Who needs advertisements? As a devoted smoker and one time tobacco industry lobbyist I am unlikely to be accused of trying to subvert public health policy when I say I was a bit stunned this morning when one of those video clips appeared on my computer screen advertising a film called The Edge of Love featuring a very beautiful woman looking as if she was really enjoying a cigarette.

It took me back in time to those days when passports to international smoking pleasure legally were paid for to be seen on the big screen before the feature film came on. Now it seems tobacco companies can have their endorsements without even paying for them.

Not that I am an advocate of banning films that depict people smoking. It’s just that running clips on the internet that look like cigarette advertisements is the kind of idiocy that will lead to just that kind of censorship happening.

The price of life insurance. At the Democratic Party convention it seems all over bar the shouting — and even that has well and truly started — that Barack Obama will be the Party’s chosen presidential candidate but the arrest of a potential assassin clearly has some people worried. The markets are by no means certain that if a Democrat wins on the first Tuesday in November that Obama will be winning one. The Crikey Election Indicators — based on figures from the world’s major prediction markets — tells the story:


Winning Candidate   Winning Party   Difference
Obama 60.70% Democrat 64.40% 3.70%
McCain 34.40% Republican 35.60% 1.20%
Any other person 4.90%     -4.90%

Passionate and expensive independence. I have never quite understood the passion which my peers working for and the have had over the years about defending what they see as the need for the staffing of the papers to be completely separate. To me the separation has just stopped Melbourne newspaper readers from having the benefit of the delightful spleen venting of an Alan Ramsay and those in Sydney being needlessly deprived of the considered wisdom of a Michelle Grattan.

The argument that a diversity of opinions is worth fighting for has never seemed to me to amount to much when it is not a diversity that helps consumers. The real issue was then, is now and always will be, I suspect, one of preserving as many job opportunities as possible and I have no objection to that but I don’t see the need to pretend that it is anything more than self interest motivating me.

Fairfax journalists, it seems to me, should be thankful that they still have the ability to frighten their company management out of making the sensible changes that would save millions by amalgamating bureaus and centralising the production of all that advertorial guff that fills up the space between the advertisements in that barrage of coloured lift outs