Disappointed:

Louise Hall writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). I see there’s a criticism of my story on severely obese children being notified to child protection authorities in “Tips and rumours” yesterday.

Of course I read the journal article, I also interviewed the lead author, Dr Shirley Alexander from the Children’s hospital at Westmead. The first question I asked Dr Alexander when I interviewed her on Friday January 30 was to check if the case study of Jade was based on an actual patient. She explained it was an amalgamation of several cases because no real patients had given consent to have their details printed in a medical journal despite being asked.

However we discussed it was appropriate to use the case of “Jade” as an illustration of the type of extreme cases that may warrant the notification of child protection services, just as she and her colleagues did in their journal article. You may note other media outlets did not interview any of the authors, and in today’s Daily Telegraph, the case study of “Jade” is actually re-printed in full, without any further comment, or note that she was not a real child.

I enjoy reading Crikey but I hardly think this nasty comment is a tip or a rumour. Anyone can access the journal article through here and see there is a note explaining that Jade is an amalgamation of several cases.  Your tipster is hardly breaking confidential news!

Stimulating the economy:

Todd Winther writes: Re. “Cash, jobs and a new deficit record. Stimulated?” (Yesterday, item 1). Parents tell their kids to save their money for a rainy day.

However over the past two decades, respective governments of both philosophical persuasions chose to spend money generated through economic growth by allocating tax cuts. Governments made hay while the sun shone in order to get re-elected on the back of handing out economic bribes to voters, and now all we’re paying for it.

When will leaders recognise that economics is always a long term exercise? One must always plan for the future. The transformation in politics towards continual campaigning and generating short term political capital has come at the expense of overarching economic policy. No stimulus package will fix that.

Andrew Lewis writes: Re. Ross Davidson (yesterday, comments). I don’t know where to start with this one, but apparently Ross wasn’t around while JWH and PC gave away tax breaks almost exclusively to the high and middle income earners and companies for 12 years, while giving bugger all to lower income earners and nothing to pensioners and the unemployed.

According to Ross, most of the stimulus money went to the pokies and overseas, in spite of the fact that all the holiday destinations this summer were chockers with locals who didn’t go overseas. Ross doesn’t seem to understand that pubs are businesses too, as are retailers, where most of the money did go to. Ross also hasn’t made the connection that businesses survive because of their customers, most of whom are low income earners who according to Ross “pay 2/5ths of nothing in taxes and contribute very little to the economy”.

Worse still Ross, those companies are functional because they are staffed by these same vermin.

It’s been a long time since I have read such an ignorant piece of vitriol.

John Boyd writes: Re. “Open letter to Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop” (28 January, item 2) A great article. I don’t recall to which particular profligacy’s of the Keating government Mr Keane refers, but a few other aspects of the first two Howard budgets come to mind. One was the slashes to research and university funding, and the cut in the R&D tax concession. Up to 1996, the OECD average Gross Expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a percentage of GDP, was rising steadily, and still is, while Australia’s GERD was lower, but rising at a faster rate, and thus was closing on the OECD average.

The 1996 budget began a rapid decline both in relative and absolute terms, so that even by the time of the Backing Australia’s Ability (BAA) package, the gap was so large that it about equalled the much vaunted budget deficit. BAA did SFA to correct the situation.

Subsequent budget surpluses are about equal to any one of the progressive disinvestments in infrastructure, health, university education, and research and development, the consequences of which are going to have to be borne by all of us over the next few years. So much for sound economic management.

Jenny Morris writes: As expected, nothing for the unemployed in this “stimulus package”. I heard some vague chat from Lindsay Tanner this morning about an increase in the amount in “training accounts” for the unemployed. But as my comment in Crikey last week indicated, this money is safely in the hands of agencies set up (and funded!) to help the unemployed retrain, who won’t (and don’t have to!) release it to spend on that training. If I could bear to be spectacularly unsuccessful and rort the system unashamedly, I’d set up as one of these agencies myself. Seems a great way to make money with little if any real accountability.

Tim Colebatch in the The Age today got it right — “those who need it are the poor people who bear the cost of the recession on behalf of the rest of us”.

Peter Rule writes: I can understand the reasoning behind it, throw money out there, get people to spend it, stimulate the economy. Simple. But what really annoys me is the inequity of it. Why are selective groups in the community again being identified to benefit from this (much much) more than others? This is highly divisive.

Why do people get $950 per child: that is just obscene. Why is income a factor? If I earned 80k I get less, 90k even less again.If I earned 100k I get nothing. Why? Isn’t the point meant to be stimulating the economy? Surely someone with a higher income has a greater capacity to truly spend it freely. What about helping the true big spenders: business? How many businesses out there, from small to large, are cutting back, tightening up on their spending? ALL of them, that’s how many.

Yet absolutely nothing here to encourage them to loosen up a bit. Here is my suggestion: how about extra tax breaks for expenses incurred over the next three months. Surely, something should be done here. I don’t know, there must be something more useful than profligate, presumptive, speculative hand-outs to politically acceptable groups in the community.

Michael Cunningham writes: Re. The federal government’s $42bn stimulus package. Smart chaps our politicians and bureaucrats, according to the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” it took the supercomputer Deep Thought, 7 and a half million years to compute the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, which turns out to be 42.

Rudd’s essay:

Sean Hosking writes: Re. “Of pointless pressers and partisan politics” (yesterday, item 12). My god. A government trying to “put something in the media cycle”, “shape the agenda” and fashion themselves as “a voice of moderation”. Who would have thought that a government could stoop this low? And to think of all the masses breathlessly opening their copy of the Monthly to get the moderate lowdown from a Prime minister who presumably at all other times over the summer was lazily watching the cricket. The whole thing obviously reeks of electoral gold for Rudd.

The irony of Bernard Keane’s, Andrew Bartlett’s (and half the mainstream press’) cynicism in regard to Kevin Rudd’s Monthly essay is that there is absolutely nothing moderate or safe about what he has done in writing the essay. Reality may indeed have crept up on the ideological zealots of the free market but the elite corporate interests and pseudo intellectual lackey’s to whom neo liberalism has been a Trojan horse of spectacular effectiveness for three decades are not about to give up on the old nag yet … and they still pack an almighty punch.

The resulting mainstream media whine has been predictable and will ultimately do Rudd no good. He is either a hypocrite or blithely unaware that Howard’s WorkChoices legislation was in actual fact inspired by Mao Tse Tung.

I can forgive Rudd’s hypocrisy for his sheer gall in laying the boot in. As with most politicians in Australia, he may just now be starting to resent his hitherto cowering submission to the op-ed pages of The Australian.

Political donations:

Chris Johnson writes: Re. “Surge in donations couldn’t buy a win for Howard” (Monday, item 1). Our political donations disclosure is a disgrace: Its never been made more clear to the mums, dads and working families of Australia just where their ballot box outlay stands in the long line of other investors in our national policy-making.

This register is more than a donor roll. It’s a snapshot of some local and overseas shareholders wanting bang for their bucks in a hijacking of democracy. Like the game plan that stuffed the free-market political de-regulation down-under is where the doors of Casino Canberra open every election to anyone cashed up for a slice of the Aussie pie.

It’s no way to run any country but who’s game enough to admit the ideological pillars of the free world — capitalism and democracy just bit the dust.

Climate change:

Ken Lambert writes: In the beginning was the number, and the number was 1.6W/sq.m. Why don’t your readers attack me instead of poor old Tamas Calderwood (Monday, comments). Probably because they might not have understood my points which Crikey kindly printed last week.

Most obviously absent from the field was Dr Andrew Glikson. Perhaps I should repeat one point at a time, namely:

A layman’s look at Fig 2.4 (pp39 of AR4) is indicative of the scientific rigor of the IPCC. All the heat-up forcings (C02, N2O, Ozone) have high and medium levels of certainty (LOSU — level of scientific understanding); and all the cool-down forcings (surface albedo, direct aerosol and cloud albedo) have medium to low LOSU.

So the arithmetic sum of the averages of unequal terms is taken and the result of 1.6W/sq.m positive forcing obtained. It could 0.6 or 2.4 – so lets call it 1.6. For a start, adding in high certainty positive forcings and subtracting low certainty negative forcings is bound to produce a slanted result; in this case on the positive side. Think about it!

Expressing this in accountant’s terms; imagine that you know your revenue (sales) with a high level of certainty, but your expenses with a low level of certainty. Subtracting the two figures will give you a difference with a low level of certainty — in fact the absolute uncertainties of the terms of a simple subtraction will add together. You could make a big profit or a big loss! Furthermore, the application of heating power (forcing) to the surface of the Earth at a rate of 1.6W/sq.m. should raise the average temperature of both air and ocean.

If this does not happen over a period of several years (excluding the seasonal summer/winter variations), then the 1.6W/sq.m. would logically be a wrong number. It could be 0.6W/sq.m. or zero or a minus number i.e. the Earth is losing heat. All the cooling “forcings” — surface albedo, direct aerosol and cloud albedo are admitted by the IPCC to have a medium to low LOSU (level of scientific understanding).

The conclusion is inescapable; if the heat-up forcings (CO2, N2O, Ozone) are correct as claimed by the IPCC, then the cool-down forcings must be greater than the IPCC “averages” which effectively negate any positive heat-up effects. This is entirely consistent with the low level of certainty of the cool-down “forcings”. (For the Grade 12 physicists; 1 Watt = 1 Joule/second. Roughly 3800 Joules of heat energy will raise the temperature of 1 litre of seawater by 1 degree C.)

Tamas Calderwood writes: The graphs referred to by Tim Marsh, John Peak and myself (yesterday, comments) show an average temperature increase of ~0.35C over 30 years. If we extrapolate that trend to 2100 the world will be ~1C warmer than today — not far off the 0.7C rise that humanity managed to survive in the 20th century. How is this a crisis? It is not good enough to appeal to authority by saying NASA, the IPCC et al say it’s a crisis.

You must argue the facts: Recent temperature changes are within normal variability. CO2 continues to increase but temperatures have plateaued and dipped such that the Earth’s current temperature is no warmer than it was in 1983. These facts are utterly inconsistent with us being “in the midst of a climate emergency”– as Steve Campbell of Greenpeace put it. I never said there was no global warming over the past century — but the hypothesis that it is man-made and accelerating just doesn’t stack up.

David Lenihan writes: Perhaps Bruce Hore (yesterday, comments) you should direct your comments to the High Priest of denial, Andrew Bolt at the Herald Sun. It is doubtful the Rev Bolt has ever set foot in your world, but perhaps he may learn a little about the real climate, if he was to venture into the areas that are being directly effected by climate change … sadly I wouldn’t rely on that, it doesn’t suit his daily sermon from his air conditioned office, chilled water at the ready as he preaches to those hundred or so lost souls who read his procrastinating and crave for a mountain to climb, so they can reach the pinnacle to proclaim and anoint Bolt as the true prophet of denial.

The interwebs:

Rob Pickering writes: Verity Pravda (yesterday, comments) on the Google problem misses the point entirely. At the worlds biggest search company, with experience and resources vastly superior than our government, along with some of the smartest people in the world working for them, they can still have massive problems which inconvenience millions of people operating a “blacklist” of a similar sort to that Senator Conroy suggests.

Imagine if the government is responsible for something along these lines and a problem of this magnitude occurs on a Sunday night. We can’t trust them to get simple public transport running, let alone the very backbone of our national internet which is obviously significantly more complicated.

Further, the explanation she gives as to the “mitigations” of such problems are simplistic and are in no way a solution to the magnitude of problems that might arise. As a network engineer in a previous life responsible for running simply the internet access for a medium sized Australian company, I can attest to the problems merely running blacklists for those few users, let alone multiply it to 10 million or so users.

Stilgherrian is absolutely right that the proposed blacklist is a technical nightmare. It doesn’t work well in China (where I’m currently located) proven by the fact that the fastest connection we can currently get at a personal level is 2Mbit — and it never performs at that either — and won’t work well in Australia.

At a time when infrastructure investments are key to bringing about productivity increases to make us competitive in the global marketplace, sacrificing speed and reliability of our internet connections is a huge productivity issue.

Trainspotting (and a Crikey competition):

Chris Pearce writes: Graeme Connelly (yesterday, comments) criticised Professor Graham Currie’s mathematical prowess in his Sunday Age article: “He stated that only 1.3% of days were in the low 40’s each year then stated this meant that this 43C days happened on average ‘just over once a year’ But 1.3% per annum translates into just over 3 days per year of above 40C temperatures.”

Perhaps someone at Fairfax noticed because when I checked, the article read: “While hot rail users might think so the fact is that historically the average number of Melbourne days recorded over 40 degrees is only 1.2 per annum.”

But my point to Mr Connelly is this. Last time I checked, 1.3% of 365 (an a quarter or whatever) is around 4.75, not “just over once a year” nor “just over 3 days per year”. Maybe the heat has broken all the calculators.

Adam Rope writes: Keith Binns (yesterday, comments) makes an interesting match between Melbourne (summer) and the UK (autumn and winter) when trains don’t work because of simple, predictable, weather patterns. So can we have a Crikey competition — can anyone think of a city/country anywhere in the world when trains don’t work in spring? Oh sorry, should get this in first, Sydney excluded due to winning any previous competitions at a canter.

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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