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household to pay the cost of what should have been clear from the beginning was a bloated, inefficient and already outdated system.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.
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.
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.
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.
Scientists think they have found intact DNA which will enable them to create cloned mammoths within a few years.
Woolly mammoths were about the same size as modern African elephants, but hairier (obviously), perhaps more heavy set, and with smaller ears.
From the UK’s Daily Mail:
Scientists believe it may be possible to clone a woolly mammoth within five years after finding well-preserved bone marrow in a thigh bone recovered from permafrost soil in Siberia.
Teams from Russia’s Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum and Japan’s Kinki University will launch fully-fledged joint research next year aiming to recreate the giant mammal, Japan’s Kyodo News reported from Yakutsk, Russia.
By replacing the nuclei of egg cells from an elephant with those taken from the mammoth’s marrow cells, embryos with mammoth DNA can be produced, Kyodo said, citing the researchers.
The ALP national conference in Sydney, that is.
Julia Gillard’s speech, which one guesses was intended to inspire the meagre troops, was instead a perfect melange of excuses, distortions, and promises that will not be kept, delivered in a nasal drone that would drive you batty if you hadn’t fallen alseep after the first paragraph.
More from Piers Ackerman:
If anyone ever admits to having a hand in producing her speech, their names should be taken and kept in a safe place to ensure they never again produce words for others to utter in public.
The theme – Labor says yes – was so asinine that it could have come from a kindergarten focus group. It began with a statement of absolute nonsense: “In the 16 months since we stood together in that toughest of federal election campaigns, our party has governed and governed well.”
The laughter could be heard echoing around the harbour, even quieting for a brief moment the shrill homosexual protesters busily stripping away Gillard’s last shreds of authority.
From there it was a brief mention of the National Disability Insurance Scheme – but no mention that there had been no funding set aside in Wayne Swan’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook statement delivered earlier in the week.
Instead of delivery, Gillard said the decision had been taken to “lay the foundations” for what she termed a “defining Labor reform”. The cop-out clause. The fix is in.
She tried to justify the wasteful NBN cable rollout with an anecdote about a woman in Darwin whose leg was examined by a specialist in Adelaide, but didn’t have the wit to think that her listeners would wonder why Darwin, a city of 200,000 couldn’t support a full-time dermatologist, or why her government was spending exorbitant sums building super-clinics where they are not needed when there was a need for a clinic in the Northern Territory where skin problems are commonplace?
Her reference to the NBN reminded listeners that the Not Bloody Necessary fiasco is going to cost upwards of $50 billion, with its foreseeable cost blow-outs, and that take-up is meagre at best.
Her biggest howler was the claim on the clean energy economy (shorthand for carbon dioxide tax).
“After a debate lasting the best part of two, even three decades together, this year, we turned words into deeds and next year Australia will have a price on carbon,” she said.
Hello? Her words were: “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.” Who does she think she’s kidding?
Every Gillard speech should come with a caveat: Errors and omissions and anything we need to trade off to minor parties excepted. All facts subject to revision. Promises may be adapted, deleted, or swapped for alternative promises depending on future circumstances.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s brain cell has gone missing.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has urged Israel to “mend fences” with Turkey, Egypt and others in the Middle East to reduce its growing isolation…
“Unfortunately, over the past year, we’ve seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan has effectively been put on hold,” he said.
Israel’s concern over the Arab Spring revolts that have toppled several long-term authoritarian leaders in the region, including in peace partner Egypt, was understandable, he added.
But the changes in leadership offered an opportunity for Israel to improve regional security.
“For example, Israel can reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional security, countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan,” he said.
“And if the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are.”
Mr Panetta apparently lives in some sort of parallel universe where Recep Erdogan has not attempted to curry favour with Iran by undermining formal relations with Israel and repeatedly denouncing it in Turkey and in international forums, and where the ‘Arab Spring’ has lead to the establishment of open and reasonable governments.
In the real world, Jordan continues to distance itself from Israel, the parties which called for death to all Jews are the ones who have won government in Egypt, Turkey is turning into another Iran, and revolutions in other islamic nations like Libya are leading their countries deeper into rabid islamism and anti-semitism.
For their leaders, the imagined perfidy of Israel and all Jews is a convenient excuse for their own failings. For their people, islamic hatred for Jews has its origin in the life and teachings of Muhammed.
The UN will not see further concessions by Israel as positive. It has never done so in the past, despite the fact that those concessions have been made at massive cost, both financial and to Israel’s national security.
Just as there are no limits to hypocrisy, there are no limits to a bully’s demands. The UN and the Arab nations will never be satisfied until Israel is gone. They keep saying so.
Contrary to Mr Panetta’s inane and anodyne advice, Israel must continue to do what it has done under Netanyahu. It must be ready to engage in genuine diplomacy, and willing to offer friendship.
But bullies will not stop until they are made to stop, and those who stop them, often at great risk to themselves, do the rest of us a great favour. Israel must not allow itself to be bullied, whether by the US, or by Egypt, Jordan or Turkey.
If Mr Panetta wants to have anything useful to offer, he needs to find his brain cell.
Update: Barry Rubin at PJ Media agrees:
There are three other major questions raised in Panetta’s statement.
First, does the current “Arab Awakening” imperil Israel? Yes, of course it does. By changing a reasonably friendly Egyptian government into a totally hostile Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi dominated political system closely allied with Hamas, the Gaza Strip’s ruler, and by helping establish Islamist regimes in Tunisia and Libya allied with this Muslim Brotherhood International; the changes create a four-member alliance intent on wiping Israel off the map.
Add to that Islamist domination of Lebanon by Hizballah, an Islamist regime in Turkey, and the continuing threat from Iran and you’ve got quite a regional situation.
Second, and more interestingly, why is the above true?
The answer is as follows:
•Democracy in theory is admirable but when you have masses imbued with very radical views, strong Islamist movements, and weak moderate ones, the election winners will be extremely radical Islamists. By winning massive victories, facing a weak (even sympathetic) United States, and seeing even mor extreme forces becoming so popular (the Salafists in Egypt) the Islamists are emboldened to be even more radical in their behavior. Who’s going to stop them?
•We are thus not facing a springtime of democracy but a springtime of extremism.
•The Islamists don’t want peace with Israel on any terms. They want its destruction. They will not be dissuaded by a peace agreement. They will do anything possible–starting with demagoguery and ending with terrorism or even war–to block such a diplomatic solution. How can Israeli action reconcile those who don’t want peace?
As of now, the following are governed or will soon be governed by Islamists who want Israel’s destruction and genocide against the Jews there: Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.
The following are governed by those who want peace with Israel: Jordan.
•Not only is the United States not opposing this development it is supporting it. In other words, U.S. policy is intensifying the threat to Israel, not helping Israel.
Third, why are there no negotiations? As the history of the issue since January 2009 shows, it is the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to negotiate with Israel. If Panetta and the Obama Administration were either wise or honest they would acknowledge this fact. Instead, they blame Israel. Once again, U.S. policy is intensifying the threat to Israel, not helping Israel.
From Pat Condell:
From Abdallah Jarbu, Deputy Minister of Hamas’ Ministry of Religious Endowments (no I have no idea what that means).
They want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”
May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.
The Jews, the brothers of apes and pigs, have gathered from all corners of the world, in order to defile the Al-Aqsa Mosque. They have come to rob it of its purity, and they replaced it with their impurity, their filth, and their abomination.
You cannot go on living, oh Arab and Islamic nation, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being defiled by the Jews, the most despicable people on this Earth. By Allah, they are not human beings. They are not men who deserve to live, as long as we are alive.
We salute anyone who tried to run over Jews with his bulldozers. We salute anyone who tried to stab a Jewish settler pig.
Allah will send his wrath down from the skies upon the Jews and their collaborators. Allah will make the sea rage against all the oppressors. Allah will poison the air breathed by the Jews, the Americans, the Crusaders, and all the Zionists. May Allah turn the food that they eat to poison in their bellies.
In a ‘land for peace’ deal, Israel forcibly removed 10,000 Jews from Gaza, some of whose families had lived there for hundreds of years, so that Gaza could be, as demanded, an ethnically and religiously pure Palestinian territory.
The land was given. The peace was not – over 12,000 rockets fired into southern Israel over the last ten years.
Or is that racist?
A couple of days ago I would have put money on Herman Cain’s run for the presidency being over.
Two accusations of sexual assault, and a claim of an affair of thirteen years standing were not enough to convince me of Cain’s guilt, but they were enough to convince me most people would be convinced, and that Cain would be unable to counter the media campaign against him.
After reading Ann Coulter’s discussion of the accusers and the accusations, I am not so sure. If Cain holds firm, he may still hold on.
I still don’t believe he is the ideal candidate, or even the best candidate. In spite of everything, the best candidate is Newt Gingrich, but that’s another story.
Cain is an intelligent and capable man. He knows how to run things. The present incumbent couldn’t run a bath.
But Cain has no experience in government. It is a mistake to elect someone to leadership in public office who has no experience in business. It is just as much a mistake to elect someone to an executive postion in goverment who has no experience of how government works.
Let Cain be defeated. But let him be defeated honestly, and not through carefully orchestrated and baseless accusations by opportunists with a history of trouble-making.