Tuesday 25 July 2006


Apple's rightful dominance of the legal music download business to date should not be allowed to develop into long term market control.

I have previously written on my conflicted feelings towards Apple. On the one hand I own and admire many of their products. On the other hand, I have endured appalling customer service experiences as an Ipod and notebook customer. I’ve also heard of more.

Perhaps the most disturbing Apple development is the stranglehold they now have over music downloads. The Ipod / Itunes tie up which prevents Itunes users from using non-Apple players is contrary to consumer and artist interests and also compromises the development of new digital music player technologies.

France has been the first nation to notice this nasty development. Other European governments and consumer groups are now also taking notice.

The issue is that once you are an Ipod owner, Itunes user and Istore music consumer, you are locked into the Apple universe forever in respect of the music you purchase or load into Itunes. Should Sony or another company come up with a player more suited to your needs and interests in the future, you’ll need to purchase your music again and burn your CDs again. That means the more loyal you are to Itunes Music Store and the greater your commitment to the legal acquisition of music, the greater your punishment will be should you elect to abandon the Apple stable.

Apple claims to have engineered this arrangement in the interests of copyright protection. When copyright protection initiatives harm the interests of honest, high spending consumers most, as Apple’s approach does, the merit of the argument is at best weak. Apple may have also noted the Windowsesque consumer leverage their well-intended copyright initiative avails them of.

The Ipod is an impressive device. Myriad problems with batteries, screens and general reliability make it a far from perfect machine. The kind of market power Apple is obtaining in the music download business will increase the already high arrogance levels consumers experience from the company and diminish Apple’s innovation energy. More importantly, other more nimble players will be deprived the opportunity of bringing new and improved products to market.

Word is that other great market control freak, Microsoft, will have a rival product in the market before year’s end. Bring it on. And let’s see some other products out there from other companies as well. And let’s make a sensible level of player interoperability a feature of all players.

Apple has been a great innovator in digital music and its staggering worldwide marketshare in legal music downloads and its enormous profits are a just reward for its innovation. Apple should not be able to leverage its justified initial high market-share into market control. The French and now Norwegian governments are right in pursuing legislation requiring that Apple make its music downloads compatible with a range of music player devices. Aren’t we capitalists all about competition? Doesn’t competition produce the best outcomes for all?

Surprised we have to learn that from the French and the Norwegians.

Tuesday 18 July 2006


Have you noticed the difference between Howard’s tone when he speaks about Iraq and Timor? On Iraq he remains filled with the missionary zeal and “never cut and run” glory of war nonsense scripted by his patron W.

On Timor he’s irritable, impatient and patronising.

This is despite the fact that Timor is our near neighbour and its security has urgent implications for Australia.

Which of the Howard personas is real? Have a listen.

These observations are based on listening to the Prime Minister across a range of media. His comments on Timor have been heard mainly on ABC Radio's AM and PM programmes.


In a career full of appalling lines, could this have been W’s most ridiculous moment?

When President Bush chastised President Putin over Russia’s disappearing democracy at the G8 meeting, Bush suggested the Russian President should look to Iraq as an example of democracy and press freedom.

In light of his administration’s increasingly scurrilous attacks on US press freedom and the Republican manipulation of the 2000 election, perhaps he was not sufficiently confident about proposing the United States as a model democracy?

As for Iraq, well the US government has been revealed as paying bribes in order to manipulate the Iraqi press. On democracy, the US refused to accept leaders produced by the Iraqi democratic process – but finally got its way. As for democratic institutions, law and order and civil society in Iraq – well let’s not go there.

Putin responded to Bush’s proposal with predictable contempt. The former KGB head was no doubt very pleased that that the self appointed champion of democracy opposite was a man whose democratic credentials are in tatters at home and abroad.


The word terrorist will likely go down as the most abused of the new millennium. Since September 11 2001, it’s been used to justify actions of all kinds by all kinds of governments. The latest crisis in the Middle East is no different.

Terrorists are evil we are told because of their contempt for civilian life. They actively target civilians. Seems reasonable.

So then how do we treat a military campaign that accepts large civilian casualties and tiny military casualties? Surely this also constitutes terrorism?

The count when I last checked after 6 days of fighting: 170 killed in Lebanon (mainly civilians) and 24 in Israel. As I write, reports of another 50 Lebanese civilian deaths filter through.

What is Israel’s proportionality calculus? What number of civilian deaths would constitute an excessive response or an overreaction to the kidnapping of soldiers and the shelling of Israeli cities?

The moral imperatives would be sufficient for many to justify wholesale condemnation of Israel. However moral arguments are also inextricably connected to arguments of legitimacy, strategy and ultimately effectiveness. It seems extraordinary that Israel’s leaders could really believe they are buying Israel’s security with such wholesale disregard for civilian life.

Israel’s right to defend itself is given. The havoc that the destructive force of Israel’s military is wreaking goes way beyond any reasonable definition of self-defense. Does such a strategy offer any prospect of peace?

Israel once again has refused to accept (along with the US) Tony Blair and Kofi Annan’s proposed international peacekeeping force. Why?

Israel looks, sounds and behaves increasingly like those it rightly condemns.


I have long been astounded by the Pentagon’s decision not to keep civilian casualty records in Iraq. What better measure of the success of a military campaign in an insurgency environment where hearts and minds are central, than its success in keeping civilian casualties in check? The contempt this decision shows for the Iraqi people flies in the face of all the grand rhetoric about bringing freedom and civilization to a long-suffering people. Once again, Bush, Cheney, Rummy et. al. have lowered the bar for the treatment of civilians in combat. It seems the Israelis as well as the US soldiers involved in the now frequently emerging Iraq atrocity tales, have taken note.

Wednesday 12 July 2006


There is something obscene in the spectre of one of the world’s most sophisticated military forces, Israel, being launched against the Palestinian population in the rescue of captured Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit .

Corporal Shalit is yet another young victim of a conflict with a seemingly endless capacity to destroy life – mostly Palestinian life. I don’t know what an appropriate Israeli response to the kidnapping is. I do know the route that Israel has chosen to pursue meets no international legal, moral or even effectiveness criteria. The desperation being imposed on Palestinians now and since the election of the Hamas led Palestinian Authority provides perfect conditions for the continued supply of Palestinian militants pathologically opposed to any accommodation with Israel.

Every profoundly uneven contest in history has seen the weaker party resort to so called “terrorist” activity – the struggle for a Jewish state included. This does not justify the actions of Palestinian militants of course. But it does explain them.

A state that wields its power against the defenceless as Israel does, diminishes itself and its claims and ultimately compromises its own future by swelling extremist ranks.

Most Israelis accept and seek an accommodation with the Palestinians. Most Palestinians seek the same. Nobody is served except those on the extreme fringes when Israel unleashes its vast military power killing civilians, crippling hospitals and devastating already bleak Palestinian lives.

Whether there is any prospect of peace with Hamas is difficult to know. The same might reasonably be asked of recent Israeli governments. There have been many occasions – especially during the interlude after the death of Arafat and prior to the election of Hamas - where it seemed that the US sponsored and mutually agreed “roadmap” was wilfully sabotaged by Israel. Israel continues to work on an assumption that its military strength and the US alliance will provide permanent security in a hostile region becoming more so.

The approaching multi polar world will be far more complex however. Add to that Israel’s demographic timebomb - where Palestinian births outnumber Israeli births dramatically - and it seems a brave and painful gesture for peace is Israel’s only option. The US and Australia’s support for Israel’s approach to the Palestinian problem damages our countries and ultimately builds the delusion that Israel can continue to depend on an unassailable military advantage supported by the US as its primary negotiation tool.

A world where Russian, Chinese and Indian economic and military power will reshape international relations everywhere, will also complicate Israel’s capacity to depend on its overwhelming military strength as its only lever in dealing with Palestinian national aspirations. Add to that the strengthening of Iran, the ongoing instability in Iraq, and the argument for a radical Israel inspired solution for peace becomes more urgent. Hamas may be a hopeless partner for peace. Israel needs to prove that. Every new day of misery imposed by Israeli occupation and Israel’s total refusal to open a channel to test the democratically elected Hamas led Palestinian Authority only provides fuel for those intent on Israel’s destruction.