Thursday, August 03, 2006

Thanks to slashdot for reminding me I've worked with computers for far too long

Hattip: Slashdot
Today is the day of the 386, yesterday was the 286, Friday the 486 - which I guess means that Saturday somewhat appropriately is the day of the Pentium (586)

The fact that I can remember and tell you the configuration of each of the machines I had with each of those processors is kind of depressing (and sad in a whole other meaning).  Especially given that the 386 was the first one with a HDD, the only HDD I've had that never ran out of space. 

That's right that 20 MB was inexhaustible.
Tags: , , , , ,

Rates and the elderly

It has been quite interesting to see over the past week the reactions to the new Auckland city rates bills. 

The NZ Herald managed to elict this nugget from Auckland City chief executive David Rankin:
"People did not realise the wide range of services provided by rates, such as world-class water and treatment of sewage or that most spending on roads and public transport came from rates."

But the more insightful quotes were actually:
People wanted more and better public facilities and there was no "painless" way of paying for it.
He [Mr McKinlay] said people moaned about rates bills but did not get nearly as excited about power bills, which were often higher.

I personally don't mind this set of rates increases - because I happened to provide feedback to the Auckland city plan and the eventual decision on what they were planning to increase funding on has a reasonable congruence with what I was willing to spend additional money on.  But what is interesting in the current set of public opinions is the number of people that have supported collectivist and redistribution policies, now complaining about the effects of those policies. 

Because rates are just a form of taxation, which happens to attempt to levy itself on a proxy of wealth (much like income taxes).  Both are made unfair in their application through their supposed attempt to be equitable.  The most amusing thing in reading the opinions in the blogosphere and Herald is that in the main the right wing sphere has actually been derisive towards those complaining about the bills saying they should just sell their appreciated assets and it is just free markets in action (when taxes and levies are normally quoted as market failures...), while those on the left wing have in the main been the complainers about the size of the funding required for their public transport / community initiatives etc for which they were the main protagonists. 

We then of course have the Libertarian sphere combining with the less politically partisan (a strange sight) to decry the whole concept of rates in general.  Although in the last case the Libertarians are normally calling for better user pays allocation while the non-politically partisan seem to be calling for central Government funding, where the latter of these is just an obfuscation of the problem, and just lumps more into a different inequitable funding mechanism.

David Rankin's quote caught my eye in particular with regards to this because he is of course right - alot of the issue in rates is that people cannot tell what they are paying for.  What is less clear is two things:
Why he doesn't see that this is implicitly solved by moving to actual user pays?
Why he chose the two examples that do have specific taxes and charges outside of the rates system?
Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Labour Party Politicians

I cannot help but point out the delicious irony in the simultaneous conviction of David Maka for dishonesty and abuse of priviledge offences (number 50 on Labours 2002 party list) with Taito Phillip Fields grilling in the house for dishonesty and abuse of priviledge.

I can only wonder as these types of ironies continue to occur how people can doubt the systemic corruption within the Labour Party. How do people continue to look at seemingly trivial seperate events such as the F16s, Timberlands, the boardinghouse fax, Paintergate, Dover Samuels, Tamihere, TPF, etc as disconnected incidents?
Whether you believe in genuine corruption, or just straight incompetence, this Government seems determined to implicate itself fully one way or the other.

For once I actually wish Winnie was here and in the house - then after the recent behaviour of Margaret Wilson things might get interesting. As it stands by the time he has back her recent ejecting of members from the house is likely to have faded from our political short term memory.

Someone else worth watching with interest though is Jim Anderton. Labours lapdog to be sure, but mainlybecause their interests are so well aligned. Jim was normally one of the only politicians you could guarantee to stand by his principles - even though I completely disagree with what his political beliefs are. If it came to the crunch in terms of his actually having to explicitly support Field or Wilsons behaviour I would be interested in which way he would lean.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Michael Cullen's blatant lies about tax

Hattip: "The Business" / NZ Herald
In particular I take umbrage with one particular part of Michael Cullen's latest speech:
"We are proposing to match Australia's corporate rate without burdening business with all the other onerous taxes Australians suffer - namely, a capital gains tax, stamp duties, payroll taxes and compulsory superannuation"

I was of course very glad to hear that we have no tax on capital gains here in New Zealand.  I will now no longer have capital gains declared in my tax returns.

Compulsory superannuation in Australia is not a tax - I can self-collect and self-manage my own superannuation fund.  Strangest tax I've ever seen with no money ever going to anyone else but myself.  As compared to our compulsory superannuation here which is a tax, or the upcoming Kiwisaver scheme that the Government determines where the funds can be invested; close to a tax.

Stamp Duties - OK, a fair point there until you look at the context of the discussion: business competitiveness.  So then the question becomes how many companies own their own land / buildings?  Sure this will be a consideration to some - but given that most businesses tend to lease their premises stamp duty is something a person worries about.

Payroll Taxes - Yay, I suppose 1 out of 4 specific examples isn't bad.

But this seems to be about MC's rate of telling the truth anyway given the "We have never had Treasury price a party policy" --> "We didn't get treasury to price  interest free student loans" --> "We got treasury to do one costing of  interest free student loans" --> "We got a treasury costing of interest free student loans, and then had them change the assumptions to give us another one..."
Tags: ,

Monday, July 31, 2006

In the "only something a Government department can get away with" file


Accountants warn that a defence of following IRD instructions does not get a taxpayer off the hook if what the department says is wrong.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't - What else can you say?
Tags: , ,

Labour finally admits that subsidies are inefficient...

Did anyone else have trouble deciding whether they should laugh or cry as Michael Cullen, completely straight faced, explained that they would not be subsidizing the Overlander train service because subsidies were inefficient and a bad idea?  Why did no reporter ask him why it was completely inappropriate in this case, and yet so core to this Governements philosophy in so many other areas from the arts, Jim Anderton's business grants, Kiwibank, or most ironically: Air New Zealand. 

Of course the irony that the main internal air competition that sunk this route was provided by a company that received a subsidy that would have been sufficient for the Overlander to run for 150 years didn't seem to phase MC at all.  Chances are he was oblivious to it.

Of course that I agree with the decision in this case is actually irrelevant - if there are enough people up in arms about the demise of this route then there are enough to donate $1 a year to a foundation to do the subsidization.  If there are not enough people to care to that level then it is rightly scrapped.  Of course anyone who is surprized at the lack of patronage just needs to look at the problem that the journey takes 12 hours.  This is a pretty similar distance to the train we used from Koln (Cologne) to Berlin that took 4 hours 15 minutes.  The first - despite the view of the countryside is an ordeal; the second - a nice trip.  And you still get a pretty good view of the scenery despite travelling at up to 300 kph... 

I realise we probably don't have the population (including tourists) to justify the upgrading of our lines to the level that you can put an ICE train on it - but wouldn't even a trip of 6/7 hours make it one that you would consider?

Tags: , ,

[EDIT] In an interesting article posted by Unlimited they also highlight the inefficiencies of Government subsidization in that case in the R&D market.  For those too lazy to read the whole article (which I recommend) and excerpt follows:

The survey responses reflect FRST’s conclusions: government R&D spending in CRIs, universities and State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) is not resulting in commercially valuable IP of any great consequence for New Zealand companies — especially SMEs. This situation reflects findings in the US and EU that universities and government-funded laboratories contribute less than 10% of the IP used by companies to produce and market innovative products."