Rudd’s stimulus package:

John Goldbaum writes: Re. “Rudd stimulus package: death of the dream” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane is correct that “low interest rates and profligate government spending were what got the world into this financial crisis” but the reason fiscal stimulus is the solution to the looming economic crisis is that the governments of the world have now united to regulate financial institutions and markets so there will not be a repeat of the financial crisis in the future.

It is good monetary policy and good fiscal policy to lower interest rates and to stimulate (by an injection of pensioner, family and first home buyer spending money) our rapidly slowing economy as long as they remember to take their foot off the accelerator once the economy is travelling at the appropriate speed again — not too slow, not too fast, just right, Goldilocks. The aim is to deleverage slowly over time rather than all at once. That way, there is less dislocation to people’s lives and less long-term unemployment and homelessness. Slow change is good change according to the Fabians.

John Mant writes: Re. “Economic Security Strategy: the detail” (yesterday, item 2). The increase by $14,000 on the First Home Buyers Grant for the purchase on a newly built house is proof again that housing policy is building industry support policy. Bribing first home buyers to buy poorly designed houses in new estates on the fringes of our cities is the worst thing we can do. Especially as we put most of our capital investment into the houses, rather than providing a slice into public transport and other services.

Living on the fringe requires two cars and long trips to work and relatives. Those buying their first house are usually least suited to be suburban pioneers. If government wants to stimulate the economy then it should ensure that the new suburbs are properly designed and serviced. It should not further subsidise home ownership and the builders and developers who produce the lousy products that won’t sell without a government bribe.

Denise Marcos writes: There’s no disputing that pensioners, carers and training places needed a fillip — frankly, no-one would begrudge them double their allocation. But a golden opportunity has been lost by not directing the majority of the surplus billions into a major works industry and new-age foundation for Australia i.e.: alternative energies such as solar and geothermal. This would have guaranteed employment tailor made for the 21st century and, to some degree, short-circuited the interminable and mindless debate about the limp Emissions Trading Scheme. It seems ever so long since we elected a government with vision.

Obama’s a liar:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle08: Palin fails to take crazed fans to another level” (yesterday, item 5). Election campaigns are replete with distortions and misrepresentations, but there are some things that are beyond the pale. Obama implying John McCain is a bigot despite bravely sponsoring immigration legislation reforms that would help illegal arrivals and regularise their status. As well he is the father of a Bengal Deshi daughter, hardly the sign of a bigot. To claim that he would halve public service pensions is just a lie.

Astonishingly Obama appears to redefine what an American is and what constitutes a tax (through netting off) to claim that there will be so many beneficiaries of his illusory tax cuts, and that he will tax Americans less, when he will tax them much more (several percent more of GDP) and create deficits that are frankly eye-popping. Credit to The Economist and Wall Street Journal for at least reporting some of these, well — lies.

Discovering history for ourselves:

Christopher Ridings writes: Re. “Putting Australia back into the world of history” (yesterday, item 16). I congratulate this latest move into shifting our focus in studying our history. The dichotomy of Aboriginal and European elements of Australian history is no longer working for a number of reasons. While it has helped our understanding of these elements it is not helping our long-term efforts to live justly alongside each other. Also, the invention of on-line access to information means that the ways we have learned history have been greatly overtaken by new opportunities at our fingertips.

We can still read history as we have done but we now can appreciate history better by understanding it backwards. We can research origins of so much present-day information. For instance, we understand Aboriginal and European settlements better by appreciating other collisions of cultures elsewhere in time and in other places and setting our respective origins in context. Most cultures have evolved and developed at different rates over millennia and the differences have been affected more by geography than any other feature except where they have collided.

School children have much more opportunity than we had in researching their questions of how the many things they observe have come to be so. They can explore the history of writing, of food production, of diseases, of exploration because they now have greater access. They also have more advanced archaeological history, paleontological pre-history, the history of the universe from the Big Bang unfolding as we read this, than we ever had.

Therefore, our new approach to this vast array of histories from the Big Bang everywhere to now can make enormous improvements and we have to take these opportunities to discover ourselves and where we came from.

Markets punish faith:

Dean Paatsch writes: Re. “Marcus Padley: Faith will be punished, cynicism will protect you” (yesterday, item 24). My favourite piece by former Tricom Broker, Marcus Padley is this gem from Crikey on July 20, 2007:

The usual old argument over CEO remuneration packages has emerged once again after Macquarie Bank’s (MBL) AGM yesterday. Macquarie Bank shares are up 1137% from under $7 to $91.74 since it listed in 1996, the 16 th best performer in the ASX 300. It is up 45% in the last year alone. If shareholders don’t like the salaries the Directors are paying themselves they should simply vote with their feet, sell and go and find a stock that outperforms Macquarie Bank. The rest of us can hang on. MBL down 158c to 9016c.

Marcus’s effort yesterday is sage advice for readers of his column. Finally he has revealed what a brilliant satirist he is.

Language wars:

Max Reichert writes: I have long been amused by the twittering of self appointed guardians of the English language in the correspondence pages of The Age at instances of the supposed incorrect use of “different to” in place of their preferred “different from”, but I am surprised to see it invade the lean muscular prose of Crikey in the comment from Alan Kerlin (yesterday, comments) who wishes to see the former usage banished from the language.

According to my (second edition) copy of Fowlers, edited by Ernest Gowers:

That different can only be followed by from and not by to is a SUPERSTITION” (his capitals). To is found in writers of all ages (OED) … and the principle on which it is rejected involves a hasty and ill defined generalisation.

I do agree with Mr Kerlin that it is often the way that someone criticising others for poor grammar may themselves be at fault but Gower has over three pages discussing the fine distinctions which may be drawn between the proper usages of “which” and “that” so I feel that in the case of the example cited, ABC News chief John Cameron might be excused for his minor indiscretion if it was indeed such. Of more pressing importance is the deliberate perversion of the language to alter the perceptions of ordinary people by the Pentagon and assorted spin doctors.

I would sooner see lovers of our language attacking its abuse and the deliberate use of inappropriate euphemisms to hide horrific realities, than waste their energies on minor infractions which do not interfere with essential meanings.

Trial by jury:

Walt Hawtin writes: I’m with Andrew Lewis (yesterday, comments) but only part of the way when he suggests to our fellow citizens that he “… trust(s) your analytical skills and basic intelligence not at all” as members of a jury. There are plenty of smart, ethical, and reasonable people in this country, but they are not always available for empanelling on a jury. They are living— looking after their kids, caring for a partner, running a business, or slaving for a wage. The society that encouraged trial by jury is the same society that encourages economic growth, or getting out there and making a buck and paying your house off because it’s what you’re born to do and it’s the Australian dream!

Like all great conventions there are inherent contradictions. I had a lively discussion on this topic about two years ago with a couple of mates, and one suggestion that arose was that we develop a semi-professional jury service made up of people who have achieved a reasonable level of education — a degree perhaps ? — and who also have life and work experience to round them out. Without putting an age limit on it, the scheme could suit a range of people from an incalculable and therefore broad enough range of backgrounds who are then paid to learn some basic legal process and who are then retained by the state to become a juror on an ad hoc or semi-regular basis. In a similar manner to JPs.

There are flaws, but from what we discussed over those beers, the challenges are fewer and less significant than the flaws in the current system. Teachers on leave, qualified nurses between jobs, part time mums, disabled people who may find it difficult to work full time. There are literally thousands of people that this public semi-profession could suit. By maintaining a large and highly secured database, and managing it all through the internet, it could be an efficient, confidential and inexpensive way to bring some real value back to the jury system.

The key to this idea, of course, is in empanelling jury members who actually want to be there.

An amalgam of emo man:

Philip Woods writes: Re. “How to re-design the Australian banking sector” (yesterday, item 4). Glenn Dyer wrote: “…accompanied by the self-satisfied self applause of Nelson Turnbull and Brendan Hockey.” Who is Brendan Hockey? Is this an amalgam of emo man with an unfounded smug arrogance (Nelson & Hockey)?

A real tonic in these difficult times:

Andrew Richards writes: Re. “Turning journalists into spooks?” (31 July, item 5). It’s hardly a tip if it’s on the front page of yesterday morning’s the SMH (!) but as I’m sure you know there’s a link with Melissa Sweet’s piece on Hakluyt and the story on Rod Eddington and Alexander Downer who are on the board. However, the absolutely best part of the story is the quote by Sir Rod: “Do you think Alexander Downer would be on the advisory board of a company that acted unethically?” Pure gold and a real tonic in these difficult times. Have we noticed how Downer and Ruddock are trying to rewrite their shabby history? Yep noted, thanks.

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.

Peter Fray

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