23 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. John Humphreys offers something of a counter point to John Quiggins view that we should rely on government borrowing for public infrastructure. Humphreys concludes;

    The only way to ensure a stable monetary system is either to (1) remove the government’s power to tax; or (2) remove the government’s right to borrow; or (3) allow them only to borrow when the future repayments on the loan do not come from tax revenue.

    Obviously option (3) does leave some room for overlap with the John Quiggins worldview.

    The full argument here:-


  2. DVD Region coding is something that irks me. Most DVDs are sold with region coding and most DVD players enforce this coding. The coding is as follows.

    1 Canada, United States; U.S. territories; Bermuda
    2 Western and Central Europe; Western Asia; Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland; United Kingdom, Turkey, French overseas territories
    3 Southeast Asia; South Korea; Taiwan; Hong Kong
    4 Australia; Oceania; Central and South America; Caribbean; Mexico
    5 Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Africa, Central and South Asia, Mongolia, North Korea.
    6 China, Hong Kong.

    The Wikipedia entry on this topic notes;

    “There are many purposes that region coding can achieve, but a primary one is price discrimination. Price discrimination is the economic principle of demanding a higher price from buyers who are willing to pay more.”

    It further notes;

    “Region code enforcement has been discussed as a possible violation of World Trade Organization free trade agreements or competition law.[6] The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned that DVD players that enforce region coding may violate their Trade Practices Act.[7][8][9] The government of New Zealand is also considering a similar ruling.[10] ”

    Yet, the reality is that our ACCC is toothless as usual. My well known brand DVD player enforces Region Codes unless I tinker with it and void the warranty. I want to purchase and watch foreign DVDs such as the works of Ingmar Bergman and Sergie Bondarchuk and now I encounter this obstacle.

    Big business trumpets on about free trade and then plays these sort of dirty tricks on consumers. Of course, on a case by case basis, business prefers free trade when it suits them and restraint of trade when it suits them. Our regulatory authorities are weak for letting them get away with it.

  3. I ought to have added that the DVDs I wish to purchase are usually coded 1 or 2 for US or Europe and often no code 4 DVDs are produced for these “obscure” foreign directors.

  4. Ikonoclast

    I share your frustration of regional coding, however we found a way around it. Many DVD players now can handle mulit-regional coding. When we last bought a DVD player (not expensive – just at a chain consumer electrical store), we asked about multi-regional players and were told which ones could do it. It was a simple matter of entering a code into the thing when we got it home and presto, we can now play anything.

    I am also told there are internet sites where you can download instructions to make many DVD players able to play multi-regional formats. In the case of our player we only had to push about four buttons to do it. So now we can order anything from Amazon or elsewhere.

  5. Just wanted to comment on a bizarre leaving office speech/interview by George Bush, where he started being apologetic, but in the end defended almost everything, including invading Iraq.

    This line bordered on funny/sad for all the wrong reasons:

    “I wouldn’t worry about popularity. What I would worry about is the constitution of the United States and putting plans in place that make it easier to find out what the enemy is thinking.”

    At first I was annoyed, but then I reflected that with record low popularity now, this attitude will only cement the dissatisfaction of many voters against him. So this speech is a gift for progressive views everywhere, exposing how out of touch and unprincipled the Neo-cons were. If he continues to talk like this, like Howard, it should get Obama relected again in 2012. This line is significant IMO

    “Thank you for giving me a chance to defend a record that I am going to continue to defend because I think it is a good, strong record.”

  6. Regional pricing also occurs with kids electronic games and many other products Ikon, as many a young ebayer finds to their dismay. Presumably those who believe in differential taxing of wealth and income fully support differential pricing in markets depending on income elasticities of demand? Or should such high moral ground only be the preserve of Govts? Does breaking such differential marketing with say drugs and the PBS in Oz, pass on higher prices down the line?

    Of course the private market players do face different cost and legal/administrative structures across jurisdictions. I was reminded of the sublime to the ridiculous they face when reading the label on the front of a 500g packet of roasted peanuts I purchased at the greengrocers which read-
    ‘This product may contain traces of peanuts.’
    Hopefully they weren’t made out of melamine thought I.

  7. John, it seems like some have really lost the plot. For according to Anne Bayefsky in an article published in The New York Daily News
    titled ‘The UN War on Israel’, the UN is anti_Israel and draws up a list of villians which includes: Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967; Karen AbuZayd, Commission-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA); John Ging, UNRWA Director of Operations in Gaza; Maxwell Gaylard, United Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO), Paul Badji and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; Robert Serry, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; and Christine van Nieuwenhuyse, World Food Program Representative in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…..(plus)…..the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator; the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator (OCHA); the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; the Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures; the Executive Director, UN Population Fund (UNFPA); and the Director-General, UNESCO’. Talk about a whole load of bulldust.

  8. Observa, I am essentially annoyed about the inconvenience and extra effort/cost (in relation to the DVD player) that I will be put to in order to watch DVDs by French, Russian and Chinese directors which DVDs are rarely available in region 4 format.

    I am annoyed by the realisation that I have a purchased an inherently good and capable machine (the DVD player) that is deliberately nobbled and less functional than its actual design allows; and that the US movie industry and DVD player manufacturers conspired to bring this about. I am further annoyed by the conspiracy of silence of the manufacturers and retailers in sneakily selling me a nobbled machine.

    I am not concerned about not being able to buy cheap contemporary Hollywood and Bollywood DVDs from Singapore, Senegal, Taipai or where-ever. If I was interested in that rubbish and as dishonest as most Internet users I would be downloading them all for free from the internet.

    The last comment above is a significant point. If corporations play the anti-free trade game they just encourage piracy. Cheap-as-possible easy to access free-market products encorourage people to spend a few dollars to buy the legal product and to avoid poorer quality pirated copies.

  9. Ikonoclast, most every DVD player is able to have the regional coding changed.

    Over the past few years I have bought more DVD players than I care to remember, every time I refused to purchase until the shop assistants showed me how to change the regional coding.

    Some shop assistants refused, so I didn’t buy. Most have a photocopied sheet of the instructions, or will supply the address of a site which reveals how to. Some sites charge (say $50) for this information.

    Mostly, you have to enter a 4-digit code whilst the disc-tray is open, a secret menu of codes appears on the TV screen. You simply scroll through the regions until you get to the one you want.

    Important tip: Do NOT forget the 4-digit code, store it somewhere it can be easily retrieved.

    Most DVD players of the same model are made in the same factory. It is only after manufacture that they are designated to be shipped hither or thither, at which time a factory worker (using the method just described)will then change the regional code to that of the destination country.

  10. Ikonoclast does raise an important point, namely trade restrictions being imposed not only by governments but also corporations. It is not a new phenomenon but one that is not talked about much.

  11. Those people who would like to give feedback regarding the Rudd governments emissions scheme now have their chance.

    According to media reports, the lobbying firm Hawker Britton was heavily involved in the lobbying regarding the scheme, and kindly, Bruce Hawker has put up a page listing his contact details, you can go to it here:


    According to the site, they have also been heavily involved in PPPs. So anyone interested in these topics, or how it might affect them can just log into the site and contact Bruce.

  12. That’s all good advice Steve and I guess I need to remember the common law adage; caveat emptor or “Let the buyer beware”.

    I was a semi-naive purchaser of the DVD player. I made several price and capability comparisons but was not aware of this “regions” nonsense. Does changing the code up front void the warranty as the manufacturers claim is that bluff?

  13. Re Ernestine’s reply at #10. I agree, I think I have raised a valid point. 🙂

    It is one thing for sovereign governments to impose trade restrictions. One could argue that they have a sovereign right do so as well as the “realpolitik” power to do so.

    The imposition of trade restrictions by corporations ought to be effectively proscribed in any free trade agreement. With the advent of computers and electronic goods the scope to implement electronic regional trade restrictions is quite large. This loophole will be abused, is being abused already, and should be closed.

  14. Corporations imposing trade restrictions perhaps has its equal in corporate identities stretching the ‘truth in advertising’ line. I have in mind the current Dick Smith TV ad which opens with “if your old computer is ready for the recycle bin..”

    We know there is no such thing as a ‘recycle bin’ for E waste, that the manufacturers won’t accept back their outdated hardware and that the Federal Government isn’t doing much to make them. Meanwhile toxic waste such as heavy metals, (mercury,cadmium) are going to landfill.

  15. Ikonoclast: Changing the regional coding on a DVD player is just like changing channels on a TV.

    Sometimes I change regional coding several times each day.

    Start googling for “change regional code on DVD player” or something like that. Whatever DVD player you have bought, it is likely to have a master code, the internet will reveal it.

    Mostly I leave the DVD player coded to region “0” (region free) so it will play any DVD. However lots of DVDs are now coded so they MUST be played on a player coded to that region. Thus I must tediously change from “0” to “1” (or whatever) to watch that DVD, & then back to “4” or “0” to watch a home grown Ozzi DVD.

    We are somewhat out of the loop with region 4. Regional coding 1 and 2 contains a wealth of English language stuff which we will be lucky to ever see in region 4.

    Helpfully for avid consumers of the product, “adult” DVDs are usually without a regional coding, thus able to be played on any DVD player in the world. Perhaps no regional pricing in that genre, something for “mainstream” DVD producers & film/TV companies (and us) to ponder on.

  16. John, it seems like Bush junior still cannot accept that many of his government’s so-called ‘past mistakes’ were in fact part and parcel of the Hawks failed ‘government policies’.

  17. John, it seems like not all Israelis agree with what is going on in Gaza just ask any Shministim.

  18. Michael, in a population that size there will always be some dissenters on ANY policy.

    Just as Gaza doubtless has inhabitants who are not in favour of the Hamas policy of poking a Tiger in the tail.

  19. Well after todays latest attack on a UN compound even Ban Kee Moon has sharply criticised Isreal. Anyone still defending them should be asked if there are ANY circumstances under which they would criticise Israel. Terrorist recruiting numbers must be going through the roof all over the Moslem world.

    As for the fact that some in Israel oppose the Gaza action, that is academic while the majority are in favor. The US hardly gets a free pass on its actions under Bush because many didn’t vote for him. The nation still stands condemned.

  20. A quick question: Heathrow airport has just announced plans to add a third runway, how is it that one of the world’s largest airports has been able to operate this long with only two runways when Sydney needed a third runway ages ago?

    Do the British simply use their airports more efficiently?

  21. “Just as Gaza doubtless has inhabitants who are not in favour of the Hamas policy of poking a Tiger in the tail.”

    HAMAS only got ca. 45% of the vote in the Palestinian elections. They only narrowly beat Fatah (ca. 43%) with the rest of the vote going to the Third Way and other parts opposing violence.

    Ahead of the election, Fatah was widely expected to win and many HAMAS voters were registering a protest vote against Fatah corruption and didn’t expect HAMAS to win.

    HAMAS’ majority in the Palestinian assembly was mostly an artifact of the electoral system used.

  22. Ian

    Regarding Heathrow, its number of people vs number of flights. There are only so many slots (of time) in which you can land planes, and in this respect Sydney and Heathrow are already full. But Heathrow only handles all the big long-haul planes with lots of passengers each. London has two other airports – Gatwick and Stansted, to handle the little stuff. Sydney struggles because it tries to do both. The trouble is, therational thing is to move the international termianl further out of Sydney, not the domestic.

  23. John, if I may reply to steve at the pub by saying Guantanamo was not a mistake it was part of government policy.

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