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Vox Populi? Vox Humbug!

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That was General Sherman’s summation of the press’s response to General Grant’s great victory at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. Sherman, a solid friend of Grant, bluntly said that while the press were praising the man now it came only after months of calling him a useless drunkard, and that they would turn on him again tomorrow when something went wrong.

I’ve already written – in Political Science and From ZOMG Omicron to “Long Covid”, – of the about-faces being taken by the likes of the CDC, Dr Fauci, Democrat governors and their MSM stenographers on Chinese Xi Snot-related things like masks, PCR tests, quarantine periods and what case numbers really mean – all of which is happening as the fortunes of the Democrat party nosedive, which is a complete coincidence.

The explosion in Omicron case numbers is just further evidence of how all those messages have to change if the Democrats are going to avoid being held responsible, although given how hard they pushed it in 2020 it’s going to be a slog to get away from stuff as blatant as “I’m gonna shutdown the virus”. The US MSM will try to help of course.

One of them, opinionater economist Paul Krugman, has become the go-to man for having to eat his words on almost every issue you can think of, entirely because of his pathetic and slavish devotion to the Democrats.

Sad to see what has become of a Economics Nobel prize winner, but he’s not alone.

They’re also refusing to cover the worsening shortages of food and other goods in US stores – which is a result of the impact on supply chains of their C-19 responses – leaving it to the British MSM, who are not so invested in defending Biden, to do the job, as the Daily Mail does here with “Back in the USSR“:

Holy Guacamole, sports fans. In 1989 Boris Yeltsin visited a Randalls supermarket in Texas and was so astonished with what he saw that he was despondent on the flight to Miami: “he sat motionless, his head in his hands… the last vestige of Bolshevism collapsed inside of the man”.

The odds of “President” Biden and his staff having a similar Come To Jesus moment after looking at the current #BareShelvesBiden are about zero, which is quite telling in comparison to a man who grew up in a communist system but could still face reality and learn.

As National Review’s Jim Geraghty (moderate Right Wingers you can trust) points out, local TV stations and newspapers, and their websites, across the USA, are covering this story, complete with those all-powerful photos of empty shelves, but their National affiliates refuse to pick it up.

The likes of Krugman, Hiltzik, and many other Democrat Operatives With Bylines continue to get published. However, they clearly are feeling the heat of those massive declines in readership (Die MSM, Die – Dying, they still beckon) because now they’re trying to take out their new competitors. Two recent examples are Joe Rogan, who they have whinged to Spotify about, asking them to pull his podcasts due to his “misinformation”….

… and then a hit-piece on “broadcaster”, Dan Bongino. The latter was seen as one of the successors to Rush Limbaugh but, like the Bernie Sanders-supporting Rogan, their impact is via Internet podcasts rather than talk-radio, let alone other older media – and not through the ring-fenced Social Media gardens of TwitFace and company either.

The fight was never summed up better than Bongino’s response to the The New Yorker.

It’s no surprise then that despite their great strivings to support Biden, the MSM is failing on that front as well, with his latest Quinnipiac poll at 33% popularity, three points down from the same poll in November in a year-long trend of decline. That’s five points worse than Trump was at the same stage of his first year (38% approval). Other recent polls are just as bad:

Not only that, but he’s dragging his entire party to its doom – although I’m not prepared to let Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and the rest of those idiots and their idiot policies off the hook:

That is a huge turnaround. I can recall nothing like it, even in years like 1994, 2002, 2010 and 2014 when the GOP kicked Democrat butt Mid-Term.

In the face of this, the Whitehouse idiots decided that what’s needed is a new messaging strategy – and they’re including the head of the CDC in that.

According to the WSJ, Walensky has been undergoing extensive media prep and has been coached by a media consultant ahead of several public briefings she plans to hold in the coming future.

On Monday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) told Fox News that the CDC should replace Rochelle Walensky with “someone who is compassionate, who is consistent, and where the messaging is clear.”

I guess Rachel Walensky’s flip flops on masks, PCR tests, quarantine periods, case numbers and vaccine boosters have proved to be a problem for Biden . Yeah! That’s the ticket, because even Biden can be different from the guy who said this:

“Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did.”

Plus about ten billion other stupid things that have fallen out of his dementia-ridden old brain. Their first such effort was a 2 hour Biden press conference that had tongue-bathing journalists like the execrable PBS “reporter”, Yamiche Alcindor (PBS! How low have they sunk), raving about how he’d managed to stand up for so long.

Meantime, other people noted that on the issue of Ukraine alone he’d basically repeated what his military advisors had told him – that Putin has to do something, “would win“, with a “minor incursion” – shit that you’re not supposed to blab in public. This has resulted in both Russia and the US pulling staff from their embassies in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, plus a blast at Biden from the Ukrainian President. It was so bad that even Late Night, Democrat Party, Cock Holster Comedian, Steven Colbert, took him to task on it.

“I would hate to see Joe as a hostage negotiator. ‘Why don’t we all just calm down? Just let everyone go…or shoot them.’ You gotta do something!”

But the most concise summation was this one from a former Special Assistant to GW Bush – who in 2020 undoubtedly bought into all the bullshit about Biden that he now professes to be surprised about – which is why he’s allowed on CNN:

As I’ve pointed out before, this is not a temporary glitch. This is what Biden always was, and unlike other Presidents who have been in trouble, he’s not capable of digging himself out of this hole.

As a result, the following cartoon that I’ve occasionally made reference to – published in early 2020 when all the Democrat nominees looked like losers – looks more prescient all the time.

And voila!

Written by Tom Hunter

January 24, 2022 at 12:40 am

Their Master’s Voice

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This just out of China.

LeBron James and his fellow Black NBA players who fearlessly attack their fellow Americans as racist over the smallest things, are silent on this.

That’s expected of course since one does not speak up on the new plantation, especially when it pays. But slavery is not just about money but the soul.

Written by Tom Hunter

January 20, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Bureaucracy vs. Robber Barrons

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“When propaganda is the goal, accuracy is the victim.”

I recently came across two articles from past years that I’ve had bookmarked and which I’ve enjoyed reading again over this summer.

First up is some humour that author J K Rowling may be treating more seriously in her ongoing fight with the Trans community, especially after getting her name removed from the Harry Potter movie franchise by Warner Brothers as they launch a 20th anniversary celebration of the first HP movie.

The humour comes from an essay written in 2006 for the Michigan Law Review, which analyses what Rowling is effectively saying in her HP books about bureaucracy, government and the media, Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy:

The critique is even more devastating because the governmental actors and actions in the book look and feel so authentic and familiar. Cornelius Fudge, the original Minister of Magic, perfectly fits our notion of a bumbling politician just trying to hang onto his job. Delores Umbridge is the classic small-minded bureaucrat who only cares about rules, discipline, and her own power… The Ministry itself is made up of various sub-ministries with goofy names (e.g., The Goblin Liaison Office or the Ludicrous Patents Office) enforcing silly sounding regulations (e.g., The Decree for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans or The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery).

Rowling even eliminates the free press as a check on government power. The wizarding newspaper, The Daily Prophet, is depicted as a puppet to the whims of Ministry of Magic.

Sounds appropriate for our times. I don’t know how many of you have read the series, likely to your kids or even grandkids, or perhaps a guilty pleasure for yourself, but you may recognise some of this from the abstract.

I did not have to re-read the books to see all this, as it had jumped out at me when I read them originally, even if it went over the heads of my kids. I was hardly the only parent who speculated on what Rowling’s experience with government and bureaucrats had been in real life as she wrote her novels in poverty. Having said that it seems that Gen Z kids themselves continue to re-read the books now as they age into their twenties and thirties, where they likely also draw similar parallels:

it seems likely that we will see a continuing uptick in distrust of government and libertarianism as the Harry Potter generation reaches adulthood.

One can only hope. Which brings me to the next article, about a world almost completely at odds with the first, the Gilded Age of America, otherwise known as the time of The Robber Barrons.

More accurately The Myth of the ‘Robber Barons’. It turns out that it was created less at the time (despite cartoons such as the one above) than in the 1930’s, just when it was needed by the US Left, as described by historian Burton W. Folsom in his book about the subject.

It will surprise nobody to find that Far Lefters were behind it and that they were very ignorant about economics – and many other things. The main culprit was one Matthew Josephson, who quite literally wrote the best-selling book, The Robber Barons, after being inspired by Charles Beard, America’s foremost progressive historian, first at varsity and then years later during the Great Depression:

Josephson, the son of a Jewish banker, grew up in New York and graduated from Columbia University, where he was inspired in the classroom by Charles Beard, America’s foremost progressive historian—and a man sympathetic to socialism…“Oh! those respectable ones,” Beard said of America’s capitalists, “oh! their temples of respectability—how I detest them, how I would love to pull them all down!” Happily for Beard, Josephson was handy to do the job for him. Josephson dedicated The Robber Barons to Beard, the historian most responsible for the book’s contents.

Writing in the inspiring times of 1932 Josephson reached back fifty years in time to explain it all, but the following comments provide a clear idea of the quality of “analysis” he brought to the subject:

In a written interview for Pravda, the Soviet newspaper, Josephson said he enjoyed watching “the breakdown of our cult of business success and optimism.” He added, “The freedom of the U.S.S.R. from our cycles of insanity is the strongest argument in the world for the reconstruction of our society in a new form that is as highly centralized as Russia’s. . . .”

One is tempted to snigger but today we live with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Occasional-Cortex, who believe the same shite about socialism and its Siamese Twin, giant centralised government.

He did little research and mainly used secondary sources that supported his Marxist viewpoint. As he had written in the New Republic, “Far from shunning propaganda, we must use it more nobly, more skillfully than our predecessors, and speak through it in the local language and slogans.” Thus he wrote The Robber Barons with dramatic stories, anecdotes, and innuendos that demeaned corporate America and made the case for massive government intervention.

Ah yes. As with today’s “journalists” the Narrative is everything and is best supported by dramatic stories. As Folsom points out in the article, that means there are lots of mistakes: “On page 14 alone, Josephson makes at least a dozen errors in his account of Vanderbilt and the steamships.” As Folsom says, “When propaganda is the goal, accuracy is the victim.”

But the main error – actually showing up on that page – is that Josephson never differentiated between market entrepreneurs like Vanderbilt, Hill, and Rockefeller and political entrepreneurs (i.e. government subsidy harvesters) like Collins, Villard, and Gould, even as he was honest enough to praise aspects of the former and lash the latter:

He quotes “one authority” on the railroads as saying, “The Federal government seems . . . to have assumed the major portion of the risk and the Associates seem to have derived the profits”—but Josephson never pursues the implication of that passage.

While the book hit the best-seller lists for six months Josephson was running around Russia praising bloody Stalin and his system. He missed the gulags, the farm collectivisations and all their horrors, especially in the Ukraine, and saw only the factories and other “glamorous” things:

He attended official dinners and even talked with select Russian writers and artists. He was ecstatic. The Soviet Union, Josephson said, “seemed like the hope of the world—the only large nation run by men of reason.” … Josephson also never realized that the Soviet factories he saw were often directly copied from Western capitalist factories—and were funded by Stalin’s confiscatory taxation. Instead, Josephson thought he had stumbled into a workers’ paradise, the logical result of central planning and superior leaders.

This book would go on to be more than just a best-seller: it had huge influence in the worlds of high schools, academia and journalism for decades:

Historian Thomas Brewer, who in 1970 edited The Robber Barons: Saints or Sinners? observed that the majority of writers “still adhere to the ‘robber baron’ interpretation.” Historian David Shi agrees: “For well over a generation, The Robber Barons remained the standard work in its field.” For many textbook writers, it still is. In the main study guide for the Advanced Placement U.S. history exam for 2015, the writers say:

America [1877-1900] looked to have entered a period of prosperity with a handful of families having amassed unprecedented wealth, but the affluence of the few was built on the poverty of many.

2015 FFS? It’s a wonder that Silicon Valley exists at all with this sort of high school education, though perhaps it wasn’t as bad when the likes of Zuckerburg, Gates, Bezos and Steve Jobs were passing through it, and of course Musk was educated in South Africa.

Folsom explains that this success, despite all the sloppy errors in the book, comes down to two reasons.

First, it was tailor-made for the Progressives of the 1930’s eager to blame the new generation of robber barons for the Great Depression. I always laugh at those Lefties who claim that Righties pined for President Herbert Hoover: it’s even in the opening song for All In The Family because of course it is. See how this cultural shit works? In fact:

Those harmful federal policies include the Federal Reserve’s untimely raising of interest rates, making it harder to borrow money; President Hoover’s blundering Farm Board; his signing of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the highest in U.S. history; and his disastrous Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which dispensed massive corporate bailouts to political entrepreneurs. Finally, Hoover muzzled investment by repealing the Mellon tax cuts and promoting a huge tax hike.

Including income tax rates that went up to 70%, which FDR criticised, but which he cunningly kept after getting elected. Oh yeah, we Righties love that Herbert Hoover. Actually the admiration is for “Silent Cal” Coolidge, his predecessor, who could have run for office again in 1928 and would have handled all of the above very differently (of Hoover he said, “That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad.”)

The second reason is that a bunch of Marxist historians who influenced a lot of the post-WWII historical profession, loved the book and made sure it was embedded in the curriculums of their students, starting with Richard Hofstadter:

“My fundamental reason for joining [the Communist Party],” Hofstadter said, “is that I don’t like capitalism and want to get rid of it.”

He still desired that after quitting the Party. He’s also the guy who wrote the nasty little polemic about the US Right-Wing, The Paranoid Style in American Politics. Great guys communists, whatever profession they are they’re still communists, with all the toxic nastiness and fanaticism involved.

Folsum’s book, The Myth of The Robber Barrons
Also, The Forgotten Man

Written by Tom Hunter

January 4, 2022 at 6:00 am

The Bernie Sanders struggle session

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It’s been a standard part of Left-wing belief for decades now that Big Pharma is just another horrible aspect of capitalism, especially American capitalism, where huge corporations suck vast sums of money out of the pockets of The People in order to line their own, and do so with the connivance of the government, both via corrupted politicians and its bureaucrats.

Bernie Sanders, probably America’s No. 1 such thinker, was at it again the other day, Bernie Sanders Opposes Nomination Of Biden’s FDA Pick:

“We need leadership at the FDA that is finally willing to stand up to the greed and power of the pharmaceutical industry. In this critical moment, Dr. Califf is not the leader Americans need at the agency and I will oppose his nomination,” Sanders said in the tweet.

You can see his point when you look at this.

The thing is that without all that power, greed and influence with the FDA it’s unlikely that any of these C-19 vaccines would have been developed in the record-breaking time they were, especially compared with the history of such things:

This history should not be a surprise when you consider the development process for a vaccine:

Bernie’s actually been rather shocked that places like Cuba and France, indeed all of the places he lauds as having better economic and healthcare systems than the USA, failed to develop their own vaccines. If he thought about this he might consider whether the lack of Big Pharm’s “obscene” profits might have something to do with that, along with the regulatory aspects that he also rails against.

And of course it sets up a conflict with Bernie’s other long-held belief in this area; that vaccinations should be mandated across the board, although he’s flip-flopped on that issue.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 19, 2021 at 10:05 am

China is asshole

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Let’s hope that the end product of the 3 Waters plan, some four huge SOE water authorities across New Zealand, don’t borrow any money from China…

Uganda loses its only international airport to China for failing to repay loan.

Uganda has lost its only international airport, the Entebbe International Airport, to China for failing to repay a loan, African media reported.

The government has failed to reverse a loan agreement with China which had repayment conditions for attaching its only airport.

In 2015, China’s Export-Import (EXIM) Bank lent Uganda $207 million at two per cent upon disbursement. The loan, meant for the expansion of Entebbe airport, came with a maturity period of 20 years including a seven-year grace period, News X reported.

China has pulled this stunt many times now in Africa and in the Pacific. Loan a nation money to build or upgrade some piece of infrastructure, then foreclose on the loan to get ownership of the asset.

They’re not making themselves popular with this approach but obviously don’t care, since feelz are less important than ownership.

Always remember:

Written by Tom Hunter

December 1, 2021 at 2:13 pm

A trucker speaks

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It’s always good to hear something from the coal face of a problem.

In this case the ongoing logistics crisis in the USA, which is much more than the global shipping problems that every nation is experiencing, see here, here and here.

I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.

It seems that one of the basic problems is that at the US ports there is perhaps only one crane for every 50-100 trucks.

Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that.

Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers. Think about the lines. Except at a port, there are at least THREE lines to get a container in or out. The first line is the ‘in’ gate, where hundreds of trucks daily have to pass through 5–10 available gates. The second line is waiting to pick up your container. The third line is for waiting to get out. For each of these lines the wait time is a minimum of an hour, and I’ve waited up to 8 hours in the first line just to get into the port. Some ports are worse than others, but excessive wait times are not uncommon. It’s a rare day when a driver gets in and out in under two hours. By ‘rare day’, I mean maybe a handful of times a year.

The reason this didn’t matter before was that the system had been smoothly flowing for years without the sort of major disruptions caused by government Covid responses, but once those problems hit, the system can’t recover quickly because it has no reserves. Think of it like a huge power station running on coal or gas; it’ll run great for months or years on end, but it’s not designed for rapid start up so if you shut the whole thing down it takes days to fire up.

The driver points out that as member of the Teamsters union he gets paid by the hour so although frustrating he’s not losing money. That’s not the case for the majority of truckers who are owner-operators. His opinion is that most will make almost no money and therefore have not shown up. So:

  • Not enough trucks because there’s no money in it.
  • Not enough port workers because of vaccine mandates and government relief payments that have seen them not return.
  • Not enough warehouse workers (where containers are unpacked) because the money is shit and the job is tough.
  • Not enough spaces to store containers (see this post)

But his key takeaway is this one:

What is going to compel the shippers and carriers to invest in the needed infrastructure? The owners of these companies can theoretically not change anything and their business will still be at full capacity because of the backlog of containers. The backlog of containers doesn’t hurt them. It hurts anyone paying shipping costs — that is, manufacturers selling products and consumers buying products.

But it doesn’t hurt the owners of the transportation business — in fact the laws of supply and demand mean that they are actually going to make more money through higher rates, without changing a thing. They don’t have to improve or add infrastructure (because it’s costly), and they don’t have to pay their workers more (warehouse workers, crane operators, truckers).

Before the pandemic, through the pandemic, and really for the whole history of the freight industry at all levels, owners make their money by having low labor costs — that is, low wages and bare minimum staffing. Many supply chain workers are paid minimum wages, no benefits, and there’s a high rate of turnover because the physical conditions can be brutal

So this is a market failure, and he says that there are no incentives in the system that will make it change.

Nobody is compelling the transportation industries to make the needed changes to their infrastructure. There are no laws compelling them to hire the needed workers, or pay them a living wage, or improve working conditions. And nobody is compelling them to buy more container chassis units, more cranes, or more storage space. This is for an industry that literally every business in the world is reliant on in some way or another.

By “compelling” you know he means laws and regulations (he is a Teamster after all) and perhaps the industry is such a monopoly, even if there are many companies competing with each other inside it, that such are needed. But it’s not like the industry doesn’t already have a mountain of regulations and laws around it.

To me it seems that it’s better to see what incentives can be changed or introduced because market incentives work better and faster than compulsion.

But how? Because it’s infrastructure one can’t just craft up another port to equal that of LA. These so-called natural monopolies are why we have Transpower in NZ looking after the primary power transmission lines, since nobody would ever “compete” by building a second or third set. Perhaps in this case the port could be cut up into multiple companies that are able to set their own rules for shipping, thus creating competition in its best form, the competition of ideas about how to do things.

I see that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has already proposed one solution – send the ships to the ports of his state. That would be a major re-direction, especially for the China-US Pacific run (I’d think they’d transit the Indian and Atlantic oceans) but perhaps the extra time and fuel costs are now completely offset by the gains made in avoiding the West Coast?

Written by Tom Hunter

November 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Youth Hostels gone

In the Winter of 1983 I drove all over the South Island for three months, never having visited it before, and stayed in Youth Hostels most of the time. Good memories of the people I met there, mostly young foreigners.

The only YHA place I ever rejected was the Pigeon Bay one that sat on farmland in Banks Peninsula. Leaving a mate’s flat in Chch one afternoon for the hostel I steadily came under attack from one of the worst cases of the flu I ever experienced. By the time I’d climbed the hills out of Lyttelton, driving from sealed roads to gravel with grass up the middle, as a cold night fell, to find a darkened building in the middle of nowhere, no idea where to get the key from, and feeling as sick as a dog, I’d had enough. I scuttled back the long way around to the YHA in Chch, briefly disturbing a petrol station owner who had retired for the night and persuading him to start the pumps up.

The lovely folks at the Christchurch YHA yielded on their normal rules of not allowing people to stay during the day and allowed me to rest for two days beside a roaring wood fire in a pot belly stove while I read cheap, trashy novels and indulged in hot drinks and as much pseudoephedrine as I could cram into my system.

Which brings me to this news.

Youth Hostel Association to close its hostels after 89 years

The YHA said the extended Auckland lockdown and no prospects of an international visitors this summer left the association in an unsustainable financial position.

The 11 hostels owned by the association will close from 15 December 89 years of operation.

“YHA was looking forward to a bright future in 2019 having just opened a new hostel in Tekapo. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has just gone on too long for us to be able to ride it out”

The YHA should have been one of the strongest operators given that it had a very low cost structure, even with low-spending youth as their customers. If YHA is in this sort of trouble then it has to be concerning for the rest of the tourism industry.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 25, 2021 at 12:27 pm

Hollywood’s ugly cost of catering to China

Come On Hollywood. Put Taiwan & Japan back
on Maverick’s Jacket for Top Gun II 

A terrific article about Hollywood’s pathetic sucking up to China over the last few years.

There’s plenty of evidence in terms of reporting on all the machinations that have been pulled between China and Hollywood over the years at the management level.

But it can be seen on the screen itself: things like modifying Maverick’s jacket to remove the patches for Taiwan and Japan, or Disney’s removal of the Black guy in their Star Wars billboards for China.

The ultimate joke is that it’s started to fail Hollywood anyway as the returns on all this “investment” begin to dry up:

Just two years ago, Disney’s “Avengers Endgame” earned a whopping $629 million at Chinese theaters during its theatrical run.

The far-Left Hollywood Reporter says “Jungle Cruise,” a splashy Disney film with a massive budget, bombed during its opening weekend in China. The film earned a mere $3.3 million during its initial release.

That’s part of a new pattern for U.S.-made films, notes Breitbart News. Other 2021 U.S. titles which significantly under-performed in China include “Snake Eyes,” “Luca” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”

Meanwhile, many films that expected to earn serious coin in China have yet to snag an official release in the country, including “Black Widow,” “The Eternals” and “Shang-Chi,” all Disney titles.

Also aiding this fail is that China has started to get pretty good at churning out big blockbuster movies themselves – and they’re patriotic about China. As a result they’re making a lot of the money Hollywood used to make from Chinese audiences.

The article also links to a short documentary about this, The Iron (Movie) Curtain. As the old Russian soviets once said: The West will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.


See also:

Disney Bombs

Die Hollywood, Die

Burn Baby, Burn: Hollywood edition

Trump was right about China

Written by Tom Hunter

November 18, 2021 at 10:37 am

Good news from a simple solution

In the last few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts on the supply chain problems cropping up around the world, in particular across the Pacific and especially between the USA and China:

The Shipping News

World’s Worst Job

Since then the problem has actually got worse, with even more ships parked outside the Port of Los Angeles. In reading one of my foreign sources I came across a link to the Twitter account of a guy called Ryan Petersen who had rented a boat to go and look at the port to see what was happening.

But that was as far as I read and it merely confirmed other news about the situation. As it happens I should have read further, because he discovered something amazing that is almost beyond belief.

As this commentator summarises while listing out the entire Twitter thread:

  1. There was a rule in the Port saying you could only stack shipping containers two containers high.
  2. This is despite the whole point of shipping containers being to stack them on top of each other so you can have a container ship.
  3. This rule was created, and I am not making this up, because it was decided that higher stacks were not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
  4. If you violated this rule, you lost your right to operate at the port.
  5. In normal times, this was annoying but not a huge deal.

The last point on that list is this:

None of those people managed to do anything about the rule, or even get word out about the rule. No reporters wrote up news reports. No one was calling for a fix. The supply chain problems kept getting worse and mostly everyone agreed not to talk about it much and hope it would go away.

It’s incredible that this one stupid bureaucratic rule could be so obviously part of a massive and growing problem and not have anything done about it.

As it happens the Twitter guy did do something about. Having spotted the problem he suggested the obvious solution of suspending the rule so that containers could be stacked more than two high.

So far, so what you may say. Well this is where the power of connecting people on Social Media, in this case Twitter, was made obvious and for once in a good way. That initial tweet got 16k retweets and 33k likes, and even the others got thousands of likes as well, so this successfully got many people’s attention – including the people who make decisions, like the Mayor of Long Beach where the port is located:

That decision was made just eight hours after Petersen’s Tweet thread was posted.

EIGHT HOURS!

You can read the following blog post – An Unexpected Victory – for a (lengthy) analysis of this incident as an example of problem solving – and a glimmer of hope for solving other problems:

If you’re not terrified that the United States is a dead player, you haven’t been paying attention – the whole reason this is a miracle, and that it shocked so many people, is that we didn’t think the system was capable of noticing a stupid, massively destructive rule with no non-trivial benefits and no defenders and scrapping it, certainly not within a day. If your model did expect it, I’m very curious to know how that is possible, and how you explain the years 2020 and 2021.

Sadly there are multiple problems involved in the supply chain crisis, of which this was just one.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 9, 2021 at 10:08 am

Ardern, Lange and Cabinet cabals

As readers will know I usually leave it to my six NM co-authors to focus on the NZ stuff, but in the case of an article I came across last night, I feel it should be spread far and wide.

Jacinda Ardern and the Ghost of David Lange

It’s from the Democracy Project blog based out of Victoria University and it’s a damned good read about the Three Waters project.

David Lange is one of the most tragic figures of our modern political history. Highly articulate and entertaining, he was ushered into power in a landslide in 1984 during an economic and financial crisis. Feted as the youngest Prime Minister of the 20th century, he dazzled the nation with his wit and intellect.

It took a while before it became clear that Lange was using his larger-than-life persona and seductive oratory to sell a transformation of New Zealand’s economic landscape on behalf of a powerful cabal in his Cabinet whose intentions he seemed not to fully comprehend.

The writer makes clear just how similar this all is to Jacinda Ardern, with the additional similarity of Covid-19 substituting for the anti-nuclear issue as the PR-positive smokescreen for Labour while the dirty work gets done behind it:

It seems likely that Ardern will end up being viewed in a similar way. When she was anointed by Winston Peters in 2017, she was feted as the youngest Prime Minister in more than 150 years, before being returned to power three years later in a landslide in response to a pandemic.

Her charisma and glamour are perfectly suited to the superficial politics of the social media age but she is obliged to dance to the tune played by Nanaia Mahuta, Willie Jackson and the Maori caucus — and by the others in her Cabinet, including David Parker and Andrew Little, who support their revolutionary agenda.

That last is the important point. Back in 1984, for all the talk of Douglas and his core there were plenty of others in the Fourth Labour government cabinet like Anne Hercus and Stan Roger who went along for the ride but have escaped the Left’s anger. In the same way Mahuta may be the lead on this, but she could not have pushed it this far without strong support from other parts of Cabinet.

This similarity is also noted:

After last Wednesday’s press conference in which Nanaia Mahuta, in her role as the Minister of Local Government, made it clear she would press ahead with her Three Waters reforms despite overwhelming opposition, it has become pretty obvious who really controls this aspect of the government’s policies. The fact that 60 of the nation’s 67 local authorities either strongly oppose the reforms or have serious doubts about them hasn’t dented the minister’s determination to push changes through Parliament one little bit.

I’ve lost track of the number of things that Labour have pushed through despite massive opposition, relying on the fact that such a thing is often transitory and that if done quickly enough the act can be treated as a done deal that now belongs to the past while more important topics relating to the future can be framed for the next election.

Would that National ever do the same. This Sounds Familiar:

When it matters, Republicans look around and say, “Oh no we can’t do that, we’d lose a man. The Democrats would take seats.” They are virtually a majority for the sake of being a majority. They just want to polish it up, put it on the shelf, and look at it. 

To put it simply, Republicans approach politics like America fights wars: They don’t want to lose a single man. Democrats, on the other hand? They look at politics like the Russians looked at Stalingrad: The congressman in front votes now; when they fall the next man gets elected and he will vote too.

To be fair on this point the writer does allow that Ardern has caved to public opposition on a few things:

Two years ago, she quickly backed off her cherished capital gains tax in perpetuity as soon as it became clear that she was facing a wall of opposition — just as she did in October with the Auckland Harbour cycle crossing.

You could add the collapse on Level 4 Lockdown to that list.

However, those were not core issues for Labour, despite public trumpeting about them, and they did not constitute really fundamental change. For example, the National Party’s “bright-line” test for real-estate gains was already effectively a narrow CGT that could be easily expanded later, and has been.

As the article points out, Three Waters is core, most importantly of all to the Maori caucus, who have Ardern over a barrel in a way they did not with Helen Clark and the Maori Party did not with John Key. Ardern is not calling the shots.

Moreover, in exactly the same way that the detail of the Douglas reforms were hidden for some time by mere details like devaluation, Three Waters is part and parcel of the overall He Puapua approach. Other “details”, perhaps quite large ones, will come into view over time, even with Labour in Opposition:

He Puapua itself states increased Māori rangatiratanga will require financing and that, “There are multiple streams from which financial contributions might be sourced, including, for example, levies on resource use where Māori have a strong claim to ownership, such as water.”

Despite all the spin, when you’re talking about getting returns from an asset then we are talking real ownership of that asset.

For that future, one set of theories driving all this and not discussed in the article – perhaps because it smacks too much of US academic theory – is how deeply embedded the Left wing Maori and White defenders of these schemes are in the ideology of “anti-colonialism” with its connections to Identity Politics, Woke and Critical Race Theory. The racists among them, like Mahuta, hate White people who do not agree with their ideas, while the “anti-racist” White Labour members such as Parker are all in on the Guilt and Shame about their ancestors and ready to do anything to expunge it.

Read the whole article.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 7, 2021 at 1:09 pm