The NBN Strategic Review: its dodgy accounting, and omissions (Guest Post)

By James Chisholm (james at chisholm dot id dot au)

Vindication is a bitter-sweet pill to swallow. We, the Australian taxpayers, have finally taken delivery of the Strategic Review into the National Broadband Network, which has shown what many of us have been saying since the Coalition announced their Fibre-to-the-Node alternative back in March 2013 – that there is no way that the Coalition can possibly provide 25mbps connections to all households by 2016. I’ve previously written about why I believe FTTN to be a completely inappropriate network architecture for this country, and many of the issues I raised in that post aren’t addressed in the Strategic Review. It did take me a while to get through, but I made it through the whole document. What stunned me was the way so much critical information was redacted from the document, and how much vital information was left out to make FTTP look like an inferior solution.

My provisional analysis is this – that the “multi-technology-mix” we are going to get now from NBNCo is a dogs breakfast of outdated technology for 76% of the country, with a lucky 24% who will get to get the next generation of Fibre-to-the-Premises connections, which we know are already capable of 1000mbps throughput (and were scheduled to have this capability made available this month). I call this MTM a dogs breakfast for several reasons, the primary one being that upload speeds are not addressed at all by this mix. Neither are fundamental details about the FTTN network, such as how many nodes are going to be implemented. Additional reasons are that the HFC networks are demonstrably congested in many locations already with only a small number of subscribers, that FTTN at 25mbps is (as I’ve pointed out with my other blog post) a totally inappropriate solution for this country, and that this technology mix puts control of the network firmly back into the hands of Telstra.

It comes as no surprise that, given the sheer volume of ex-Telstra employees that Malcolm Turnbull has appointed to NBN Co, that they are hell-bent on sending as much of the public funds back into the hands of Telstra, but to do it in such an overt manner is quite frankly disgusting. I, like many of my contemporaries, have a rather low opinion of Telstra – having previously worked for them, I’ve never before, or since, encountered a company with such incredible contempt for their own customers, nor worked with a company with such incredible incompetence. To get 6 phone lines installed for a former employers new SHDSL connection, took 13 visits by Telstra technicians in 2011. Personally I would like it to be placed on record the level of Telstra shareholdings of all senior NBN Co staff.

Anecdotal evidence of demonstrated small business needs for higher upload speeds, which will not be provided by either HFC or FTTN, is all well and good (and I wrote 6 paragraphs about personal tales of former employers and customers of mine, I’ve redacted this to keep this shorter) it’s straying further away from the analysis I’ve been meaning to do. So let’s get to that, shall we?

“The national broadband network policy was released many months ago by myself and Malcolm [Turnbull]. No-one has been able to question the costings. It is absolutely bulletproof.” Tony Abbott, 6 September, 2013

First of all, there is the cost blowout to the LNP bulletproof, 100% costed policy. After crying for months about Labor party waste, we now have a strategic review which revises the figure upward by 25% on the cost of a Multi-Technology-Mix network. The review also claims a cost blowout for a full FTTP network to be $72bn, whilst redacting the associated costs to date for the FTTP rollout.

Assuming that we believe these figures (and we really can’t, due to the fact the review has already been outed for fudging the figures; see this) one has to accept certain caveats to them – the actual rollout is now only going to occur to 70% of the population (24% FTTP, 46% FTTN), versus to 100% with the labor plan. So that’s really an unfair comparison – $41bn for a 70% rollout versus $72bn for a 100% rollout.

A more appropriate comparison is to scale the cost of the FTTP rollout down to 70% and then we can crunch the numbers slightly better – $41bn vs $50.4bn is more of an “apples vs apples” comparison of the figures.

Additionally, the strategic review also doesn’t mention how much it’s going to pay for:
a) the Telstra Copper network
b) the Telstra HFC network
c) the Optus HFC network

These networks aren’t going to be given to them for free. Telstra CEO David Thodey has stated Telstra expects to be paid the $11bn it was already contractually going to get for decomissioning the copper, as well as additional fees to access the copper they were supposed to decomission and there will be an additional cost to acquire or lease the HFC network for the remaining 30%. I’ve seen estimates that the two Telstra networks will cost $30-50bn on top of the $41bn for the FTTN – which would mean that the MTM network will far exceed the cost of rolling out FTTP to the whole country!!

By its own admission on page 19 of the strategic review, the MTM network is going to be outdated within 5 years of completion. Once it is outdated, it will need to be replaced with FTTP. Simon Hackett’s explanatory blog post about why he feels HFC is the right way to progress the rollout faster even admits that FTTP is the ultimate endgame. And this is the crux of the stupidity of this MTM – why bother rolling out last millennium’s technology when the limitations of it’s shared bandwidth potential are well and truly known, and cannot take us through the majority of the 21st century?

A big issue for me is the sheer number of nodes and footprint that each node will service – will it be 70,000 nodes for the country? 80,000? If the goal is to get everyone on 100mbps by 2019, it’s probably going to need to be more like 100,000 nodes. The Strategic Review does not specify how many nodes they think will be required, nor the maximum copper loop length. It also doesn’t factor in possible objections (in the form of lawsuits) by councils, replacement costs of equipment, specifications of these nodes and how well they are going to cope with the 47 degree days we’ve had in recent summers, or what is going to happen in Queensland when it floods and thousands of powered nodes end up underwater!

From a personal perspective, as most of you probably can guess, my household is a high-tech household. Judging by my routers IP address table, there are 22 devices on my home network at the moment. I’m lucky that when we moved a few months ago, we’re really quite close to the exchange – approximately 400m, as the crow flies – and hence my naked ADSL2+ syncs at 21mbps and I get about 17mbps throughput. However, when I’m playing online games on my PC, my eldest daughter is uploading a youtube video on her laptop, and my wife’s xbox-one decides it’s going to download a 2.2gb update for a new game (which is something that you get no choice in, and can’t be stopped without turning off the power), all of us suffer. So much of our entertainment these days comes from the internet – even our phone line is VoIP based so as to reduce our costs – and bandwidth needs are going to increase, not decrease. My daughter hopes to pursue a career in animation – she has already won an award at school for it – however I’ve had to explain to her that the reason her youtube uploads take several hours is as a direct result of this countries poor communications infrastructure. The NBN was supposed to alleviate these issus and drive this country forward providing a 21st century capable network – sadly, at this rate, it won’t happen.

I also do wonder if, when Tony Abbott said earlier this year “We are absolutely confident 25 megs is going to be enough – more than enough – for the average household.” if he actually understands the difference between megs and gigs? When referring to megs in the speed context, we are talking megabits per second of connectivity – and when talking about gigs, we are talking about gigabytes of data. To download a 1 gig patch for a new Xbox One game, on a 21 meg connection, takes 25 minutes. Put that connection speed up to 100megs and the download takes 5 minutes. Similarly, if we are wanting to download an entire game for the new generation of consoles, that’s currently around 40 gigs of download. On the 21meg connection I have, it would take approximately 30hrs. On a 25meg connection, about 24hrs. 100meg would reduce that to 6hrs – a speed which is approaching acceptable – but nowhere near the amazing speed of FTTP – which, once upgraded to 1000mbps (also known as a gigabit connection) would have that whole 40gb game downloaded in the time it took the 1gb patch to download on the 21 meg connection! It is a truly massive difference – and FTTP is so close to being able to do 1000mbps already!

In light of this, it seems completely and utterly stupid to spend $41bn to provide an outdated technology which must be replaced with FTTP in 2025. We cannot afford to waste this opportunity to do this network properly now, in 2013. If the cost-benefit analysis being commissioned looks at only the short term costs of this network over 10 years, then it will show that the MTM mix is correct – but if it truly is being done with Australia’s best interests in mind, then the terms of reference will look at the cost of the NBN over 20 years, including the cost and time to upgrade everything to FTTP.

Knowing that FTTP is the ultimate goal, to spend $41bn between 2013 and 2021 rolling out a network that will need to be replaced in 2025 with a full FTTP network is not cost effective. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once – if the cost of rolling out a full FTTP solution by 2024 is $72bn, do it properly, and don’t waste this opportunity by rollling out an outdated technology that needs to be replaced fully 5 years after it’s completed.

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Guest Post: Why it is pure folly to implement a Fibre-to-the-Node network in Australia

By James Chisholm (james at chisholm dot id dot au)

On one hand, I can see why Malcolm Turnbull wants to press forward with his inferior technology plan for the future… he firmly believes that the National Broadband Network was a major reason people voted for the Coalition in the recent election. Sadly, as has been proven by the recent campaign on www.change.org/nbn as launched by Nick Paine, over a quarter of a million of Australian voters have disagreed with him – the overwhelming majority of people who voted Liberal did so despite the inferior NBN plan. I don’t claim to be an expert on xDSL technology; just a geek who has worked in IT since 1995, and has a more than average knowledge of tech issues, but someone needs to point out to the Coalition that enough people care about this issue to sign a petition which they so arrogantly dismissed. They need only look at the NBN forum on Australian broadband website Whirlpool to find hundreds upon hundreds of informed opinions debating the merits and deficiencies of both proposals.

In case you are unaware of the differences between the two technologies, there’s a very good website called nbnmyths.wordpress.com which I’ve yoinked this summary from:

• FTTN is a short-term “stop gap” using old technology

• Most countries that have installed FTTN are now replacing it with FTTP (i.e.: To the same system as the Labor NBN plan)

• The investment in FTTN would be largely wasted when the inevitable upgrade to FTTP is required

• FTTN would be almost as expensive to implement in Australia as FTTP

• FTTN’s Speed-to-Price ratio is poor

• FTTN delivers vastly different performance levels depending on location

• FTTN delivers very low upload speeds

The detailed explanation goes into exactly why it’s not a good fit for this country. I strongly recommend you read it, and then follow up that reading with the ex-CTO for British Telecom, who explains here why deploying FTTN was a huge mistake for BT.

Australia currently sits at a very low place on the world internet speed rankings (as of January, we were ranked 40th) and has the opportunity to take leaps and bounds by implementing the right kind of National Broadband Network – such as NBN Co has been rolling out to date. However, the Coalition FTTN network is no substitute for this – even the manufacturer’s claim Fibre to the Node is a stop-gap technology till a Fibre to the Premises network is achievable.

I personally read the coalition plan for FTTN on the day it was announced and my co-workers distinctly recall me swearing profusely, in amongst shrieks of “what lies!”. I work in a software development company and our proxy server cached the request to download the PDF document from the Liberal website, such that when all 30 of us went to read the document, it only appeared to their server as one request. To suggest that each of us haven’t actually read the document is not only insulting but ignores the fact that their document was summarised into hundreds of news articles in the days and weeks following the Coalition announcement. As the internet would say, tl;dr  – Too Long; Didn’t Read – there several pages of complete crap which were purely anti-labor propaganda in what was supposed to be a policy document!

I hope Malcolm Turnbull realises that Telstra weren’t lying in 2003 when group managing director of regulatory strategy, Tony Warren, told a Senate enquiry that the copper network has a maximum viable life of 15 years left. The Coalition’s “fraudband” Fibre to the Node network will never achieve the speeds that Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott are promising. Malcolm Turnbull in particular keeps pointing out technology trials conducted in lab conditions which use much higher grade copper wiring than is out in the wild in Australia, over shorter distances than most people will ever be able to get to a “node” or exchange. Two of the countries which Malcolm Turnbull regularly refers to as having successfully rolled out FTTN technologies are New Zealand and the UK. What he fails to mention, without fail, is that both of these countries are now looking at replacing FTTN with FTTP solutions, as are many of the other countries which have implemented FTTN. It remains really unclear as to why you would choose a technology which has not only been implemented but is now being superseded!

Turnbull is claiming that the copper will eventually deliver 100mbps by 2019 – however, the technical trials which that speed was achieved in was over a 400m distance on a much higher grade copper than Telstra have ever deployed, and only ever in lab situations. Considering that the Nodes are due to serve a radius of up to 2km, it’s impossible to believe that everyone will be capable of getting 100mbps from this technology which the manufacturer’s state will only work to a distance of 400m. As a side note, it’s interesting in that Alcatel-Lucent report on VDSL2 vectoring that they state “While fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) remains the ultimate goal” which implies that even the VDSL2 manufacturers acknowledge that it is an inferior technological solution to the Labor FTTP NBN plan!

Furthermore, the copper, which Telstra were being paid $11bn to decommission as part of the Labor Fibre to the Premises National Broadband Network, has been made so vital to the Coalition plan – and Malcolm Turnbull has stated he expects Telstra to give it over for no additional remuneration. Telstra’s CEO, on the other hand, David Thodey, has stated that he fully expects the contract with NBN Co to be paid out in full as well as expecting additional remuneration over and above what they are contracted to get from NBN Co already, to prolong the life of the copper – which will, in turn, make this slower FTTN network more expensive than putting in place a full FTTP network.

The Labor FTTP option is being deployed currently at speeds of 100mbps and is upgradeable to 1000mbps (1gbps) and is not subject to slowdowns during wet weather (when the Telstra pits fill with water), and won’t eventually degrade like the copper will. Most of the Telstra copper network is degraded to the point where it will not sustain a high speed signal – and if you doubt this, see here for a few examples. I have just moved house to a place which is 300m from the local telephone exchange, and in theory I should be getting 24mbps ADSL2 – yet I’m getting a lower speed than when I was living 3.2km from the same exchange. It took me 54 minutes to upload a 91 second HD movie of my daughter to YouTube on Sunday night. This same copper is supposed to provide me with a VDSL2+ connection at speeds up to 100mbps?

The initial Coalition plan is to migrate the copper ADSL2+ networks, theoretically capable of going at 24mbps download speeds, to VDSL at 25mbps (and upload speeds still stuck at the same, 1mbps). That will then be upgradeable in the future to a maximum of 50mbps and again to 100mbps by 2019. Whereas those in areas which have already had Fibre to the Premises NBN connections installed can get 100mbps today!

As most of Australia has known for the last few years, climate change (which the Coalition would have you believe is a myth!) has lead to some of the most extreme weather this country has ever seen. We have had record high temperatures, record floods, record droughts… what’s going to happen to Queensland when, invariably, as they have for the last 3 years during summer, they have major floods? All of a sudden you have all this mains-power running to all these cabinets and everything inside them will short out. What will the insurance premium be on these? Will an insurer even provide a policy for such a device in such an area – knowing full well it will be very likely to suffer catastrophic water damage? Have replacement costs been factored into the coalitions plans?

Another thing which needs to be highlighted is that Malcolm Turnbull is happy to invest in companies overseas who are replacing FTTN networks with FTTP networks, but doesn’t want the country to get the same kind of advantage he’s personally investing in! This is hypocrisy of a terrible scale.

Then there is the inevitable lawsuits from councils who don’t want the ugly and noisy FTTN cabinets every 2-3km throughout the suburb – see here for an example of what they look like overseas – and if anyone has a memory back to the Optus cable rollout of last millennia, there were many councils which not only balked at having the cables run from the power lines, but sued Optus to prevent the rollout occurring. I also feel it necessary to mention that they require power and air-conditioning to operate – not that the Coalition even cares in the slightest about the environment – and if (or should we say, when) a car veers off the road and knocks over a cabinet, all the houses around will lose their internet and phone until it is replaced.

I’ve completely avoided the issue of the Foxtel and Optus cable networks up till here – which are to be incorporated into the Coalition NBN network rollout as another technology option in addition to FTTN. Arguably, another reason for the Coalitions plan to leave these 20 year old networks in place is that the advent of IPTV, a service which provides HD quality TV shows for as little as $10 per month, will drastically eat into the cash-cow which Foxtel has over cable TV. I must confess I was personally disappointed when we moved house recently that my wife was talked back into getting Foxtel re-connected (via satellite) for $30 a month (half price, but only for 6 months) – I had even chosen an IPTV service which provided as much content and the ability to watch it in multiple locations, unlike Foxtel. By preserving the cable networks, the Foxtel bottom line is boosted for many further years… and let’s not even touch on the issue that cable internet is a shared medium and how badly it slows down during peak hours. I personally have witnessed a Telstra Bigpond cable connection go from 100mbps down to about 4mbps around 4pm due to congestion at my former employer – sadly, I haven’t kept the speedtest.net results from a year ago when this occurred – but this technology whilst technically delivering a 100mbps connection, will not provide 100mbps of throughput to all the houses it deploys to.

So between the additional remuneration required to Telstra, the cost (and wasted time) of lawsuits from Councils, it’s really difficult to see why Malcolm Turnbull would want to spend at least $30bn rolling out an inferior solution, which will need to be completely replaced with the original $44bn solution. If we’re spending billions of dollars of money to roll out a high speed national network – do it once, do it right, and don’t put all the power back into Telstra’s hands – wasn’t that why Telstra was forced to undergo structural separation in the first place – because they were abusing their monopoly power?  The NBN was originally conceived as a wrench to prise  Telstra’s monopoly grip on premier networking services away from them – hence why they are receiving such a large amount of remuneration for the decommissioning of the copper network. Here’s a rather paranoid thought – what if, under the FTTN plan, Telstra, as the monopoly provider of copper from node to premise, were to turn around and say we’ll only fix your line problem if you switch to our service on a 24month contract? Or will only provide 100mbps capable copper connections to their own customers? Without a Universal Service Obligation (which is currently in place for ADSL) they may well be within their rights to only maintain the copper for their direct customers. The potential for Telstra to put in place anti-competitive behaviours which provide them with untold advantages over this network is staggering – and I would not be surprised to discover that they have already analysed to great extent what the potential for getting a larger cash-cow from this FTTN network is.

Yet another thing to consider in this folly of a fibre-to-the-node plan is the number of nodes/cabinets being deployed. The coalition plan is for approximately 60,000 cabinets to be deployed nationwide – there is some significant speculation on the aforementioned Whirlpool forums about the density of each cabinet’s reach. It’s hard to project a radius from a cabinet as housing doesn’t necessarily neatly fit all that well into a circle, however if the average node cabinet costs $50000 (I’m guessing at this price, by the way) to deploy and the number of cabinets required grows by only 10000 then that blows the cost of the rollout out by a factor of $5bn. To provide all houses with a 25mbps capable connection will probably require more like 90000 cabinets, especially in lower density areas.

Malcolm Turnbull has also stated that a cost-benefit analysis will be done on the NBN project – however I suspect, strongly, that the terms of reference for this cost-benefit analysis will be very limited (possibly as far as two election terms) and make ridiculous assumptions, such as obtaining the Telstra copper at no cost. Malcolm Turnbull has repeatedly stated that the FTTP project will end up costing $90bn, and most recently, in his attack on all the constituents of Australia who have signed the change.org petition, increased that to $100bn – with no justification as to why. A fully informed cost-benefit analysis needs to be forward looking with a scope to the implementation and operational costs over the course of the next 20 years; accounting for how much of the Telstra copper network is already stuffed and barely capable of lasting more than 10 years.

Simon Hackett, CEO and Founder of Internode, has recently made several publicly available speeches on the problems with FTTN and how to build a FTTP network on an FTTN budget. Simon has run one of the most successful ISPs Australia has seen, without the benefit of having a behemoth of a cash cow behind him like Telstra, and has done a brilliant job of it. I would STRONGLY urge Malcolm Turnbull and the rest of the coalition to consult with Australian industry leaders such as Simon, and get their input as to how best provide Australia with a world class National Broadband Network and bring this great country into the future with a future-proof and upgradeable technology path.

I fully expect that Malcolm Turnbull, if he ever does read my comments, will call me out on my pricing assumptions and number of required nodes. However, I stand by my belief – that a Fibre to the Node National Broadband Network is completely unsuitable for this country, for all of the reasons I’ve listed, and more, and truly hope that the terms of reference for the cost-benefit analysis factor in a longer period of time than the next two election cycles, and that if the Coalition proceed with the folly of their FTTN plan that they are held to account at the 2016 election – as I highly doubt that there is any chance with a FTTN network that they can provide the guaranteed minimum of 25mbps as stated by Tony Abbott during the policy launch, and that it will end up costing far more than Labor’s FTTP rollout will.

Andrew Bolt: still an alarmist idiot

Just for old time’s sake, I’m going to quickly take apart Herald Sun hack Bolta’s most recent cry for help. It’s a blog entry entitled “Signs that warming scare is all hot air“. Easy shit.

Since most of today’s digitised sputum is typical quote-mining and astonishing inability to differentiate between what’s been peer reviewed and what’s been extemporaneously speculated (typical hack fair, basically), I’m just going to address each of Bolta’s Ten Seals of the Warmist Illuminati Conspiracy.

1st sign: The world isn’t warming

At least he begins by making it clear that his world is not the real one.

Anyway, yes, the world is warming. In science, we tend to use this thing called mathematics. To find trends in data, we use statistics. To find out if an average changes with the addition of new variables, we use a thing called a moving average. It’s a pretty rudimentary stuff, generally just involving a little data collection and arithmetic.

What Bolta is doing is picking a nice, hot year, and drawing a line to the most recent temperature. Apparently, in Bolta’s world, ENSO doesn’t exist and everything is linear. That’s because Bolta’s world doesn’t contain complicated things that you need to break out the calculator for.

Anyway, without boring you with statistics, here’s a lovely graphic that demonstrates beautifully why Bolta’s approach doesn’t work.

The escalator, courtesy of SKS.

The escalator, courtesy of SkS.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how to do science; but there’s a lot wrong with pretending you do to push a political agenda.

2nd sign: The warming models are wrong

Seriously? Boring. Let’s unpack.

The weekend papers screamed alarm: “The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.”

But wait. Lots more carbon dioxide, but no more warming? This isn’t what we were told to expect.

My FSM, this is how you know that the Herald Sun is a piece of shit paper. See above.

See, predictions the world is heating dangerously are based on mathematical models of how the climate is meant to work. Add our emissions to the equation, and scientists are meant to figure how much the world should warm.

Bolta doesn’t like maths very much.

But as Professor Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told a US Congressional committee last month, those models guessed too high, and didn’t predict pauses in warming longer than 17 years.

Which models? There’s a lot of them. Let’s test this claim though. It makes sense, then, to check measurements against predictions made by some models, and then see if the predictions of any models match the real-world data we’re accumulating. That gets done all the time. Here’s a quote from one such study, from 2012:

“…the results strongly suggest that the more sensitive models perform better, and indeed the less sensitive models are not adequate in replicating vital aspects of today’s climate.”

Next! Oh shit, another paragraph from Bolt.

Ed Hawkins, of the University of Reading, found the global temperature since 2005 on the very lowest end of the widest range predicted by influential climate models.

…it was a bit more complicated than that. Nice try, though.

3rd sign: Warming disasters aren’t happening

Wat.

Ignoring the usual Tim Flannery quote-mine (apparently Tim Flannery is Bolta’s favourite climate expert), let’s move on to the specifics.

In 2001, the IPCC predicted “milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms”.

Because science in 2001 in a burgeoning, complex field is still relevant today.

But the US National Snow and Ice Data Center this year tried to claim global warming had now increased snowstorms in the US.

The US isn’t the whole world. Warmer regions on the planet will get less, colder reasons will get more.

Same story with so many other scares. Al Gore was wrong – the critical glaciers of the Himalayas are not vanishing…

That’s not true.

Nor are we getting more cyclones, bigger floods, worse diseases or greater famines, as some predicted.

Bigger storms? Check. Bigger floods? Dude, you can’t do maths, let alone address something like this. Worse diseases? Check. Greater famines? Ask Somalia.

4th sign: People are relaxing

And that matters how?

5th sign: The rest of the world is chilling, too

Delusion and apathy are causes for celebration?

6th sign: Even Labor hardly seems to care now

 *facepalm*

7th sign: A bit of warming seems good for us

 Just no. Idiot.

But more warming also means more rain in most places,

And rain totally has nothing to do with flooding, hey.

8th sign: Warming seems worth the price of getting richer

 …yes, this is progress.

9th sign: “Stopping” warming isn’t working

Emissions have dropped.

Australians pay a $9 billion-a-year carbon tax and billions more in subsidies for “green” technology.

We also pay for fossil fuel subsidies. Yes, the plan sucks, but the carbon tax is working.

If we keep paying these billions for the next seven years, what difference will we make to the world’s temperature by the end of the century?

Australia’s Professor Roger Jones, a warmist, says no more than 0.0038 degrees, and that’s even assuming the climate models are right.

Which models? And yeah, the tax needs to be fixed. We also need to tax the living shit out of what we export. But this isn’t the point. The point is one of the most stable economies in the world setting an example for the rest of the world.

10th sign: Sceptical scientists now get a hearing

 Denier scientists always get airtime. Fox News, anyone? The Bolt Report?

In 2007, ABC staff protested when the ABC decided to finally show one documentary questioning the warming scare, The Great Global Warming Swindle.

The ABC compromised. The screening was given a hostile introduction and was followed with an even more hostile panel session.

Umm, well, it was a fine example of bare-faced bullshit artistry.

That’s how hard it was for sceptical scientists to get a hearing.

Boo-hoo. He’s right y’all. We should so listen to creationists and anti-vaxxers too.

That wall is now breaking. Dissent is being heard, with Professor Ian Plimer’s sceptical Heaven and Earth alone selling more than 40,000 copies here.

Anyone who has ever waved one at you might profit from reading this.

But, no, this great scare is unforgivable. It’s robbed us of cash and, worse, our reason.

Andrew, you’re so right. The alarmist campaign you and your friends are running is unforgivable. It has robbed us of our cash, and it actively wages war on our reason.

Go fuck yourself.

Guns and mental illness again

I have to clarify this, because it’s a point that screams out for repeating.

Why do people’s minds get blown, or why do I get flat-out denial, when I point to studies showing that mental illness isn’t even correlated with violent criminal behaviour?

The only scary correlation here is that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violent crime.

If you want good reasons for immediate, massive funding of public mental health programs, I can give you a half dozen off the top of my head.

Preventing violent crime isn’t one of them.

That’s why the motivation for thia sudden support for universal healthcare by Republican gun nuts annoys the living shit out of me.

Pointing to this fabricated correlation extrapolated from a handful of cases as a good reason to fund mental health is just wrong (and anti-scientific). It’s predictably fucked up when the far right do it, but it’s utterly perverse when the left follow along like sheep.

Stigmatisation comes from false stereotypes like this.

To push it is to hurt the mentally ill and to buy into the NRA agenda. It distracts from the real problem of gun culture and the need for the United States to properly regulate firearms.

Gun ownership is actually correlated with violent crime; and a causal relationship isn’t difficult to establish. If you’re serious about stopping violent crime, tackling gun ownership should be the focus.

A cry I’ve anticipated, but thankfully haven’t yet heard, from the left (who accept the evidence) is that any delusion that brings the far right to the table on universal healthcare is OK, as long as it gets the job done.

I don’t think it’s worth throwing the dignity of the mentally ill under a bus for a deal.

It’s hard enough seeing a psychiatrist for the first time without everyone else assuming that you’re a danger to society.

Look at the evidence and think things through, please.

What the fuck is wrong with you people?

I’m sure you’ve all seen all the repugnant things religious leader fuckheads have said in the last few days. I’m not going to comment on that because it makes me feel ill.

This post has three sections.

Gun Control

Seriously, the sheer number of American pathological gun nuts I’ve dealt with online in the last two days is staggering.

I’m finding exactly the same problems I have with religion, especially when religion is driving good people to kill and giving bad people an excuse to kill (and an excuse to get good people to kill). It’s a faith-based claim that offers no rationale except for bullshit cliched arguments that have clearly not been critically examined by someone who cares about anything other than feeding on confirmation bias.

So my problem is faith. I just typically go after religion because it’s the largest and most prevalent manifestation of this defective way of thinking; and so it just happens to piss me off more often.

But now I find myself forced to go after the American gun cult.

Something about children being killed with legal weapons just makes me fucking mad, you know? There’s also something about the callous self-justifications from trigger-happy traditionalist idiots, while families are mourning, that just begs to be called out.

So here it is.

America’s gun laws fail so hard at preventing homicides, robberies, accidental shootings and suicides according to evidence from peer-reviewed literature (not reports from “think-tanks” and other bullshit sources); but that doesn’t matter. The solution is moar guns! It’s a Second Amendment right!

Yes, more guns is exactly what America needs.

Here, by the way, is the Second Amendment:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Hmm.

The Second Amendment argument is stupid, and clearly nobody has read it — if it were still relevant it’d imply that citizens should be allowed access to nuclear weapons. Besides, interpreting the Second Amendment on an individual protection level is problematic and unsophisticated.

Then times changed, democracy got better (fine, it’s actually a polyarchy, but whatever) — making revolution less meaningful. Also, civilisation is qualitatively different now than it was at any other point in history.

Violence, all over the world, is in decline (help speed it along!), and liberalisation is rising, despite some other depressing statistics (I’ll get to them). The revolution in the United States will not be televised, because it won’t happen; it’s little more than another American Dream.

Second, guns for personal protection? Bullshit.

I looked through a bunch of my university library’s research databases and all I came up with, from reputable psychological and medical journals, was strong evidence that legally owned guns for self-defence are rarely used for self-defence; they’re more likely (22 times!) to be used in homicides, accidental deaths, suicides and to intimidate family members. This general trend of this study has been corroborated by numerous others.

(In light of those studies, which, most charitably, paint private gun-packers as highly incompetent and dangerous people, rather than autonomous agents capable of defending themselves; would a militia comprised of these people really capable of overthrowing a hypothetical tyrannical government? That might be a little too much to expect…)

Here are two charts that should hit this crime rate point home:

Number of guns per 100 people, OECD

Interesting, because “Switzerland” I hear a lot. I guess nobody bothered to look up how that actually works.

Gun-related murder rates in the developed world.

That’s another bullshit claim I hear: “What about Mexico? That’s what gun restrictions on law-abiding citizens does to reduce crime!” Yes, what about Mexico? Where do Mexican cartels get their guns from?

A more in-depth analysis can be found here. I guess facts really do have a progressive bias.

The cost-benefit analysis, if you care about protecting people, just doesn’t justify guns for personal protection.

Some might be tempted to use this against me when I advocate full drug-legalisation. They’d be wrong. Drugs are an individual choice, and you can’t use drugs to kill lots of people, only yourself (if you’re so inclined, or if you’re an irresponsible user, or by accident — but then, mountain climbing can kill you in that way). Drugs should be illegal in situations where they can play some causal role in harming others: like when you’re driving. If you drug-and-drive, fuck you. You’re a criminal because you put others at risk.

(Incidentally, in some U.S. states, car licenses are more heavily regulated than gun ownership.)

So, being a rabid supporter of “the right to bear arms” is to buy into a bullshit faith-based enterprise, with its own mythology and various off-shoot sects. The fact that it’s about providing false-consolation and a false sense security and the fact that it’s totally contrary to the evidence makes it exactly like religion.

And, on exactness: this is exactly why I go after religion. Religion is based on faith, which is essentially pretending to know things you don’t know. Appeals to faith are used to justify tribalism, delusion and all manner of bullshit. When someone says “that’s what I believe” you’re supposed to avoid being disrespectful. Fuck that I say.

People can be wrong, and there’s nothing wrong with exercising your own free speech to hold them to account. And making light of the majority hard-headed among them in front of fence-sitters.

So fuck those idiots against gun control. There is blood on their hands.

Mental Health

This is important to me.

I have lived with bipolar disorder since my early teenage years and I’m now in recovery.

I’ve never shot anyone, but I’ve faced discrimination in personal, professional and schooling situations due to the stigma associated with mental illness.

I don’t care about it, personally, because I’ve been lucky; it hasn’t ever really gotten in my way. But discrimination affects others badly. Really fucking badly. And I totally understand why.

The mentally ill don’t need to be singled out based on the actions of criminals. It’s offensive to do so, and it doesn’t even make sense.

The amount of demonisation I’ve seen the mentally ill as a group subjected to — surreptitiously by the hard right (because it wasn’t guns!) and inadvertently hiding in articles in the PC left media (smacked down here) — since this recent mass murder in the United States is mind-boggling.

It’s quite simple: the United States has worse healthcare than some developing countries (Columbia!); but look at these fucking statistics. Now, what should the priority be following Friday’s Connecticut shooting? It’s pretty fucking obvious to me.

To start with: to demonise people with autism spectrum disorders is to demonstrate a profound ignorance of established facts about abnormal human psychology.

Second; what effect does mental illness have on crime? The first clear-cut example is psychopathy; but does psychopathy predict criminal behaviour? A bit of arithmetic carried out on Baylor College’s neurolaw-focused blog, using some estimates and some quantified statistics indicated that 15% of all psychopaths currently living in the United States are incarcerated for some crime or another. Would increased mental health funding, and more accessible high-quality treatment help these rates? No. Psychopathy is untreatable, and very difficult to diagnose.

What about the mentally ill population as a whole? That’s a point of contention too, and it shouldn’t be, because there are more of these things called facts — and they’re in. The mentally ill, as a population, are overwhelmingly more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Check this in the peer-reviewed literature for yourself, and look through other articles.

This is the crux of my argument: if the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of violence rather than perpetrators of violence, then taking measures to reduce violence also protects the mentally ill. Tackling gun violence is a step towards protecting the mentally ill, and a step towards protecting everyone else.

Better healthcare is an absolute imperative. There are some shocking stats associated with mental illness in the United States. The one I find scariest is that only one-third of adults and one-half of children with diagnosable mental illnesses actually get to talk to a professional in any meaningful capacity.

Clearly, mental health services in the United States need to be fixed, and they need to be fixed soon; but right now, a scourge that infects American culture as a whole must be fixed. This is gun culture.

This is a hard calculation to make with objectivity, but right now, America’s progressives and concerned conservatives should try to rewrite the gun laws.

Now is the time. This isn’t an either-or thing; it should be a both thing — but smart progressives should not lose sight of the myopia of their fellow countrymen.

Help everyone first: fix your fucking gun culture.

Ethics

Now, you could say that who am I, an Australian descended from undesirable colonisers (I’m not, but that’s what I was told) — to derive morals from facts (as Hume supposedly prohibited) and moreover, how dare I use my moral standards to judge another country’s laws and culture?

Because fuck you. If ethics aren’t about minimising suffering and maximising flourishing for all conscious creatures, then ethics is a waste of everyone’s time — and anyone who believes that has no grounds to support any moral cause, or to judge the behaviours of others. That’s why.

Why should we be interested in minimising suffering and maximising harm? Well, would you apply the same standard to medical research? How about physics? No. I didn’t fucking think so. So why do people hate it when you try to come up with a normative system of ethics? Out of respect for unjustified, unsubstantiated bullshit faith-based opinions.

Also, you didn’t read Hume properly. He used inference to the best explanation (induction) all the time, despite pointing out a “problem with induction” (that modern epistemology and philosophy of science has easily accommodated in the form of evidentialism; even verificationism), and he was an empiricist. He’d be fine with physics and medicine; and if he knew about consequentialism, he’d be fine with that too. (The problems in that BBC link have largely been resolved, it just covers naive consequentialism really, but you can find that shit out yourself. Go read some Peter Singer and even Sam Harris — neither of whom I totally agree with — and make up your own mind.)

My thoughts go out to all the families who lost loved ones last Friday. If children, a teacher and a psychologist being murdered in cold blood with legal weapons isn’t a wakeup call for America, there’s something wrong with the American leadership, and by extension, the people who elected those leaders.

Disagree?

Before you tell me, read what I wrote. Read it again. Check my sources. I don’t like repeating myself. I will approve your comments (I do that anyway), but only to enshrine you as a dunce.

Fractal wrongness

I wish to cast this image into the aether of the net.

Fractal Wrongness

You are not just wrong; you are recursively wrong. The wrongness of every possible iteration of any of your arguments is self-similar with the wrongness of your entire worldview.

This image is adapted from the demotivator poster described on RationalWiki. The caption offered there says: “You are not just wrong. You are wrong at every conceivable level of resolution. Zooming in on any part of your worldview finds beliefs exactly as wrong as your entire worldview.

The sentiment expressed is clever, but I found the caption unwieldy, unlettered and technically incorrect. Fractals are resolution-independent. They scale indefinitely.