Bingeing on a ute full of alcopops:

Rod Macqueen writes: Re. “Bingeing on a ute full of alcopops” (yesterday, item 13). What a load of old cock Bernard Keane talks. You do not have to be a “professional handwringer” to look at evidence. There is heaps of good data online, available to everyone. It may not suit Bernard that there is increasing evidence that alcohol, like cigarettes, causes health problems in a dose dependant fashion, and that there may be no beneficial or health enhancing lower dose — but that is too bad, the evidence exists outside of his needs or wishes. If the best current evidence does indeed suggest “the mere act of drinking alcohol is innately unhealthy”, what are we to do with this data, ignore it because it does not suit? Would we wish to forget about data that tells us there is probably no safe dose of radiation, of lead, of dioxin? What each citizen does with this information is up to them, and many will choose to have a drink or two (or twenty). But coming out with convenient truths, i.e. lies, has never lead to better health, and that is what these guidelines are about. As for whether this approach will lead to “any serious effort to reduce alcohol abuse”, all I can say is that after 30 years working in this field, it is interesting to see the debate back in the public arena after the decades of alcohol industry lead community torpor. If we are to eventually reduce alcohol abuse it will be through, you guessed it, following the best evidence. Sorry if that’s a problem, but I think a moment’s reflection on the way we manage other health risking issues, when we get it right that is, suggests there is no other logical thing to do.

Steve Martin writes: Bernard Keane wrote: “…to find the notion that four standard drinks a day constitutes binge drinking is not merely asinine but downright counter-productive.” What I find rather strange is that there appears to be no mention of the time taken, or motivation of the consumption of the drinks. It is ludicrous to equate a few quiet drinks over a period of time at home, or down at the local pub or club after a hard week’s work as binge drinking. The NHMRC have been given the task of investigating alcohol abuse, they have not been given the task of redefining meanings in the English language. Binge drinking to me and everyone else I know, is defined as getting a skin full in the shortest possible time with a view of getting “pissed”. Many, including myself, have been guilty of the odd binge when things get too much. It’s an escape valve; it becomes a problem with repetition. I suspect that the problem of the alcohol reviewers is that they see only the effects on those unfortunates who can not drink in a responsible and sane manner leading to their judgement being clouded by their experiences.

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Peter Carlisle writes: I presume Bernard Keane meant to be arguing against four standard drinks IN a day being binge drinking. Four standard drinks a day is probably alcoholism and not supporting his argument very well. Denial perhaps? It’s a hard thing to admit. As a community we appear to tacitly support drinking to get drunk and think nothing of it — it’s what we’ve always done. Still, it makes people think and the outrage is interesting to say the least. By the way, I binge drink and I know it. I enjoy a little binge now and then. I also know it has health affects. To be outraged at someone suggesting it’s ill advised would be weird. It’s obvious isn’t it? Here’s another one for you Bernard. Smoking is bad for you. As are saturated fats. Oh dear, how DARE me. Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you.

A new clean slate for Iguanagate:

Bruno Bouchet writes: Re. “Della Bosca and Neal’s feudal power” (13 June, item 3). Just when you thought all angles have been covered on the sorry incidents at Iguana Joe’s here’s a fresh angle and possible a new defence for Belinda: “The decor defence” I’ve just happened to peruse the Stone Italia website. Happening by their “recent installations” this caught my eye:

Iguana Joe Restaurant, Sailing Club, Gosford: Brasil and Cangrande tiles, Bistro top Mais, Bar top Tuttifrutti and Brillante Nero, Vanity and Reception tops Brillante Blu.

I think if I were seating next to a bar top covered in “Tuttifrutti and Brilliante Nero” I might kick up a fuss too. Perhaps they took the “Brilliante Blu” on the reception top as cue on departure. See here to see how Iguana compares to their other clients on the gaudy stakes.

Peter Costello:

G.T. Carroll writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Has it ever been considered that maybe the Private Sector is not as enamoured with Costello as he thought they were? Could it be they regard him as a lazy dope?

The Liberal Party and petrol:

Norman Abjorensen writes: Re. Hybrid Cars (yesterday, comments). Hypocrisy has never particularly troubled the Liberal Party, but its latest posturing on fuel prices really takes it to a new level. These ardent champions of the free market and small government are now clamouring for just the sort of market intervention that they have derided for years. A cut in excise would have negligible effect at the pump, especially in light if day to day volatility in prices, but would hit the Commonwealth coffers hard (and this plays into neo-liberal hands, because their strategy is always to minimise resources available to government). It might be an opportune time to re-open a debate along such lines, and it is puzzling that Labor has not done so (but perhaps not so puzzling given that it, too, has been captured by neo-liberal thinking). The power problems for the Iemma government in NSW would seem to suggest that a debate is needed, and indications point to the public favouring public ownership of such utilities. Are the pollies afraid to ask?

Victorian Bar:

Peter Rule writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published this tip: “The Victorian Bar kicked up a stink about Judge Cottrell’s appointment because it doesn’t like the idea of temporary judicial appointments. The Bar refused to speak at Judge Cottrell’s welcome. And the freezing out continued on Saturday night. The word ‘churlish’ comes to mind.” That’s too harsh Crikey and you have completely missed the point: I’d have thought defending the concept of separation of powers was something worth being more than a bit churlish about.

Wars and religion:

Bruce Graham writes: Geoff Perston (yesterday, comments) lays down the challenge of naming “a war started by opposing atheists.” Any war between communist states should suffice. The Sino Vietnamese war of 1979, and the Cambodia-Vietnamese war of 1978 should perhaps be considered together. It seems hard to blame Christians or Buddhists for the 1000 year old conflicts that re-ignited between these one time allies. And was not the Sino-Indian war of 1962 fought at a time when the Indian Government under the Congress party was avowedly secular, socialist, and sympathetic to Marxism. Perhaps the Indian Government forgot to formally declare themselves atheist, so they do not count. Any other wars the USSR or China have embarked upon are irrelevant. The opposition were always theists. One must assume that the theists were at fault. I suspect that the Poles, for instance, deserved everything Stalin gave them in 1939. For some of us, religion is more pragmatic. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes (regardless of who started the war, or what their masters profess), so there are few atheists in Intensive Care units. To those who see religion as the last (or first) refuge of the scoundrel, I suggest that if you spent more time with people who are dying you might learn more sympathy for the solace that many seek and find.

The Hindenburg:

Ken Lambert writes: Re. The Hindenburg (yesterday, comments). The Hindenburg was 245m long (two and a half football fields), 41m in diameter and contained nearly 200,000 cubic metres of hydrogen in 16 gas cells. This massive airship was consumed by the fire is just 34 seconds. The rear part exploded into flames most probably caused by a hydrogen leak ignited by static electricity. The inferno consumed the skin (orange flame and black smoke?) and molten aluminium splashed outward from the ground impact — all in 34 seconds. Heaviness in the rear of the airship probably caused by leaked hydrogen caused the captain to drop water ballast after the mooring ropes had been lowered to the already wet ground turning the ropes into potential electrical conductors. No lesser authority than Mythbusters performed a cheap but convincing experiment on a scale model about 10m long which explored the burning of the doped skin (without hydrogen) of similar composition to the Hindenburg , and it was still burning several minutes later – far too slow to be the primary cause of the fire. They then simulated the hydrogen in a gas bag in the model and ignited it — producing a remarkably similar explosively burning fire to the Hindenburg . Sorry David, your myth that a hydrogen explosion did not cause the Hindenburg disaster (watch footage here)has been well and truly busted. By the way, the Hindenburg carried just 50 luxury passengers.


Dominic Kelly writes: Re. David Christie (yesterday, comments). It’s a sure sign a media outlet is on the right track when it is accused of bias by both left and right, as seems to be the case with Crikey of late. Personally, I find some editorials to be left-leaning and others right-leaning. The fact that I agree with some and disagree with others is irrelevant. Why do some readers feel that the media they consume must reinforce all of their own beliefs and prejudices? And why does Crikey bother printing their tiresome complaints?

Eleanor Bower writes: I agree with both Marilyn Shepherd (Friday, comments) and David Christie. I lost respect for Crikey when Guy Rundle wrote (quite early in the primaries race in America) something to the effect of “don’t look now, but Hillary’s face has fallen off.”

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Peter Fray
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