Our Don Bradman:

Colin Chilcott writes: Re. Yesterday, editorial. Your confusion in your editorial as to why Sir Donald Bradman is celebrated as a national hero is difficult to understand. That is unless of course the editor has never played or watched the game of cricket. The Bradman era for the majority of his career as an Australian Test Cricketer coincided with the Great depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Bradman’s deeds on the field provided escape, temporary relief and indeed something to look forward to during a period of extreme economic hardship. Cricket may not have been a world sport, however, it was and remains to a great extent, Australia’s national sport. There was no televisions services available and limited radio coverage — sometimes an ABC commentator describing the action to thousands across the country.

Spectators flocked to the venues where Bradman played to see him wave his magic wand at the expense of many a demoralised bowler. Bradman survived and in fact thrived on the Bodyline experience and presided over the Invincibles tour of 1948. His statistics will and have been surpassed albeit in great numbers of games. The one statistic that will never be beaten is that 99.94 Test batting average. One wonders if it was left short of the magical hundred to provide some incentive future batsman to pursue. Certainly there are a great number of Australians who played significant roles in our history; however, it is doubtful that the greater masses, that anyone with the possible exception of Dawn Fraser has provided so much inspiration, excitement and yes, hope that Sir Donald Bradman created during his Test Career. There should be a national public holiday to commemorate Bradman. Perhaps 18 August, the day of his last Test Match for Australia.

Dave Walker writes: It is not so much about Don Bradman the cricketer; nor was it just about Phar Lap the horse. Bradman was at his prime at a time in this nation’s history when people were starving, when businesses were going to the wall on a daily basis. There was no money around and even less hope for a lot of our forebears. Out of the mire rose someone that people like my grandparents could look upon for inspiration, someone to help them forget about how they were going to find the next pound to feed and clothe their kids. The Don not only provided a glimmer of hope in that dark time, he did it again a decade later, leading the Invincibles to England in 1948, a tour that helped ease the pain of war in the eyes a nation hungry for some good news. From the outset Australia has been born on adversity; a fact easily forgotten in this era of immediacy. And while you may think it clever to chuckle over your chai late about our nation’s fixation with sporting heroes, never forget that we must look to the past in order to ascertain our future.

Tony Sara writes: I thought that the point about Bradman, not that I am of the ilk that worship him or cricket, was that the best of the rest average 50 to 60 runs in Tests — so the point is that he was so far away from the rest, so far and so many standard deviations from the mean, as to be stupendous, with his average of 99.94. It’s like he did the 100m sprint in 5.7 seconds. Or did the marathon in two thirds of the time, or got an extra 60% of home runs than anyone else.

Ronnie Girdham writes: When Don Bradman died I wrote a short letter to the Courier Mail, after it had devoted an inordinate number of pages to the life and times of, the private life of, the achievements of, the masterful skills of, the scores of … that cricketer. In a nutshell, I wrote “Oi! Let’s get this in perspective. The man was neither a hero nor a saint. He was a sportsman.” The next day, the paper published two letters agreeing, I received 14 phone calls and five letters at home. Those people concurred and offered private observations to boot. Not one correspondent disagreed or rebuked me.

Kevin Rudd:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Finally, the beginning of a narrative” (yesterday, item 3). Bernard Keane may well have hit on a convenient truth describing Rudd utterances holistically as a “narrative” focussed on consumer knowledge. Of course it all sounds quite fly blown nonetheless it is indeed a good thing to bring knowledge to the consumer thus enabling the same to self translate this to better determine what, when and what price to consume. But wait; is this indeed a well conceived, carefully considered whole-of-government approach to move the populace from victims of the rapacious price gougers to champions of their own destiny. From supply side to demand side? Or is it simply a stumbled on accident?

Consider this: Were Kevin Rudd anything other than “just another politician” he would have made great moment of his push to “de-victimise” the individual. Indeed, imagine if you will the momentous utterances that would have announced such a move. You know the stuff “knowledge is strength”, “what you know can help you” and so on. Forget “working families”, Rudd would concentrate more on “clued up individuals” or, less crudely, “empowered families” (much more Rudd like). No, it seems more likely that along the way some minor staffer may well have mumbled something about “gosh, if you add up what we say we are going to do it means people will be able to make more informed choices — is that good?” Well yes, if it happens it’s good. More likely vested interests will win out and it just won’t happen. Sorry Bernard, people power is not something pollies aspire to.

Bernard Bougoure writes: All I have to say to Mr John Shailer (yesterday, comments) is: “when was the last time you actually put petrol in your vehicle rather than have one of the servants do it?” Where I live petrol has come DOWN 10 to 15c a litre over the last few weeks… Oh and if you have been following it, interest rates are widely tipped to fall or at least not move upwards in September (which the government has little to no control over). As for prices going up… They always have! It’s a fact of life. You’d be crying if your house price fell which is more likely to happen if prices on commodities fall… I can recommend my tertiary economics textbooks if you like? Too hard? I think I still have my High School ones? These are the kind of voter’s who vote for who ever promises to line their pockets more and do not take the time to understand the actual “policies”. Grocery prices are affected by market forces not successive Australian governments who have (on average) progressively removed any form of regulation regardless of political sides — diesel, water, land prices (and more) all affect food prices.

David Lenihan writes: Although he wasn’t trying to, John Shailer was correct in his summation of the difficulties facing the Government over the last nine months as being told by the PM, Mr Swan and Mr Tanner. 12 years of Howard, and now the global turndown. Simple, no strings, no gimmicks. Only the Liberals fail to accept it and even now as they pine away on the cross benches, thinking of how things may have been, many of them are still holding Howard up as the greatest. That is there biggest problem, they just don’t get it.

John Shailer writes: Re. “Press Club address: Rudd revives his education revolution“. Last Wednesday Kevin Rudd gave a much-heralded landmark address to many of the Labor faithful in the Canberra Press Gallery, which was to outline his vision and economic reform agenda for Australia’s future. It was damp squib! Although you won’t hear that from most of his genuflecting admirers in the Gallery. What was his grand vision and economic agenda? Rudd simply re-announced the key elements of the Coalition’s education policy, which was previously opposed by Labor, when he was in opposition. If this is his idea of vision, he urgently needs to see his optometrist!

Fairfax turmoil:

Thomas Richman writes: Re. “The Fairfax Fiasco II: Profits before public trust journalism” (Wednesday, item 5). Eric Beecher’s call for an “ABC-style model for quality press” sounds uncannily close to the sentiments I sent to Crikey a few years ago… and which you published. It’s good to know I’ve had such influence, even if belatedly.

Paul Custance writes: Looks like Fairfax’s sword was mightier than the pen.

The Millionaires Factory:

Tom Osborn writes: Re. “Frozen funds the latest credit crisis fad” (yesterday, item 21). Crikey (and others) refer in perpetuity to MacBank as the Millionaires Factory. While the attribution is valid on the face of it, it seems to me that this term distorts our attention. Making millionaires could be a worthwhile activity, if there were a net benefit for all of us. I’d rather pay some attention to that. The real question for me is whether the MacBank model, which Crikey points out has led to a stream of clones now failed, is of any net value to the rest of the economy and the population at large. Having experienced the gouging of Sydney Airport, tollways and other Sydney manifestations of millionaire fabrication, I ask the question: if MacBank went down, would it be good or bad for me? Would it be good or bad for the Australian economic situation now and in five or ten years? Of course I could have bought some MacBank shares a while ago and semi-smugly not write this email.

Woolworths:

Brian Pearson writes: Re. “Record Woolies profits but what about the damage?” (Wednesday, item 21). Regarding Woolworths 2008 result and Stephen Mayne’s comments. What vitriolic nonsense. For example “Woolworths are a disgrace at so many levels it is difficult to know where to start” and “continues to mercilessly exploit problem gamblers” and hotels division profit “soared”, they were up 17% whereas overall profit only “jumped” and that was up 26%. Woolworths are also, according to Mayne,” brutally refusing to stock branded goods”. I couldn’t find that in the Woolworths report but on walking around a Woolworths supermarket I found plenty of evidence of branded products. What I did find in the results is a successful, very well managed organisation, employing lots of people and paying their creditors in 50 days on a regular basis. And it doesn’t look as though they are going broke or sacking lots of people any time soon. If only a lot more of our corporations had the same business ethics.

ABC Learning:

Warwick Sauer writes: Re. “ABC Learning, the great money losing machine” (yesterday, item 22). Adam Schwab’s howlers continue. On Wednesday he says that Foster’s is an investment bank; on Thursday he says that ABC Learning’s financial problems are “reaping” [sic] havoc. The correct word is “wreak”- “reap” means to gather or harvest. On the topic of ABC, sharp readers will recall that in July, when Eddy Groves declined to take his salary in cash but instead took ABC stock options which were exercisable at $1.15, Schwab cried rat and said Eddy was defrauding shareholders by taking options that he knew would make him millions when the share price went skyward. Given ABC’s share price is now 54c and is likely to go much lower when it recommences trading, will Mr Schwab retract those accusations?

Peter Faris:

Jim Parker writes: Isn’t time Peter Faris (yesterday, comments) learned a new riff? He’s been thrashing away on his version of Smoke on the Water (“the great fair dinkum Aussie public has no time for leftie journalists”) for so long now he is like a geriatric rocker on his 10th revival tour. Laughably, he blames Fairfax’s problems on the public’s lack of interest in “Left-Wing Journalism” (in capital letters, mind you) and cites The Australian (mouthpiece of cranky and exhausted ex-radicals who move rightwards post-menopause) as the journal most in tune with the masses. Pete, mate, have you seen The Australian’s circulation lately? I’ve got news for you, Pete. Newspapers’ plight has nothing to do with “left wing” or “right wing” or “West Wing“. They are struggling because their advertisers don’t need them any more and because the readers can access the news anytime on line for free. Faris’ attempt to squeeze Fairfax’s plight into his exhausted culture wars narrative just reveals him as a one-hit wonder. Back on your bike, mate. You’re boring and not funny at all (well, at least not in the way you think).

Duncan Bear writes: Peter Faris thinks repeating “Left Wing, Left Wing, Left Wing” ad nauseam constitutes an argument. How in all hell did this bloke manage to get through law school?

Global warming/cooling:

Matt Andrews writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) tries to run the usual denialist disinformation… claiming that the planet has cooled in the last 10 years, and that there is no evidence that CO2 increases have played a part in the warming over the last century. Denialists always talk about the last 10 years (as opposed to 20, 50 or 100). Here’s why: the only way denialists can torture the data to look like warming is not happening is by starting with 1998 (a very hot year, due to the strongest El Nino for a century), and ending with this year (relatively cool, due to a strong La Nina). This is called “cherry picking the data” and represents a small rise, then dip, superimposed onto the long term steady rise in the temperature chart. The correlation between global temperature rise and increase in CO2 (and other greenhouse gas) concentrations is very, very strong indeed, and there is consensus among actual climatologists on this question. Most of the denialist guff doing the rounds these days is traceable to big-polluter industries looking for handouts and/or delays (BCA, ExxonMobil, etc). “CO2 is essential for life on earth” is a classic motherhood statement direct from the ExxonMobil PR department: see the infamous/ludicrous “Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.” US TV ads

Stephen Morris writes: The lack of understanding (or probably barefaced dishonesty) of some involved in the climate debate is staggering. Comments such as “In fact, concentrations have risen almost 5% over the past 10 years while the planet has actually cooled. Weird, huh?” are either extremely naive or (more probably) extremely dishonest. Weather is naturally variable i.e. cold days can occur in summer and warm days can occur in winter. For this reason we average temperatures and to be honest discuss trends not arbitrarily selected short term maximums and minimums. The last seven years have been seven of the warmest eight years of annual temperatures ever recorded (see graph). How then can Tamas claim global cooling? This is done by comparing a convenient one year peak (1998) to a convenient one year trough i.e. (2007) giving a dishonestly calculated cooling of 0.1ºC. One could just as dishonestly compare 2007 to 2000 and claim a global warming of 0.15ºC over “the last seven years”. Incidentally, Andrew Bolt’s so called knowledgeable predictions about Arctic ice levels in 2008 being of no concern made back in July with still two months of melting to go, are looking pretty suspect. Within a few days we should be breaking all records for smallest ice levels in summer (see graph, 2007 and 2005 were previous two record years).

Mark Byrne writes: Tamas Calderwood has confused “evidence” with proof. There are very few things proved absolutely in any science, but there is strong evidence of the warming caused by greenhouse gases. An example of such evidence is the observed greenhouse signature of warming surface temperature with simultaneous stratospheric cooling. The short time frame which Calderwood uses to construe cooling is instructive. The shorter the period over which one examines any dataset, the more difficult it is to discern “noise” from an underlying trend. The underlying global warming trend is observed to be approximately 0.2 degrees/decade, yet the variability of ENSO and solar radiation both cycle within ranges (with no observable trend) that on occasion mask the underlying trend. I am concerned that we are close to the hottest temperatures recorded despite experiencing simultaneous cooling cycles from both ENSO and a solar minima? For those with an interest in the topic Professor Barry Brook has an online lecture series underway on “Sceptical Questions and the Scientific Answers”, which can be followed using together slides and an mp3 recording.

Michael Brougham writes: What Tamas Calderwood (apparently very consistently) fails to grasp, or chooses not to, is that average global temperature is practically irrelevant. An average is designed to obscure regional variations, whereas climate change is all about regional variations. Today, for instance, it’s currently 16 here in Adelaide and 14 in Melbourne, normal winter weather, for an average of 15 degrees. However, it could be freezing in Adelaide and 30 in Melbourne — decidedly unusual weather for any time of year — and the average would still be 15 degrees. Not a very useful measure. By the same token, the drop in global temperature is merely the aggregation of the entire world’s climate variations, many of which are not normal and are causing scientists a great deal of concern. Simplistic interpretations of climate science are probably just adding to their stress.

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Peter Fray

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