Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Piled in bins like summer fruit

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  • BenWilson,

    Peter

    Ben if we burn even a fraction of the known coal reserves we are going to hell in a handcart unless you fancy the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet that is.

    I fancy that a lot more than having no power.

    Then there is the shortage of uranium, the quality ore that is making nuclear even dodgier.

    Well it is 'running out' but every estimate I've seen puts the time frame in hundreds of years.

    There is NO suitable energy technology that can even possibly support our lifestyle on anything but the long-term radar.

    The running out of the existing forms is also on the 'long-term radar'. Naturally it's better to plan for that running out now, but that is happening. Alternative energy technologies are constantly becoming more viable as the stored stuff runs out. A lot of them have distinct advantages over fossil fuels that will actually improve our lifestyles.

    We cannot afford to burn the fossil fuels we know about and can economically exploit without crossing various tipping points that will take eons to come back if they ever do.

    Perhaps. What is on the other side of the tipping points is unknown. Where the tipping points are is unknown. What we can do about them is unknown. It's a hell of a risk to tip the planet's climate, but it is not guaranteed disaster.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    I don't have time right now to go back through the audio, but I did listen to Russel on Checkpoint yesterday and he seemed unwilling to acknowledge that Chinese manufactured goods could be legitimately produced. I think he used the phrase "slave labour".

    I listened to the podcast a couple of times. He was definitely against the FTA, but did emphatically say that we should still trade with China, which is a tacit agreement that China does legitimately produce goods.

    AFAIK, he didn't mention slave labour, but he did talk about "widespread" child labour. According to a Human Rights Watch article, 400,000 schools use Work and Study programs and they fear hundreds of thousands of children are at risk from exploitation and lax safety standards. While it could be debated whether this constitutes "widespread", it is certainly a systemic problem.

    Although would tend to agree with you if you thought Russel could have got his points across more clearly.

    What could have said is: trade is between economic entities such as individuals and businesses and the Greens agree with this kind of international integration.However, FTAs a between States and that means we need to be cognisant of how the other State operates. The Green's position is that we should not give international credibility to brutal states that have poor human rights records, labour rights, and environmental records, especially when these are used as a competitive advantage in the productive sector.

    Seriously, how brutal does a regime need to be before we rule out an FTA with them ? Or is it all about "teh money" ?

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    ...we should not give international credibility to brutal states that have poor human rights records,

    Are we doing that though?

    Labour has been critical of China on human rights issues. I think that anyone who thinks that the FTA is somehow giving "redibilty to brutal states" just wants to believe that no matter what.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Labour has been critical of China on human rights issues. I think that anyone who thinks that the FTA is somehow giving "redibilty to brutal states" just wants to believe that no matter what.

    I keep coming back to (and the comparison isn't exact, but similar in principle at least), how would it have looked (and felt) if we'd signed a free trade deal with South Africa 30 years ago.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    Are we doing that though?

    Labour has been critical of China on human rights issues.

    I think so. Actions speak louder than words. The message is that despite our limited criticisms, China's brutality isn't really that bad and we can do an FTA with them.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I keep coming back to (and the comparison isn't exact, but similar in principle at least), how would it have looked (and felt) if we'd signed a free trade deal with South Africa 30 years ago.

    The explicitly racist South African regime was globally regarded as illegitimate from at least the date of the 1962 UN General Assembly resolution and was subject a range of both official and unofficial boycotts and divestment campaigns thereafter. The EU imposed an oil boycott and in 1986 the US govt banned all new trade and investment until specific conditions were met, including the repeal of apartheid. China isn't quite the same.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I do think that if SA had more to trade, Apartheid would have lasted longer, though. It's one thing to accept getting hit in the sport, another in the wallet. It was the US embargo that really killed it, however much we remember our own battles. And it was a lot easier for the US to write off the produce of SA than it would be for any nation to write off the produce of China.

    We have to accept that the FTA is practical rather than principled. Like most political compromises. I'd rather the USA didn't have Guantanamo Bay either, but to stop trading with them over it would be martyring ourselves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    The explicitly racist South African regime was globally regarded as illegitimate from at least the date of the 1962 UN General Assembly resolution and was subject a range of both official and unofficial boycotts and divestment campaigns thereafter. The EU imposed an oil boycott and in 1986 the US govt banned all new trade and investment until specific conditions were met, including the repeal of apartheid.

    Aw, now you're just making sh1t up. What UN resolution? If one had of been made in 1962 we wouldn't have had such close ties with them right up until 1981. Everyone knows Apartheid ended because Kiwis made a brave stand to stop the 81 tour (I was there so don't tell me otherwise). The EU & US had nothing to do with it.
    We were first with Universal Suffrage, then the Atom, then Everest, then the 4 Minute Mile, then Apartheid, and now the FTA with China. We __lead __and the __World __follows, baby ...

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Russell Brown wrote:

    You've got a blog, you nong. Millions of people get their thoughts from you. People's teenage daughters think you're quite cool.

    Oh, so now the teenage girls think I'm cool. Where the hell were they 20 years ago when I would have appreciated it?

    True fact: whenever I write about science or energy, I instantly cut my audience by 90 per cent (this is mathematically provable: compare my readership for 4594 and 4770). At the risk of sounding like a nong (what a lovely onomatopoeic word that is), no-one likes writing into a vacuum.

    But you're right, and this very subject will be discussed in the next episode of PA science (just waiting for the screaming to stop so that I can record).

    InternationalObserver wrote:

    Please do ... I have to refix my million dollar (tax deductible) mortgage next month and I'm wondering whether to do that or sell off my share portfolio

    I've got a hell of a busy day, but very quickly (and this shouldn't be taken as financial advice)...

    Taking a maximum-macro view is very useful in energy engineering/thermodynamics. You can often gain a lot of insight by stepping right back and saying: "let's ignore the detail and look at this system as a black box -- what should we expect from the inputs/outputs according to the laws of thermodynamics"... to certain extent, I suspect the same can be often be done for economics

    1. Housing market -- you could draw a simple control system diagram for this type of speculation-based market. And what you'd end up with would be some sort of positive feedback system. This isn't advanced control engineering -- it's what you learn on the first day of Control Systems 101: the most obvious practical example of a positive feedback system is a speculation-based market.

    I'm sure economists know this, but you have to wonder sometimes, as follows...

    A few months back the chief economist for the BNZ was predicting that the housing market would level off into a sustained stable period. This is simply impossible for a positive feedback system. Such systems are inherently unstable: they're either increasing or decreasing, but they never become stable for a sustained period. As soon as we see a significant oversupply of houses for sale then we know that the market will start going down down down. Taking a maximum-macro view this should be blindingly obvious to economists (note the BNZ is now saying that the NZ housing market is 30 per cent overvalued).

    2. International interest rates -- there is very good reason to think that economists grossly underestimate the effects of energy on the economy (they treat it more or less like any other commodity). As my example of US-produced meat demonstrated (with 28/29ths of the food energy actually originating from fossil fuels) there are wheels within wheels when it comes to energy. In fact, Ayres work at CMER suggest that the vast majority of economic growth is ultimately due to improvements in the efficiency with which energy is harnessed.

    From this one would expect that economic growth will decrease when energy prices increase. Oil is a very significant part of the energy mix, and as the world relies increasingly on cheap oil from politically unstable regions then there is reason to think that oil prices will become more volatile and ultimately more expensive in the long term (as indeed they are at the moment). This should therefore result in a reduction in economic growth in most economies.

    I would then speculate that the reaction of governments to this would be:
    (a) to borrow in order to tide themselves over (what they hope will be) a brief economic downturn, thus competing against private borrowers and raising interest rates,
    (b) enacting some sort of scheme that ultimately boils down to "print more money", which raises inflation and hence interest rates (you can already see the US Fed favouring this approach).

    NOTE: Bear in mind with all of this that I'm a (former) energy engineer, not an economist, Jim.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I do think that if SA had more to trade, Apartheid would have lasted longer, though.

    Actually, they had plenty to trade. They were the world's largest producer of gold, diamonds and a slew of valuable minerals for a long time.

    We have to accept that the FTA is practical rather than principled. Like most political compromises. I'd rather the USA didn't have Guantanamo Bay either, but to stop trading with them over it would be martyring ourselves.

    Yes, certainly -- to an extent. But the glib comparisons with South Africa bug me. South Africa was constituted on a fundamentally evil basis, in service of a ruling racial minority. It was globally recognised as such. I don't think the same can be said of modern China.

    China's in everyone's mind at the moment, for obvious reasons. But no one hits the streets to protest, say, the European Union's extensive formal trade relationships with vile plutocracies like Uzbekistan, which, IMHO, is a far worse state than China. EU governments that sermonise about China have a bit of a nerve in that respect.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • John Morrison,

    Again I'm late, but I have to take issue with Don C

    Indeed it is. What is depressing is the amount of wastage of water this is leading to. Driving around in January I observed that most irrigation schemes were pumping out water during the hottest, windiest times of day. Crazy stuff that even the least skilled garner knows is wasteful.

    It is proven that even on the hottest & windiest days only 3-5% of the water goes to waste. However, if you stuff up the water application timing etc you increase the inefficiency to 30%+.

    It is possible to now drive from Oamaru to Wanaka and see heavily irrigated land for almost the entire trip (mainly barring parts of the Lindis).

    We are trying to do something about the Lindis too!

    Cromwell • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    China isn't quite the same.

    Nothing is ever quite the same, a point I conceded when I made the post.

    But pointing to the UN isn't exactly a strong argument. Sanctions in the UN go through the UN Security Council, of which China is a permanent member, with a veto. No one is going to waste the photocopy paper it would take to bring a 'sanctions against China' motion there.

    I don't know how you rank 'horrible governments' in the world, in order of how crap they are. But if 'civilians killed by their government' is a standard, then Communist China is well up the table.

    But like Ben says, the FTA is practical rather than principled, and probably the main reason that this is so is that China is a massive economic power, and an important source of imports, and destination of exports, for NZ.

    I just wish the government would front up and admit it. I heard Phil Goff on radio the other day bringing out the line 'if we didn't trade with bad governments, we couldn't trade with anyone'. And yet he's managed to apply sanctions to Fiji, so there must be some sort of rankings going on.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    Heh heh -- i didn't understand a word of that David! But just as I can recognise Chinese when I hear it, even tho' I can't speak it, I think I get what you're saying. Now's the time to buy more investment property, right? That's what you said?

    But seriously, I am surprised how the housing market has pretty much stopped dead in it's tracks so quickly. People who have been selling their home to move 'up' to a better home are now staying put, because the cost of moving up is more daunting. And the people who bought negatively geared investment properties will have to find a way to hang on or give up and sell for what they can get. Which should please all those people who thought they couldn't afford a home.

    With a bit of luck people may get reacquainted with the idea of living within their means. Why pay all that money to the bank mortgage when you can live in an 'okay' house and have more fun spending the difference in other ways?

    (Damn, that also means my bank shares will drop further!)

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    And the people who bought negatively geared investment properties will have to find a way to hang on or give up and sell for what they can get.

    We just spent the weekend in Hanmer. It's for sale. Entire streets of people's holiday homes being offloaded. And yet, they're still ridiculously over-priced.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Neil Morrison,

    I just wish the government would front up and admit it.

    I agree there's some moral ambiguity involved but I wouldn't go so far as to claim this is sending a message to the rest of the world that NZ is not concerned with human rights issues or that the FTA should mean other countries should turn a blind eye.

    I'm trying to think of any government worthy of respect that would look at the FTA and then conclude - we don't have to be concerned with China's human rights.

    Since Nov 2006 • 932 posts Report Reply

  • Shep Cheyenne,

    I/O - Love it. The lies we tell about ourselves are illuminating.


    a) Womens' (Womyns') Sufferage = Isle of Man 1820
    And Truth be told it wasn't Kate Sheppard who was the hero of the day in NZ (she took a year to get on board with the idae of using Parliment) it was a Bloke, Sir John Hall & the dead drunkeness of an evening sittings at Parliment.
    Sir John Hall exteneded Voting Rights to all men (I wonder who was excluded - hmm?) 4 years earlier.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Hall_%28New_Zealand%29
    b) The Atom was split in Manchester by a guy as Kiwi as Martin Crowe.
    c) Everest or can we say Sagarmatha is in Asia and ya' gotta ask who kicked sand in Eds face that he had to "knock the b'stard off"?
    d) 4 minute mile - hmm - maybe but who was he running from?
    e) Apartheid - Glenegals comes to mind.
    f) FTA with China - Pakistan, Chile, Jordan, Thailand, Hong Kong & Macau.

    Since Oct 2007 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Interesting article on Tibet's new prominence by Uri Avnery on Counterpunch.:

    Why do the world's media adopt one independence struggle, but often cynically ignore another independence struggle? What makes the blood of one Tibetan redder than the blood of a thousand Africans in East Congo?

    Again and again I try to find a satisfactory answer to this enigma. In vain.

    Although this part's fairly weird:

    I support the Tibetans in spite of it being obvious that the Americans are exploiting the struggle for their own purposes. Clearly, the CIA has planned and organized the riots, and the American media are leading the world-wide campaign. It is a part of the hidden struggle between the US, the reigning super-power, and China, the rising super-power - a new version of the "Great Game" that was played in central Asia in the 19th century by the British Empire and Russia. Tibet is a token in this game.

    I am even ready to ignore the fact that the gentle Tibetans have carried out a murderous pogrom against innocent Chinese, killing women and men and burning homes and shops. Such detestable excesses do happen during a liberation struggle.

    Ouch.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • InternationalObserver,

    And yet, they're still ridiculously over-priced.

    Heh heh. Yes, and yet they still won't drop their price because they paid so much for them. Back when paying so much still made sense. Just wait. Owning a holiday home so far away won't make such sense in the middle of winter, especially if mortgage rates jump again. So they'll drop their price then. But of course by then you'll be wondering "well if they've dropped this much already, maybe if I wait till Christmas they'll be really __low".

    Who needs casino's when you've got the property market? I'm holding a dud hand myself but I still refuse to fold. Even tho' my mortgage jumps from $4700 to $7200 next month! __If I can just hold on til the next property upswing I can make it all back...

    Since Jun 2007 • 909 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Actually, they had plenty to trade. They were the world's largest producer of gold, diamonds and a slew of valuable minerals for a long time.

    Yup, and that was exactly why it held on as long as it did. But that's nothing compared to what China has.

    What they have is not exactly the same as Apartheid. But practically, it's about as bad, certainly on the scale that they can (and have) put it to.

    However, I'm not arguing against the agreement. I just figure that practically a country like NZ simply can't use trade sanctions to any useful effect against a superpower. Against the likes of Fiji and South Africa, our gestures make a difference. Against China, we hurt ourselves, and that sure isn't the point of it.

    Furthermore, we trade with the buggers already anyway. It's not like there already is an embargo, or that anyone is actually proposing one. This is simply a deal that gives us a lot more of what China has got, at piss all cost to us, and that makes it a great deal.

    I too find the shrillness of the opposition (mostly fringe groups so far) very, very silly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    Entire streets of people's holiday homes being offloaded. And yet, they're still ridiculously over-priced.

    that always happens at the beginning of a downturn in property prices. look at the REINZ figures for Feb or the Barefoots figures for last month. Prices are standing still, but the volume of sales is dropping like a rock. and the number of listed properties is skyrocketing. people who want to sell are not accepting lower prices, so the number of sales drops and the number of unsold properties grows.

    people will drop their prices when they get desperate to sell. it's just a matter of time. look at AK's massively overheated apartment market--the prices are being decimated. this is a leading indicator, imho.

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 645 posts Report Reply

  • daleaway,

    Four minute mile was broken by Roger Bannister, 6 May 1954.
    A Pom. I remember it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bannister

    Since Jul 2007 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I agree there's some moral ambiguity involved but I wouldn't go so far as to claim this is sending a message to the rest of the world that NZ is not concerned with human rights issues or that the FTA should mean other countries should turn a blind eye.

    Oh I'm sure the rest of the world would largely, and happily, do what NZ is doing, and fully understand why NZ is doing what it is doing. No doubt many are jealous that we got there first.

    I just think we should be honest with ourselves, and say we're not taking a principled stand with China, because it would have no affect on China, and hurt us. We will take a 'principled' stand on Fiji, because it has practical effect on them, but not much on us at all.

    It's principles all the way until it starts to hurt us, and then it's practical only.

    For no other reason than if we're going to stand by and benefit from interaction with a country that does some pretty crappy things to some of its citizens, then we should be honest with those 'oppressed' people. It's the least they deserve.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    a) Womens' (Womyns') Sufferage = Isle of Man 1820

    Pff, women in New Jersey had the right to vote explicitly removed in 1807.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Who needs casino's when you've got the property market? I'm holding a dud hand myself but I still refuse to fold. Even tho' my mortgage jumps from $4700 to $7200 next month! If I can just hold on til the next property upswing I can make it all back...

    Bernard Hickey says that's 2018 ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    And... when Burma flared up Goff was on the radio saying that economic sanctions against Burma would be a waste of time because we hardly trade with Burma at all.

    Which is a third option: "if it has no practical impact upon them, what's the point of having principles?" Surely that's the easiest time.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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