Monday, November 1, 2010

John Campbell and Samoa

I was watching TV3 this arvo, Campbell Live (video here) was pretending to investigate what happened to $152 Mill of money donated to the Samoan government by the likes of the IMF after the tsunami. Now i DO believe that this money trail is an issue worth investigating, but what John Campbell did is a shocking abuse of his viewers.

About 7.35 minutes in, he visits a new house (shack really) built from government money, in a small village in rural Upolu. He makes a big point of there being "no toilet, no bathroom, no kitchen, no running water, no glass in the windows" - the point being that the government should have given them all these things as part of the tsunami response.

My problem with this piece, is that he makes this point by taking the situation completely out of perspective. He knows that most of his viewers in their cozy western houses in New Zealand will compare this shack to what is normal in New Zealand. Now i have been to Samoa - I have seen normal samoan villages, where people live in fales. There are no toilets, bathrooms, kitchens, windows made of glass, water pipes. We are talking about Samoa here - a third world country. It is normal in Samoa to have none of these things. In Samoa, if you have these things, you are rich. Here is a building somewhat similar to where a lot of samoans outside the capital live. Note the polas mats which are used basically as window shutters. In actual fact, the shack built by government money looks roughly similar to the normal standard of living in Samoa.
Contrary to my initial thoughts, the people here did have these things before the tsunami - they had western style houses financed by overseas relatives - they were rich samoans. Nevertheless, once put into perspective, the question is "When a rich person get's their uninsured property destroyed, should the government provide them with everything they had before?" In a New Zealand setting, imagine there's a tsunami on the former North Shore, and a row of $10 million cliff-top mansions fall into the sea. A few in particular did not have any insurance. What would you expect the government to build for these people? a normal house, or a brand new $10 million mansion?

I am not trying to provide an answer one way or the other on that question, and yes there are questions to answer about the Samoan governments bookkeeping, but John Campbell's angle on this - that these are appalling conditions for anyone in Samoa to be living in - is completely illegitimate and he has done a disservice to his viewers by intentionally misleading them in this way.

He also comes off as extremely arrogant at about 12.15 minutes in when he approaches and harasses the samoan prime minister - in english - when he had said the previous day that something more important had come up than talking to John Campbell. I just have to imagine what we would think of some foreign journalist accosting John Key while he was carrying out his duties and harassing him in french.

This piece was worse than fluff news - it was a "story" created out of thin air by intentionally misleading their viewers, with a meek attempt to attach legitimacy to it by association with the question about missing donation money (which he never answered). The real shame is that there was a good topic right there which he could have spent his time investigating. I consider what he did do to be an abuse of Campbell Live viewers.

UPDATE: Here is a perspective from someone with much closer ties to Samoa than me. Like he says, John Campbell's story did do some good by shining a light on the missing money, given the legal limitations of homegrown Samoan media. I just wish he had done more of that and less of the off-topic misleading sensationalism about the houses.

Cheers also to Samoa News and Cafe Pacific for mentioning NWBW.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The arrogance of government

Increased GST rate applied to September bills - National - NZ Herald News
But the Government introduced legislation to allow companies to charge GST at the lower rate for invoices up until October 11 for goods and services provided before October 1. Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said it was regrettable that companies had decided to ignore the new legislation, which would have saved their customers money.
They go out of their way to make things complicated. Do they really expect everyone in the country to learn their whole new system just for one invoice in one particular month? what difference does it make anyway?

GST is charged on everything all the time every month. Every time anyone buys anything anywhere, GST must be calculated and handled by people who need to be paid to do this - twice in fact, once by business and once by bureaucrats. If you really want to complain about GST, there are much better targets than businesses who don't hire extra accounting staff every time the government has a whim.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The fuss about Paul Henry

This has blown all out of proportion - it seems everyone's talking about it. Here's one article in particular.

His resignation is being framed as a "freedom of speech" issue. It's not.

If he had been charged with a crime for what he said, that would have been a freedom of speech issue. If he had been sued for something he said, that would also be a freedom of speech issue. If he had been fired for something he said in his own time, that would arguably also be a freedom of speech issue.

This is about something he said at work, as part of his job, representing his employer. This is about how he does his job, and whether that is acceptable for his employer.

In the article above, Wallace Chapman explains that, while he hates what Paul Henry said, his job should have been protected from any consequences of what he says. I have the opposite opinion. I have no problem with anything Paul Henry has said (though I never watched his show), and while i agree that all speech should be protected from legal consequences, employers should be able to direct employees in the way they do their job - including the way they represent their employer while at work.

There was nothing wrong with firing Paul Henry.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Well, I think i'm doing pretty well...

This is all on a $20 base, the x axis runs from 26 april 2010 to 9 october 2010. I have so far made an 88% return, in just under 6 months. Not much compared to other ipredicters, but i'm happy with it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Soccer World Cup Final Places

Places 1-16 based on:
- Highest round
- Goal difference in highest round
- Goals for in highest round
- Time of the last goal (earlier goals count for more)

Places 17-32 based on:
- Place in group
- Points
- Goal difference
- Goals for
Teams in green can still win

PlaceTeamHighest RoundGoal DifferenceGoals ForTime of last goal for(+) against(-)FIFA Ranking
3GermanySemi Finals-10-73"6
4UruguaySemi Finals-12+92"16
5GhanaQuarter Finals-01P.S.O. (2-4)32
6BrazilQuarter Finals-11-68"1
7ParaguayQuarter Finals-10-83"31
8ArgentinaQuarter Finals-40-89"7
9JapanRound 2-00P.S.O. (3/4-5/5)45
10USARound 2-11-93"14
11KoreaRound 2-11-80"47
12SlovakiaRound 2-11+94"34
13PortugalRound 2-10-63"3
14MexicoRound 2-21+71"17
15EnglandRound 2-31-70"8
16ChileRound 2-30-59"18
PlaceTeamPositionPointsGoal DifferenceGoals ForFIFA Ranking
17Côte d'Ivoire3rd4+1427
20South Africa3rd4-2383
22New Zealand3rd30278
32Korea DPR4th0-111105

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Who pays the price for taxes?

Go here, read this. This is something i have felt strongly for a while.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Alcohol laws, Drinking and Death - James Webster

James Webster has been all over the news lately in a way that only violent murderers and white middle class people are.

He was a goody good, went to Kings, had hardly drank alcohol before one particular party where he drank himself to death.

There are numerous things that jump out at me about this:

1) he had a low alcohol tolerance, because he had no experience of alcohol, because he wasn't allowed to drink.
2) he felt that on the very odd occasion that he did drink, he had to drink a lot to compensate for how he usually didn't drink, because he wasn't allowed to drink.
3) he had no idea of what his limit for alcohol was, because he never drank in moderation, because he wasn't allowed to drink.
4) he saw drinking as an attractive activity, because it was something he usually wasn't allowed to do.
5) he was drinking unsupervised, because he was not allowed to drink while supervised.
6) had he been allowed to drink under supervision, he would have had a higher alcohol tolerance, he would have had a more mature attitude towards alcohol, he would have known what his limit was, he would not have seen drinking to excess as an attractive activity.
7) Had none of this made a difference, people with more experience with drinking would have been around and identified the situation much earlier, preventing the damage going to the extreme that it did.

James Websters death was tragic and avoidable, but the lesson to learn is not that no one should drink ever, but that it is important that we think about what people know about alcohol, and that it is important that we don't exclude youth from our society, drinking included.

Monday, May 10, 2010

UK Conservatives missed opportunity with UKIP

From ACT on Campus Blog:
In November 2009, UKIP offered to not contest the UK general election at all if the Conservative party promised, in writing, a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty. The Conservatives ignored the offer.

They go on to make the case that, had UKIP not contested the election, David Cameron would have had a majority. By my reasoning, the results would have been like this:

w/o UKIP contesting
w/o UKIP contesting
Conservatives30716 short330Majority of 15
Labour25865 short242 81 short
Liberal Democrats57with Conservatives:
Majority of 83
with Labour:
8 short
50with Labour:
31 short
DUP8with Conservatives:
8 short
8with Conservatives:
Majority of 31
not including Sinn Fein
note: Majorities calculated assuming Sinn Fein do not take their seats, and assuming the Conservatives will win the one remaining constituency, Thirsk and Malton, which is a safe Tory seat. The speaker is included in the conservative tally.

Bottom line: The Conservatives lost because they refused to promise a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

This was done assuming all UKIP votes would have gone to the Conservatives if UKIP had not contested, which is nearly fair judging by how similar their other policies are. To be fair, i will also show a table of what would have happened if only half of the UKIP vote is given to the Conservatives: (assuming the other half vote evenly, vote for other 3rd parties, or stay at home):

w/o UKIP contesting
w/o UKIP contesting
Conservatives30716 short3212 short
Labour25865 short24875 short
Liberal Democrats57with Conservatives:
Majority of 83
with Labour:
8 short
53with Conservatives:
Majority of 103
with Labour:

22 short
DUP8with Conservatives:
8 short
8with Conservatives:
Majority of 13
not including Sinn Fein

So even in this case, they passed up an opportunity for an easy coalition with the DUP and a referendum, for an almost unworkable coalition with a centre left party.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pick any number. Do these calculations. Your answer was 3, wasn't it?

step 1: get a noisy time series
the exchange rate between the US Dollar and UK Pound
step 2: filter out everything that doesn't come in 9 year cycles
UK/US exchange rate 1791-2007 less 9 yr. mov.avg
(emphasis added)

result: you got something with a 9 year cycle, didn't you?
an 8.25 year cycle
Just the same way wind instruments work. Make white noise, and pass it through a tube of a certain length, an it filters out all the frequencies that don't resonate, leaving just the frequency you want and some of its harmonics.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What people mean when they say "High effective marginal tax rates"

Christchurch woman Cassey Quy, 29, quit her job in a flood of tears after three months.

As a single parent looking after her four-year-old son Riley, she gets $357 a week on the domestic purposes benefit (DPB), with some bills being paid by Work and Income.

Struggling to make ends meet, she took a part-time job as a laboratory assistant at Canterbury University in January.

After advice from a Work and Income case worker, Quy believed she would be better off by $100 per week.

However, her part-benefit, part-wage income left her $10 a week worse off.

After the Government changes were announced yesterday, Quy said she was scared she would fall back into debt.

“It doesn’t make sense, working but not earning money,” she said.

“It’s like the Government is punishing us.

This should be very high on peoples lists of things that are wrong with the world. Her work at the university was helping other people, even though she was doing it purely for her own reasons. That way, everyone wins. However, government has gotten in the way, and her incentives have been perversed so much, that she stopped producing her labour. Because of the government, she has had to take an action that benefited herself, to the detriment of everyone else.

Such extreme cases like this one should be the first thing to be fixed.

Don't listen to anyone who tells you producers will never stop producing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Government gives Councils money, makes their balance sheet look better

The deficit this quarter is $45.4 million smaller than the September 2009 quarter deficit of $65.6 million
Oh good, Councils are being slightly less irresponsible and accumulating debt on our behalf slightly more slowly.

Local authorities recorded a seasonally adjusted operating deficit of $20.2 million in the December 2009 quarter

But there's still a little way to go.

The main contributions to the increase came from government grants and subsidies (up $26.7 million) [...]

Oh wait, that's not councils being more responsible, that's just government bailing them out so they can continue being irresponsible. Well that number is smaller, so they are still being $18.7 million more responsible, which is good.

and investment income (up $26.0 million). The rise in investment income was driven by an increase in revenue from dividends (up $27.9 million).

And the rest of their good fortune is down to things beyond their control (dividends). So the effect of their responsibility or otherwise on the operating deficit is $45.4m - $26.7m - 27.9m = -$9.2m, a further $9.2 million of debt per quarter, on top of what they were already doing. Of course this doesn't even include the increases in rates and their effect on society, which is what the problem really is.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Well, i have to say, that looks like a very short list. Really they should be asking for suggestions that weren't on the list in 1992.

as far as those 5 go, the things i would find acceptable are MMP with PV electorate votes and no 5% threshold, or alternatively STV with either a single nationwide "multi seat constituency" or at most 4 or 5 huge electorates (so that the south island and Auckland become 1 electorate each).

What i think would be better is the Most Open List. You get your party vote, you get your proportionality, you get to vote for your local candidate if you wish, but you're not limited to voting for the one and only (your party) candidate in your "electorate". You can vote for anyone on your favorite party's list, be it the preferred local candidate, another local candidate you like better, a candidate from a neighboring electorate or even someone from the other end of the country if you feel they represent you better.

And the icing on the cake for people that follow politics closely, you can if you want to rank everyone on the list yourself, which means you can effectively "un-vote" someone you don't like, all without losing your party vote and proportionality.

And yet it is not on the list of finalists, despite no one even asking whether there might be a better option out there. Instead we have what feel like the same hand picked straw men to make the government's favorite system look good especially when the info given about the options is whatever they could pull off wikipedia in 5 minutes.

Have a look at the descriptions of the 5 systems on
Some STV systems[...] Other STV systems[...] Yet another alternative[...]
You would think that whichever 2 of them they aren't considering were irrelevant, and they could tell us a bit more about what the actual option for NZ was, or at least just tell us which one to think about. Would be nice if they explained the formulae too instead of saying "just trust us".

What do i have against MMP FPP STV PV and SM?

MMP - list members no one wants, and how important the party organizations become, being 100% in control of the party list. Worries about "wasted votes" give minor parties a huge disadvantage - both in electorate (2 horse race) and party votes (5% threshold). Not proportional in the case of overhangs.

FPP - not proportional, nationwide (not concentrated in few areas) minor parties have no chance (Greens, NZ 1st, historically Social Credit). Worries about "wasted votes" give minor parties a huge disadvantage.

STV - only proportional within electorates, so a party needs to get up to around 10% of the vote before they start getting MPs, so this and worries about "wasted votes" give minor parties a huge disadvantage. Depending on how 2nd votes are transferred, this either results in elections depending on chance (random selection of winning candidates surplus voters) or calculating fractions of votes quickly descending into an obscenely complicated process of re-counting and calculating fractions. Multi seat constituencies will be about 3 times as large as current electorates (in rural areas) so some areas will be without adequate local representation e.g. the west coast might plausibly end up with 3 MPs all based in Nelson and Blenheim (Although currently it would be entirely plausible for the MP to be based in Motueka)

PV - not proportional, nationwide (not concentrated in few areas) minor parties have no chance (Greens, NZ 1st, historically Social Credit).

SM - not proportional, minor parties disadvantaged in electorate seats. Party organizations become too important, being 100% in control of the party list.


Some people are talking about one change that might be made to MMP if we keep it is to open the lists. This would be great, but i should specify that my vision of the Most Open List was to abolish electorates altogether and let voters use their list rankings to ensure local representation.

I also want to point out that current "independent"candidates would be free to run as a 1 man party, and in this case using the current Saint-Lague formula and assuming 2.4 million votes, independents would only need about 10,000 local votes to get their 1 and only list candidate into parliament, about the same number it takes for an independent to win an electorate currently.

My favorite part about this is that those 10,000 votes don't have to all come from within an arbitrarily delineated "electorate" but can come from anyone who feels represented by the independent. An example is if someone from Queenstown-Lakes district wants to run as local representation, he could have 7000 votes from Queenstown and 3000 votes from Wanaka. Currently these towns are split by an artificial electorate boundary.

This would also work for Maori electorates. If Hone Harawira got kicked out of the Maori Party but can still get 10,000 votes from Maori in Te Tai Tokerau, he can go to parliament and represent Maori in Te Tai Tokerau. Even better, this still wouldn't stop Maori Party voters ranking their local candidate at the top of the list and getting a Maori Party MP for Te Tai Tokerau too.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I loved the inclusion of organic-organic DNI and global distributed transapience. Loved the whole baseline/indigenous conflict and the level of conflicting interests for the apologists, needing to survive in both bodies despite their inclinations. Too much reliance on transapient intervention though. They went out of their way to make it realistic, with the cryo, splices, uploads and everything. They almost succeeded, it was only the use of unobtainium that really screwed them up on the realism front. Apart from that, there were too many similarities between Pandora flora and language and kiwi bush flora and language. Can't they use something a bit more exotic? The nanotech was a little absent too considering it was sci-fi. Eywa is officially my new favorite transapient.