Troy writes from Jakarta: Re. “Jakarta, a city under water” (yesterday, item 1). I was going to keep my misgivings to myself, until I saw yesterday’s story about the Jakarta floods (Crikey, 6 February). Your observations are all correct, but they could be taken much further. Here are five problematic facts about the floods in Jakarta that Australia needs to know before parting with cash: 1) February is the rainy season – it’s a known fact. 2) Flooding occurs in the same places in Jakarta EVERY year – it’s a known fact. 3) The government’s flood mitigation projects have been very slow – it’s a known fact. 4) There have been many allegations of corruption and embezzlement regarding flood control, building permits and emergency service funding – it’s a known fact. 5) Jakarta is NOT ready for the February floods – it was a known fact even last week before the rivers filled. The only variable in the above is the scale of disaster. Most Februaries the flooding is localised and temporary (although always in the same places). Some years the bullet is not dodged and noticeable numbers of people are killed, made homeless and sick or displaced; those years are 2002 and 2007. I saw it in 2002 and was shocked. I’ve seen it year after year since and have been frustrated. Now I am seeing it again with my own eyes in 2007 and I don’t know what to think this time! So when I read that Australia is giving $150,000 of aid (The Jakarta Post, yesterday) I was torn. This is so right – yet it cuts against the grain. Yes, so many desperate people need help and if you knew some of these people who earn less than $100 a month – for the whole household! – you’d cry to see this kick in their guts. But why should Australia be paying for another nation’s crystal clear negligence and greed? I am torn between pride and frustration. Is Australia a sucker? Or are we really great people? I don’t know how I should feel to be one of us today.

Keith Bedford writes: Re. Climate change debate. It is interesting and informative that the naysayers are almost universally either politicians with law degrees or people who are non-scientists on the fringes of right wing politics. We do not see any serious scientific writing in denial and those scientists we do see are inevitably tainted with connections with bodies that have the most to lose now from acceptance of the need to take action to reduce CO2 emissions. We never seem to hear anything from people who would know anything about the science of what effects us and our futures in respect to the natural world, water and global warming. The scientific establishment is now convinced about a matter that was first raised over 20 years ago, when the Howard Government refused to accept it and would not sign Kyoto which the previous government had negotiated on favourable terms for Australia. Why should we now trust them to put measures in place that will try to make up for the lost times?

Alex Pollard writes: As someone who seriously doubts a number of widely accepted scientific “facts” (the existence of black holes, dark matter and dark energy, for example), I can sympathise with climate change sceptics who stand on a point of principle – that no scientific debate can truly be said to be over. However, we have reached a point where the scientific argument over the threshold issue – whether humans are significantly at fault – is actually irrelevant. Clearly, on a balance of probabilities, we are at fault. It is not enough for sceptics to say, “Well, what if the scientists are wrong?” The burden of proof must go the other way. This is an application of what is known as the “Precautionary Principle”. Tim Flannery gives a great example in his book The Weather Makers. 30 years ago the world, by sheer blind luck, chose to use CFCs over an alternative class of chemical, BFCs. Had BFCs been used on the scale of CFCs, it is clear that the ozone layer would have been destroyed to an extent that would have wiped out agriculture worldwide before we even knew what struck us. When Howard says “The jury is still out” on climate change, he exposes himself as completely uncomprehending of the enormous risks he and his ilk expose us to. Howard’s front bench of sceptics are not fit to handle this issue.

Mike Martin writes: Well! The denialists are out in force (yesterday, comments). Michael McAllister writes that the Perth Group argues that “there is ‘no proof that a retrovirus HIV does exist’ and by extension is the cause of AIDS”. Many denialists start with a firm conviction of the “truth”, impervious to scientific evidence to the contrary, and use their scientific training to nitpick round the edges of serious research. They seize on uncertainties and claim that uncertainty proves that theory must be wrong. The Perth Group believes that AIDS is caused by “changes in cellular redox brought about by the oxidative nature of substances” and that “cessation of exposure to oxidants and/or use of antioxidants will improve the outcome of AIDS patients”. It would follow that eating lots of oranges, carrots and broccoli should then cure it. As far as I can tell from their website they have conducted no trials to test this. They also claim that AIDS will not spread outside the original risk group, that the drug AZT cannot kill “HIV” and may cause AIDS. These claims are rebutted by voluminous and ever-growing epidemiological evidence to the contrary. For the Perth Group to claim that they are walking in the footsteps of scientific mavericks such as Galileo is simply absurd.

Wayne Robinson writes: Re. Chinglish (yesterday, editorial). I too have been amused by the English translations of Chinese signs. But then again, my knowledge of Chinese (spoken and written) is virtually nonexistent, and Chinese is a fiendishly difficult language. I imagine the Chinese derive great amusement from our attempts to communicate in their language. My favourite sign was in a Beijing hotel gym changeroom warning “Be careful of landslide”, but I certainly got the message and made certain I didn’t slip on the wet floor. Monolinguists or minimally bilinguists shouldn’t deride the efforts of native speakers of other languages to communicate in English.

Austin Carwardine writes: My favourite Chinglish sign, in a hotel bathroom in Nanjing.

Adam Rope writes: While reading Mark Bahnisch’s piece yesterday (item 6) about Kevin Rudd’s inability to master the 30 second soundbite, I wondered if he had caught John Clarke and Bryan Dawe’s succinct analysis on the 7:30 Report before Christmas?

BRYAN DAWE: Mr Rudd, I think what I mean is, what can the Australian public notice about the way that the Labor Party is going to be different now?

JOHN CLARKE: In a word, Bryan, brevity.

BRYAN DAWE: You’ll be brief?

JOHN CLARKE: I will, let me expand on that.

BRYAN DAWE: You’re going to expand on brevity?

It was a wonderful piece of satire that caught Rudd spectacularly well.

Simon Nasht writes: Re. “How Nine covered its own big, important story” (yesterday, item 5). Channel Nine’s decision to fail to report the apparent murder of one its own staff is a new low point in commercial television journalism – just when you thought standards couldn’t tumble any further. The deaths of Brian, Greg Shackleton and their colleagues remains a terrible stain in our history that has been covered up by successive governments in order to appease the perpetrators in Jakarta. Channel Nine’s rapid transformation from a proud news organisation into a tabloid trashcan is appalling. Shame.

Mike Smith writes: Re. Charles Richardson’s article (yesterday, item 19) on teen’s comments on pron (I adopt the traditional misspelling to avoid filtering) – I don’t think the attitude of “of course I wasn’t looking for it” is exclusive to teens. Most adults would come back with the same response. We’re a curiously Victorian lot, after all. But if I find pron, it’s because I’m looking for it deliberately. And in the ACT, you don’t have to look that far…

Vince Taskunas writes: Re. “Amanda Vanstone’s music by numbers” (yesterday, item 11). Daniel Zugna said: “The Scorpions’ banal declaration I follow the Moskva / Down to Gorky Park was in itself never going to challenge the structural integrity of the Berlin Wall – but place this in the vicinity of some plangent whistling, righteous minor-key changes and determined snare drumming and you have Wind Of Change, the greatest freakin’ political power ballad of the early 90s. The message and the music are written as one, using knowledge and experience gained from Cold War survival and 80s hair metal.” Daniel – that is absolutely hilarious. The fact that “Wind of Change” is on a Playstation Singstar compile is, in itself, a further reminder – and a dreadful punishment meted out to me regularly by my kids singing it – of just how appallingly bad 80s Euro hair bands were. Europe’s “The Final Countdown” is on the same karaoke disc… the horror, the horror.

John Sparkman writes: Re. “AFL brokers Foxtel deal – successfully screws members” (yesterday, item 17). Adam Schwab should come clean about his motivation for yesterday’s item. Admit it Adam, you’re annoyed that you won’t be able to watch all AFL matches on free-to-air television. Fact is, there isn’t sufficient interest in the community for eight AFL matches a week – that’s why Seven and Ten were desperate to unload them. In fact, the only reason they were sold to the FTAs in the first place was because of the Government’s draconian anti-siphoning list, which punishes sporting organisations for having popular sports. Adam should stump up for his pay-TV subscription and acknowledge that market forces have to be allowed to work some of the time.

Warren Ludski writes: Re. What? No sport? I don’t believe it? How could you? Think of the impact of your decision. Now poor old Michael Pascoe won’t have a vehicle to show he is hanging off the coat tails of the SMH‘s Greg Growden and those other quid nuncs at The Australian and The Smelly. How on earth is Pascoe going to maintain the rage against Gregan? It’s been his – and Growden and Co’s – raison d’etre these last few months. Now you’ve shut down one of the channels. And us Manuka Muppets, as the erudite Growden lovingly refers to us, are left bereft of a source of mirth. Shame on you I say, shame on you.

Lyn Turner writes: Re. Terry Kidd’s (Monday) and Michele Stephens’s (yesterday) comments – there is no such thing as “innocence” in Australian/English law. A person is either “guilty” or “not guilty”. The term “innocence” is only used in Scottish law.

Andrew Decker writes: Re. John Robinson’s comment (yesterday, comments). A big “BRAVO” to him and a hearty “Shame on you!” to you. I couldn’t agree with him more; the only difference is that I became a happy “squatter” when the Politburo took over Crikey whereas he probably still is wading through your daily verbosity. Sometimes I do enjoy much of the newsletter that I see, but mostly I just shake my head and wonder how you people managed to end up running a newsletter that is only marginally different from The Age nowadays. Perhaps in the future you might start to give out orders as to who can and who cannot read your sad little emails…

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Peter Fray

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