Swine Flu:

David Hand writes: Re. “GP: We’re underequipped and unprepared for a pandemic” (yesterday, item 3). Being a news junkie, there are occasional painful days when the media discovers a new word. The PANDEMIC sweeping the world is a particularly virulent PANDEMIC. Lacking the antibodies to defend against this new PANDEMIC, the entire media is infected and the PANDEMIC symptoms are painful to see and read.

I flew to Adelaide yesterday and my taxi driver was not wearing a face mask. To make matters worse, he sneezed while driving me to my hotel so I can confirm the PANDEMIC has reached here. I am available for a news journalist to breathlessly interview me about my nonexistent symptoms so we can discuss the hypothetical implications of the health PANDEMIC risks of catching an Adelaide taxi with a sneezing driver.

There is cause for optimism however. PANDEMICS of this type have a tendency to sweep through in about 24 hours. Some PANDEMICS might hang around for a few days but a political scandal or a celebrity gossip event is sure to cure the patient and our media will be restored to full health by the weekend.

One cautionary note however is that this PANDEMIC virus is conveniently filling multiple pages in the front sections of frail and emaciated broadsheet newspapers and may be difficult to dislodge from those patients.

Andy Irvine writes: Is it just a coincidence that several of Australia’s most infamous snouts arrive in Mexico just as Swine Flu breaks out. Chicken or egg?

Richard Pratt:

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “Pratt’s defence fails to hold water” (yesterday, item 28). Whilst not wishing to speak ill of the recently departed Richard Pratt, it is interesting to note that, as in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, by allowing the criminal charges against him to be dropped, the legal system has demonstrated that “the quality of mercy is not strain’d … (blessing) him that gives and him that takes” –in Pratt’s case, one and the same.

It would be nice to feel that the legal system could have moved just as fast and compassionately for people at the other end of town. There is a stark contrast between the speed at which the old boy network came to the party for Pratt and the brutal way in which the victims of James Hardie have been allowed to die without their cases being expedited.

Much is made of Pratt’s generosity. If I had made billions — some of them illegally — I don’t think I would have any problem in spreading the wealth, especially when most of it was undoubtedly tax deductible and therefore money which would otherwise have gone into state revenue.

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Sad to see anybody die let alone an interesting person such as Dick Pratt. However he was found guilty of removing $700 million, along with others, from the pockets of ordinary Australians.

His supporters, who felt that he was hard done by should now apologise to Graeme Samuel of the ACCC and remember the following statement.

“The law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power”. — Robert Jackson, US prosecutor, Nuremberg trials.

Crossing the Floor with Bernard Keane:

Derek Barry writes: Re. “Crossing the Floor with Bernard Keane” (Video of the Day). I was watching Bernard Keane’s pre-budget video tonight and kept thinking he reminded me of someone. Then I realised who it was: Samuel Beckett. Now that I think of it, I’ve never seen Beckett and Keane together in the same YouTube video.


Nicole Hodgson writes: Now that you guys have “the Crikey angry flyers” lounge maybe you could do something similar about Centrelink?

Though I suppose you don’t have that much server space. My experience is similar to Mitchell Holmes’ (yesterday, comments); however, I actually WITHDREW my claim (and have the letter to prove it! — “Be aware, that at your request, your claim has been withdrawn”) yet still receive $13 odd dollars a fortnight I’m not entitled to.

I tried calling them when it first happened, but never got the Family Assistance number to even ring let alone have anyone pick up! So I figure I’ll just wait until tax time and it can all sort itself out then!

Israel/Palestine cage match (now with its own blog):

Philip Mendes writes: Re. “Rundle: Zionists, Nazis, connected, discuss” (14 April, item 16). I was surprised to read Guy Rundle’s anti-intellectual pot shots at my views on the Middle East. His simplistic construction of my politics as both “increasingly ish” and “Zionist” would be news to most people who read my regular contributions in numerous forums.

My concept of “anti-Zionist fundamentalism” is well developed, and has influenced many thinkers on the Left. His dismissal of this argument as “nutty” and “propagandist” presumably reflects the fact that he has neither bothered to read nor attempt to understand my arguments. He also knows full well that the Zionist=Nazi analogy is used solely to hurt and defame Jews. Those who really wanted to examine the complexity of the Israeli/Palestinian dispute might look much closer to home to Indonesia and Irian Jaya, but that would demand some serious political analysis.

Guy and I used to collaborate on a number of social policy debates for Arena Magazine. In February 2005, he agreed to participate in a forum on Jews and the Left for a conference I co-organized at Monash University. Guy pulled out at the last minute without any explanation, and I have not heard from him since.

Maybe if he dared to communicate with me he might provide a more accurate interpretation of my beliefs.

Climate change cage match (now with its own blog):

Gideon Polya writes: Re. “Heaven and Earth: a tale of two books” (yesterday, item 17). Notwithstanding claims to the contrary by climate sceptics such as Australian geologist Professor Ian Plimer, man-made global warming is a reality according to an overwhelming global scientific consensus. The world has already warmed by about 0.8°C since 1900 and another 0.6°C increase is inevitable due to the full effect of past greenhouse gas emissions.

Data indicating this remorseless increase of global average surface temperature is provided by the world’s major research centres measuring global temperature, namely the US GISS (NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies), the US NCDC (National Climate Data Center) and the UK HadCRU (Hadley Centre Climate Research Unit) (simply Web search for the acronyms coupled with the word temperature to find the graphs of global temperature versus time covering the last 130 years). Indeed the UK Hadley Centre recently warned that the world could warm by more than 5°C in the next 90 years.

A recent Guardian newspaper poll asked experts attending the March 2009 scientific Copenhagen Climate Change Conference whether the EU target of 2°C increase over the 1900 level could still be achieved, and whether they thought that it would be met (noting that the EU regards increases above this as dangerous). 60% of respondents argued that it was still possible to meet the target but 39% said the 2°C target was impossible.

Asked what temperature rise (over 1900 temperature) was most likely by 2100, 5% of respondents said 6°C or more, 13% said 4-5°C, 46% said 3-4°C, 26% said 2-3°C, and only 10% thought it would stay at 2°C or under i.e. 90% of climate expert respondents said the 2°C target would not be reached.

Donald Dowell writes: I seem to be getting an overwhelming sensation of déjà vu with Ian Plimer’s book Heaven and Earth. I seem to remember the excitement amongst the climate sceptics like Pearson, Devine and the Bolter for the doco The Great Global Warming Swindle. When unfortunately for them and the general amusement for the rest of us, it proved to have as much scientific rigour as one of those “the moon landings were faked” shows, you’ll remember the huge sulk and boo-hoo they turned on.

After Ian Plimer’s performance on Lateline last night (yes, and it was that nasty Tony Jones again), I get the feeling this one should be a beauty.

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