The simplist and most simple tax system

From David Farrar at Kiwiblog:

The best system would be that no one pays any tax until they are earning what one regards as the minimum amount needed for a family of their size. Churning money from tax to welfare to inefficient.

And after that make it a one rate flat system.

It would be simple, fair and effective. No more wasted money on tax agents to creatively balance the books to pay the minimum amount.

Nanny Health State

The previous Labour Government used to be called the Nanny State after the number of restrictions they placed on the lives of citizens doing day to day tasks. However, one of the better things that the previous Government did was to lower the restrictions on some pharmaceutical drugs so that you would not need a doctors prescription to get access to some medications. This means that people who need the drugs but cannot afford to visit the doctor regularly for repeat prescriptions can more easily purchase what they needed.

Since the National Government took power a little over a year ago there has been a steady increase in restricting access to common and well used drugs. One of the first drugs to be restricted was pseudoephedrine which is commonly used in cold and flu medications but also used as a precursor ingredient in the manufacture of pure methamphetamine aka ‘P’. Following on from this the Government decided to make it illegal to drive while under the influence of benzodiazepines. Now the Herald reports that the government is looking at putting restrictions on the use of codeine because of “addiction fears”.

These restrictions are now beginning to get plain stupid. The government was elected on a policy of getting tough on drugs. Restricting access to common pharmaceuticals to ordinary citizens is not the approach to take on this. The major drug rings do not get the majority of their chemicals through pharmacies – they don’t get enough volumes this way, it is too expensive and too many questions get asked. Instead of restricting access and making life deliberately and unnecessarily complex for ordinary uses of common medications the government needs to invest more in the police, border security and actually targeting the major importers and cooks of the drug manufacturing process. However, this will probably require more action than hot talk, so somehow I doubt it will happen.

For the Queen or for the country?

ABC News Australia is reporting that Prince William is not very popular in New Zealand:

Only about a dozen people turned up this morning to see Prince William fly into Auckland.

The small crowd displeased one Australian television crew so much, it decided to make up its own signs and hand them out.

A reporter from Channel Nine’s Today show was asked by her bosses to find some fans holding signs.

When she couldn’t, the reporter says she was told by the studio in Sydney to “make some up herself”.

The Channel Nine reporter wrote signs in pen saying “I love William” and gave them to a small group of women.

The reporter then did a live cross in front of the signs but did not mention they were her own creation.

The sooner we ditch the dinosaurs of the past and move into being an independent state of a greater republic of Australia the better. We have been foreign policy and trade independent for many years now. Many United Kingdomers consider themselves more part of Europe than part of the Commonwealth as we consider ourselves more part of the Pacific and sometimes South East Asia than any part of some former fallen empire.

Orcon+ Internet Disconnecting Under High Load?

All morning I have been frustrated by the internet connection at my parents place keeps disconnecting. I have been trying to find a pattern to the disconnections but so far the only thing I can spot is disconnections under high load – particularly when using BitTorrent or updating Ubuntu. The graph below is taken from BitTorrent it shows the contstant disconnections over a 55 minute period downloading a 500mb file. In particular 17 disconnections over the final 25 minute period.

The screenshots below are from Ubuntu and show it attempting to download updates. Unlike BitTorrent when the connection drops the entire update fails until you press the cancel button and then manually start the download again after the connection has been restored. Here we have 11 disconnections while downloading 180mb of data. It appears that the data is coming in roughly 25mb bursts between disconnections.

Thanks to @orcon through twitter they are investigating the matter, however, I am not the only one suffering these disconnection issues since connecting to the Orcon+ Network.

This is the orcon log of all our connections this morning during a 3 hour period.

Energy Minister Bullies SEO

It is not often that I read The Standard (it is a blog that is constantly negative and often wrong)

However, today they have post that is quite concerning.

Powershop is a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, an SOE. It is the most highly rated power retailer by its customers, with 92% satisfaction. On the Powershop website, there’s a blog. On this blog, the CEO of Powershop, Ari Sargent, wrote a post on the Government’s proposed electricity sector reforms. It’s insightful, adroit, politically neutral, and scathing of ironically titled Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee’s reforms. It is called: Proposed energy sector reforms likely to increase electricity prices.

In response, Brownlee launched into a bizarre public attack on the publicly-owned company saying Powershop should “come out from behind Meridian’s skirts. When Powershop manage to achieve a significant presence in the retail domain, they’ll be able to speak with a great deal more credibility and authority.”

More disturbing is what went on behind the scenes and it explains why when you go to Powershop’s blog now, the contents of the post are gone. Brownlee called Wayne Boyd, Chairman of Meridian Energy, and ranted and raved at him for several minutes about the Powershop blog post before Boyd could even get a word in. Brownlee, stepping miles beyond his power as minister, insisted that the post be removed because it didn’t suit Naitonal’s political purposes for the truth to be told.

It is a pity that the media has not picked up on this yet. Typically NZ is a country that avoids political interference in the running of our SEOs however maybe this has changed. I hope John Key tells Brownlee to pull his head in before this turns into a political shit storm.

Stuart McCutcheon on Education Funding

The Vice-Chancellor of Auckland University has an interesting article in the Herald today about education funding:

Over the last thirty years, our educational institutions have created a $2.3 billion per annum export education industry – now the fifth largest export earner in the country. We can surely do it again with research.

So what would I do to bring about this change?

I would invest in education, valuing our teachers – from pre-school to professors – as the professionals they truly are. I would focus on supporting our most able students to continue on to postgraduate study and research careers, rather than terminating the very scholarships that keep our best doctoral students in New Zealand, as the government has recently done.

The removal of the highest value scholarships for PhD students by the incoming National government was an incredibly silly thing to do.

Look at the number and value of scholarships available to Australians and New Zealanders provided by the Australian Government. Look at the way they are offering massive incentives to our young doctors to move to the lucky country. It is little wonder we have such a big brain drain when our smartest are being snatched by our neighbour. And it will require more than a rugby team and national pride to keep them here.

Sadly New Zealand has been reducing its investment in the tertiary education of each student for 20 years, choosing instead to directly support students, most recently with interest free loans. This must inevitably compromise the quality of education and research at a time when other countries are investing heavily in these areas.

Interest free student loans are a good thing for supporting students and giving them opportunities they would have been unable to otherwise afford. However, as I blogged a few days ago there needs to be much tighter controls on who is allowed at university to reduce wasteful spending on those who are never going to complete their degree.

I would concentrate our research investment on “blue skies” projects, the kind that will create radical innovation, and with it undreamt-of opportunities.

After all, the single most important technology in New Zealand’s history, refrigeration, came out not because of attempts to preserve dairy and meat products so they could be exported – though that was what it achieved – but rather from fundamental university research on the thermodynamics of expanding gases.

At the moment a lot of new products come out of private enterprise in New Zealand. Most of these products are not mainstream consumer products either but rather for specialised industry. However, little of these products are information sciences based, instead they are physical products. Investing in information sciences based research at university and CRI level makes sense. If we want to succeed in the knowledge economy we must first join it (by getting into the top half and higher of the OECD averages) then we must actively lead the way in new ventures in the economy and not just follow what others are doing. How about getting past web 2.0 and start thinking about cloud 3.0?

Failing students should be booted from University

Students’ Associations appear to be up in arms about New Zealand universities kicking out students who perform poorly.

From the article:

Financially stressed universities have revealed they will significantly increase the number of students who are shown the door, saying they only want “motivated students”.

The university has introduced a policy in which any student whose grade point average is less than 1.5, or who has not passed half or more of their courses will have their progress automatically reviewed. Grade point averages are ranked up to nine.

Student associations were concerned that toughening up admission requirements went against New Zealanders’ sense of fairness and their sentiment that people should be given a “fair go”.

Students are already given a fair go. They are given a fair go through doing well in the exams before getting into university or in their first semester. If they do not take their fair go to do well in their exams through study then they should be shown the door. If they are not then the education system in New Zealand becomes nothing more than people paying for the piece of paper they get after three years and not earning it through hard work. This cheapens the quality, value and prestige of the institute so good on them for taking a tough stance.

There is a big problem with attitude amongst students at New Zealand universities many students have the attitude that C’s get degrees. At the moment that is true. But it shouldn’t be. Passing with a GPA of 1.5 is hardly passing – it is the equivalent of 4 C- and 4 C grades. A pass yes. Success no. At a minimum to get into post-graduate study you need a GPA of 6.0 (B+ average). To pass a degree you should have to maintain an average of 3.0 (C+) throughout your study. This would allow you to do bad on those papers you are naturally not good at, but at the same time provide enough of a challenge for you to work hard at those that you are good at.

Everyone should be given a chance to get into university and do their best. But university is not for everyone and once you have been given your fair go and have not succeeded you should give up your space for the next person – this is a fair system.

A right to protest. Yes. A right to be racist. No way.

Over at No Right Turn Idiot/Savant is calling the police “blue-uniformed thugs who decide for themselves what is and isn’t acceptable” in response to the arrest of  an individual for protesting against tennis player Shahar Peer just because of her nationality.

This is nonsense on two counts. Lets first deal with the issue of the arrest of the protestor. The individual in question was using a loudhailer to voice his opinion. That message that he was being broadcast so loudly that it was being heard right across into the tennis game while the match was in question. The protestor was allowed to continue for 45 minutes before he was made to stop. That is more than enough time to make your point and if you want to continue do so – but without breaching the peace of others through the use of a loudhailer. I believe that the police did the right thing in arresting the individual for breaching the peace and did not violate his human rights unlike what NRT would want us to believe.

The second point is since when was it ever acceptable to make racist comments about an individual as a means of protest? The herald reports that the protestors were chanting: “blood, blood on your hands”, “freedom for Palestine”, “go home, Shahar”. Lets look at these slogans a little more closely because it appears that the protestors need a history lesson:

  • “blood, blood on your hands” now I have no idea if Peer has completed her compulsory time in the IDF as required under Israeli law, however, what is the relevance of this to a tennis match? Let alone something that you have no control over. If the protestors wanted to make this point go and protest outside the Israeli embassy or something. Don’t target an individual just because of their nationality. Not online is it naive it is also just plain stupid.
  • “freedom for Palestine” firstly how is protesting at a tennis match going to achieve this? The person is a tennis player not a politician! Second there is freedom in Palestine there are two countries that make up the traditional land of Palestine the Jewish state of Israel and the Islamic state of Jordan. Furthermore there are many more Islamic states throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world. There is only one Jewish state.
  • “go home, Shahar” this is the most dumb line of them all. The protestors do not believe that the state of Israel should exist so therefore where is home? By telling Peer to go home the protestors are stuffing their message so well that they are in fact expressing their desire for Israel to actually exist. Brilliant.

And what bugs me most about this? I blogged on exactly the same incident twice last year.