Schoolyard highjinks:

Editor, Bendigo Weekly, Anthony Radford writes: Re. “Media briefs: Packed to the Rafters punches through, Fairfax cut # 307” (yesterday, item 22). At no stage did I say the story was not newsworthy or of public interest. Unfortunately, being an influential paper in a small town means there is more to a story than just big headlines. Concerns about the boy’s father’s criminal history and background information provided by Noel’s wife were enough, in my opinion and my opinion only, to cast doubt over the story and had the potential to affect our credibility and open us up to ridicule. Other media outlets in town also knew about the story, some with closer ties to it than us, and did not run it, I believe for similar reasons. At no stage did Noel or his wife personally demand or influence the story or my decision not to run it. The decision was a border-line one, in fact Noel in no instance suggested his wife should play any part in the decision-making process.

The Crikey Register of Influence:

Walt Hawtin, whose company provides professional services to the pharmaceutical, public health, and other related industries, writes: Re. “Introducing…the Crikey Register of Influence” (yesterday, item 4). The new Crikey Register of Influence that shows alleged links between patient groups, senior medicos and pharmaceutical companies, is not a bad idea in theory. It won’t solve any of the industry symptoms that Melissa Sweet and Ray Moynihan have been discussing for years. However, what is totally off-colour is that Crikey were able to resist the temptation to present a balanced site. Consider the heading and symbolism chosen for the so-called Register of Influence. Explain how any reasonable person looking at this page on your site could hold out any hope that the information contained in it is presented in a fair-minded and balanced manner. This puerile cloak-and-dagger imagery belies the fact that a far more good than harm is achieved by those who appear in your Register and that you risk hitting the wrong targets in your zeal to play the attack dog.

Linking respected medical practitioners and hardworking patient group advocates with this sinister and ill-judged imagery is dishonest and unfair. If we are talking about exposing crooked local developers, corrupt politicians, or bent coppers, then fair enough. But most of these people are working hard toward reducing or ridding disease and suffering from society, and ought to be given a modicum of respect and a fair go. That is unless you have actual proof that they are behaving in a dishonest manner, as opposed to working honestly on behalf of their patients, albeit within a system that you don’t happen to like.

Henry Haszler writes: Nice one Crikey. But what about all the bloody athletes who are in every second ad we see on the commercial TV channels. Surely they’re advertorials of a form. And they make lots more cash than the people you have identified so far. Moreover the successful athletes have as often as not been significantly helped to their medals etc by the AIS funded by taxpayers.


Peter Wood writes: Re. “Garnaut target falls desperately short” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane and Sophie Black (“Australia in 2100: what following the Garnaut target will mean” yesterday, item 14) suggest that a 0-15% percent reduction for Australia by 2020 would correspond to a stabilisation target of 450 ppm, and that no reduction would lead to a target of 550 ppm. This is wrong, emissions reductions this weak from Australia would either be consistent with much higher greenhouse gas concentrations, or Australia free-riding on the rest of the worlds emissions reductions. In Garnaut’s Draft Report (Chapter 12), he has recommended a per-capita approach to global emissions reductions, also known as “contraction and convergence” — countries with higher per-capita emissions (such as Australia) make deeper cuts.

The IPCC suggests that in order for us to stabilise greenhouse gases at 450 ppm CO2-e, developed countries would have to reduce their emissions by 25-40% by 2020; and for us to stabilise greenhouse gases at 550 ppm CO2-e, developed countries would have to reduce their emissions by 10-30% by 2020. Australia making a 0-15% reduction by 2020 would be consistent with greenhouse gas concentrations of over 650 ppm CO2-e. The Garnaut Review’s own research suggests that a business as usual trajectory would be significantly worse than the worst IPCC scenario. A 0-15% reduction of emissions by 2020 would be consistent with either Australia free-riding on other countries emissions reductions, or very high greenhouse gas concentration leading to significant risks such as the loss of arctic ice leading to Greenland melting and sea level rise; release of methane from permafrost exacerbating climate change; drying out of the Australian continent; and massive rates of species extinction.

Mark Byrne writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Brilliant editorial yesterday! Thank goodness that Crikey is in a position where it can challenge proclamations dictated by entrenched power. Is it credible for the government to both give free permits to big polluters and set a feebly low carbon cap? Surely this is doubling up on the special assistance/rewards to those who have profited most from externalizing their costs and delaying action? If the target is as reported, then not only is the target woeful but it uses the Weasel baseline year of 2000. The actual target based on 1990 (like other Kyoto countries) would be in the range of a rise in emission of 6% and a cut of 9% by 2020. This is weaker than 2012 Kyoto targets for other countries. The time for real action is running thin. I expect if the government adopts a carbon cap in this range will be see the rise of a new wave of protests and stoppages. Concerned citizens may see taking to the streets as a necessary last resort.

Browser wars:

Kieren Diment writes: Re. “Google’s Chrome browser blows Microsoft out of the water” (yesterday, item 5). Antigeek suggests that the Google Chrome browser “gives the open source community a lot to worry about”. This appears to be incorrect. Although I haven’t reviewed the license for Chrome properly, Google’s promotional material states that “other browser developers can take what they want out of it. They don’t have to pay us and they don’t have to ask permission. They don’t have to share code, and they don’t have to report bugs”. While my industry friends indicate that the marketing material suggests some interesting privacy issues, and features that corporate bosses will be fond of for keeping a reign on their staff, at the open source end, it’s just more code to trawl for interesting features to steal.

David Tulloh writes: The author’s bias on the Google Chrome article shines brilliantly, though unfortunately not quite bright enough to obscure the errors that were made. Rather than a “quantum leap” Google Chrome is based on the open source WebKit project. WebKit is currently used in Apple Safari, the iPhone and Nokia phones. Google has also released Chrome under an open source BSD licence. This means that projects like WebKit and Firefox can use code from Chrome in their products. The open source community has just gained a new product and new developers which makes it hard to see why they have “a lot to worry about”. Open source thrives on forks that take new approaches and Chrome has been welcomed by Mozilla’s CEO among others. There is a lot of innovation in web browsers at the moment such as the Firefox Ubiquity extension but it’s hard to see just how Google Chrome is “light-years ahead”. The main innovation is additional security through multiple processes and sandboxing, just like IE8 will bring. Contrary to the author’s claims the additional processes actually mean that Google Chrome uses more memory than other browsers including Firefox 3. Chrome’s about:memory page even provides comparisons.

Bruce Graham writes: It is strange to suggest that Google Chrome gives the open source community has anything to worry about. Google Chrome is open source. Get your copy of the source code here, modify it, and release whatever you like under the BSD license. Because of this, it will certainly result in improvements to other web browsers, such as Firefox. Open source software is a jungle of competing projects feeding off each other. For years most of the big projects have been delivered by paid professionals out of major companies. OpenOffice, and Eclipse are two other examples. This model got an important legal boost last month. There is a battle between open source as an ideology (freedom for freedom’s sake) and open source as a business model (open transparency because it is an efficient way to generate good software). Companies such as Google, IBM, and Sun have for years been circling the edge of that maelstrom. There is a strong school of thought that key Microsoft products are just to complex to successfully design in secrecy, because it is to inefficient a way of discovering design flaws and stifles internal innovation. Persisting use of the Microsoft Word format for over a decade after it became technically obsolete is just one example. The entry of Google into the browser fray is another step in making open source software the norm. It is perhaps a threat to political activists who feel more comfortable on the fringe.

Sarah Palin:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Rundle08: The going gets weird, the weird get Republican” (yesterday, item 3). Had Sarah Palin been drafted for war duties she’d rightfully have been exempt on grounds of extreme personal and family challenges. A Mum of five with a developmentally-challenged newborn, a pregnant high-school teenager minus willing partner and a 19-year-old heading off to Iraq is conceivably a family in crisis. Yet Sarah couldn’t answer the Republican’s call fast enough leaping on stage in Dayton when McCain called for a VP running mate. It speaks volumes about the extreme, soporific effects of politics, power, fame and fortune as it does about Sarah Palin. With the expectant daughter, Bristol cuddling baby Trig and conveniently draped in his blanket to disguise her ‘situation’ and Track, Piper and Willow trailing behind — the Palins looked more like the displaced Von Trapps. Sarah says she feels “chosen”. As a God-fearing conservative I’d have thought she might have interpreted that a little more astutely. Wanting to give “nothing less than her best” to the Republicans is really screwed emotions at this stage in her own and her family’s life. McCain seems similarly ambushed by declaring Sarah an ideal choice to “fight the same old Washington politics of me first and country second”. Boy did the mixed metaphors rain in Ohio the other night…

Nelson and Turnbull:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Question Time: You’re an idiot, you are, no you are” (yesterday, item 12). Bernard Keane’s description of Brendan Nelson as “hapless” is an understatement. In truth, he is already embattled, if not besieged. The “Nelson Doctrine” has failed. It is time for Brendan to negotiate the terms of his surrender.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Malcolm Turnbull put in a woeful performance on The 7.30 Report on Tuesday night. He tried to disown his own words on interest rates and to slime Rudd’s leadership while refusing to speak about his own party’s calamitous situation. It was only Kerry O’Brien’s charitable attitude towards a fellow Republican that prevented a complete massacre. Slick presentation will only get you so far and it looks like Turnbull may have reached the end of his road.

Noel Crichton-Browne:

Richard Lawson writes: Re. “Carpenter, Ripper, bras, booze and honesty” (yesterday, item 11). I think you have mistakenly reprinted one of Crichton-Brownes sordid rants from the August 28 edition. Once was more than enough.

Advertising junk food:

Paul Hampton-Smith writes: Re. “Free TV: no link between advertising and obese kids” (yesterday, item 21). C’mon Julie Flynn, let’s counter your “no evidence” statements about the causal link between advertising junk food and obesity with a stripped down description of how free to air TV operates: (1) Drum up as many eyeballs as possible, (2) Sell access to the eyeballs to advertisers. And the advertisers’ business model is even simpler: Advertise; Sell More. So if free to air TV junk food advertising really has a “modest impact” on eating habits then advertisers have been wasting their money, right? Surely no number of studies can disprove the obvious – that advertising junk food increases junk food sales, which in turn increases obesity. The point I agree with you on is that if advertising is restricted in one place only then it will jump elsewhere. That’s why junk food advertising should be banned completely. I’m sure that something more appropriate will fill its place, just like when cigarette advertising left the screens.

Hats, head-dresses and public schools:

Gary James writes: Re. “Hats, head-dresses and public schools” (yesterday, item 16). I wholeheartedly agree with Michael Gordon. According a special status to doctrinal, unfounded and illogical religious beliefs allows such beliefs to spread and to prosper.


Colin Nichol writes: Re. “Full marks to Woolies for fronting Four Corners” (Tuesday, item 25). Reading Stephen Mayne’s item has tempted me to remark upon the unfamiliar words used in his article, i.e.: Costco and Aldi. Please, please, when may we be able to include them in our West Australian discourse? At present they are just another foreign aspect of Eastern Seaboard-oriented discussion.

Gerard Henderson:

Tom Hyland, The Sunday Age, writes: In his note to Crikey, Gerard Henderson (Tuesday, comments) criticised recent story selection by The Sunday Age. He referred to my August 17 story in the paper, regarding Garrie Hutchinson. Minor detail, I know, but the story was not the page one lead. Another minor detail, I suppose, but on any reading the story was not about the ”fact”, as Henderson put it, that Sasha Uzunov had objected to Hutchinson’s involvement in Vietnam Veterans Day. No one I spoke to stated any such objection, nor am I aware of any planned involvement by Hutchinson in the day. Instead, the story was about how veterans’ representatives objected to Hutchinson’s work in the veterans unit of the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development. As to whether the Hutchinson issue was newsworthy, I’d have thought Henderson of all people would be aware that positions people took during the Vietnam War — and the Cold War — continue to resonate, decades on. Come to think of it, it’s a theme Henderson has laboured more than twice. Final point, but I spent no time on the picket line last weekend. There was no picket line. Fancy that. Sorry if I quibble, but perhaps Henderson’s propensity for pedantry is infectious.

Global warming melee:

Matt Hardin writes: It is unfortunate for Tamas Calderwood’s argument (yesterday, comments) that he chose to use the Barrier reef in his defence of the effect of climate change on the environment. The Holocene optimum and Medieval warm period both had their greatest effects at high latitudes. At low latitudes (where the reef is) the increase was about 1 degree Celsius during the former and actually cooler and drier due to a prolonged La Nina during the latter. Records show vast changes to ecosystems in Africa, Europe and the Amazon during those periods. The effect on human civilization of climate change is evident throughout history from the Lake Mungo archaeological evidence through the collapse of the Akkadian Empire to the failure of the Norse colonies in North America. Our highly complex and tightly integrated modern society will have even greater difficulty adjusting to perturbations in climate.

There is ample evidence to show that carbon dioxide is a green house gas, ample evidence to show that it is increasing in concentration, and ample evidence to show that global average temperatures are increasing at the same time. While there are many other factors affecting our climate, the increasing trend is being seen in addition to these. In other words, if we account for known effects (including precession of the Earth’s orbit, sun spot cycles etc.) there is still an increase in temperature. Occam’s razor would suggest that the increase in greenhouse gas concentration is the most likely cause recent climate change. A comparison of the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions against the costs of increasing climate change says that a small cost now will save us all much in the future.

Shay Gordon-Brown writes: Matthew Auger (yesterday, comments) is correct I stuffed up my calculations by a factor of 100. Also it is central limit theorem and not critical for anyone who wants to look it up. Note to self: re-read email before sending. The point I was trying to make about statistics (badly) is that there are many ways of creating the same mean (average) but have a completely different data set. The coldest day on record can occur in the same year as the highest mean temperature and vice versa.

The issue with global warming/climate change is the overall trend. The trend that has been occurring is that the mean global temperature is higher and that there is also a greater deviation of highs and lows from the mean. Thus extreme events are tending to be more extreme. It is those extreme events which destroy eco-systems and eventually civilisations especially when they affect water supply. For anyone who wants to understand about the future impact of climate change the IPCC has recently released a technical report on Water and Climate Change which is extremely pertinent to Australia. For those of us who drink the fair trade coffee we tend to find this stuff pretty gut-wrenching.

James Burke writes: Re. Geoff Perston (yesterday, comments), cultish ratbags, flat-earth conspiracists and full-blown, paid-up Carbon Quislings from Planet Coal, scientists have no need to “spin” the weather, only to record it and analyse it — and hypothesise on future trends. And for years the general scientific consensus has been that the world will warm over time, but not uniformly, and that greater extremes and more rapid cycles can be expected as the climate destabilises. Thus the second coldest August in NSW history followed one of the warmest Junes. So the Antarctic conditions around Bathurst and Orange in April followed Adelaide’s worst ever heatwave. And while us Aussies were shivering through the mid-year freeze, the Arctic was looking more like the Caribbean every day … The North Pole becomes an “island” for the first time in history as ice melts. Climate doesn’t follow straight lines — that’s why the graphs look all wiggly.

Michael Brougham writes: Geoff Perston, no spin is required. Climate change means more weather extremes. An unusually cold winter is a weather extreme. Whether or not the “climate panic merchants” are ultimately correct is beyond my knowledge, but grasping how a chilly winter fits into it isn’t that hard.

Global warming and French– the final word:

Kirill Reztsov writes: Re: John Lawrence (yesterday, comments). It should of course be “Quelle revelation”. I also spotted a “menage a trios” further up in the email. I won’t even go into the accents. When is Crikey getting a resident Francophile to keep the psephologist company? On a different note, I am sick of people using the Comments, corrections, clarifications, and c*ckups section to fight over whether climate change is happening or not. It doesn’t matter because the universe will end when the Large Hadron Collider switches on next week. Incidentally, the collider spans France and the French-speaking part of Switzerland.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.