Thursday, May 26, 2005

Zarqawi Shot in Lung

Zarqawi Shot in Lung join me in sending him your thoughts in his time of need at Chrenkoff scroll down to "Get well, go to hell, al-Zarqawi".

Michael Jackson

Betting has begun on the outcome if the Michael Jackson trial
So what do I think? Well inevitably he will be found not guilty regardless of whether he is guilty or not.
personally I think he is weird. He may be technically not guilty but I would probably find him "in need of serious adjustment". But I dont htink that matters very much. I watched hte OJ trial and hte less on seems to be that no matter what the evidence after a huge trial of the century type trial The jury doesnt know which way is up and some jury members end up accepting the "aliens abducted the victims" scenario. Which of course introduces reasonable doubt.
So basically - not guilty no matter what turns up. And sdo far nothing like blood evidence has turned up as far as i know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Indexing tax rates

Labour in the latest budget is finnaly deciding ot index tax brackets against inflation BUT if it was origionally set at the right rate isnt it entirely in the wrong place now?

I note that failing to index tax brackets to inflation is a trend towards a flat tax rate as well as higher rates and everyone slowly disappears into the higher brackets. there is really somthing in that for everyone to dislike in addition to the argument that if there was a reason in the first place to set tax brackets at a certain level that reason should still be valid now.

The government should sit down and consider what is the best method of applying tax rates and then ensure that it is indexed against whatever is the indicator that might throw it out (e.g. GDP per capita growth).

Human migration from africa

From the New York Times : care of Volokh Conspiracy
A team of geneticists believe they have shed light on many aspects of how modern humans emigrated from Africa by analyzing the DNA of the Orang Asli, the original inhabitants of Malaysia. Because the Orang Asli appears to be directly descended from the first emigrants from Africa, they have provided valuable new clues about that momentous event in early human history.
The geneticists conclude that there was only one migration of modern humans out of Africa - that it took a southern route to India, Southeast Asia and Australasia, and consisted of a single band of hunter-gatherers, probably just a few hundred people strong.

What is interesting about this is that it takes some time to travel that far and their implication is that it was not population pressures that were driving them - there was some other reason.

My guess is that it was something religious with a scope that could keep this group motivated across many generations - in this sense the migration out of Africa itself may have represented a selection for religiousness.

However I am a little confused by their argument that there was only one migration - clearly by the demographics of Malaysia there were many from their point of view (although not in general from Africa). So what they are really trying to say is that after the first migration somewhere else set itself up as the cradle from which new more competitive humans emerged. This would be a little surprising if it happened immediatly since a tribe of 100 peopel traveling ot australia will only have a few spare to leave in china or india in order to build a comunity there to compete against potentially millions in africa in the evolutionary race.


This is classic western education system .
Apparently you can get extra marks if you suffer a trauma

Type of trauma and % added
Recent death of parent or close relative - 5%
Recent death of distant family member - 4%
Witness to distressing event on day of exam - 3%
Hay fever - 2%
Death of family pet on day of exam - 2%
Pet dies day before exam - 1%
Headache - 1%

In a sense there is a point to this - education results should reflect future ability BUT - Did they do the statistical studies required to determine if these percentages are appropriate or did they just decide over coffee? Do you really think witnessing murder (for example) just before the exam is only going to cause a 3% change to your marks? And finally is even possible to generalize the effect such an event will have on people?

The qualification authority’s defence involves "The number of extra marks available is actually rather small, and in most cases they do not change the final grade." (But if it doesn’t matter where is the benefit?)

A better method is allowing people to put off sitting the exam, but if they must do it they should make sure in all documentation nit is clearly stated that it includes additional marks so the reader can make his own judgement.

via kiwipundit

ACT tax policy

Hide said "Treasury says tax cuts of this magnitude would add 1 to 1.5 per cent to New Zealand’s growth rate."

Till I hear it from treasury's own mouth I will assume that means - "maybe 1% if you cut taxes but don't reduce spending"

Cutting tax rates in themselves have a positive effect on economic growth but cutting government spending has a negative effect. Often the former has a lesser effect than the latter (as demonstrated by international studies).

It would be interesting to see a regression of the effects of taxes and other similar policy instruments on economic growth.

Of course this would probably favour the right leaning argument since you not only make a short term decision but you also borrow against a future you and your children. (So we need a lot of data!)

I am perfectly willing to accept that this might come up with the argument that tax rates should be lowered but we need to be honest in the debate and say exactly what spending we should cut in order to reduce those taxes and "spending the surplus" doesn't count because the surplus would have eventually have been spent on something - you need to spell out which of those things you will now NOT buy.

The basic things to consider are
1) If I cut taxes by W I can cover it by cutting the spending on X (lets say education) then this will cause economic growth of Y and negative effects Z.
2) If I change to a flat rate of tax (by raising the lower rate and lowering the top rate - otherwise it confuses two effects) then this will reduce tax avoidance by X and cause economic growth of Y but having a higher bottom tax rate will cause negative effects Z.

If your Y's are bigger than your Z's go ahead but it never seems to get presented that way. Usually it just focuses on ideology where you can seldom find any agreement.

For example, this sort of debate is often surrounded by arguments about "tax is theft". It seems much of the problem here is created by the system that allows all sorts of deductions from personal income tax and results in people being offered jobs based upon the before tax rate. They can then get all upset about the theft. Maybe people should be encouraged to offer after tax wages.

In an efficient national market it should make no difference since all employees will ask for "minimum wage" (i.e. where work = leisure) and all employers would pay minimum plus tax and compete fairly. Without the tax the employees would still get minimum wage and the employers profits would still be about the same.

The US system

Does the house of representatives/senate make better decisions than the white house? Are they more transparent? Less subject to undue influence?
I understand certain committees come under considerable pressure to pass certain laws but as a whole I find it difficult to see how having two houses and a executive would be superior to a system with two houses and a prime minister from the more powerful house rather like in England (although without the hereditary aspect).
Or (the expensive option) three houses.
If there are any Americans out there maybe you can convince me.

Stem cell research

Good new for america on the stem cell research front You know a few more decisions like this and america may be able to avoid becoming the worlds technological backwater.

Research such as this will revolutionize the way the world operates and if the US religious right ties the scientific comunities hands countries in asia will do the research anyway and then they will just have a huge trade deficit in regard to those services.

basically if you cant ban the whole world from doing it you might as well admit defeat.

Sadam photos

What is up with this outrage about photos of sadam appearing in the Sun?
Interestingly many commentators seem to have forgotten that it is the US accusing the Sun of breaching the geneva convention not the other way around.

Its rather like photos of britney spears in her underwear You can spend day and night trying to stop them turning up - but they will and if htere are none then someone will fake them.

However that very fact makes it not all that bad afterall most of us wear underwear and if placed under a microscope photos of us would turn up also.

Starbucks and protest

Starbucks gets a pretty hard time from protestors all over hte world - but maybe this is just a result of a poor strategy. What if they offered "Fair trade" and "free trade" coffee, all they need to do then is record how many purchaces of each type there are - report it in their public accounts - and use that to determine their purchasing habits. Just like in macdonalds - "would you like fair trade with that coffee?" ok maybe not quite like that but then if everyone uses fair trade then good if no one does it it demonstrates that the public is the main "problem".

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Half a questionaire thingy

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?

"The never ending story" because no one else it going to pick it but the book was ten times better than the movie and the movie was pretty damn good. Of course the first sequel was terrible and the next one was so bad you almost had to commit suicide. I guess the last part of the book was too depressing and required too many special effects to put in a kids movie.

Also that sci fi book about the shroud and the aliens er... forget hte name...
oh yeah and Isaac Asimov’s guide to the physical sciences - its massively out of date but it was so easy to read can you imagine all the answers to everything you wanted to know about science, in one easy to read little paperback.. Amazing.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Not exactly but maybe a little for chun-lee in street fighter heh tough Asian chicks mmm....

The last book you bought is

Time like infinity - Stephen Baxter

The last book you finished is?

Hmmm - that alien one with the shroud I think but I haven’t been reading much lately. I did skim read that star trek book by William shatter in the book store.
Anyway in the shroud book basically some dude goes and finds this shroud that holds the secret to why the universe is basically uninhabited (except for these juggler aliens and humans), it is quite a good justification for it. reminds me of Greg bears books like "the forge of god" that talk about how alien races would interact - generally not like star trek or Babylon 5 but more like err the robots blazing a path for humanity like in the foundation trilogy. OK I’ve lost you all now I bet.