No Minister

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Hollywood – another bubble world

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It’s not just the MSM who are living in a bubble, as described in yesterday’s post.

No, it’s also Hollywood and it’s really now right up in the faces of Disney executives in the wake of the huge flop that Disney/Pixar’s latest animated movie, Lightyear, has been.

It has earned just over $50 million in its opening domestic weekend when $100 million+ was expected, with an eventual year-long global target being a billion dollars, like Top Gun: Maverick. Instead, as the article points out, it may actually only make $300 million, meaning it will lose as much as it makes.

I’m past the age when I’d take kids to see movies, but Pixar holds a special place in my heart because of all their Golden Age stuff from 1995 to about 2015. I’d heard something about a “lesbian kiss”, which sounded like a big nothing – and is. But the real story is as follows:

The movie’s narrative revolves around the lesbian couple who become pregnant and have a family — to the point that Buzz Lightyear becomes the villain for attempting to complete the [time travel] mission and thereby (somehow) remove the situation in which the couple could come together. Parents were already going to be thrown for a loop when they needed to explain how two mommies can make a baby, the kiss was just Pixar’s coup maximus.

Can I also just say that I find it exceedingly funny that they released a movie that centers around a lesbian couple – and the bad guy is a man who might accidentally erase their relationship… on Father’s Day Weekend.

Geniuses: IN-YOUR-FACE geniuses, because I’m sure that was not a mistake but entirely intentional. A whole storyline that paints Buzz Lightyear as the Evil White Guy trying to break up the cool, interracial lesbian couple! Wow, that’s a twist on the old time-paradox-can-I-correct-past-mistakes concept. It’s a wonder that Pixar didn’t give him an Alabama accent just to underline the message. As that article further points out:

And the only reason they didn’t see this coming is because they’re in such a bubble with who they talk to and where they live that they didn’t even know about the thesis we’ve been presenting here at That Park Place for months. They would have rejected it if they had known, but that they didn’t is enough to show you how insular their lives are.

The cleanup for Disney will be hard. The company is overtaken with a California culture that is wholly separate and distinct from the rest of the country and even most of the western world. What do you do when your studio is filled with people who don’t know how to avoid their core beliefs because their core beliefs are at odds with most of the world?

No company, not even one as big and powerful as Disney, can take successive losses on this scale. Starting with their CEO they’re going to have to crack down on this crap out of sheer financial need. But as noted above, that’s going to be easier said than done given how embedded this all is across both Disney and Pixar.

Disney has lost 8 of it’s top animation directors since Jennifer Lee was made head creative executive there a few years back. She can’t tell a story to save her life, and doesn’t have a creative bone in her body.

Sounds like Kathleen Kennedy’s destruction of the Star Wars franchise. Already there’s another Pixar movie in the pipeline (meaning almost finished), Strange Worlds, that has, as its centerpiece … a romance between two teenage boys.

Yeah. That’ll pack them in.

Even if, by some miracle, they produce a kids animated movie that doesn’t try to pull the same stunts, what parents who refused to take their kids to see Lightyear, are going to trust Disney/Pixar again? The only promotion that might work would be word-of-mouth because nobody will trust the advertising and marketing of carefully edited trailers.

Every entertainment company can produce stinkers of plays, musicals, TV series and films and still survive. But what Disney/Pixar are doing here is stinking up their brands. Business history is littered with examples of outfits that tarnished a brand and could not recover it. Disney is not quite there yet, given their revenue power across multiple entertainment streams, but they’re a lot closer than I ever thought they’d be.

Job Security

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Two examples of this.

First is total job security. I invite every socialist in the world to tell me that they deserve, that I deserve, to be paid as much money as Bob Bergen.

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Second is declining job security.

This is ongoing elder abuse and his staff should be brought up on charges (and his wife and dirtbag son). If they think he needs this card and such prescriptive instructions to make a bog standard appearance then they know he’s mentally gone. If you did this to a member of your family, in most nations you’d be committing a crime.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 24, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Lessons for National from the Australian Power Crisis

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There are three key points to take away from the recent power debacle in Australia.

First, take a look at this graph of indexed electricity prices in Aussie from 1955 to 2017. After decades of steady reduction the rise in price has been steep and unrelenting since the start of the age of unreliable power in the mid-2000’s.

Remember this every time some Green tells you that Wind and Solar are cheaper than traditional base load, utility-scale power sources; “cost” is about more than just the Capex of the equipment. It’s about the cost of power shortages, limited growth, potential grid collapses, shorter plant lifetimes (25 years), and the cost of maintaining reliable backup power sources.

Second, note that the Liberal-National’s have been in government during much of this time, including the last nine years just ended. So when Labor and the Left hold them responsible for much of this nonsense they will be correct.

Third, hidden by such truth is the fact that Labor and the Greens wanted to go harder and faster on all this, which may have been a better idea since the crash would have come harder and faster, with appropriate lessons learned.

Best of all it should be noted that this is all a complete waste of time and money.

The primary lesson for National here in NZ on renewable unreliable power and climate change is this: Labour and the Left want you in on this so that when the hungry, cold crowds with the pitchforks and burning torches turn up they can point fingers at you and say:

“But they did it too”

And they’ll be right.

P.S. For those National supporters frightened of the power of Climate Change as an issue, “especially with the youth”, here’s something to stiffen your spines.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 20, 2022 at 12:00 pm

Burn. More. Coal?

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In the classic comic/horror movie Return of the Living Dead, there’s a scene where the zombies eat the brains of the police trying to stop them and one of the zombies uses a cop car radio to call, “Send more cops”.

I thought of this the other day while reading about the new Australian Labor government, returned from the dead after more than a decade, led by an opponent of the Hawke-Keating Labor Party economic reforms of the 1980’s, and a man whose brain not even a hungry zombie would touch.

They’ve arrived just in time to confront a crisis in the Australian electricity system caused by the shrinking gap between power supply and demand, courtesy of the “success” of successive Labor and Liberal-National governments in squeezing out fossil-fueled power stations with wind and solar by making the former unprofitable.

So when a cold snap hit Australia recently – the Coldest Start of Winter for Over a Century in fact – the following things happened:

  • The grid operator tried to force thermal generators on at a power price less than their fuel costs, so the generators took their units off the market.
  • Thus there are power cuts in Oz and power prices have gone through the roof.
  • The authorities finally suspended the market and ordered operators to bring plants on line, for which they will be “compensated”. No doubt this will be taken by the Left as yet another example of how markets fail.

In the darkest of ironies the government was forced to grovel as well as enforce:

Labor has begged industry bosses to fire up all their coal-fuelled power stations at full capacity to ease the national energy crisis in a dramatic policy u-turn.

Just days after promising ‘real action on climate change‘, Labor today demanded the nation’s coal power stations are all brought back into service as soon as possible.

It’s not just the power plants that have been shut down but coal units that have broken down as they haven’t been maintained because they haven’t been generating income. And all the parties (except maybe the Australian National party) will talk only about how quickly they need to be shut down.

Green political hostility towards coal and gas development created Australia’s energy shortage problem, by discouraging investment in affordable energy resources, and choking off the supply of bank finance for building and maintenance of coal plants.

This is called karma. The poster child of renewable power, South Australia, actually had to burn diesel again.

I’d like to think that Aussie voters will learn something from this but they’ve just managed to escape disaster – this time – so will likely need a longer, colder power crisis. Next time the gap will be bigger, as will be the case in the USA:

Unfortunately, the reliability of the electric grid could get worse in the coming years as more reliable power plants are retired. MISO’s capacity shortfall is projected to grow to 2,600 MW by 2023, enough to power virtually every home in Minnesota on an average hour, and capacity deficits are projected to widen in subsequent years.

The graph below shows the capacity shortfall growing from 2,600 MW next year to 10,900 MW by 2027 as the green bars sink lower toward the x-axis. For context, 10,900 MW is more than the amount needed to generate Minnesota’s annual electricity on an average hourly basis. Of course, some hours will have much higher demand, and some hours demand will be lower, but the trend is troubling regardless.

That’s from a report issued by the Midcontinent Independent Systems Operator powerline outfit, which details a high risk of blackouts this Northern summer resulting from the current gap of 1,230 MW shortfall in power plant capacity to meet its peak demand and reserve margin.

This gap has arisen after 3,200 megawatts (MW) of reliable power plants, mostly coal and nuclear, were retired last year:

“Green” energy liberals have demanded, successfully, that reliable coal and nuclear plants be closed so they can be replaced by wind farms and solar installations. But those unreliable, intermittent sources can never replace power plants that actually work 24/7. Hence the blackouts that are now beginning, and will become more and more widespread if we continue to rely increasingly on undependable sources of power.

President Obama was the last Lefty politician to display some honesty about the true cost of renewable energy:“Electricity prices will skyrocket”:

You’d therefore think that the Democrats would be overjoyed at the massive increases in energy costs, and of course they secretly are, except for one thing crucial to a politician:

Elections have consequences, someone once said, and now the consequences of all of those elections in which Californians put leftist Democrats in office are hitting them in the wallet. They asked for it, they got it, and now they don’t like it.

The same thing – massive increases in power prices plus unreliable power plus fossil fuel plants that cannot be scrapped – has happened in Germany in particular and Europe in general, and all for poor results in GHG emissions reductions (France excepted because …. nuclear).

But never fear, the Greens have a solution:

Already, liberals are talking about a future in which you don’t control your use of electricity. Rather, a utility does. Thus, when “renewable” energy sources don’t produce enough to meet demand, the response will be “demand management.” That may mean, among other things, that you won’t be able to turn on your own air conditioning. Rather, the utility will control the temperature of your home for you.

Classic: via political control the Left create a problem and then solve it with more control. The thing is that in the USA I’m not so sure that will work given how much Americans hate being controlled. Some years ago my friend Cathy, living in San Francisco, talked to all her equally Liberal, tree-hugging friends about a great idea she’d grown up with in New Zealand – “Ripple Control” – which many of you may remember from the 1970’s and 1980’s. In the wee small hours the Department of Electricity would signal water heaters to shut down, starting them up again about 5am or so. Naturally Kiwis took it up the ass, even as they blamed Muldoon.

Her neighbours and friends completely rejected the idea and – as she sheepishly admitted – did so with some heat.

See also:

Powerless Europe (plus dirty Germany)
Energy Charades (Coal expansion in China, India, SE Asia vs. Germany)
Energy Realities (US GHG emissions reduction success vs China coal plus wind fail)

Written by Tom Hunter

June 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

A run on Chinese Banks

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My co-blogger Nick K had already flagged one of the first signals of a China bubble bursting when he wrote about the problems of one of their giant property developers, China Evergrande, in September of last year, all $US 300 billion worth of it.

Where’s there’s one there’s bound to be more if the underlying problem is not fixed, and so…:

Multiple sources contacted by Asia Markets, have confirmed deposits at the following six banks have been frozen since mid-April.

  • Yuzhou Xinminsheng Village Bank (located in Xuchang City, Henan Province)
  • Zhecheng Huanghuai Bank (City of Shangqui, Henan Province)
  • Shangcai Huimin Rural Bank (Zhumadian City, Henan Province)
  • New Oriental Village Bank (City of Kaifeng, Henan Province)
  • Huaihe River Village Bank (Bengbu City, Anhui Province)
  • Yixian County Village Bank (Huangshan City, Anhui Province)

It’s understood the banks with branches across the Henan and Anhui Provinces successively issued announcements in April, stating they would suspend online banking and mobile banking services due to a system upgrade.

At the same time, clients reported their electronic deposits in online accounts, mobile apps and third-party platforms could not be withdrawn.

This led to depositors rushing to local bank branches, only to be told they were unable to withdraw funds.

The report includes various videos of long lines at banks and protests so it appears to be a real thing and not just a rumour. The real question is whether the authorities can stop it, and that comes down to two questions to be answered: the degree of authority that can be exerted and the trust people have in the system. Nobody should doubt the power of the central Chinese State but when a people’s faith in institutions begins to waver there’s no force that can impose it:

Some depositors such as Xu have already lost trust in the system. The 39-year-old said he had withdrawn all of his deposits from 10 other small banks that had promised him an annualised yield of more than 4 per cent.

The Chinese Communist Party probably does not accept that last point, as can be seen in this sad article, The Dismantling of Hong Kong, by one Karen Cheung, who is approaching the tipping point of escape:

After the national security law passed in June 2020, friends began leaving Hong Kong every few weeks. One by one, they disappeared from the camera reel on my phone, leaving me with things they couldn’t take with them: an oven, a Sodastream, a sous-vide machine, a stone diffuser, and five bottles of ground cinnamon. From 2020 through 2021, it was reported that 116,000 residents had left, often departing for countries like Britain and Canada…

This has been coming for a long time; certainly since the first mass protests in 2014 but only really since the Great Chinese Sinus AIDS Pandemic hit:

Under the guise of pandemic social-distancing, public gatherings were banned, and protests disappeared from the streets. Later in 2020, a teacher had his license revoked after showing his class a documentary featuring a pro-independence activist; in the years since, prominent commentators, including Apple Daily writer Fung Wai-kong and academic Hui Po Keung, have been arrested at the airport while attempting to leave the city. New election rules implemented in 2021 now dictate that only “patriots” can administer Hong Kong. By early 2022, at least 50 civil organizations have disbanded in the ongoing crackdown, including a pro-democracy trade-union coalition and an activist group that commemorates the Tiananmen massacre.

My, how convenient is the claim of Public Health for tinpot dictators to exert minute control over the lives of their subjects. And as she outlines, the end result was a massive increase in cases and deaths anyway, plus the usual scenes of empty supermarket shelves and a failing public health care system:

Health officers would sometimes appear on your doorstep to inform you that your building had been locked down for mandatory testing; should you test positive, you would have to undergo quarantine at an isolation facility, which Hong Kong residents have described as a “madhouse.” A Hong Kong woman told a local news outlet that despite two negative rapid tests, she was not told when she could leave; some in quarantine attempted suicide inside the facilities, according to local media reports. The uncertainty and severity of the measures made me feel like the city was collectively being punished.

I’m absolutely sure it was. In that world it’s hard to tell the difference between political prisoners arrested for leading protests or writing articles and people who failed the dreaded C-19 test, since there seems little difference in treatment between the two.

I last visited Hong Kong in 1990 and it was great: a vast, teaming, lively city with beautiful views, whether from the waterfront or The Peak. But when the British handed back control to China in 1997 I knew the place was doomed, even if it might take years to show it. The CCP and their One Country: Two Systems always smelled like propaganda to me, but I relied on the CCP’s self-interest in hanging on to a rich crown jewel, especially as Communism became more honoured in the breach in China itself, hence more than two decades of peace, relative freedoms and prosperity. But I always knew that if a clash between the “Two Systems” ever occurred then the system of Chinese Communism would prevail and be imposed, whatever the cost.

Between the rise of Xi Jinping and the return of his cult of personality as well as the re-empowering of the Central State, the myriad little Cultural Revolution touches appearing again, the Hong Kong protests and finally the C-19 disease, it’s obvious that Hong Kong will soon be no more than another grim Chinese metropolis.

Something was fundamentally broken: If Hong Kong could botch the handling of a pandemic outbreak it had two years to prepare for, what does that say about future governance? Hong Kong used to be a city that understood its capitalism depended upon appearances; ever since the national security law was enacted, however, it no longer cared about the mask slipping.

Survivors guilt and all, it is time for Ms Cheung to get the hell out – and time for us to cut as many cords with China as we can afford.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 16, 2022 at 4:14 pm

Failing to Scale

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It took only a few years for me to learn that in corporate environments a lot of things just don’t scale up, despite the fact that such corporations were scaled up versions of the small businesses they had once started out as, even if a hundred years ago prior to endless takeovers, buyouts and so forth.

Centralised accounting certainly scales, as does marketing, IT and a handful of other core functions. But even then there are limits, what test pilots refer to as “the envelope”, outside of which things start breaking down. Even those centralised things are built upon smaller clones of themselves in the corporation. And corporations often stagnate precisely because the small, inventive, creative parts of themselves get stifled or outright killed off.

In fact, one of the secrets to the creation of Silicon Valley and its fantastic wealth, lay in the fact that people inside existing corporations who had ideas that got flattened or ignored, were actually encouraged internally to leave and set up their own companies to develop their ideas, and where they weren’t encouraged they did so anyway as venture capitalism also grew to supply such start-ups with seed money. This “culture” took off, with one company after another spawning new companies:

With the backing of Fairchild Camera and Instrument in Long Island, NY, eight engineers from Shockley’s lab resigned, including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, to form Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. Led by Noyce, Fairchild would eventually grow into the most important company in the history of the Santa Clara Valley after Noyce independently invented the Integrated Circuit along with Texas Instrument’s Jack Kilby in 1958.

And when I say I “learned” that’s only in terms of learning what specific things did not scale in corporations: even by my early 20’s I’d seen enough of life, let alone business case-studies and history, to understand the principle that big is usually not better, and often worse.

To that end, with Three Waters specifically in mind here in NZ, but also with the gigantic beast in the US known as the Federal government, I appreciated this brief “rant” in Ace of Spades, which I’ll re-produce here in full:

An oft-heard theme from preschool classrooms to corporate meeting rooms is that one should not be afraid of failure. Failure sucks and is a miserable experience – failure hurts – but it’s also the mechanism through which one learns. Failure is a great teacher, and makes you less likely to fail next time because you’ve learned from the experience. This is true, but there are limits to the concept. Sometimes failure is catastrophic.

The higher you are, the riskier failure becomes. If you’re running a small team in a corner of a large company to try to make something new and you fail, the results are unlikely to be disastrous. You might get fired and your staff might get fired, too, but the scale of the potential damage is fairly small. If you’re a senior executive who bets the business on something and that something doesn’t pan out, the entire enterprise can fail and everyone ends up fired with the owners holding worthless paper that used to be shares.

So it is with government and its failures and boy do we have a lot of government failures to consider. Fiscal policy has failed. Monetary policy has failed. Energy policy has failed. Medical policy has failed. War policy has failed. Border policy has failed. Drug policy has failed. Environmental policy has failed. Law enforcement has failed. Intelligence has failed (in every possible interpretation). Both domestic and foreign policy, writ large and in totality, has failed. Its failure across the board and at all levels.

Sure, some of it was probably not failure but rather was deliberate destruction, but that distinction is more important in the final reckoning than it is in the day-to-day reality. Malice or incompetence (or malicious incompetence, which I think is closer to the mark) is less important than the results. The results are similar regardless of the motivator. Poor is poor, sick is sick, dead is dead.

And those failures are increasingly catastrophic as more decision-making occurs in Washington D.C.. This isn’t just because of corruption, dishonesty, malevolence and incompetence, but because of scale. We have forgotten the valuable lesson of subsidiarity. Decisions should be made at the smallest workable scale, not the largest possible scale. A town imposing some insane and destructive policy destroys only the town. When Washington imposes some insane and destructive policy, it can destroy the entire country. Subsidiarity isn’t maximally efficient, but it is highly reliable. It’s expensive but robust. Its opposite – what we have today and will have more of tomorrow – is tremendously fragile. It isn’t even efficient because the government is populated with thieves, liars and fools (and often in combination).

Totalitarianism doesn’t and can’t work for this reason. Even assuming the starry-eyed sincerity of the totalitarians (a situation we most decidedly do not have), mistakes have perfect coverage and no one is immune from the totalitarians’ decisions. Failure not only stops being a good thing from which you learn, it becomes a constant threat and source of terror. This is compounded and made infinitely worse when the totalitarians are dishonest, lying, stupid psychopaths.

Centralization and incompetence, centralization and malice, and centralization and malicious incompetence are poisonous combinations.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 9, 2022 at 2:58 pm

Engaging with a Foreign Business Culture

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Our family have bought rather a lot of electronic equipment from PB Tech here in NZ over the years, in my case mainly small stuff, in my son’s case, everything required to build a computer.

They’re well-known and New Zealand’s largest chain of stores that specialise in computer gear. This gushing Spinoff article (gushy mainly because it raved about their policy of demanding vax passes from customers before they entered a store) explains the “PB” in their name:

“In the early years, [Pat] Huo was supported in the accounts department by his wife Brenda Yu, hence the company name PB Tech.”

That would explain all the Chinese immigrants running the store in Penrose. I may have seen the occasional Indian or White chappie but they’ve been rare. I guess you go with the culture you know.

According to the blurb in the link above, they deliver lower prices by “cutting out the middleman”, doing direct deals with manufacturers and so forth. Then there’s this:

Being able to support the products we sell in-house gives PB Tech a huge advantage when it comes to rectifying faulty hardware quickly and painlessly for our customers. The scale of our in-house service operation and our team’s vast experience are the reasons why we’re an authorised repairer for leading brands such as HP, Samsung and LG, as well as top insurance companies within New Zealand.

Oh really? About six months ago my son’s two year-old PB Tech supplied monitor began glitching so he contacted them since it was still under warranty. Bit of a run-around but he finally was able to drop it off.

Then silence. No response to emails or phone calls where he left messages. Buck passing as to who to talk to and just a general run-around.

However, a couple of months later a box appeared at the door. It was “a” monitor: not the original one repaired but a replacement. No contact made to say it was on the way. Before opening the package he tried to find out via email and phonecalls what the story was. Same run-around again but worse.

Finally he opens the package and this is what he found.

They sent him an identical, replacement monitor – that’s damaged.

By now – seriously pissed – he went looking for reviews of PB Tech to see if he was an exception. He wasn’t. Click on the image to read.

There’s plenty more where those came from, and you can read about the $77,000 fine here.

I don’t understand how a company can continue to remain in business while pulling this shit on its customers – even in the wake of that fine, although given that the company is worth $280 million perhaps they don’t give a shit about such a number. Perhaps it’s simply that they sell a lot of tech gear to companies that chuck it quickly before it even hits the depreciation age and operate at such volumes that they don’t care about the occasional failure? Perhaps such business customers have … replace and fix arrangements with PB Tech that the latter accept because they’re not individual customers? Although I see some small business owners also getting screwed in those reviews.

But it’s this one that gives the clue as to the real problem with that third point.

I know a number of companies that have dealt with Chinese businesses, both here and in China, and that last one is a symptom of the real problem with their business culture:

They just assume everyone is lying and trying to rip off everyone else, so why are you complaining? In fact you’re probably lying to us now about your “problem”.

Which is exactly the experience several reviewers talk about and which my son is now experiencing; they’ve accused him of damaging the monitor. At first this might seem shocking, but that just how it be in Chinese business. Next stop is the small claims court: it seems they do respond to legal threats – which is also another aspect of Chinese business culture.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 7, 2022 at 2:49 pm

The Plastic Plinth of Capitalism

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It has taken a year but I finally completed building a new fence around the farm house after changing the layout of the track leading to it. It was only while sorting photos in the online library that I discovered how much time had passed during the Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter of Chinese Lung Rot.

However, I only lost time whereas other people lost jobs, businesses, and in some cases their homes and pretty much everything.

There are of course some businesses that thrive in good times and bad, courtesy of the fact they’re a monopoly.

Thus I introduce to you to Chorus.

Well, one of their objects anyway. That plastic plinth contains the old copper lines for the phone/internet connection. When it was put in I have no idea, but I replaced the old fence with a new one in 2001 without changing the fence line, so it could date back to the 1970’s, although I suspect it’s something that arrived with de-regulation in the late 1980’s when the local phone systems were upgraded with the arrival of Telecom NZ.

In a history of the district published a decade ago I was amused to read a chapter specifically about the phone system here over the years, starting with local farmers doing some of the work themselves, including cementing a beer bottle to the top of one large rock as an insulator to allow the line to run across a deep gorge. Who actually climbed said rock (it’s over 100 feet high), what climbing equipment and rock climbing experience they had, is not recorded. It was also interesting to read of the endless applications to government for the NZ Post Office to improve the system, something that reached high levels of frustration in the 1970’s/80’s with fuzzy, buzzy connections, hours-long drop-outs and so forth. The system just wasn’t improving, not even at the glacial pace of the past. We still had a party line in 1989 – two long tones for us, a long and short for “Y”, three shorts for “X”…. and that occasional “click” on the line that told you that someone had been listening to your conversation.

All that miraculously changed with de-regulation; no more years-long pleading with the bloody government. In the late 80’s the system was upgraded in just a couple of years in almost all ways and it would not be until the demands of the Internet arrived in the late 90’s/2000’s – meaning the actual use of farming apps and farm supplier websites – that the system began to show its age again, although I have no complaints about streaming speeds and the like now.

With the old fence and fence line now gone it was time to move the plinth so the lawn can be extended and to avoid having to mow around it. I just wanted to move this thing about 3m closer to the house, so a few weeks ago I applied to Chorus to get that done. I received their reply a couple of days ago:

Four thousand seven hundred and fifty five dollars?

AYFKM?

A.Y.F.K.M?

And twenty five cents – just to rub it in.

Even better are the list of “work” things that this cost covers:

God, I can just imagine the fees being internally charged for all the record searching and the intense design work, plus the fees charged by external agents for the “build works” paperwork.

Naturally I won’t be picking up this fabulous opportunity to enrich Chorus. What I do now is either try to move it myself (ummmmm..), put a giant pot plant over it, plant a native tree right beside it, or would there be ex-Chorus/Telecom people who would know how to do the job – for much less money?

But that’s where the monopoly status of Chorus comes into play. They own this equipment so you likely are not allowed to bugger around with it yourself or via some hired gun.

No wonder people are moving to all-cell technology or a combined model with cell tech to a local box that then mimics a landline inside the house. I know of a number of these and they work well: in all cases the telecomms company simply said it was cheaper than re-routing an old copper line or extending off an existing one to a new house – or fixing the old one. I’m guessing that those are not options for me because the line was torn up by a digger last year and was fixed in place by Chorus with no suggestion of setting up a new cell-box system.

Perhaps the same thinking applies here but in terms of just not wanting to do the job and putting a cost on it that the customer will refuse?

Still, it’s a good example of the challenges faced by businesses in this nation when even a simple job like this is converted into such an expensive “project”. One could argue that it’s just capitalism at work, in that it forces you to explore alternatives like cell-tech. But I can’t help thinking that this is just another of those false choices forced on a marketplace; if there were a plethora of Chorus competitors and rules around buggering with the cables – you assuming the risk in other words – would we see excessive cost bullshit like this?

Written by Tom Hunter

June 6, 2022 at 1:22 pm

Changing messages on China

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A couple of years ago on this blog one commentator complained about my “tiresome China bashing”, the implication being that, as with so many other things, I was not in the middle of the crowd on this issue and needed to get with the program.

Part of this was the argument that Trump’s approach to China had been an aberration and that things would return to the Clinton-Bush-Obama normality of ever-increasing trade between the USA and China, together with ever more involvement of China in the USA across many spheres.

It turns out that it wasn’t just Trump: he was merely one of the first to raise the issue. Since Biden’s election it’s become apparent that the anti-China brigade is bi-partisan between Democrats and the GOP and although not well organised, exists in greater numbers than previously believed.

And it would appear that the feeling is spreading fast in, of all places, Hollywood, with the release of the movie Top Gun: Maverick, Tom Cruise’s sequel to the massive and iconic 80’s hit movie.

In a 2021 post, Hollywood’s ugly cost of catering to China, I noted a story that had been running since a 2019 trailer for Top Gun: Maverick had shown the Japanese and Taiwanese flags being pulled from Cruise’s 1986 fight jacket so as not to offend the valuable Chinese market. The movie was then held up for two years because of the ongoing pandemic, with Cruise in particular insisting to the production company Paramount, that it not be released to streaming as some other big movies had been.

My, but things have changed in just two years. Apparently the Taiwanese audiences were cheering when they saw this.

That also means this was edited late in post-production, which is not a cheap process even in the era of CGI, and certainly not something you do on a whim. The producers, Paramount, are sending a message:

To the joy of Taiwanese audiences hitting the theaters this week, Top Gun: Maverick features a prominent shot of the Japanese and Taiwanese flags—national symbols that were scrubbed from a 2019 trailer.

The flags were initially replaced by random symbols, drawing sharp criticism as an example of Hollywood caving in to China’s political demands. But in a rare U-turn, which has yet to be explained, they have reappeared in the film’s worldwide release.

“It is unprecedented,” Ho Siu Bun, a film critic in Hong Kong, told VICE World News. “Major film studios have never been shy about pandering to the Chinese market. And even if it is a simple scene, editing is very costly. So no one knows why they changed it back.”

The message was received according to the Wall Street Journal, with no less a reaction than the huge Chinese tech and gaming company Tencent, whose involvement had been an agreement that Paramount had boasted about during production in 2018.

The reason: Tencent executives backed out of the $170 million Paramount Pictures production after they grew concerned that Communist Party officials in Beijing would be angry about the company’s affiliation with a movie celebrating the American military, according to people familiar with the matter.

Association with a pro-American story grew radioactive as relations between the U.S. and China devolved, the people added. The about-face turned “Top Gun: Maverick” from a movie that once symbolized deepening ties between China and Hollywood into a fresh example of the broader tensions forming between the U.S. and China.

Excellent news. Aside from anything else, recent Hollywood blockbusters have bombed in China despite all the groveling and Tencent has lost out on a movie that has already grossed $US 150 million domestically on Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start to summer and the blockbuster movie season. It promises to do huge business in the coming weeks and is already Cruise’s biggest opening weekend in his career.

Sure, you can say that it’s just a movie, but given the way Hollywood so relentlessly followed other American businesses in kowtowing to China, and given the cultural impact and money involved this is perhaps the biggest public signpost to date of changing Western approaches to The Heavenly Kingdom.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 30, 2022 at 6:08 pm

Radical Emptiness

with 8 comments

I must admit that I was bracing myself this Monday morning at the prospect of Labour’s latest plans for tackling AGW, given all the talk about dairy farmers being forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars per year for our terrible Green House Gas (GHG) emission sins!

I was therefore immensely pleased to read this in Kiwiblog on Tuesday morning:

Stuff took the time to tally up these 284 listed actions and classify them.

Over half (158) are not really plans at all, but are plans to make a plan down the road, or to scope the scale of a possible policy, or develop an evidence base to build a policy on.

Excellent. NZ Labour strikes again. Plans and more plans amounting to nothing, although unfortunately a lot of money will be pissed up against various walls. It’s reached a sad stage in government when the best you can hope for is that the ideological fanatics you oppose turn out to be incompetent morons who couldn’t find their assholes with a mirror and a magnifying glass.

Still, let us be grateful for small mercies and the fact that for all the bloviating about the Climate Crisis, Labour have figured out that to really reduce emissions as far and as fast as they want would mean doing things that would be … harsh. This was explored from a US perspective in this article from 2019 where the writer lays out the reality of “getting serious” about reducing GHG emissions by imagining what a True Believer President (Democrat naturally) would have to do:

Inslee had launched his campaign two years earlier as a longshot, single-issue candidate. But events rapidly outpaced what had begun as a boutique candidacy intended to call attention to climate change.

As his first act as president, Inslee declared a national climate emergency. As his second, he announced national carbon rationing. Until further notice, consumers were limited to one tank of gas per month. Based on time of year and regional climates, natural gas and heating oil deliveries to households were cut by as much as 60%. Utilities were directed to submit plans within the month to cut total electricity generation by 40% and to optimize their existing generation mix to use as little fossil generation as possible.

In this imaginary scenario Inslee wins because Mother Nature delivers droughts, storms, tornadoes and hurricanes that perfectly fit his campaign. Congress follows Inslee (a real politician btw) and:

  • Nationalises the entire US electricity industry (the massive TVA and BPA are already public).
  • Creates a National Renewable Energy Corporation to produce enough wind turbines and solar panels to produce 60% of the nation’s electric power by 2030.
  • Creates the National Nuclear Energy Corporation, which takes over all private nuclear businesses build 200 single-design reactors in a decade to handle the other 40% of power needs.
  • Nationalises the Big Three US automakers to retool all their factories in three years to make EV’s.

While it’s imaginary the writer compares this to what is actually being proposed or being done to show how moderate even the calls of most US greens are.

As many environmentalists and even elected Democrats have come to believe that serious climate disruption is already upon us, it has become fashionable to call for a World War II-style mobilization to fight climate change. But virtually no one will actually call for any of the sorts of activities that the United States undertook during the war mobilization—rationing food and fuels, seizing property, nationalizing factories or industries, or suspending democratic liberties.

In other words even the zealots are full of it, and, although they probably are genuinely alarmed, don’t actually see climate change as the immediate and existential threat they publicly say it is. The article is lengthy and goes into some detail about the post-war history of the US Left in five sections:

  • The Libertarian Left.
  • From Public Goods to Market Failure.
  • Communitarian Capitalism.
  • Tilting with Windmills.
  • Our Divided Neoliberal House.

All of which has led them into a position where they can’t go for the imaginary ideas of a President Inslee. Thankfully, because it would likely be a catastrophe. If you think that’s OTT I suggest you look at what’s happening in Sri Lanka as a direct result of an ideological, scientifically ignorant decision by it’s (former) President to ban agrochemicals for farming. Which led to this:

Within six months of the ban, rice production in the country—a once very sufficient industry—dropped 20 percent, forcing Sri Lanka to import $450 million of rice to meet supply needs and surging rice prices rose nearly 50 percent.

Now, Sri Lanka will pay farmers across the country 40,000 million rupees ($200 million) to compensate for their barren harvests and crop failures. In addition to the funding, the Sri Lankan government will pay $149 million in price subsidies to rice farmers impacted by the loss.

Which then led to this:

Sri Lanka is on the brink of bankruptcy and has suspended payments on its foreign loans. Its economic miseries have brought on a political crisis, with the government facing a protests and a no-confidence motion in Parliament.

The reserves declined to $3.1 billion by the end of 2021, and to $1.9 billion by the end of March, he said. With foreign currency in short supply thanks to less tourism and other revenues, official reserves were tapped to pay for importing essentials including fuel, gas, coal and medicines beginning in August 2021.

Which has led to this, with only enough petrol to last one more day.

I note that the NZ Feckless covered this story a couple of days ago and in the story I read did not once mention the organic farming decision that led to all this. Stuff talks only of Chinese infrastructure projects and debts. Dishonest assholes.

Adam Smith once said, in reply to a student’s concerns about Britain being ruined by the loss of the American colonies, that “There is a great deal of ruin in a nation”. Sri Lanka is about to test the limits of that – and don’t for one moment think it couldn’t happen here if we had equally fanatical environmental decisions made along the lines of “President Inslee”.