World Youth Day:

David Mulally writes: Just thought I would bring to your attention that WYD has already started to go to the heads of some folk. I just went into Coles Express at Town Hall and was surprised to hear them playing Christian tunes instead of the usual inoffensive music. I called Coles to enquire. They apologised and advised that stores should not be playing offensive music. They will email store managers in the city as a little reminder that not everyone wants a taste of Christianity in Aisle 5 while the Pope’s in town.

Walt Hawtin writes: Re. “The word of God, brought to you by The Australian” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane’s stirring rant against World Youth Day was pretty forceful stuff, but it didn’t have much in the way of substance. I have no issue with his criticism of The Australian‘s coverage of the Pope’s visit, even though I disagree with him. But as if he doesn’t get enough bile out of his system with his News Ltd barbs, he cuts loose on anyone who is tied in with any Christian religion because “The Christian churches are some of the biggest financial entities in the world” and that their superstitions have created a number of new laws in order to impose their morality “on the rest of us”. The cheap, old rhetorical device of the “rest of us” includes me and an awful lot of people like me. I’m Catholic-raised with no great interest in WYD (or attending Mass every week, for that matter) but I see no reason why the spiritual leader of over 700 million people cannot visit this country for a week-long festival that actually celebrates something quite positive, while hopefully it will also acknowledge some of its ills. The Catholic Church is as flawed as any human organisation of its size and history could possibly be. The rest of us, says Bernard? Has he counted us up? The Australian Bureau of Statistics says about 25% of Australians have no stated or adequately described religion. That must be Bernard’s mob. It certainly is not “the rest of us”. Bernard should pull his head in and start writing like an objective journalist who has an audience made up of educated, tolerant and intelligent people, and not first-year undergraduate students.

John Goldbaum writes: Bernard Keane was spot on to describe Angela Shanahan as a Catholic lesser light. In The Weekend Australian, Angela Shanahan couldn’t even get her facts straight. A minor inaccuracy was to call the Australian National Secular Association “the Secularist Society” but her attempt to verbal secularists as thinking that secularism means “freedom from all religion” was a disgraceful defamation. Thomas Jefferson wrote 200 years ago that “the constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights” and he praised the erection of the “wall of separation between church and state” as essential to the defence of “religious belief, or non-belief” and advocated the non-interference of government with the beliefs of “persons of other faiths, or of no faith”. Shanahan only needed to visit the website of the Secular Party of Australia to establish that secularism means both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, in equal measure.

Tom Kenyon writes: Bernard Keane’s anti-Catholic bigotry ends with the line “The Australian, despite its pretensions to conservative rigour, offers only reflexive bias, conflicts of interest and intellectual sloth.” I can only utter three words in reply: Pot, kettle and black. Bernie Keane’s reporting on this and other Catholic related issues is as compromised as he asserts that The Australian‘s is. Just to get up his nose I will use a line from the Gospel : Luke 6:42, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Willem Schultink writes: Bernard Keane accuses The Australian newspaper of intellectual sloth, when he can’t even be bothered interacting properly with the targets of his rants, just labelling them as “superstitious people”. In fact Bernard never fails to show his bigotry every time he writes about Christians, without ever bothering to find out what they are really about. Accusing The Australian of intellectual sloth? A bit of a pot and kettle problem here, I think!

Joe Boswell writes: Peter Haydock wrote (yesterday, comments): “…disturbingly obvious that you have a number of bigots … in relation to Christianity … 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…” It’s not possible to substitute, as suggested, for the word Catholic in stories of NSW subsidising holidays for Catholics without making complete nonsense because there’s nobody except Catholics that get such privileges. There’s no bigotry: I don’t doubt Crikey would be equally scathing if any other religion got its uninvited sticky hands in our pockets with the help of the government. And the NSW government has tried to make it illegal for anyone to publicly criticise this in NSW. Stinking fish!

Big Brother:

Scott Jackson writes: Re. “Death of BB marks an end to cruel, crude reality TV” (yesterday, item 19). Regarding Glenn Dyer’s piece on the rise and fall of Big Brother within the Ten network — what an enjoyable piece. I loved reading it, and it’s great to see writers being prepared to dig deeper than the mainstream press. Id like to see Mr Dyer’s thoughts on the future of Australian television and where he feels reality television will end up in its race-to-the-bottom.

Simon Hoyle writes: A T-shirt to annoy Channel 10 execs following the announcement of Big Brother‘s demise? “Big Brother: No one is watching you.”

Beating the banks:

Matthew Auger writes : In response to Helpless and Hapless (yesterday, comments), I would like to point out that the banks’ unilateral rate rises are simply a function of funding costs — forget all the conspiracy theories, leave that to the Citizen’s Electoral Council and their secret world government — Jews control everything stories. The funding costs are driven by the Bank Bill Swap Rates (BBSR) which you can look up in the Australian Financial Review today on page 47: Money and Bond Markets — Interest Rates. To understand why the banks have jacked up rates unilaterally, compare the RBA rates to the three month and one year BBSRs. On the 1st of July 2007, the RBA’s Overnight Cash rate (AKA “Official Interest Rates” to the punters) was 6.25%, the three month BBSR was 6.42% and the one year BBSR was 6.82%. On the 8th of August the RBA raised rates to 6.5%, the three month BBSR was 6.64% and the one year BBSR was 6.94%. By November when the credit crunch was in full swing, the RBA raised rates to 6.75%, the three month BBSR was 7.11% and the one year BBSR was 7.52%. As you can see the gaps were widening and hence the banks started doing unilateral rises in January. At the February rate rise to 7.00%, the three month BBSR was 7.42% and the one year BBSR was 7.68%. Things were getting nasty in March when the RBA jacked up rates to 7.25%. The three month BBSR was 7.97% and the one year BBSR was 8.16% (nearly a full 1% above the RBA rate). Since then the RBA hasn’t changed rates but the three month BBSR has peaked at 8.11% on the 11th of March and is currently 7.80% and the one year BBSR peaked at 8.47% on the 11th of June and is currently 8.05%. As you can see, even today BBSR’s are over half a percent above the RBA’s rates hence why the banks have been unilaterally raising rates by a similar level. To get an idea of whether the banks will do any more unilateral rate raises keep an eye on the BBSRs, they are what matter.

David Lenihan writes: Where is the outrage from the countries’ media commentators, bloggers, editors as the major banks once again adjust upwards their lending rates? Where are the Bolts, the Akermans, the Shanahans, those defenders of the little people who fill their columns with concern for where the country is heading under big bad Kev? … silence. No bold headlines, no front page stories blasting the banks as they nibble away at the finances of lower and middle income earners. If the Government of the day deserve a serve from the media, then serve but to keep a code of silence when their mates at the banks continue to post billions in profit, while attacking those who can least afford more interest hikes is disgusting. Someone say the rich get richer… thought so.

Israel and Palestine:

Avi Getstel writes: Re. “Who cares, they’re only Palestinians” (11 July, item 12). In his rush to bash Israel, Greg Barns mentions “the West bank towns of Samaria and Judea.” These aren’t towns, but the Israeli term for the entire West Bank. This ignorance of something so basic it doesn’t instil much confidence in his ability to analyse the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Barns discussed a report issued by Israeli group Yesh Din alleging the Israeli police all but ignores Palestinian complaints against settlers in the West Bank. The methodology of the report has been criticised by the Israeli police, as has a number of the statistics provided. This ignores a wider point. Crime is crime, regardless of the ethnicity of the victim or perpetrator, but the West Bank is essentially akin to a war zone. Israeli police have limited resources, and protecting human lives surely comes before property damage — especially since it’s frequently hard to find enough evidence to indict people for the latter. Moreover, when a Palestinian commits a crime against Israelis, the Palestinian police don’t ignore it — they celebrate it! Thus, the Tulkarem Shahids Memorial Football Championship featured teams whose names were of terrorists, including Abd al-Basset Udeh, who killed 31 Israelis; thus, a summer camp for 15-year-old girls was named in honour of 17-year-old female suicide bomber Ayyat al-Akhras; thus the Palestinian Ministry for Culture published a book of poetry honouring female suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat, who killed 21 Israelis; and so on. Israel is far from perfect in its dealings with Palestinians — no-one claims it is. But for Barns to ignore the glorification of murder on the Palestinian side and instead pillory Israel for not adequate policing property crime in the West Bank borders on hypocrisy.

Geosequestration:

Peter Logue, director, external communications at the Australian Coal Association, writes: Ronald Watts (yesterday, comments) wrote: “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.” Not right, Mr Watts. Fugitive Emissions from actual coal mining — open cut and underground — total between 3.5 and 4% of Australia’s greenhouse emissions. Total emissions from burning coal for electricity total 32%; a further 2.5% comes from the use of coal in manufacturing and other process. If you have a look at www.co2crc.com.au you’ll find a list of all the geosequestration projects around the world. Everyone agrees there needs to be a lot more work done.

Mark Duffett writes: Thanks to Ronald Watts and James McDonald (yesterday, comments)  for their measured comments. Firstly on the spectre of the Lake Nyos disaster: This is a completely different geological situation. The only thing holding the CO2 down there is one or two hundred metres of water above a thermocline. As the 1986 tragedy showed, this is prone to disturbance, particularly since Lake Nyos is essentially a dormant volcano. This is in complete contrast to sites proposed for geosequestration in Australia, which have been selected on the basis of their tectonic stability and presence of impermeable solid rock cappings (seals). As for evidence that this can be done safely, the best known demonstration is Sleipner in the North Sea, where 1 Mt of CO2/year has been stored since 1996. There’s also the common sense argument that that which happens by design should be more reliable than that which occurs by accident (i.e. natural gas). And of course, James McDonald, you’re right that in a few hundred or thousand years we will need to have left fossil fuels behind completely. But Christine Milne insisted on this “in the next few years”, and that’s what I took issue with.

Mark Byrne writes: Geophysicist’ Dr Mark Duffett is attacking a “straw tiger” when he claims that Senator Milne insists on “switching off and walking away from our existing functional coal mining and energy infrastructure by 2012.” Current modelling puts the completion date for transition from coal at 2030. Duffet asks, “Exactly how many geothermal/solar/wind plants … can [we] construct in that time”? Modelling calculates we would have 27 GW of renewable capacity producing 109 TWh/year by 2030 (56% of electricity generation). Break-throughs are possible, if CCS can overcome its technical bottle-necks, then it might have some installed commercial application. But variety and flexibility mean that further break-through for renewables are more likely than for CCS? The “Coal Oligarchs” can put their massive profits into CCS, but public research should preference technologies that won’t run out and that won’t require communities to bear the risks associated with catastrophic failure.

Qantas:

John Peak writes: Re. “A very Qantas offer” (yesterday, comments). Maybe the below image that Crikey ran yesterday explains why there is only one Frequent Flyer, that bloke in the corner labelled just that, “The one and only Qantas Frequent Flyer”!

Glenn Milne:

Andrew Elder writes: Re. “Milne: dwarf off the drip turns grumpy” (yesterday, item 10). Bernard Keane forgets that Glenn Milne is the man who put Peter Costello where he is today.

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