Saturday, May 29, 2010

IPDS, or I-Pad Deficiency Syndrome

Call me a 'grump' but I have to re-iterate my suspicion of the state of mind of purchasers of all things mac... in this case the I-Pad. With all the reports of queuing at stores [overnight] so they don't miss out on this supposedly 'magical' product - Steve Jobs' words of course - you have to wonder if they're missing out on something in their lives...

... not to say that my life is perfect, but if a piece of internet communications technology leaves you desperate and drooling, surely there's something wrong with you?!

A :>

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

AWB revisited

Well, it's interesting that the class action of AWB shareholders has finally got to court [see my post from Sept 29 2006], and what is the first revelation?

According to The Australian on Thursday 11th February, AWB has admitted for the first time it knew it was paying 'transport fees' that would end up with Saddam Hussein's regime.... according to court documents released yesterday, AWB says it knew the payments being made to the Jordanian trucking company, Alia, were then being forwarded to an Iraqi company, the Iraqi State Company for Water Transport.

In a further stunning revelation [according to The Australian 12th Feb] "AWB executives were untroubled by the idea they were funnelling money to Saddam Hussein's regime, and the company showed a "lack of internal reflection and soul-searching" about its business dealings with the Iraqi government"

On the second day of his opening address, on behalf of a shareholder class action against AWB, John Sheahan SC told the Federal Court in Sydney yesterday it was remarkable how executives from the Australian company would "blandly" discuss deliberately disguising payments to Jordanian trucking company Alia as business transactions.

Not only does this clearly imply deceptive conduct and unconscionable behaviour on behalf of the AWB, but it also implies complete incompetence or deception on a massive scale by the then Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, who of course denied any knowledge of this at the time. What an appalling legacy for both him and the Howard Government!


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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Macs and more...

One thing that never fails to amaze me is the almost religious fervour with which mac aficionados seem to greet the latest product announcement from Apple's Steve Jobs [in this case, the I-Pad].

You'd think that every new product they release is going to save the world, rather than make the 'big A' a tidy profit.

Interestingly, even before Apple began to release their range of super consumer-oriented products [I-Phone, I-Pod etc], Mac computer followers were always devotional in the way they greeted any new mac computer release... and it was always taken for granted that Mac software was way superior to that of Microsoft.

Although not swept away by this mystical belief, it suited me [because I was going to use them for design purposes] to get a couple of macs to complement my PC in the office. And from a software perspective, the mac had a couple of nice touches, but there was simply nothing miraculous about the mac's software - in fact I found each system [Mac OS and Windows OS] to have advantages and disadvantages.

One thing that soon bothered me with Mac [unlike Windows] is that when Apple produced a revised operating system [which they tend to do every couple of years] they force you to buy that new version, because you suddenly find that most of your old software no longer works - unlike Windows.

And yet, it's still taken almost as a given with these Mac purists that Apple can do no wrong. You almost have to wonder if these people have something missing in their lives, that they have to worship this company as the harbinger of all that is good in this world!

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ETS a tax?

Well, a day into the new Liberal leadership and the predictable scare campaign starts: "the ETS is nothing more than new a tax!"
Well of course it's a tax, you dipshits - it's a tax on big polluters who otherwise wouldn't be forced to pay for the costs they impose on the environment [and others] in the search of profit!

The environment is a 'public good' - ie one which is freely available to all and which is not charged to users. But big polluters impose a big cost on the the environment [& us all] so an ETS - or a carbon tax, for that matter - work to impose a cost on them, so that they will no longer be able to make as much money by causing damage to the environment - ie they will have to bear some cost for the damage they cause, causing them to pollute less!

So Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce, to the extent that it will force them to consider the cost of polluting in their business decisions, yes it is a tax, and that is not a bad thing!


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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Of backflips, and conservative perversion

The Liberal Party's repudiation of their previous agreement to pass the Federal Government's ETS scheme is [apart from being treacherous in terms of breaking a negotiated settlement] both perverse and cycnical.

Perverse, because this deal - while possibly too generous to big polluters - was probably the best scheme that big business could ever hope for, and cynical because, to satisfy a core conservative constituency [ie the Liberal heartland] in the short term, they are dealing a blow to Australia's and the Liberal's long-term interests.

And the irony is that the Labour Govt's ETS is not that much different from John Howard's ETS policy at the 2007 election. As George Megalogenis writes in today's Australian, "no mainstream political party has ever obstructed the government on an issue that it itself had promised at the ballot box... no party has ever tried to double-cross the electorate in this way before".

The Liberal backflip is a perverse reaction, to keep conservatives and grumpy old men happy. They don't deserve to win an election for a long time, and certainly not under Tony Abbott.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Police goings-on in Queensland

Every now and then, I read an opinion which reflects my own, and which I couldn't write any better myself. This is a comment by Tony Koch, from The Australian newspaper from [today] Thursday 19th November, reproduced in full:

Anyone who doubts that two- speed justice exists in Queensland need only consider the much delayed Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation into the death in custody of Palm Island man Mulrunji Doomadgee.

On October 30, 2006, former Beattie government minister Merri Rose met her former press secretary in the Brisbane City mall and asked him to deliver a threat to premier Peter Beattie that certain allegedly embarrassing information would be made public if she was not given a plum job.

The message was relayed, the Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman, Bob Needham, was informed the same day and an investigation began. On November 9, 2006, Rose was charged with extortion -- to which she pleaded guilty and was jailed.

So it took the CMC -- the state's anti-corruption watchdog organisation -- 10 days to receive the complaint, complete the investigation and lay charges.

Compare that response with the case of Doomadgee, who was arrested on Palm Island on November 19, 2004, for disorderly conduct. He had sworn at a police liaison officer in a back street. Less than an hour later, he was dead in a cell, having sustained horrific injuries including four broken ribs and with his liver cleaved in two.

The appallingly inadequate investigation by police into the death in custody spoke volumes about the Queensland Police Service's lack of professionalism. It was so demonstrably woeful that the CMC undertook an inquiry into the investigation. But five years have elapsed since the death of the Aboriginal man and that inquiry has not been finalised.

The revelation that the parliamentary officer with the statutory responsibility to oversee CMC investigations and refer any official complaints he receives to that committee is to leave his position and act for the Queensland Police Service at the second inquest into Mulrunji's death is another incredible event in this sad saga.

Alan MacSporran SC yesterday said he had not received any formal complaint about the time taken for the CMC investigation so had not seen any need to take any action.

They are weasel words as there has been trenchant criticism in all media, but particularly The Australian, for more than two years about the delays.

The failure to gain closure on Doomadgee's death is attributable to the complete absence of political leadership -- particularly that of former police minister (and former Aboriginal affairs minister) Judy Spence, who had ministerial responsibility for most of the period since the death.

She applauded the quick justice meted out to the Palm Islanders who rioted a week after Doomadgee's death and burned police buildings. But she went missing when it came to standing up for Aboriginal people when it was clear to all that police had acted inappropriately time and again.

The long-awaited CMC investigation has open to it only two possible findings with regard to the police investigation into the violent death in custody of Doomadgee.

They are that the police were involved in a shameless cover-up, or that these senior officers were grossly inefficient.

Your call, Mr Needham" [Tony Koch]

I couldn't have written it better myself!


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Iranian bastardry

While I have great respect for Iranian repudiation of many Western values - Iran after all [being successor to the ancient empire of Persia] has a long and rich history - I find it hard to justify the announcement that five people arrested in the unrest after Iran's disputed presidential election have been condemned to death.

The demonstrations that followed the rigged election were an expression of the peoples' will, pure and simple. Why shouldn't the people be able to express themselves? Because some corrupt theocratic regime threatens so? It is appalling, and the sooner the corrupt leadership of Iran is sent packing, the better.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drinking water - in SA just wash it down the plughole!

Just following up my previous post ... I got a shock this weekend, when a friend advised me that water usage is basically free in Adelaide, so there is absolutely no dis-incentive for people to use as much water as they want.

Apparently there is a $300-$400 annual connection [or 'service'] fee for most users, but the cost of the actual water you use is only a token monthly amount on top of that - for most people not much more than a further $12-$15 per month - even for very heavy users!

This is the complete opposite of 'user pays' and means there is very little reason not to waste water in South Australia - Australia's driest state - and absolutely no reason for Adelaidians not to waste thousands of litres of drinking water in a domestic swimming pool.

There are two reasons why people who use drinking water to fill their swimming pools should have to pay more for the privilege:
1.The sad reality of resource allocation is that the only way people value something [in this case, water] is if it has a price.
2. Under the current system, non-users are effectively subsidising the [usually wealthy] pool owners.

I believe there are both efficiency and 'social justice' reasons why swimming pool owners should pay more.

So what am I advocating? A sliding scale of charging for water, where in effect, moderate water users get charged moderately, but that the per litre price increases dramatically as your usage increases, and that hopefully the level where the dis-proportionately higher charges cuts in should be around about the usage level of most pool owners.

"But that means we'll end up paying a lot more for filling our pool!" I hear those pool owners complain! "Yes, precisely" is my answer. If you insist on wasting pristine drinking water by the thousands of litres, why not expect to pay more? There is no question in my mind that you should.

How did we get the ludicrous situation where water users in Australia's driest state pay virtually nothing for the water they use? In the absence of rigorous research, there are two fairly obvious reasons:

Firstly, water pricing policies are a hold-over from the 'good old days', when the supply of fresh drinking water was almost limitless. Pricing would therefore reflect the cost of what was once a highly abundant resource [ie the marginal cost of an extra litre of water was pretty much $0]. Now we live in a completely different [scarce water] environment.

Secondly, there may also have been some social equality argument to the model we have inherited: everyone should have equal access to what was seen as a 'common right'. This would apply to most utilities - power, water etc.

No longer - with respect to water usage, 'user pays', and on a sliding upward scale, is the only solution to our current climate, and the sooner this is implemented in South Australia, the better.

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