The death of The Bulletin:

A former Bulletin staffer writes: Re. “The Bulletin: a survivor of war and depression succumbs to private equity” (yesterday, item 1). The sad irony of The Bulletin‘s demise is that it began with the man who kept it going long after logic and economics would, in his normal ruthless scheme of things, have sent it to the knacker’s yard. We are talking of Kerry Packer, of course. He recognised The Bulletin as the social and political jewel in his otherwise tawdry print empire; just as Sunday was the telly jewel in the otherwise tawdry Nine empire. Both Sunday and The Bulletin gave him credibility – he cherished them for that. Then he handed the editorship of The Bulletin to Gerald Stone, a man who spent his days in The Bulletin offices watching TV (want to get his attention? Stand between him and the screen) and who would always start speeches made as editor of The Bulletin with anecdotes about his glory days on 60 Minutes. Within a year, as Stone told bemused staff at a particularly miserable Christmas lunch, he had managed to get rid of the largest and most loyal subscriber base in Australian magazines. But, he said, on that memorable occasion, at least he’d got rid of the Bridge column. I mean, did anyone read the Bridge column? “Well I do,” said the compiler of the Bridge column, a man who had sat quietly and miserably unacknowledged opposite Stone throughout lunch. The circulation began an irreversible decline at that time and despite enormous amounts of cash and lunches injected via the Max Walsh reign, it never recovered. It was “managed” by men who didn’t have a clue what it was that made the magazine unique. It was part of a company that increasingly had no class and no style. When KP died was when The Bulletin should have been measured up for a coffin too. James Packer is not interested in class, style, substance or anything beyond becoming an uber-Thetan or whatever nonsense he gets up to with Tom. And he also wanted to get rid of and p-ss on anything his father held dear. The Bulletin and Sunday never stood a chance.

Ray Edmondson writes: While the end of The Bulletin had been long expected, the manner of its demise is a profound comment on the mindset of its current publisher. The death notice was not communicated, as it should have been, in the pages of the magazine itself, but separately through an announcement to the media, and after its unsuspecting staff had reported for work only to discover they no longer had jobs. The Bulletin has been cut off in mid air – anyone reading the current (final) issue, which includes a full page advertisement touting for subscriptions (“Subscribe and save up to 58%”!), would be completely unaware that they were holding the last manifestation of a national icon. The Bulletin began with a manifesto in its first issue in January 1880. In taking its final leave on Australia Day 2008, it was, likewise, surely entitled to the dignity and closure of bidding farewell on its own terms, with due retrospection and celebration of the role it has played in building the Australian nation.

Holger Lubotzki writes: I was a Bulletin subscriber for 20 years, even while living in Africa, all over Europe, and the Far East. I would still be a subscriber today even with the advance of electronic media as I still enjoy having hard copy stuff to read that can be digested in small sessions, like when travelling. What put an end to it for me was The Bulletin‘s insistence on giving the likes of Tim Blair oxygen, and it would seem I wasn’t alone in cancelling my long held subscription. I think Dodd is quite wrong in his assertion that we are somehow worse off now that The Bulletin is dead. My opinion is that the world will be a better place now that Tim Blair has one less forum to spout his crap. I would also strongly contest any assertion that any publication that Tim Blair writes for could be considered “high end”.

Win Fowles writes: Not one subscription issue of my Bulletin turned up on time over the last six plus months. Not one. I contacted their distribution people in writing many times before writing in frustration to the editor last September. No responses. Not one. Only last week I wrote again in desperation to four Bulletin people (editor, distribution centre, brand manager, Laurie Oakes) pleading for at least a reply, even if they couldn’t get the mag to me on time any more. Looks like I don’t need a response now. After 33 years subscribing, I’ll miss Oakes, Haselhurst, Toohey, Cook et al. But no wonder The Bulletin folded when basic distribution was so chronically mismanaged. Why subscribe for yesterday’s views and news?

Niall Clugston writes: So The Bulletin might be as extinct as the Tasmanian Tiger it tried to find? And Crikey blames heartless “private equity”? Come on! The magazine had been struggling for years, not breaking even, not breaking big stories. And Kerry Packer’s motives for sustaining it weren’t purely benevolent. Like the Sunday program, The Bulletin was what he called his “political muscle”, enabling him to influence serious public debate.

Heath Ledger:

Alan Clark writes: Re. “The Heath Ledger story in 51 words” (yesterday, item 16). I was always suss about these things and today it’s confirmed. The word “York” is flagged as one of the 51 most-often used words in the thousands allocated to covering the death. It’s shown as appearing 127 times. You’d expect it’d appear with some frequency, as that’s where the death occurred. Well – not really – the death occurred in New York. You’d therefore expect “New” to appear at least as frequently – it’d not be imaginable for someone to be writing “York” as a short-cut for “New York”, so for every “York” there’d be a “New”, and there might be a few more appearances of “new” – as in “new film”, “new girlfriend”, “new father”, and so on, to boost its frequency. But “New” doesn’t even appear on the list. So according to the analysis, it didn’t even appear as many times as the 32-appearing “ambien” and “manhattan”. Shenanigans, I say.

Carl Richards writes: I was surprised to read Crikey’s email subject “The Bulletin does a Ledger”. This is a bit off. Be as irreverent as you want but choose your mark with some discretion. This is a cheap shot at a young bloke who has had more talent and success that most of your redneck armchair observers. Overall, Crikey has taken the young slathering golden retriever approach to reporting which is particularly evident in the quality (or lack of) wit and humour. Your reporting on the nuts and bolts stuff of finance and politics seems ok but please exercise some quality control over the humour and satire content because so far you are bordering between puerile and embarrassing.

Interesting interest rate questions:

Brian Kent writes: Re. “Calling for an interest rate rise may not help” (yesterday, item 19). I have been looking for some way to get my thoughts on interest rates out in the public domain. You might be able to help. I hope it makes sense to someone other than myself. The way I see it, the recent response by the banks to the credit squeeze coming off the back of the US Sub-Prime mortgage issue highlights that we are probably being ripped off by the banks (that’s not a new thought I know) when they pass on the full Reserve Bank rate increases to home loan borrowers. They can’t have it both ways. If they “have to” pass on the “full” RBA rate increases, that would mean the Reserve Bank rates are the sole influencing factor in their loan rates. With these latest increases made independently of any RBA action, surely that indicates their funds are coming from a variety of sources (please excuse my prior ignorance on this), not just funds that are linked to the RBA rates. Fine for them to increase rates if the cost of money has gone up (after all they have their shareholders to please), but as it appears, the cost of all money they use to fund loans doesn’t go up when the RBA rates go up. I am sure it is all quite complex and I may be missing something but why don’t we get the banks to explain it.

Matthew Hague writes: I have an interesting question to ask of all the banks and know that you are the guys to do it. The last non RBA linked interest rate hike was “justified buy the banks and their spin people as a result of them having to pay a higher rate on the money they borrow”. Now being a reasonable person I can understand that considering that everyone else does this and it’s a market economy. What I am struggling to understand and have yet to receive a letter telling me the good news, is that they have already borrowed my money it won’t cost them any more as they have already paid it. Now I am no accountant or banker but I can work that out, yet I have yet to hear anyone put this question to the banks. The other part which is really starting to sh-t me is all the “Financial Experts” have offered the startling revelation that we should vote with your feet, have they not tried to go for a loan lately, even if you can find a better deal, add the fees, charges and time off work you would have to be there a hell of a long time to get any benefits. I really hate paying the higher interest rates but in reality what choices do I have or indeed most other people who don’t get paid over 100k a year. Thanks for the rant space.

Ben Bernanke:

Luke Davis writes: Re. ‘US08 media wrap: Bernanke blitzes election coverage” (yesterday, item 13). Just wondering if anyone has pointed out to Ben Bernanke (Chairman of the US Federal Reserve) previous examples of fiat currency where governments have madly printed currency to buoy up a slowing economy with rising inflationary pressures. Just a few past examples: Germany 1923, Greece 1941-1944, Hungary 1946, Mexico 1982 – 1988, Bolivia 1985, Argentina 1988, Peru 1988 – 1990, Brazil 1990, Ukraine 1990s, Yugoslavia 1993 – 1994 and Zimbabwe 2006 – present. When he gets to a point in his career where he has to choose between whether his country goes through a deflationary cycle, a hyperinflationary cycle or a recession/depression he must really feel right at the top of his game. A large part of me really hopes he knows what he is doing because if he doesn’t, well we all know what happens when the sh-t hits the fan, it splatters. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any heroes or legendary politicians/economists who have actually saved a runaway economy through anything other then diligence, hard work and time. I forgot war, that’s the other proven tactic that works too. Hang on didn’t the bull market start around March 2003, funnily enough that coincides with the start of the Iraq war. Hmmmm. I wonder who their next target is; I will have to watch FOX news.

Fixing Federation:

Jill Whittaker writes: Re. “Fixing Federation Part 2: A how to” (yesterday, item 6). George Williams notes that the federation is in tatters and that a constitutional convention should be held to develop a new model. He discusses State and Federal relations but omits the third tier of government. Local government was established by State governments with rates as the main source of income, along with some ad-hoc grants from state or federal governments. Rates provide services for all but is only paid by property owners. Proper and equitable funding models are required for local government and it is essential that the role they play is included in any discussion of the constitution. Local government has come under the Corporations provisions of the constitution as a result of the WorkChoices legislation. With state laws still governing local councils, and limited funding sources available to pay for ever increasing services for local communities, there is an urgent need to establish the role of local government in the constitution.

Alan Kerlin writes: The solution is simple: regional government and banish the States.

Airline security:

Chris Gibson writes: Re. “BA crash landing: Icy aftermath and chocolate after-party” (yesterday, item 14). Regarding your stories on airline security, what a farce! We have just been told that because Virgin is muscling into Albury we now have to have security checks because it is flying jets instead of the turbo props used by REX and QANTAS. Fair enough you may say but if a Turbo Prop is leaving within half an hour of a Jet its passengers must be screened as well. Another bad consequence of Virgin’s plans for Albury is the introduction of parking fees at the Airport. I live in N.E Victoria and because I am about the same driving time from Albury and Tullamarine I choose to fly from Albury to avoid long security delays and the free parking. Thanks Virgin.

Guy Rundle in the US:

Luke Miller writes: Re. “US08: Wondering where America’s at from the Extended Stay Hotel” (yesterday, item 4). Just wanted to drop a quick line saying that Guy Rundle’s reporting is on fire at the moment! Go man!

The GG:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Flint: Can the Queen’s representative be a republican?” (Tuesday, item 13). Regarding the recent commentary on who should be our next Governor General, I believe Prime Minister Rudd’s public approach to any new governor general appointment – “And the reason being is I believe it’s an office which is often best discharged by someone from the broader community”, plus the media and some ALP members “push to have Kim Beazley become the next Governor General, misses the point. The governor-general is the chairman of the all powerful executive council, which can rule without Parliament if it so wants. Additionally the office of governor general has its reserve powers. This surely means surely that the governor-general should be the most skilled lawyer in the land in order to ensure that the country is run constitutionally and not according to any flavour of the month, community whim or former party loyalty. The position should automatically go to the chief justice of the High Court in order for the duties of the governor-general to be properly carried out and certainly not to a former MP or someone from the broader community, however defined.

Alternative medicine:

Kevin McCready writes: If Deon Schoombie (yesterday, comments) the apologist for alternative medicine is a science adviser, perhaps I could become an altmed quack. Unbelievably he writes: “Given the widespread and growing use of CAMs amongst the Australian public, there is room for Government to play a role in funding research that will generate evidence-based findings that inform the decisions of consumers and healthcare professionals.” Let’s unpick it logically, if not scientifically. Lots of people use altmed therefore the Government should fund it. Yeah. Lots of people abuse alcohol and food. Does Schoombie want that subsidised too. Then he claims the research will generate evidence to support him. Wow, if that’s scientific and Schoombie is a science adviser … like I say. We constantly here this stupidity from all sectors of altmed. The line runs: science doesn’t understand it, so it must be good. Give us funds to prove it. I say the moon is made of blue cheese and I want funds to prove it.

A show of jazz hands:

Simon Thomsen writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 8). Crikey published: “For his Australia Day diplomatic corps bash at the Lodge, Rudd or his office have chosen a jazz combo, replacing the old bush bands singing Aussie songs that Howard used to favour. And I thought Rudd was an Australian music fan!” Why would Rudd having a jazz combo for Australia Day (over a bush band) be incompatible with Australian music? Fair dinkum! Has your anonymous tipster never heard of Paul Grabowsky, James Morrison, Don Burrows, Renee Geyer, Kate Ceberano, Katie Noonan, Vince Jones, Grace Knight, Bernie McGann, The Necks, The Basement, Wangaratta, Galapagos Duck and their 90s album raising funds to save the hairy-nosed wombat… Strewth cobber, I thought we voted out that sort of cultural cringe last November.

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Peter Fray

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