Worms, witchetty grubs and WormChoices:

Stephen Cannings writes: Re. “Who pulled Nine’s worm debate? The mystery deepens” (yesterday, item 1). Has ever a worm been so feared? Has ever a worm become such a beacon of press freedoms? I love this worm, but really, it should’ve been a witchetty grub. Then it would have been for all Australians, bridging that gap between Indigenous and white voters. The witchetty grub – unlike the worm – would have accepted the Prime Minister’s scant way of saying “sorry”, before turning into a moth and fluttering off towards the bright lights of Idol.

Nick Jewlachow writes: I can reveal the government’s hidden agenda. No doubt, a re-elected Howard government will swiftly introduce the WormChoices Bill 2008. They will argue that worms are dangerous, unrepresentative and irrelevant. (Still, at least they’ve stopped picking on the ABC.) All worms should act to stop this outrage! Stand up for your rights. Oh, OK. That’ll be a bit difficult because you don’t have any legs. Still, speak up! Raise your tiny worm heads from that compost! Say it loud! The worms! United! Will never be defeated!

Noel Courtis writes: Does it really matter who pulled the worm – it is such a pathetic inaccurate measure – who cares? A debate such as Sunday night will have a result of about of, at worst, 45% – 55% to either party. 30% to 70% result just shows how stupid it is.

Vincent O’Donnell writes: Forget a Senate enquiry into the Channel 9’s worm, let’s have one into who programmed Tom Brown’s School Days on ABC TV after the debate. You know the story. It is about this fresh faced new kid in a venerable social institution who bests the dastardly older bully and wins the approval of his peers and elders.

Brendan Wynter writes: The pulling of the worm reminds me of Colin Powell’s Press Secretary Emily Miller moving the camera mid-interview.

Howard’s debating skills:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Errington: Why is Howard so hopeless at leaders’ debates?” (Yesterday, item 2). Wayne Errington wonders why Howard is so bad in election debates. Yes, Howard is well schooled in formal debates and has a strong line of stonewalling in interviews. None of this really helps in televised leadership jousts, where his sheer boringness ceases to be an asset.

John Mair writes: Re. “Debate: the Crikey Commentariat’s verdict” (yesterday, item 2). I watched the Debate on the ABC on Sunday night. Any way you look at it, Howard dominated. It was a very good performance. Rudd used euphemisms, innuendo and “Party line” interpretations as answers. He was ill at ease and unconvincing. He did his best under difficult circumstances but he comes across as a supercilious smart arse. But imagine my surprise crossing to Channel 9 after the debate to catch Ray Martin talking to a female journalist from the SMH nobody has ever heard of, treating “The Worm” as being the definitive arbiter of the debate. The so called “worm” is obviously a base of a Labor target rich environment. Because they (the worm) reacted to subject, not content or depth of argument. This was also translated to the participants. A total travesty, promoted for publicity and to influence a predisposed response. Credibility and Channel 9 no longer go hand in hand.

The ultimate test of leadership is war:

Nick Hudson writes: Re. “Sparrow: Rudd mentions the wars, but why?” (18 October, item 11). The ultimate test of leadership is war. A leader who takes his country to war is putting the lives of other people at risk, and should do so only if the war is unavoidable, legally and morally defensible, conducive to the national interest and winnable. All those things. Mr Howard led the country into two wars, one of which, Iraq, was arguably none of these things, and the other, Afghanistan, fails on at least three of the five. He is thus a proven appalling leader. Mr Rudd supported the latter and was (to put it politely) restrained in his opposition to the former. Do you remember the short short story about the frog? “Two boys were playing with a frog, and it died. To the boys it was just a game, but to the frog it was reality.” Sadly, the electorate seems not to care, perhaps because the country that is being ripped apart is not theirs. More sadly still, the media do not seem to care. They do not demand of Messrs Howard and Rudd that they give us leadership on the subject. Saddest of all is that, as far as I can see, Crikey doesn’t either.

Kyoto’s Pandora’s Box:

Mark Hardcastle writes: Re. “Comrie-Thomson: Everybody cool on polls and climate change” (yesterday, item 10). While usually a supporter of the politics of Paul Comrie-Thomson I would counsel against his risky strategy of promoting Bjorn Lomborg’s point that Kyoto would do little to reduce carbon emissions. The real risk is that Kyoto is a small step in the start of something big. It has potential to become a framework for international action that could be ramped-up. Hugh Morgan and Ray Evens realised that the great risk that China would commit to binding emission reductions and turn away from our coal. Before opening this Pandora’s Box I would suggest a brief pause to question why our man in Canberra simultaneously says that signing Kyoto is against the national interest, while claiming that Australia will meet our Kyoto targets.

The manipulation of the betting markets:

John Kotsopoulos writes: Andrew W Scott (yesterday, comments) and Possum Comitatus (“Comitatus: A very cunning plan” yesterday, item 8) may both have a point about a possible manipulation of the betting markets on the federal election given the sly comments from pro-Lib bloggers after recent betting movements. I hope the Libs keep it up because the odds on Labor are very skinny indeed for a two horse race and, as Scott has hinted, the potential for arbitrage to make a collect a virtual certainty will improve each time they try such a stunt.

David Flint:

Justin McMurray writes: Re. “Flint: Rudd’s tax blunder” (yesterday, item 2). I tolerate David Flint’s writing because the scornful reader responses to his flaccid arguments are hilarious and some of the best writing Crikey publishes. I suspect Crikey runs his copy for this same reason. But to label him an “expert” is an insult to your readership’s intelligence. That or some type of sick joke.

Doyen v doyenne:

Rosemary Swift writes: Re. “One female reporter does not a balanced panel make” (yesterday, item 14). I know Christian wanted more women on the panel, but giving Laurie Oakes a s-x change probably isn’t the way to go about it. Laurie may be the “doyen” of the Gallery; Michelle Grattan is more likely to be the “doyenne”.

Howard’s abacus:

Holger Lubotzki writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 6). Crikey received the tip: “Priceless! Did anyone else notice that the computer used by Kevin Rudd … was a Toshiba Satellite … vintage circa mid 90s!” Good point, but it sure beats the crap out of John Howard’s abacus and two tin cups connected by a taut string between the Hills Hoist and the garden shed!

Ben Cousins:

Paul Dixon writes: Re. “Could Ben Cousins sue the WA Police?” (Yesterday, item 25). One overlooked point is that Cousins was initially pulled over by police due to his manner of driving. If a driver refuses a breath test and a blood test, WA law automatically assumes the worst, and the driver becomes liable for the same penalties he/she would receive for the most serious category of drunk driving, Driving Under the Influence. It’s an easy inference to draw that in the circumstances, Cousins knew he was better off by not providing a blood test for analysis. The speculation then becomes what a blood test would have revealed.

Steve Martin writes: V-agra, sedatives and a $20 banknote belonging to a passenger in Cousin’s car with traces of ecstasy and cocaine. There was a study of banknotes in the UK some years ago, and shock, horror something like 1 in 10 banknotes had traces of cocaine on them. I must say at the time that I thought the WA Police were leaving themselves open to criticism. The AFL also appear to have acted in haste, probably because of Ben Cousins past indiscretions; surely it would have been more appropriate to await a conviction before acting. But I imagine they were afraid of being criticized as being soft on drugs!

Gavin R Putland writes: Ben Cousins was found with a diazepam tablet in WA. If possession of diazepam in tablet form had been illegal and Cousins had not known it was illegal, Cousins would be criminally liable because ignorance of the law is no defence. By the same logic, as the police mistakenly “charged” Cousins with something that was not illegal in WA, the police should be criminally liable. If they are not at least liable for damages, it will mean that while a citizen can be criminally liable for ignorance of the law, the police cannot even be civilly liable for ignorance of the law. Than which what could be more absurd?

The Chaser:

Mannik Maire writes: Re. “The Chaser” (yesterday, comments). All the manufactured outrage about the Chaser eulogy song recalls the similar posturing when Private Eye brought out their issue after the car crash death of Diana the Divorcee. The Eye was unkind enough to reprint comments of journalists up to the day of the accident where they were scathing in their descriptions of the lazy, jet setting socialite who packed her boys off to boarding school early, and her coke-fuelled playboy boyfriend on their yachting holiday, and her overnight transformation by the same journos as the best mother in northern Christendom and the saint who walked among us. The point being not to denigrate the dead woman, but to expose the hypocrisy of such eulogising. For their troubles the Eye was banned from most newsagents’ shelves.

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