Word of the day


Debt – something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another;  a liability or obligation to pay or render something.

What’s the internet worth to you?


How much would you have to be paid to give up the internet forever?

How much do you pay to use it?

The answer to the first question is likely to be a very big number, the answer to the second not very much.

To understand why the price we pay for the internet is so much less than how we value it, watch this:

Hat tip: SOLO Passion

Jargon & spelling


Back on Critical Mass  after a month away I began today’s chat with Jim Mora by looking at the Ben Zimmer’s examination of the jargon of the novel, computed.

He asks: Has the vernacular style become the standard for the typical fiction writer? Or is literary language still a distinct and peculiar beast?

We moved from the choice of words to how they’re spelled in the price of typos by Virginia Heffernan.

You might think that word processors, with spell checkers, would help reduce typos but she reckons they have increased them.

Australian honour for Roger Kerr


Sir Roger Kerr, executive director of the Business Roundtable has received an Alan McGregor Fellowship from Michael Darling, chair of the Centre for Independent Studies:

Business Roundtable chairman Roger Partridge said the awards are given to honour individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of the principles of free markets, a liberal society, and personal responsibility.

“This is a great honour for Roger Kerr and the Business Roundtable and it’s great to see the work he and the organisation have done over the years recognised in this way. . .

Mr Darling noted in his citation that Roger Kerr “has personally commissioned, overseen and made extensive editorial contributions to all of the work produced by the Business Roundtable, totalling more than 200 books and reports and well over a thousand articles, op-eds, submissions, media releases, speeches and policy backgrounders.”

Mr Darling also quoted New Zealand Institute of Economic Research chairman Michael Walls who, in awarding Mr Kerr the 2001 NZEIR Qantas Economics Award, said: “No single individual has done more over the past 15 years to persuade important parts of the business sector to support economic policies which, though often contrary to the interests of individual firms, were in the interest of the country as a whole.”

That last sentence bears repeating: “No single individual has done more over the past 15 years to persuade important parts of the business sector to support economic policies which, though often contrary to the interests of individual firms, were in the interest of the country as a whole.”

People who promote economic liberalisation and personal responsibility are often criticised for being selfish. But it’s protection which helps individual businesses at the expense of other businesses, consuemrs and the country.

 Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, was the only other award recipient.

Minnows can’t make big difference


Quote of the week from Minister  for Climate Change Negotiations Tim Groser:

“We need some international context around this. I mean, with 0.2 percent of emissions, New Zealand just doing something way out there on its own doesn’t make a damn bit of difference,” says Mr Groser.

He says without buy-in from big emitters like the US and China, the talks are just that.

He was responding to criticism of New Zealand’s progress on reducing carbon emissions.

Not only are our emissions tiny on a world scale, most of them come from farm animals and there’s very little we can do about that.

That doesn’t mean farmers and processors aren’t doing what they can. Fonterra intends to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

But Mr Ferrier says the ETS is already costing dairy farmers about $3600 per year in increased energy costs.

He says efficiencies can be made without having to pile more costs onto farmers, who have already reduced on-farm emissions by more than 8% since 2003.

All farmers contribute to research on reducing emissions too.

But we’re still and minnow in the sea of emissions and there’s no point criticising us for doing too little when the whales are being left alone .

GST only one factor in price


From Napier MP Chris Tremain’s Facebook page:

I went fresh vegetable shopping over the weekend to compare prices. Here at a market garden I purchased a pumpkin for $3, a head of broccoli for $1.79, and a cabbage for $1.69. Just down the road at the supermarket the same vegetables were over $6, $3.49, and $3.99 respectively. On one day and without seasonal variation over 100% difference in the price. So consumers have a choice to buy cheap fresh vegetables now, 100% cheaper. Do you really think removing GST from these products will make a difference?

All sorts of things impact on the price of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Taking GST off fresh produce won’t necessarily reduce the price by 15%. Seasonal availability, weather and how much of a mark-up retailers choose to charge could just as easily increase the price by that amount or more.

Solving Kronic problems


When asked if she’d ever smoked cannabis, Helen Clark replied that she’d been an Auckland student in the 6os. That was taken to mean yes.

I don’t know if that is a reflection on the decade or the university but I was an Otago student in the 70s and had nothing to do with the taking or not of illegal drugs.

I smelt marijuana a few times, knew people who smoked it occasionally and had I tried to find some I probably could have. But I didn’t and, at least in the circles I frequented, smoking pot was not the norm.

But the idea that everyone did it and that smoking illicit substances is normal still persists which might be partly responsible for the problem of  synthetic cannabinoids. In spite of sales being restricted to people 18 and over, Kronic and similar substances are fairly freely available to younger teens.

However, that is about to change. Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced that cabinet has approved legislation which will ban synthetic cannabis products.

Cabinet has today approved amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill that will take Kronic and other synthetic cannabis products off the market for 12 months while the Government works on its detailed response to the Law Commission’s recent report, he said.

The Government has already signalled that it is looking at the Law Commission recommendation to reverse the onus of proof and require the industry to prove its products are safe.

The current Bill allowing the temporary bans is expected to pass into law this week, he said.

“We are going to create temporary class drug orders that will allow me to place a 12-month ban on these currently unregulated psychoactive substances and any new ones that come along.

“The bottom line is that these products are generally untested and we do not know the long-term effects of their use and we are not about to just let it all happen and pick up damaged young people at the end,” Mr Dunne said.

Previous legislation banned particular drugs. This time it will cover any unregulated drugs and reverse the onus of proof so that the safety of any new substances will have to be proved before they can be sold legally.

This will almost certainly create a black market but it will also send a strong signal that there’s nothing normal about selling mind-damaging substances, especially those aimed at young people.

August 2 in history


On August 2:

338 BC  A Macedonian army led by Philip II defeated the combined forces of Athens and Thebes in the Battle of Chaeronea, securing Macedonian hegemony in Greece and the Aegean.

216 BC Second Punic War: Battle of Cannae – The Carthaginian army lead by Hannibal defeated a numerically superior Roman army under command of consuls Lucius Aemilius Paullus and Gaius Terentius Varro.

1377  the Russian troops were defeated in the Battle on Pyana River, while drunk.

1610  Henry Hudson sailed into what it is now known as Hudson Bay, thinking he had made it through the Northwest Passage and reached the Pacific Ocean.

1798 French Revolutionary Wars: Battle of the Nile (Battle of Aboukir Bay) concluded with a British victory.

1835 Elisha Gray, American inventor and entrepreneur, was born (d. 1901).

1869 Japan’s samurai, farmer, artisan, merchant class system (Shinōkōshō) was abolished as part of the Meiji Restoration reforms.

1870  Tower Subway, the world’s first underground tube railway, opened in London.


1903  Fall of the Ottoman Empire: Unsuccessful uprising led by the Internal Macedonian-Adrianople Revolutionary Organization against Ottoman,TUrkey, also known as the Ilinden-Preobrazhenie Uprising.

1916  World War I: Austrian sabotage caused the sinking of the Italian battleship Leonardo da Vinci in Taranto.

 1923  Shimon Peres, Israeli politician, Prime Minister of Israel and the ninth President of Israel, was born. 

1924  James Baldwin, American author, was born (d. 1987).

1924  Carroll O’Connor, American actor, was born (d. 2001).

1925  Alan Whicker, British journalist and broadcaster, was born.

1932 Peter O’Toole, Irish-born actor, was born.

1932 – The positron (antiparticle of the electron) was discovered by Carl D. Anderson.

1934 Gleichschaltung: Adolf Hitler became Führer of Germany.

1937 The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 was passed in America, essentially rendering marijuana and all its by-products illegal.

1939 Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, urging him to begin the Manhattan project to develop a nuclear weapon.

1942 Isabel Allende, Chilean author, was born.


1943  Rebellion in the Nazi death camp of Treblinka.

1943  World War II: PT-109 was rammed by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri and sank. Lt. John F. Kennedy, future U.S. President, saved all but two of his crew.

1944  Birth of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia.

1945 World War II: Potsdam Conference, where the Allied Powers discussed the future of defeated Germany, concluded. 

1964  Vietnam War: Gulf of Tonkin Incident – North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on U.S. destroyers, USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy.

1967  The second Blackwall Tunnel opened in Greenwich, London.

1968  The 1968 Casiguran Earthquake hit Casiguran, Aurora, Philippines killing more than 270 people and wounding 261.

1973 A flash fire killed 51 at the Summerland amusement centre at Douglas, Isle of Man.

1980  A bomb exploded at the railway station in Bologna, killing 85 people and wounding more than 200.

1983 USS Texas was met by anti-nucelar protesters while visiting  Auckland.

Protest as USS Texas visits Auckland

1985 Delta Air Lines Flight 191, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar crashed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport killing 137.

 1989  Pakistan was re-admitted back into the Commonwealth of Nations, for restoring democracy.

1989  1989 Valvettiturai massacre by Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka killing 64 Tamil civilians.

1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait.

2005 –  Air France Flight 358, landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport, and ran off the runway causing the plane to burst into flames. There were 12 serious injuries but no fatalities.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

 The pictorial version is here.

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