Big Red calculates US debt


What do you do if your calculator isn’t big enough to show your country’s debt?

When Matt Miles couldn’t find one which could show 16 digits needed to displays the USA’s debt he made a new one that does.

The USA’s national debt totalled nearly $11.8 trillion – or $11,792,918,170,836.43 – at the start of September and  Big Red (I suspect the pun was intended) calculates trillions with ease.

But it’s not just a gimmick. Matt says:

We hear people talking about deficit spending and the national debt – the amount our children will owe if we don’t do something about it – and it seems scary but somewhat distant. But when you actually look at the numbers and realize just how big it is. . .

But it makes a much bigger point. It helps us realize what we’ve created in deficit spending and how it effects our national debt, it sobers us up to think about what we must do to shrink the debt, and it gives us all an opportunity to share this thinking with others.

If you want to scare yourself, click here to watch the total grow.

The size of that debt doesn’t just have implications for people in the USA. That country’s place in the global economy means it will have an impact world-wide.

China and India are growing quickly which might off-set some of the effects, but even so if the USA is limping it will hold back economic recovery elsewhere.

Basil Brush


Comments yesterday from Gravedodger and Rob Hosking reminded me that Derek Fowlds was known as Mr Derek on Basil Brush before he was Bernard in No Minister.

I didn’t find a clip of him in that role, but I did find Basil Brush and Rolf Harris singing The Court of King Caractacus:

Beware the reach of the colour police


He’s moving a relocatable house onto a farm in Central Otago and called in to the District Council to discuss it yesterday.

The house is painted off-white.

That’s not in the council’s colour scheme. He was told he may have to repaint it even though it’s on a farm, set well back from a road and the road in question is an unsealed one which is probably used by fewer than a dozen vehicles a day.

He’s moving a corrugated iron shed from one part of a Central Otago farm to another.

He called in to discuss it with the District Council.

He was told he’d have to paint it.

He told them it was going beside a much bigger wool shed which was also made of corrugated iron and painting the wee shed would make it look strange beside the unpainted bigger one.

That doesn’t matter. The rules say existing buildings are okay but if one is moved it has to fit the council colour scheme even if it then looks out of place beside the one beside it.

Where will the reach of the colour police end?

How long before we have to hide freshly shorn sheep up a gully lest the bright white of the shorn fleeces upsets someone driving past at 100 kilometres an hour?

Will the next step be to tell us we’ll have to run Charolais because a red Hereford or black Angus doesn’t match the council’s colour scheme?

Mike gets it


Most people behave well, they are just sick of a political culture where you expect, at any moment, someone to intrude on your television set and tell you to sit up straight and not to eat too much meat.

That is the conclusion Mike Moore comes to in this morning’s Herald.

He’s right.

Shortest blog partnership in history


Cactus Kate has seen the light. She’s pulled out of Gotcha, probably making it the shortest blog partnership in history.

The blogging partnership between Whaleoil and Kate probablywasn’t a good idea to start with. The blokes at No Minister could have warned them about choosing blogging partners carefully and PM of NZ spelled it out.

I wonder if the people at the very good, very authoritive business blog, are concerned about the tasteless posts on No Minister and Gotcha by one of their people?

Whose trees are they?


Concern is mounting over changes planned in the Resource Management Act which would allow people to chop down trees on their own property without seeking permission.

Yes, you read that right. People who own trees will be able to chop them down without resource consent unless it is listed in a council’s district plan.

Councils are concerned that this will mean pockets of bush and coastal pohutukawas will be able to be cleared unless they are protected.

The Resource Management (Simplification and Streamlining) Amendment Bill, which contains more than 100 changes aimed at reducing cost and delays, allows group of trees to be listed in district plan schedules, but does not say what constitutes a group.

A spokesman for Environment Minister Nick Smith said the changes were intended to make councils focus on which trees needed protection.

It would be up to councils to prove that larger groups needed protection.

Surely that’s an improvement. Isn’t it better and less expensive, for councils to specify which trees, or groups, need to be protected than to require every individual property owner to go through the resource consent process every time they want to cut down a tree?

The change in law may even encourage people to plant more trees, in particular natives. Stephen Franks points out that the current law discourages this.

Most tree control provisions in local planning schemes effectively nationalise the tree and the land on which it grows a few years after planting, when it reaches a size that other people might enjoy.  Without compensation you lose control of the tree and the land on which it grows, for the benefit of people who like to look at it.

The result? Wise folklore that says “don’t plant trees”. Certainly don’t let anything grow to the expropriation point.

Trees are living things, they grow and sometimes they grow too big for their site.

I’m looking at a flowering cherry outside my office window. It’s almost in full bloom and looking gorgeous but its roots are cracking a nearby path, its shading other plants and we’re going to chop it down. We planted it in the wrong place. We’ll plant another one in another place where it won’t matter how big it gets, but we have a country garden which enables us to do that.

People in town don’t have that luxury and when they find the 100 acre tree they, or people who owned the property before them, planted gets too big for their quarter acre – or smaller -section they should be able to chop it down.

Trees are beautiful, they attract birds and provide shade and shelter. But a tree which grows too big for its site becomes a nuisance. They get in the way of overhead lines,  provide too much shade, get in the way of paths and driveways, and might even become dangerous.

Property owners should have the right to deal with a nuisance on their own land without the hassle of going through the consent process unless there is a very, very good reason for requiring them to do so.

They should also have the comfort of knowing that planting trees on their own property doesn’t automatically turn it in to a reserve.

Planting trees should be encouraged not disencentivised by effectively nationalising them and the land on which they grow. The ammendment to the RMA should do this.

September 3 in history


1189 Richard I (the Lionheart) was crowned at Westminster.



1939: New Zealand declared war  on Germany.

This is not an occasion for many words; it is a dark day in the history of the world … It is with deep regret and sadness that I make this announcement on behalf of the Government, and the people will receive it with similar feelings. That will not, however, affect the determination of both Government and people to play their part.- Acting Prime Minister Peter Fraser.

France, Britain and Australia also declare war on Germany starting World War II.

1940 English actor Pauline Collins was born.

1958 Brian Barratt-Boyes performed the first open heart surgery in New Zealand.

Sourced from NZ History Online and Wikipedia.

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