A thought In much the same way the Christmas Holiday period seems to be a trigger for increased suicides, what about the compounding effect RUOK day has on someone who feels alone, hears repeated prompting about “asking someone if they are OK”, but nobody asks them “RUOK?”. Is RUOK day actually for those people who are not OK, or is it intended for the people who are OK simply as an awareness campaign that not every feels OK? If the purpose of RUOK day is an attempt to offer help to a person who doesn’t see any point in asking for help, then if that person doesn’t get asked by anyone, is that just going to compound their depression? A short poem that popped into my head a few weeks ago:

I live
in a world full of people
with family and friends

Does RUOK day just hit home to a lonely depressed person how few friends they might have?

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Twitter Holiday

A few weeks ago I stopped using Twitter. Cold Turkey.

I don’t think I’ve quit, just taking a sabbatical. I’ll go back sometime, but not just yet.

I’ve had a twitter account for quite a while, but like a lot of people I didn’t really know “what to do with it” or “what it was all about”. As such I didn’t really use it at all.

One day, there was something leading up to an election and I saw an article from a person who was tweeting regular updates on something (I forget what now). I decided it was something I was interested in and started to follow them. One thing led to another and I found myself with a heavily politicised twitter feed. I have several other people of interest that are non-political, but the politics stuff pretty much drowns out most of the rest.

This wasn’t really a problem as I now found myself finding other people who shared my thought (I’m NOT the only one!) and others who held differing points of view (HOW can you believe that rubbish?). As many other observers have noted though, twitter is very very good at acting as an echo chamber for your own thoughts. If you already hold a particular view, Twitter is not the place to go an be educated on alternative theories, but it is a great place to find confirmation that you are not alone and that what you think must be correct because so many other people do as well.

Politics on twitter attracts some really crazy people. They exist all up and down the spectrum. Each “side” constantly accuses the other of having the crazies, bots, shills that try to distort the “truth”, but in reality Twitter contains ALL the “truths”, it’s just that some of the wrong “truths” sneak into your carefully filtered version of it.

Over time, I found myself getting quite involved in conversations and occasional troll baiting with people. Most of the time it was “arguing” over how much we agreed with each other, or who agreed more.

The flip side was arguing with someone who had entirely locked in philosophies on things (unlike myself who is opened minded about everything). It didn’t matter what you said to them, they would either ignore you and continue repeating the same ranting mantra, or would spout some oft quoted mis-truth or ad-hominem. Clever conversational stuff.

Occasionally there would be intelligent discussions with people of alternate viewpoints, but twitter is not a good medium for such things. Short snippets of sentences force nuance aside, and needing to split a longer though over multiple tweets often leads to a fractured conversation following many branching threads that spawn from a particular part of that multi-tweet. In the end you always just seem to “agree to disagree” having felt that you put in a good innings for your team, despite the game ending in a draw.

It was the rage what done it. There is an overuse of the term “outrage” with anything regarding twitter now. Twitter is an immediate and very real-time engine for gauging peoples feelings and reactions. Where shouting at the TV was a thing, Twitter allows you to shout at the world, and of course the echo chamber of followers and followees that you have crafted is likely to amplify that same sentiment. This leads to accusations that none of those “feelings” are real, and that your disappointment over something or other has been whipped up into an outrage because of the twitter echo chamber. Perhaps there is some truth to that

For me I found the “outrage” was already *very* real. The problem was, twitter was no longer acting as a pressure release as it once had been. I was becoming aware of more and more things that upset me as twitter provides an enormous library of happenings in real time that I would not normally have been aware of, or would have only been aware of in dribs and drabs over a period of days.

Instead of giving me the feeling of release by “shouting into the crowd”, I found myself being buried in the noise and constantly thinking ahead to what even I knew was happening the next hour or day and how that even would further infuriate me. The greater awareness of what was happening and about to happen was consuming me.

So I changed my password to some complex random one that I saved away and that effectively locked me out. I figured a week break would be a good start.

A week later I hopped back on to see how thing were. The first tweet I saw was Joe Hockey being a dick  to which I responded… realised that I was still raging, and reset the password again.

I have conflicting feelings about the need to be aware of the crap I feel the country is currently being put through against the ability I have to do anything about it anyway. Twitter isn’t going to change anyones mind about anything. It’s not going to convince a politician they are being a dick.

I will return to twitter. I will probably need to cull a lot of the “political” people I follow. That would be a shame as there are some great non-political discussions I have with a lot of those people, but the politics will still keep popping up. The outrage is very real, and it’s hard to hide from it.

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Tax the bludgers

This is an easy one. People on welfare are not trapped in a poverty cycle *because* of welfare. Welfare is not the foot on their head holding them under the water.

Welfare is the thing that is helping them to float enough to keep their heads above water.

When you “have means”, it’s easy to bounce back after complications arise as you have a buffer to use. Not everyone has a buffer. I wonder if some of our politicians really realise this?

When Joe Hockey says that the first thing he would expect an unemployed person to do is “get a job”, I wonder if he has actually thought that through at all. It seems simple enough.

I believe the majority of unemployed people aren’t there by choice.

There is so much in the last budget that really infuriates me. Not because it will hit me (not much, but some will), but because I know there are people who are already doing it hard that will now have an even harder time of it.

Telling them to “get a job” or to just “do better” really doesn’t seem like the answer to me.

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The Medical Research Fund

Don’t get me wrong, offering funding for research into science is always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. In this case, I question the motives and larger implications. In particular, it is not helpful to offer “the largest fund” in the world, if that fund is created by cutting the funding from many other areas of research.

Imagine I have a company that designs, manufactures and retails clothing. I have a part of my business that designs and tests those clothes, finds way to manufacture them using new methods and materials, then I have a range of retail outlets that I distribute my clothing to for me to offer consumers.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I didn’t need to run my own stores, but had someone else do this for me, at no cost to me, and they would sell my stuff without me really needing to do much.

Imagine if someone then came and said that anyone who bought stuff from those stores could have huge discounts coz that someone would pay for it. You’d be pretty happy as now you have a product that doesn’t cost you anything to sell, and demand is good because there is reduced obstacles to people buying it

Now what if that same someone said your stuff was so good that they would pay you money towards your design and manufacturing process. This just gets better and better!

  • You now get a reduced cost to design and manufacture
  • You get no cost retail outlets
  • You get less restrained demand as your product is “low cost”
  • And you still get paid the full amount you wanted anyway, and get to keep all the profits

Welcome to the medical pharmaceutical industry.

Agreed, there are HUGE costs involved in developing new drugs, and for every successful drug there are probably hundreds that fail. That however is factored into the costs of the ones that do work to compensate.

Medicare is a great thing, and the PBS also. These two government programs give people free access to healthcare, and significantly reduced medicines. The pharma companies get the doctors clinics and chemists handling all their “retail” at no cost (beside marketing). They get tax breaks as incentives to manufacture in certain countries, and now a new fund is being created to give them billions more to help pay for research.

I guess it could be argues that if the government is providing research funds then the pharma companies will carry a lower risk and cost for that research, and those reduced costs will be passed back to the government through lower costs to the PBS. Personally, I think that would be incredibly naïve to believe. Pharmaceutical companies are here to make money for their share holders. If they have a reduced cost for an input, the only reason they would pass that reduced cost on would be as a way to undercut a competitor for market share. If there is no competitor, which new drugs typically don’t have, then why would they sell it cheaper when they can pocket the larger profits?

Now of course, the government is actually going to make people pay a  “cover charge” just to walk into the shop, even if they don’t require actual medicines. That payment is then going towards the fund that pharma gets.

Stretched metaphors aside, I don’t think the winners here are we the people.

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Pixels made flesh

Yup, I’ve been pretty disillusioned for a while now, and there’s a lot in this post that really helps to explain what’s been going on in my own head lately.

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Lifeboats and law of the sea

The Australian government is up to some pretty dodgy stuff when it comes to handling of asylum seeker boats coming from Indonesia and other countries. I’m not going to go into that mess as there are plenty of other places to find out about that in much more detail than I can offer.

I do however have a couple of questions that I can’t find answers for. One I’ve had ever since the Operation Sovereign Borders thing was announced, and one from recent announcements.

1. International waters

The Australian navy has been directed to perform a process where they intercept vessels coming from Indonesia (and other countries) that contain people coming to Australia in an attempt to claim asylum. My understanding is that these interceptions may happen quite frequently in international waters.

The government has stated for example that “these are Indonesian flagged boats, with Indonesian crews, coming from Indonesia” and as such they are justified in turning these boats back to Indonesia and denying them entry into Australian waters. On that basis alone they are possibly correct, but it’s a pretty strict interpretation of the law and doesn’t allow for any humanitarian decisions to be entered into.

My question though is are they legally allowed to do this? Although the ships “intent” may be to enter Australian waters, are we legally allowed to interfere with the free passage of that ship, that is flagged under another country, while it is in international waters?

2. Lifeboats

An new development is the purchase of lifeboats that will be used to place crew and asylum seekers on in the event their own ship is damaged or unable to return on it’s own. It has already been reported that this has been enacted at least once with the Navy “tricking” the people into the lifeboat and then directing them back to Indonesia.

In this case, my question is: Are lifeboats considered to be registered or flagged vessels? If so, are they flagged the same as the ship that was carrying them?

If they are not flagged, then the act of placing people on an unregistered vessel and sending it into the territory of another sovereign nation is surely frowned upon by international and maritime law.

If it is considered to be registered as an Australian vessel, then would that not mean that an Australian ship is illegally entering Indonesian waters without permission?  Not only that, but it is doing so under the direction, and facilitated by, the government of another country.

There are a lot of things about the asylum seeker debate that are lost in the fog of emotion, both for and against, but even putting that to one side for the moment, where does maritime and international law stand regarding the above?

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Things I’d like to know about the new NBN plan

Malcolm Turnbull’s NBN strategic review came out today, and about the only thing I feel prepared to give him credit for is the fact that he did release it (mostly) for all to see. That probably isn’t really that surprising though as the expectations of the review were pretty much set well in advance and those chosen to do it were effectively writing it through FTTN tinted glasses. I’ll just point you to the #nbn twitter tag coz it’s easier than repeating it all here.

There are plenty of other people out there throwing out their own comments and dissections, and I’m far from qualified to give in depth analysis, so I’m just going to list a bunch of things that have occurred to me that I’d like to see answered sometime. As I am now one of those “in an HFC area” people, that has suddenly become a primary concern for me.

  1. HFC is now a HUGE part of the plan. How will the wholesale arrangements for that work? Will any ISP be able to resell connections using it?
  2. HFC – How will MDU’s that currently aren’t serviceable by it going to be connected?
  3. HFC – If someone is just outside the footprint for HFC, does that mean they will be connected using FTTN? So fibre will be run past all those houses with HFC to get to the node, but those HFC users won’t get to use it?
  4. HFC – given the connection contention ratios typical on HFC compared to ADSL/VDSL/Fibre, what sort of speed and bandwidth guarantees will be provided? ADSL/VDSL/Fibre is sold as a specific speed, so how will that work for HFC connected people?
  5. HFC – Will I be able to run my own servers and get a static IP address? This is a big reason why I stopped using HFC a long time ago
  6. HFC – At what point will the HFC be replaced given it won’t have the “option” for someone to do the “pay for your own fibre” thing that FTTN is supposed to have
  7. HFC – If I live in an HFC enabled area, what happens to my existing copper ADSL service? Do I have to move off it or will it stay enabled and available for wholesale services? Will HFC be connected for free or will I be forced to pay for connection?
  8. HFC – If copper and HFC are both staying enabled in an area, that means copper maintenance will still need to cover non-FTTN coverage areas. Has that been factored into the ongoing copper maintenance costs?
  9. Upload speeds – Malcolm always fobs this off with generic comments about “up to the ISP/NBNCo to decide”, but really it is a critical question that needs answering given the increasing prevalence of “cloud” services
  10. The Telstra copper – Yes, the copper. Will it be purchased by NBNCo, leased from Telstra or what? No agreement has been made yet AFAIK, so how has that been factored into the cost?
  11. Upgrade after 5 years – Is this whole country wide infrastructure project being planned only to the end of initial build in each area? Is the “upgrade after 5 years” thing factored into the costing plan or is it assumed that will be SEP (somebody else’s problem)?

More added as they occur to me. Answer will appear as/when I find them or choose to update them.

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Why the Coalition Governments “Silence” is a brilliant ploy

It has been noted that the shiny new Coalition Government has taken the approach of going into a self-imposed media blackout. They are making very few anouncements or media interviews. All MP’s have been told all media statements and appearances need to be approved by the Prime Ministers Office.

The EMERGENCY issues of Asylum Boat arrivals and the Budget have gone into total lock-down. The NBN had a brief outing prior to the PMO approval thing and since then Malcolm has also been effectively silenced.

So why is this a brilliant ploy?

Many people, myself included, are quite frustrated and frankly downright pissed-off that such a thing has been allowed to happen and that the media seems to accept this situation. It is worth noting however, that many of the people that are raging about this would also be raging about anything the government said even if it didn’t have this silence in place.

These days, people have a very short attention span, and the media has an even shorter one. The government would be well aware of this, and after years of making so much noise that the media was more than happy to regurgitate, it might seem odd that they now go silent. But it isn’t actually.

The news of the last few years has been over-hyped by the Coalitions rhetoric, and that same rhetoric they know is impossible to solve, because it just doesn’t exist. They know that going silent will kill off the hype media cycle because the media isn’t being fed any new stories, so the oxygen is sucked out of the previous frenzy. People are “over” the drama of the election, so are glad to have a bit of peace and quiet and may not notice the vacuum. The people that do notice would make noise regardless, so the government will just ignore them as nothing it does would matter there anyway.

The government will keep the “bad” news out of the media, people will forget, and in a few months time new “feel good” news will start to seep out. The government will be very strict about controlling the message, and barring any serious events outside their control, will determine the narrative.

There have been many “journalists” making comments how they have nothing to report because there is no effective opposition at the moment making comments for them to report. The government is likewise not making any comments for them to report. They have come to the point where it appears they accept their job is to simply “report” whatever press releases or comments politicians choose to give them. Senior journalists exist only as conduits for leaks from “senior sources” to break “exclusive” stories that are also fed to them.

Without a media that actual investigates, without a media that actually questions, without a media that actually reports anything other than what is handed to them, this situation will be allowed to continue and play out however the Coalition government choose to play it out.

Fast forward 12 months and so many other things will have happened, that any silent period we are currently experiencing will be entirely forgotten. By the time the next election is due this recent period will “never have happened” and will be so long ago that it would not be worth mentioning. People forget, and the media will be “reporting” whatever story they were given the night before. Things that happened months or years earlier will be meaningless in the world of “up to the minute” and “exclusive” reporting that seems to drive the world of news these days.

The government knows they can easily “get away” with the silence, because they know people will forget and the media won’t be bothered with a situation that happened longer than a week ago.

Such is what the world has become.

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Side effects of Internet popularity

Prior to the recent election I started to follow various people on Twitter and some blogs to see more info about the issues, both technical and political. To say the conversations that took place in internet land were heated is to put it mildly.

One person with a fair degree of experience and knowledge has started to receive an increasing amount of attention since I first started following them, and they have always been on the “aggressive” side. To some degree that may turn people off and shut him out of debates with people looking for a more reasoned debate, but the info he puts out is still relevant and useful. A case of don’t dismiss the message because you don’t like the messenger.

As the election came closer and then passed, he has not surprisingly become more animated. That’s fine, he’s getting the message out.

I’ve had numerous exchanges with him via twitter and his blog. Bouncing ideas around and clarifying details. All perfectly amicable (from going back through my twitter history). I pretty much accept all his points and agree with him on pretty much everything. I do think he could engage better by toning down the agro, but that’s who he is and how he does things.

So to the point of this post.

Last night I had a brief twitter exchange where I didn’t “disagree” with him, but did ask a question about the scale of a statement he made. I wasn’t saying he was wrong, but just that there could be an upside (although remote) to the situation. The responses that followed were quite unexpected.

After essentially agreeing with him on all points, I can only assume he has read some tweets in a different order to how they were sent because the tone suddenly turned to accusing me of “frequently” and “constantly” arguing with him, and then accuses me of “questioning the validity of [his] tweets”. Following this up with a “don’t question my tweets.” comment pretty much sealed it for me.

At this point I figured he just needed a snickers and a lie down. I mentioned I had never argued with him in the past and that perhaps he had me confused with someone else, but apparently he though otherwise and just doubled-down on his response.

So, I’m really starting to think that the “pressure” he has created for himself by becoming a voice on the NBN debate has seen him reaching the same level of “What I say are all the facts you need. Don’t question what I say” that another person he vocally attacks also adopts, Malcolm Turnbull. Considering this same person frequently makes claims about Malcolm use of “facts” and how he ignores everyone else, I find it quite ironic that he has adopted the same mentality.

I’ve decided to stop following him on twitter. He’s been getting to aggressive and unnecessarily abusive and I really don’t think I’m up for dealing with that kind of crap right now. I still follow people who will retweet “interesting” tweets he makes, and I still read his blog, but I think the real-time exchanges are finished. He’s starting to crack and seems to have developed a touch of a Napoleon complex.

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Could a successful Climate Council be a bad thing?

Could the success of a privately funded Climate Council be the slippery slope that leads to the axing of more government services?

The new Coalition Governments approach of taking a baseball bat to the various climate related portfolios, departments and commissions is atrocious. I can’t even begin to follow the reasoning they give, or what they hope will happen as a result.

The biggest headline at the moment is the axing of the Climate Commission (as well as other agencies), to save a measly couple of million dollars is pathetic. Then today comes the news that Tim Flannery and the former commissioners are setting up a new privately funded Climate Council organisation to continue the work.

This is a great thing, but I also started to wonder if it could also be a bad thing.

The LNP government has been big on talking about cutting costs, outsourcing services, and have a belief that private enterprise can “always do better” than governments at delivering services. They will state that if there is demand for something, then private enterprise will recognise that market and fill the need. This may be true in some situations, but there are many cases where this is proven to be a false position.

A private enterprise has profit as its primary goal. To achieve this it will look for the easiest and most profitable opportunities (cherry-picking) to focus on, and will tend to ignore the more difficult and potentially loss-making areas. Australia’s telecommunications is a prime example. The only reason services exist outside the cities and denser population areas is because Telstra (then Telecom) provided it when it was a government organisation, and was required to continue to do so once privatised. Look to the HFC (Cable TV/Internet) rollout to see how this plays out when there is nothing requiring universal access, it just stops when no longer deemed profitable. The point here is that the Coalition will happily ignore the failings of the lack of universal access in favour of the apparent success for the areas that do receive the services.

The Coalition axed the Climate Commission as part of their ongoing efforts to play down the discussion on Climate Change. They have their own token policy on this, but it is well-known that many in the party are clearly in the denial camp on this issue. So it’s not about the money, it’s about the message.

Which leads me to the new Climate Council.

It has been setup as a private organisation, it can do its own thing independent of any kind of government directive. Probably for the best. It isn’t looking to turn a profit, and only needs to exist in an “information” sense, so that gives it the ability to broadcast its services to all those who wish to consume them.

However, if it is successful in this endeavour, will that not “prove” the Coalitions position on private organisations filling a need? In this case, I imagine the Climate Council will not require a HUGE amount of funding, so it is quite likely that crowd-funding and donations will be enough to sustain it, at least in the short-term. If that turns out to be the case, then the government may look to many other departments and decide to axe them also. After all, if they are something the people want, then the people would be happy to pay for it directly!

One one level this seems like a perfectly fine way to do things, however it leads to potential for fragmentation where many small organisations are formed to fill “the need”, none get sufficient funding and all suffer. Alternatively, none become an authority and the message they all try to put out there is just lost in the noise. Having a government department that “owns” the message and can be a central contact point resolves that issue and provides an authority that can be used as the reference point.

There is also a scale of economy that only a large government organisation is able to deliver for large-scale projects. The NBN in FTTP form is one such example where the investment cost is far greater than any Australian company could afford to take on, even Telstra. There are requirements to cross-subsidise so the service can be provided across all people. A private company just wouldn’t do this. The same would apply to roads, hospitals, education, arts. If people want them they’d pay for them, why should the government fund something the people don’t want?

So could a successfully self-funded Climate Council actually result in justification to axe even more government departments or services? I’d say it’s quite possible.

If that self-funding model falls down in the future? Well it would then be argued that “the people” just aren’t interested and don’t support the work it was doing.

So where do you draw the line?

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