Mark Newton writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday). If the only people having conversations about the AWU rubbish were Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott’s parliamentary cheer squad, Richard Farmer’s advice for Gillard to remain silent would be wise.
Unfortunately for Gillard, the quality of Farmer’s advice is undermined by the fact that elements of the press and some of the more unhinged elements of the public have also been talking about it, so it doesn’t really matter whether or not Gillard opens her mouth.
The reality of the state of our public discourse is that controversy can be created out of thin air by merely talking about it, particularly when the basis of the argument is either so nebulous or so complicated that nobody can work out why it’s controversial.
When issues aren’t well understood, the fact that famous people are arguing about them must mean there’s some fire to go with the smoke, yes?
So the press does their he-said-she-said kabuki act, diligently giving equal time to people who know what they’re talking about and mutant freakozoids, and entire landscapes of what used to be universally accepted reality suddenly become “open for debate.”
The most obvious long-term example is climate change, where doubt can be made to exist by merely casting doubt, because in some peoples’ minds “the science isn’t in” until the world’s rainforests actually catch fire. The same pattern was played out throughout half a century of debate about whether tobacco smoking causes cancer, and in the way billionaires lusting after tax cuts are still confused about whether Keynesian economics works despite Australia’s post-GFC performance versus everyone else’s.
If Abbott stepped up to a microphone tomorrow and said that the carbon tax was a threat to the continued rule of the law of gravity, The Australian would dutifully report it, Fairfax’s opinion columnists would question its merits, a distinguished panel of physicists would “admit” that we still don’t know all there is to know about gravity but they think it’s pretty reliable, Andrew Bolt would seize on their “doubt” and claim that the science isn’t in, and teams of partisan chatterboxes would line up on either side of a playing field to throw rocks at each other. All of a sudden a tiny, tiny portion of our population would be having an obsessively-reported national argument about something that should be inarguable.
And the great unhinging rolls on …
Get serious about super
Matthew Auger writes: In response to Chokyi Nyingpo (comments, yesterday), the reason your attempts to change the postal address for your previous occupant’s super info from AMP is simple. You are not the client and therefore you have no authority to change the client’s mailing address unless you can provide a Power-of-Attorney on behalf of the previous occupant. Even though you may return mail, AMP are obliged to mail out statements and will still send it to the current address as that is the last know address as advised by the client. If the client can’t be bothered to advise AMP, then that’s the client’s problem and they won’t get their statements. As per Sarah Hayes (comments, Wednesday), many people need to take more personal responsibility for their superannuation.
Water and electrics can be a great combo
Electrical engineer James I Brown writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday). Your item about resuscitating phones from the toilet draws on the belief/myth that water and electricity are a fatal combination at least for electronics.
This is far from the truth. Many electronics assemblies are washed in water to remove deposits left during manufacture. High purity water is a very good insulator. Problems arise when normal water or salt water, which have significant ionic contamination, are combined with powered circuits. This occurs with battery powered phones, or watches and corrodes conducting parts. As the article describes if you can remove the battery, this will reduce the risk of corrosion.
In all cases an additional step of rinsing with distilled water will help, particularly if sea water has penetrated the enclosure.
Applying this principle, a standard detachable keyboard or mouse can be washed using soap, water and a scrubbing brush then rinsing in clean water, shaken to remove free water and drying in the sun. Wireless keyboards or mice with batteries should have batteries removed first.
Laptop computers should not be washed as hard disks etc can be damaged. But if coffee is spilt on a keyboard, disconnect the charger and remove the battery ASAP, don’t delay tying to do a shutdown. Rinse with clean water minimising the water getting into the bottom by holding the keyboard surface close to vertical.
The bit about removing the water detection system is interesting.