Wealth is not the issue:

Genevieve Morgan, wife of Gary Morgan and Vice-President of the East Melbourne Group East Melbourne Group, writes: Re. “Hilton case reveals planning law as a plaything of the wealthy” (Friday, item 13). Greg Barn’s interpretation of the East Melbourne Group’s victory in the Victorian Court of Appeal on the redevelopment of the Hilton and surrounding historic buildings detracted from the importance of the Court’s decision. Yes, there are some wealthy dedicated residents who fought a very “wrong decision” by the Bracks/Brumby Government — being wealthy is not the issue.

The Court of Appeal found that then Minister Mary Delahunty abused her powers as there was no way the proposed Hilton development could be finished in time for the Commonwealth Games. The judgement stated that Mary Delahuny used an “improper purpose or irrelevant consideration” by exempting herself from following the proper process of the law. The Court of Appeal decision will deter future elected Governments making decisions which by-pass our laws and consequently then involve expensive court battles. You need to praise good court decisions.

The US is a dangerous melting pot:

Trevor Hedge writes: Re. “Rundle08: May I never visit Pennsylvania again” (Friday, item 4). After recently riding across America from south to north I noted a number of various observations. But the most pertinent to what is currently going on in our world are the following; the domination in American society of religion is suffocating. A lot of the America I saw had a huge amount of religious fundamentalism going at a level I found downright frightening. It was more oppressive and obvious than a lot of predominantly Muslim countries that I have spent plenty of time in.

The other thing that really surprised me was the fear that many white Americans had of Obama’s candidacy for President. Not a racist fear of their own, but a fear of the racists in their society. So many of what I would describe as moderate, run of the mill normal Americans that in many of their opinions and outlook I would describe as very similar to the average Australian, are sh-tting themselves. They truly believe that Obama will likely be assassinated before or after the election. Many expressed the opinion that they would be surprised if he actually made it as far as election day. They fear the racial tension that would explode if what they predict actually happens.

“We don’t really need that sh-t going down man, as when it does things will get real ugly”, was the way one expressed his fears. Combine a looming recession with religious fundamentalism and racial tension and there is one hell of a dangerous melting pot brewing in America.

Senator Conroy and internet filtering:

Michael Cooper writes: It’s so reassuring to know that those assets to humanity that work for Stephen Conroy read Crikey (Friday, comments). I wonder if their plans for Internet filtering will also include a commitment to be “… conducted in a manner that fosters independence, transparency, accountability and public confidence”. I don’t think so. There are some dirty deeds done dirt cheap happening here. Problem started when PM Dud failed to clean out the Public Service of the Howard era totalitarian acolytes and religious nutters. Unfortunately, Stephen Conroy is widely known to be a fellow right-wing ideological traveller, and so is succumbing to the entreaties of his department to become Big Brother Conroy (BBC) over all matters communication and Internet.

This filter, if it ever flies, will be a constant thorn in Labor’s side. I should know, I work for a large organisation that has one of these filters. Yes it slows everything down to half speed at best, but I’m also the IT guy they complain to daily when our filter blocks some innocuous website. Take it from me, the Murdoch press will have a field day with the Government’s credibility, as almost every day there will be a new headline over some website blocked for no good reason, that will yet again reinforces the public view that Conroy & Co couldn’t organise s-x in a brothel, and provide the Murdoch press with a never ending supply of truncheons to beat the DBCDE with. Talk about an own goal.

Let’s just hope the Senate has the good sense to let Stephen off the hook by voting the ISP filter down. The current client-side (loads on your PC) filtering solution is, in my opinion, the best way to go, both for concerned parents, and for the preservation of democracy in Australia.

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “Media briefs: CBS manages a profit and loss … HuffPo writer goes postal” (Friday, item 22). I was amused to see Australian Women Online’s call to “rationally discuss, compromise and problem-solve internet censorship” quoted in Crikey on Friday. Such irony! AWO’s article addresses NONE of the rational arguments against ISP-level censorship, and instead just piles rhetoric upon name-calling. So much for “rational”!

And “discuss”? Well, AWO has turned off comments on that article, even deleted older comments which disagreed with their point of view. Anyone using their contact form to discuss the issue was emailed the same “rational” reply:

You guys are so stupid — you want to deal with us effectively than [sic] ignore us because you are giving us way too much power in this debate. Why do you care so much about what we have to say on this issue anyway?

We think it is rather amusing that you flock to our website in your thousands, hanging on our every word and action. Don’t deny it — whenever we write something on ISP filtering it’s linked to within the hour – you guys are faster than Google for Christ sakes!

If you’re so smart why can’t you work it out for yourselves – ignore us and we have no power, no influence and no voice on this debate. All you’re doing here is directing lots of attention our way and diverting it from yourselves. Duh!

Deborah Robinson
Editor, Australian Women Online

Ms Robinson is right. Why do we care about what she has to say? She clearly doesn’t understand that all commentary on an issue is visible to everyone immediately, not just AWO’s, and that “rationally discuss” means, you know, different rational voices addressing the actual rational arguments. With supporters like this… oh dear, Senator Conroy!

New Zealand:

Kevin McCready writes: Wow. The anti-democratic spray from Neil James (Friday, comments) on New Zealand’s proportional representation which develops into cultural analysis before ending in insult must be the longest letter you’ve ever published. One problem — the argument is the same vacuous nonsense we hear about any minority in any parliament. Somehow in this worldview the minority shouldn’t be there because it wields “disproportionate power”. Gimmeabreak. The only “power” they wield is when major parties are split. It’s called proportional representation, and yep, you get elected even when a majority may object. So in a system where 5% is a lower limit then 5% of parliament may not be liked by 95%. It’s not that hard to understand and the 95% can always vote together if they wish.

The worst gallery ever:

Rowen Cross writes: Re. “And the Wankley Award goes to… The Daily Tele photo gallery monkey” (yesterday, item 21). Spot on for your Wankley Award pick of the week. This is THE worst gallery ever created by anyone.

Faulkner spotting:

Sue Kealy writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 6). Regarding Friday’s tip that Crikey published about “Graham Freudenberg’s much-awaited book Churchill and Australia” and how “not a single sitting Labor MP bothered to attend”. Who is that handsome bespectacled fellow in the Senate then who looks remarkably like John Faulkner?

First Dog on the Moon:

John Held writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (Friday, item 5). Dear Mr Firstdog, as one of those who lobbied Crikey to get you kept on after the election last year, I just have to say how much I look forward to my daily fix of First Dog, plus the badges and tea towels etc… But on Friday you really excelled yourself on a whole lot of levels! Well done! P.S. My cats think you are a f-cking disgrace….

Global warming:

John H Williams writes: Jeffery Coombs (Friday, comments) may have a valid argument on CO2 and global temperatures in the past, but he’s been cavalier about the lengths of some geologic periods, stating 450-420mya for the Ordovician/Silurian, when the former ran from 490-443mya and the latter 443-416mya. There’s a bigger disparity regarding his Jurassic/Cretaceous, given as 151-132 mya, when it’s 206-65.5mya, with the last period of the Miocene taking about 80 million years.

Older texts, unfortunately, do give varying and inaccurate datings. Some figures are necessarily not precise, and have a margin of around 1%. The evidence is that there were glaciations during those periods, with one taking place about 91 million years ago during a “supergreenhouse”, when tropical ocean temperature was 10C greater than today’s. The glaciation was believed to have lasted 200,000 years, and had an ice cap about 50-60% the size of our Antarctic one.

Prof Ian Plimer gives the CO2 level during this glaciation as five times the current level, and a figure of fifteen times for the Ordovician-Silurian glaciation. He’s of the opinion that a great deal of palaeoclimatic data is being given scant attention in the global warming debate, and that it should be.

Colin Ross writes: It is fascinating to read the straw arguments for doing nothing that are put up by the so called “climate change sceptics”, although both sides of the argument are equally guilty of blatant manipulation of imperfect data. Whether or not climate change is another natural cycle (perhaps exacerbated, for the first time in history, by human activity) does not excuse us from sitting back and doing nothing. While we don’t expect catastrophes and accidents to cause our homes to destroyed, we still consider it prudent to take out appropriate insurance.

Major climate changes in the past involved much smaller, and far less interconnected and interdependent populations and adaptation was comparatively simpler. That is not the case today, with the ramifications of the failures in the global financial system a good example. If the present debate inspires us to shift the source of our energy use from finite fossil fuel usage to sustainable and non-polluting sources, our descendants will surely thank us.

Mark Byrne writes: Tamas Calderwood (Friday, comments) unfortunately the oceans are gaining heat, which is a one of the major causes of the rise in sea level.

Jeffrey Coombs, while resolution decreases the further we go back in time, a discernable association between temperature and CO2 is evident in paleoclimate proxies. It is important to recognise that going back hundreds of millions of years solar irradiance was as little as 20% below that of today’s (1366 W/m 2). Such massive changes (hundreds of W/m2) are two orders of magnitude greater than the current human induced warming (1.6W/m2) and three orders of magnitude greater than current solar cycle forcing (0.12 W/m2). Such a large drop in solar irradiance may be enough to counter the 12 degrees of warming expected by increasing CO2 concentrations to 4400 ppm.

Tom Clarke writes: Tamas Calderwood should be more careful in his choice of data. His comment that the satellite temperature record does not show a world getting warmer is patently incorrect. The graph, to which he points to support his argument, shows this clearly. The graph is taken from an article here. The author notes that: “…all four temperature series align remarkably well when normalised on the same baseline period. GISS and HadCRU both show a warming trend of 0.16 degrees C per decade from 1979 to February 2008. RSS shows a warming trend of 0.18 per decade over the same period, while UAH shows a warming trend of 0.14.” He further notes that “advocates often tend to pick the one that will best reinforce their perspectives. Over longer time periods, however, the differences between different temperature”

Duncan Beard writes: Tamas Calderwood clearly has some vision problems, the graph he’s citing as evidence that the world is not getting warmer is clearly trending upwards, and over a ridiculously short time period (less than 30 years) no less. Perhaps some more time at the Andrew Bolt Institute for Graph Fiddling would help him “fix” the graph a bit.

George Penney writes: I liked the graph submitted by Tamas Calderwood at the end of Friday’s Crikey email. He says this shows that the world’s temperature is basically the same as 30 years ago. I see a graph clearly trending up. I must get my eyes checked.

Joe Boswell writes: Thanks for once again giving space to the indefatigable Tamas Calderwood. His unstinting efforts remind me of an old Persian folk story:

One night a guard was on duty at a gate of an ancient walled city. An old man approached, leading a donkey that carried two heavy panniers.

The guard challenged the old man and demanded to know what was in the panniers.

“Poppy seeds,” said the old man, “For tomorrow’s market.”

The guard insisted the old man open the panniers. The guard took a handful of the contents. He looked closely.

“This is gunpowder!”

“Rubbish! Poppy seeds!”

“It’s definitely gunpowder!”

“You young people! What do you know? It’s only poppy seeds!”

As they argued, the guard became more and more angry with the stubborn old man. He seized a burning torch from the wall behind him and held it over the pannier.

“So, old man. What would happen if I put the torch in the pannier?”

“Well, the poppy seeds…”

But a spark from the torch fell into the pannier. There was a dreadful explosion. The donkey was killed and the guard and the old man were both hurled to the ground, stunned and bleeding.

After some minutes the old man rose unsteadily to his feet. He stumbled over to the guard. The old man’s voice was trembling with rage as he shook his fist at the guard.

“You see! I told you! Poppy seeds!”

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