Friday, September 9, 2016

Regional & Local Govt wonder why they are under attack??

This what has happened to:

  • your total cost of living
  • your wage
  • and in Otago, your Regional Rates Bill

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Barclays Completes Blockchain Trade Finance Transaction

Transacted in 4 hours what typically takes 7 days… and with greater security. Watch this – closely.

A big bank trade finance trial has borne fruit.

imageBarclays reported today that two partners (agriculture co-operative Ornua and food product distributor Seychelles Trading Company) were able to successfully transfer trade documentation via a blockchain platform created by its accelerator program graduate, Wave.

The Israel-based startup graduated from the TechStars FinTech accelerator last fall, at the time indicating it was using custom technology on top of a blockchain to facilitate the transfer of trade documents.

In statements, Barclays head of trade and working capital Baihas Baghdadi said the project confirms that adding multiple parties to a distributed ledger system can remove one of the biggest "headaches" associated with global trade, the movement of the paper documents that track and authenticate the transactions.

Baghdadi said:

"That is why we’ve been very keen to partner with Wave in using blockchain technology to save time and money for our clients, and potentially transform trade finance for businesses around the world."

The announcement follows news that a number of major banks are testing applications of blockchain in the global supply chain.

In August alone, banking consortium R3CEV revealed 15 of its members had participated in a trade finance trial, while Bank of America and HSBC reportedly embarked on a similar effort.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A label for rich people wanting to feel good


Today’s challenge is to read this, follow the logic – then actually act on it…. that would help a larger number of the world’s worse off than most charities ever achieve.

Organic food is great business, but a bad investment: Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg5:45 p.m. EDT August 11, 2016

Despite best intentions, organic farming is harming, not helping, the environment.

The food at your supermarket is changing. The biggest food giants are investing more in organic produce. French multinational Danone just spent $10 billion buying WhiteWave Foods, an American producer of dairy alternatives and organic foods. Stressing the importance of organics, the Danone CEO says: “The reality has changed on the shelf.”

Organic food has become the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. food industry, with sales that increase by double digits annually. That’s a lot of kale flying off the shelves. Buying it makes us feel like we’re helping ourselves and the planet.

But here’s the truth: There are no health benefits from eating organic food. And it is likely worse for the environment.

An organic label sends our skepticism and good sense out the window. Consumers in one study were given two sets of absolutely identical food items, with one set marked “organic” and one not. They declared the food they believed to be “organic” to be lower in calories and more nutritious, and were willing to pay 16% to 23% more. It’s called the “health halo” effect.

Back in 2012, Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy did the largest comparison of four decades worth of research comparing organic and regular food. They expected to find evidence that organics were nutritionally superior. Their conclusion: “Despite the widespread perception that organically produced foods are more nutritious than conventional alternatives, we did not find robust evidence to support this perception.”

A brand new review this year shows the same thing: “Results of scientific studies do not show that organic products are more nutritious and safer than conventional foods.”

That’s fine, many people will say. I don’t eat organics because of the health benefits but because I care about the planet. But this is even more misguided.

Yes, organic farming will mean that in one field, a farmer will use less energy, create fewer greenhouse gases and have less nitrogen leaking.

But consider the bigger picture. Organic farming is much, much less efficient than regular old farming. Our farmer needs more fields to grow the same amount of produce. Not just because going organic means less fertilizer and more bugs and pests, but also because the land needs to lie empty or be planted with legumes to rebuild fertility between crop cycles.

A big study in Europe found that to produce the same gallon of milk organically, you need 59% more land. To produce meat, you need 82% more land, and for crops, it is more than 200%. That adds up to a lot of forest and nature being turned into farms for people in Portland, Ore., or Providence, R.I., to feel better about their choices at the supermarket.

If U.S. agricultural production were entirely organic, it would mean we'd need toconvert an area bigger than the size of California to farmland. It is the same aseradicating all parklands and wild lands in the lower 48 states.

Moreover, by eating something organic, you are actually responsible for about as many greenhouse gas emissions as if you had chosen a regular product. Those are the gases that cause global warming. And organic products mean more of some other bad environmental things: about 10% more nitrous oxide, ammonia and acidification, while contributing almost 50% more to nitrogen leaching.

At least going organic means that we avoid nasty pesticides, right? Wrong. Organic farming can use any so-called natural pesticide. This even includes copper sulfate, which Cornell University describes as “highly toxic to fish” even at recommended rates, and which has caused liver disease in France. Or Pyrethrin, which is “extremely toxic to fish," “highly toxic to bees”, and has been linked to an increase in leukemia among farmers.

Of course, conventional, non-organic foods carry a higher risk of pesticide contamination. Rough calculations suggest that all the pesticides used in America could cause about 20 extra cancer deaths per year. You have a similar chance each year of being mauled to death by a cow.

Compare this with the deaths from going organic. If the entire USA were fed on organic produce, it would cost $200 billion more annually. This is money we couldn’t spend on things that matter. When a nation becomes $15 million poorer,research shows that it costs one statistical life. For example, people who are worse off are less likely to pay for a doctor’s visit. What this means is that going fully organic would kill more than 13,000 people each year.

Think about organics beyond the USA. The world’s poorest inhabitants need cheaper food, which means more efficient farming. Better access to regulated fertilizers and pesticides is needed, not less.

Organics are not better for your health, worse for nature and the planet, and terrible for the world’s poor. What it boils down to is the world’s richest people spending their cash to support less efficient farming practices, to feel better about their choices. An organic label should inspire a dose of healthy skepticism.

Bjorn Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and a visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School. Follow him on Twitter: @BjornLomborg

Thursday, September 1, 2016

If you think house prices always go up….. think again

Take a look at this graph…..


To be sure – a good investment but like all investments prices fluctuate and:

  • you have to live somewhere so if you cash up there is no return unless downsizing or going to a lesser cost market;
  • Geography then – as usual – matters! Even recent recent Auckland rises have been offset by falls elsewhere;
  • its close to impossible to “time” this market with any accuracy such that you make market beating returns

Like everything else – no free lunch – there is risk and reward….. you are NOT the exception, you have to use your scone.

(Thanks to David Farrar for the chart)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A housing fundamental... too hard basket - again

NZ is far from alone in its housing market difficulties. Economist John Cochrane highlights research which is very relevant to NZ.
“Conor Dougherty in The New York Times has a good article on zoning laws,
"a growing body of economic literature suggests that anti-growth sentiment... is a major factor in creating a stagnant and less equal American economy.
...Unlike past decades, when people of different socioeconomic backgrounds tended to move to similar areas, today, less-skilled workers often go where jobs are scarcer but housing is cheap, instead of heading to places with the most promising job opportunities  according to research by Daniel Shoag, a professor of public policy at Harvard, and Peter Ganong, also of Harvard.
One reason they’re not migrating to places with better job prospects is that rich cities like San Francisco and Seattle have gotten so expensive that working-class people cannot afford to move there. Even if they could, there would not be much point, since whatever they gained in pay would be swallowed up by rent." 
Stop and rejoice. This is, after all, the New York Times, not the Cato Review. One might expect high housing prices to get blamed on developers, greed, or something, and the solution to be government-constructed housing, "affordable" housing mandates, rent controls, low-income housing subsidies (which protect incumbent low-income people, not those who want to move in to get better jobs) and even more restrictions.
No. The Times, the Obama Administration, California Governor Gerry Brown, have figured out that zoning laws are to blame, and they're making social stratification and inequality worse.”
David Farrar of Kiwiblog also noticed this piece, and his comment:
This is the major factor in house prices in Auckland. Labour, National, the Productivity Commission, the NZ Initiative etc all agree. We just need the Auckland Council to listen - and if they won't, to have Parliament over-rule them.

is especially pertinent.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

San Francisco's attraction comes at a price.... so does Auckland's

Insightful article about the high cost of living in San Francisco... many commented in response to recent photos, on how they love the place. This piece draws on a highly innovative data set to throw light on the plight. Conclusion?

For the love of god, keep adding homes. Keep adding homes so things don’t get any worse and you’re not trapped in a lose-lose-lose shitstorm like San Francisco.

Here is the paper.

Very relevant to NZ and in particular Auckland housing bothers - as expected it concerms free lunches, the middle classes and failure to face trade offs. Surprise.

DAO - next step in applying the blockchain

The blockchain offers probably the most productive leap in efficiency and equity since the development of money. It's a liitle demanding to understand but it is revolutionary.... the following updates progress and gives an idea of why it is important.

What Is the DAO?

The blockchain is a shared, decentralized, digital ledger that cryptologically seals and stores a permanent record of all transactions that occur on it. Bitcoin, the digital currency, is perhaps the most well-known and widely used application of blockchain technology. Ethereum is a different blockchain from Bitcoin and was created with the intention to allow self-executing smart contracts to be coded directly into it, permitting trusted transactions and agreements to be carried out among disparate, anonymous parties without the need for a central authority, legal system, or external enforcement mechanism. (See also: Is Ethereum More Important Than Bitcoin?)
The organizational theorist Arthur Stinchcombe once wrote that contracts are merely organizations in miniature, and by extension all organizations are just complexes of contracts. Firms are created using a series of contractual agreements, ranging from employment contracts and employee benefits, to deals with vendors and suppliers and obligations to its customers, to building leases and sales & purchases of equipment. Traditionally, these contractual obligations are quite costly because they need to be enforced externally by society in the form of a trusted legal system and through legal enforcement. Courts, lawyers, judges and investigators all form this system of contract enforcement. With a blockchain-based smart contract, however, much of these costs are greatly reduced or eliminated. This promises to make blockchain-based organizations more efficient, cost-effective, and competitive compared to traditional firms in the marketplace. (For more, see: Decentralized Autonomous Organizations: IoT Today.)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Digging out the meaning of sovereignty

The issue of sovereignty has been much discussed in respect of the TPP. Long experienced trade negotiator and former minister Hon Phil Goff spells out the essence of sovereignty, in this context, most usefully:
“Every time you sign any international agreement you give away a degree of your sovereignty.” He cited the China free trade deal negotiated when he was Trade Minister.
“We gave up the sovereign right to impose tariffs against China when we signed up to the China free trade agreement. But it came with quid pro quos. China gave up its right to impose huge tariffs on us.
“That’s what an international agreement is; it’s an agreement to follow a particular course of action and a limitation on your ability to take action against the other country.
“You have the ultimate right of sovereignty that you can back out of an agreement – with all the cost that that incurs.”
Note that Phil Goff is a former Labour Minister of Trade.