No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘Germany

They teach history, don’t they?

Crazier and crazier.

Perhaps it’s different when it’s a majority?

I’d say that if George Carlin were still around he might have to start thinking whether this famous line still applies:

When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 7, 2021 at 11:17 am

“Unforeseen” Consequences

The foremost concern of environmentalists is, of course, the health and well being of the environment.

It’s in their name and all.

So it’s always funny and sad when environmentalists do stuff that blows up in their faces. There are countless examples but in terms of large scale screwups Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear power stations while also trying to switch the system to wind power is probably the winner. Some €500 million over less than twenty years and all they got was an unreliable network, power prices that have more than tripled, a lot of coal still being burned, plus constantly falling short of their GHG reduction targets. On that last it should be noted that the 2020 Chinese Xi Snot lockdowns and restrictions were a huge help, but that’s not going to be true of 2021 and beyond.

That chart is from 2017 but it’s 2020 forecast of 45 cents per kilowatt hour is not far off where it is right now.

But the latest news from another group of wind farm fanatics, California, is what is really delicious.

As more renewable power has crowded the state’s power grid with traditional power sources switched off, the grid has become more unstable and also unable to meet electrical demand even when its up and running. This has resulted in increasingly frequent summertime calls for people to lay off using power in the crucial 4-9pm slot.

Faced with this, companies and even individuals have begun to turn to, of all things, diesel generators. In fact the state itself has 2,773 stationary and mobile generators in its inventory. Now you would think that the uncompromising Eco-Stasi authorities would crack down on that quick smart. But of course they know if they forced people into that corner even the Liberal Luvvies would revolt. So instead, they’re allowing this to expand and continue. In fact, they’re even helping all this fossil fuel burning along, California wants air pollution rules suspended:

The state’s main grid operator wants the U.S. Department of Energy to suspend air-pollution rules for some natural gas-burning power plants in case their output is needed “to meet demand in the face of extremely challenging conditions including extreme heat waves, multiple fires, high winds, and various grid issues,” according to a filing. The last time California received a waiver of such length and breadth was 21 years ago during the Western Energy Crisis.

Genius. And here you were thinking that the following was just a joke.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

“An idea is like a virus,

…resilient, highly contagious and the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you”.

Ideas like lockdowns of entire national populations for example, even – or should I say especially – in Western democracies, having spread from the dominant global superpower, China.

Most Western democracies in fact, since “democracy” is increasingly something to chuckle about, especially at election time, rather like the term “post-Covid-19 world”.

Widely vaccinated Britain recorded 26,852 new cases on Tuesday. For New Zealand to experience a similar infection rate, it would need to record around 1,900 cases per day.”

The NZ government, the local MSM, and probably much of the population, would have heart attacks if we had 1900 cases per day. Mind you, that would remove the source of the virus – the idea virus that is.

Future Communist leaders will surely see that claiming a Public Health Emergency is much the most effective way of screwing over every other law of the land, mainly because it’s far superior to trying to do so via cultivating envy of your neighbour’s property or demonising capitalist counter-revolutionaries. With Public Health Emergencies you can actually enlist much of the population to be help as your willing executioners.

The sense of power and control over others is overwhelming, especially when added to self-righteousness. In the case of the talking-to-your-neighbours-will-kill-granny idea, that spread faster than the Delta virus from Australia to New Zealand. It had barely emerged from the mouth of the NSW Chief health wallah than it dropped out of the mouth of the New Zealand Prime Minister.

An idea is like a virus…

So to Australia, where it seems the natives are getting a bit restless, being locked up in their homes and all.

At least they were using pepper spray against adults this time, rather than 12-year old kids.

Beria would certainly have appreciated the following, although he may have thought the uniforms a bit too clunky.

You’d think you were watching a scene from some Middle Eastern dictatorship, but no, that’s Australia.

“Beachgoers sneaking out during Sydney’s Covid lockdown to soak up some winter sun have been sensationally lambasted by a hovering police helicopter,” The Daily Mail wrote. “Footage uploaded to TikTok shows officers in a chopper demanding sunbathers pack up and leave Gordon’s Bay … or be hit with fines for breaking stay-at-home orders.”

Remember: grandma could die if you step outside your homes and talk to your neighbours.

How about Germany?

Apparently Germany is going to introduce vaccine passports. Mind you they’ve got form on this sort of thing. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun stated that unvaccinated people, even if they test negative for Covid, would not be allowed to go to venues like restaurants, cinemas, or stadiums, because “the risk to everyone else is too high.”

I’m sure there are other anti-vaccination arguments that could be put forward, but announcements like that are probably the most effective of all.

France:

Some 3,000 security forces have been deployed around Paris in anticipation of more protests against the “health pass”, which will be required soon to enter restaurants and other places. The system — likened to vaccine passports — goes into effect on Aug. 9.

A teacher protesting in Paris told The Guardian that the health pass policy is creating segregation in France: “We’re creating a segregated society, and I think it is unbelievable to be doing this in the country of human rights. So I took to the streets; I have never protested before in my life … I think our freedom is in danger.”

I think you’re a bit late sweetie.

Italy:

… thousands of anti-vaccine-pass demonstrators marched in cities, including Rome, Milan, and Naples. Milan demonstrators stopped outside of the city’s courthouse chanting “Truth!” “Shame!” and “Liberty!” In Rome, they marched behind a banner reading “Resistance.”

Italian authorities have also approved the implementation of a health pass to enter bars, restaurants, and other venues. Critics of the measure argue that it’s draconian and infringes on basic personal liberties.

What’s the point of civil liberties and “freedum” if you’re dead: that’s the argument right?

English writer Mervyn Peake said “To live at all is miracle enough.” It’s a good line and I’ve quoted it for years, but but now I see merely to live at all is not enough, not nearly.

A caged bird is alive but without the freedom to fly the Limitless sky, it is denied everything that makes a bird in the first place. To be alive is not enough. What matters is to live in freedom. A bird is such a fragile creature. It’s really all and only about movement. Take away a bird’s movement and it’s a handful of feathers and air.

Tank Basement

A vivid memory I have from very early school years – around the age of 7 or 8 years – is that I told a total bullshit story to friends on the bus that my Dad had a basement at our house containing a WWII tank.

Naturally the older kids, wise and experienced in the ways of the world at ages 11-12, subjected my claims to harsh and detailed scrutiny. I completely ignored them since I didn’t have to share their classrooms.

Then there’s this Dad, German lawyers wrangle over pensioner’s WW2 tank in basement:

Lawyers in Germany are wrangling over how to deal with a pensioner who stored a World War Two tank, anti-aircraft gun and torpedo in his basement.

The items were removed from a house in the northern town of Heikendorf in 2015 with the help of the army.

The defendant, aged 84, must also find new homes for the monumental items.

Hey! That unmarked, pristine Panther tank not only has no fuel, no ammunition, it has no tracks. What possible threat could it be?

Prosecutors and defence lawyers are now negotiating possible penalties, including a suspended sentence and a fine of up to €500,000 (£427,000).

Oh FFS. This is as bad as all those US DOJ and Democrat Party morons who’ve spent six months screaming about “INSURRECTION” and “SEDITION” at the January 6, 2021 “invasion” of the Great US Citadel Of Freedom – followed by convictions for trespassing and “obstructing an official proceeding”.

Wankers.

At the age of 84 you have to wonder if he must be sitting in a German courtroom now thinking to himself that he should have just got the tracks fitted, the engine fueled up, fully armed up with 75mm HE shells for the main gun, plus a few thousand rounds for the 7.92mm machine guns in the hull and turret – and then roared out of the basement to let rip on the quiet streets of Heikendorf.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 1, 2021 at 8:00 am

Posted in Europe, History, Humour

Tagged with

Barfight or Twitter Fight

Two recent posts on war and the possibility of a future war, reminded me of something that’s been floating around online for almost as long as the internet itself.

In the distant geological age of the 1990’s Interwebby thing, jokes would explode across email inboxes around the planet. This often resulted in embarrassment as people, not knowing email etiquette (looking at you Don Brash, you idiot), would simply forward these things to some group email they had or worse, hit “Reply All”.

I had a personal experience of the latter one day in Chicago when a couple of very intense young men appeared in my cubicle to ask if I had forwarded some piece-of-shit email. I had not, since I actually understood not just etiquette but what could happen to email apps with an ever-expanding shit storm of Reply All, especially with an attached app. They were from Computer Operations and thus people to be ignored usually, but on this occasion they had every reason to be pissed. My client’s system crashed 20 minutes later.

In between cut n’paste jokes, one piece of email humour that did the rounds was funny only to people who studied history, especially military history, but it was so clever that it’s actually been stored in online history forums, including ‘nzhistory.govt.nz’.

But it’s nice to see that the same theme has now appeared, twenty years later, in a different guise, wherein WWI starts in the nasty, toxic sewers of Social Media, complete with all the lingo of the youngins.

I also liked this addition.

Meantime for you oldies, the original bar fight version is here. But I may as well just paste it, just in case that government server ever gets killed, along with its backup.

Germany, Austria and Italy are standing together in the middle of a pub when Serbia bumps into Austria and spills Austria’s pint.

Austria demands Serbia buy it a complete new suit because there are splashes on its trouser leg.

Germany expresses its support for Austria’s point of view.

Britain recommends that everyone calm down a bit.

Serbia points out that it can’t afford a whole suit, but offers to pay for the cleaning of Austria’s trousers.

Russia and Serbia look at Austria.

Austria asks Serbia who it’s looking at.

Russia suggests that Austria should leave its little brother alone.

Austria inquires as to whose army will assist Russia in compelling it to do so.

Germany appeals to Britain that France has been looking at it, and that this is sufficiently out of order that Britain should not intervene.

Britain replies that France can look at who it wants to, that Britain is looking at Germany too, and what’s Germany going to do about it?

Germany tells Russia to stop looking at Austria, or Germany will render Russia incapable of such action.

Britain and France ask Germany whether it’s looking at Belgium.

Turkey and Germany go off into a corner and whisper. When they come back, Turkey makes a show of not looking at anyone.

Germany rolls up its sleeves, looks at France, and punches Belgium.

France and Britain punch Germany. Austria punches Russia. Germany punches Britain and France with one hand and Russia with the other.

Russia throws a punch at Germany, but misses and nearly falls over. Japan calls over from the other side of the room that it’s on Britain’s side, but stays there.

Turkey punches Russia in the back of the head when Russia isn’t looking. Britain and France tell Turkey that’s not on and once they’ve sorted Germany out Turkey’s next.

Italy surprises everyone by punching Austria.

Australia, New Zealand, and Britain punch Turkey, and get punched back. There are no hard feelings though because Britain made Australia and New Zealand do it.

France gets thrown through a plate glass window, but gets back up and carries on fighting. Russia gets thrown through another one, gets knocked out, suffers brain damage, and wakes up with a complete personality change.

Italy throws a punch at Austria and misses, but Austria falls over anyway. Italy raises both fists in the air and runs round the room chanting.

America waits till Germany is about to fall over from sustained punching from Britain and France, then walks over and smashes it with a barstool, then pretends it won the fight all by itself.

By now all the chairs are broken and the big mirror over the bar is shattered. Britain, France and America agree that Germany threw the first punch, so the whole thing is Germany’s fault. While Germany is still unconscious, they go through its pockets, steal its wallet, and buy drinks for all their friends.

The last Russian reference always cracks me up.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 16, 2021 at 6:30 am

Candy Bombing without Reindeer

It’s not exactly Santa Claus overflying children and dropping sweet goodies but to the kids of West Berlin in 1948 it must have seemed like it.

The story began with Stalin’s decision to try and lock the Western WWII Allies, France, Britain and the USA, out of the city of Berlin, which lay well inside the domain of East Germany, controlled by the USSR. Stalin’s idea was to starve Berlin into submission by cutting off all road and rail access from West Germany.

But he could not close the skies, and had apparently not realised that the gigantic air fleets of the West were not yet in the scrapyard. Thus was born the Berlin Airlift, which, when it started on June 26, 1948, aimed to bring in 3,475 tones of supplies each day to keep the city alive. By the Spring of 1949 it was bringing in 12,941 tons per day.

Berliners watch a Douglas C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

The Soviets gave up the blockade on May 12, but just in case they were playing a trick the Allies kept the air lift going until September 30, 1949:

The US Air Force had delivered 1,783,573 tons (76.40% of total) and the RAF 541,937 tons (23.30% of total), totalling 2,334,374 tons, nearly two-thirds of which was coal, on 278,228 flights to Berlin.

The C-47s and C-54s together flew over 92,000,000 miles (148,000,000 km) in the process, almost the distance from the Earth to the Sun. At the height of the Airlift, one plane reached West Berlin every thirty seconds.

One of those pilots was Gail S. “Hal” Halvorsen, and the other day he turned 100 years old.

Halvorsen was 27 years old and a WWII vet. During one of his many, early trips to Berlin he’d got to recognise some of the local kids who would crowd the American pilots seeking candy and cigarettes.

But their access to the airport and the pilots was limited so Halvorsen made a deal with them. On his approach he told them he’d wiggle his wings — a sign that he and his crew were about to throw several small parachutes from his plane filled with chocolate and gum. He did not ask for permission because he knew US Army bureaucracy. But those wheels grind slowly and so came the day…

On his return from Berlin, he was told that Col. James R. Haun, the commanding officer of Rhein-Main Airbase, wanted to see him in his office.

Here, Halvorsen, sitting in his Provo backyard and wearing the same uniform he wore back then, picks up the narrative.

“‘Halvorsen,’ the colonel asked when I came in his office, ‘What in the world have you been doing?’

“‘Flying like mad, sir,’ I told him.

“‘I’m not stupid. What else have you been doing?’”

Here, Halvorsen pauses for effect.

“That’s when I knew they knew. I got chewed out real good,” he says before flashing his trademark smile. “But at the end, the colonel said, ‘That’s a good idea. Keep doing it. But keep me informed.’”

In the space of a year Halvorsen and others dropped about 21 tons of candy to the kids around Tempelhof Airport.

Asked for the secret to living a long time, he says he’s not sure what that is. He has more to say about the keys to a happy life, however. “Always have something to do,” the Candy Bomber advises. “And watch for things you can do that make a difference.

Written by Tom Hunter

December 23, 2020 at 11:16 am

Posted in Aerospace, History, USA

Tagged with ,

A different economic starter motor

Although Germany has lost her way occasionally over the last century she’s been in pretty good economic shape for some decades now. Possibly a little too good if you listen to some other members of the EU, particularly the likes of Greece, Italy and Spain, who grumble about the huge German trade surpluses and their tight control over the value of the Euro via the EU Central Bank.

Those nations relied for decades upon devaluation of their money as a key economic tool and since it has gone they’ve struggled to impose upon themselves the sort of economic discipline the Germans are famous for.

But you can hardly blame the Germans for their paranoia about the  value of money. Twice in the last hundred years they have suffered terrible bouts of inflation that wrecked their economy.

Let’s make paper machie out of it!

The most well-known of these is the hyperinflation that hit Germany just after World War I had ended. So much money was printed by the government that children played with it various ways.

To be worn only once

But there actually was a second period of inflation that is not as well known, mainly because it was not quite as bad, the goverment kept a lid on the pressures it created, and it was soon put in the background by the World War II.

All of this is documented in an article first published in 1978, The German Non-Miracle, which looked at what Germany did to re-start it’s economy after WWII ended. It should be a valuable lesson as to how the world today gets out of our locked down economies.

Germany faced a similar problem to what we have now: it had suffered a supply shock, courtesy of having almost all its industries and business smashed in the war.

The advantage we have is to have not suffered physical destruction.

But the problem of re-starting the economy is similar.

Governments the world over are doing what they usually do – applying Keynesian solutions by printing vast quantities of new money and regulating the hell out of everything.

But Keynesian economics is really designed to deal with demand shock recessions like the Great Depression, where money seems to just vanish out of the economy and demand shrinks. In that situation having the government push money into the economy via a central bank, and to a lesser extent by increased spending, is a workable solution, within boundaries (all economic theories have boundaries).

The Keynesian approach has proved itself for things like the 1987 Stock Market crash, the Asian crisis of the late 90’s and, to a lesser extent, the GFC of 2008-09. But even with that last one there were signs that it had reached its limits. Economic growth barely recovered at all, despite all the trillions thrown around by governments. That likely had a lot to do with the fact that most Western economies were already heavily indebted both publically and privately. People were simply leary of taking on more debt to “recover”, even when it was being given to them cheap, or for free (no interest).

It should also be noted that – very much against Keynes own advice – when economic growth resumed, most governments did not get around to paying down all that debt from the credit they’d created. Keynes’s basic lesson was that you don’t try and balance the budget during a recession: you let it go into deficit but when the economy improves you run surpluses and pay it down. New Zealand was one of the few nations that did that after the GFC, and Michael Cullen and Bill Birch did the same in an earlier period, although I think Cullen went overboard, running huge surpluses even after the debt was largely paid down. All that did was increase private debt.

But Keynesian economcs has also failed, most notably with the smaller recessions of the 1960’s and 1970’s, when no amount of stimulation seemed to work. In fact we got “stagflation”, inflation while an economy was moribund or even in recession; something that Keynesian theory said could not happen.

This lesson had actually been learned by the Germans via their inflationary periods; sometimes just throwing money at the economy doesn’t work:

Under the Third Reich, the German government had financed a colossal industrial build-up to accommodate the designs of the Nazi war machine. The tremendous industrial expansion was paid for with rampant monetary expansion. All the screws of the Nazi State had to be tightened to their breaking point to suppress the resultant inflation; the guns of the Gestapo turned on black marketeers and others who sought to evade the officially posted prices of goods and services. The result of the effective price controls under Fascism was the explosion of liquidity after Fascism.

And that explosion of liquidity meant inflation after 1945 – lots of it Worse, to combat this the Allied governments in charge of West Germany went for controls:

Government policy fluctuated among the vengeance of the French, the reformist zeal of the British (Labourites), and the bewilderment of the Americans. About the only consensus to be found anywhere was to rely on economic controls.

In an effort to forestall the inevitable realignment of money and prices, the Allied commanders of France, Britain, and the United States slapped on an extensive control network that fixed wages and prices at preinflation (1936) levels.

The victors attempted to administer the economy through a patchwork assortment of price regulations, allocation details, and rationing.

Setting prices back a decade might have sounded smart but the actual price of resources had moved on:

The economically obvious occurred: goods disappeared from legal markets and were sold illegally at prices far above the official prices. Severe misallocation of resources took place

The stupendous gap between the legal and illegal prices grew to such proportions that a general collapse of the currency ensued. People resorted to barter, and German cities typically saw a mass exodus on weekends as city-dwellers flocked to the countryside to trade with the farmers in kind.

In the fall of 1946 the mechanism had reached bankruptcy, the officially rationed food allotment being under 1,500 calories per person per day.

Clearly things could not go on like this, so a debate began inside Germany itself, rather than with the Allied controllers. The debate settled down into two predominant schools of thought: the Social Democrats and the “Freiburg School.”

The major SPD [Social Democrats] economic ideologue was Dr. Kreyssig, who in June 1948 told the 18th Bizonal Economic Council that, since the society had been under control for such a long period, any decontrol or currency reform would be ineffectual. To Dr. Kreyssig’s mind, not only would recovery not follow, but collapse was inevitable if prices were set free; the only course for the German economy was one of strong central direction. Another SPD spokesman was Herr Schoettle, who joined the argument against free markets by claiming that the task of reconstruction was too big for individual enterprise alone—massive State involvement was imperative if Germany was to recover.

And all of this would also be primed with lots of credit:

Not surprisingly, the Social Democrats favored an aggressive fiscal and monetary expansion policy and the “full employment” policies that had gained political popularity elsewhere. The SPD was joined in this expansionary position by the labor unions, the British authorities, most German manufacturing interests, and, in a slightly more moderate tone, by the Americans.

The Freiburg school – named after the University of Freiburg where a liberal resistance movement to the Nazis had started during the war, safely couched in talk of economic freedom – took a different approach: the Soziate Marktwirtschaft.

The idea of a “socially conscious free market,” as the translation goes, was that totalitarianism is the evil to be most guarded against and that the only way to prevent tyranny is to promote freedom. The theory spread freedom across political and economic lines and espoused a policy of noncontrol—by either the State or individuals—of individual choice. 

In other words it was philosophy first and the economics flowed from that.

The Freiburg approach was not laissez-faire: government was to be active in promoting competition and protecting free markets from monopoly, public or private. It also allowed for a small degree of wealth redistribution through graduated income taxation and social welfare programs, but it was insistent on keeping tax rates low enough to prevent economic disincentives to productive effort.

So not the cut-throat ruthlessness with which opposition to Keynesians and Central Big Government is always cast. Somewhat to their own surprise the Freiburg school won and although they had a lot of intellectual grunt it seems just as likely that the SDR side lost because the German people were psychologically scarred by the idea of printing money and creating credit. They didn’t need an economics degree and they knew it less intellectually than in their gut.

The Freiburgers did not just fight an academic battle. They had a specific plan which you can read in detail at the link but which summarised as:

  • Create a new currency, with a central monetary authority and held to what would nowadays be called a monetarist perspective.
  • Tight money policies would be pursued to create ‘buyers’ rather than ‘sellers’ markets.
  • Decontrol the economy by eliminating what they called “the strangling devices of economic repression … ‘directing,’ ‘licensing,’ ‘prohibiting,’ and what not.” One exception that should be noted was that rent controls were retained all through the 1950’s.
  • The German people would be allowed to produce. Looking at the destruction around them was a powerful incentive, but they had to be freed from controls to take advantage of that as well as giving incentives to saving, investment, and overtime
  • There would be expenditures on social welfare through transfer payments, and they would be comparable with those of other European nations.
  • However, the State would abstain from further economic intrusions via “full employment” policies, subsidies, and income redistribution.
  •  The government would push steadily and firmly for free(..ish) trade with the rest of Europe since exports would have to be a big part of the recovery. This would take years but it led to the European Commission on Coal and Steel and then to the EEC.

I did have to laugh at this comment about the price controls by the most prominent political member of the Freiburg school, Ludwig Erhard, when they were dumped in June 1948:

“It was strictly laid down by the British and American control authorities that permission had to be obtained before any definite price changes could be made. The Allies never seemed to have thought it possible that someone could have the idea, not to alter price controls, but simply to remove them.”

The effects were dramatic and almost instantaneous, as two non-German observers, Jacques Rueff and Andre Piettre, reported:

“Only an eye-witness can give an account of the sudden effect which currency reform had on the size of stocks and the wealth of goods on display. Shops filled up with goods from one day to the next; the factories began to work. On the eve of currency reform the Germans were aimlessly wandering about their towns in search of a few additional items of food. A day later they thought of nothing but producing them. One day apathy was mirrored on their faces while on the next a whole nation looked hopefully into the future.”

Industrial output increased 50 percent within the year, and national income, which had fallen 20% below that of 1936, was restored to that level in just over a year and continued to climb fast. Unemployment did climb and peaked at 10.4% by 1950, but steadily dropped for the rest of the decade.

Morever, this approach beat the publicised plans of the proponents of central planning. Their “Long Term Plan of 1948 predicted that by 1952-53 the industrial  production would reach 110 percent of the 1936 level and agriculture 100%. Another study done in 1950 by four German research institutes – which supposedly already took account of things like the Marshall Plan, the Korean War and the success of the Freiburg plan to that date – said that five years would be needed by government planners to hit their goals – and needed another $1.5 billion in US aid beyond the Marshall Plan.

Under the Freiburg plan all those targets were met and exceeded: Industrial production in 1952-53 averaged about 150 instead of 110. Net agricultural output was 111 percent of pre-war instead of 100. The overall balance of payments was highly favorable and even the dollar sector was approaching balance.

It should be no surprise that Ludwig Erhard would become Economics Minister in the Adenauer administration from 1949-57 and then Chancellor from 1963-66. Such are the fruits of success for politicians who don’t go down the path of centralised command and control route of their peoples but are willing to stand and argue for individual freedom in all spheres of life.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 20, 2020 at 11:42 pm

Company hires Stasi Agent for security

My PhotoThe headline is not satire. This has actually happened.

Electronic Arts is a major international video game company in California. It’s responsible for blockbuster games like The Sims, FIFA, Madden NFL, and Battlefield. It was founded in 1982 and is a $5 billion operation, making it one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.

In case you’re wondering why this matters you should note that the video game industry generates more money annually than the film and music industries combined. Just one of the E-commerce sites selling games – Steam – has a billion customers, yet is nowhere near as well known as Facebook or Twitter.

Electronic Arts is a game development company and they have offices around the world, including one in Berlin, and in recent years they’ve been getting very concerned and the racism and fascism of online gamers, but what they’ve done to try and combat this is worse than the disease!!

The Berlin office recently announced it was partnering with the Amadeu Antonio Foundation and its program “Keine Pixel für Faschisten” [No Pixels for Fascists]. The program seeks to monitor political beliefs in the video game industry and among players for “racism, sexism, and anti-semitism.”

Anetta Kahane (aka Rosa Kleb)

The thing is that this foundation was founded and is headed by one Anetta Kahane:

Anetta Kahane (born 1954 in East Berlin) is a German journalist, author and activist against antisemitism, racism and right-wing extremism. 

Well, that sounds reasonable enough. Just the sort of person you would expect to head such a group. There’s just one other thing about her:

From 1974 to 1982 she was an unofficial collaborator for the East German Stasi secret police.

Lovely. Recently I’ve made some jokes about these little offizieller Mitarbeiter’s who made the whole shitty system of the Stasi work in monitoring and controlling the East German people, but here’s one in real life who has gone on to success.

Doing what she always did in policing people’s thoughts.

At its height, the Stasi had over 102,000 officers and nearly a quarter of a million of its own citizens spying on family members, neighbours and colleagues for wrongthink! And she was good at her job, as revealed in this 2019 German news report, where her Stasi work was revealed from the enormous pile of Stasi records that has been fascinating and horrifying Germans since 1991 as researchers plough through it (great record keepers of crime the Communists).

Kahane was considered an excellent asset who was enthusiastic in the performance of her work. She produced intimate information to the Government on the lives of her friends, family, journalists, and even Chilean immigrants fleeing the fascist Pinochet regime. She also wrote extensive reports detailing people’s private lives, from weddings to teenager’s birthday parties.

Her information also led to the “denunciation” of two actors who criticised the East German regime. Thomas and Klaus Brasch were labeled “enemies of the GDR” by her in 1976. Thomas managed to successfully flee to West Germany, but Klaus committed suicide in 1980 as a result of being spyed upon and harassed endlessly by the Stasi.

And yet what friends she has. Several years ago German Chancellor Angela Merkel, issued a personal video in support of Kahane’s “361 Degrees Tolerance” project, and Merkel is just one of her influential supporters who have stuck by her in the face of previous controversies.

In 2016, Dr. Hubertus Knabe, a historian and the Director of the Hohenschönhausen Stasi victims Memorial Foundation, ripped into the German Ministry of Justice for hiring Kahane and her foundation as part of their efforts to combat “hate speech”. He said it was “incomprehensible” that she had been given “the sensitive task” of “controlling the Internet.”

In 2018, there was actually a public outcry when Kahane and her foundation published an information booklet for school teachers and early-age educators aimed at identifying “Nazi parents.” The booklet suggested blonde girls wearing braids and boys being athletic were signs that children should be monitored for potential removal from the home.

What a piece of work she is. True human garbage who belongs in the same pile as the fascists and Nazi’s she supposedly hunts.

Now to be fair it is probably hard to come by the sort of thought-policing experience that years with the Stasi would give you and EA probably thought hiring an ex-KGB agent would be a step too far. But really? They couldn’t find any other groups or people less tainted as oppressors to do this work?

It’s amazing how many organisations like EA, and people – across the political spectrum – seem to genuinely prefer secret policing of thought crimes against the possibility that someone, somewhere, might call them racist and fascist.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 17, 2020 at 9:09 pm

The Dice People

Go Comics

As the world begins to turn the corner on the great Chinese Bat Soup Virus scare, with falling rates of infection, hospitalisations and deaths, attention will start to turn to three key issues:

  1. Different types of butt covering by governments along the spectrum of too-much-death vs. too-much-economic-damage.
  2. The role played by the leaders of epidemiological models
  3. Why were those epidemiology models so wrong?
I’m going to deal with each of those in seperate OP’s but for this one let’s just take the first topic and pick a non-NZ example. The State of Minnesota is in some ways similar to NZ. It has a population of 5.6 million people in a mix of urban, suburban and rural worlds and its people suffer from a condition called “Minnesota Nice” that will feel awfully familiar to Kiwis, in that the people there are very reluctant to criticise others or rock the boat. It has also undergone a lockdown very much like ours, with the Governor of the state talking about tens of thousands of deaths. In fact the IHME models have gone as follows:

  • 74,000 deaths (worst case, no private or public actions)
  • 50,000 deaths (lockdown)
  • 442 deaths (projected as of April 11)
However, with the death toll at just 70 – weeks after an exponential explosion was supposed to have happened – the state government is under severe and growing pressure to explain itself. Claiming the lockdown has worked is not going to fly given that the numbers were dropping before a lockdown policy could have worked: it was supposed to work further down the line, not in the first two weeks.
 
Part of the answer would be to boost the numbers of dead, and the way to do that would be to change the definition of what killed them:

“a seven-page letter from the Minnesota Department of Health that gave guidance on how to classify COVID-19 deaths. The letter said that if a patient died of, e.g., pneumonia, and was believed to have been exposed to COVID-19, the death certificate should say that COVID-19 was the cause of death even though the patient was never tested, or never tested positive, for that disease.

To that end, watch this video of an interview with Minnesota GP Dr Scott Jensen, talking about those instructions and how contrary that is to normal death certificate practice which is about facts, not probabilities. He then points out that this data is fed into the models.
 

 
“Fear is a great way to control people”
 

There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes.

And Minnesota is not alone, as acknowledged by Dr Birx in a White House briefing:

“The intent is right now if someone dies with COVID-19, we’re counting that as a COVID-19 death,” Birx said. “There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition and let’s say the virus caused you to go the ICU and then have a heart or kidney problem. Some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death.”

Italy may have suffered the same problem as the USA, whereas Germany seems to be a lot tougher on its classification, which may be a partial explanation as to why its COVID-19 death rates are lower than its neighbours.

But worse is that having screwed-up data fed into a model, even if the model was trustworthy, is not a sound basis for health planning or any sort of planning. It leads to nonsense like this from Colorado:

The number of coronavirus cases in Colorado is expected to peak sometime between May 8 and Sept. 14, depending on the effectiveness of social-distancing measures such as the statewide stay-at-home order, according to modeling released by the health department.”

September! If the Colorado State Government thinks it can keep things locked down until September it’s going to find itself facing riots.

I pointed out that in Models vs. Reality: even the best-case scenarios of these models, assuming population lockdowns, screwed up, with NYC as just one example:

The reality on April 4 was 15,905 people hospitalized. The IHME model overstated the actual number by 400 percent. The same thing happened the next day, April 5.

NYC is the worst-hit part of the US. Remove New York, New Jersey and Michigan from the real numbers and the rest of the nation looks like Germany, which is being hailed as a success for big nations with borders.

And that’s the point on which this political issue will turn, the balance between two scenarios:

  • How many lives were saved by government decisions?
  • How many lives were damaged and to what degree by those same decisions?

If you believed the models then expect politicians like Trump to say that his actions saved millions of lives, and here in NZ that Adern saved tens of thousands. Don’t be surprised if their political opponents try to laugh off such claims, as they should. But since many of those same critics cried out that one should listen to the experts and their models, that’s going to be tough for them to do. Even tougher for US critics of Trump when Democrat Governors will be making the same claims on the same basis.

In the case of at least prominent MSM journalist, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, the answer is to go conspiracy theory:

 

Political leaders will not want the death tolls to be anywhere near what the models projected because of the blame that would ensue – and luckily for them nothing close to those numbers is going to appear.

But they also need the death tolls to be high enough to justify the incredible societal damage they’ve wrought, hence reactions like that of Minnesota to try and push their very low numbers up. The damage might be worth 300 lives, or even 200 – but not 70, let alone 9.

So the arguments over lives saved will turn into a “what-if” affair, with no conclusive answer beyond what competing partisan propaganda campaigns can achieve, since the models were so wrong to start with.

Striking that balance is going to be tough, whether you have the MSM on your side or not: Jacinda does, Trump does not. But both defenders and critics are stuck in the same place; most of them believed the models. What number of “lives-saved” will a leader choose to defend and how will they defend that number given that the models have been so out of whack? That you can trust the models now?

 
A key part of that propaganda is the shroud-waving, “You value money over the lives of the elderly” polemic, which has worked well to date in shutting down criticism of the lockdowns.
 
But a few months from now when tens of thousands of people are dependent on government welfare and thousands of destroyed small and medium-sized businesses are not re-starting because their equity – and likely the mental health and confidence of their owners – is gone, that argument will increasingly be overshadowed by immediate misery.
 
And the MSM that loves misery and bad news will have a new topic to push: Village Spared From Deadly Storm” will be replaced with yet another “Deadly Storm Threatens Village” headline.

Politicians most everywhere quickly figured out that there was little immediate down-side to taking harsh, economy-killing measures. They could be blamed for doing too little, when the inevitable deaths occurred, but who would blame them for doing too much? Not the emotive MSM, at least not right then. As the feckless Andy Cuomo said, if we save just one life, destroying our economy and devastating the lives of millions is worth it.

We’re a actually a few months away from testing that claim.

Written by Tom Hunter

April 15, 2020 at 12:00 am

Tucker Carlson strikes the right note

Last week I made the following point about dealing with the coronavirus, COVID-19:

With regard to a recession, there will be negative life impacts resulting from an economic slowdown forced by overly-zealous containment procedures. People who lose their jobs, watch their savings evaporate, and struggle to keep their homes will suffer from anxiety and depression, and not in spikes but over time. Unemployment carries especially harsh consequences for such things, even aside from the external impacts, and the longer a person is unemployed the worse it gets. Suicide rates rise as unemployment rises and drug abuse is twice as likely as for someone with a job. Add divorce to all this as each factor feeds on the other.

So I was pleased to see Fox News’s Tucker Carlson making a similar point. Your can also read the transcript here.

Carlson’s viewpoint is well argued and well-balanced:

Our first obligation, everyone agrees, is to keep our people safe. If we can prevent Americans from getting the coronavirus, we should do that. At the same time, though, we need to protect our economy, and that is not just something that Wall Street cares about, to be totally clear.

Economic decline is dangerous for everyone, especially at the bottom of the economy. It’s a legitimate human concern. It’s not just financial, it’s about families.

People keep focusing on Wall Street, but that place is often not fully linked to the “real” economy, as was shown by the 1987 Wall Street crash, which had many people hyperventilating about the recession that would inevitably follow in 1988.

Some went further, looking at how closely Black Monday – with a 22.6% one-day drop – matched the 1929 Crash and predicting a full-blown Great Depression II.

It never happened, thanks largely to the lessons learned from 1929 as to how to keep things moving and not fall into a spiral: don’t cut government spending, don’t raise taxes, use Central Bank credit creation to allow for a temporary flood of liquidity.

By early 1988 there was no sign that the event had had much of a negative impact on the economy at all. That was not the cae in 2008 because that crash was directly linked to the problems with trading of mortgage bonds and more exotic financial instruments all directly linked to an everyday economic item: the family home.

But locking down the everyday actions of an economy is something very different to both of those events.

Here’s the problem. We’ve got two imperatives and they often conflict. So if you ask an epidemiologist what we ought to do next, the answer is simple: Shut it down. Close every public space until the virus passes. Hospitals would get a pass, of course, but restaurants, bars, hotels, movie theaters, airlines — everything.

From a public health standpoint, that makes sense. But what would be the consequences of doing that? Millions and millions of people would lose their jobs, some of them for good. We’d enter a severe recession with mass unemployment, and it could get worse from there.

You would see an awful lot of people in poverty in Middle America and that poses its own kind of public health risk. Poor countries are never healthy countries. If you want great health care, you’ve got to pay for it, and you have to have money to do so.

Thankfully most Western governments seem to understand this and have either announced or about to announce various financial support mechanisms, and although most central banks are still not back where they should be in terms of interest rates, with rates so low it’s hard to see them going lower, they will act in their classic manner of lender-of-last-resort as they did in 1987 and 2008/9.

Carlson discusses the various ideas of directly helping people:

Some of the professional class have suggested a guaranteed basic income as a response to this threat. Mitt Romney has suggested sending every American a monthly check for $1,000. That’s likely a well-meaning idea. A lot of smart people are behind it. But it’s also decadent and foolish.

Name a place that’s become happier and more prosperous under a scheme like that? Indian reservations? The inner city? Rural areas where half the male population gets monthly disability checks? Or for that matter, if we’re being honest, how many happily idle, inherited money people do you know? Rich people? None. They’re all drunk. Of course they are.

But he suggests one idea from Germany that he thinks has merit:

The German government runs a program called Kurzarbeit. It means “short time.” Employees are encouraged not to lay off their workers but instead place them on reduced hours. The government then steps in to compensate some of those missing wages to help the companies with payroll.

Now, it may cost taxpayers more than Romney’s grand a month program, but critically, it keeps people in their jobs. It’s also straightforward, unlike so many of the double-secret backward tax rebate programs the geniuses in Congress are always coming up with and telling you, you should love and be happy with. But you don’t ever understand them, and neither do they. 

And that model has some solid and recent history of success:

During the 2008 financial crisis, Germany’s economy shrank by a higher proportion than ours did in America. Yet, at the same time, Germany’s unemployment rate actually fell. Labor force participation rose.

That’s pretty damned impressive. We should try that here in New Zealand as well, crisis or no crisis.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 18, 2020 at 1:04 am