Scotland Independence and RT trouble making once again

As I usually do I surf through the various channels on SkyTV to see what the various international news channels have to offer in terms of news and analysis and once again we have the reheated Pravda doing the extension of soft Russian power by giving the appearance that these ‘poor down trodden people’ are ‘voting for freedom from the terrible English’ when in reality a fractured Europe and a weaker United Kingdom is ultimately in Russia’s own self interest to be able to act like a spoilt brat of self importance on the world stage with very few states with the ability to oppose such behaviour. The funny part is just how transparent their coverage actually is – honestly, getting random bloggers, conspiracy theorists (check out ‘Crosstalk’ where one ‘analyst’ trotted out the usual claim that the United States spreads corruption such as homosexuality world wide to undermine countries and their culture – yes, the same sort of crap is being trumpeted on the television station darling of left and far left) adding their input as if their views were something that is credible.

Then there are the journalists – good lord, some idiot pointing to some random radio station in the state of Bavaria and claim that the state had an informal poll where 88% of listeners wanted a similar referendum – question, what radio station? for all we know it could be an Alex Jones like crank operation with 1000 listeners and a dog which doesn’t tell you much other than, like any other country, there is a section of society who are complete and utter cranks. Then there was the interview of Dr Duncan Ross from University of Glasgo yet he fails to talk about the the economy, specifically, the fact that the public sector is the largest employer, the lack of diversification away from a dependency on oil (there is only so much oil left – it isn’t an unlimited resource) and that doesn’t even touch the other problem where the first minister was promising a world class welfare state whilst reducing taxation and believing that the gravy train of high oil prices would last for ever. I think deep down inside for many Scottish voters Alex Salmond promised more than what he could deliver in reality. What I thought was funny was a young adult talking about how independence would allow them to fix poverty – never quite explains why given that Scotland receives £10,000 per head of population vs. everywhere else receives £8,000 give to take a few pounds.

Jumping off that issue the biggest issues that come to mind were ones that Alex never addressed or if he did address it then it was nothing more than hand waving “we’ll sort it out later” as if “have faith in us” didn’t exactly give the Scottish much confidence in what they were actually voting for since independence is a package deal and not just getting your own country. Debt, currency, taxation, relationship with the EU and a whole host of other issues yet to be resolved and that doesn’t even touch the next big problem. The next big problem is the fact that the Scottish economy would be hugely dependent on the oil and Alex failed to have some sort of long term plan that would make the private sector (the public sector is the largest employer) the dominant provider of employment that was independently developing rather than being dependent on the success of oil sales and maintaining high oil prices on the global market.

With the ‘no’ voter being the winner there are now questions being bought up about further autonomy for Wales, Northern Ireland and England specifically that if Scotland is going to receive more autonomy then shouldn’t the Welsh and Northern Irish have that too? how about England – why should MP’s representing Scotland have any say over laws that will only effect England? Thus if there is any sort of  benefits that have come out of the whole referendum then it has pushed forward with tidying up the union so that there isn’t this lop sided situation of Scotland being in a more autonomous position when compared to Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

There are some issues that do need resolving when it comes to more autonomy particularly when it comes to taxation and the inevitable effect where by decentralising the tax take within a union you end up in a situation here by each country would compete and there would be a race to the bottom. Imagine RBS turning around to Scotland and saying, “sorry, either you lower your tax or we’ll go over the boarder” and then once over the border then going to the English, “well, the Welsh are giving us a great deal – going to beat that?” and thus the whole system will be held to ransom by powerful corporates and politicians powerless other than the necessity to compete for the sake of either retaining jobs or creating new ones by luring businesses to their particular country. In the end you end up having the corporates winning and Joe and Jane Q Taxpayer being given the run around as those with the money can exert pressure on politicians to get what they want. Same can be said for labour relations laws where ‘he who has the most lax standards win’ and thus it keeps going down hill – so autonomy over such matters sound nice in theory but no one really addressed how it would work in reality.

iPhone 6/6+, Apple Pay and Apple Watch Keynote

Apologies for the slow response given that there was the massive announcement last week but it has taken a week to digest the announcements and some time to ruminate over what I think of thee products that are launched and in particular the larger iPhone 6 Plus that has been the most well know secret – something that was pretty much accepted as a give in before the presentation. The presentation itself was a complete debacle from a ‘live streaming’ perspective where one had to deal with a malfunctioning website, an overloaded server then the crappy management of the audio streams resulting in two audio streams coming through at the same time (the original presentation plus a translation being heard faintly in the background). In the end I gave up and instead followed the live commentary and photos uploaded on the Arstechnica live feed which was good enough especially since I was also checking out what was on TV at the same time – the joys of multitasking.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released along with the new CPU architecture promoted under the name of the ‘A8’ (I’m sure some point in the future they’ll come up with variants for their iPad and iPad Air in much the same way that the A5X and A6X) and the biggest interest I had was in the increase in storage space where you can now get up to 128GB of storage which for someone like me who has 200GB+ of music it is welcome relief – not that I’ll listen to every bit of music I load onto my phone but it is great to have a large selection so matter what mood I’m in I’ll find something I’ll want to listen to. Having that large amount of storage not only helps when it comes to music but also when it comes to applications – I’m not a big applicable acquirer but at the same time it is nice to have that extra bit of space given that once you buy the phone you cannot add extra space in the form of an sdcard some where down the line. It is one of the aspects of the new HTC product line up I really admire – the styling of the HTC One M8 really gives the device the feel and sense of a premium device whilst ensuring that the capability of sdcard expansion that it is a device that you can own for the long term.

The other interesting part is the support for more frequencies, specifically, the added support for LTE band 28 which covers the LTE APT 700Mhz spectrum which is incompatible with the 700Mhz that is in use in the United States. Before the arrival of the iPhone 6/6+ the only other two hand sets that supported Band 28 was the HTC One m8 and the recently updated Samsung Galaxy S5. The other benefit is apparently Japan and Europe are also working so that once they switch off analogue transition the 700Mhz spectrum freed up will either result in the adoption of APT 700Mhz or at least an implementation that is compatible.

As for the whole iPhone 6/6 Plus choice, I’ll be going for the iPhone 6 Plus with 128GB but the big question is whether I remain with Spark (formally known as Telecom NZ) or move over to Vodafone as they seem to at least have some sort of long term coherent grand design that doesn’t appear to be a chaotic ‘pick and mix’ of hardware and services from various vendors then praying that’ll all work together some how without it all turning to crap. Then add to that the cable internet network with speeds up to 100Mbps (and rumours of an upgrade in the pipeline to push up the speed even higher) along with Vodafone offering 12 month interest free deals like what Spark has to offer then combine that with a cheaper package if I move it all to one company then maybe the end of November is the best time to break free of spark and move to better and brighter things. As for the purchase time table – if the delays end up spilling over in reference to the iPhone 6 Plus then it might not be until maybe the beginning of December before NZ retailers (both carriers and retailers) are able to get sufficient volume to meet demand – and no, I’m not going to camp outside a shop to be the first.

Regarding Vodafone right now, the coverage is very good in my area where both they have a 1800Mhz LTE service along with 900Mhz and 2100Mhz 3G tower as well – they’re well and truly covering the area what they have to offer. Combine that with the recent issues I’ve been having with intermittent data connection and emails not always being sent even though my phone will say that it is all sent without any errors coming up. Honestly, Spark is trying their best but in all honestly you’d think at this stage they would address issues such as intermittent data connectivity issues because the problem was really chronic when I worked in Upper Hutt where there was a network connection (in many cases the signal was very strong) yet unable to load a website, send an email etc. and in Johnsonville you have to walk around the work place to find a strong signal. Oh well, what ever the case maybe I might just flip a coin and buy it direct from Apple and throw it on their 12 months interest free deal and then move forward.

The politics of muck raking: Changing my allegiances [Part 3]

With the debate I’ve continued reading through the various articles online particularly focused around childhood poverty but with the discussion there always seems to be a reluctance by the media and politicians to start to dissect the context of those claiming that they’re struggling. I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation in our life where we’ve come to our parents 3 or 4 days after receiving pocket money or after receiving pay from your part time job and saying, “I’ve run out of money, may I get a loan until my pay comes through”. Like any responsible parent I’m sure you heard the ominous question, “what did you spend your money on that left you lacking in money?” – the question isn’t to stop you from getting help, or trying to play the blame game but to educate you about the value of money and going back over what you’ve spent your money on and seeing whether the situation could have been avoided. The problem is that when ever poverty is discussed the question of the circumstances are never discussed; is it really smart to have four kids and a fifth on his/her way whilst struggling to pay the bills even before the first child was even born? was it really smart to go out and pay for fireworks before paying rent and power that week?

There is a tendency by politicians, after failing to analyse the basis of the problem to then turn around and start throwing money at the problem – drown it in enough money and eventually the public will believe that the ‘government’ (and in turn ‘society’) cares but whether it actually helps is a different discussion entirely. It is the same sort of belief when it comes to regulation and laws – “well, we’ve passed a law banning it so I guess we can wash our hands, walk away and believe that we’ve solved the problem” and thus you have the history of prohibition and the flawed logic behind such attempts to quash ‘undesirable behaviour’ without first recognising the cause, secondly questioning whether it is something that is a problem to begin with and thirdly asking the larger questions in regards to individual choice and the negative spill over effects.

Putting that aside, are there people that fall on tough times? sure there are, husband suddenly loses his job and the finances all turn to crap, wife is sick and the husband has to work fewer hours to take care of the kids, wife loses her job and a whole host of other issues but that isn’t what is being used as an example of poverty in New Zealand. out of the three families that were shown on the Campbell live show there was only one of them you could say “fallen on tough times through no fault of their own” whilst the other two were examples of people creating their own personal hell. Personally I find it, as someone who sits on the centre left, insulting those who are genuinely needy are lumped into the same grouping as those folks who create their own hard ship because of really stupidly bad decisions. That some how the poverty born out of events outside of ones control are some how equal to that of decisions people make based on themselves making decisions based on emotions and hormones rather than what is/isn’t affordable is quite frankly offensive.

What is the solution? I’m open to any new ideas ranging from mandatory budgeting classes, education at school about the cost of living and starting a family but throwing more money at the problem as some political parties have talked about isn’t the solution. I’m sympathetic to what the Labour Party is trying to do which is to boost the minimum wage and push up the value of our exported products so we move from a low cost to one where our products are sold on innovation and quality in much the same way Germany does but giving more money to people who can’t manage their money well isn’t going to fix the source of the problem. End of the day though the discussion about poverty becomes meaningless if the issue of irresponsible behaviour isn’t raised, when there is no effort to differentiate between poverty through events outside ones control versus poverty caused by irresponsible behaviour and thus there is an attempt a scattergun approach that lacks the nuance and subtlety required when diagnosing a problem and then finding a cure to the problem – ignoring all the information is akin to trying to diagnose an illness but ignoring all the symptoms you find uncomfortable dealing with.

NZ mobile and fixed line network map

Just looking at my bills and probably by the end of this year I would have moved over to Vodadone for their higher speed cable internet that’ll be flat rate along with cable television and mobile especially when one considers the lighting pace that Vodafone is upgrading their network where as Telecom seem to be lumbering along like an old fart with a zimmer frame when it comes to at least coming up with a plan for their 700Mhz network expansion. This map here ( link ) does a pretty good job outlining where the cell sites are and what their capabilities are (2G, 3G, 4G, 700Mhz, 850Mhz, 900Mhz, 1800Mhz, 2100Mhz, 2600Mhz) – although it doesn’t give an estimation of coverage one can get a good picture as to whether or not one is in a giant signal black hole. UFB (Ultra Fast Broadband) aka fibre won’t be coming to my area until July 2016 at the earliest so I guess I’ll just have to make do with a 130Mbps connection – ah, first world problems.

The politics of muck raking: Changing my allegiances [Part 2]

So after two terms of the National Party running New Zealand we’re told that things are going well but the reality is that we’ve now got stories where for two terms the debt of the government increased but now they’re getting into surplus gradually but the problem is this – we’re seeing a corresponding increase in debt after 6 years of deleveraging by the public as people moved to consolidated debt into something more manageable. The problem is, as Professor David Harvey pointed out when talking about Marx and Engels, is that capitalism doesn’t actually address the problem but rather move it around – in the case of two terms under National what we’ve seen is the government pretty much transferred the debt from the private sector to the public sector and now the process is reversing – the public debt is decreasing (debt per year rather than debt over all) and private debt is increasing; not just housing, which makes up the majority of New Zealand debt but also private debt when it comes to consumption (credit card, store cards etc). Housing debt is a problem and as long as house prices remain stable then everything is at least ok on that front but the big concern is the area of personal debt such as credit card debt, store debt, personal loans which tend to be provided on an insecure basis, higher interest rates (to offset a certain number who default on their debt) which leads to instability as the amounts become larger and larger. I’m not going to be the doom and gloom merchant because I believe these issues are addressable but unfortunately so far we’ve had the line from the right that private debt is good because it is the byproduct of rational self interest where as public debt is automatically bad because government is inherently wasteful with money.

The other part of equation is this; the belief in this idea that the market will magically will make sensible long term decisions because after all it is all propelled by this idea of individuals seeking out opportunities that benefit them – supply and demand. People are demanding something and an enterprising person will start up a business to manufacture, import etc. to meet that demand. The problem with that is that it assumes that firstly humans are rational all the time, it ignores the cumulative effective of large numbers of people gravitating towards one idea over another (see the ‘irrational exuberance’ where speculators used risk modelling only to find that they ignored the cumulative effect of everything turning to crap at the same time), it also ignores that you need people trained and educated as to provide a work force but there lies the problem because if you want to diversify the economy you’ll find that most will gravitate to the status quo unless there is direct intervention by the government in some way – allocating more funding to particular tertiary education courses, setting up a tax structure that favours a particular industry, for example, a tax and levy holiday to new businesses in the information technology sector for up to 5 years as to reduce the barrier to entry especially in the early years where most businesses are either making a loss or if they are generating a profit it is at the low end of the scale (very little room to making large investments to grow the business faster). The problem with National is that we’ve already seen almost two decades of extreme hands off approach to managing the economy (before Labour got in) and when Labour did get in 1999 there was a more hands on approach was taken to the economy which included a focus on diversifying the NZ economy beyond just a reliance on agriculture – and in many cases what we see today with names such as Xero, Fianz and other software vendors – they’re the beneficiary of those changes made. The problem is now with the current election we’ve seen National take their hands off the wheel believing that once again the free market will do what needs to be done with minimal intervention – something I’m sceptical as to whether it’ll work given that in the past it hasn’t worked.

I’ve just finished watching the leaders debate between Labour and National ( link ) and to be honest it is pretty depressing how on one hand we had John Key constantly repeating the same talking points which made the debate boring because there was no engaging of John Key with David Cunliffe. The end result was a debate where the two spoke over each other rather than to each other – critiquing, point and counter point so that ideas could be discussed and us the voters could see the ideas behind the the front men, the ideas that would be implemented once said party is in office and they can start implementing said ideas. It is the one of the reasons I don’t like debates – if it isn’t the respective participants repeating their learned lines then you have the candidates spend half their time trying to find technicalities or minor flaws in what the person says rather than actually critiquing the heart of the idea being promised by the opposition. So I sat back, watched the spectacle but then jumped on Reddit to see what other people were saying – although the Labour loyalists were adamant that David won the general consensus by those unaffiliated to a party was that the debate was pretty damn depressing to watch – there was no winner and the watching public were the losers in that nothing fruitful came of it.

“Most smartphone users download zero apps per month” or more correctly, “those on low end phones, which make the majority of end users download zero apps per month”

Just reading this article ( link ) and funny enough linked to it as well with Thom, in his usual ground breaking analysis stated the following:

Companies like Apple like to boast about the ‘app economy’, but in reality, the situation is a whole lot less rosy and idealistic than they make it out to be. I think most smartphone buyers download the bare essentials like Facebook, Twitter, Candy Crush, and their local banking application, and call it quits.

Together with the problematic state of application stores, the ‘app economy’ isn’t as sustainable as once thought.

Small problem with that assumption is that firstly it assumes that Android and iOS play in the exact same market spaces when in reality that just simply isn’t the case – as I’ve stated numerous times in the past, 66% of Android device sales are at the low end, no, not the Nexus low end but the REALLY low end such as Alcatel, Huawei, ZTE and others where you can get such phones for NZ$200 off contract (to be honest, most of them are just above the classification of a feature phone). Also there are some other factors – for a large number of people who fall into the demographic you’ll find their main things they want to do can be accomplished either via the web browser such as online banking or they use the pre-bundled applications. For example, for a large number of Android phones you already get Facebook pre-installed so that will never be registered as a download because it came pre-installed – that is the case for many applications that Samsung users experience because all of what they need is already on the phone.

Now, I’m not slamming the low end entry phones (because for many, they’re more than adequate to do the job that needs to be done) but it is important that when analysing a given topic that a full understanding of the nuances is required before jumping to conclusions about the usage habits of those in that segment of the market. As for ‘App Store’ curated markets they have their issues particularly when we have the amount of crap that is sold and at times the number of titles make it difficult to find sorts of applications but with that being said one shouldn’t simply throw out the whole idea because of one or two problems – the focus should be on how one fixes the problem; better search algorithms, cracking down on vendors who put 100 variations of the same application that do all the same thing etc. because boasting about number of applications may sound great for a press release but in reality the focus should be on quality and keeping that bar high as to avoid the tsunami of crap that exists out there.