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 OSNews.com 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.

More stuff happened

Well, after disconnecting my stove I find that things aren’t as simple as I expected so I’m having to get an electrician to come in an certify it – I’m knowledgeable enough about electrical stuff to be dangerous but you have to be certified to do the sort of things I did but on the good side I’ve disable (by pulling out the fuse) that particular circuit so it is all safe. I’ve decided to actually replace my old stove with something a lot nicer:

 OvenStoveRed

Which will look nice in the kitchen – the great part is the fact that I sold my old Mac mini server and a few other things – going to get it installed on Monday along with getting the other stuff certified by the electrician along with the old stove taken away. Paying off my debt is going well – on track to pay it all off by the end of November which will make life a lot easier.

On the technology front Apple has released new test versions of OS X Yosemite and iOS 8.0 – I’m also looking forward to the announcement of the next iPhone which has been rumoured to occur on 9 September but keeping in mind that the announcement doesn’t necessary correspond to it being immediately available so it might not appear at least in NZ until October/November. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing that both Telecom and Vodafone do their best to push the deployment of 700Mhz APT LTE nationwide with Vodafone talking about moving to VoLTE and Telecom is probably looking at some sort of grand unified solution for their fibre and wireless side so that they just one back end for both sides of the business as to avoid needless duplication.

As for Sky, right now I’m going to tread water and wait it out because the cost of cancelling my subscription is going to cost as much as if I were to stay with them till the 12 month contract is up so I’m thinking what the hell and waiting it out then I’ll cancel my subscription and I’ll sign up for ‘Light Box’ which is the TV on demand service from Spark (formally known as Telecom NZ) which will be officially launched 28 August with a price tag of $15 per month which is significantly cheaper than the $60 per month I’m paying now to Sky for their subscription service – truth be known I’d sooner not have to deal with watching television on their schedule but when I come home and at my own pace. When I do that I’ll move to flat rate internet as well – a good VDSL connection, flat rate internet, great 802.11ac router and video on demand service – I’m living the life as they say.

The politics of muck raking: Changing my allegiances [Part 1]

When I saw the release of Nicky Hagar’s email regarding dirty politics it reminded me very much of a couple of things when I was down in Christchurch running for ACT. The first one was an attempt to create a parody video of Helen Clarke by a neighbouring electorate candidate and personally I found the whole idea of creating the parody video as pretty damn immature and distracting from what should have been getting discussed. I wouldn’t put that on the same scale as Nicky’s book ‘Dirty Politics’ but it did give me an insight into how immature those involved with politics can be particularly when there are things of greater concern that should be getting discussed and way in which time is spent quite frankly was time wasting given that it should have been spent on pounding the pavements handing out leaflets (I did that around my own area – every house until I ran out of leaflets). The second one was the attempt to put information out there that, quite frankly, was incorrect – the claim by one National candidate that there had been no new schools in Christchurch have been opened whilst Labour were in power and if it weren’t for me pointing out the inaccuracy (given that I worked at the very non-existent new school that, according to him, was never built) it is almost an assurance it would have been left unchallenged and the public would have assumed what he said was correct.

I was never particularly into ACT in terms of the hardcore right but me joining was born more out of it ‘not being National’ (lack of thinkers in the party – there is a reason why the originators of ACT came out of Labour with only 1-2 of the first members being from National) rather than it being a situation of being boots and all into ACT policies (I ran as a candidate for ACT in the seat of Wigram in the 2008 election) such as mass privatisation of assets, flat taxes, education vouchers etc. and at the time I was a university student Sue Bradford was still heavily involved with the Green Party which made my skin crawl given her past behaviour. I didn’t join Labour because, well, I was an angry short sighted student pissed off that I wasn’t getting a tax cut whilst I ignored the fact that as a student I benefited from a student allowance and interest free student loan.

I felt like a fish out of water but what other choices did I have? I tried to reconcile my socially liberal views with an otherwise moderate economic outlook but found myself increasingly isolated as three factions having seemed to develop in ACT before its eventual implosion. The first faction was the ex-National Party members angry that John Key was too much of a watered down Labour Party light. The second group are the libertarians always end up coming off as the spoilt child who protest ‘I do what ever I want!’ and fail to see the dependency we have on each other as a society (having a strange ‘them and us’ view of the relationship between the citizenship and the government) and that working together towards a common good shouldn’t be seen as something ‘evil’. Then there is the third group, the John Birch society types as parodied in the movie ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ believing that fluoride in the water is a giant communist conspiracy theory to steal their precious bodily fluids (not to mention the conspiracy that public healthcare is apparently a giant ruse to introduce eugenics). So when you combine the disgruntled, the immature and the paranoid it creates a grand unified coalition of  ‘since the government isn’t serving my interests then it shouldn’t serve anyones interests’. Before ACT pretty much self imploded with Roger Douglas and Heather Roy soon leaving the party – something I don’t blame them because they were the last two sane voices left in the party.

I look back once again at my time in ACT and it never made any sense given that someone like me advocated a universal student allowance, more government involvement in promoting apprenticeships as well as free education for nurses and doctors who sign up to a bonded programme (work for the public system for 5 years). I guess in my older age I started to question much of the simplistic understanding of the economy and how people work especially in light of the global economic financial meltdown and how even 6 years after it happened that much of what caused it is still left unresolved such as high rates of personal debt, the rising income disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom and then there is the issue of imbalances in the economy that is skewed towards high commodity prices and debt fuelled consumer spending. In other words here we are almost two terms after John Key talked about the need to rebalancing the economy and no such thing has taken place – we’re as dependent upon high commodity prices as we were before, the personal debt still hasn’t dropped sufficiently enough nor has there been a change in how the average NZ’der manages their money not to mention the money that has been sucked out of public transport and rail in favour of bending over and servicing the trucking industry.

Oh well, more will come with Part 2 of my thoughts.

Freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Just got home and now in bed with my heater going – warming up my otherwise chilly room (well, it is warmer than being outside) so I’m comfortable here in bed keeping warm; I’ll be back to do it all over again tonight when I go into work to start my shift at 7pm (or there a bouts – I’m not going to push shit up a hill to meet the exact 7pm because to be perfectly frank I cannot be screwed – I treasure my sleep in a comfortable bed as one of lives luxuries I’m unwilling to give up). At work the usual rag-tag of mouth breathers come through but occasionally you’ll get a really nice person who will make ones night; they don’t have to do something special other than have a smile, polite, placing their order without any drama – in other words, the epitome of normality when compared to the sea of sewage that seems to come through the drive thru.

The saga of Nicky Hager’s recently released book has been interesting to watch – many people seemly happy to give their view on the matter even though it seems that not a single one of them have actually read the book but hell, lets comment on television and slam the author because there is some space that needs filling so why not fill it with some bullshit. I’ll go into greater detail regarding my political views but lets just say that his book didn’t influence my original reason to change – it just re-enforced why I wasn’t voting for National. To be honest I think National have greater things to be worried about such as where are they going to get a coalition partner from with ACT and Conservative not even there to crack the 5% threshold and have seats in parliament. I’d say that those two parties might end up siphoning the right wing vote in much the same way that Ralph Nadar split the left wing vote in the United States.

More renovations and fun

To keep things interesting today I finally pulled out the old stove in the kitchen – turned off the power, took off the power power switch and then cut the cable. One half of the fable went to the stove and that was pulled out and the other half was cleanly cut off and caps put at the end of each of the cables. I disabled the power supply going to that cable at the power board by pulling out the fuse. Long term I’m looking at getting rid of the divider as well as the set of shelves above it which come out from the wall. The breakfast bar will have to go due to the way that it depends on the divide to hold up the other end of the bench – unfortunately it might end up damaging the lino a bit but long term I really need look at replacing it with something more hard wearing like tiles on the ground instead. In the place of the divider and the bench I’ll put this:

277372730

Which can be bought via TradeMe – I’m looking at the 1200mm length one although on the advertisement they can make custom build of the butchers block so I’ll need to get a quote for something that is at least 1600mm long (1800mm might be a better length) with a 600mm width which is ideal although I wonder whether 900mm is high enough because I really think another 100mm might be needed to at least make it ever so slightly higher than the fixed bench. With the length of 1600mm to 1800mm I am able to put my microwave, bench top oven and George Foreman grill. When I eventually replace the kitchen bench I’m looking at something similar to the styling my television cabinet is like which is a basic classic design:

TelevisionCabinet

So I’ve got a lot of things in my plate over the next year or so and that doesn’t even touch on the stuff I want to get done when it comes to insulation, double glazing of windows, the building of a small covering so that I can put my clothes on the back porch on an overcast day and able to dry it without too many problems. As for the back yard I’ve got to clean it up – get some giant clay pots and maybe get some seating – just imaging myself on a day off during summer with my laptop enjoying the fresh air and peaceful surroundings.