Paul Armstrong and The West Australian:

David Hardie writes: Re. “Paul Armstrong joins the former-editor club of Australia” (Friday, item 1). In the context of an otherwise excellent story, Margaret Simons lets herself (and Crikey) down by succumbing to the notion that the “great editors” (her quotes) were the ones who “helped set the agenda of a city or a nation.”

One of the problems with Paul Armstrong’s role at The West Australian is that he saw himself not just as a reporter of public affairs in Western Australia, but increasingly saw himself as a player in public affairs as reported in Crikey (here, here and here). The problem with this is that it was not by virtue of Armstrong’s contribution, but was by virtue of his position, which is perhaps closer to the heart of the problem.

The pink elephant that is sitting in the corner is the fact that Kerry Stokes is now exerting substantial influence over the dominant (albeit underperforming) newspaper in WA and owns Channel Seven, the dominant TV station in WA. At least he takes Perth and WA seriously but media domination is media domination. Is Crikey going to go after this story?

Chris Johnson writes: Disappearing editors and deck-chair shuffling is about newspapers boxing the trifecta in a media meltdown. Radio and television fell apart years ago after boning themselves on de-regulation, industry divestment and a networked cross-media package of simplified info from a diet of skills and resources. Now all three suffer an identity crisis and we’re minus a credible communications platform with an impending education revolution and nothing to fire minds and imaginations. All of which makes this internet censorship debate appear a political stunt set to divert from the real crisis of a nation deprived of credible communications. Any time now they’ll launch one of those consumer-friendly program (Media Watch?) to tip us off on where to get the best info and entertainment available.

Job numbers:

Marcus LÉstrange writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Crikey wrote that ”the official published Australian unemployment number is heading towards 7 per cent. The real unpublished figure, which includes people working fewer than 35 hours a week, is probably over that number already and headed way above 10 per cent”, has missed a key point. There are three published ABS measures of unemployment, not one.

They are; the monthly “Labour Force” survey which no one should believe in because it is based on a political definition of unemployment. The second one is “The Persons not in the Labour Force” survey and finally “The Household Survey”. The latter two surveys show current unemployment in the 1.5 million plus range. We must not forget that we have 1.75 million Australians on one of the six different dole payments. This automatically makes the monthly ”Labour Force” figure laughable.

I say laughable because the ABS staff involved with it do just that — laugh. The media must recognise that there is no “D” notice on the real unemployment figures and should stop accepting and printing the bogus monthly “Labour Force” figures as gospel.

In other words get off your backside and do some real journalistic work. I think the good Lord said: ”seek and ye shall find”. Real unemployment figures, not dodgy ones, leads to real economic solutions, not “bread and circus” nonsense.

Gaza:

David Menere writes: Roger Mika (13 January, comments) and Sandra Kank (15 January, comments) have importantly raised the Bible as explaining some of what’s going on in Gaza. The Old Testament/Pentateuch is certainly redolent with ethnic cleansing, often Divinely ordered, e.g.: “But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth. But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee” (Deuteronomy, 20.16-17, KJV).

Much of Western Society has grown up with the Old Testament as a pervasive but unquestioned part of its fabric. From kindly Sunday school teachers onwards, the idea permeated that because the Bible says that God gave Israel to the Jews, then whatever they do there is OK because they are doing the work of the Lord. Indeed, Israel has encouraged this with its outreach to the Evangelical Right in the USA.

The problem in all this is that they wrote the book themselves. As modern archaeology has shown, these writings originated as Iron Age spin and propaganda, collected around the 7th century BCE to bolster the territorial ambitions of Jerusalem-based kings. Very convenient.

Daniel Lewis writes: A few weeks ago, Irfan Yusuf posted a video to his blog. In comments to that post, he described the video as “the aftermath of an Israeli bombing in Gaza It shows dead bodies of women and children.” he added, “If, after watching this video, you still believe there is no humanitarian problem in Gaza, you may as well believe the moon is made of lettuce.” Irfan was completely and utterly wrong. Disastrously wrong.

Had he bothered to click on the video (his own source) he would have quickly learned it was in fact the aftermath of a Hamas missile exploding at a Hamas parade. Nothing to do with Israel, and everything to do with Hamas terrorists. Irfan made a mistake. A big one in fact, amounting to a blood libel. He also knows about his mistake, from subsequent comments to the blog post, comments of other bloggers, as well as my previous letter to Crikey pointing it out. Yet he hasn’t corrected it.

I do not know how Irfan Yusuf can possibly be taken seriously, when he doesn’t fact-check his own work, nor issue a correction (much less apology) when subsequently caught-out.

Antony Loewenstein, another commentator with a history of getting facts about Israel wrong, also perpetrated this blood libel. In classic Loewenstein form though, rather than admit his error (as if), he simply “disappeared” his erroneous post. Luckily Google remembers … (refer earlier blog for links). Besides libelling Israel, what else do these two have in common? Regular appearances in Crikey, Fairfax media and the ABC. It does beg the question what will pass for credible commentary for some outlets these days.

Obama:

David Curtin writes: Re. “Obama’s mixed signals to the gay community” (Friday, item 10). Charles Richardson commented, “But more generally, and perhaps more importantly, he [Obama] needs to re-orient the American government so that it listens to people who know what they’re talking about.”

In his book, The Black Swan, Nicholas Taleb discusses the “Empty Suit Problem”, his term for those professions where there is no evidence of skill. Experts who do indeed tend to be experts include: astronomers, test pilots, chess masters, accountants, etc.

However, experts who tend to be … not experts include: stockbrokers, psychologists, court judges, HR recruiters, intelligence analysts, economists, financial forecasters, etc. Perhaps Obama would be better to re-orient the American government so that it listens to people who know that they absolutely do not know what they are talking about.

First home owners grant:

Dan Willis writes: Re. “First home owners grant inflates housing prices” (Friday, item 21). As a first home buyer who had his finance pre-approved three days ago, I can state quite clearly that Adam Schwab is plain wrong. He states that the grant is detrimental to my partner and I for two reasons. Allow me to address those:

  1. Inflated purchase price leads to increased associated costs such as stamp duty (which is based on the purchase price). This is just rubbish. As a first home buyer in NSW, I am exempt from stamp duty.
  2. The upped grant leads to a greater debt commitment (that is because the grant is used by purchased to fund their deposit, but they end up paying more for the property anyway, so their mortgage will be greater).

Yes, most of us are using this grant to fund the bulk of our deposits. Yes, we are paying slightly more for the property. The part he is missing here is that the value of being able to purchase a home earlier (in our case, by at least three years) is enormous. Not only will we reap the financial benefits of a longer period of asset appreciation by owning property longer, but we can actually own our own home at this stage of our lives.

Did you never wonder why so many Gen Ys still live with their parents or spend years scraping a deposit together? Maybe he ought to talk to some of us on the receiving end of the FHOG policy before printing this sort of half-researched bollocks.

Climate change:

Adam Rope writes: Stephen Magee (Friday, comments) seems to be a tad confused over science and relationship between politics and media over climate change. The “climate change loonies” who make the “wild predictions” are the politicians, media advisors, immoral spruikers, and the complicit media themselves riding the whole “climate change” image — not the scientists themselves. The scientists do the sober, boring scientific research, and write sober, boring scientific papers — in publications neither you nor I would read — about the multitude of subtle changes they are observing in many diverse and disparate environments.

It is the collation of all this real data into a whole picture that leads the scientists, and others, to make the real predictions of the possible consequences of climate change. It is this multiple analysis of root information that lead scientists to conclude that the climate of this planet is changing rapidly — way beyond what many species can adapt to, via evolution — and that this not only has a man-made cause, but may lead to further serious consequences.

Scientists, Stephen, don’t make alarmist media predictions concerning a single tide, king or not. Oh, and to dispel yet another sceptic myth, “the subtle rebranding from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change'”, as you call it, was carried out by a US Republican Party Pollster, Frank Luntz, who advised the Bush Administration to use the phrase as it was less alarming than the original. So you can blame spin doctors, and the complicit media, for that one as well.

Tim Marsh writes: Stephen Magee, I don’t understand your point. The climate and ecosystems (Arctic sea ice) are changing a lot quicker than anyone’s predictions (in some cases 100 years ahead of predictions, i.e. they’re way too conservative, and they variously exclude feedback in regard of say permafrost melt and attendant acceleration in related positive feedback melt) and you are saying CC or GW advocates are loonies?

This is still a business risk case my friend. Advocates are believed, we act and regardless of whether they’re right or wrong, we get jobs, innovation, planet given a chance (incidentally, we don’t rely on petro dictators anymore removing a large chunk of terrorist funding at the same time). Sceptics believed, we don’t act and we have disaster. We do act, and we get jobs, innovation and stop relying on Fuels from Hell instead of Fuels from Heaven. Think about it.

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman, check it out.

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Peter Fray

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