Thursday, November 6, 2008

$500 transfer - what multiplier effect?

The Maori Party have advocated a one-off transfer to families of children living in poverty. In itself I have no major issue with this. I would have liked to see a little more detail on the thinking behind this move though. It's a lump sum transfer and should be recognised as such. The question is whether the intention of the transfer has been clearly laid out and whether any real analysis has been done on how it would achieve its objective.

I was somewhat dismayed by Peter Sharples using the term "multiplier effect" on radio and in the presser. No, Peter, there is no real multiplier effect here because it is one-off. First of all, don't even think of bringing retailers into the equation. They are not going to respond to such a small amount by increasing orders - not least because the orders for the Christmas period were likely placed months ago. Second, if shopkeepers believe this is a one-off then why should they change behaviour? The size of the transer is so small that it is not going to add to employment, and therefore will not add to expenditure over and above the initial sum. Your multiplier, Peter, is bogus. Please try to get a proper economist into the Maori Party.

The election is nearly over

Boy, am I glad that the election is nearly over.

The inane ads from all parts of the political spectrum are pathetic and we shall be wonderfully freed of them come Saturday.

However, the underlying childishness will still be there - no matter the make up of next parliament.

Many people view politicians with very little respect. You would have thought that the institution which has the power to influence the life of every man, woman and child in this country would be held in higher regard. Yet it is not. Why? Because despite all the good work that goes on the lasting image we have is of pompous MP's hlding up cardboard signs at press conferences, or the PM explaining why it isn't actually her signature on the bottom of a painting. Not biggies in the wider picture I hear you say. Unfortunately, that IS the wider picture. If (or maybe that should be "when") we see our politicians engage in silly behaviour knowing full well that they are going to be under scrutiny from their electorate, it is reasonable to expect them to be doing equally silly stuff at other times.

Bill English says something dorky. Yeah, like Michael Cullen doesn't say stuff that makes me cringe (rich pricks, anyone?). Even Helen Clark's "You might be able to shout at home" comment was unworthy of a PM. How about banning Dihydrogen monoxide? I'm sorry but the starting point with politicians is to assume he/she is a clown until proven otherwise.

Will we ever see the day when the political parties (especially the two big ones) do not need to descend into muck racking to defeat an opponent?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's wrong with this situation?

8-year old boy goes to gun fair.
8-year old gets to fire an Uzi at a pumpkin
Uzi recoil jerks the gun upwards
8-year old shoots self in the head and dies

They should have speed limiters on mobility scooters

And from the file on how this country's Laura Norder situation is going to the dogs, we have this gem in the Herald about a man in a mobility scooter who ran over a girl.

Okay - no one expects to attacked by a dentured member of Hell's Angels on four wheels but at 14 I would have thought she ought to be a bit more agile than that. Maybe too many pies from the school canteen?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When it's broke, make sure it's truly f**ked

The Greens have siad the RBNZ should require the Aussie banks to suspend dividend payments.

So the global financial system is under stress. Hey, let's get in there and make sure it really dies. If the Green's believe that the RBNZ is not charging enough for making credit readily available then the proper response is to say that the RBNZ should be charging a higher effective interest rate.

But then the Green's along with CAFCA have a lifelong habit of taking pot shots at the Aussie banks, regardless of whether it is warranted or not.

Vote for M.E.*?

*Myopia Extremis

NZ First to work with anyone

According to this morning's Radio NZ news, Winston Peters is prepared to work with anyone after the election. Obviously this includes Asian jockeys ...

Brokeback Mountain anyone?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oddly enough I agree with Keith Locke...

... when he said:

"However, it would be quite wrong to take from [the Green's population policy] that we are asking parents to have less kids,” Mr Locke says.
It should be fewer kids.

Unless of course they are going to be skinny ones.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Long and the Short of It

Most of us are starting to get crisis fatigue (on top of which election fatigue is starting to set in, too). Everyday there seems to be a new story about a financial institution going under or some knee-jerk government reaction. Coming as this does just before important elections for little ol’ Aotearoa New Zealand, there is a real temptation to unhook the modem and go hide in some secluded backwater (you know, like Christchurch).

That said (being an economist, I always have a “but”), something I find fascinating about much of what is going on around us is the temporal aspect of it all. We seem to have a disconnect between what is “in our face” and the longer term outlook. The value of the mortgage backed securities is a case in point. No one wants to buy them but chances are they will have some (if not a lot) of value several years down the track, even after taking into account a proportion of constituent mortgages that default.

Similarly, the way we (well, financial institutions directly but the general populace have acquiesced in this) compensate the sellers of financial products is skewed toward the short-term. You sell the product and get the commissions. Big bonus. Several years down the track, after you have taken your golden handshake or jumped ship, the underlying turns toxic.

Of course, without having crystal balls it is a little petty to expect that we will be able to foresee all the bad stuff that will happen. But the thing is we don’t need to see it exactly. All we need to know is that something bad is going to happen. Things happen in cycles. Sometimes the cycles are elongated and sometimes they are shallow but they cycle. And if the cycle happens to be accentuated, well the drop is going to be case of “I get to see my lunch for a second time”. Why are we surprised that we are getting the payback for a) dodgy lending practises/housing policies, b) incentives for banks to put stuff off balance sheet, c) over-reliance on ratings agencies, d) a belief that the work of some executives is actually worth many millions of dollars? [How many so-called “hundred year events” have you experienced? Ok – they are not necessarily related but I’ve lived through six economic/financial crises of varying magnitudes and several “hundred year” weather patterns.]

Too many people believe they fully understand what is going on around them. They don’t. They have heuristics that are seemingly confirmed but they don’t actually understand. For some things that is ok. I get into a lift with only a rudimentary understanding of how the counterweight helps stop the thing plummeting 20 storeys down. But if I am signing up for a mortgage that has the potential to leave me homeless or even just take a massive chunk out of my disposable income in a couple of years, by closing my eyes and just signing I am abrogating my responsibilities. Worse still the grinning salesman who says “keep the pen” after I sign.

It seems that the vast majority of humanity does not want to look ahead. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, if we had foresight we may well have never come down from the trees. But all we need to know is that things will turn sour at some point in the future and then ask ourselves “How confident am I that my decisions today are going to stand me in good stead when the shit hits the fan?”

There is a wonderful comment in a Freakonomics post comparing the behaviour of mortgage lenders and pregnant teenagers – both profess to not knowing how it happened.

Why I Dislike Winston Peters, Reason #492

It was inevitable that NZF would again trot out the xenophobic rhetoric that so enamours Winston with the intellectually challenged.

"When times are tough internationally immigrants are attracted to New Zealand like moths to a neon light."

NZ Herald:
"He said immigration policy had to be "smarter" and added: "We must have a population policy - and one in which ordinary New Zealanders can have an input.
"It must be linked explicitly to labour market needs. No job - no immigrant."
Mr Peters said no one should be let into New Zealand unless they had a job and those seeking to join families in this country would have to be immediate family only."

Apart from the fact that it is already relatively hard for unskilled migrants without a job offer to come to NZ, I believe he is trying to say all those Somali taxi drivers with PhDs should not be allowed in...

The man makes me sick and I can only hope that enough peopple do not vote for either NZF or Labour so that he has no chance of getting back into parliament.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Grey Swan?

I'm in the middle of reading "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

I find his writing style a little tiresome after a while but the ideass in the book make for a must-read for anyone in finance and economics.

Although current events are not beyond the realm of probability - indeed, a lot of people foresaw the problems in some form or another - some of the ideas are really applicable. Hence the current "crisis" is a grey rather than a black swan.

Friday, October 10, 2008

been away from the blog

I had an extended holiday from the blog due to other commitments. Things are not much better time-wise but with the political silly season really upon us, along with some rather dubious economic decisions taking place around the globe, I feel the need to vent my spleen on occasion.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Oil - Speculators - Only for the weak minded

A lot has been said in the medi over recent months about the role of speculators in pushing up the price of oil.

The Economist has a good piece on oil. In it, they highlight a key fact that has been overlooked by the feeble-minded: That oil speculators cannot push the price of oil futures above the price that markets are willing to pay for delivery just before expiry.

So for example, if the refinery is only willing to pay $100 per barrel, then that is what the final futures contract must be worth immediately prior to delivery. You then work backward by induction over the earlier contracts.

So if speculators are willing to push up the price of oil, it is only because the refineries are also willing to pay that much for physical delivery. Not the other away around.

A virtual chocolate fish to anyone who can point to a leading politician who actually has publicly acknowledged this.

Of course since when did logic mean an end to populist soundbites.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Diluting the liquor

According to Aunty Helen, there is a causative relation between alcohol outlet density and criminal behaviour.


TVHE prodded that one with a stick and found it wanting.

This is policymaking by playing around with the edges for the sake of being seen to do something. Does reducing the number of liquor outlets mean there will be less crime? Forget about the stats - someone please tell me how it is meant to work. I really don't see the linkages.

On top of that, any first-year uni student who has done a stats course should be able to tell you that correlation is not causation. It staggers me that the pollies can stoop this low. Yes - it's de rigeur for Winnie What-me-baubles Peters - but for a PM to use that sort of flawed logic shows how desperate she must be to get the populist vote.

As soon as you start using (and accepting) this kind of shoddy reasoning, sensible policymaking goes out the window.

Let's get the election over with and try to get back some sanity... pleeeeease.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

You've come a long way, baby.... Now eat lead!

The story of the polar bear that made it across to Iceland and was promptly shot for its effort kind of sums up my view on life.

You can struggle to achieve something meaningful but if it doesn't suit the guy with the uniform, you are for the taxidermist.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Poneke has gone

Seems like Poneke has upped sticks and left the blogging world.

I saw a post on another blog but can't for the life of me remember.

Thanks, Poneke. Yours was a blog that was most enjoyable to read. Kia kaha.

Update: He's back now. Yay! Same bat channel, same bat URL.

The upside to mental illness

Sufferers of mental illness can have such an unusual view of the world that it can be very creative. van Gogh is but one example. In this case, in the final months of her life, a woman finds love - imaginery but love nonethless.

Her delusions, unremittingly ugly, had suddenly grown beautiful. In the end, the
psychosis was her friend.

I'll drink to that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Civility on the decline

Something for the grumpy old types:

Poll: Everyday civility declining in Utah SALT LAKE CITY,

May 11 (UPI) -- Residents of Utah are growing increasingly concerned that everyday civility is in decline, a poll indicated.

The Deseret Morning News said Sunday a poll it conducted with KSL-TV indicated most Utah residents believe civility in their state has declined during the past decade.

The Dan Jones & Associates survey of an unspecified number of people found that
67 percent of respondents said civility had declined, while 11 percent said civility had improved in Utah.

When asked in what ways civility declined, more than 90 percent of those who saw a problem cited cell-phone use, language and driving as the most troublesome violations of civility.

The Morning News said other problem areas included table manners, dress, e- mails and customer service.

P.M. Forni of Johns Hopkins University said such problems are rarely addressed in normal society.

"People, in general, in surveys see the problem but very seldom do they see themselves as part of the problem," said Forni, who heads up the university's Civility Project.

82% of respondents told the interviewer to go take a running jump.

And to borrow from Scott Adams, 72% of all statistics are made up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blogging like it is

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On this, the greens are right

I am rarely in agreement with the Greens, as I view them as a lobby group trying to play with the big kids.

However, their scepticism about the move to push transport's entry into the ETS back by a couple of years is quite justified.

The ETS is a tax. It is intended to affect the price signal by making it more expensive to undertake activities that in whatever way add to emissions. While Helen Clark is also right in saying that fuel usage has dropped as the price has risen, that is a red herring. The underlying rationale for an ETS must be that the market price does not reflect the externalities caused by using petroleum products. That does not change whatever the "fundamental" price is.

If this is an attempt to soften the cost of fuel increases for the lower income groups then it is pure electioneering. Regardless of how well-off one is, the cost should capture the externalities.

I am pretty ambivalent about the ETS or even carbon taxes. I use a car only during the weekends and am a very low mileage driver. Some people may complain that the car is the only way they can get to work. Well that's the trade-off you have to make to live in the Big Smoke. Nothing, not even housing, comes for free. *snort*

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another penis story....

In what is fast becoing a regular spot for news story relating to parts of the male anatomy we have this:

Angry wife severes husband's penis

April 11, 2008

A housewife in the Philippines cut off her husband's penis while he was sleeping in their house because she suspected he was having extra marital affairs, a police
officer said. Police officer Rolly Lipata said 37-year-old Lenly Bayabado had long suspected her younger husband's infidelity, prompting her to cut off his organ.

Lipata said neighbours rushed the screaming victim, 32-year-old Joelito, to a nearby hospital in the Manila suburban city of Pasig after the attack. Bayabado underwent several hours of operation so his organ could be re-attached, but hospital sources said there was no guarantee he would still be able to perform sexually.

Bayabado denied he was cheating on his wife and said he will not file charges against her because he wants to keep the family intact for the sake of their four children.


"Intact" is not really the word I would use there..... Of course, she should have just sent him to the Congo and got it shrunk down to nothing. Much less bloody I rather suspect.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The homeownership ideology

I am thankful we have not had the same extent of poor lending decisions for homeowners as the US has had. However, this article by Dean Baker highlights the ideological basis that propels many into unsound mortgages.

I particularly like this part:

Of course only an ideologue would view homeownership as an end in itself. One of
the reasons that millions of families face foreclosure and/or the loss of their
life savings is that the ideologues of homeownership continued to promote
homeownership even when it was clear that buying a home would be financially

I don't agree with Dean Baker all the time but on this point I'm 100% behind him:

In the interest of promoting better housing policy in the future it is important
to have a public acknowledgement of the follies of homeownership ideology. We
don't have a bottomless pit of money to satisfy their perverse ideology. If
homeownership does not make economic sense, then we should not tell people to
sacrifice healthcare and other essential needs to make the ideologues happy.
It's time to force some honesty into the discussion of housing policy - renting
sometimes make sense.

If a mortgagee sale house is empty, does a chicken coming back home to roost make a sound?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

From the world of the occult

Given this little piece of exciting world news,

Lynchings in Congo as penis theft panic hits capital
Reuters Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of
using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and
attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

I can see a market for all those "Add inches!" spammers. Clearly the Congo will be awash with men concerned that their members have been minimised by magic.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


I heard a good piece on National Radio on DHBs.

The key part of this item for me was the recognition by the DHBs themsleves that they needed to act more co-operatively. Somewhat ironically, the Minister of Health said that DHBs would be encouraged but that the model would not be changed.

I am glad that there is enough foresight and "can-do" attitude in the DHBs that allows them to improve the provision of health services off their own back. Now some will say that is eactly what the model intended but I am rather sceptical of that. The DHBs - as evidenced by HBDHB - were pretty much left to sink or swim on their own.

What of the future? The sharing of services and administration across DHBs ought to continue and be actively encouraged by MOH. An admission that the model was insufficient would be good but unlikely. Could there be a move back to an overarching single administration? I rather doubt that it would become reality within the next three years if for no other reason than the work required to set it up properly. But I hope that if it does come about, it will ot be because of someone in Wellington saying we need to change the model for the sake of change but rather because they see the benefits of where the DHBs themselves have led the system.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Your attitude sucks

I happened to be killing some time around Molesworth Street t’other day during the middle of the mad commuter rush home. A nice shiny new BMW SUV comes around the corner. The driver, whose appearances should not be used to prejudge him, was middle-aged, white, wearing a suit (well a jacket at least) and balding … and talking on his cellphone.

I was somewhat happier when I saw him pull into a parking space to carry on his phone conversation, although better that he had never started it while driving. As soon as he pulls over he grabs a plastic sleeve folder and starts rummaging through it, still talking on the phone. "Fair enough," I think "He obviously can’t talk on the phone, look for something in his folder and drive all at the same time." After all, he only has two hands.

Eventually Mr Unsub (I’ve always wanted to use that term) puts down the phone, rummages a bit more then puts the folder away as well. That’s when I notice he is not wearing a seatbelt either.

This guy embodies so much that is wrong with our driving culture:

  • I do what I want to do – too bad about the risk to others.
  • I do what I want to do – too bad if I put myself at risk

I actually have less of a problem with the second except that as a taxpayer, I will be picking up the tab when you crash your Remuera Tractor and end up with permanent brain damage.

No amount of legislation will change this type of attitude.

Guns and butter

Nudges is a great economicky type blog by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. Recently they had a post about where (presumably US) income taxes get spent. I was gobsmacked when I read that over 40% goes to past and current military spending.

Are you feeling safer already?

WFF - a benefit or a tax cut?

The Standard has a post about the average cost of benefits. The comments have a discussion about whether WFF is a benefit or not. I was reminded of this particularly by an interesting post by Greg Mankiw. In it, he talks about a thought experiment about taxes and family size - namely a tax credit for couples with children.

But -- hang on a sec -- a bonus for those who have a child amounts to a penalty
for those who don't have one. (Saying that those with children should be taxed
less than the childless is another way of saying that the childless should be
taxed more than those with children.) So when poor parents receive a smaller
credit than rich ones, that is, in effect, the same as the childless poor paying
a smaller surcharge than the childless rich. To many, the first deal sounds
unfair and the second sounds fair -- but they're the very same tax scheme.

While I believe technically The Standard is correct - WFF is not a benefit - a targetted tax cut is qualitatively the same thing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Risk aversion - betting the house

The latest volume of NZ Economics Papers Vol 41(2) Dec 2007 (the journal of the NZ Association of Economists) has an interesting article entitled "Safe as Houses: Investor Confidence in NZ" written by Faye Braithwaite and Simon Kemp.

Here's the abstract:

We investigated the psychology of risk in the context of residential property
investment. One hunderd and thirty seven participants completed a questionnaire
that measured thier sensation-seeking, general investment risk attitude, and
attitude and confidence about investing in a term deposit, unit trust shares, a
residential property syndicate and residential property. People with higher
sensation seeking scores found shares and unit trust more attractive tha low
sensation seekers, but all groups were most confident about investing in
residential property. Overall the results indicate that New Zealanders invest
overwhelmingly in real estate beacause they trust it more than other forms of

The discussion at the end of the article notes that : "Official attempts to warn people against a housing asset bubble have not so far been very effective. Indeed, they may have been particularly ineffective with precisely those peoplem who might expect to pay most attention - the risk averse."

Herein lies much of the problem with the housing market in New zealand. Although there are regulation on the condition of a house, the market itself is fairly unregulated and for that reason is going to be clearly affected by swings in supply and demand. Yet the above research suggests that many New Zealanders do not view the housing market as being inherently risky. Even if housing is less volatile than other financial markets, the sum of money involved means that the effect on houshold balance sheets is relatively huge.

While discussion of housing affordability is worthwhile, too many people do not recognise that the current state of affairs is a direct result of our collective paradoxical love affair with housing. The cause of housing unaffordability is not because of evil property investors or even hordes of well heeled migrants. [As an aside, the same volume of NZEP has an interesting article that shows migrant couples are generally less wealthy than NZ-born couples.] It is because we have become indoctrinated into believing that owning a home is a birthright and will attempt to buy a house as soon as possible.

When will Kiwis wake up to the need for prudent financial planning? It may not be representative but when you see TV programmes such as "Money Man" and the complete lack of ability willingness to think about one's future cash flow and risks, it is easy to believe that we are in fact in a deep coma. Somewhat ironically, I note the Money Man's repeated use of "enough money for a deposit on a house" to describe how much the subjects need to save only serves to reinforce this fixation.

This leads me on to another thought. Fortunately we do not have the same extent of jingle mail as there appears to be in the US. It is perhaps because of this yearning for housing that stops this. That said, I fail to understand why people who buy houses do not stop to think about how much leeway they have to absorb higher interest costs. Possibly there is some myopia going on with a belief that a fixed mortgage means that mortgage interest rates are fixed forever, when in reality it could well mean a big jump in mortgage payments once the fixed term ends - typically every 2-3 years. This is made all the worse for new home owners for whom initial mortage payments are almost entirely interest only - in 2-3 years time the actual principle will not have gone down much and thus the effect of a rate increase will be all the worse compared to homeowners who have paid off significant chunks of their mortgage already.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Charity - do you need an incentive?

Ok. I now have a little time up my sleeve.

The move to remove the cap on rebates for charitable donations is great. I'm still putting my own thoughts in order on this so forgive me if this sounds a bit a ramble.

There is at least one ideological reason for applauding this. For those who believe that government should be as small as possible, this provides an opportunity to put money that would have otherwise gone into the general tax purse into a cause they believe is worthwhile directly. I am not entirely of this view but am more than happy to put money into a charity and bypass government.

Now do taxpayers respond to these type of incentives? Will we see an upsurge of donations to charities after this law change? I believe the results will be mixed. Overall, the amount donated to charity is likely to increase but I rather doubt that there will be an immediate increase in the number of people donating. Those who are financially literate and (as a result) also have spare disposable income will avail themselves of the greater rebate. But the vast majority of taxpayers will likely shrug their shoulders and think (if at all) "Why give money to charity when I can spend it on myself?" That has been the way of the past and I see no reason that it would change right now.

There is an underlying problem here: the self versus the collective. I can hear the VRWC jumping up and down in indignation already. I have a foot in both camps: there is an obligation for us as human beings to care not just for those who are our "nearest and dearest" but also for those who live on the other side of the world, whom we may never see or hear of personally. On the other hand, the imposition of this by the collective is contrary to my belief in individual rights.

It may come down to a spiritual/philosophical distinction. As individuals we often ignore the plight of those less well off. Some become activists when they believe and injustice has occurred (and there is nothing wrong with that per se). Yet when people expend time/energy/resources into protests about Tibet or even things closer to home like the Electoral Finance Act, they ignore often more tractable problems. These problems are tractable in the sense that the there are obvious responses required but are usually so big that the individual feels swamped by them. The end result is that people will make token gestures and then say "Leave it to the government."

Part of the reason I like the change in the rebate is that it does send a signal - albeit one that is easy to ignore - that altruism (I rather detest that word but its hard to find an appropriate synonym) will be encouraged by the institution of government. We cannot force people to care for others - after all that is what free will is all about. But we can take baby steps toward creating a society where people naturally are concerned. That is the path to a truly enlightened society. Having some stuffed shirt telling us how to behave is all wrong. Not only does it remove the process by which we come to believe that this is the right thing to do on our own accord but it also sets up a system in which wrong decisions are accepted.

Our fate as a species depends not on what (even enlightened) politicians tell us is the right thing to do but on each and every one us understanding that concern for our fellow man is in fact in our own best interests.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A little something

The New York Times has an interesting article about bias here.

Try the gun/no gun test. Not exactly a comprehensive measure of bias but fun.

My results:

Game Over
Your Score: 500
Average reaction time:
Black Armed:649.72ms
Black Unarmed:688.8ms
White Armed:636.96ms
White Unarmed:673.52ms

So although I am slower to holster when I see an unarmed black guy, I'm much quicker to shoot the white fellas!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Heathrow's T5

I was going to post yesterday about how all the stuff ups at the new T5 in London's Heathrow Airport was actually down to a policy decision that to avoid the threat of terrorism in the air the powers that be would simply make it impossible to get off the ground. But then I thought it soounded too much unlike an April Fool's joke.

Post script: Maybe the Canadians could buy T5 - at least they won't have to worry about having to jump through hoops.

Coming soon

I intend to ramble on a bit about the change in the tax rebate for charitable donations at some point.

However, right now, I am rather snowed under with other things so will simply point to this and this. Oh and this.

I beleive this is one of the best things to come out of the Labour-led government. It may not be the sexiest or biggest vote winner but for a reason I will go into later when I have time, it takes a step toward improving our lot as a species.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Watch out Fonterra

There's a new cow in town.

6.9 million reasons to kick oneself

Some person will suddenly realise that s/he is no richer today than they were yesterday - despite having won 6.9 million quid.

I feel like that every Saturday night.

Guilt-free flying for $88?

Air NZ has introduced a voluntary carbon levy.

Air NZ CEO Rob Fyfe said:

"When customers purchase a flight on Air New Zealand, they will now be able
to make a concious choice about whether or not they want to take positive steps
toward helping our environment."...

Prime Minister Helen Clark said at this morning's launch the airline had set
itself the "bold goal" of being the world's most environmentally responsible

I wonder if Air NZ has calculated the "environmental cost" of its flights. Underpinning any such work will be a stack of assumptions, many of which I expect are debatable. However, nit-picking aside, this raises the question in my mind as to why they did not impose a levy across the board (in the same way the airlines have imposed levies for fuel costs). The intuitive answer is that by being the first to do that would lose them market share.

Given the investment in carbon credits and the investment in for an "environment trust" (whatever that is) Air NZ is already bearing some of the cost of its emissions. And presumably that cost is being borne by either passengers and/or shareholders.

Being a cynic by profession, upbringing and experience, I can't help but wonder if this move is expected to actually generate significant revenue for the trust or simply a publicity stunt.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A birthright?

Is owning a house a birthright?

The NZ Herald seems to think so.

The right to buy a house is no more a birthright than the right to buy a car or a plasma TV or party pills (up until the end of the month, anyway).

If having a house (and I use the term house rather than home deliberately) is an unalienable right, then the only way to achieve this is, ironically, to have cookie cutter high rise housing. Even then, as Singapore has found out, it does not make it immune to the vagaries of the market.

Throw money at the problem?
The Aussies tried that with the first home-owner grant. All that achieved was to push up the price. Exisitng home owners said thank you and put it in the bank. Prospective home owners watched as prices went up even more as more people were encouraged to come into the market.

The move to mass permits is a step in the right direction but will it ensure that the supply over time will be enough to just meet demand? Given that the last decade has proven how volatile (especially upwards) demand for housing can be, would the recent proposal result in supply rising quick enough? Unlikely. So we are still going to see some degree of house price volatility. Will that result in changes to housing affordability? You bet.

Is the housing market so "strategic" that it needs to be regulated so as to ensure a policy outcome? Is the government saying it wants market forces to work better (i.e. faster)? The whole approach seems open to inconsistencies that may well leave a bigger mess.

But then it may not be Labour's problem to deal with.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Branding again

It always cracks me up when I see brands over-reaching themselves.

Spotted in the shopfront window of Wellywood's Adidas store:

"Celebrate orginality"

With Adidas?

So buy Adidas and you can be original like the other 50 trillion people who buy Adidas. Clearly there is still plenty of money to be made from scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The scaremongering goes on

Mickey Cullen once again tries to frighten the little voter kiddies by threatening them with the Bogeyman a.k.a. Sir Roger Douglas if they don't vote for Labour this year.

Yes indeedy, the VRWC will come for you naughty swing voters.

Nothing about housing affordability

Ruby Rubberlegs is performing at the Royal Easter Show in Seeeeednee.

The only connection with housing is the reference she makes in this video to her New York apartment.

Ruby Rubberlegs the teaser

Something that small should only cost ... umm.. $2 million bucks.

Not about boy racers?

While it's understandable that the grief of the sister of a car crash victim can make her want the press attention to her brother's death go away, her description of it not being a boy-racer incident is misplaced.

The police seem to think the two cars were racing. Presumably they would have some prima facie evidence to that effect.

Unfortunately it doesn't take a helluva lot of encouragement for people to go nuts behind the wheel. It's also a well documented phenomen that getting behind the wheel changes some persons' behaviour totally.

Leaving aside the fact that nothing has been said about the behaviour of the driver who also died in the incident, this story once again highlights the sad truth that there is significant number of Kiwi drivers who do not know how to balance risk and safety.

The Aggressive Drivers website carries a number of conference papers, one of which has this passage that certainly rang true:

"The risk in driving is largely under the control of the driver. The driver
decides in each moment what risks to take and which to inhibit or avoid. Risk
taking is a tendency that varies greatly among drivers as well as for the same
driver under different conditions. Thus, if a road is made safer by
straightening it, or by removing objects that interfere with visibility, drivers
will compensate for the greater safety by driving faster—the "risk homeostasis"

Hence the stupid, stupid, stupid practice of people speeding up when reaching passing lanes. "The road is wider, I can go faster."

Just in case you didn't know

Crucifiction is bad for you.

It's official.

"This Holy Week, the thousands of guilt stricken or pious worshippers who will
flay the skin off their backs, and the handful who will crucify themselves, are
encouraged to get a tetanus shot first and be sure to use a clean whip or

I always wash my whips otherwise they get a bit whiffy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

DHB report out

The report on HBDHB hsa been released.

I've not bothered to read the whole thing but this article in Stuff has a couple of bits that irk me.

But the report saves most criticism for the now sacked board, finding that
it did not have even the low level procedures in place to manage conflicts of
interest ...

Mr McKernan said there was nothing stopping DHB members doing business,
but the HBDHB had "very weak systems and processes for determining how conflicts of interest should be managed".

Weak systems are the result of spreading the administration of the health system too thinly. We have 21 DHBs all competing for skilled administrators.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Herald Sub-editor Learns from News of the World

A rather silly headline from the Herald: Taxpayers may get $300k bill.

Aside from the fact that it could equally have been "Taxpayers may get $30k bill", the Herald is attempting some rather silly dog-whistle attempts to stir up outrage.

This is the way our legal system works. Legal Aid may be subject to abuse but that is infinitely better than having the police being the sole deciders of who is right and who is wrong. Moreover, if we are to deprive people of their liberty for long periods of time, we had better be damn sure of their guilt.

Note to the Herald sub-editors: Please try to incorporate more aspects of the story that relate to Nicky Watson.

Political consistency

No Minister blogs about the return of Sir Roger Douglas to ACT.

A comment about Helen Clark's voting for the reforms led by Douglas and her backing of Douglas over Lange got me thinking about political (in)consistency.

Politics is pretty rife with politicians changing their minds:

"Read my lips - no new taxes"

"No GST - ever"

Yet this is not seen as a big problem - at least to the majority of the electorate.

Is there a way of ensuring that politicans do not become time inconsistent (economics jargon there - just had to do it!)? How important is that they stick to the same script? If we allow pragmatism, do we open the door to even bigger flip flops?

Excessive Wealth

God: So tell me Benedict, how come you have so much wealth?

Benedict: Well, Big Guy, it's not really wealth.

*G raises an eyebrow*

*B shifts uneasily*

B: You see it's actually all spent.

G: On.... ?

B: Good deeds in the future. You know, helping little kids read and write so they can go on to have a zillion children themselves.

G: But you can't spend it now?

B: Oh no - because if we did that it would mean nothing to spend tomorrow.

G: And the good you do tomorrow is more important than the good you do today because.... ?

B: I decided the Church should have a discount factor greater than 1.

Brands and consumer choice

The first big consumer-advocacy programme in the mainstream media was, IIRC, Fair Go - which has gone from strength to strength.

There are now fairly weak imitations, such as Target. Excuse me while I go ingest some formaldehyde.

So much of Consumerism (as opposed to consumption) is about brand. Which makes this article in the Herald interesting.

While advocates of branding claim that it is about what their products provide that is different from others, branding IMHO is more about perception rather than reality.

In one sense it is an attempt by producers to exploit the inherent laziness of consumers by distracting away from issues such as nutritional content. Those chewy snack bars are a prime example of something that is marketed as healthy but is probably worse for you than a couple of pieces of fruit.

Friday, March 14, 2008

I just realised

... that I have the exact same layout as The Hive.

You lazy bastards!

*looks at ceiling*

My what big eyes you have

Actually this is the kind of reaction I get from my mother when she sees me after I get my no.1 haircut.

A distraction

This is such a cool web game.

It has now officially replaced Puzzle Bubble as my fav time waster.

And from the bizarre files....

.. a story of a woman who sat on a toilet for 2 years.

Okay - she obviously has some serious issues dealing with the world around her.

I'm guessing that the boyfriend had another toilet to use. Either that or had some real good drain cleaner (I hope!).

How does one fit a bandwagon on a mobile phone?

Poneke has blogged about cellphones and the call to ban their use whilst driving here.

Now the phone companies have called for a ban.

This part gets my back up:

Vodafone spokesman Raphael Hilbron said a ban would be the tipping point to get
people to do the right thing.

"People know it to be wrong, but because it's not illegal, perhaps there's not as much stigma attached to it and people think, 'Well, I'll do it because it's convenient'."

Sorry, Raphael but you've got it wrong. People do it because a) they think they are super good drivers and b) they don't give a shit about others on the road.

Making a law against it will NOT change that.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This is what Ministers are for

After all the hoo-haa surrounding the Hawke's Bay DHB, it's nice to see that David Cunliffe also throws his weight around at the appropriate time.

How much chips - Part 2

As Cheezy said, the rules against fatty foods are just around the corner.

I have sympathy with the view that the junk food pushers are targetting kids. I know from time spent with my extended family that young kids will pester their parents for things, especially food, that have seen on TV.

On the other hand, shielding children from TV ads is what economists call a second best outcome. Getting parents to understand a) the need for a healthy balanced diet and b) that they need to impart to their kids a degree of self-control is to my mind the first best outcome.

My nephew was around 5 at the time and was travelling in the car with his grandparents. He knew that his grandfather kept some mints in the front of the car.

"Granddad, can I have some mints?"

Granddad mutters something about not at the moment.

"But Granddad, I NEED to have a mint!"

And I need to win Lotto.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

And you thought hauling your ass out of bed was hard

It's amazing what some people will do for love.

This guy clearly had a hard time.

I wonder if he's the one responsible for the increase in chip serving size?

Edited: right link now I hope

Friday, March 7, 2008

How much chips are you having with that?

According to A Chip Group, the "average serving size of chips has increased from 330 grams to up to 1kg that [sic] over the past 10 years."

1 f******g kilo????

I like chips but not that much!

No wonder there are so many fat bastards these days.

Can we have a new law to outlaw fatty chips? *snort*

This could so be me

It's a recurring fear of mine that I will go to sleep in a public place and start snoring. So I have a lot of empathy for this guy.

I doze off in meetings a lot. When people start droning on about things that really don't interest me, it's like a switch gets flicked.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Head injuries cause brain loss

A cursory reading of that headline elicited a scoff. Of course, there is a bit more to it than first meets the eye.

The point being that blunt trauma to the head can result in a loss of brain tissue - rather like a bruise leaving a big whole in your leg.

I smell an extreme weight loss diet coming....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Immigration and crime

Not a dog-whistle story but an interesting Freakonomics-esque piece of research.

Too bloody busy trying to earn some dosh and stay one step ahead of the INS?

Forget about Kiwi youth - its them foreigners!

Funny how some tourists think that they are free to abuse their host country's hospitality.

Some time ago I was visiting one of our caves with stalagmites and all that stuff. It was well managed and had signs up saying something to the effect that these formations had taken thousands of years to build up and please don't touch them. So what did the German tourists in front of me do? *Not a rocket scientist moment*

Is it too much to ask for people to show some respect for not just other people's property but a bit of common sense?

Friday, February 22, 2008

A sign that the End Time is nearing....

.. is grads using leetspeak in job letters.

That's just so like hard out pathetic.

HK celebs are saying sorry too

Of the 5 people who read this blog, I expect I am the only one who takes any interest in HK celebs.

Edison Chen, one of HK's more prominent move stars, got caught with his pants down - well, on film at least. And it was all of his own making.

He is now particularly contrite and says it's not a good example. Laugh? I nearly pissed myself.

Leaving aside the issue of why all 7 women agreed to be photographed by him while they were having sex with him, he clearly has some issues with relationships. No mention by Chen as to what sort of help he would be seeking though. Typical.

Update: The fallout continues with Gillian Chung - one the women in the photos getting dropped from singing at the opening of the Olympic games. Ouch.

As a friend pointed out to me, the photos in themselves are not "bad" and I had to agree that if that's what rocks your socks and everyone is a consenting adult then one cannot morally sneer at them.

Today's emotion

is Despair

I have experienc'd

The worst, the World can wreak on me--the

That can make Life indifferent, yet

With whisper'd Discontents the dying

I have beheld the whole of all,

My Heart had any interest in this

To be disrent and torn from off my

That nothing now is left. Why then live on

That Hostage, which the world had in it's

Given by me as a Pledge that I would

That Hope of Her, say rather, that pure

In her fix'd Love, which held me to keep

With the Tyranny of Life--is gone ah ! whither

What boots it to reply ? 'tis gone ! and

Well may I break this Pact, this League of

That ties me to myself--and break I shall !

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm starting to like this guy

Having been away from OZ for some time, I'm not so familiar with all the political personae, especially in the new Rudd government.

However, if Chris Evans is actually as portrayed in this article, then he doesn't sound half bad.

A politician who:

(a) wants to divest himself of power; and
(b) is fulfilling promises to sort out the mess made before his election

is a major plus.

Words fail me

after seeing this headline from the Sydney Morning Herald:

I shouldn't have had sex with her body, says murder accused

I can only hope the subeditor was trying to be funny.

And now for something completely different... is a most excellent site for anyone in need of a laugh.

My advice is to dip your toes in occasionally. More than one or two articles at a time gets a bit overwhelming. Especially Paris Hilton.

Wellywood goes retro (by a few thousand years)

So we are going to get a new terminal based on a "rock" theme.

It's easy to bag an unusual design. But I kinda like it.

It's going to be a bitch to clean the outside though. I guess that's what departure fees are for.

Hopscotching with intent

Police are to be put into low-decile schools.

This will definitely get the big brother conspiracy theorists' knickers into a twist.

I would have thought after the publicity that HVHS would have been on the list but IIRC its not low decile. It used to be a fairly snobby place until the catchment was increased and white flight took hold.

Anyway, I digress.

This bit intrigues me:

Police chiefs are introducing the system to build up trust with youngsters
and to gather intelligence about youth gangs, drug dealing, and to tackle
crime before it happens.

  • Tackling crime before it happens is a throwaway line.
  • Intel on gangs and drugs is after the fact.
  • The only preventative component made explicit is building up trust.

Not sure how trust is going to stop anti-social behaviour. First of all, anti-social behaviour (tagging, robbery, theft - the typical stuff young offenders get involved in) will not be avoided if you like the fella in the nice blue uniform and stabproof vest. The trouble runs much deeper.

Quite possibly this will only introduce the kids to the police earlier than getting nicked.

Personally, I think the resources would be better spent trying to instil better parenting skills through community groups.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Dog CD makes it to Reuters

This was news in NZ back around Christmas time.

Nice to see Reuters are up with play.

At least they didn't have a dog version of Snoopy's Christmas (or did they?)

More on Kiwi driving

This time from the Herald.

Attitudinal change. Sounds good. However, it will be interesting to see how one can instil a healthy respect for the lethality of motor vehicles into the "bullet-proof" hoons.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How low can you go?

According to Jeff Kennet, former Victorian Liberal Premier, airing the Lib's dirtywashing in public is degrading.

Given that the coalition had fallen to abysmally low levels in the eyes of the electorate, I wonder if the appropriate term should be "subgrading".

As a Victorian, he should know that a bit of blood-letting is good for the humours.

Kiwis are crap drivers.... at last someone admits it

Article from Stuff quoting the the editor of New Zealand Driver magazine as saying we are a "nation of lousy drivers".

I put my hand up there and admit to be being one, too.

The difference is that I know my limitations and I take the view that my car is not some super fancy way of showing how macho I am but a bloody heavy blunt force trauma on wheels.

Compared to many of my compatriots on the road, I show excessive caution and I get my fair share of abuse for it. But I will gladly suffer that. Having been a bystander to accident where an elderly pedestrian was literally pulverised by a speeding car, I am happy to be on the receiving end of abuse than to see someone get killed up close again.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sorry is such a hard word to say

... if you're an Aussie Liberal or a denizen of talkback radio.

A good post from Ruth on that.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rugby players are hetero

Well, they didn't say that exactly but it's practically there...

Someone should remind them about the construction worker in the Village People.

Sanity after the fact

The bill is waived - so someone came to their senses. Did the pressure come from on high?

Shame on the civil servants who needed to be leant on to show a bit of compassion.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A sign of commitment

Stuff has story on a road sign that isn't actually part of the wine trail and points away from the general direction of the nearest vineyard.

I really like this part where Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive, Tim Cossar, says:

"But the signs are just part of our commitment to the trail as opposed to saying
there is a vineyard around the corner."

And while I'm on the topic of stupid signs, there is at the start of Lambton Quay on one side of the intersection (facing Lambton Quay) a 50 km/h sign and immediately opposite at the start of Lambton Quay proper is a 30 km/h sign. [If I was more technological adept I would put a photo on here - but I'm not, so I won't.]

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Can anyone explain to me why it is that in Welly-wood we cannot recycle plastics other than types 1 and 2? Is this a national problem?

Billing for victim's family

So it's a few days old now but the story of a murder victim's family being asked to pay for legal aid is gob-smacking.

When cock-ups happen like this, the underlying system is usually designed with good intentions but somewhere along the line someone has failed to engage their brain.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stupid headline of the week

Anti-Theft Scheme To Stop Thieves

... right, so the other type of anti-theft schemes are meant to do what - just slow 'em down?

Dismal's Redux

Always wanted to use that word in a title... Sheesh, I'm such a geek.