French Socialist Party voting itself into oblivion

The Guardian reports:

Benoît Hamon, the staunchly leftwing outsider who wants to introduce a universal basic income, legalise cannabis and tax robots has topped the poll in the first round of the French Socialist primary race to choose a presidential candidate. He will face the pro-business former prime minister Manuel Valls in a final-round clash between the party’s warring leftwing and free-market factions. …

Hamon, 49, a Socialist MP in Yvelines outside Paris, was the youngest and furthest left of the candidates in the Socialist primary. He wants to reduce the working week from 35 to 32 hours, levy a tax on robots and provide a monthly universal basic income for 18 to 25-year-olds which will then be extended to all.

This helps explain why the Socialist Party is currently in 5th place in the polls.

Dom Post has a good idea

The Dom Post editorial:

Today is Wellington Anniversary Day, when we celebrate the arrival of the first settler ship in New Zealand. Probably not many Wellingtonians actually know that this is the occasion for their day off. And thereby hangs a tale and a political argument.

The Aurora landed at Wellington Harbour (then called Port Nicholson) with 148 emigrants and 21 crew aboard on 22 January 1840. Nowadays Wellington Anniversary Day is celebrated on the Monday nearest to 29 January. We’re not entirely sure why.

The point is that this is an arbitrary sort of anniversary which remains obscure to most of the people who observe it. In a way it comes as a bit of a nuisance as well: it arrives just when most of us are starting to get used to being back at work after the summer break. …

There is no national public holiday between Queen’s Birthday (June 5) and Labour Day (23 October).

So we don’t get a national holiday during most of the long dark winter months. We have to wait till well into spring for a break.

What we need is a holiday in the depths of winter, when everyone is fed up and needs an excuse for a knees-up. We should have, in other words, a holiday somewhere about the end of July.

By then we are cold and sick of everything.

The best way of making the reform would be simply to abolish all those meaningless anniversary days and switch them to, say, July 26. Wellington would give away its nice-but-unnecessary summer holiday in exchange for a desperately-needed feast in the dark time of the year.

Sounds a good plan to me.

Hide says List MPs become too powerful if they can’t be replaced

Rodney Hide writes:

Former Clerk of the House David McGee is recommending that resigning list MPs not be replaced by the next willing candidate on their party list.

He is suggesting the change to discourage MPs slipping in and out of Parliament outside of an election.

With trepidation I suggest McGee is wrong. I hesitate because McGee knows the rules and ins-and-outs of Parliament better than anyone. His experience is second to none. In the past, whenever I have thought he was wrong, he wasn’t.

But the change he is recommending is a big one that I think would have an unfortunate consequence – a consequence concerning less the rules of Parliament and more how politics actually works.

As it stands, if a list MP resigns from Parliament, the next willing candidate on the party’s list slips into Parliament. The balance of votes in Parliament is maintained.

To discourage list MPs bailing early McGee suggests a simple rule change: “Any vacancy occasioned by resignation should not be filled.”

His purpose is to “largely eliminate list resignations as they are almost always promoted by the parties themselves”. …

Now imagine if disgruntled MPs could resign and drop their party’s parliamentary vote by one. That has the potential to change a government and certainly to derail a government’s policy programme.

The result would be altogether too much power in the hands of wayward MPs. They wouldn’t have to resign but only threaten to resign to cause political chaos.

A sacked minister could bring a government down just by resigning Parliament. Party leaders would become beholden to the least loyal members of their team.

MMP would then be concentrating power into the party hierarchy and also into the hands of the maddest and baddest MPs.

McGee is the perfect gentleman. The shame of it is that our politicians are not so much.

Rodney is right that it would make the most lowly List MP very powerful as if they resigned the Government could fall.

My 1st term prediction that Key would go after eight years

A friend just brought to my attention, this blog post which I made in 2011, during National’s first term:

And if National does manage to win a second and third term, then I do think that John Key could do what no other Prime Minister in NZ’s history has done – and get out while on top. I don’t think he wants to set a record for longest serving PM in power as Clark did. I think he will feel that 7.5 to 8 years as PM and 9 – 10 years as National Leader is a pretty good run, and he’ll let new leadership emerge for that elusive chase of the 4th term.

I knew I had talked generally about Key wanting to go out on top, but had forgotten I had been so specific as to timing.

Changed views under Obama

538 has a cool feature showing how views have changed on various issues over the eight years Obama was President.

The changes:

  • Abortion should be legal from 45% to 58%
  • Opposition to death penalty from 29% to 42%
  • Approve of Obama performance in Iraq from 65% to 38%
  • Believe cannabis should be legal from 38% to 58%
  • Believe race relations are good from 73% to 32%
  • Believe same sex marriage should be legal from 40% to 62%
  • Approve of Obama’s handling of terrorism from 59% to 42%
  • Approve of Obama performance in Afghanistan from 68% to 39%

Who will be Wellington’s new Deputy Mayor?

Stuff reports:

Wellington Deputy Mayor Paul Eagle has confirmed he will put his name forward to contest for a seat in Parliament.

Eagle said earlier that he was considering running on the Labour ticket in the Rongotai seat, which will be vacated by long-serving Labour MP Annette King, who will run only on the party list in the general election later this year.

He plans to step down from his deputy mayor position only if he wins the seat, which covers Wellington’s eastern and southern suburbs.

Eagle will win the nomination and the seat. He should be a good MP.

This will mean Wellington City will need a new Deputy Mayor later this year. Who will Lester pick? The Councillors who have done more than two terms are:

  • Andy Foster
  • Simon Marsh
  • Iona Pannett

Police want higher fines for those going less than 10 km/hr over the limit

Stuff reports:

Assistant commissioner Dave Cliff said some drivers were running the risk of speeding because they knew the fines were “very, very low”.

“If you’re speeding 10kmh or less it’s just a $30 fine which is less than a parking fine. That’s a worry for us because we really want to deter people from speeding,” he said.

And how many accidents are caused by vehicles going 5 km/hr over the limit? Almost zero. But the Police want more money out of them.

While Cliff did not name what type of price he would like to see, he said it was worth considering the example of Victoria, where fines started at $194 for speeding at 10kmh or less, or New South Wales, where the minimum fine was $114.

So Cliff wants the fine for 5 km/hr over the limit to increase 600%.

“They’re obviously dramatically higher. But if you were to test it with the general populace, if you’re travelling 10kmh over the limit past a school what do you think the fine should be?

What has that got to do with someone doing 105 km/hr on a motorway?

If there is a problem with people speeding past schools (is there?), then you can have special fines for that.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, a road safety campaigner and editor of The Dog and Lemon Guide, said vehicle-activated signs displaying speeds would be “far more effective and far cheaper than speed cameras”.

Yep, I find those great. But of course they don’t bring in revenue.

He said the police had an “obsession” with small breaches of the speeding laws, which had not lowered the road toll but had alienated many otherwise law-abiding motorists.

“It’s created the impression that the cameras are solely there for revenue gathering.”

The reality is the average speed has reduced. The 85th percentile open road speed has reduced from 111 km/hr in 2000 to 102 km/hr today.

How much money has Wellington Regional Council lost?

Lower Hutt Cr Chris Milne writes:

Total disaster for Wellington region ratepayers. As with the very successful Port of Tauranga, this facility should have been sold to investors who were prepared to take the commercial risks. Instead, ratepayers are lumbered with multi-million dollar losses. We are unlikely to ever learn the extent of the losses due to finances being hidden from view within a CCO.

The commercial building assets also lie empty and may have to be demolished. Another whopping loss, and GWRC were warned about these risks at the time they proposed building office space in competition with private landlords. They chose to ignore the warnings.

Some time ago GWRC exited its pine plantations. It is strongly believed that these were mismanaged, again with huge losses for ratepayers.

The bottom line is that councils should not be in business. That should be left to the private sector.

This is about this article reporting that Centreport is effectively inoperative and will remain so for many months.

Guest Post: Free news is coming to an end – here’s why

A guest post by David Mahoney:

Last week the CEO of news platform Medium (and former Twitter cofounder) Evan Williams announced they were laying off 80 employees, closing their New York and Washington DC offices, and declared their ad-funded business model broken.

This is an economic reality that has been brewing for a while for the publishing industry, and it’s the latest signal that the era of free news is coming to an end.

Here’s why the ad-funded news model is broken, what needs to be done to fix it, and how we’ll all be better off.

The main reason the ad model is broken is that people don’t like online ads, especially the ads that make decent money.

To their credit, publishers have been very creative at trying to make free content with ad revenue work economically, but online ad formats and concepts have pretty much all been exhausted, and 80-90% have failed.

They have failed because for an ad format to work, all three parties need to win: the publisher needs to make money, the advertiser needs to get promotional benefit, and the user can’t be annoyed by it. It only takes one of these parties to lose and the format dies.

For example, advertisers and publishers love big ad formats that take over the entire page because they’re eye-catching and lucrative. But users get very annoyed by them so now they’re basically non-existent.

As for the smaller size ads, eye tracking has shown that people routinely ignore them, a concept known as ‘banner blindness’. And they only click on them about once every 5,000 times they appear.

As a result, advertisers will generally pay a pitiful $20 for those 5,000 appearances.

To add insult to injury, 198 million people now use ad blockers, further reducing already low online revenue. And print revenue, which still generates over 70% of newspapers’ income, has halved since 2005.

The final hope for publishers is native advertising, also known as sponsored posts or branded content. But although reasonably effective advertising, readers gradually feel misled and click on them less over time.

The conclusion of this sad situation is pretty clear. The economics of digital advertising is so bad that essentially no general news publication can be profitable giving their content away for free.

Some business news publications have valuable enough audiences to be profitable with ad-only revenue. But they are a small minority.

So because users have resisted ads so much, most publishers have two realistic choices: charge for their content online or shut down.

However the problem with this new paid content era will not be the cost – it will be the equivalent of two coffees or a pint of beer per month.

The real problem will be the friction. Buying subscriptions is a hassle, and so is accessing them.

Imagine every time you walked into a bar you had to either fill in a registration form or provide a username and password. That is what online news sites will be asking people to do. Most readers won’t bother and publishers will conclude that people don’t want to pay for news.

But publishers only need to look at companies like Amazon, Uber and Seamless (an American food delivery platform) to realise that if you make things super easy for people, they will pay.

The Washington Post has just become profitable partly because people can subscribe with a couple of clicks via Amazon.

So publishers should be doing whatever they can to allow people to buy news with minimal effort (whether it’s a subscription or an individual article) rather than forcing them to fill in a registration and billing page each time.

That same friction experience applies to accessing content too. Currently subscribers need to enter a username and password to get access, but people easily forget these, especially for business publications.

Instead, access authentication should be governed by device. This approach would give readers access on maybe three or four chosen devices password-free. And it would prevent login sharing as well.

And these buying and access issues don’t just apply to news. Such headaches extend to the entire growing list of subscription content bought online, including print news, music and TV streaming, business software and even subscription boxes.

The good news is that news quality will improve. Free content has degraded news quality by forcing fewer journalists to write more while getting paid less. And when advertising is your only source of online revenue, publishers prioritise what gets the most clicks – usually gossip and sensationalist articles.

With paying subscribers (each forking out roughly about $5-20 per month, much cheaper than before the internet), publishers will be able to invest more money into quality news, including more fact-checking and investigative journalism.

Content owners need to remind themselves that good content is worth paying for: history has repeatedly shown this, even in the internet era. But the pain-points around accessing and paying for it need to be solved. Otherwise publishers will simply be replacing one industry problem with another.

David Mahony is CEO of Auckland-based startup Gosub, and has spent 10 years working in digital advertising and publishing in Auckland, London and New York.

Bob Jones on homeless and beggars

The Herald reports:

Businessman Sir Bob Jones wants begging made illegal, saying homeless people are mostly fat and a disgrace to society.

“They’re a bloody disgrace, they’re an eyesore, it’s a disgrace in a modern society that fat people – that fat Maoris as they mostly are – are lying on our streets of our city begging.” he told Chris Lynch  on NewstalkZB.

He said begging should be made illegal.

“I was in the city yesterday, in Wellington, and one bugger was standing there, he had a message, this Maori bloke, ‘I’m not on welfare’ – and this apparently was an achievement – ‘so give me money.”

“It baffles me when people say, ‘Oh leave them alone’.  They should be ashamed of people begging on the streets… I’m ashamed of these people. They’re a disgrace to the human race.”

“If they want to degrade themselves, let them do it in private. We shouldn’t be subject to that.”

He said New Zealand has a welfare system and there’s a shortage in the country’s workforce so there’s no need for people to beg.

We have one of the most generous welfare systems in the world. No one needs to beg. They choose to do so, or have mental health or dependency issues.

Could Trump be even worse than we thought?

It is early days, but Trump’s narcissism looks like it is going to dominate his presidency, and this flaw may undermine everything else he did.

In two days, three prime examples:

  1. His inauguration speech where he basically proclaimed that everything will be wonderful now he is President and the people now rule the nation. He stated that he will eradicate Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth. Sure, it is that easy. He also said that with patriotism there is no prejudice. The entire history of the world says the opposite.
  2. His speech at CIA HQ where he barely mentioned the dead officers (he was in front of their memorial) but just claimed that everyone in the audience probably voted for him, and the intelligence community love him. He claimed he had no beef with the CIA despite comparing them to Nazi Germany a few days earlier. He seems unable to understand the difference between a campaign speech, and a speech as President to government officials. In his speech he boasted about how many Time Magazine covers he has been on. Cringeworthy.
  3. Sending Sean Spicer out to berate the media for (correctly) reporting that fewer people attended his inauguration. Again it shows his narcissism and how everything is about him. Even after he has won and been sworn in, his main focus is well him.

I’d like to think that a Republican President, Senate and House could pass some laws and policies that would be good for America. The rumoured cuts to the federal bureaucracy is something that many say is long overdue. But I see his personality flaws as so massive, that I think it is just going to be embarrassing.

Maybe I’ll be wrong, but my God he is off to a horrible start. Not so much the inauguration speech or the Spicer press conference but his speech to CIA staff was so inappropriate and narcissistic that it is hard to resist the conclusion that he can’t change.

Spinning the Sevens

Stuff reports:

Wellington Sevens officials are expecting about 15,000 fans to attend each day of next weekend’s tournament – a far cry from the full houses at the height of the event’s popularity, but slightly up on last year. 

I get suspicious when the only data in a story is a projection, rather than actual sales figures.

“We’ve reduced price, we’ve addressed entertainment, we’ve addressed food offerings.

“We’ve listened to the fans, and we’re happy with where we’re tracking at the moment.”

The changes are good, but it will fail unless the overall atmosphere is one of being a fun party. The Auckland Nines have got this. They have even set up a singles zone!

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester brushed off suggestions the tournament’s popularity was in serious decline.

“If we are getting up to those figures that we had last year, then that’s a really solid turnout.

“Ideally, we want to sell out the stadium, as does everybody, but that’s still a really healthy number.

Such spin. It’s an appalling number, if it even makes that.

The stadium used to sell out within four to seven minutes. Now they can’t sell even half over three months, despite a cut in prices.

Happy Planet Index fails logic test

Stuff reports on the Happy Planet Index on now well nations are doing at achieving long, happy, sustainable lives.

They rank Luxembourg as the 2nd worst country in the world at 139th with Togo at 38th. NZ is at 38th and Algeria at 30th.

The nightmare country of Luxembourg has US$100,000 per capita GDP, a low inequality Gini score and a life expectancy of 82 years.

Togo, which scores higher than Luxembourg, has a life expectancy of 59 years. GDP per capita is US$1,500 and they have greater inequality than Luxembourg.

So how are they both down the bottom? Because Luxembourg has a poorer ecological footprint.

This shows that your ecological footprint is almost the only factor that matters, and makes the overall index of claim to be a happiness index a nonsense.

More on the Oxfam stupidity

There is so much critical comment on the rubbish from Oxfam on wealth inequality, it is hard to know where to start.

Let us start with Fusion:

The result is that if you use Oxfam’s methodology, my niece, with 50 cents in pocket money, has more wealth than the bottom 40% of the world’s population combined. As do I, and as do you, most likely, assuming your net worth is positive. You don’t need to find eight super-wealthy billionaires to arrive at a shocking wealth statistic; you can take just about anybody.

Obviously the niece must have her 50 cents taken off her and redistributed.

Consider this: Would you rather have $75,000 in the bank and no debt and no degree, or $75,000 in the bank and $75,000 in student loans and a four-year college degree? As far as the Oxfam methodology is concerned, the difference is enormous: The person with $75,000 and no debt is in the top 10% of the world’s wealth distribution, while the person with the college degree is in the bottom 10%. And yet there’s a right answer to the question: You’re much better off with $75,000 in debt and a college degree than you are with no debt at all.

Oxfam would count a 24 year old Harvard medical graduate as being in the bottom 10% with negative net wealth. However the intangible asset of his or her degree will allow them to earn millions of dollars.

Stats Chat comments:

These are graduates from the Keck School of Medicine, at the University of Southern California, who owe an average of over US$200,000 in student loans.  By the Credit Suisse definition of wealth inequality they have less wealth than people living in poorly-maintained state housing in south Auckland. They have less wealth than immigrant agricultural workers in southern California. They have less wealth than subsistence farmers in Chad.

So a subsistence farmer in Chad has more wealth by this definition.

Danyl McL also works out a flaw:

Won’t the country’s poorest people be heavily indebted, and basically anyone with positive equity own more than all of them put together?

Yep.

Eric Crampton also has a blog on the Oxfam nonsense.

Communist China now more pro free trade than the US

The Herald reports:

Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned against protectionism as he pushed back against criticism of globalisation by Donald Trump and other Western populists.

“Protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape wind and rain, but also block out the sunshine,” Xi told the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, the first Chinese head of state to address the annual gathering in the Alpine resort town of Davos. “No one is a winner in a trade war.”

Xi used his speech to support a global economic order that has helped fuel China’s almost four-decade economic boom. While a surge in protectionist sentiment threatens to slow the engine of China’s growth, it also offers Xi a chance to advance his goal of shaping global economic systems.

What a funny world where we live where the leader of the Communist Party of China is more pro free trade than the leader of the Republican Party of the United States.

Sad!

UK Brexit strategy – exit the common market

Stuff reports:

Britain will quit the European Union’s single market when it exits the bloc, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday, in a decisive speech that quashed speculation she would seek a compromise deal to stay inside the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Setting out a vision that could chart Britain’s future for generations, May answered criticism that she has been coy about her plans with a direct pitch for a clean break, widely known in Britain as a “hard Brexit”.

May promised to seek the greatest possible access to European markets. But she also said Britain would aim to establish its own free trade deals with countries far beyond Europe, and to impose limits on immigration from the continent.

This is no surprise. To stay in the common market would mean freedom of movement and restrictions on immigration is what many wanted in voting Brexit.

Note you can be very pro immigration but against uncontrolled immigration.

May has set out four “principles” that will guide her approach to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, and defined 12 negotiating objectives.

CERTAINTY AND CLARITY:
* Providing certainty for business and the public sector whenever possible as negotiations take place

A STRONGER BRITAIN
* Taking back control of British law, ending jurisdiction of European Court of Justice
* Strengthening the union between the four nations of the United Kingdom
* Maintaining the common travel area between Ireland and the UK

A FAIRER BRITAIN:
* Controlling immigration to Britain from Europe
* Guaranteeing rights of EU citizens already living in Britain and rights of British nationals living in the EU as early as possible
* Ensure workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained

A GLOBAL BRITAIN:
* Pursuing a new, bold, comprehensive and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU with greatest possible access to the single market, without membership of it. Pursuing customs deal with the EU to ensure cross-border trade with Europe is as “frictionless as possible”
* Pursuing new trade agreements with the rest of the world
* Remaining a top destination for science, research and innovation
* Reaching practical arrangements with the EU for cooperation on law enforcement, terrorism, foreign affairs, foreign and defence policy
* Phased implementation approach delivering a smooth and orderly Brexit, seeking to ‘avoid a cliff edge’ disruption.

The two year countdown is due to be triggered by 31 March.

Against affordable housing

Stuff reports:

An Auckland beneficiary has been brought to tears after hundreds of people turned out to support her eviction fight.

Ioela Ana Rauti, also known as ‘Niki’, is refusing to accept an eviction notice from her home of over 30 years.

On October 12 the Tamaki Regeneration Company (TRC) handed her a 90-day eviction notice to vacate her two-bedroom home, in Taniwha St in Glen Innes.

TRC is a housing development company jointly owned by the Government and Auckland Council.

Rauti’s home is one of 2800 state houses TRC has earmarked to be replaced with 7500 new homes over the next 15 years.

So this will provide an extra 4,700 government owned homes in Auckland. Yet she thinks her rights as a tenant are more important than the government’s ability to provide more homes.

Rauti, who lives on a government benefit, said she moved to the Taniwha St home in 1985 to look after her sick mum.

Her mum died in 1992, and since then Rauti has been issued several eviction notices from Housing New Zealand, which owned the state house before it was transferred to TRC.

So it appears she has not worked in 32 years and has had a free (or at least massively subsidised) house from the taxpayer all that time.

Rauti said she understood TRC will relocate her to one of the new homes in its Glenn Innes development but after inspecting some options, she’s adamant that none of them are good enough.

Of course not.

And they offered me a two-storey home but I have a heart problem, I am old – how am I supposed to get around?

Oh God you can’t possibly use stairs with a heart condition.

“It’s about the freedom to choose where you want to live – they are taking that freedom away from us.”

You only get the freedom to choose where you want to live if you own a home. A state house is not a house for life.

TRC housing general manager Neil Porteous said Rauti has been offered five properties over the past four months.

“We are currently holding a new warm, dry home nearby for her.

“We have not received any feedback from Ms Rauti on the houses we have offered her. We welcome her getting in touch with us to discuss her needs.”

So she won’t even talk to TRC.

 

Yardley on youth drinking dropping

Mike Yardley writes:

Over the barren news slumber of the summer holiday period, it’s always intriguing to see what dubious university research pieces, and the outlandish claims they support, are strategically wheeled out as guaranteed headline-grabbers. 

By February, such strident attempts to secure the elixir of news coverage would be long gone. This summer’s gold medal performance would have to go to the Department of Public Health researchers at the University of Otago’s Wellington campus (UOW).

Their study, published in the latest NZ Medical Journal, assessed the nature and scope of alcohol sport sponsorship over a summer of televised sport in New Zealand. They dissected five major sporting events televised two years ago, including cricket, tennis, football and rugby league.  

“Audiences were exposed to between 1.6 and 3.8 alcohol brand exposures per minute. For three out of the five events alcohol brands were visible for almost half of the game,” the study reports.  

And they want it banned. Ditto for the Greens, who ride the same expedient bandwagon, waging war against booze and fast food, while pledging to legalise recreational cannabis.

Ban everything!

These public health researchers, without offering the barest shred of evidence, would have you believe that somehow this juggernaut of alcohol brand exposure, pissing all over televised sport, is fuelling under-age drinking and binge-drinking.

The inconvenient truth is that the latest Ministry of Health statistics clearly indicate a continuing slide in general alcohol consumption – and its abuse. 

According to their data, the rate of hazardous drinking among 15 to 17 year olds has dropped to 21 per cent, while among 18 to 24 year olds, hazardous drinking has dipped from 49 per cent to 36 per cent in five years.

An inconvenient truth.

Trump vows America First

Donald Trump is now the 45th President of the United States. His inauguration speech was highly protectionist, pledging America First. Some extracts:

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.

Winston should sue for copyright.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.

Actually protectionism is a miserable failure.

We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.

Trump of course himself has most of his products made in China.