8th August 2006
What is "objective analysis"?



At last the traditional media seem to be listening to blogger's criticism and are
questioning Arab journalist's lies.  The following reports from today's Drudge..

Lebanese PM: 1 person died in Israeli air raid on village of Houla, lowering death toll from 40...

Reuters pulls doctored photo...

And today's Australian has published a particularly hard hitting editorial on Hizb'allah.

The Arabs must be feeling the heat, even the Canadians are reviewing their stance.

Of course Riverbend on 5th August 2006 reminds us that Iraq is degenerating further.  However I see hope:
Since the beginning of July, the men in our area have been patrolling the streets. Some of them patrol the rooftops and others sit quietly by the homemade road blocks we have on the major roads leading into the area. You cannot in any way rely on Americans or the government. You can only hope your family and friends will remain alive- not safe, not secure- just alive. Thats good enough.
It is my belief that the only way that peace and good government will come to Iraq is when everyday Iraqis get off their derriers and take responsibility for their own security.  Americans understand this, because they had to go through their own violent revolution.


Perhaps it is not possible to grow a liberal democracy except in a culture that has come to understand that a readiness to take up one's own defense is a prerequisite for liberal democracy.

Following that thought, Waco and Oklahoma & attempted Presidential assassinations are not indications of deep rooted problems with the US psyche, rather they are extremist indicators of a healthy independence and cynicism by the people of their government.  Those countries that do not have such indicators (UK, AU, EU) seem to be drifting towards political apathy and stagnant government.


It does seem that the future health of the human race might lie along this path.  So I find it regrettable that the religious "right" has come out so strongly against research.

Nobody can be more against the killing of another than am I.  For instance I am categorically against capital punishment, but at the same time believe that determination of Capital punishment should be subject to democratic decision by fellow Australians.  I resent the elitist view that such decisions are too important for we, the great unwashed, to make.

However, to my understanding, religious objections to stem cell research seem to depend on defining as murder the harvesting of stem cells at any stage after formation of the zygote.  To me, that is an an arbitrary choice of when life (and presumably the soul) begins.

Consider.  On the one hand, it is a sin to fornicate except after marriage, but is such a definition not murder?  Does it not murder by prevention of the egg's and the sperm's opportunity to become a zygote with a soul?  If that is not murder, then harvesting eggs or sperm is not murder.  So how about if we make a zygote with harvested egg and sperm?   Does (can?) that zygote have a soul?  What if we just remove a few stem cells from that zygote, but leave it alive.  Is that murder?

Fortunately, California seems to have a civilized approach to this matter.  Governor Schwartzennegger has provided the research funds that the federal government had aborted.  Our own federal government seems to be following the Busch play.


I talked about Telstra last year, and gave an outline of the history.

Recap: Back in the last millennium the government sold the first 25% of Telstra at $3.40 (correction 28/8/06).  It also stated that it was committed to destroying the telecom monopoly on the last mile
of copper (aka the "local loop").   Some 3 years later, with Telstra prospering with fawning nuclear scientist/MBA Ziggy as CEO, they got around $7 a share for the next 25%.  PM Howard has always wanted to sell the last 50%, but the opposition did not want to see all those unionist jobs put at risk.   Since then the Telstra Board had sacked the (by then) odoriferous Ziggy, and appointed telecommunications maestro Sol Trujillo from USA.  There was an election, and the Government took control of the Senate.  Sol, however, took his reputation seriously, and refused to talk up the share price so that the Government could get a high price for the last 50% of Telstra.  Under Sol, the price has fallen to $3.80 (from around $5.00).  Sol hassled Samuel from the ACCC (who are charged with stopping business monopoly practices by stopping mergers, fixing prices etc.) to give him exclusive control of the "fiber to the node" (fttn) network he proposed to build at a cost of several billion dollars.  Apparently the ACCC ruled that he couldn't have that control, and countered with an offer of a fixed price giving a guaranteed return for those fttn networks that third parties wanted to lease.  The problem is made complex by government guarantees to remote customers that they will have access to the same broadband as city users.  Sol could see that the third parties would pick all the icing from the cake, leaving his shareholders with the expensive bush telegraph system, which are a high risk/profit ratio investment.

The problem always was, the government's intention to sell Telstra and free up the local loop are antagonistic.  To sell the last 50% of Telstra, the government wants a high share price (like that delivered by Ziggy).  To force a monopoly network to provide regulated access to any bidder would rob Telstra of it's monopoly river of gold, and cause the share price to drop.

Poor Mr Samuel, an acknowledged genius in the field of Finance. (He started merchant bank Hill Samuel back in the Eighties).  He does not really understand telecoms.  The daily papers report that he says that "(Telstra said) the discussions were 98% complete, (now) the ACCC is perplexed that Telstra has now chosen to discontinue".

I cannot speak for Sol, but if I had been in his position, (giving due consideration to the federal government's massive financial interest in the outcome) I would have wanted on the record exactly what was on offer.  Then when the competition (the Optus nine) went to the ACCC to deal, I would know that they could not make a profitable deal.

In fact, Sol has said that if the Optus nine do a deal and install fttn, he will be first on the line to use their fiber to the node on the terms that the ACCC has set.

The problem arose because both the Government and Sol were looking after their own constituencies.  The government has correctly decided to de-monopolize telecommunications, and Sol has correctly put the interests of his shareholders first.  The government wants cheap internet for Australians. (So do I).  Sol does not want to put shareholder funds into a risky venture without the chance of a commensurate profit. (The less profit he gets, the less I pay for broadband.)

The Government made their original big mistake when they appointed Ziggy as CEO.  Ziggy got them a dishonestly high price for the second tranche by paying unsustainable dividends gleaned by not properly maintaining the copper network.

My suggestion (now that the horse has bolted) is that the government sell it's shares to Telstra and purchase the local loop.  It should then sell or give the local loop to local government, or as a last resort, it should ask Macquarie Bank or Telstra to bid for management & maintenance of that monopoly asset

btw, I note that Ziggy has got his reward.  He is chair of the Uranium mining inquiry.  Following his performance at Telstra, I expect him to deliver whatever result our PM wants.  Personally, I would not want to be Ziggy, even for the millions he has been paid.  On the other hand, I admire Sol, and believe he is worth every penny he is paid.

28th August 2006.  In the past few days Prime Minister John Howard has announced the sale of about 17% of Telstra, and the balance (~34%) to go into the "future fund", which is a government instrument set up to provide superannuation for public servants.

Today's editorial in "The Australian" has parallelled my suggestion (3 paragraphs up) that Telstra be divided.  I suspect that Sol has already started building Chinese walls around the regional copper loops, preparatory to reporting to his shareholders just how much the government service obligations are costing them.  That information would no doubt be ready for an annual report that would come out just prior to the next federal election.  I suspect the government has been advised of that strategy, and that it is the cause of the backbench angst we are sensing.  However John Howard has found rabbits in the hat before.  This time I suspect that the rabbit might be an increased service subsidy.

Some commentators are suggesting that fttn will be built by Telstra after this fight is over.  I suspect that Mr Samuel's price structures will have to be discredited first.  As I read it, he tried to take Sol for a ride, by giving high copper rental prices in return for sharing fttn.  Sol wasn't having it, he realized that as soon as the fttn was rolled out, those copper prices would go through the floor.  (That is why the price fell shortly after the fttn deal fell through).  According to Sol, fttn is just not a worthwhile (i.e. cost effective) use of shareholder's funds under the regime proposed by Samuel.

I would like to compliment Donald McGauchie on his choice of CEO.  Anytime he nominates for public office, he has my vote.  Could we get him to team up with Ted Mack on a Presidential/VP ticket?


The ABC carried a broadcast on the fake pharmaceutical trade in Nigeria.  Up to 70% of all drugs sold in Asia are fake.

My suggested solution is that each drug company apply a unique public key encryption to a fragile rfid (radio frequency identification) tag/seal (which would be destroyed by, e.g. opening, or breaking a vacuum etc) in their drug package.  The authenticity of a drug could then be confirmed by placing the drug in a cabinet which would read and confirm or deny a legal RFID tag.  These cabinets would be available in public hospitals etc. for a small fee.

Of course, eventually the counterfeiters would open a drug package without destroying the seal, and start counterfeiting the rfid for that drug.  The fall back position would be to connect to the internet, and to communicate the unique key back to the drug company.  If more than one package has that particular key, then all packages would be fake.