Andrew Leigh writes: Cathy Bannister (8 December, comments), is concerned that Amy King and I used only four “beauty raters” to assess federal politicians. The reason we did so is that their ratings are very highly correlated. In the beauty literature (yes, there is such a thing), this is known as the finding that “beauty is not in the eye of the beholder”. So most beauty studies only use a handful of raters. In our case, if one of our raters thought a political candidate was smokin’ hot, chances are the other three did too.

Greg Angelo writes: Re. “Children caught in the crossfire of Nelson’s nod to shoot on illegal boats” (8 December, item 9). Sophie Black should take a cold shower. Under normal rules of engagement, the threat of gunfire is usually sufficient to stop the most recalcitrant of pirates from running away from an armed gunboat. I am quite sure that if illegal fishermen are going to take children aboard boats and then run away from the Australian Navy, the responsibility for this action rests with the illegal fishermen and not the Australian Navy. If the use of force is proscribed as Sophie suggests, I am sure the more unscrupulous illegal fishermen would then use a child mascot as a means of escaping apprehension. I am quite sure that should there be the need to fire on an illegal fishing boat, that the Australian Navy is quite capable of disabling such a boat without any serious risk of injury to a crew member unless the crew member was deliberately placed in harms way. This dilemma faces all law enforcement agencies. If we wish to engaged in environmental protection, risk can be minimised but not totally eliminated. These issues need to be treated in a balanced fashion.

Lucille Martin writes: I thoroughly disagree with Charles Richardson’s comments on the new ALP leadership (8 December, item 8). The entire party is responsible for its success, not just the leader, yet the ALP has no comprehension of this. Instead of showing a strong, unified front which is necessary to secure the support and confidence of the voters, they fight amongst themselves and go from disaster to disaster. Why didn’t they learn from the Latham disaster, it was obvious from the beginning?! Then they lost even more ground and wasted time on Crean, another disaster. Finally they bring in the only person sufficiently experienced and capable of beating the coalition and they don’t back him. Michael Costello’s piece was right on the money. Rudd will enjoy a period of positivity due to the efforts and significant achievements of Beazley after the Latham/Crean wreckage but it won’t last. Then the ALP will be ousting him and looking for the next disaster.

Tony Ryan writes: Re. “What’s behind the Fiji coup?” (yesterday, item 17). Can Crikey ever get its head around situations which do not echo white Australian pseudo-democracy as proselytised by the Sydney School of Journalism? What is happening in Fiji is a reaction to hierarchical governments, not only in Fiji, but in Tonga, Tahiti, Solomon Islands and, in more muted terms, the Cook Islands. I don’t know who your correspondent Thomas Hunter is but if he knew his craft he would know that Bainimarama is one of the non-landowners who strongly resents the dictatorial land-owning class. Hunter should comprehend that the politics of this part of the world contains an admixture of fundamentalist Christianity, British Raj and local culture. In absolute mockery of the much televised Fijian protesters, the hierarchical regime was anything but democratic.

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “The Ceaucescu moment approaches”. People seem to be puzzled by opinion polls which suggest that although Labor would win an election on two-party preferences, a majority of 58% believe the Government “is still the favourite”. A contradiction? Not really. It just means the majority suspect their neighbours will vote for the coalition. That’s how conditioned we are by the mainstream media view that Howard is unbeatable. Romanians assumed the same was true for Ceaucescu.

Jim Hart writes: Re the Literature Board grants (8 December, item 18), the Australia Council seems to face a dilemma with funding. If they give the money to an established writer whose books already sell well then they are wasting the taxpayers’ money on someone who doesn’t need help. But if they support a relatively unknown writer with considerable artistic merit but poor sales then they are wasting the taxpayers’ money on some wanker that no one wants to read. A similar situation exists with the visual arts where the major grants seem to go mainly to the safe and uncontroversial choices – the established names whose work already gets recognition and good prices. By the way, please tell Guy Rundle that the chair of the Literature Board spells his name Salusinszky not Saluzshinsky. I know I’m picky but some of us still think spelling matters, especially with people’s names. Guy may not agree but then he is a Crikey journalist.

Lee Tulloch writes: Guy Rundle, while I encourage analysis of the Literature Board’s grant decisions, I think it might be a bit disingenuous of you to question whether Peter Temple “needs” his $90,000 Fellowship. I don’t know Peter’s circumstances but I certainly know, as you must, that even a bucketful of Ned Kelly awards doesn’t necessarily translate into anything that might be called an “income.” If the Fellowships were distributed according to need, then a few comfortable past recipients might have to give theirs back. And I would put my hand up. I don’t even own a damn house. I call on Writers Without Real Estate to form their own lobby group.

Robert Hughes writes: NSW MLC Jon Jenkins claims (8 December, comments) that in a survey conducted of the world’s top 600 climatologists Professor Dennis Bray found that less than one in ten strongly agreed that the recent warming was caused by human activity. This is a typical piece of misinformation used by Jenkins and his ilk. First, the survey wasn’t restricted to climatologists, it was an online survey that was re-posted to a climate change sceptic mailing list with a suggestion that members respond and with a valid username and password supplied. Professor Bray had no way of ensuring that only climate scientists participated and no way of preventing people from submitting the survey multiple times. Therefore, the data cannot be assumed to be an accurate representation of the views of climate scientists. Second, Jenkins cherry-picks this already suspect data by quoting only the figure for the percentage of respondents who strongly agreed with the premise that recent warming was caused human activity. However, the survey had a seven point scale from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (7) for the response to the question. Only 10% strongly disagreed and around 70% responded with a score of 1, 2 or 3. Jenkins also quotes social anthropologist Professor Benny Peiser to claim that most of the 1117 papers used by Naomi Oreskes and Gore to support anthropogenic global warming (AGW) did not support AGW. I am sure Jenkins is aware that Peiser withdrew his criticism in March this year. In fact, Peiser told Media Watch recently that only one paper rejected or doubted AGW. The problem with Jenkins and his ilk is that no matter how many times their arguments and data are shown to be suspect (at best) they keep on returning to them like a dog to its vomit.

Ronald Watts writes: Like Andrew Bolt, Jon Jenkins is not a climatologist. Nor am I but I am careful with the evidence. In March this year, Benny Peiser (Senior Lecturer, Social Anthropology, not Prof) whom Jenkins quotes approvingly withdrew the claim on which Jenkins relies. Just as well – it wasn’t published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, which is the standard of evidence we should all require. For such evidence, see here for example. Dennis Bray, whom Jenkins also quotes, last published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2001 (according to his web site), using 1996 data. A lot has happened since then. An example of Jenkins’ errors and data selection is his statement that “Only four ‘highest category’ storms have occurred in the last ten years!” The actual number of category five hurricanes is seven. I suspect he meant those that reached landfall in the US. Even if he were right, though, this would be a statistically poor measure of global climate change. You can always find a tame “expert” to support your interpretation of the facts – La Devine has one in Queensland somewhere. They’re much thinner on the ground if you demand evidence that the majority of specialists in the field accept, after due review and publication.

Chris Colenso-Dunne writes: To “Examine the journalist and Islam” (8 December, item 21), why not start with how hacks uncritically reinforce the jargon? Take the use of Arab as an antonym for Israeli, as in “Arab-Israeli conflict”: handy for the partisans, but misleading because at least 15 to 20% of Israelis are Arabs. Next, take the call to arms invoked by cries of “anti-Semitism”. If a Semite is anyone who (exclusively) speaks a Semitic language, Arabic say, one might naively think that anti-Semites included anti-Arabs. Of course, that would ignore how the phrase came about. According to the SOED (2nd edition), the term had entered the language by 1881 and has always meant “theory, action or practice directed against the Jews”. Given the history of such persecution a label was sorely needed. But why so late and appropriated so exclusively: surely anti-Judaism would have been more honest? Perhaps the phrase coincided with one of the many pushes in the UK for a Jewish sanctuary in the Near East – if so, right from the start the phrase’s intent was nationalistic. Finally (as I submitted to Wikipedia), in Fowler’s (2nd edition) Gower in 1965 still advocated Mahometan – not Muslim – for a follower of Mahomet.

Nigel Brunel writes: Max Walsh – aka Chicken Little (8 December, item ) – is employing the Stopped Clock methodology to support his doomsday claims. You see – even a stopped clock is right twice a day and eventually Walsh will also strike one or maybe two.

Dave Smith writes: I liked the photo of the piratical Troy Williams, Liberal candidate for Fraser and I noted that Troy was struggling with the spelling of “O’Conner (sic)”. He also appears to struggle with the spelling of the suburbs Ainslie, Reid and Fairbairn instead dubbing them Ainsley, Ried and Fairbarn. Nonetheless Troy “is looking to continue the tradition of Jim Fraser” the former member of the House of Representatives for whom the seat is named.
I’m not sure Troy realises he was a Labor member…

Patrick Belton writes: Re. “Canada’s Liberals pick an environmentalist” (8 December, item 16). Charles Richardson should know better – Quebecois, not Quebecker.

Lesley Ann Grimoldby writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Unimpregnable? Are you saying that it is therefore pregnable?

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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