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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Little Princess Effect

Twin brothers marry twin sisters.  One of the sisters is a little princess.  She wants it all and she wants it now so they go out and buy everything that bumps and squeaks for their new home.

The other sister says, no.  We will sit on apple boxes and eat off our knees until we have money for a table, then chairs and on and on for all of their house hold appliances and furniture.

Now flash forward 5 years.  Both couples have the same furnishings although the furnishing of the little princess and her husband are a little older and a little more worn.  The main difference is that the little princess and her husband are still paying off their furnishing with interest while Frugal Wife and her husband are  debt free. 

From here on, the frugal couple have all the advantages.  All their salaries are theirs to spend, save, invest or whatever they choose to do with it.

The same principle holds with overseas investments in our business.  It is a little slower if we insist on using our own investment but in the not very long-run we are better off.

An added advantage of the slower approach is that you don't think you have unlimited money and hence waste it on frills.  You are canny with your money and have time to explore the inns and outs of your new business before you commit huge amounts of cash in mistakes.
What have been the results of being little princesses in the past.

We don't do our own banking.  We have had a number of small banks for some time and just recently, the post office started KiwiBank (the tail now wags the dog).  But most of our banking including banking by our government is with Australian banks.  Because we wanted a banking system right away we now loose around a billion dollars every 6 months to Australia.  Imagine what this amount of money staying in a Kiwi bank would do for our economy but we were little princesses.  We wanted it all and we wanted it now.

We don't fish our own waters.  Yes, we have some fishing boats but the main industrial fishing is done by overseas boats.  Recently we had an example of what this results in.  A Korean boat with Indonesian workers was mistreating their workers most abysmally.  The workers asked for asylum in New Zealand and help getting their wages paid.  Later that same boat caught a particularly valuable net of fish and chucked the fish they already had stored in their holds overboard so they would have room for the new fish.  We wanted the fish landed in New Zealand to be cheap so we went for the overseas option, ignoring all the spin offs of doing our own fishing. Now it has been revealed that not all of the fish caught by these foreign boats are even landed in New Zealand.

Note.  A number of times on National Radio it has been estimated by various experts that for every core job, 4 secondary jobs are created. This will apply to all the examples in this blog including fishing.  In fact it is more extreme in the case of fishing.  Just think of the land based infrastructure with their core jobs, needed to repair boats, process fish and so forth.

We don't build our own rail stock.  Despite a BERL report stating that we would need to purchase our rail stock for 38% of the local price, we decided to buy our rail stock overseas.  This rail stock we bought contained asbestos despite the specifications saying that it should be asbestos free and many repairs had to be made including fixing the suspension systems.  Otherwise, at speed the rail cars jumped off the tracks.  Even if the overseas rail stock had been excellent, it would have been a bad decision to buy overseas.  The BERL report didn't even take into consideration the long term benefits, namely the up-skilling of our work force.  With the sophisticated electronics needed in modern rail stock, our work force might have gone on to use the Open source pattens by Tesla to produce the affordable electric car - called, of course, the Kiwi.  Who knows what other spin offs could have occured.

We don't produce all our own baby formula.  We have allowed a Chinese company to gain a foot hold in New Zealand.  There was a big scandal about melamine being added to milk products in China which besmirched our reputation.  We should simply produce the product here in New Zealand and sell it to whomever wants to buy it.

We don't value add our own logs.  China thinks in terms of centuries, we in terms of quarterly reports and single election cycles.  China has given us top dollar for our logs, destroying our milling capacity. China has huge cash reserves from selling goods to America and the rest of the world made by her underpaid work force.  Now China has generously offered to build us a large modern wood milling plant.   We really need to start to think, at least in decades.

We don't bottle our own water.  This really is beyond belief.  We manage the much more complex wine and milk from field to customer.  Surly we can bottle our own water.  It is a license to print money.  And it is about the most cost efficient use of our water.  It takes over 1000 liters of water to produce a liter of milk.  It takes 1.37 liters of water to produce a liter of bottled water.  And in many places the retail price is about the same.  There has been some discussion in New Zealand on putting a price on water.  A price that would be significant for the water bottling industry would cripple our farmers and a price the farmers could survive would be insignificant for the water bottling industry.  All we have to do is to own the bottling companies and tax them as we would any other business.  And..... keep the profits in New Zealand. We took the easy way out and now someone else benefits from the sale of our pure water.

These are just a few of many examples of the Little Princess Effect.  We wanted it all and we wanted it now instead of taking the slower rout with more effort on our part but ending up far better off.  No wonder we don't have the revenue to pay our teachers and medical workers more.  We have thrown away so many jobs, each of which would pay income tax to the exchequer and so much more money flowing through the economy with GST going to the government at each transaction.

We have to start thinking like Frugal Wife.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

My take on terrorism

This is my take on the creation of terrorists; of people capable of the utterly unspeakable events which took place in New Zealand on the 15th of March 2019.  And of what we should do to stop the creation of more terrorists.  Broadly speaking there are three types, two of which are relevant to this conversation.

First there are people who have had their lives disrupted by war and want revenge on the perpetrators.  At least on the face of it, the taking down of the trade centers in New York on 9/11 was such an attack although there remain serious questions about who was actually behind this attack.

The second type are what we characterize as alt-right terrorists.  These are often white supremacists who think that they are justified in going into a mosque and shooting people at prayer.  The atrocity in New Zealand was such an attack.

A third type is a lonely student, bullied by his class mates who shoots up his school. This type is not relevant to this discussion.

 Imagine yourself in a country that has been attacked by a powerful country for no better reason than they want your resources and want to provide business for their arms manufacturing industry. Co religionist countries around you have also been attacked and exploited for their resources. This powerful country assassinates people extra-judicially in your country and in near by countries by flying drones overhead, killing whomever they want to.  Worse still they have no thought about the so called collateral damage (others killed at the same time). They kidnap people and send them to be tortured, often for no better reason that some jealous person said they were a terrorist. They practice a whole series of steps to create regime change in other countries* up to and including sending in their army and then have the utter hypocrisy to  complain when someone even tries to influence their elections.  What would be your attitude to this country.  What would you do.

*Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.  Stone and Kuznic - The Untold History of the United States of America

The second type is the white supremacists, they are greatly encouraged and made to feel justified by the actions of that same powerful country that continually foments unjust wars and kills people, usually brown,  in other countries.  This powerful country also behave toward large parts of their own population as if they are inferior.    This gives the white supremacist  nutters tacit encouragement and approval to commit acts such as occurred in New Zealand.  I hope it is clear to you which country we are talking about.

There is yet another motivation for white supremacists.  Recently we have had huge tranches of people migrating all over the world.  A large proportion of these are from countries that America has stirred up with her never ending wars.  The refugees don't want to be in our countries.  They would much rather stay at home and live  a peaceful existence.  Their home countries have been made uninhabitable and they have been given no choice but to immigrate.

A disproportionate percent of these immigrants are young men.  In Rotherham in Northern England, in  Germany and in Sweden to name a few locations, a rape culture has developed.  Just having a huge influx of single men into a society is already a formula for unrest amongst the indigenous population exacerbated, possibility, by a different "dress culture" which makes these young men think the local women are fair game.  Whatever the reason, having a group of men, easily identified as 'others' raping your women is a power keg waiting to be ignited.  Most of the population does not resort to acts of terror but there is a huge ground swell against immigration in countries that have accepted massive numbers of these displaced people.

Perhaps our anger should be directed to the creators of terrorists, rather than the terrs, themselves.

It sheets back to America causing refugees to leave their own country and seek refuge in the West.

So the question is, what to do about it. Are we going to be reactive or proactive. Clearly the answer is both but I feel that the proactive part has almost been ignored.  Can we do anything to stop the creation of terrorists of both types before it is too late. I believe we can but it is will be  hard and will require speaking speaking truth to power.

We can't go physically against the powerful country and besides even if we could, we would be adding to the same problem of violence we are trying to ameliorate. No, what we have to do is to be a voice against this continual war mongering when we see it building up and before it turns into a hot conflict.  Our main weapon is our news and current affairs capacity, publicized through podcasts and youtube. 

We decry the showing of extreemist content on social media but social media which spreads podcasts and youtube items is just a tool.  Let's use it to our advantage.

Here in New Zealand we punch above our weight and have a considerable reputation for fairness.  In part this was earned by our stand against atomic weapons and atomic powered military ships in our waters.  We took-on the same world power that is warring against the brown people of the world despite the economic hardship that it caused us. We are also known as the first country that gave suffrage to women.

At this time we have gained huge credibility by the actions and words of Jacinda following this abysmal senseless act of terrorism on our soil.

At present (March 2019) we see this powerful country up to the same old same old tricks.  In case you think this is something new under Trump, read this. The USA has done this to almost every Latin American country in Central and South America and is now doing it to Venezuela.  She has also done this in many other countries around the world and I understand that she operates a "school" where she teaches locals from other countries how to overthrow their governments.

At present  she is also  carrying out a ghastly war in Yemen through her surrogate Saudi Arabia, creating  markets for her arms without any risk to her army.

America has put sanctions on Venezuela to stop anyone trading with her and  frozen her monetary assets in American banks.  Venezuela can not buy food and medicine overseas and the Americans are using the suffering that America itself has caused to stir up a population that doesn't realize what the source of their suffering is.

To add insult to injury the USA sent food aid to the border of Venezuela to make the administration either look incompetent (if she accepted the food aid) or evil (if she  refused to allow the aid in). In the past, America has used false flag operations again and again and this is just another variation on the theme.

What we need from our media is in depth articles on the history of such actions by America and how she is operating at present in Venezuela to try to head off yet another terrorist-creating, refugee-creating atrocity. Because of the way international media operates today, articles that are pod cast and are on youtube  are likely to reach the widest audiences through social media.  Shine light on what America is doing.  Their sort of crime withers under light.  A series of articles, building up from the history of such actions to the present day will have the greatest impact. A series like this builds an audience from item to item as it becomes popular.

In the aftermath of the killings in a New Zealand mosque, we are up in arms about the social media not taking down the video of the shooting more quickly.  Fair enough.  But the social media is just a tool.  Let's use it for good rather than evil.

Our National Radio is the tool we should be using.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Flooding

It would appear that we are going to have ever increasing flooding on into the future.  On land, rain is coming in more extreme bursts and, as warm air can hold more moisture than cold air,  in many locations there will be more total rain.

On the sea shore, the sea is rising and storms are becoming more intense so higher storm surges will be added to an ever higher sea level.  Areas that were never flooded before will be..

In addition we are seeing a further effect of climate change.  Weather systems are sometimes getting stalled over certain geographical areas instead of continually moving around the globe.  If this is a 'ridge' you are likely to have prolonged drought.  If it is a 'trough', you are likely to have prolonged rain.  We saw this in Townsville in Australia (beginning of Feb, 2019) where they had almost 400mm of rain on each of 4 consecutive days.  I can't even imagine that much rain.

So what are we to do.  We can build up levees to hold rivers in their beds and build walls to keep out the sea but just look at the cost.  And with an ever increasing problem, any such solution will be overcome in the future.  There is a far better and less expensive solution.

In areas that get flooded, the insurance companies should be held to account by the government and forced to honor their commitments.  We saw in the Christchurch earthquake how reluctant insurance companies are to pay up and how they delay any way they can.  In addition to the insurance the government should top up the pot so that the victims are generously compensated but that is it.  The area is then zoned as un-insurable.  The people can stay if they want but they have had their one time pay out.  If they get flooded again, (and if it happened once, it will only be worse in some future event), they are on their own.  They had the option to take the money and move to higher ground.  If they didn't take it, too bad.

Of course, any area that is flood prone but hasn't yet been built on (if there are any such) should be declared un-insurable for floods and no buildings ever allowed on them.

This is a far less expensive option than trying to hold back the floods and the tide.

Better still, the expense is spread over time rather then local and fedral authorities having to come up with huge tranches of money to do major civil engineering works that will be obsolete sooner rather than later.

So what about the land that remains empty.  If it is on a river flood plain (where we never should have built in the first place), it can be used for agriculture, turned into a park or left to regenerate native vegetation.  Incidentally, allowing a river to spread over it's flood plain, reduced the height of the flood downstream and so protects other properties.  This is even more effective if the area is well vegetated with shrubs and trees.

Alternately, shore areas can become nature reserves. Sea shore areas, if vegetated, will tend to collect silt and build up over time, aiding in the defense of landward properties.  On the sea shore, salt tolerant plants can be introduced.  They hold the soil, reduce wave damage and moderate the force of subsequent storms.  They can become mud flats with all the benefits this brings to the bird life of the area.

It doesn't seem likely that we will take the necessary measures to reduce our carbon output to the atmosphere.  In fact, following a few years of steady output, in 2018 we actually increased Carbon dioxide production once again.  This in spite of more and more renewable energy coming on line and ever increased efficiency in lighting our streets and buildings and powering our machinery.

We are so clever individually but so abysmally stupid in the collective.  Let's at least be sensible in reducing the cost of flooding and spreading it over a longer period.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Nano-Aluminum-New Energy Source

Sorry, but it is complete BS - at least the way it's being presented.  I'm not saying that there is no place for nano-Aluminum in the pantheon of energy systems but not as implied.

I get this investment advice site on the web and they are promoting nano-aluminum as the energy source that will soon be found powering virtually everything in our modern society.  They don't say it in so many words but leave the impression that nano-Aluminum - very small particles of Aluminum, is a catalyst which causes water to disintegrate into it's component parts, Hydrogen and oxygen, and that it does this at room temperature.  Either they are ignorant of the most basic chemistry and physics or they are trying to play the market so that they can make a buck on it's ups and downs.  Let's start by looking at what it would mean if Nano-Aluminum was such a catalyst.

As anyone who has taken first year chemistry in High School or even basic science in year 9 knows, a catalyst does not take part in a reaction.  Rather, it enables a reaction to proceed and quite often at lower temperatures than would be necessary without the catalyst.  In some cases the reaction would not occur at all without the catalyst.  So let's pretend, for a moment, that nano-Aluminum is such a catalyst.  What would bubble off.

You are probably way ahead of me.  We would have bubbles of the perfect stoichiometry* mix of Hydrogen and Oxygen  in the exact proportions to convert back to water with one mother of a bang with the slightest spark. And you certainly wouldn't want to try to compress this mixture into a high pressure tank!!!  Let's look at the claim that this is a source of energy.  Clearly the reaction would be endothermic.  It takes energy to split water and if this reaction took place at room temperature, the reaction vessel would cool down, creating a 'delta T' (temperature difference).  Heat from the environment would move toward the cool reaction vessel and continue the reaction.

*Reagents in proportion so that when they react, none of the reagent is left over. All of it reacts.

Of course you could add heat from, say, solar panels, to speed up the reaction but my investment-advice-web-site is presenting this as a source of energy.  Mind you it would be pretty neat and you would have found a way of absorbing surrounding low level heat energy and converting it into a high energy mix of H and O. 

What the reaction between nano Aluminium and water actually produces , is pure hydrogen which can be used in a fuel cell which  by the by, also work at room temperature. What is actually happening here chemically.

The Aluminum is pulling the oxygen off the water, forming Aluminum oxide and in the aqueous environment of the reaction, probably Aluminum Hydroxide and releasing the Hydrogen.  Nano Aluminum is not a catalyst but a reagent which is taking part in the reaction and is used up.  So let's look at how we got our Nano Aluminium in the first place and particularly how much energy went into the process..

First you ship the Aluminum ore, Bauxite, from where it is mined to somewhere that has abundant electricity.  First energy cost.  Aluminum is a tri-valent element.  That means for every atom of Aluminum released from the Bauxite, three electrons are needed. Second energy cost. It is an electrically hungry process but this is not all.  The process takes place in molten reagents.  You have to heat up the Bauxite and other reagents to 1000 degrees centigrade.  No matter how well insulated your reaction vessel, it looses heat and energy must be constantly added to keep the temperature up. Third energy cost.  Then you have to ship the ingots of Aluminum to where they are turned into nano-Aluminum. Fourth energy cost.  And finally it takes energy to convert a block of Aluminum into nano Aluminum. Fifth Energy cost.  We could add one more.  The energy cost of shipping the nano-aluminium to where it is to be used.


But this is all moot.  In fact, as noted above, the Aluminium is not a catalyst.  If it was a catalyst, all the above energy costs would be worthwhile since the Aluminum would remain for a very long time or perhaps forever without being used up and you would have a continual source of hydrogen (mixed with Oxygen)

The Aluminum pulls the oxygen off the water making Aluminum Oxide (Bauxite basically) which probably converts to Aluminum Hydroxide in the watery environment of the reaction.  The Hydrogen is released.  The hydrogen can then be used in a fuel cell.  You can never get more energy that the amount that actually split the bauxite in the first place and actually there are inefficiencies in this process.  AND....You certainly do not recover the other 5 energy inputs listed above.  So you have used a lot of energy to get a relatively small amount at the location where you want to use the energy.

At the very most, the use of nano-Aluminium is a sort of battery or if you like an energy storage device and not a very efficient one and one at that.  It is not chargeable.  In that sense it is comparable with the old Zinc batteries.  Of course you also need a fuel cell as part of the package in order to produce electricity.  At the most, nano-Aluminium could serve as an emergency source of electricity in a pretty safe and compact form for specialist applications where it is worthwhile to go to the expense of the whole process.    It is not a source of energy but at best an energy storage mechanism which could use wind, hydro or solar to product it in the first place and not very efficiently when you consider the total energy input and the final energy output.

It might, for instance, be used for the military in remote areas.  Getting their fossil fuel to their tanks, trucks and generators is not only expensive but highly dangerous.