Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Difficult “compassionate” numbers from Greece

Reform to the Greek pension scheme was a major sticking point in recent “negotiations”  Some facts about the previous Greek pension system:

1. The average Greek pension equates to 95% of final salary, compared to an average 40% for Europe
2. Employees could retire and get the pension at age 55 if their occupation was deemed arduous
3. Hairdressing was deemed an arduous profession.
4.Greece has the highest number of 110 year olds in the world.
5. Families would keep claiming pensions of dead relatives

Other minor issues:

*  Greece has four times the numbers of teachers than Finland.
*  Finland ranks at the top of the education tables with the Greeks are at the bottom.
*  Greek teachers are better paid than Finnish teachers
*  Over 25% of Greeks in employment are government employees
*  The average wage for train workers is €66k ($NZD108,000)
*  The Institute for the conservation of the Kopias Lake employed 1763 people,
*  the lake that has been drained since 1930

By 2060 it is projected that 86% of the population will be dependent on the state.

Figures complied by David Farrar

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Seriously Disruptive–Get Your Head Around Blockchains

Blockchains offer arguably the biggest jump in the technology of exchange since the development of money. The concept challenges centralised government control of money and offers vast potential for sovereign individual trade.

Perhaps the most famous quote associated with blockchain technology came from an anonymous virtual currency user, who described the innovation as "a transfer of trust in a trustless world." The blockchain network allows for the unregulated exchange of digital assets, removing the need for financial or government intermediaries to verify and guarantee payments. In other words, virtual currencies survive based on blockchain networks.

The term "blockchain" was first popularized by the revolutionary cybercurrency Bitcoin. It refers to the secured transaction ledger that all Bitcoin users share simultaneously across the Bitcoin network. Any time a transaction is posted using Bitcoin, the blockchain captures it and automatically updates the user account balances for the entire system.

Functioning of Blockchains

Even though it is popular to discuss blockchains in terms of algorithms and accounting ledgers, since they appear to drive them, the real secret of blockchain technology is it is a self-executing history book. In other words, all current and past states of every program in the network are always publicly visible, making it incredibly difficult to tamper with or commit fraud. As long as the encryption on the blockchain remains trustworthy and intact, every single trade of goods and assets remains recorded in the blockchain in perpetuity.

Transfer of Power

The main reason so many people are fascinated with Bitcoin and other virtual currencies is the same reason most governments are loathe to accept them: they transfer power from central money control and distribute that power among the masses. This is only possible because of blockchains.

It is analogous to timekeeping technology. Before the popularization of watches, and eventually digital clocks, time was kept based on large central clock towers. These clock towers were expensive to build and maintain, but their need vanished when individuals could keep track of time themselves.

(adapted from Investopedia)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Harsh Reality in Greece

“Harsh reality” for Greeks would seem to involve:

- A pension of around $1,440 a month (NZ equivalent $1,380) for the elderly

- Opening on Sundays

- Competing with supermarkets having lower priced goods

- Everybody paying the same GST

It is true that the new sales tax will be higher than NZ – but then we aren’t on our third bail out.

Perhaps what many in both places have in common “I was hoping for a deal where the rich people paid the debt.” Hope, I dare so springs as eternal as Greek debt and misplaced attribution

Read the NZ Herald article here  (Browser back button to return to our site)

Friday, July 3, 2015

“Oscar” is not another term for “MD”

Brand contamination is the curse of marketers. Where one’s brand becomes associated with just what you don’t want it to be – think palm oil and Cadbury or Nestle and bad recipe milo – is not what you want.

Unsolicited promotion of personal obsessions and factually flawed junk logic such as anti vaccine stances is a form of what we might term “reverse brand contamination”.

We should check facts before bowing to our love of celebrity by  confusing their entertainment skills with sound medical advice.

David Farrar is apposite on this:

Carrey, Kerr and Clement are experts in acting. If you want to learn how to be a better actor, you should listen to them.

However taking the advice of celebrity actors on whether you should vaccinate your children is stupid and dangerous - it's like getting medical advice from some bloke in a pub.

Even some of us musicians have learned the hard way that you don’t have to cut your wrists to play the blues…. many tragic but brilliant blues players notwithstanding.

Just how easy it is to get facts wrong is perhaps underlined by the fact that the Herald managed to spell Jim Carrey’s name wrongly twice within a paragraph on this subject.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brother can you spare a lazy $29 billion

It seems that any truth passes through three phases: ridicule, violent opposition and finally it appears self evident. Greece would appear to be on the doorstep of phase III. All believers in free (or stolen) lunches should watch with interest.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

And you seriously expect me to believe in regulation….? A grand scale freak show for the dysfunctional

The Federal Marching Band
Of Music Regulators

by Brian T. Majeski

Editor, The Music Trades (Wall Street Journal)

FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY, the music industry escaped the gaze of government agencies thanks to its small scale--$6.8 billion now in the U.S.--and its wholesome, noncontroversial products. Few things seem less deserving of federal regulation than a 5th grader with an oboe. On the rare occasions in history when prominent officials took notice, the magazine I edit, The Music Trades, ran celebratory headlines: "President Taft At Baldwin Piano Plant Opening," or "Clinton Says Playing Music Made Me President."
   Over the past seven years, however, the tenor of the government's interest in the music business has changed. Our magazine now regularly carries accounts of punitive fines, armed raids and threats of jail time.

Image by David Gothard      

   In 2007 the Federal Trade Commission launched a broad and far-fetched price-fixing investigation against instrument and equipment manufacturers. Far-fetched because it is difficult to imagine how makers of such disparate products--microphones, guitars, drums and keyboards--could fix prices. It took two years for the FTC to realize that it had no case, but only after threatening fines, conducting depositions and commandeering terabytes of corporate records.
   No wrongdoing was uncovered, but in a consent decree with the National Association of Music Merchants, the FTC mandated that a lengthy legal document be read at all industry gatherings, essentially exhorting attendees not to collude. The association was also compelled to hire a compliance officer tasked with monitoring the 90,000-plus attendees at its annual trade show for any "anticompetitive" behaviour. The estimated costs of this investigation to the industry: $15 million.
   The exoneration didn't end the ordeal. More than 30 trial lawyers seized on the consent decree as a tacit admission of guilt and filed class-action suits seeking hundreds of millions in damages--from NAMM and such companies as Guitar Center, Fender and Yamaha--on behalf of consumers who were allegedly overcharged. Most suits have been dismissed, but some remain unresolved. Cost to the industry: more than $5 million.
   In March 2013 the FTC then turned its sights on the Music Teachers National Association, a 139-year old organization comprised primarily of women who give piano lessons in their homes. The group's code of ethics, which discouraged members from poaching one another's students, was deemed a restraint of trade. The association got off without a fine but had to abandon its code of ethics, train members about "anticompetitive practices," draft a 20-year compliance plan, and file annual updates with the FTC.
   In 2009 armed FBI agents burst into the Gibson Guitar plant in Nashville, Tenn., seizing pallets of ebony and rosewood. Two years later, agents staged an encore at the Gibson plant in Memphis. Employees were threatened and production was disrupted, but no charges were filed. After three years in limbo, Gibson settled with the Justice Department, paying a $300,000 fine and forfeiting $261,000 of ebony. (The rosewood, a farmed species that has been exported in volume for decades, was returned.)
   The justification for the raids was a far from clear-cut violation of a 2008 amendment to the Lacey Act, a vaguely worded statute requiring extensive documentation on all imported wood. Gibson's legal costs for what was at worst a paperwork violation: $2.4 million. Management settled only because the cost of continuing to fight was too high.
   Last year Gold Tone Banjo was fined $110,000 by the Fish and Wildlife Service over a few bits of oyster shell. Gold Tone failed to properly fill out "e-Doc" customs declarations for the material, which was to be used for fingerboard inlays. These aren't endangered species, but farmed oysters like on menus everywhere. Federal officials initially asked for a $370,000 fine and a six month jail term for the owners, backing off only after weeks of negotiation.
   Then there's the Federal Communications Commission, which evaluates electronic devices to ensure that they don't emit radio waves that interfere with broadcast signals, wireless communication or other electronic devices. Recently, the FCC has used this authority to extract fines for technicalities: $50,000 for displaying a pre-production prototype of an audio effects processor on a website before it was FCC approved; $25,000 for placing the FCC labelling on the wrong side of the package of a digital mixer; and an inexplicable $425,000 fine for a guitar effects pedal that included a chip--the same kind found in virtually every smartphone--that it claimed was not compliant. The fines are a matter of public record, though, on advice of counsel, manufacturers decline to publicly discuss details. They know public criticism of the FCC could result in retribution when future products are submitted for approval.
   Proposition 65, a California statute covering potential carcinogens, has forced the industry to defend the legality of guitar strings because a nickel alloy that has been used for decades contains trace elements of lead. Bans on ivory cause hassle for musicians traveling to the U.S. because 50-year-old violins and guitars contain a few grams of the stuff. For instance, customs officials in New York last year detained seven bows from the string section of the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, levying a $525 fine for lack of paperwork.
   The fines and legal fees associated with these investigations have topped $35 million, a pittance in Washington, D.C., but a significant sum for a small, low-margin industry. In addition, they divert time from management and have depressed industry spirits, as many wonder what's next. It isn't coincidental that this increased attention from the feds has been accompanied by a period of stagnant industry growth. If the sprawling federal bureaucracy has sapped the vitality of the little music industry, is it having a similar effect on the rest of the economy?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Business jargon pomposity update….

A few new offerings I hear being touted around by the business twaterati:

1. in the swim lane

2. bleeding edge

3. take offline

The following perennial offenders are proving hard to get rid of….At least the following

  1. revert
  2. going forward
  3. push back
  4. deep dive
  5. learnings