TOP Topped

Dec. 18th, 2016 12:30 pm
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Rodney Hide, former leader of ACT, nicely skewers Gareth Morgan, leader of recently launched TOP...

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11766693

TOP's greatest liability is probably Morgan himself, as he doesn't seem to have a clue about how he comes across.
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These are some wonderful maps of the US made from people's daily commutes...

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=info%3Adoi/10.1371/journal.pone.0166083

It's a reasonable assumption you care about where you live AND where you work, so these are probably a better indication of population demographics than just where people live, which is usually all a census asks. (If I remember correctly.)
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The guy's not very impressed...

http://sciblogs.co.nz/the-dismal-science/2016/12/06/keys-legacy-economists-view/

"It has been eight largely wasted years – building on at least the previous nine largely wasted years – in which none of the big structural economic challenges New Zealand faced has been even seriously addressed."

There's an interesting graph there showing "Real GDP per hour worked", with NZ flat-lining by that measure when Key's government took office while Australia continued to improve. Tax-cuts were partly what got National into office, so maybe they worked against productivity.

Key I think was mostly just unlucky. The GFC began to bite just as he took office and then the Christchurch earthquake happened in his first term too. Not a good time to make large course corrections.
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With NZ's prime minister John Key resigning because his tank is empty, there's now a leadership challenge underway for his job as leader of the National Party. There's three contenders so far, and these are short interviews with each of them...

Judith Collins: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201826665/judith-collins-why-i-want-to-be-pm

Bill English: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201826666/bill-english-puts-bid-in-to-be-nz's-next-pm

Jonathan Coleman: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/201826667/health-minister-jonathan-coleman-throws-hat-in-ring-for-pm's-job

As NZ's electoral system is MMP and the National Party is two seats short of a majority, they will need the support of at least two parties given the other parties in the house, and preferably more. You can see the current makeup of the parliament in the right panel here...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Zealand_Parliament

National's current support is ACT (1), United Future (1) and Maori (2).

Of those, United Future will support them for sure, as their policy is to support the party with the most seats. ACT, (which stands for the Association of Concerned Taxpayers), are a right-wing party, while the Maori Party could be considered center-right. (They hold two of the seven Maori seats, Labour holding the other five.)

So, depending on who the new National leader is and how they're perceived, ACT or the Maori Party may not support them. Which would leave them with a razor-edged majority of one to two seats. However, of the current opposition parties, the New Zealand First Party (with 12 seats) might be able to be encouraged to support them, which would give them a very stable majority.

NZ is due for an election near the end of next year, but it's possible National would prefer an early election, in which case they'd probably be happy with just a one-seat majority, the better to engineer a good reason to call a snap election.

One reason for National to do this is the formation of The Opportunities Party: http://www.top.org.nz/ They apparently were planning to release their first policy tomorrow, which if they do probably won't make as big a splash now as they might be hoping. More worrying for them though would be the thought they may only have a month or three to set up their party before the next election, as apposed to about a year.

Finally, there's the possibility a faction in the National Party may perceive TOP a better fit for them as a coalition party than any of the other current parties, in which case giving them as much time as possible before the election would be the sensible thing to do.

Next year is shaping up as an interesting year politically for NZ!

A day later: Top did release their first policy today. It's on taxation reform: http://www.top.org.nz/top1
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One of the more interesting statistics to come out of the US election...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/11/22/donald-trump-lost-most-of-the-american-economy-in-this-election/

"The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America's economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country's economic activity last year."
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'tis lovely...

https://www.catarse.me/mola2

There's English descriptions to be found there, including in the video. And it's already passed its (Brazilian) crowdfunding minimum.
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There's been a major earthquake in NZ. Live updates can be monitored here...

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/318002/live-tsunami-threat-after-earthquake-rocks-country

The earthquakes are recorded here...

http://www.geonet.org.nz/quakes/felt

Radio NZ audio can be listened to here...

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/live/national

No reports of injuries yet.
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From here...

http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/4/13518016/smoking-damage-cancer-risk-dna-cell-mutations

"They found that for every 50 cigarettes smoked, there is one extra DNA mutation for each cell in the lungs. Over the course of a year, this means that someone who smokes a pack a day (20 cigarettes) has 150 extra mutations per cell in the lung, 97 per larynx cell, 23 per mouth cell, 18 per bladder cell, and six per liver cell."

And: "The good news for smokers, though, is that it’s never too late to quit. Although smoking causes regular DNA mutations, as soon as people give up cigarettes, the mutations stop, too. One UK study from 2004 found that those who quit smoking at age 30 nearly eliminate the risk of dying prematurely, while those who quit at 50 halve it."
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The woman Evan McMullin says is his running mate for Vice President, Mindy Finn, isn't shown as his running mate on ballot papers. Instead, someone called Nathan Johnson is...

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/election/article112594568.html

McMullin's reasoning for this makes sense - that his rush to enter the race hadn't given him time to sound out potential running mates. It's still laughable though, like American democracy in general and this election in particular.

More head-scratching from an alien's POV...

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/10/31/politics/changing-early-vote-cast/index.html
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A new political party was launched in New Zealand today, called The Opportunities Party. It's been founded by Gareth Morgan, who's very well known in NZ for his economic opinions and such.

No policies have been announced yet, but it's a good bet a basic income and a flat tax will be one of them, given Morgan was one of the writers of "The Big Kahuna", which you can read about here...

It's early days yet, but I suspect the party will gain enough traction to get the 5% or more needed to get into parliament. This seems a reasonable assumption, given 25% of Switzerland's voters gave a yes to a basic income in their referendum. It's become a popular idea globally in the last few years. Couple that with both NZ's Greens and Labour parties liking the idea, (despite Labour rejecting it as a policy), and it's just possible it might be tried in NZ.

Here's Gareth Morgan announcing the party...
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It's suddenly possible that Evan McMullin could win Utah...

http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-evan-mcmullin-utah-20161027-story.html

If that happens and it's otherwise a close race between Trump and Clinton, it could be the House of Representatives who choose the next President. That would be a fitting end for such a train-crash of an election, but I can't imagine who they'd choose out of the three! One thing about McMullin is he seems pretty squeaky-clean compared to the other two, (or you or me, for that matter), so perhaps that'd count in his favour. And you suspect a reasoned argument would work with him, unlike with Trump. Which might be enough to counter his and his running-mate's newbie status and, one assumes, the low percentage he'll get of the popular vote.

This scenario seems a more savory result than a Trump victory.

Oh, yes...

Oct. 26th, 2016 08:00 am
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I just remembered this old post of mine...

I wasn't wrong, was I?
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"Still, it taught me that being a man making video games is like a woman doing anything -- you can give the world nothing but a free supply of objective awesomeness, and you'll still have crusaders hellbent on destroying you."

That's from this nice, sober and thoughtful article to be found here...

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-things-you-learn-when-making-modern-video-game/

Well worth the read.
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A wonderful twitter feed is bitcraft lab, it focusing on generative designs. And trying to figure out where it comes from leads you to http://bitcraftlab.com/ which takes you here...

http://www.k2g2.org/blog:bit.craft

So, the twitter feed's generated by someone interested in the "convergence of craft and computation", with a focus on knitting. That site doesn't seem to have been updated since 2013, but the twitter feed is active, so worth keeping an eye on.
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"The international SETI community has established a 0 to 10 scale for quantifying detections of phenomena that may indicate the existence of advanced life beyond the Earth called the Rio
Scale. The BSRC team assesses the Borra-Trottier result to currently be a 0 or (None/Insignificant) on this scale. If the signal were to be confirmed with another independent telescope, its significance would rise, though an exhaustive analysis of other possible explanations, including instrumental phenomena, must be performed before supporting the hypothesis that artificially generated pulses are responsible for the claimed signal."

From here: https://seti.berkeley.edu/bl_sdss_seti_2016.pdf

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