead on any story, this one gave other editorial writers the chance to pile on and amplify the narrative (always an essential part of a propaganda campaign), like the Boston Globe

President Bush, according to reporters who followed him around Tuesday at the National Grocers Association convention in Orlando, Fla., had never before seen a supermarket cash register on which the name of the item and its price flashed on a screen when the item was dragged across an electronic scanner.

The scanner was introduced at supermarket checkouts in 1980, the year Bush was elected vice president, and is just one of the many aspects of everyday life from which a president (or vice president) is shielded in the private life of public office.

As opposed to this cool guy and his trumpet.

Then a small piece of truth emerged:

Andrew Rosenthal of The New York Times hadn’t even been present at the grocers’ convention. He based his article on a two-paragraph report filed by the lone pool newspaperman allowed to cover the event, Gregg McDonald of the Houston Chronicle, who merely wrote that Bush had a “look of wonder” on his face and didn’t find the event significant enough to mention in his own story.

Moreover, Bush had good reason to express wonder: He wasn’t being shown then-standard scanner technology, but a new type of scanner that could weigh groceries and read mangled and torn bar codes.


Bob Graham of NCR, who demonstrated the scanner technology for President Bush, said, “It’s foolish to think the president doesn’t know anything about grocery stores. He knew exactly what I was talking about.”

But by the time this truth leaked out it didn’t matter because it was buried on the back pages with one-time printing and then forgotten. To be fair there were some other MSM sources in the day that were more honest and less partisan than the Globe, NYT and others:

Newsweek screened the same tape and reported: “Bush acts curious and polite, but hardly amazed.” Michael Duffy of Time magazine called the whole thing “completely insignificant as a news event. It was prosaic, polite talk, and Bush is expert at that. If anything, he was bored.” 

Those semi-balanced days seem even longer ago than 1992.

But despite the likes of Time and Newsweek, The Narrative had multiple front-pages and therefore stuck – which was the intention of the NYT and other Democrat-supporting MSM sources. In fact it stuck so well that it’s still repeated, as it was with an ordinary 2009 NYT story about the history of the bar code scanner:

They even played a role in the 1992 presidential race, when then-PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush, at a campaign stop, seemed surprised by what had already become a technological staple of everyday life.

Also with a scathing NYT attack on John McCain about his supposed ludditism in 2008:

She even does my boarding passes – people can do that now,” Mr. McCain marveled. “When we go to the movies, she gets the tickets ahead of time. It’s incredible.”

Mr. McCain’s sense of wonder evoked the episode in the early 1990s when George H.W. Bush became overly impressed upon seeing a price scanner at a supermarket check-out counter.

As opposed to this cool guy and his Blackberry.

Yes, you’re sensing yet another standard pattern in the MSM, all the way to Cool Britannia and our own “Youth Adjacent” PM.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Another argument that is no longer off-limits

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One of the detailed points of argument during the Great Chinese Lung Rot pandemic was around the definition of what actually constituted a Covid-19 death.

Early in the hysteria it was pointed out that deaths were being recorded as Covid simply because the patient had tested positive for Covid. This included even ridiculous examples such as deaths by car accident.

Naturally the pro-hysteria side, with the aid of the “If It Bleeds, It Leads” MSM, ferociously attacked such arguments. For the MSM it’s quite natural that the more death there is the better the story. That’s been true since the days of William Randolph Hearst and his famous “Sob Sisters” over a hundred years ago.

But even the medical “experts” had motive to push death numbers higher, since the more death there was the more likely they could persuade politicians and The People to undertake the extremist controls they advocated. Some of this was obvious with the pandemic models pushed by the likes of Neil Ferguson (“A spherical cow of uniform density in a frictionless vacuum“).

Naturally their counter-attacks against such critics focused on how you should not argue with medical experts, even though medical experts were among the critics of the Covid-death classifications. The motivations of the likes of Ferguson and company were not to be questioned, only those of their dastardly and uncaring opponents.

My, how things change when the motivations run the other way. In this case the criticism around deaths of people who have been vaccinated for Covid-19. Placed under such pressure, no less than the head of American Center for Disease Control (CDC) backs into …. the precise arguments put forward by critics of the Covid death counters.

Walensky is drawing a distinction between those who died directly because they got COVID and those who may have tested positive, but ultimately died of another comorbidity or condition. Now, to most people, that would seem like common sense. After all, why would you count someone with terminal cancer or an already failing heart as a COVID death – just because they had the virus when they died?

Obviously, what Walensky is saying is true. What we’ve known about COVID from early on from those hit the hardest told us that co-morbidities, including heart problems, lung problems, and morbid obesity, are the top factors, and that very old people (70+) naturally suffered more from the first two factors, hence them suffering a higher Covid-19 death rate than other age groups. If someone is otherwise terminally sick, even a mild case of Covid-19 could expedite matters – just as the Flu or Pneumonia normally does. The latter has long been called the “Old People’s Friend” for that very reason.

But the real point I want made clear here is that what Walensky is saying has previously been declared to be completely off-limits for over a year by the powers that be. In fact, it’s the kind of thing that has often gotten right wing-leaning sites in trouble with the social media censors of FaceTwit and company.

Yet, here is the Biden administration saying what was previously labeled as taboo, just because it now fits their narrative, which is driven by the motivation to reduce the death count rather than increase it because the latter would blow up the vaccination programmes. Meanwhile, the media don’t question it, and the social media overlords just shrug.

Oh, and the CDC has recently and rapidly shifted their positions on masks. Because Science.

Stagflation and pretty graphs?

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For two decades after the end of WWII, economists, bureaucrats and politicians were pretty sure that they’d nailed the problems of controlling a capitalist economy.

The ruling theory was Keynesianism, named after the famous economist John Maynard Keynes, whose key insight in the 1930’s was that in times of economic recession, and especially depression such as The Slump of the 1930’s, governments should not cut back on their spending but increase it.

Prior to that governments had always taken the same attitude towards a shrinking economy that households and businesses did: you cut spending in line with your falling revenues, tax in the case of government. Keynes argued that this was the wrong thing for governments to do; they were different because they controlled the creation of credit so debt was not the same threat to them. They could go into debt, perhaps quite a lot of debt, and keep spending money to keep the economy afloat until the private sector came out of its shell and started investing and spending again. The idea was not so much to inflate the economy as to stop a blackhole effect where the shrinkage fed on itself.

At least in the USA under FDR from 1930 on, and here in New Zealand under the First Labour government, the theory seemed to work although there were a few problems with the argument in that period:

  • The NZ economy was already recovering by the time Labour gained power in 1935 and its Finance Minister Walter Nash, although pushing big increases in spending, never let NZ go into the sort of debt Keynes proposed.
  • The US recovery stalled completely in 1937, with unemployment rising to 17% again. FDR’s own Secretary of the Treasury was appalled at the result after so much money had been blown. In the end it was the industrial powering up for WWII that got the economy growing and flattened unemployment.
  • Australia and Britain simply never took the Keynesian approach, yet there was no evidence that their depressions were any worse, nor their recoveries any slower than those of the US and NZ.
  • In 1946 Keynesian economists were terrified at the prospect of eleven million military men returning home to a nation where the government was already cutting spending in the form of ending huge military contracts for tanks, planes and guns. Their fears grew when a newly installed Republican House and Senate promptly cut spending even further in 1947. And from a GDP approach you could also see their point as it contracted by an incredible 11.6% in 1946 and another 1% in 1947. By contrast it shrank by 12.9% in 1932. But far from a second Great Depression the post-war US economy took off and kept powering away, with only occasional mild recessions for more than twenty years.
  • The so-called “neo-Keynesians” of the Kennedy Administration, figured that if Keynes theory could reduce unemployment down to 5% there was no reason why more Keynesian stimulus couldn’t soak up that last portion. An economy running at 100% all the time. BZZZZZTT: hitting-the-edge-of-the-envelope time again and Hello, late 60’s US inflation.

Still, the Keynesian theory settled in as Western governments coped with those mild recessions by following the formula of increased spending during a recession, as well as Central Banks dropping interest rates. It all seemed to work, even as Western Economies started to get changed by all this government intrusion.

What is neo-liberalism? Who are Reagan and Freidman?

To be fair to Keynes he always made it clear that when the economy started growing again governments should ease up on the increased spending and start paying down their debt in preparation for the next economic downturn. Suffice to say that those aspects have been increasingly ignored.

From the mid 1960’s on, it all began to turn pear-shaped. In the USA inflation began to take off with the impact of all the spending on the Vietnam War and LBJ’s Great Society programs (also Kennedy’s neo-Keynesians mentioned earlier). The Federal Reserve tapped the interest rate brake, government spending under Nixon slowed slightly – and caused a mild recession in 1970. Releasing the brakes on both factors, the economy started growing again, but so did unemployment and inflation, something that was not supposed to be able to happen together. It got worse when recessions hit again and inflation and unemployment kept climbing through the 1970’s, with only occasional and temporary drops.

Thus was born the word “Stagflation”, followed by people paying less attention to Keynes and more to the monetary theories of Milton Friedman, as well as the economic control critiques of Friedrich Hayek from decades earlier, together with the associated politics of Reagan and Thatcher (and here in NZ, Roger Douglas, Australia with Bob Hawke) as they tried to reduce government influence in the economy.

It must be pointed out that despite all the privatisations, de-regulations and fighting over those issues, when it comes to the Big Basics of government spending and debt, it’s as though nothing has changed.

Certainly with the rise to power in the 2000’s of the likes of Bush, Blair and others, plus the shocks of things like the NASDAQ crash of ’99/00, the 9/11 attacks and of course the Great Financial Crisis of 2008, the world of Big Government spending has returned in full force.

The Great Chinese Sinus AIDS pandemic of 2020 just added rocket fuel to it all.

Amidst all this – and I’ve covered much of it already in these posts…

This is not going to get better – Feb 2019

The Great Crash of 2034 – June 2020

$5,630,859,000,000 – August 2020

… the fact was that in each of these situations in the last twenty years inflation did not take off, and while the economy recovered far more slowly than the stimulus spenders of Obama’s time had hoped for, it did at least grow, and unemployment kept going down while inflation was nowhere to be seen. These happy times became even happier under Trump as the economy boomed through 2018/19 before hitting the Covid lockdowns.

With the slow (too slow) unlocking of the economy many people figured that things would get back to normal rapidly. Yes, the Cassandra’s were still harping on about the fantastic increases in government spending, government debt and government credit creation – but we’d heard all that before.

In the case of the GFC it appears that much of that credit creation did not get into the pockets of consumers, being swallowed up by the banks instead – who did actually manage to pay Uncle Sam back for the TARP program, with interest too. Noted Keynesian economist Paul Krugman was angry that the 2008-9 stimulus programs were so small: he argued for programs in the range of $2-3 trillion and for it to go straight into the pockets of consumers.

It took a decade but that’s exactly what the $2.2 trillion CARES Act did in early 2020, followed by smaller ($900 billion) spending programs in late 2020. Then came the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan under Biden.

There may be more to come, with the proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.

Krugman must be beyond joy at this moment.

Of course the thing about Cassandra was that she was telling the truth, and so in the Year of Our Lord 2021…

CNBC

Dow Jones estimates had been for 1 million new jobs and an unemployment rate of 5.8%.

New jobs were 266,000 and unemployment rate rose to 6.1%.

NASDAQ news:

The consumer sentiment index unexpectedly crashed to 82.8 in May from 88.3 in April. The decrease surprised economists, who had expected the index to rise to 90.4.

“Unexpectedly”! I always love that. Perhaps if those economists had paid a visit to a US timber yard or looked at the incredible increases in commodity prices across the board they might not have been so surprised about consumer confidence. Massive and rapid increases in prices tend to do that, of which the M2 chart above is merely one indicator. Here’s a better one.

Too much money chasing too few goods: supply vs demand. The oldest rule in the economic theory book. The only question is whether the US is going to add to the demand with those spending programs?

Of course, looking at this history of the last twenty years, it may not actually make any real difference to the path the USA is on, except possibly to act as a trigger point. As always the question is whether we’ll know that the trigger has been pulled. Mixing metaphors, we can be certain that a fuse has been lit.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 17, 2021 at 10:43 am

The Song Remains The Same

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This is outstanding news:

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on Auckland light rail since Labour came to power, despite there being no shovels in the ground to build it. 

Information released by Waka Kotahi-NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) shows $34.8 million has been spent since October 2017 on business cases, project management, legal costs, office space and equipment, and Ministry of Transport funding. 

With more projects like this we’re going to able to stand up and proudly proclaim to the world all the wonderful things we’re doing to halt Global Warming… whilst actually doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing about it.

Plus there’s the wonderful Keynesian effect of all that money passing through the hands of lawyers and consultants and into the pockets of Mercedes and Tesla dealerships and Auckland real estate companies.

Now be honest. What more could you want from a government?

The only problem is that they’re showing signs of becoming restrained:

The Government was left with a $47 million contingency in its $6.8 billion NZ Upgrade transport package after $211 million worth of rail projects were put into the package at the last minute.

This was despite repeated warnings from officials the contingency might be too small to pay for any cost blowouts.

Those warnings were prescient, as new cost estimates for the transport projects have led the Government to back away from promises to build everything they proposed a little over a year ago – something that could have been avoided had the projects been given larger contingency funding.

I’m sure they’ll learn from this and put in a bigger contingency for next year’s budget. About a billion dollars should do it.

On the other hand their extreme restraint in achieving anything may actually start being translated into spending as well, with that contingency problem perhaps not being the usual Labour screwup as an indicator of where they’re going, as Chris Trotter points out:

Let’s begin with the Labour Government’s decision to impose a three-year wage freeze on three-quarters of the Public Service. Under the old Political Rule Book, such an action would have been deemed extremely unwise. That rule book would have explained the sheer folly of effectively decreasing the purchasing power of some of the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. This is hardly surprising: “Look after your electoral base.”; has always been the first and most important rule of electoral politics.

Chris thinks that this is all part of keeping onboard those National voters who crossed the aisle last year, but it’s more likely that Robertson has taken a look at the deficits and debt and finally got the wind up about blowing more money on stuff, especially as he considers how much of the spending to date has produced nothing of consequence or, in the case of poverty and healthcare, seen things go backwards.

To me it therefore seems quite a natural and logical progression for Labour to start down the He Puapua route of separate Maori development. As I have pointed out several times Critical Race Theory, which is currently shredding the USA, was always going to make it down here to New Zealand where it would be gleefully taken up by Maori activists and academics as an even more extremist extension of what used to be called Political Correctness (now “Woke” Politics).

But the reason why the political and activist Left have glommed on to it is that the traditional Left ideas have failed Maori, just as they’ve failed Blacks in the USA.

Public education. Public Healthcare. Social Welfare. And still Maori are suffering worse in education, health and poverty than other ethnic groups in our society.

What else has the Left got to offer Maori? Nothing, which is why this new ideology has taken hold so quickly on the NZ Left. I think it will ultimately prove to be even more useless than traditional Socialism, but for the moment it’s a salve for Maori activists and a possible electoral winner for White Leftists who otherwise have no idea what to do to improve their public institutions beyond simply dumping in more money.

There’s also increasingly a lot of moaning from the Left about why their wonderful Labour government can’t get anything done. Certainly a lot of this is due to their shambling incompetence; they are the most useless shit shower of a government that I’ve known in my lifetime.

But the simple fact is that you can’t build the same thing twice. Is Adern’s Labour government going to build another Social Security system? Another Public Healthcare system? Another building to house the bureaucracy for them? The low-hanging fruit was plucked by the First Labour government. There may be equally revolutionary things like a Universal Basic Income that they could try to implement, but I see no signs of such things from this government.

Which, as a Right-Winger, suits me just fine. I may even vote for them in 2023 on the sound basis that the more useless a government is the better it is for the individual.

But then I recall that even a government that’s too useless to build anything can still stuff things up badly by constantly saying “No” and stopping people doing things, and that’s so easy that even this government can do it. In fact it seems to be their speciality.

Labour 2023: Vote For Nothing.

If I could have just one extra promise from Labour though it would be that their post-2023 government spend less for nothing.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 16, 2021 at 9:29 am

They’re catching up

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Romania that is, to our economy.

But they’re not the only ones, as Michael Reddell demonstrates in his blog article, Productivity growth: failures and successes.

As regular readers know I have highlighted from time to time the eastern and central European OECD countries – all Communist-run until about 1989 – that were catching or moving past us. I first noticed this when I helped write the 2025 Taskforce’s report – remember, the idea that we might close the gaps to Australia by 2025, when in fact policy indifference has meant they’ve kept widening – in 2009, so that must have been data for 2007 or 2008.

Back then only Slovenia had matched us, and they were (a) small and (b) just over the border from Italy and Austria. The OECD and Conference Board numbers are slightly different, but by now probably four of the eight have matched or exceeded us (and all eight managed faster productivity growth than us over the last cycle). Turkey – also in the OECD – has also now passed us.

But in this post he decided to focus on an Eastern European nation that’s not in the OECD. Romania.

That trend looks relentless. Reddell also points out that Romania’s population has been shrinking as ours grew, courtesy of what he calls the “big New Zealand” approach. It should be noted that since GDP is calculated based on spending, largely consumer spending, which in turn means its pushed by population growth, the annual average GDP growth rate of 2.78% circa 2010-2017 was largely the product of a population growing at 1.52% per year in that period, which automatically gives you that much annual GDP growth. You’d have needed a Soviet style economy to not have at least 1.5% per annum growth.

If the last National government was bad, the Labour or Labour-led governments since 2017 have been worse. It is hard to think of a single thing they’ve done to improve the climate for market-driven business investment and productivity growth, and easy to identify a growing list of things that worsen the outlook – most individually probably quite small effects, but the cumulative direction is pretty clear.

One of the ways of seeing the utter failure – the indifference, the betrayal of New Zealanders – is to look at the growing list of countries that are either moving past us, or fast approaching us. Recall that for 50 years or more New Zealand was among the handful of very highest income countries on earth.

We still have advantages over such nations of course, largely thanks to our natural environment but also because we inherited an economy that counted as a developed one over a century ago; we had almost everything technological that nations like Britain and the USA had.

Most New Zealanders would rather live as we do than as Romanians do. They’re still recovering from decades of communist rule.

But that’s Riddell’s point: how much longer will that continue to be the case as these nations pass us in terms first of productivity and then economically, powered by that productivity advantage?

In the agricultural work I did this season almost every one of the drivers said they could earn more money doing the same work in Australia, Britain, Ireland and the USA, and many of them were heading to those places as soon as the season here was done and the Covid-border issues eased. In every case their flights and accomodation was being paid for. The foreign drivers mainly came for a working holiday, the locals were held back a little by family, but that was all.

The recent pay freeze on all government workers, which includes frontline staff like nurses and police, is not going to help, as this Kiwiblog commentator noted:

Yup, nurses are furious. They are already paid such a low salary that a nurse cannot dream of owning their own home without help from a male partner.

Two nurses on my partners ward have resigned already and shifting to Australia.

This one notes one method that will be applied:

But many are doing what my wife plans to do. Take unpaid leave while keeping her contract in NZ and go and work in Northern territories where she can earn 3 times her wage in NZ. Ok its hard work but she gets accommodation and food free plus her flights and a bonus. She will do one month every 6.

That is the future for New Zealand. It won’t be a collapse, but we will find it increasingly harder to compete with former “developing” nations for teachers, doctors, and nurses. Those well-trained doctors from Africa and the Indian continent that you so often see in NZ hospitals will not be replaced from the same sources as their nations catch up to us in wealth and can afford to pay as well, or perhaps better. Where we will get the replacements from if we’re increasingly doing little better or worse than the Developing World?

As far as Kiwis themselves are concerned, the older generations will stay here because we’ve done our stints overseas. However…

Before I had kids I used to idly talk about not encouraging any I had to stay in New Zealand, so relatively poor were the prospects becoming. It is harder to take that stance when it is real young people one enjoys being around, but…..at least from an economic perspective New Zealand looks like an ever-worse option, increasingly an inward-looking backwater.

My kids have not yet decided whether they’ll make the jump, but as they engage with the workforce they are under no illusions about the pay gaps with overseas nations as well as the housing costs (and other costs) here in our rather expensive little paradise.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 14, 2021 at 5:37 pm

The North Face: an outstanding company

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I don’t think I own any North Face gear, or ever have, though I do think their line of outdoor clothing is stylish.

Apparently the company likes stylish things across the board, especially those which let its customers know that it cares about more than just profits, but the Earth itself:

Innovex is based in Houston and has nearly 100 workers in the Permian Basin.

Each year, the company gets a Christmas gift for its employees. This year, it was supposed to be a North Face jacket with an Innovex logo, a company Innovex has ordered gear from in the past.

The company providing the jackets said The North Face doesn’t want to support the oil and gas industry in the same way they’d reject the porn industry or tobacco industry.

“They told us we did not meet their brand standards,” Innovex CEO Anderson said. “We were separately informed that what that really meant is was that we were an oil and gas company.”

[North Face said that it] “thoroughly investigates product requests to ensure they align closely with our goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection.”

Take that you disgusting, Global Warming, despoilers of Gaia! Begone from our customer’s ranks! No more will our skiers have to be ashamed at wearing the same clothes as some deplorable oil driller. Virtue and purity hath returned to our world.

Unfortunately for North Face their management turned out to be pretty ignorant about their own products and it didn’t take long for somebody in the fossil fuel industry to strike back – but in an unexpected way:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has bestowed its first-ever “Extraordinary Customer Award” on The North Face, saying it appreciates the company for its abundant use of oil and gas.

“To have such a large percent of what they make, probably three-quarters of the mass they ship is actually our product. So, it’s hard to top the all-in nature of The North Face as a consumer of our product,” said Chris Wright, CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services.

Fantastic stuff and now a US state government, Louisiana, has made it official with a resolution passed last week, that recognized The North Face as an “extraordinary customer” of “the Louisiana oil and gas petrochemical industries.”

The resolution highlights the “symbiotic relationship between the Louisiana oil and gas and petrochemical industry and The North Face,” commending the clothing company for “utilizing vital oil and gas resources so important to our state.”

“The North Face continues to offer a comprehensive collection of high-performance outerwear, skiwear, backpacks, duffels, and footwear made with nylon, polyester, and polyurethane, all of which come from petroleum products,” the resolution reads.

Congratulations to The North Face for these well-deserved awards.

In fact I’m so pleased about this that I think I shall go and buy a new ski jacket, and while looking at the products in the store I shall certainly offer voluble and effusive commentary in commending them on their wonderfully high use of fossil fuels.

I’m sure their sales people and customers will also be pleased with my visit.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 14, 2021 at 11:05 am

The Power of Glamour

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I’m shamelessly using the title of this book, which I would recommend you read even if you can’t stand the fashion industry- perhaps especially if you can’t stand it.

For the simple fact is that our societies are driven as much by these ephemeral things as by the literal nuts, bolts and electronics of our technological world.

From vacation brochures to military recruiting ads, from the Chrysler Building to the iPad, from political utopias to action heroines, Postrel argues that glamour is a seductive cultural force. Its magic stretches beyond the stereotypical spheres of fashion or film, influencing our decisions about what to buy, where to live, which careers to pursue, where to invest, and how to vote.

The post I put up the other day on cleverly painted water towers reminded me of a couple of other such things that I’ve come across recently.

First up is the emergence of a very rare turbine-powered Chrysler car from the 1960’s.

The 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car was one of 55 that were built to evaluate the use of turbine engines as part of an automobile powertrain and given to real-world drivers for short loans.

The thought was that a relatively simple, smooth operating engine that could run on a variety of fuels would offer a reliable and efficient alternative to piston engines, but poor emissions and fuel economy doomed it to the history books after a couple of years of testing.

All but nine of the cars were sent to the crusher after the project was complete in 1966. Chrysler kept two, five were sent to museums and two ended up in private hands.

Not surprisingly, car nut, Jay Leno, (former host of The Tonight Show back when it had mass appeal) owns one, but the second privately owned one is back on the market for the first time in decades.

It looks very cool on these shots although if you click on the link you’ll see that the front view is not so great: obviously YMMV. But the inside is just gorgeous, right down to the “turbine look” in the centre console.

As crazy as it might have sounded originally, turbines have been used to power other machines, perhaps most notably the US Abrams Tank.

It’s no coincidence that Chrysler was the original manufacturer of the Abrams.

Despite turbines only really being effective when they’re running at constant speed the big advantage is that they can burn any fuel, which was one inspiration for the turbine car. But as the article notes, they’re fuel hogs. The Abrams uses 10 gallons (38 litres) just to start up and the same per hour when idling.

I suppose there are people – likely military people – who find the Abrams glamorous.

The other piece on this subject that I ran across arose from a criticism by Senator Cruz of the Harris-Biden Administration’s decision to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords. Cruz said that they cared more about the people of Paris than Pittsburgh.

It’s the usual soundbite alliteration beloved by politicians and it rather annoyed right-wing writer Claire Berlinski (There Is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters), who lives in Paris and took Cruz to task for his populist shout-out:

An American writer named James Lileks, who lives in the Mid-West, acknowledges what Cruz was doing but then gently points out to Berlinski that there are two cities called Paris; the one she loves and defends and …. the newer Paris.

I’m sure there’s some lovely modern architecture in Paris. Few people go to Paris to seek it out. Only the die-hard architectural masochists feel required to make a pilgrimage to the Pompideu HVAC Museum:

I recall reading all the gushing guff published in the 1980’s when this thing was opened: about its “challenging”, “shocking” and (of course) “revolutionary” design. People go to see what’s inside, where it’s not at all like this. But they don’t go to admire the building.

Then there’s the Mitterand Library. The four buildings stand like open books, which is nice. They have a serene, spare quality, and also would not be out of place as the HQ for the advanced species that has colonized earth, eliminated 92% of the population, and now rules with a gentle hand because the survivors know the death rays strike without warning or sound.

Which brings me to this Paris concert hall, and the idea of Europe as synonymous with Grandeur And Splendor Which True Murcans Must Reject.

Do you get the sense of some alien creature blindly advancing on the city, its tentacles dripping with silvery ichor?

Of course it’s likely that there are people who do find these structures glamorous, in the same manner of an Abrams Tank.

Lileks finishes up his piece by pointing out what such things may mean for French society, in the context of Berlinski’s remark about what Cruz’s remarks mean for American society:

She’s right about Paris being the seat of arts and culture. Paris is beautiful, but its beauty is an artifact of its past.

Which brings me back to the idea Claire expressed: the sentiments she gleaned from the remark about the values of the Parisian elect “are not the mark of a healthy and self-confident society.” I think one could say the same about the structure above. It doesn’t just reject the norms and forms of history; it erases them and insists they never were.

Perhaps these are the marks of a society that loathes itself – either for what it was, which it feels was characterized by iniquities and inequities, or for what it is, which is not as great as it used to be when we were awesome. The contradiction can drive one barmy.

You can’t unmoor Parisians from the past, but you can dissolve the bonds that carry the past into the future. The city becomes a bustling pretty crypt, full of altars to gods no one believes in.

What’s left as a belief system? Statism, Art – which is either ancestor worship or institutionally “disruptive” modernism – and the notion of the Perfected Future, in which men in suits and their severe but glamorous wives go to structures like the one above and sit through a twelve-tone opera with a blank face

Written by Tom Hunter

May 13, 2021 at 11:36 am

Posted in Art, Europe, History, Humour, Ideologues, Technology, USA

Tagged with

Your Government Approved Hug is here

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In case you were wondering whether the response of governments around the world to the pandemic of Chinese Sinus AIDS has set us on new paths of authoritarian control into the future, the following news out of Britain should tell you that the answer is “YES”.

What will enable this is not just the never-ending lust of politicians to control every aspect of your life but the cultural changes enabled by the disease response, including the way academia and the media treat this news:

Oh joy! Thank you, thank you government.

On the non-government good news front there is this longer term trend.

The prime reasons for this are:

  • The death of Mao Tse Tung in 1976.
  • The collapse of the USSR and it’s Eastern Bloc of slave states.
  • The pushback against Democratic Socialism starting in the 1980’s with Reagan and Thatcher.
  • The rise of the Southeast Asian states as part of the Pacific Rim growth.
  • The collapse of the post-colonialist regimes across Africa in the last twenty years. Despite various awful events that continent is actually growing its GDP quite well and may be on the verge of a China-type period of economic expansion. Given its population growth rate they need to.

A reader has raised an interesting question as to the worth of that $700 in 1968 vs today. The answer is that it’s worth $US 5,327.99 in 2021.

Of course that begs the question of what is meant by “inflation”, and the following chart has a very interesting take on that. Of course it’s the USA and only since 2000, but still.

There is also this as food for thought on things getting better.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 12, 2021 at 2:11 pm

Charismatic Cisterns

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We’re all used to seeing water tanks that look like these ones, particularly in New Zealand and Australia where they’re a common site on farms, although they’re usually no longer in use. These two actually don’t look too bad, probably because the sagging lean of their platforms has added some style to their image, courtesy also of a good photographer.

When it comes to our urban areas New Zealand lucks out with its hilly geography providing an automatic gravity-fed capability. Huge water tanks and cisterns can be buried on the top of hills, perhaps with less than half of the structure sticking above ground.

That’s a good thing because their basic functionality means that they are not pretty to start with.

In other parts of the world where towns and cities are surrounded by hundreds of miles of flat land, the townsfolk are not so lucky. Their water tanks, more correctly termed water towers, have to be raised on a platform to gain sufficient height above the surrounding buildings that they supply. When I first drove through the American Mid-West my attention kept being drawn to these water tanks, not only because I found such structures unusual but because they often looked like the following.

Butt ugly in other words.

Even more so when extra functionality is added by turning them into cellphone towers.

So it was with some pleasure that I discovered that as painting technology has advanced people are no longer willing to accept ugly-functional as the water tank/tower look. There’s even a competition to judge the best ones, Tank Of The Year, which you can view at your leisure by clicking on the link. But here’s some of my favourites

I don’t agree with all the winning selections of course, but here’s my favourite winner, from 2017.

PinInterest also has a nice selection of water tower photos , although it’s labeled “weird” for some reason.

Even the much older concept of cisterns can be prettier than water towers, even if they’re hardly ever seen because they’re underground, like this one in the Peniche Fortress (Forte de Peniche), Portugal.

Bulls Water Tower

Meanwhile back here in NZ, in the heart of the Rangitikei Plains, we’ve got one of our examples of the classic water tower, courtesy of the area being one of the few parts of the nation that are as flat as the American Mid-West.

Yes, that’s the famous/infamous water tower that greets travellers entering the township of Bulls.

I see that it has been de-commissioned because it’s not earthquake proof but has been saved from demolition by a public vote. I realise that architects probably will swoon over it as a classic example of mid-20th century Modernist building style, but I doubt that the old Ministry Of Works architects were thinking that when designing it.

No, it’s functional – and a butt ugly wart on the landscape. Perhaps, having saved the damned thing, the public could be inspired by the links above to apply some creative painting to it.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 11, 2021 at 11:13 am

We shall defend our Island…

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Not a headline I expected to see in the early 21st century.

Apparently it’s something to do with fishing vessels

A Franco-British feud over access to prime fishing waters escalated on Thursday as the two countries deployed patrol and navy ships near the Channel island of Jersey.

Access to Britain’s rich fishing waters was a major sticking point in post-Brexit talks. A transition period was agreed in which EU fishermen would give up 25 percent of their current quotas — the equivalent of 650 million euros per year — in 2026. The deal would then be renegotiated every year.

Until then, EU vessels have access to an area between six to 12 nautical miles from Britain’s coast, but they have to ask for new licenses.

This is where things got complicated.

The French side says London acted outside of the deal by tightening conditions for access to UK waters

Basically a repeat of the Great Cod War of the mid-1970’s then. Not until reading that Wiki did I realise that there had been similar stoushes in the early 1970’s and 1958-1961.

It seems the French are already turning to the comfort of land warfare, where they have a history of far more success against the British than at sea:

“We’re ready to resort to retaliatory measures” that are in the Brexit accord, Girardin told lawmakers in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

“Concerning Jersey, I’ll remind you of the transport of electricity via submarine cables,” she added. “I would regret it if we have to do it, but we’ll do it if we have to.”

Anyway, I don’t think we should treat this as entirely funny because, as the great Edmund Blackadder once said:

Doesn’t anyone know? We hate the French! We fight wars against them!

Did all those men die in vain on the field at Agincourt?

Was the man who burned Joan of Arc simply wasting good matches?

Written by Tom Hunter

May 10, 2021 at 5:32 pm