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Jimmy Carter is a kind-hearted and sincere man who, partly because of his own honesty and gentleness, cannot seem to believe in the dishonesty and brutality of others. He is a Christian who does not believe people can be evil. This naivety made him a bad president, and makes him a poor judge of foreign policy and a dangerously incompetent commentator on social issues.

Michael Wiess in the UK Telegraph is right to point out just how destructive some of Carter’s comments and actions have been. But I cannot get distressed at Carter’s reported sending of condolences to Kim Jong Il’s son Kim Jong Un. Jong Il was a vile dictator. We may be glad his reign is over. But his family still suffers grief at his death, and it is right that we condole with them.

Nor can I share in the sentiments expressed by John McCain, for whom I have considerable respect:

“The world is a better place now that Kim Jong Il is no longer in it,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement after the North Korean leader died, reportedly of a heart attack. “For more than six decades, people in North Korea have been consigned to lives of dire poverty and cruel oppression under one of the most totalitarian regimes the world has ever known. I can only express satisfaction that the Dear Leader is joining the likes of Qaddafi, Bin Laden, Hitler, and Stalin in a warm corner of hell.”

I hope not. None of us is worthy of salvation. If Qaddafi and Kim Jong Il don’t deserve to be in heaven, well, no more do I. Jesus came to save them as much as to save me, and if he loved them enough to go to the cross for them, then I cannot rejoice at their deaths, nor hope for damnation for them.

That is not to deny the harm they have done, and the immense suffering they have caused. My prayer for the family of Kim Jong Il is that they will be comforted in their time of sorrow, and that both the sorrow and the comfort will lead to a change of heart, then to changes in policy and eventually to freedom for North Korea.

A few grammatical points.

1. Comprise means ‘is made up of.’ Comprise should not be followed by ‘of.’ Comprise includes the ‘of.’

This is a frequent error in real estate agents’ descriptions of their properties. ‘This house comprises of four bedrooms, three bathrooms … ‘ No it doesn’t. It comprises four bedrooms, three bathrooms, etc. Writing ‘comprises of’ or  ‘comprised of’ makes you look like an idiot.

2. It’s always means ‘it is.’ Always. If you mean its coat, its temperature, etc., you do not need an apostrophe. The possessive pronouns ‘his,’ ‘hers,’ ‘its,’ etc., do not take an apostrophe.

Real estate agents seem to have difficulty with this one too, as do signwriters. ‘It’s bathroom is tiled in blue.’ No it isn’t. What that sentence means is ‘It is bathroom is tiled in blue.’

3. Plurals do not take an apostrophe. I don’t know why this is so difficult to understand. If you want to say there is more than one of something, you do not need an apostrophe. More than one tomato is tomatoes, not tomato’s. More than one CD is CDs, not CD’s.

4. Unique means ‘one of a kind.’ Whatever it is, it cannot be ‘very unique,’ or ‘quite unique.’ It is either one of a kind or not. It is either unique or not. Nothing can be partly unique.

5. To beg the question means to avoid the question, to answer without answering. For example, if Mr Obama was asked ‘Has unemployment risen during your presidency?’ and he answered ‘Our policies are designed to ensure ongoing economic growth,’ he would be begging the question.

If a statement makes you want to ask another question, or leads naturally to a question, that is not ‘begging the question.’ For example, it is not correct to say the statement ‘Black men suffer higher rates of imprisonment than white men,’ begs the question ‘Are the courts biased in their sentencing?’ It might invite the question, or lead to the question. It does not ‘beg the question.’

You could use any one of a dozen expressions to mean that a statement leads naturally to another question. If that is what you mean, use one of them.

What you should not say is, it ‘begs the question.’ It doesn’t. That has a specific meaning, which is to avoid answering a question by giving an answer unrelated to what has been asked. It is a useful expression, and worth preserving.

The best tribute to the despicable and admirable Christopher Hitchens is to read, hear and inwardly digest his words.

This interview taped in 2002 for Uncommon Knowledge is brilliant. Two highly intelligent, eloquent men, with deep knowledge of history, talk about something that is still critically important.

In the war on terror, who are our enemies?

I rarely do product reviews, and even more rarely write anything negative about something we have sold in the shop, but my experience with OKI has really been something special.

We have mostly sold Canon and Epson inkjets, and HP, Brother and Fuji/Xerox laser printers. Occasionally we have had a dud, and when we have had a problem the manufacturers have generally been helpful, replacing failed product or arranging for repairs. Then there is OKI.

I wanted something at a lower price point to offer as a special. Synnex (national IT wholesalers) had the OKI B2520 multi-function printer with an RRP of $299 for sale at $159. You have to add GST and freight to that, but even so, I thought we could sell these at $249, have some happy customers who had got a good deal, and still make a few dollars. So I bought four to see how they would go.

They all sold. But three out of four came back with problems.

First customer back – there are no Windows 7 drivers. Windows 7 has been out for over two years, so this is simply inexcusable for a ‘current’ product. You can get the B2520 MFP to run under Windows 7, but it constantly reports that it needs troubleshooting, and the bundled ‘software suite’ will not run at all. I can put up with the trouble-shooting requests, and I would not have used the suite anyway, so I gave the customer a new Fuji printer and took the OKI home, where it replaced my older but Win 7 compatible, cheap to run and super reliable Sharp MFP.

Next customer, annoyed for two reasons. First, I had sold her the OKI as a budget printer. But the RRP on cartridges is over $250. My reaction to this when I first tried to order some was WTF!? I would not have ordered the printers if I had known this. How can I tell a customer I am selling her a good value printer if the cartridges cost more than the printer, and twice as much as comparable cartridges for Canon or HP printers?

Anyway, I ordered three OKI toner cartridges, and sold one to my client at cost. She was back two days later. The ‘reset card’ that comes with the cartridge had not worked, and having just installed a cartridge that cost her $200, the printer was still telling her she needed to replace the toner. I went to her home and checked. She was right. The card simply would not reset the printer.

Efforts to contact OKI and ask for a replacement card were unsuccessful. The only possible purpose for a ‘reset card’ is to force consumers to buy the exorbitantly priced OKI toner cartridges instead of generics, and to stop people refilling them. Greed, in other words.

So I gave her a Samsung MFP, and found a place in Hong Kong where I could order a replacement reset card for the B2520 for about $30. The OKI went into my office, where it replaced an older, but Win 7 compatible and reliable HP printer.

Third customer. He had the same problem as customer number one – no Win7 drivers – but like me was willing to put up with this as long as the OKI B2520 actually printed.

His wasn’t printing any more. Instead there was a message on the printer LCD screen saying ‘No printer.’ Yep. the printer was saying ‘No printer.’ Nothing would print from the computer, and if you tried to use any of the stand-alone functions – copy or fax, for example, you got a message saying ‘Printer busy’ for a few seconds, before it went back to saying ‘No printer.’ Great.

OKI B2520 Printer 'No Printer' Message

I definitely did not need or want another OKI printer, so I told the client I would contact OKI and try to arrange repairs under warranty. After some to-ing and fro-ing, a representative confirmed it would be repaired under their ‘return to base’ warranty. I have no idea how long that might take, and my client needs a printer for his small office. I gave him a new Fuji printer. Gol darn it. So now this dud OKI is mine again.

But at least I can get it repaired for free, right? Well, yes. But the nearest OKI repair centre is 200 kilometres away, and I live on a island. Cost to get it there, about $50 in each direction, plus packing materials and time. So I will get it back having cost me an additional $100 on top of what I paid for it in the first place.

But I can’t sell it as new now. It isn’t new. It has to be a secondhand or demo model. So the absolute most I can hope to sell it for is $200. And I would need to give the new buyer a warranty, and put a new cartridge in it. So on top of the $190 or so it cost me in the first place, I would be spending an additional $100 in transport costs plus $200 on a new cartridge, to be able to sell the printer for $200 at most, and have to offer a warranty, which given the odds, well you get the picture.

So the latest OKI B2520 to come back to me is not going back to OKI, it is going to the dump, and I will never sell another OKI product again.

My advice to anyone thinking of buying an OKI printer? Don’t.

Why is the world silent on the constant terrorist attacks on Israel?

From the Chicago Tribune, by Ron Prosor, Israel’s Permanent Envoy to the UN:

Silence. Just silence from the U.N. Silence from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And silence from major media outlets throughout the world.

Imagine for just a moment if this were happening to cities in, say, Texas. Imagine that the citizens of El Paso, Laredo and San Antonio have to stay inside their homes. Schools are closed, businesses are shut and people have to suspend their lives. Not because of some natural disaster or a nuclear or chemical accident, because groups in Mexico have purchased and are firing thousands of deadly missiles at Texans across the border. Sometimes a school is hit, sometimes a grocery store, and every so often someone is killed.

Imagine a similar occurrence in Seattle, Detroit or Cleveland — with rockets raining in from Canada.

Your reaction to this imagined scenario is, no doubt, incredulity. The very thought of terrorists in another country attacking Americans at random is ludicrous. You know the president would immediately order the U.S. military to respond, root out the terrorists and make sure that the Canadian or Mexican governments clearly understood that this behavior would not be tolerated. The United Nations Security Council would immediately condemn this infringement on a country’s sovereignty and the safety of its citizens. The U.N. charter makes a country’s self-defense as legal as it is logical. This is universally understood.

So if it is natural to be outraged and support the defense against terrorists who attack Texas, or England or Russia or China, why is it not natural to support the same for Israel? Since the beginning of October, more than 70 rockets and missiles have rained down on southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, which remains under the control of the Hamas terrorist organization. Last week, Israel’s densely populated northern towns were hit by rockets fired from Lebanon.

Hamas deliberately fires rockets into the heart of Israel’s major cities, which have exploded on playgrounds, near kindergarten classrooms and homes. Last month, a man was killed when a rocket struck his car on his evening commute home. Many more people have been injured. In the last month alone, more than a million Israelis had to stay home from work and more than 200,000 students were unable to attend school. You don’t read about this because if it’s covered at all, it’s buried in the back pages of newspapers.

Although these horrific attacks should appall good people everywhere, not one word of condemnation has come from the Security Council in the United Nations. Peace activists that regularly criticize my country are silent on this one as well.

Underlying the violence that continues to emanate from Gaza is a deeply rooted culture of incitement. Last month, would-be Palestinian suicide bomber Wafa al-Biss was released from prison as part of an exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit. Al-Biss offered a breathtaking challenge to cheering schoolchildren at her Hamas welcome-home rally. She said, “I hope you will walk the same path that we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.” Her crime? She tried to kill doctors, nurses and patients by blowing herself up in an Israeli hospital. Luckily, she failed to detonate.

These are the poisonous values that are being fed to the next generation of children in Gaza. When Israel looks at children, it sees the future. When Hamas looks at children, it sees suicide bombers and human shields. If only incitement were confined to Gaza. It also pervades the official institutions of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — and many other corners of our region. In schools, mosques and media, generation after generation of children across the Middle East have been taught to hate, vilify and dehumanize Israelis and Jews.

The intolerance all too common in the Middle East finds its way around the world, even entering the halls of the U.N. Today the U.N. is home to a triple standard: one standard for democracies, a different standard for dictatorships and a special, unobtainable standard for Israel. So I pose this ethical question, not from a philosophy course at a great university but based very much in the real world: If it is not OK to fire deadly rockets at the citizens of any of the other 193 member states that make up the United Nations, why is the world silent when the victims are Israelis?

If there was ever any way the outrageously expensive National Broadband Network could have paid for itself, that prospect ended on Friday:

NBN Co has been forced to back down on its plans to restrain Telstra from promoting its wireless internet services as a substitute for the $36 billion fibre network for two decades after pressure from the competition watchdog.

The Weekend Australian can reveal that the $11bn deal between Telstra, the government and NBN Co for Telstra to decommission its copper network and shift its customers to the new service will be revised following concerns by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission that the curbs on Telstra’s marketing of its wireless services could hinder competition for wireless voice and broadband services.

Instead of Telstra agreeing not to promote wireless as a direct substitute for fibre, it is understood Telstra will effectively pledge that it would not engage in misleading and deceptive conduct about the NBN in its marketing — which is prohibited anyway under Australia’s consumer law.

The only way the NBN could have been competitive was to shut down competing technologies.

The ACCC’s decision is a good one for Australian consumers. The NBN will no longer be allowed to stop other companies implementing superior internet delivery systems.

But Australian tax payers will still be stuck with a bill of $6,000 for every household to pay the cost of what should have been clear from the beginning was a bloated, inefficient and already outdated system.

This essay by Mario Vargas Llosa is a month old now. It has been available since then behind paywalls. I only today found a site where the whole essay is available free.

This is the first few paragraphs:

What is lost on collectivists is the prime importance of individual freedom for societies to flourish and economies to thrive.

The blessings of freedom and the perils of its opposite can be seen the world over. It is why I have so passionately adhered to advancing the idea of individual freedom in my work.

Having abandoned the Marxist myths that took in so many of my generation, I soon came to genuinely believe that I had found a truth that had to be shared in the best way I knew—through the art of letters. Critics on the left and right have often praised my novels only to distance themselves from the ideas I’ve expressed. I do not believe my work can be separated from its ideals.

It is the function of the novelist to tell timeless and universal truths through the device of a fashioned narrative. A story’s significance as a piece of art cannot be divorced from its message, any more than a society’s prospects for freedom and prosperity can be divorced from its underlying principles. The writer and the man are one and the same, as are the culture and its common beliefs. In my writing and in my life I have pursued a vision not only to inspire my readers but also to share my dream of what we can aspire to build here in our world.

Yes. Simply being ‘transgressive’ does not make something art. Art, in whatever form, is art because it helps us to see things in a new way. Good art, art that has lasting value, tells the truth. Bad art may be beautifully executed, but if it is not truthful, it is not good.

Unlike the occupy mobsters, these ladies have a point, it is a point worth making, they don’t leave a mess for anyone else to clean up, and no one got raped or murdered.

Femen 5, Occupiers 0.

FEMEN, a Ukrainian feminist group, is up in arms about the win of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in the Dec. 4 elections.

To show their disapproval, FEMEN protesters stripped down in front of The Cathedral Of Christ The Savior in Moscow on Friday, holding signs that said, “God Get Rid Of The Czar.’

The women were detained by security guards and taken into police custody, Reuters reports. The women were released shortly after being detained.

Quicker and tidier than the occupy mob, and they have a point!

Wayne Swan has put ANZ on notice he will not tolerate the bank moving its lending rates independently of the Reserve Bank, after it revealed it would take the audacious step to review its rates on the second Friday of every month.

The move, ordered by boss Mike Smith and ANZ’s Australian chief executive Phil Chronican, was touted as a bid to knock down the notion that lending rates were tied to the official cash rate only.

The ANZ is quite right – there is no reason why bank lending rates should be absolutely tied to official cash rates. The ANZ and other banks should be at liberty to set rates wherever they like. For example, banks should be free to respond to market conditions – to charge more when there is a high demand for lending, less when there is competition for borrowers.

I don’t understand the liberal (in Australia this means the Labor Party/Greens alliance) obsession with regulating the banking sector. There are so many banking options in Australia that it would be virtually impossible for any one bank to charge substantially more for its services than the others. Any bank which was treating people unfairly would soon be out of business.

Bankers know more about their business than politicians. Excessive regulation adds to consumer costs rather than reducing them. But never miss a chance to meddle is the motto, I guess.

It seem unlikely Australian political leaders (those allied with the Greens, anyway) will take any notice of this story, which is yet another reason to dump them at the next Federal election.

From Canada’s National Post:

We have long argued that the Ontario government’s headlong rush to convert Canada’s industrial heartland to “green” energy would turn out to be nothing but a colossal waste of money. Since most alternative energies remain commercially impractical (that’s why they’re still alternative and not mainstream), the blind rush by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government to substitute wind, solar and bio energy for coal and oil was never likely to produce much new energy, just higher power rates for residential and industrial consumers. But even we underestimated the extent to which the Ontario Liberals’ 2009 Green Energy Act had failed in just over two-year’s time.

In one of the most scathing indictments of government mismanagement we have ever witnessed, Ontario Auditor-General Jim McCarter reported Monday that Mr. McGuinty’s green dream has rapidly become an $8-billion nightmare for Ontario taxpayers and electricity users. Almost no new net power will be generated by all the green-energy projects hastily funded since the bill was passed, but the average residential consumer will see more than $400 a year added to his power bill for a decade to pay for all the bad contracts with and subsidies to eco-friendly power suppliers.

Update:

I was amused to see in this weekend’s Adelaide papers (which I never buy – the supermarket was giving them away), advertisements for rooftop solar panels, telling readers that with recent dramatic increases in domestic electricity costs, there had never been a better time to buy solar. Not a hint, not a sausage nor a whisper to indicate that the primary cause of the last two years of huge price rises has been government subsidies for the capital cost of rooftop solar installations, and the government’s forcing power companies to pay owners of rooftop installations a feed in tariff as much three times the retail price of electricity.

These schemes have been so ridiculously generous that I was briefly tempted to have solar panels installed. But I don’t approve of ripping off ordinary taxpayers despite the possibility of a temporary benefit. Welfare agencies (generally in favour of meaningless green schemes) have pointed out that the tax breaks and feed in tariffs are actually subsidising richer households who can afford solar panels, at the expense of poorer families who cannot.

Let’s see. Ugly, expensive, disadvantage the poor. Sounds like a perfect Labor Party programme.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams gives another of his perfectly timed impressions of an extremely intelligent person with no brains at all:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says Jesus would have joined protesters from the anti-corporate Occupy movement who have been camped outside London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral for more than seven weeks.

In a British magazine, the leader of the world’s 78 million Anglicans worldwide insisted that Jesus would be “there, sharing the risks, not just taking sides.”

The demonstrators pitched their tents outside the iconic cathedral in mid-October to protest what they see as the unfairness and illegalities of the global financial community.

In his article written for the Christmas edition of the Radio Times magazine, the archbishop said Jesus was “constantly asking awkward questions” in the Bible.

In the St. Paul’s encampment, Williams added, Jesus would be “steadily changing the entire atmosphere by the questions that he asked of everybody involved — rich and poor, capitalist and protester and cleric.”

Perhaps one of those questions might have been ‘Would you please stop pooing in the cathedral?’

Sitting around banging drums, sniffing toes, and whining about how unfair it all is, while expecting people who work to feed you, clothe you and clean up after you is not an adult way to protest anything.

Meanwhile, from St Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 3:

Brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ we command you to stay away from any believer who refuses to work and does not follow the teaching we gave you. You yourselves know that you should live as we live. We were not lazy when we were with you. And when we ate another person’s food, we always paid for it.

We worked very hard night and day so we would not be an expense to any of you. We had the right to ask you to help us, but we worked to take care of ourselves so we would be an example for you to follow. When we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Anyone who refuses to work should not eat.”

We hear that some people in your group refuse to work. They do nothing but busy themselves in other people’s lives. We command those people and beg them in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and earn their own food. But you, brothers and sisters, never become tired of doing good.

If some people do not obey what we tell you in this letter, then take note of them. Have nothing to do with them so they will feel ashamed. But do not treat them as enemies. Warn them as fellow believers.

The single quality that makes the most difference to whether you are happy or not is thankfulness. If you are thankful for your life, and can see good and hope in whatever life brings you, you will be happy.

It is possible to be thankful in the midst of the most dire situations. People who are depressed have not usually had more suffering, more failure, more disappointment. They just spend more time thinking about the hurts and disappointments.

People who are happy are not happy because everything goes their way but because when things go wrong, even very badly, they can still find reasons to be thankful.

Garvan Byrne is a perfect example:

Kathy and I used to belong to Amnesty International. About 100 years ago when AI really was about helping oppressed people, especially political prisoners. We wrote letters and everything. Not any more.

Over the last several year AI seems to have lost the plot completely. Instead of being about seeking justice for political prisoners, it gloms onto every passing leftist cause, and condemns anyone who won’t. A bit like the Anglican church.

Their latest headline grab takes the cake.

When he was US president, George W Bush sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Africa, especially to fight AIDS and other diseases. He is highly regarded in most African countries.

At the moment he is touring Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia to promote efforts to fight TB, Malaria, Polio, etc.

Amnesty has demanded Zambia (or one of the other countries) arrest Mr Bush on charges of breaking international law on torture.

Fortunately, the leaders of those nations are equipped with common sense and a spine. This was the response of Zambian foreign minister Chishimba Kambwili:

On what basis does Amnesty International want us to arrest Mr Bush? Tell them to hang, and also please ask them to create their own country and wait for Mr Bush to visit their country so that they can arrest him to suit their wish and not here in Zambia.

Remember this?

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a directive to Iran’s military and political leaders to ‘take all necessary steps to protect’ the revolutionary government of Iran.

An order from Gen Mohammed Ali Jaafari, the commander of the guards, raised the operational readiness status of the country’s forces, initiating preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks.

Western intelligence officials said the Islamic Republic had initiated plans to disperse long-range missiles, high explosives, artillery and guards units to key defensive positions.

So who is at the White House answering the phone?

No one, apparently, since President Barack Obama and his family are soon to take off for a 17 day vacation in Hawaii.

Obama had an impressive record of voting ‘present’ during his brief stay in the Senate. Now it looks as if even being present is too much of an effort.

Currently CO2 makes up about 390 parts per million of the atmosphere.

The assumption of the global warming alarmists has been that a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels, from about 290 ppm to about 580 ppm, would drive the world over a ‘tipping point.’ So much heat would be captured, they claim, that the atmosphere would warm by as much as ten degrees, mass extinctions would occur, polar ice caps would melt, sea level would rise catastrophically, etc, etc.

These claims are made despite the fact that it is well established that the world has been through periods of very much higher CO2 than at present (over 1000 ppm) with no ill effects.

Now researchers Mark Pagani, Matthew Huber et al have shown that when the deep antarctic ice was formed some 34 milion years ago, atmospheric CO2 was about 600 ppm – well beyond the alarmists’ supposed polar ice melting tipping point:

By analysing ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples, Professor Matthew Huber and his colleagues determined that the mile-thick ice which now covers the south polar continent formed around 34 million years ago. At that stage the atmosphere held much more CO2 than it does now, some 600 parts per million (ppm) as opposed to today’s level of 390 ppm.

There is often concern that the Antarctic ice sheet might melt due to global warming (though in fact, despite much publicity over losses of ice from the Western peninsula, Antarctic ice has been steadily increasing in extent for the last 40 years). It would seem that this is highly unlikely given current and near-future levels of atmospheric CO2: at current rates of increase it will take a century at least to reach 600 ppm, the level at which the ice sheet formed itself, and higher levels would be needed to actually start it melting.

via The register.

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