ACCC v Google:

Rob Shilkin, Google Australia’s Head of Corporate Communications, writes: Re. “ACCC v Google: the search begins” (Friday, item 30). Thought I’d write to clarify a misconception made by Margaret Simons in her article on Friday. The ACCC proceedings have nothing to do with Google’s ranking algorithms for our search results. The proceedings relate solely to the text advertisements on the Google results page under the heading “Sponsored Links”. Thousands of Australian businesses – including Crikey I’m pleased to say – purchase these sponsored links to connect with customers and audiences worldwide. Google Australia is defending against these proceedings vigorously. You can read more here.

Two economies — it’s hard out there for ordinary folk:

Wendy Harmer writes: I want to thank Thomas Hunter for his “Tale of two economies: us v. them” (Friday, item 5). The big picture of the economy is not resonating with ordinary folks, for good reason. It’s hard to get excited about a national “resources boom” when, day-in and day-out , companies are nicking a dollar here and there from our pockets and sending us all broke. I just paid two bills which were overdue, (Ok, my oversight, but ask any working mum if she pays her mountain of bills on time), and was slugged late fees — $15 by Telstra and $7 by Energy Australia. It’s not just escalating costs for petrol and supermarket goods. There are the increasing costs at the school tuck shop, at parking meters, a surcharge on credit card use, rising bank fees, insurance payments, council rates, school fees (and the kids attend the local State primary!)…you name it. Just trying to stay in a holding pattern and not slip further and further behind is the reality for most Aussie families. I’ll admit, I’m one of the lucky ones who has the house paid off, but I hear the despair of my sister on the farm who is now working a job which takes her away from her family on weekends (no penalty rates, nor overtime). My younger brother is a painter and decorator and estimates the cost of his materials has risen by 100% in the past five years. He has two daughters who both needed dental braces at $5,000 each. He has an annual $40,000 take home pay. How does he compensate? A three-year moratorium on family holidays. Australian workers are not buying the “trickle down effect” rhetoric – ie: “what’s good for the Big End of town is good for all of us”. I’ve always thought that the only real demonstration of the trickle down effect is when you stand at the urinal next to someone from the Macquarie Bank and he p-sses on your trousers.

Dr Haneef charges are absurd:

Marty O’Neill writes: It is absolutely absurd that Dr Haneef can be charged with providing “support to a terrorist organisation” because he gave somebody a mobile SIM card that may or may not have been subsequently used — without his knowledge. It would be a different matter if what was supplied was dynamite or a nuclear device or the internal plans of a defence facility — but where will this end? Will someone be charged for providing pencil and paper to another person who later uses it to write letters supporting Al-Qaeda? Will I be charged because — in my volunteer work and as I have done — I help a person of Middle East background set up a e-mail account and then that person subsequently communicates with someone working to overthrow the Khazi government in Afghanistan? If that is the case, then charge me now — I want to stand side by side with Dr Haneef! These are extreme, dictatorial and fascist laws: needless to say, I don’t support Howard, Ruddock and his ilk on this. But Kevin Rudd and the Labor Party must also clearly understand: I won’t be voting for them either if their intention is keep laws like this in place.

Duncan Beard writes: In response to David Lodge’s letter (Friday, comments). Being related to a criminal doesn’t make one a criminal, neither does talking to one. I would have thought that fairly obvious. Whether Mr Haneef turns out to be an innocent bystander, person of interest or, indeed, a terrorist sympathiser, is beside the point. He [had not at that point] been charged. Your hysterical characterisation of him (to use your own words, “without the tiniest shred of evidence”) as one of “these nutcases who are intent of destroying our way of life and our culture” and the fact that you decry all those who would seek to question this as being driven by the “warped ideology” of the “left” would be funny if it weren’t so obvious that you actually believed it. It’s like listening to Joseph McCarthy, but with a twist of lemon. Actually, sometimes it’s like listening to Dr Strangelove.

The Coalition’s horror story:

Ashley Midalia writes: Re. “Bennelong gone. Kooyong now marginal? (Friday, item 9). Why lead with Kooyong? According to Richard Farmer’s across-the-board swing beat-up, not only would the Prime Minister lose his seat but his natural successor, deputy Liberal leader Costello, would too. Petro, in contrast, would be one of the few left standing (he might even find himself on the front bench).

Jackson Harding writes: Today’s article by Richard Farmer on the intersection of current polling and the Mackerras Pendulum is a real horror story for the coalition, and like any really good horror story what is not said and is left to the imagination makes it all the more chilling. On those figures the members for Bennelong, Wentworth and Higgins will all be down at Centrelink collecting their Newstart Allowance until the big end of town comes through with a nice directorship or three. What isn’t said is who is left to sip from the ultimate poison chalice of Australian politics — becoming the Leader of the Opposition after a Government loses power. The obvious candidates are Nelson, Bishop J and Robb. However they might decline and decide to take the job on a bit later after the dust had settled, this leads us to the doors of Ruddock, Schultz, Baird, or perhaps in an attempt to move back from the rabid right Georgiou in the now marginal seat of Kooyong. The scariest thought of all is when we look at the three Liberal survivors in South Australia. Mayo is one of the few, might a battered Liberal Party have no choice but to go cap in hand to the doors of the Adelaide Club and tell Alexander all is forgiven? Be afraid, be very afraid.

The CEC and the Swindle:

Michael Keizer (climate-change believer) writes: The CEC has done its cause not much good if Cam Smith is right about it stacking the Swindle’s studio audience. The load of baloney from these audience members managed very well to detract from the real arguments that are out there against the man-made catastrophic global warming theory. Are we sure that it actually wasn’t Greenpeace who placed those people?

Damian Skinner writes: Just thought I’d add a comment on how the Citizens Electoral Council promoted the Global Warming Swindle on ABC. I monitor an email account set up to handle public enquiries for a government department (with a specific interest in global warming) and a few days ago we received a strange email from the CEC encouraging us to show our support for the Global Warming Swindle show. The email address it was sent to is published on a website so it seems that the CEC has been “scraping” addresses from the web to build their spam list. I’d be interested to know how targeted the spam was.

David Lodge writes: Lefties rant about links to Exxon but no-one mentions one word about the huge amounts of money scientists are getting for peddling their 10 cents. Personally I’ve no idea what the truth is as both sides are giving inconclusive evidence but what I do know is that if you question the half baked science of man-made climate change (and no-one can claim that it is infallible) you’re branded as a ignorant neo-con and ignored.

Tasmanian ALP and that pulp mill:

Peter Lloyd writes: What to make of these bleating Tasmanian ALP types? They criticise Tasmanian ALP parliamentarians for being gutless while supporting, by their membership and efforts, a corrupt organisation. They write anonymously to Crikey because they know the consequences of standing up for basic decency in Australia’s forgotten state. Why don’t you leave the party? Why don’t you follow Terry Martin and “come out”? Once this mill is built, it will be pumping out poisons long after you, and maybe your kids, are dead. The new heights to which political corruption and abuse of process have been pushed will leave a stink lasting years. Staggering volumes of forest will be needed to feed it — a point completely avoided in all mill analyses. Yet rather than defecting, resigning or taking a public stand, they continue on, presumably out of some misguided romantic attachment to a Labor Party that has not existed for decades. The living embodiment of the “jobs jobs jobs” mantra that has always sustained evil while shirking responsibility for its consequences. Tasmanians have been conditioned to be fearful, xenophobic, unquestioning and credulous followers of corrupt authority. Voters and major party members alike have to wake up to the fact that the cage door is open, the most beautiful state in Australia will not be harmed by throwing out the boganocracy of Lennon, Gay and the unions. PS: Anyone heard from Barry Chipman lately?

ABA fund – let the communities spend the money:

Kevin Cox writes: Re. “ABA slush fund: federal housing funded with indigenous money” (Friday, item 1). Governments are inefficient in the way they spend money. The ABA fund illustrates what happens. Taxes are put on various goods and services for the purpose of addressing some social or economic purpose. The ABA tax is put on to address the needs of certain communities. This is the stated purpose yet governments do not let those communities decide how they want the money spent. Some minister or some bureaucrat decides on the best use of the money for their purposes not the community purposes. The simplest — and the most economically efficient — thing is to distribute the money equally to all the communities. If that is too liberal then the next simplest thing is to distribute the money to all the communities but to require expenditure to meet certain broad guidelines. That is, you give the money to communities and you let them decide how they want to use the money. They will ensure that it is spent on what benefits them the most. They do not need someone else to decide how they should spend their money.

Chris Graham, editor of National Indigenous Times, writes: John Goldsworthy noted on Friday (comments) that I drew “quite a long bow” in the story about Mal Brough pinching $100,000 from the Northern Territory Aboriginals Benefit Account.
Mr Goldsworthy noted: “Firstly to qualify as pork barrelling the expenditure must be within cooee of an election.” Ah, sorry John. If I drew a long bow, then you’re guilty of trying to defend the indefensible. Pork-barrelling is about ‘location, location, location’, not “timing, timing, timing”. He adds: “Secondly, it needs to be spent to elicit votes within his electorate”. Great John. Maybe you could explain to Crikey readers why Brough spent the money then? He continued: “And thirdly, maybe it could be even handed to spend some of the Aboriginals Benefit Account on places other than the Northern Territory.” Maybe it could John… and then maybe it could be a breach of the Aboriginal Land Rights legislation… which it is! Mind you, what’s a little “breaking of the law” between friends, right? Particularly when one is a Minister of the Crown. As for your comment, “Too much money and not enough work is part of their problem anyway”, great work, John. With that kind of valuable contribution to public debate, you really should consider joining a political party and running for office… Or finding a busy road to play on… I don’t mind which.

Meta-arguments and other denialist strategies:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “The 8 bad meta-arguments against global warming” (Friday, item 16): Guy Rundle has assembled a fine collection but there is a more effective denialist strategy than those. Daniel Dennett explains its use in the context of Intelligent Design: “First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist’s work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a “controversy” to teach. Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. “Smith’s work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat,” you say, misrepresenting Smith’s work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: “See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms.” And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.” You can pick the people using this strategy. They are often the ones who complain that contrarians’ views are being suppressed or censored.

King Canute:

Simon Thomsen writes: To correct Mike Martin’s (Friday, comments) about the oft misrepresented and maligned Viking King, the opposite was true. Surrounded by, and weary of sycophants who kept telling him how brilliant and omnipotent Canute was, he set out to prove them wrong by attempting to hold back the tide, knowing full well he’d fail and hoping the message of his mortality might finally sink in. Alas most modern leaders, not only fall for the crap their advisers feed them, they’re also prepared to believe their own mythology and press releases about their genius.

Political advisers:

John Kotsopoulos writes: When is an adviser not an adviser? I have to differ with Christian Kerr (Friday, comments) when he seeks to diminish the role of public servants as “advisers”. The Position descriptions of Department policy advisors invariably make reference to providing advice to the relevant Minister. I should know as in a previous life I worked as a senior policy advisor and wrote numerous briefings and speeches for State Ministers from both sides of the political fence.

Hot off the press release:

Catherine Kraina writes: Re. “The Daily Tele‘s use of jihadist sources… hot off the press release” (Friday, item 20). The object of any media release is to get free ink/air. Otherwise why send them to the media? Tim Blair removed some extraneous “Wassim Doureihi said”s from the Hizb ut-Tahrir release and ran it virtually in its entirety, showing Doureihi as the author. That’s about as good as it gets for anyone who writes a news release. Any corporation or government flack who had the bulk of a release quoted verbatim in a major daily would be delighted. Bad Tim Blair, bad, bad Tim for giving Wassim Doureihi the platform he asked for by sending his release to the media. Either Irfan Yusuf is dim beyond belief, or there are subtle fatwas relating to Hizb ut-Tahrir news releases that are beyond the ken of us infidels.

Tim Blair, opinion editor of the Daily Tele, writes: In an item published Friday, Crikey claimed that Sydney’s Daily Telegraph had published an opinion article it had lifted from a website. In fact, the article — in the form of a press release — had been sent to the paper. Crikey also used the phrase “almost plagiarism”, which was inaccurate. The piece ran under the author’s name.

Stan Zemanek: 

Ian Lowe writes: I know it is polite not to speak ill of the dead, but it should not be obligatory to praise everything they did. Friday’s eulogy of a recently departed radio shock-jock in the opinion section of The Australian actually praises him for having made racism respectable. A great service to the community, we are assured.

No crying over bad beats:

Andrew W Scott writes: In response to Warwick Sauer’s comment in Thursday’s edition of Crikey that “Andrew Scott can cry all he likes about his ‘bad beat’ at WSOP (sic)”, I would just like to point out that I neither cried nor described my experience as a bad beat. In fact initially I was not even going to mention my hand in the story but was encouraged by Crikey to do so.


Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 9: “… has Liberals and Nations starting with a notional 89 of the 150 seats to be contested …”. Should be “Nationals”, not “Nations”, but more importantly it’s 88 seats, not 89. Looking at the tables, he’s got 89 by counting the independents in Kennedy & New England, but inexplicably counting Calare as Labor.

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