Politics, Teach tank

Think tank + teach tank = sea change

Why should the Left have a mortgage on talking to the heart?

The big problem with the Right is that they don’t understand the emotional power of a few short words and pictures.

Especially pictures.

They think the force of their logic should be enough to persuade people to make sensible decisions. Logic laid out in longwinded articles, speeches and press statements.

Maybe it should be. But clearly it isn’t.

Our long history of socialist governments making shortsighted decisions (both Labour and National) shows that.

I’ve made the above poster to show how a punchy pictorial message can trump the most elegantly-crafted 1000-word article on the same subject.

Imagine the effect of this in your daily paper. Which would grab more readers: the poster or the article?

No contest, right?

That’s because the mind processes in pictures. And over half of us are visual learners.

OK, so what does this suggest about the way the Right goes about its job of converting the convertible (as opposed to preaching to the converted)?

It suggests to me that it needs a retail arm to distill and showcase the excellent work of its many policy wholesalers.

(Think the Business Roundtable, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Centre for Resource Management Studies – all of whom, despite their diligence, reach only a tiny fraction of the population.)

What these think tanks need to get their messages out to the 99% of people beyond the beltway is a teach tank.  

A teach tank’s sole job would be to distill the essence of all that world class research into easily-digestible, posterised morsels that can be fed to the general public one bite at a time.

The bites could be ‘nutshell’ newspaper ads, or posters slapped on walls (again, why should the Lefties control the streets?), or emails – whatever works best for the subject of the day.

Each nutshell ad would contain one fascinating factoid. Just one.

As they roll out day after day, naturally-curious people would come to trust the brand for giving them new insights into the workings of the world.

I’ve spoken about the teach tank idea to a couple of Business Roundtable CEO Forums, some potential funders, and again last weekend at the Summersounds Symposium in Nelson.

In fact, the speech was rewarded with an audience-judged Be Upstanding Award, which was nice – but not as nice as some serious funding, which has so far proved elusive.

(The heavy hitters of the Right are not as free with the cheques as the Left may like to think.)

If you know anyone who’d be keen to support the teach tank, I’d be keen to make the ads.

If the Right wants to create a real political sea change, it must  harness the persuasive power of short words, simple pictures and emotion, and use it to tell the public what’s going on.

Language, Lord Monckton, Plain English

Lose the Latin, your lordship

 The world owes a great debt of gratitude to the explanatory powers of Lord Christopher Monckton, my 2009 Man of the Year.

His magnificent speeches have done more than any others to alert the world to the ulterior motives of the global warmmongers.

But even a great man can have an off day.

In this letter to Kevin Rudd, Lord Monckton seems more intent on showing off his Latin, Italian and French than making sure his readers understand his point: 

Therefore, a fortiori, transnational or global governments should also be made and unmade by voters at the ballot-box.

In fact I have never argued that, though in general the market is better at solving problems than the habitual but repeatedly-failed dirigisme of the etatistes predominant in the classe politique today.

The questions I address are a) whether there is a climate problem at all; and b) even if there is one, and even if per impossibile it is of the hilariously-overblown magnitude imagined by the IPCC, whether waiting and adapting as and if necessary is more cost-effective than attempting to mitigate the supposed problem by trying to reduce the carbon dioxide our industries and enterprises emit.

Let us pretend, solum ad argumentum, that a given proportionate increase in CO2 concentration causes the maximum warming imagined by the IPCC.

The answer is that the “global warming” theory is not true, and no amount of bluster or braggadocio, ranting or rodomontade will make it true.

Three Latin and four French expressions in five paragraphs. (And the Italian braggadocio for good measure.)

Now I studied French for seven years and Latin for two, but I confess I had to look up a fortiori, dirigisme, solum ad argumentum and rodomontade.

How about you? Am I the only ignoramus who’d have preferred he’d stuck to the English? 

Here, in case you need them, are the translations:

a fortiori  ‘Even more so’: if all donkeys bray, then a fortiori all young donkeys bray.

dirigisme  Control by the state of economic and social matters.

etatistes  Statists.

classe politique  Political leadership. 

per impossibile  As is impossible.

solum ad argumentum  For argument’s sake.

braggadocio  Empty or pretentious bragging.

rodomontade  Arrogant boasting or blustering.


‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ in 76 languages

Just farewelled stepson on a school Classics trip to Greece and Italy.

Add in the Vatican City and the stopover in Thailand and by the end of the trip his list of countries visited will stand at 11.

At his age (16) I had yet to embark on my first overseas flight – a  hockey trip to Christchurch. My first real overseas trip came at 21.

It’s a very different world from the 1970s, and a grasp of foreign phrases has never been more vital.

Here is one of the most vital, translated into every language the intrepid young traveller is likely to encounter.

(Like the overgrown child I am, I still can’t help but chuckle at the Cebuano, Thai and Tagalog words for hovercraft)…

Afrikaans  My skeertuig is vol palings.
Albanian  Hoverkrafti im është plot me ngjala.
Arabic  Hawwāmtī mumtil’ah bi’anqalaysūn.
Armenian (Eastern)  Im odatirry li e odzadz.kerov.
Aromanian  Pãmporea-a mea-i ãmplinã di uhelji.
Azerbaijani  Hoverkraftimin içi ilan balıǧı ilə doludur.
Basque  Nire aerolabangailua aingirez beteta dago.
Belarusian  Moj pavetrany čoven pouny vugramі.
Bhojpuri  Hamar mandaraye wali jahaj sarpminan se bharal ha.
Breton  Leun gant sili eo ma aeroglisseur.
Bulgarian  Korabãt mi na v’zdyšna vãzglavnica e pãlen sãs zmiorki.
Catalan  El meu aerolliscador està ple d’anguiles.
Cebuano  Puno ug kasili ang akong hoberkrap.
Chinese (Cantonese)  Ngóh jek heidínsyùhn jòngmúhnsaai síhn.
Chinese (Mandarin)  Wǒ de qìdiànchuán chōngmǎn le shànyú.
Croatian/Serbian  Moja lebdilica je puna jegulja.
Czech  Moje vznášedlo je plné úhořů.
Danish  Mit luftpudefartøj er fyldt med ål.
Dutch  Mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling.
English  My hovercraft is full of eels.
Estonian  Mu hõljuk on angerjaid täis.
Faroese  Luftpútufar mítt er (skít)fult í álli.
Finnish  Ilmatyynyalukseni on täynnä ankeriaita.
French  Mon aéroglisseur est plein d’anguilles.
Frisian (Northern)  Min luftdümpetbüüdj as ful ma äil.
Galician  O meu aerodeslizador esta cheo de anguías.
German  Mein Luftkissenfahrzeug ist voller Aale. 
German (Swiss)  Mis Luftchüssiboot isch volle Aal.
Greek (Modern)  To hóverkráft mu íne gemáto hélia.
Hebrew  Harahefet sh’eli mele’ah betzlofahim.
Hindi  Merī ṃḍarāne vālī nāv sarpamīnoṁ se bharī hai.
Hungarian  A légpárnás hajóm tele van angolnákkal.
Icelandic  Svifnökkvinn minn er fullur af álum.
Indonesian  Hovercraft saya penuh dengan belut.
Inuktitut  Umiaryuap Publimaaqpaga tattaurniq ammayaq.
Irish (Gaelic)  Tá m’árthach foluaineach lán d’eascainn.
Italian  Il mio aeroscivolante è pieno di anguille.
Japanese  Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu.
Korean  Nae hoebuhkeurapeuteuneun changuhro kadeuk cha isseyo.
Latin  Mea navis aëricumbens anguillis abundat.
Latvian  Mans gliseris ir pilns ar zušiem.
Lithuanian  Mano laivas su oro pagalve pilnas ungurių.
Luxembourgish  Mäi Loftkësseboot ass voller Éilen. 
Macedonian  Moeto letačko vozilo e polno so jaguli.
Manx  Ta my haagh crowal lane dy astan.
Māori  Kī tōnu taku waka topaki i te tuna.
Malay  Hoverkraf saya penuh dengan belut.
Malayalam  Ente prrakkum-paetakam niraye vlankukalanu.
Maltese  Il-hovercraft tiegħi hu mimli sallur.
Marathi  Majhī hoḍi māsaḷyaṅni bharlī āhe. 
Norwegian  Luftputefartøyet mitt er fullt av ål.
Occitan  Mon aerolisador es plen d’anguilas.
Persian  Havercrafte man pore mārmāhi ast.
Polish  Mój poduszkowiec jest pełen węgorzy.
Portuguese  Meu hovercraft está cheio de enguias.
Romanian  Vehicolul meu pe pernă de aer e plin cu ţipari.
Russian  Moio sudno na vozdušnoy poduške polno ugrey.
Scottish Gaelic  Tha mo bhàta-foluaimein loma-làn easgannan.
Shona  Hovercraft yangu yakazara nemikunga.
Slovak  Moje vznášadlo je plné úhorov.
Slovenian  Moje vozilo na zračni blazini je polno jegulj.
Spanish  Mi aerodeslizador está lleno de anguilas.
Swahili  Gari langu linaloangama limejaa na mikunga.
Swedish  Min svävare är full med ål.
Tagalog  Puno ng palos ang aking hoberkrap.
Tamil  En kappal muzhuvadhum meengal.
Telugu  Naa hoavarkraapht aṅthaa eelu chaepalathoa niṅdipoayiṅdhi.
Thai  Hō woe khrāp kong phom tem pai duay pla lha.
Tok Pisin  Bilong me hangamapim bot stap pulap maleo.
Turkish  Hoverkraftımın içi yılan balığı dolu.
Ukrainian  Moje sudno na povitrianij podušci napovnene vuhrami.
Vietnamese  Tàu cánh ngầm của tôi đầy lươn.
Welsh  Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod.
Yiddish  Mayn prom (shveb-shif) iz ful mit veners.
Yorùbá  Ọkọ afategun-sare mi kun fun ẹja arọ.
Zulu  Umkhumbi wami u’cwele hinoka za’semanzini.

Thanks to Omniglot for this linguistic treasure. For even more languages, including Klingon, go here.

Tiger Woods

Tiger getting back to old roots

This quote from Tiger in this morning’s DomPost might cause his Australasian fans to doubt the success of his treatment:

“After treatment, going for inpatient treatment for 45 days and more outpatient treatment, I’m getting back to my old roots.”

If he’s planning to continue playing Down Under (in the golfing sense), Tiger’s PR team might be wise to clear his press statements with caddy Steve Williams.

Earth Hour, Poneke

Poneke’s case for the human race

Poneke launches a trenchant attack on the greenwashing exercise that is Earth Hour:

We humans are not a pestilence on this planet. We should be proud of our achievements – art and science, jet aircraft and vaccination, space travel, computers, electricity, great civilisations, the lifting from poverty of billions of people. We live in the greatest age in human history.

Yet, we are told daily by the media, by the flat-earthers of the “green” movement, by doom-mongers such as the high priests of the global warming industry, that we have destroyed our planet, that we are a plague on the Earth, that we must repent and beg forgiveness by some kind of mix of returning to the caves from which we came millennia ago while simultaneously paying trillions in indulgences to the Russian mafia. Forgive me Father Gaia, for I have flown.

The greenies’ ideal solution to the human problem is presumably some sort of global Jonestown mass suicide.

Two problems there though: finding a suitably toxic yet environmentally-friendly poison; and the blight on the landscape of six billion  rotting corpses.

While decomposition would soon work its magic, leaving behind a boneyard of skeletons could be seen by the Earth Mother as a rather disrespectful parting gift.

Presumably self-immolation would be out because of the carbon emissions.

Burial seems like the most eco-considerate option, with each of us turning the sod on one of our fellow squanderers before lying down in our own grave for a swig of jungle juice.

The last one standing could then perhaps douse themselves with sulphuric acid and jump down a well.

It’s good to have a clean planet, but exaggerating the problem is having an  immense cost, which ordinary New Zealand families will soon be needlessly paying.

Millions of Africans have already died for the green religion, as food crops are used for biofuel, causing food prices to double.

And the greenies have the cheek to claim their (futile) efforts to cool the planet comes at no cost to those who live on it.

Final word to Poneke:

At 8.30pm on Saturday March 27, we are ordered by WWF – the organisation that fabricated the IPCC’s “peer reviewed” claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 – to turn off the lights that make our nights so bright and liveable.

Peter Jackson, Wellington, Wellywood

Welly, where’s your sense of humour?


Too many Wellingtonians are reacting like humourless bores to the plan to erect a Wellywood sign at the entrance to Miramar.

Come on folks, don’t be so meanspirited!

Think what Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and their team of filmic visionaries have done for our city.

Think about the loyalty shown by Jackson in insisting that Hollywood must come to his suburb, thus singlehandedly transforming Miramar into the world’s most unlikely movie mecca.

Think about the marketing value of crystallising that status into one whimsical word, and displaying that word to visitors.

Most of all, let’s show our fellow Kiwis that the wind hasn’t blown away our sense of humour.

I struck the same attitude when, in a letter to the editor, I christened our cosy little stadium the Cake Tin. What a fuss that still causes.

But as I pointed out then, this is a city where a Parliament building is called the Beehive, the cricket ground the Basin, and an old toilet block (now a Welsh restaurant) was known by all as the Taj Mahal.

In other words, quirky nicknames are part of our heritage. So let’s build on the tradition!

I hope Kerry Prendergast has the good sense to show leadership on this issue and override the kneejerk blurtings of the curmudgeons.

GDP per capita, Politics

NZ – 77th out of 80 Anglo States

My last post showed where New Zealanders’ incomes would rank if we were a state of Australia. (9th out of 9.)

What if we extended that comparison to the whole of the Anglo world?

In such a union, we’d be one of 80: 50 states and 1 district of the USA; 6 states and 2 territories of Australia; 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada; 4 countries and 2 Channel Islands of the UK; plus Ireland and us.

Of the 6 countries, we’d be the smallest. But of the 80 states, we’d be 36th. 

50 of those 80 have populations between 1 and 10 million – 20 of those 50  between 3 and 6 million.

So at 4 million, we’re right in the middle of the pack. A bit smaller than British Columbia, Louisiana, Kentucky, Ireland and Queensland. And a bit bigger than Oregon, Alberta, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Iowa.

But when we rank the same states by standard of living, the pack shuffles. And poor old NZ just about falls off the table…

77th out of 80.

And if you said, “At least we’re richer than Northern Ireland and Wales,” don’t be too sure. Their figures were taken a year earlier than ours.

The only one of the 80 states we definitely pip is Prince Edward Island – a Canadian pimple with the population of Hamilton.

Now let’s decolour all states apart from New Zealand and our ten closest neighbours in the population rankings.

Again, you can see we’re by far the poorest. From $11,000 a year poorer than Queensland to $60,000 a year poorer than Alberta.

All of which begs three questions:

Are all 76 of New Zealand’s economic superiors awash with oil, gold or other natural assets that we lack?

Does our remoteness account for our failure to keep up with our population peers?

Or could it be that our poor performance is the legacy of a history of poor management?

I look forward to the government’s ambitious plan to catch up with Mississippi and Tasmania and keep our noses in front of those plucky Prince Edward Islanders.

2025 Taskforce, Allan Bollard, Don Brash, John Key, Politics, Singapore, Tasman Wage Gap

Can NZ catch Tasmania?

People who make excuses for our economic decline say it’s only natural we should be poorer than Australia.

After all, those convict larrikins lucked into a continent-sized treasure chest fair groaning with minerals.

As excuses go, it’s plausible enough. Till your mind  flicks to a little pinprick up north and a bit to the left.

Singapore. That micro-state that accommodates half a million more citizens than New Zealand, on a rock the size of our biggest lake.

Only Singapore’s ‘lake’ has no water.

Yet somehow its people earn more money than both New Zealanders and Australians.

Which goes to show that when it comes to generating wealth, size isn’t anything.

That convenient excuse also doesn’t explain how, for over a century, we used to be just as rich or richer than our sunburnt neighbours.

And it collapses completely when you realise that we’re no longer just Aussie’s poor cuzzie. We’re now poorer than every single Australian state.

Yes, even Tasmania.

So when John Key and Bill English consigned Don Brash’s 2025 Taskforce plan to the too-hard basket, they seemed to be doing their bit to ensure that New Zealand remains a basket case.

If Allan Bollard is right that we’re now only fit to catch the crumbs from Australia’s table, would it be too ambitious to hope that by 2025 we might have caught up with Tasmania?

2025 Taskforce, Don Brash, Emissions Trading Scheme, John Key, Politics, Tasman Wage Gap

The widening Tasman Wage Gap (AKA the John Key Credibility Gap)

I left National in 2008 because I could see that John Key had no ambition for New Zealand, only for himself and his party.

Two years later, Key and National are riding high on their wave of false promises, while the Sunday Star-Times reports the all-too-predictable reality: Kiwi wages slip further behind.

For once I can’t help but agree with Phil Goff, who describes Key’s promise of catching Australia as “reckless and dishonest”:

“He was undertaking to the New Zealand electorate that he had a secret plan whereby he could catch up with Australia, and the truth is he had no such plan. And, far from catching up, New Zealand has fallen further behind.”

Key’s motto, as far as I can see, is “You can fool most of the people most of the time.” And it seems to be working a treat…

Say you’re ambitious for the country. (When you’re not.)

Say you’ve got a plan for growth. (When you haven’t.)

Join forces with a party that actually has a plan. (And ignore it.)

Say you agree with the ‘catch Australia’ goal. (When you don’t.)

Commission a plan to catch Australia. (Then reject it.) 

Chide your central banker for saying we can’t catch Australia with your policies. (When you know damn well he’s right.)

Press on with your Emissions Trading Scheme. (When the country you’re supposed to be catching has put the brakes on theirs.)

(And when the science increasingly supports your first instinct that man-made global warming is a hoax.)

So why is our prime minister doing these things?

And why did he take such a ‘principled’ stance in defying his core supporters on the anti-smacking referendum?

The answer is simple.

It’s because John Key is not running New Zealand for his core supporters. He knows he’s got their votes in the bag.

Nor does he have to worry about those righteous ACT know-it-alls, since they’re hardly likely to cuddle up to the reds or Greens.

No. He’s running our country for the benefit of a few female urban liberals of the Lucy Lawless ilk.

Women to the left of Jeanette Fitzsimons, as he calls them.

Women who took one look at his cheery smile and all-things-in-moderation patter and saw someone they could take advantage of.

A Helen Clark with a feminine side.

Women who couldn’t care less about boring male obsessions like money and Australia. But who care lots about carbon footprints and wrapping their kids in cotton wool.

That’s why, when Lucy and Keisha and co. said, “John, go to Copenhagen,” off to Denmark he dutifully trotted.

That’s why, when the lib-fems said, “John, legalise smacking and we’ll smack you,” he was happy to give 85% of Kiwis the fingers.

And that’s why, when wise heads bombard him with sound reasons to delay the ETS, he’ll be obeying Lucy and the liberals and putting planet before people.

It’s great politics. It’s also negligent leadership. 

Of course, Bill English and others would say, “There’s no point making unpopular changes then getting voted out.”

Yes, there is.

If you really cared about your country, you’d run that risk, knowing that successful reforms tend not to be wound back.

But you can reduce the risk by explaining to people why we need to change – just as a responsible parent explains to his family why they can’t keep living beyond their means.

Roger Douglas took that risk in the 80s. And guess what? The public didn’t like it.

But they understood it.

They returned Labour with an increased majority, and a mandate to finish the job. 

Key could do that too. It would hardly be a huge risk, since the Brash report only calls for cutting spending to 2005 levels.

As Don Brash said, John Key has the communication skills to pull it off.

But does he have the courage?

To find out, keep an eye on that Tasman Wage Gap. Because it’s also the John Key Credibility Gap.

If it closes, he’ll have silenced many a doubter. 

If it keeps widening – as we all said it would – the PM’s political epitaph could well be (to paraphrase Julius Caesar):

 I came, I smiled, I tinkered.