Weasel wordles:

Wayne Smith writes: Re. “A turdle: every word Malcolm has uttered, boiled into a Wordle” (20 August, item 11). I love Wordle for the Burroughsian cut-up effects that can be seen. I’ve used the wordles you ran on Wednesday and Thursday to do a little divination (heh heh) … phrases can be made from words in close proximity. Some interesting observations:

Rudd’s Wordle:

  • “future good, great Australian economy” — current thinking now that our wagon is hitched to China, however…;
  • “credit crisis, many need state support” — we can’t afford to hold back on economic stimulus. Welfare, health and tax reform must consider the needy;
  • “best economic policy” — the final nail in the Lib/Nats arguments for the past few Federal election campaigns. But there is more to good governance than just the economy — just ask all those Howard-haters;
  • “important infrastructure challenge” — still some hurdles for the NBN;
  • “recession impact — young people, financial health” — many young people are not only not putting enough into super, their super will prove to be hardest hit by the successive waves of the decades-long global financial meltdown;

Turnbull’s Wordle:

  • “get” runs into “way” — demonstrating the Coalition’s tactics while in Opposition — just get in the way;
  • “people just like Rudd” — policies aside, Turnbull just can’t win the popularity contest;
  • “going small — problem” — does Malcolm have some need for those little magic pills?;
  • “good years” — being in Government during his first term as an MP beats being leader in Opposition;
  • “every two years” — the average frequency of leadership change for the Coalition during the term of the Rudd Government?;
  • “business emissions” — what the Coalition sought to protect under the CPRS;
  • “Coalition future” and “last right” — regarding the near-death state of the Lib/Nat partnership.

Home birth:

Ignaz Amrein writes: Re. “Home birth wingnuts shouting down major steps forward for midwifery” (Friday, item 9). I usually agree with Bernard Keane but not this time. He clearly doesn’t understand the benefits that a home birth can have for a mother and her baby. Yes there are risks but they don’t magically disappear by giving birth in a hospital and anyway, risks are part of our lives from the moment we are conceived until the day we die.

If independent midwives can’t get insurance they won’t be able to assist women who choose to have a home birth.

Please Bernard, go and talk to women who had a home birth and the independent midwives who supported them, you might realise that you live on the same planet.

That’s super:

Michael O’Hara writes: Re. “Bernard Keane’s bits and bobs” (Friday, item 13). Please, please, please, please stop promoting ideology when commenting on the issue of super funds.

Bernard Keane has joined the herd to hold up APRA’s published super fund return chart as further proof of why financial planners such as myself should be taken out of our overly-plush offices and shot, and why all financial planners should be replaced by Industry Fund call centre operators. I subscribe to Crikey for the robust comment and broad spread of opinions but more importantly because Crikey seems to be aiming for a higher level of quality journalism. Quality journalism this ain’t. It ain’t even quality comment.

The APRA figures are an admirable start but even a cursory analysis shows that they can’t be used for comparison purposes just yet. Just look at the 1, 3 and 5 year return figures for the MTAA super (an “Industry Fund”). They are -3%, +10.1% and +12.8% respectively. Compare this with Vanguard’s Personal Super (which are simply broad market “Index” funds), which shows returns of -12.5%, +5.0% and +8.2% for the same periods. Note that these figures are only for the period up to the 30th June 2008. From that it would appear that the folk at MTAA know something that the broader market does not. Or their fees are nil or they steal from the rich to give to their poor members… or something.

Now look up the MTAA super website for the 2009 returns. They are -24.98%! The Vanguard Balanced fund return shows as -6.56%. Why are so many journalists and commentators allowing their ideology to override common sense or even honest reporting? There are all sorts of quite valid shots that can be taken at financial planners.

If Crikey or its sister publications can’t come up with them then feel free to ask. For $237.50 an hour I’m quite happy to oblige. I’ll even throw in a discount rate to point out just why those returns are the way they are.

In the interim, how about a bit more of the independent thinking that Crikey is famous for?


Frank Lucy writes: Re. “Crikey wrap: Afghanis head to the polls” (Friday, item 12). Headlines such as “Afghanis goes to the polls” grate badly with anyone familiar with the topic. This is because the word “Afghani” should never be used, unless perhaps you are talking about a rug. A person is instead Afghan, both as an adjective and noun. Oddly, the sub-heading two pars below in your item, “Afghans defy militant threats to vote in ‘critical’ election”, gets it right.

It is excusable for a Crikey intern to make this mistake, and I suppose for Maxine McKew on Q&A to as well, but not Leigh Sales on Lateline and any number of Australian journalists. (I don’t know why these things are as they are. Iraq and Pakistan get an “i” on the end; perhaps “Afghanistanis” would be more appropriate. But “Afghanis” is certainly not. Why don’t we say “Iranis” as opposed to “Iranians”? Who knows?)

But consider yourself warned.

And could you please forward this email to the ABC.

Good on you Crikey.

Nuclear pow wow:

Dr Jim Green, national nuclear/energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth, writes: AWU secretary Paul Howes takes me to task (Friday, comments) for pointing out that many of his statements to the Sydney Institute about uranium mining and nuclear power were demonstrably false. But Howes does not challenge a single point of fact in my original Crikey piece. Instead he offers ridiculous ad hominen and straw man attacks.

Howes claims that I accused him of repeatedly lying. I did no such thing. I said he appears to know next to nothing about uranium mining and nuclear power and provided considerable evidence in support of that view — evidence which Howes does not challenge. Howes says that, unlike me, he believes “working people and their representatives have a right to speak out on matters of public importance”. Needless to say, I never suggested otherwise.

Howes falsely claims that “Just about every scenario, forecast and projection of future world electricity demand foresees an increase in demand for nuclear power”. But my original Crikey piece provided a web-link to many reports which map out clean energy futures without recourse to nuclear power.

Howes accuses me of having an “ultra leftist belief system”. This contrasts with Howes — he gave up social justice and environmental activism to become, in his words, a “committed democrat”. Which led him naturally to the right-wing of the NSW Labor/labour machine!

Peter Burnett writes: AWU national secretary Paul Howes wants nuclear power in Australia and he bags greenies who get in the way.

According to his speech to the Sydney Institute, he also wants Australia to develop a uranium enrichment industry. Bob Hawke wants us to establish a high level nuclear waste dump to take plutonium from other nations. Martin Ferguson wants to further integrate Australia into the global nuclear fuel cycle through more uranium sales. Given our coal, gas, solar, wind and geothermal capacity, this enthusiasm for nukes raises questions about whether the ALP wants a nuclear industry for reasons other than electricity generation.

As we were endlessly told in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, most countries want a nuclear power industry — even one that costs a lot of money — so they have the option to develop nuclear weapons. Fanciful? In the lead up to the last elections, the Lowy Institute’s Martine Letts called on the Rudd government to look at circumstances we might revive the nuclear weapons option. Letts was a former advisor to Gareth Evans, a disarmament policy specialist in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and formerly Deputy Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, so it’s worth paying attention when she writes:

A thorough nuclear policy review should also consider which strategic circumstances might lead to Australia’s revisiting the nuclear weapons option. As extreme as this may sound, failure to sustain and strengthen our current non-proliferation regime may force us to consider such an option. In the current strategic circumstances, no government could leave such an eventuality entirely out of mind.

The last time anyone in Canberra seriously looked at developing nuclear weapons was in the 1960s. Makes you wonder — is anyone in darkest corners of the defence bureaucracy currently studying the nuclear weapons option?

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