Friday, April 21, 2006

It's an Oligopoly - but that's not the proof

I cannot believe the number of people and market commentators trying to use the argument that "oil companies have different cost structures and should be charging different prices; because they aren't there is price fixing involved."

Yes - there is probably price fixing in the petrol prices - but this is a completely nonsensical argument.
Petrol - as much as the oil companies try to differentiate - is still treated as a fungible product by the consumer. Which means we are not willing to pay more to get it from one supplier than another (BOCTAOE).  So a company that charges more than its competitors will lose market share very quickly. 

Funnily enough the Commerce Commission would be called if the other extreme happened.  If one of the oil companies tried to use its "different cost structure" to actually charge less than what its competitors could then it would be charged with anti-competitive practices and get fined.

A flat pricing structure for a fungible product is normally taken as a sign of a functioning market.  Why are people determined to try and use that as proof of Oligopolistic profits?
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Sue Bradford proving that the Greens do not understand competition

I'm sure Nandor Tanczos must be pulling those dreadlocks out about now - after the hard work he put into trying to prove that they aren't just a socialist lefty party Sue Bradford goes out and shows that they do not understand enough about capitalism to be anything else.

hattip: TVNZ
She is trying to complain about the reduction in competition in the supermarket business because it has led to a decrease in prices. "sources indicate that prices have fallen on average between 14% and 18%".  Sorry - I fail to see how this is a bad thing?

"Progresive/Woolworths is using its near monopoly power to force New Zealand suppliers and producers into lower and lower prices to them so that the market is the same as with Australia," says Greens List MP Sue Bradford." Again - I don't see that our producers needing to be efficient enough to compete with our neighbors is either undesirable or unrealistic.  If we cannot compete with them importing to here and the extra costs involved - how are we ever going to compete to export to them?  Further - I cannot see how she is ever going to get the Commerce Commission to agree this is against the interest of the consumer?

Of course I can see in her little red Socialist world it would be best if there was no competition, all the prices could be controlled and you could only buy what was made here....
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Undercutting their own argument with misleading statistics

There is a hugely emotive piece in the Herald today which is trying to justify higher wages for cleaners etc on the basis of the difference between their wages and the effective hourly rate paid to professionals.  Without wanting to get into any discussion about the validity of the argument, all of my sympathy disappears (again) when I saw the table presented below:
Hourly rates
$489.47   Top 44 CEOs
$206.37   Auckland City CEO David Rankin (library owner)
$91.35     Finance directors
$48.08+   Law partners
$21.29     Average wage
$10.95     Cissy Alone (librarycleaner)
$10.25     Legal minimum wage

For a start - who knows a CEO that only works 40 hours a week?  Even the ones I know that only put in 50-60 hours a week in the office tend to take work home.  Hard to take the library home to clean it there.
What would be wrong with calculating the above statistics on the basis of the number of hours that actually tend to get put in by salary employees?  The argument would still exist - and at least then it might be valid.

I'm also disturbed as to where the $21.29 average wage figure comes from - I'm pretty sure last time I checked the average wage wasn't $42,000 per year.  In fact I'm pretty sure the average employee income isn't that high....
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Support the principles of Anti-Bullying

Anti Bullying Fund - Help put a stop to bullying within our schools
01 0833 0077918 00

I fully support this fund to pay the fines of Daryl Michael Falcon, have paid my $50 contribution, and hope many others will do the same.  Because this stands to send a very clear message back to our conceited judiciary and schooling system that we do not stand for bullying in our schools, and cannot stand for someone who does stand up to it to be dragged down in this manner.

Let me emphasize here that Mr Falcon:
contacted the school first and had no response,
contacted the parents of the bully first and had no response,
did NOT hit this child - he poked him with his finger (with no bruising) and yelled at him.

If any of the above 3 points were not true then I would not be supporting him - the reason for the support is he DID go through the appropriate channels (school), went a step further and went through unofficial channels (parents) and then only finally resorted to yelling at this kid - he did not assault him.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

For those who feel like they need a little more caffeine in their lives....

For more info:

CocaCola BlakCoca-Cola Blak - coffee and coke (read caffeine) in a bottle...
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Pressing for a prosecution

Trawling through more information on the Daryl Michael Falcon case it turns out that not only did he complain to the school - but also took the incredibly brave step of talking to the bully's parents.  Unfortunately while this shows his real concern in the matter (most people I know would NEVER approach another parent about their child's behavior) it is my supposition that it was this that led to his ultimate undoing.

What interest did the family of this piece of cr*p have to prove by obstructing a discharge without conviction?  You can bet this was all a petulant thumbing of the nose by the bully's parents to say who is the bad parent now.  Not only have they managed to escape their duties as parents to actually teach and discipline their own child; but now they have used the justice system to feel superior in the job that they are doing in breeding NZ's next generation of criminal / bully / thug.

I have no doubt who Generation X-Y's next golden wanker award should go to.

I would also be interested after all the publicity surrounding the victim in this - does anyone have the names and photos of the bully and parents?  I think these people should be shown and given the full castigation of public opinion.     
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I cannot believe our PC judiciary has found that Daryl Michael Falcon should have to pay $500 for "yelling at him, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and poking him with a finger". hattip: NZ Herald

When I first heard about the fact the case had even been brought I thought he must have hit the kid, and thought fair enough.  However it now transpires that not only did he do nothing of the sort, but that "the parents had complained earlier to the school about the bullying, but no action had been taken." So this wasn't even a case of having ignored the proper process - but the proper process having ignored them.

The judge in her summation tried to use the justification that "On the other hand, it doesn't solve the problem of bullying" - but at least this was one parent that cared enough to confront the problem.  And I would be really interested in a follow up story that asks whether the bullying stopped?
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Separation of Charity and State

While I am recommending reading for the day the following essay at Lindsay Mitchell's blog is fairly fascinating asking the question as to whether the dismantling of the welfare state would actually lead to the decrease in welfare received.
Very well written, although they miss the point that a lot of donating to the church is self-interested fear rather than true charity:

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Greenpeace changes to support Nuclear power

Or at least Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace has: (hattip: Washington Post)

This is critical reading for all those people who still oppose nuclear power stations - and all those (like myself) who only tentatively support it.  He systematically goes through virtually every complaint about Nuclear power and shows why it is patently false; or at least no longer true.  The main points he makes for me are:

Myth: Nuclear waste will be dangerous for thousands of years. Within 40 years, used fuel has less than one-thousandth of the radioactivity it had when it was removed from the reactor. And it is incorrect to call it waste, because 95 percent of the potential energy is still contained in the used fuel after the first cycle. Now that the United States has removed the ban on recycling used fuel, it will be possible to use that energy and to greatly reduce the amount of waste that needs treatment and disposal. Last month, Japan joined France, Britain and Russia in the nuclear-fuel-recycling business. The United States will not be far behind.
Myth: Nuclear energy is expensive. In 2004, the average cost of producing nuclear energy in the United States was less than two cents per kilowatt-hour, comparable with coal and hydroelectric.
Myth: Nuclear plants are not safe.  The multi-agency U.N. Chernobyl Forum reported last year that 56 deaths could be directly attributed to the accident, most of those from radiation or burns suffered while fighting the fire. Tragic as those deaths were, they pale in comparison to the more than 5,000 coal-mining deaths that occur worldwide every year.

Over the past 20 years, one of the simplest tools -- the machete -- has been used to kill more than a million people in Africa, far more than were killed in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings combined. What are car bombs made of? Diesel oil, fertilizer and cars. If we banned everything that can be used to kill people, we would never have harnessed fire.
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RMA madness again (so are we surprised?)

hattip: NZ Herald
In another piece of fine RMA madness the Environment Court has ruled against a Mussel Farm in the Kaipara Harbour partly because it would ruin the view for walkers.  However the true madness is that it is not even because it would spoil the view for current walkers, it was because there is "potential for the scale of walking to increase".

Now unless this was a particularly odd mussel farm - personally the existence of some posts in the harbour doesn't really seem like that much of a detraction to the view to me.  And something we desperately need to do in this country is exploit our advantage in the realms of mussels.  If you go to Belgium you can find out how huge the world demand for mussels truly is - the scale of farming and automation involved is incredible.  Once you order a pot of mussels and incredulously stare at the specimens that are called mussels (due to the different breed used) you will also get a feeling for why the fine restaurants of the world call for green lips.  Correlate the two and you can see this is one potential export earner for us in which we need to invest heavily.

And yet we cannot because yet another investment is scuttled by a dubious call on visual impact in an area that has not yet even managed to establish itself.  I could understand if this was a heavily used walking area that the conditions applied should be more stringent - but even then I would question the decision.  More to the point if it was actually the future development of the area as a tramping destination why not at least allow the development to go ahead with a condition on its removal if the area can / does develop sufficiently in that direction?  I bet that in 10 years time the walk will still be at a stage of
"potential for the scale of walking to increase" while the commercial opportunity has been long since lost.
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As much as I hate socialism - at least ACC prevents this:

hattip: IdoNotes
Court: Coke should have warned of fizziness
Although the Court rejected the theory that the can was defective, it found that the company could be held liable for failing to warn consumers that "the beverage might exit the can at a high velocity upon opening." Expect to see a lot more language on your coke cans in the future.

"So have we finally hit the wall people?  A grown ass woman does not know that a can of soda (carbonated water, syrup, some coloring and sweeteners of some kind) could possibly come shooting out.  I am guessing she never drank soda in her life, never had seen one explode before and apparently beer doesn't fit in either.  or champagne or any other beverage that uses any form of carbonation.  She probably follows along the lines that flavored water is still water.  No it is now a soft drink once you change it from water (to quote George Carlin).

Whew, so be prepared for more printing on the cans.  And close your eyes when you open one apparently.  She is stating that it burned her eyes some and gave her SLK and dry eyes.  I am thinking very wet eyes personally that tingle :-)"
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What is the fuss really about?

While an $11m bill for landscaping new prisons on the face of it seems to be an extreme waste of tax payers funds - I would argue that the concept that the money is being spent on is required.  It is necessary to teach criminals how to enjoy a walk in the serene outdoors, to appreciate sculptures and to find ways to release tension and anger other than through violence and theft.  Simon Power is right that "these are meant to be places where inmates are reminded every day of why they are there", but only in so far as this is required for reflection to progress beyond what brought them there.

Truly the real problem is that we do not separate the reasons that a someone is sent to prison - and so in our own minds we cannot resolve the punishment and rehabilitation doctrines that are required.  Until this separation is performed we will continue to have outcries like this over technically required spending, and we will continue to have the injustice that the punishment portion of a criminals sentence is performed in better conditions than many New Zealand households enjoy.
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Hattip: Scoop
Simon Power has the answer to how to reduce the landscaping bill right in front of him and yet doesn't propose it: get the prisoners to do the landscaping!  Sure it will take a whole lot longer with spades and shovels - but I'm pretty sure the physical exertion will do them good, and is a whole lot better for their rehabilitation than sitting in a cell all day.  And more to the point as the Ombudsmen has pointed out: "prisoners who have spent all day (possibly for years) lying in bed are not going to be released and say, "I'm now going to go to work".
And someone who doesn't work when reintegrated with the community is far more likely to recommit.