World Youth Day dinners and bigots:

Catherine James writes: (re Crikey, Friday July 11, Item 10) Trevor Cook, you’re hilarious. Next time a friend says she had a candlelit dinner with her squeeze, I’ll ask her to refrain from such lurid details.

Peter Haydock writes: I realise most of your readers are somewhat to the left of Phillip Adams and enjoy reading your increasingly extremist rants but it is also becoming disturbingly obvious that you have a number of bigots among them too, at least in relation to Christianity. The snide throwaway comments (typical of which is Simon Wilkins, Comments, July 11). Substitute Jew, Muslim, Arab, Asian or whatever for the word “Catholic” in most of your World Youth Day comment and there would be a groundswell of disgust. I haven’t got a torch to bear for the Pope’s visit but good luck to him if he wants to come here and address his communicants. But please Crikey have a care about the bigotry on display. It’s never pretty, least of all from a self-proclaimed serious medium. 

A very Qantas offer:

Spotted in the Qantas Club international lounge:

The sign was there for at least 90 minutes. I didn’t put it up, but thought others might appreciate the sentiment.

Contaminated LPG:

Melissa Madsen writes: We have driven our two-year-old lpg-only Ford Falcon ute from Adelaide to Melbourne only to be caught out by a contaminated batch of LPG. The contaminated gas has made the ute virtually impossible to start (without the RACV’s assistance) and has required two visits to a Ford service centre, with the problem still not fixed. Both the RACV and the Ford service centre have commented on the number of people/cars affected. If this was contaminated petrol, there would be an uproar!

Downer and East Timor:

Alan Kennedy writes: As that buffoonish Clouseau Alexander Downer slinks off the scene the report on Friday of the Indonesian Army’s role in the murder and mayhem in East Timor (Crikey, Friday July 11, Item 9)  in the lead-up to independence reminds us of the role he played during these dreadful times. In 1999, The Bulletin magazine reported that “the Vice-Chief of the Defense Force, Air Marshal Doug Riding, had a collection of satellite pictures, transcripts and intelligence assessments that ‘showed beyond doubt that the Indonesian military was complicit in the establishment, fostering, funding, training and coordination of the militia”’. The Bulletin reported that Riding confronted the Indonesians with the evidence and yet seven weeks later on August 13, 1999 DFAT Deputy Secretary John Dauth told the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee that he could not confirm reports of Indonesian Kopassus troops in East Timor, saying: ”I am really not able to say, not because I am hiding anything but because we do not have definitive information on that . . . I simply do not know whether it is true.” Presumably this evidence was given at the behest of Downer. A heavy-handed federal police operation was later launched to establish the source of the leaks to The Bulletin. Downer continued to deny any role in this matter or any knowledge of the Indonesians complicity in the bloodshed in East Timor. Perhaps he could enlighten us before he goes.

Farmer and Rudd:

Julian Zytnik writes: Richard Farmer clearly comes from the Christian Kerr school with his slapdash, shoot-from-the-hip ex-adviser’s style. But I never in a million years thought he would fall for the old ‘fencepost turtle’ chestnut he did in ‘When the gloss wears off’ (Crikey Friday). That fable’s been around for years. If it wasn’t so down-home country, you would file it under ‘U’ for capital U Urban Myth, or at least ‘R’ for recycled. To mangle another unoriginal analogy, it’s been around more parties than Paris Hilton. And yes I mean political parties too. The universality of the fable is breathtaking – it’s been sprayed all around America. Right-wingers and Clinton Democrats have been using it to lampoon Obama. The Queensland farmer there is a ‘Texas rancher’. There are endless small variations (the age can be 70, 75, or even 90). It’s a bit like some of the lesser Bushisms: really just recycled Quayleisms or Clintonisms from two decades ago, or just jokesters making up stuff. In fact it’s likely this turtle joke actually started out as a Bush joke. Just Google ‘post turtle Bush’ and you’ll see what I mean. Everyone has their allegiances, and Richard I know yours is vaguely the Sussex St ‘hard-edged’ wing of Labor, but you really sound like you haven’t gotten over Beazley’s toppling in the December 2006 leadership ballot, and have been bitchily snipping at Rudd ever since. Not everyone likes him, which is fine, but put some meat on the bones of your meaty chunks!

Emissions Trading Scheme:

Mark Freeman writes: Dear Crikey, re emissions; it’s not about trade, it’s about CAP and trade and substitute. Get real people. Set a cap for 2010 and be done with it. It will focus our minds — and our self-interest. Look at our past successes. Vehicle emission controls from the 1970s, commercial jet engine noise abatement — 70s and 80s, and the world phase out of CFCs. Each of these highly beneficial programs has a very different history, methods and jurisdictions of regulation. Each was accompanied by long and loud proclamations of the end of the world as we know it. In each case we found a way to do things cleaner, quieter and differently — and most of all, better. Imagine today’s world without any or all of these successes.

David Hand writes: I think I need to let Bernard Keane in on an obscure fact he seems unaware of. Nelson and Turnbull are in opposition. That’s right! They lost the election last year! There is a new bloke called Kevin Rudd, with his finger poised above the big red ETS button, assisted by Penny “Garnaut is useful input” Wong. Pressing the ETS button, with the consequences that flow from it, will have far reaching effects on all our lives. So even though Nelson, Turnbull and Bob Brown’s opinions are interesting, they don’t count for much until legislation reaches the Senate. Then and only then do they become relevant and it would be a brave Senate to vote down legislation that is popular with the electorate. There is a big story here and it is an ALP government one. Can they develop policy that will save the planet and be popular? The electorate has voted for change. Action now. It has been beaten into submission by daily apocalyptic stories about civilisation coming to an end and is ready to do what is required. The government must now develop policy and they are “looking a bit hollow” That is the story, not the musings of opposition MPs.

Apple goodness:

Michael Cooper writes: Tony Boyd and Mark Pesce make goods points regarding Apple spin, Telco hegemony and their failure to grasp there is about to be a seismic shift in the way their 3G is utilised by customers. The iPhone is primarily a mobile internet and multimedia device that can also make phone calls. It’s all about data, not calls. OK, here’s the plot. Step 1. Go to the nearest large shopping centre or CBD to make things easier. Step 2. Pop into the Optus store, sling them the dough for a pre-paid iPhone of your choice and get it unlocked. Step 3. Pop into the Vodafone Store and sign up for their 5Gb per month broadband plan costing $39 p/m for 2 years. You’ll receive a USB modem and a SIM. Step 4. Go home, put the Vodafone SIM in the iPhone. You now have 5Gb allowance, can still make and receive calls and SMS at standard rates. Not sure if you can port your existing number to the broadband SIM. Step 5. Sell the USB modem on e-bay.

The banks:

Helpless and hapless writes: Why is it that the banks are able to pass on to consumers the cost of their flawed decisions? I understand that increasing cost of funds should be (might be) passed on to the normal Joe Bloe consumer but how much of the increase relates to higher funding costs and how much relates to recovery of losses of bad decisions in the past which should actually be coming out of executive bonuses rather than slugged to consumers. So, if they pass on the previous losses to consumers, their profitability will increase and hence their share price (and the executive bonuses as a result) keep increasing. Have I got his completely wrong or am I being naive into thinking that everyone, consumers and executives alike, should shoulder the burden of “increase funding costs”. Is it not enough that they maintain profitability at say the previous year and forego their huge bonuses. The ramifications of this would be enormous, share price drop, reduced bonuses, investor confidence shaken, not stirred. It’s $^%$#@ crap.  I am an executive and my bonuses are based on performance. I screw up, I don’t have the option of passing on increased costs of poor decisions to consumers cause I would be priced out of the market. A competitive market, not a so-called competitive market. If there was really a difference in banks then they would try harder to earn our consumer business rather than all jumping on the band wagon and increasing rates. Perhaps we should nationalise all the banks and let the government run them (on second thought maybe not).


Cameron Ljubic writes: The increased use of PPPs have been used by governments to manage risks. They have also, however, meant that governments are becoming less transparent and accountable. Private partners don’t like having to disclose information to the public. PPPs are making evaluation of government policy objectives hard to determine. Confidence clauses in contracts lead to possible nepotism from governments giving jobs for the boys. Moreover, PPPs may be making FOI law redundant. By outsourcing, information, now held by the private partner, cannot be reviewed. Though NSW has had an inquiry into PPPs, other States have not. Until private partners are required to disclose information, the public cannot determine the reliability of government (both State and Federal) policies.

Sunday, bloody Sunday:

Christopher Ridings writes: Re Crikey, Friday 11 July and Nicole Kidman’s daughter, Sunday Rose. Spare me these names of celebrities’ babies. Nothing displays one’s own set of values quite like the names one chooses for their children. Naming children after dead losers is sending dismal messages to those children when they get to ask, as I did, where the names come from and why? It appears to me that the more attention these celebrities crave the more wafer thin become their values. Are we to expect Friday Thistle next?


Ronald Watts writes: I applaud any effort to sequester greenhouse gases from coal, but I don’t share Dr Duffett’s optimism. Open cut mining usually releases greenhouse gases exceeding those from burning the coal so mined, so even if you could reliably sequester 100% out of the power station, we are still losing out. Then you have to find enough sites 1km deep (so the CO2 goes supercritical and is liquefied). The US electricity industry requires around 1,500 such sites, and they probably don’t exist. Then there is the expense (and greenhouse burden) of transporting the stuff to these sites. So all strength to your arm, but even fusion looks more likely, and it’s always been 30 years away.

James McDonald writes: Dr Mark Duffett, you wrote (Friday, comments): “It’s called ‘reservoir engineering’, and it’s how we extract gas that’s been stored underground for millions of years (NB yes, this is a hint about the reliability of geosequestration). We’ve become very good at it.” While your common-sense response to absolutism is welcome, I have two queries. First, noting that you’re a scientist rather than an astrologer, and also things like Adam Barker’s mention of Lake Nyos (Friday, comments), I’d appreciate a mention of the evidence rather than just hints that gas can be artificially buried safely in large quantities. We’ve been wrong on big projects before, even when we didn’t rely on hints. Second, it may seem prosaic amidst all this talk of tipping points and global emergencies, but I hope in a few hundred or thousand years there will still be humans on Earth, otherwise it all seems a bit pointless. Even if they are the enlightened advanced utopians of science fiction stories, they may still require, in addition to clean water and soil, some old-fashioned fuel for certain applications such as ambulances and standby power stations to cover deficiencies in sunlight, wind, etc. Are we planning to leave anything behind for them? Not to do so would be considered rude in certain circles.

Footy talk:

Paul Bullock writes: Would Crikey please restore Geelong to its rightful position on the AFL ladder on the hot form chart (Crikey Friday July 11 Item 18)? It’s not the first time they have mysteriously and incorrectly been demoted in favour of the Bulldogs this year. As the game against the Bulldogs in a couple of weeks will confirm, Geelong remain alone at the top of the ladder.

Thanks Crikey — I got my bank fees back!

Michael Brougham writes: You can now add me to the list of satisfied Crikey readers to have had their bank refund their penalty fees. After going through the standard ritual — waiting as my consultant spoke to his team leader, listening as he told me that the fees were lawful but that they would refund it anyway as a “once-off goodwill gesture” — I got my $45 back in the space of an hour. You don’t even have to start a fight or be rude to anyone; just politely explain that you consider the fee to be unlawful, and ask how it might be refunded. The rest just seems to fall into place while you sit there on hold. 

Air Traffic Control:

Jim Hart writes: Re the ongoing debate about our air traffic control, I think Simon Wilkins (comments, Friday) can feel assured that the difference in radio traffic on the ATC channel is most likely because Sydney is a sleepy bush strip compared to San Francisco. Not only does SFO have far more movements on parallel runways, there are also two other major airports at Oakland and San Jose, only a few minutes’ flying time away. Somehow the Bay Area controllers coordinate all these plus a lot of private and charter traffic right down to the sightseeing Cessnas.

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