The Fed’s bail out of Bear Stearns:

Linda Carruthers writes: Re. “US Fed throws the mother of all lifelines” (yesterday, item 1). Can we now say out loud what appears to be happening? Just like the Federal bailout of the Savings and Loans scam in the 1980s, it appears that “privatise the gains, socialise the losses” is alive and well. While we can all appreciate the consequences for the “real economy” of very big financial institutions going under, it is passing strange that nary a word is said about any quid pro quo that might be extracted for the long suffering workers, consumers and taxpayers, who in the US , have seen their real remuneration drop to thirty year lows, general social conditions deteriorate, and their overall economic security grow worse every year, largely at the behest of the very institutions that they are now being asked to “bail out”. Very well, bail them out, but wouldn’t it be prudent for some steps to be taken to ensure that this time, the taxpayers got some long term purchase and control over these institutions whose fecklessness results in a new financial scandal every twenty years or so?

Organ donation:

Tim Richards, Transplant Waiting List Advocacy Group, writes: I’d suggest those who support a presumed consent/opt-out approach do so on the basis that it is one of several strategies, including clinical strategies, that together constitute best approaches to organ donor rates. With regard to Spain, the real lesson is that clinical practice and national co-ordination must be properly structured and funded to ensure the organ donor system can utilise the benefit an opt-out approach provides. After changing to an opt-out approach it took Spain a decade before bottlenecks in the system were dealt with. When asked whether they consent or not, families of deceased potential organ donors are likely to follow the default position of the organ donation system. If the default position is consent then the family will tend to consent. A recent study by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Chicago of 22 countries and data from a ten year period concluded as much and their analysis and modelling showed that “donation rates are 25% to 30% higher on average in presumed consent countries.” The Churchill Fellow cited by Senator McLucas reports that family refusal rates in Spain are now just 15%. In Australia, the family refusal rate is much higher, about 50%.

Chris Davis writes: On the organ donation discussions I have never signed my license, fearing the Kerry Packer effect, that if someone as rich as him needed an organ I had and I was a low chance of survival, my chances would revert to zero in a second. Despite his departure, I will still remain unsigned for the same reason, but my family are fully aware of my views that they could donate any bit of me as long as they were satisfied. I do not suspect I am alone in this thinking.

Israel:

Irfan Yusuf writes: I was so pleased to read the letter from Bren Carlill of AIJAC (yesterday, comments). It was great to see an AIJAC spokesman finally acknowledging that not everyone in Israel is as right wing as AIJAC is. And that not all Israelis take the same hawkish line that AIJAC does. I just hope Carlill can go one step further in reflecting the diversity of Israeli (and indeed broader Jewish) opinion on the Middle East. And what step is that? I hope that AIJAC can for one, just once, recognise and criticise the excesses of the Israeli government and/or Armed Forces. When AIJAC does that, I’ll be convinced that they really are moderate enough to represent mainstream Jewish opinion. Until then, I’ll regard them as being about as representative as certain thick-Sheiks are of mainstream Muslim opinion. Shalom and Salam.

Raymond Pinkerton writes: Bren Carlill claims that Palestinian citizens of Israel have the same civil rights as Israeli Jews. Is he not aware of the fact that it is Palestinian and not Jewish citizens of Israel who are being denied residence permits for a non-resident spouse? Is this not a matter of civil rights? Mr Carlill might also like to explain how the never-ending “peace process” is not a sham, given that genuine involvement in a peace partnership would appear to be inconsistent with concurrent and continuing expropriation of your partner’s land and resources.

Andrew Millard writes: Bren Carlill seems to dance around a fact without acknowledging it. A February 27 Haaretz/Tel Aviv University poll found that 64% of Israelis DO want to negotiate with Hamas. Bren seems like the kind of person who would also justify the Chinese occupation of Tibet, since Tibetans protestors have proved themselves to be pretty rowdy. He would no doubt suggest to China that they don’t negotiate with the violent Tibetans. And I’m sure he’d believe that once the Dalai Lama renounces violence, all the problems will go away and the two peoples will live in peace.

McDonald’s at hospital:

Boyd Swinburn, professor of population health at Deakin University, writes: Re. “Children’s Hospital: do you really want fries with that?” (Friday, item 15). I got a letter from Peter Bush, CEO of McDonald’s, (27 Feb) a year after the introduction of the Heart Foundation’s Pick the Tick meals. The numbers quoted of 5 million tick meals sold and 3,948 kg of salt reduced annually from re-formulation sound impressive until you start dividing by the 1.2 million customers per day – i.e. only about one person in 100 chooses a tick meal and each of their 1.2m customers now eats about 9mg salt less (which is trivial). While I applaud the HF in trying to influence McDonald’s through these approaches, they are far from a raging success although the PR spin makes it sound like it (“success”, “very pleased” etc). I think that if McDonald’s objective of having Tick meals was to get good publicity, it has indeed been a huge success. If their objective (and the Heart Foundation’s) was to change behaviours, I think it is best described as very modest. It may warrant some persistence of the trial to see if better changes can be achieved, but a touch of honesty in communications is important to the credibility of the program (and the HF).

Shakira Hussein writes: I think it is safe to assume that the Carol Nichols who had a letter in Crikey (yesterday, comments) defending the RCH’s partnership with Maccas is the same Carol Nichols who is listed as a member of the RCH’s public affairs team. Hospitals these days need to employ spin doctors, as well as the kind in white coats. There is no reason why Nichols shouldn’t put the hospital’s case, but it does put into context her plea for critics to “lighten up” and understand the joy that access to Big Macs brings to the life of sick children and their “often neglected siblings”.

Rudd and China:

Matthew Weston writes: Re. “Labor’s Beijing connections continue to perplex” (Friday, item 1). I’m curious, oh true believers of the Labor kind, where are your valiant comments in support of our Kev, defender of all things good and bright, with regards to his jaunts to Sudan and China? You are all quick to join the conga line to froth at the mouth at the first sign of personal opinion that is critical, but when you are presented with a well written, well researched, and very disturbing article about the largesse of a front company (allegedly of course) you are all silent. Is it any wonder that politics and politicians and their rather sad one-eyed supporters are viewed with such disdain, silent in the face of facts and rabid in the face of contrary opinion. And I’ve no doubt that a million examples of the same sort of duplicitous behaviour from the other side of the fence abound, it’s just that this is an example here and now, and yet, there is nothing but silence.

Baby bonus:

Stilgherrian writes: Peter Saunders of the CIS (yesterday, comments) is 100% right and I never thought I’d agree with the CIS! “Attacking the baby bonus without asking what family policy should be aiming to achieve is meaningless,” he says. Yes. And the next logical step should be, “Before we can have a family policy we need a population policy.” How many people can Australia support? How do we get there? Immigration? Breeding? Where will they live? Which cities grow fastest? Bob Hawke commissioned a population policy, none since. All good questions for April’s Ruddfest 2020, eh?

Rob McBride writes: Re. “Time for a baby bonus rebirthing” (Friday, item 6). I don’t believe governments are seriously interested in mothers staying home with their children. In my case I earn a good wage of 80K but pay about 42% tax, my wife stays home and looks after our children. I have friends who both work and earn 40K each but take home a lot more money. I think with young families (let’s say children under 10) then in single income families the wage should be split between both parents and taxed accordingly. This would encourage a lot more mothers (or Fathers) to stay home with their kids.

The Australian:

Duncan Fine write: Re. “The Australian: L’Étranger, le joke” (yesterday, item 18). Come on guys. We know you don’t like The Australian much, it being part of the eek-it’s-soooo-scary Murdoch empire but why stoop to childish ad hominem sniping? (“Tom Switzer…spat the dummy and went to work for Brendan Nelson rather than edit an op-ed page under the Rudd socialist tyranny.”) Isn’t that unthinking lack of detachment, ironically, exactly the sort of thing you’re accusing The Australian of? Tom Switzer apart from being a good bloke, has run a brilliant, engaging and balanced opinion page (especially, according to my mum, the seven columns of mine he ran in the past year) and I say that as someone who would have rather had hot needles stuck into very vulnerable parts of my body before ever voting for John Howard.

Keane on Bernard:

John Ley writes: Re. “The Libs need a full Nelson” (yesterday, item 7). I want to congratulate Crikey for bringing Bernard Keane on board. His articles are incisive, hard-hitting, well based and often humorous in many respects. His piece today about the Opposition, together with the accompanying cartoon is excellent. I don’t miss Christian, notwithstanding his wit. His biases were too often prominent.

The environment:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. Garth Wong (Friday, comments). I was lazing about on Saturday morning, reading Crikey and trying to work myself up to the pile of crap that my otherwise well mannered golden retriever Max had deposited on the front foot path. Then I read Garth Wong’s theory of social responsibility vis a vis the global environment and rather than grappling with dog crap I was very pleasantly kicking back on the couch without a worry in the world… The theory posits a juxtaposition of the infinitesimal insignificance of one’s singular existence and actions in the context of the infinitely huge picture of the sum of all actions in totality. The paralysis and inertia that this induces adds up to big (conscience exempt) savings in time and dollars. I realised Max’s crap, like Australia’s greenhouse emissions, would only constitute somewhere in the vicinity of zero infinity point one of global dog footpath emissions and would therefore constitute a negative sum gain in relation to the effort exerted in cleaning it up. I’ve since found the theory highly applicable in a range of circumstances – when disposing of cigarette butts out the car window, driving my four wheel drive through nature reserves or relieving myself in the local swimming pool. With a theory like this my personal prosperity will be maximised in the years to come. Thanks Garth.

Mark Byrne writes: Garth Wong says that the Howard government “managed to get a great deal for Australia when setting targets for emissions levels”. Wong is correct if we assume it is a great idea to block, delay and undermine global agreements on emission reductions. It should be pointed out that Garth Wong is out by two orders of magnitude regarding Australia’s contribution to global emissions (multiply Wong’s figure x 100). Australia is actually the tenth largest contributor to global emissions. And of the nine countries with greater emissions than Australia, most of them have per capita emissions that are a fraction of the Australia’s. Shouldn’t we expect that Australians should do their fair share, considering that we are in favour of level playing fields and democratisation? The science tells us that for a fair go (equal global per capita emissions) Australia must rapidly cut emissions by 80-90%.

John Bowyer writes: Matt Hardin (yesterday, comments) have a cold shower! If the Y2K was a problem it would have to be your “scientists and engineers” although I am sure you actually mean computer programmers who would have actually caused it but there was no problem! As for enough problems for engineers and scientists! Mate the best lurk on the planet is to invent a problem that does not really exist and then take a large fee to cure it. Ask the little Italian “Scientist” who discovered the hole in the ozone layer. That hole was always there and is still there but shhh! Do not mention it now or all your scientists and engineers will look either stupid or money grubbing little flim flam artists. I suggest you have a chat with anyone who has ever had “Consultants” go through a business they worked at, you will get ear ache. Global warming started as theory and is now religious orthodoxy and unless the changes are instituted very, very quickly then the cure will not be seen as resulting from these changes but from the way the earth just works.

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Peter Fray

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