Monday, June 28, 2010

On economic growth...

With the G20 or whatever the most recent international economic talk-fest is being called in Toronto this past few days - along with the obligatory silly-shirt day - thoughts are filtering through the ol probligo's neurones carrying tags like "growth", "recession" and the like.

And I keep coming back to the same brick wall.

How can there be continuing "economic growth"? What is the basis for the measure of "economic growth"?

NZ has a record of our economy growing at an annual rate of 1.8%. Over the same period, China's economy has grown at a rate of some 9.5% p.a. I have to presume that these measures exclude the impact of inflation, currency changes, and the other "influences" that impact upon monetary measures.

Y'see, if the NZ economy has "grown" by 1.8%, does this mean we have spent and consumed that much more (very likely) or produced and made that much more (less likely).

Underlying that question is an even more fundamental bother. Is there a limit to the true value of the global economy. If there is, then the fight to increase "growth" has to be considered as a change in balance; more to one meaning less to another.

The immediate suspicion is that is only part of the answer. It is as likely that the limits are in the measurement of "wealth" and "total resource".


Friday, June 25, 2010

It is just amazing me how the truth of a matter can be rotated on an imaginary axis in order to “prove” (or support) a preconception that has nothing more than personal opinion in its foundation.

Take the raruraru about Gen McChyrstal as an instance in point.

As I have heard it, the facts are –

1. Rolling Stone magazine approached DoD for permission to interview McChrystal. That permission was granted.

2. The journo took up the task and ended up in a bus with McChrystal travelling to an American installation “somewhere in Afghanistan”

3. Both the bus and those on board were “well fuelled” for the trip – though I doubt that the personnel had been at the diesel, or that the bus was ethanol powered.

4. Most of the published article came from “conversations” on that bus trip.

The “right” are now blaming everyone from President to office boyo at the DoD for the screw-up and McChrystal losing his job as a result.

But in truth, whose “fault” should it be that Rolling Stone was able to print an article which in truth did not reflect well on the American effort in Afghanistan.

The President? Well, “the buck stops here” always should apply. In his position as CinC? He takes overall responsibility for the actions of the Armed Forces.

Secretary of Defence? As titular head of Defence, the buck rests on his desk for the fact that Rolling Stone was given direct access to McChrystal.

Well, how is about McChrystal, the man himself? Ask any person holding “office” in any organisation about their responsibility for presenting their employer to the outside word. What kind of answer would you expect? That they would start by giving the company line then, after a few beers start slagging off their boss, the Board, the Managing Director, The Chairman?

And this is where the “right” come off their trolleys. They ignore the reality of personal responsibility. “Someone” has to be responsible so rather than following events logically they lock the radar onto “the usual suspect”; primarily a person or position with whom they have a problem; whom they wish did not exist; whom they would want to see replaced by some other illiterate hick cowboy like their last.

So, rather than say “McChrystal lost the handle, dropped the ball, so he should take responsibility…”, his actions have to be the “responsibility” of someone else.

Well, let’s get real about this whole shenanigan for a moment. McChrystall is the equivalent of your “major corporate executive”. He should know his ropes. He should not lose the handle.

He did all of that.

He has done it before as well. Almost a year ago to the month.

So, who is right then comes to the fore. Is it McChrystal? His proposal a year back, his strategy then, required an additional 20,000 American troops. That does not seem to have changed. From 07/09 -

Even so, McChrystal has been instructed by his superiors -- including Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen -- to conduct a thorough assessment of the war effort and articulate his recommendations. While McChrystal has indicated to some of his advisers that he is leaning toward asking for more forces, he has also emphasized that his strategy will involve fundamental changes in the way those troops are used.

One of the key changes outlined in the latest drafts of the assessment report, which will be provided to Gates by mid-August, is a shift in the "operational culture" of U.S. and NATO forces. Commanders will be encouraged to increase contact with Afghans, even if it means living in less-secure outposts inside towns and spending more time on foot patrols instead of in vehicles.

"McChrystal understands that you don't stop IEDs [improvised explosive devices] by putting your soldiers in MRAPs," heavily armored trucks designed to withstand blasts, said Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington who served on the assessment team. "You stop them by convincing the population not to plant them in the first place, and that requires getting out of trucks and interacting with people."

The report calls for intelligence resources to be realigned to focus more on tribal and social dynamics so commanders can identify local power brokers and work with them. Until recently, the vast majority of U.S. and NATO intelligence assets had been oriented toward tracking insurgents.

The changes are aimed at fulfilling McChrystal's view that the primary mission of the international forces is not to conduct raids against Taliban strongholds but to protect civilians and help the Afghan government assume responsibility for maintaining security. "The focus has to be on the people," he said in a recent interview.

Now that is a strategy which I fully endorse. It should have been to the fore in both Afghanistan and Iraq from the start.

The very great difficulty with the approach is that it puts American troops "in harm's way". They walk the streets; they talk to the locals; they present a totally different face.

The very big problem that McChrystal has with his military strategy is that runs very much against the political strategy of his CinC in the White House.

So, it comes to who is right?

The President, for whom his electoral mandate to minimise American losses in both theatres is paramount?

Or the man in charge on the ground, for whom a military solution to the Afghani theatre is a matter of personal and Service pride?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marvels and Riches Abound

Financial Post have just released their 12th annual Rubber Duckie Awards and as usual there are the real good'uns amongst them. (Link in the header)

I wonder, how many read of the saving of Afghanistan not by military action but through the discovery of a "trillion dollar mineral wealth". Certainly the likes of NZ Herald fell for it - their search engine links directly to this and I know it featured (boo!!!! to Geoff and co) on Morning Report.

The barbequed meat carcinogen risk gets hauled out of the garage cupboard for another airing. Will I boil my T-bones in future. H3!! NO!

And so it goes...

The thieving BAS-TURDS!!!

News out last night that it is now possible to buy DVD copies of “Boy”, Taiko Waititi’s film that we enjoyed so much (see my earlier review).

“Good ho!!” You might think.

I don’t.

These are pirated, cheap, stolen copies.

They are being sold by cheap, thieving pirates.

The copies are bought by cheap nobodies who have no morals and even less sense of property.

It took less than 6 hours for the number of outlets on the ‘net to grow from one to over three hundred.

What does that say about our society?

There is a large and growing number of cheap, thieving, piratical, unprincipled, money-grubbing BAS-TURDS.

And they think the Somalis are bad?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

On never letting the facts get in the way...

... of a "good" political story.

Me ol' mate TF Stern has taken to cross-posting his blog to a page called "The Moral Liberal". Comment there is "moderated", but to his credit TF has responded to rather than censored my latest contribution (below) to truth and honest presentation of fact.
“This past week BP supposedly volunteered to fork over $20 Billion Dollars to the Obama Clean up the Gulf Entitlement Fund ( the name of the fund may be slightly different ). The idea just came to them to spend $ 13 Billion more than they have in total assets. “

TF, you really must take more care reading those emails “send by friends” to convey the kind of politics you promote.

BP’s Annual Report for 2009 lists Nett Income for 2009 as $20B.

From the same report Total Nett Assets amount to $101B.

On that basis, BP’s contribution to the Gulf fund is about 25% of “total worth”, not the ridiculous picture you present. I have not taken the time to determine (if it is possible) how much of that value is “Known Oil Reserves” under exploitation. That value (essentially “Future Income”) should be comparatively small but one never knows for sure.

Really, please be more careful!!

TF's response - as is his way - is to tell me that he has reserved a spot on the beach for me.

Well, I just have to give up. A man with TF's religious strengths should be prepared to face truth when it is presented. Equally to the point is his commitment to the presentation of half-truths and worse in his pursuit of his political ideals. It is rarely as wrong or as blatent as in this case and that for a starter has always made debate with him difficult.

So, if ever one comes across the writings of TF Stern, be prepared to check out their factual basis. His thoughts (outside of his personal writings) are generally concocted from "emails sent by a very good friend" - and he is usually honest about that too. Where he fails is in his prediliction for partial truth and dishonest presentation.

Oh, and the irony of his cross-post site is obviously lost on the man. Time was when "liberal" was a favourite epithet used against any who did not support the Conservative cause, the war against this or that, and The Man at the top.

How the landscape has changed...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

On crying over spilt oil...

I have every sympathy with those affected by the pollution caused by the sinking of the Horizon platform. However, it does come with a strong tinge of poetic justice.

There is no question that this is an event without precedent, if you limit the measure to oil spills in the Americas.

It is not without global precedent however. And it is from that the justice comes.

The Russian experience in Siberia - and no one can be sure that was ever "cleaned up" though the cause has been stopped - did have a flow on effect in making the extended use and extraction from the Northern Arctic Slope (Prudhoe Bay) much less attractive. But who cares about the Russkies messing up their own backyard? It is their problem, huh! Well it is if you adopt the selfish parochial attitude of some.

The worst to my knowledge is actually directly connected with the US, in that it occurred - is continuing - in Nigeria. Why should that be connected directly with the US? Simply because Nigeria is the biggest single supplier to the US, over 40% of US supply.

The pollution of southern Nigeria is the result of a combination of events; poor extraction controls; poor on-the-ground practices; the use of sub-standard materials; bad management; criminal damage... The excuses are almost endless.

What is undeniable is the fact that very large areas are effectively soaked in metres of free crude oil. There has been no effective attempt to clean it up. Stopping free flow from broken and intentionally damaged pipe networks has centred only on minimising losses rather than consequential damage.

The thing is, how much of an outcry was there from the single largest beneficiary? Nary a jot; not a whimper. And why?

Simply because it was out of sight. It was someone else's problem.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

On Predatory States...

One of the distinct drawbacks of a very wet weekend is that it allows far too much time for thinking. To be honest, this and another topic have been exercising the ol' probligo grey mush for the past few weeks, several different drafts have been written, considered and discarded in that time.

The first in these topics is the vexed question of Israel.

I am NOT going to debate it here, again, ad nausem...

Israel, as far as I am concerned, deserves everything its enemies can provide it. "Deserves" simply because of its attitude, its approach, and total lack of humanity. So too, come to think of it, do some of their friends.

Israel's enemies too, deserve the consequences of much of what happens.

As I have said previously so many times, there is no right in the Levant. There is only wrong.

In this latest stoush, there are two things which could be done, both of which would do nothing more than illustrating the futility in trying to resolve the problem.

The first is the idea of an independent inquiry into the Israeli navy boarding vessels in international waters. the thought that an enquiry could be led by Sir Geoffrey Palmer (past NZ PM, international law expert etc etc) did have its attractions. He is a man of great honesty, of great ability and a very judicious mind.

But for all the good that such an enquiry would do, Geoff, I am sure that the UN could find it a whole lot cheaper and a danged lot more effective to give you and several assistants a good long vacation somewheres a lot more pleasant. One thing is certain, any inquiry not carried out by the Israelis will carry as much weight for the Israelis as the whistling in the wind of a skeleton on the gibbets at Notting Hill.

The second idea was proposed by a Turkish MP; Deputy Prime Minister if I recollect. He proposed that the Turkish government should make a similar delivery of aid to Gaza, carried by the Turkish Navy.

Now this has very considerable potential in my mind. It would rank with NZ sending its navy to Mururoa in protest against the French wiping their nuclear arse-n-all in our back yard. But just think about it. I am sure that the Gazan government members could leave their rocket launcher alone for long enough to send an invite to the Turks for a goodwill naval visit to a Gazan port.

In reality, I suspect that some "very good friends" ( of both Turkey and Israel) will pursuade them that it would not be a good idea, and nothing will come of it.

What is far more likely is that the more unruly elements in Lebanon will once again make that small provocation that results in Israel losing its military nuts in both South Lebanon and Gaza.

ps yes there have been several minor edits to this - all on the one day.

The Predatory US...

Had a weekend up in Opo, where lack of 'net access - and lack of desire as well - prevented the recording of a number of events ranging from weather and the trivial to the more important.

The weather was crap, the trivial was finding a very pissed cockroach on the dregs of a kahlua drink.

The more important was the news that some petty little bureaucrat was criticising as "potentially illegal" the US use of UAV's in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

First thing to be said is that at last the US military machine and administration is showing a measure of strategy and sense.

The so-termed "war against terror" is and has never been anything other than an "assymetric war". That fact alone should have ruled out the use of the traditional "send in the US Cavalry". However the US, led by its cowboy administration, preferred the idea of the cavalry charging over the hill to save the day; or to up-date the image somewhat, "sending in the Marines" to secure territory by charging over the countryside.

Despite the fact that some 30% of the casualties to the Predator raids have been civilians, the numbers of non-combatants killed have been measured in tens rather than hundreds.

The "excuse" that the US did not have this technology available washes not. How long did the US have the U2, before the US public knew of it (courtesy of the Russians)? What other technologies already exist within the US armoury that are also unknown?

No, this is and always has been an assymteric war.

This is how you fight it. What a shame it took eight years, two Presidents, and thousands of dead to realise that.