8th August 2006
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..
PM: 1 person died in Israeli air raid on village of Houla, lowering
death toll from 40...
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
Of course Riverbend
on 5th August 2006 reminds us that Iraq is degenerating further.
However I see hope:
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
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
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
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
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
Poor Mr Samuel, an acknowledged genius in the field of
(He started merchant bank Hill Samuel back in the Eighties). He
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
competition (the Optus nine) went to the ACCC to deal, I would know
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
a commensurate profit. (The less profit he gets, the less I pay for
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
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