Hey Hey It’s Saturday:

Tony Nagy writes: Re. “Hey Hey, can 2.3 million people be wrong?” (yesterday, item 16). Well done for producing the background regarding “blackface”. It’s also worth bearing in mind that within our lifetimes American blacks were being lynched in the South of America (where Harry Connick Jnr comes from, New Orleans to be precise). Folk may want to listen to Billie Holliday’s Strange Fruit.

The song is one of the first to actually condemn racism and murder in America and Holliday’s version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1978. The Wikipedia entry on the song includes the infamous photo of the 1930 lynching of two men, Thomas Shipp and Abraham Smith, that inspired the song. The two men had been incorrectly accused of rape and a mob had broken in to the county jail and lynched them up.

We all know how even today race is a particularly divisive and combustible issue in the US. I have had the good fortune to travel to the US on many occasions, and visited New Orleans many times. My white American friends are all highly sensitive to their history of racism but are equally proud of the progress that has been made since the Civil Rights campaigns beginning in the 1960s. They know too that there have been white folk who have also died in the fight to improve racial justice for blacks and Afro-Americans.

Today the US has its first black President in the White House — and to his credit the other week when the issue of race was on the boil in public debate he had the smarts to observe simply that he “was black before he was the President” — signalling that, try as some might, there is and should be no place for racism in US or any politics. Given all this I think any fair minded person would see why Connick Jr reacted as he did.

“Blackface” acts, which were conducted in the US up to the 60s, were and are widely seen as derogatory and racist. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous YouTube means that while it is a remarkably entertaining site, it is also a site for mischief and so that clip of Connick Jr judging a “blackface” act could readily be misconstrued. Yes the potentially destructive meme has already been spread, but at least there is a contemporaneous rebuttal…

Us Australians might not “get it” — but that’s just a reflection of our substantial deafness to issues of race (indeed, maybe even our inherent racism), but in the US it’s potential dynamite.  Daryl Somers realised straight away the difficult situation a person like Connick Jr especially had been placed in, and was gracious enough to go about setting things right. Connick Jr also demonstrated grace in accepting the apology and having a chance to explain his reaction. So Connick doesn’t deserve to be criticised for a reaction which in context was perfectly appropriate and reasonable.

And finally, as well as being a friend to the show, he’s one heck of a musician, having been a child prodigy at nine playing Beethoven with the New Orleans Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as jazz with some of the greats.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina he has done much through charity work with Branford Marsalis to help rebuild the musicians’ village. Please see here.

Frank Lucy writes: I just heard on the radio our Deputy Prime Minister doing her best John “equivocate on racism” Howard imitation about the “Red Faces” sketch. She boasted that Australians repudiate racism wherever they see it (ha!) and then refused to repudiate the Hey Hey piece of garbage. How embarrassing to have people like her representing us overseas.

No doubt Kevin “Adios” Rudd would have done the same. What a shocker this pair is, both elected in 1998 and so growing up politically under the tutelage of Howard. Always with an eye on the opinion polls. Oh, for a bit of courage and decency in a PM, a la a Keating, Hawke or Fraser. (Or, doubtless, a Turnbull if he was elected.)

Oh, for some adults to run the country, rather than rehearsed, sound-biting mediocrities. Stop the nation, I want to get off!

Leader of the Opposition:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Hockey would be a disaster as Opposition Leader” (yesterday, item 2). Why is everyone rushing to be Leader of the Opposition? The election cycle in Australia doesn’t move in 1’s; it has been known to move in 2’s but more likely 3’s, 4’s or even 5’s. Patience is a virtue. Why be Leader of the Opposition in the first term of a new Government when there is no likelihood of winning Government at the next election.

As Turnbull’s impatience would seem to have cost him any chance of the Prime Ministership; Hockey’s a dill and unfortunately Robb’s brave admission of his depressive problems would suggest that in a dirty election campaign, he’s unelectable, it would seem the next Liberal Prime Minister is not currently serving in the House.

Having previously plumped for Robb as the best man they have, can I now have another bet and say you heard it here first that the next Liberal Prime Minister of Australia will be: TURNBULL. — No not him: LUCY — the one with the political nous in the family.

Nigel Brunel writes: Actually Bernard Keane — I think you are dead wrong — whilst some might like to say that the next coalition prime minister has not been born yet — I think Hockey may be the goods — he’s affable — likeable — yes he makes mistakes but Aussies love that — he can be a bit of a larrikin and that’s also attractive.

Don’t forget — people thought Rudd would be a lousy opposition leader and never be Prime Minister — now look!! Even after the NY strip club issue — he went up in the polls.

Watch this space — Hockey will be opposition leader by end of October and that will be the bottom for the coalition.

Peter Wotton writes: Joe Hockey is a really really nice bloke who reminds me of Kim Beazley but without Kim’s intellect and his ticker. It must be time to pension off poor old Wilson Tuckey though, he really is sounding more and more 19th century.

Norm McCormick writes: Over twenty years ago John Howard and fellow Thatcherites poisoned the Liberal party gene pool. It may take a generation before a party evolves reflecting mainstream liberal values. Till then they await not so much a leader but a founder.

The colour purple:

James McDonald writes: Sara Shortt wrote (yesterday, comments): “Interesting tie juxtaposition below. Red is the colour for leadership and purple the colour of healing. What does the party need because a certain leadership style isn’t cutting it?”. In the photograph, Malcolm Turnbull wears a red tie and Joe Hockey a purple one.

Tyrian Purple was the colour of royalty in the Roman empire, at a time when the dye was a precious rarity traded across the world. Blue was the traditional colour of medicine. In the Byzantine era, for anyone not royal to wear Tyrian Purple in public was considered not very good for your health unless you had enough power to back it up.

A rielsing correction:

Jim Cooper, Media Relations Manager, Coles Liquor, writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Wednesday, item 8). Just responding to the Vintage Cellars rumour.

The $21.99 price for Leo Buring Clare Valley and Eden Valley Rieslings is our standard single bottle price — the discount refers to the prices for six or 12 bottle purchases. The $19.99 price sticker mentioned is an old price — the price was increased in our stores in August this year due to a cost increase from the supplier. The old price sticker should have been removed to avoid any confusion to customers, and it would appear the team member at the store wasn’t aware of the price change.

We’ve spoken to the store in question about both these issues to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I can also advise that, contrary to the claims by yesterday’s writer, we do not mark up single bottle prices. However, we are currently offering great discounts on all wines in store when purchasing six or 12 bottles — letting customers save 20 percent and 30 percent respectively on the single bottle price.

In the case of the Leo Buring reislings, this means you can currently buy a dozen bottles for just $15.39 a bottle. And given it cellars like a dream, we’d strongly recommend the deal to all Crikey readers who love their riesling

Weasel words:

Kate Jackson writes: If only I had Don Watson’s email address. I have another clanger for his book! Financial Standard has a story written by journalist Michelle Baltazar yesterday which added a new word the lexicon: ‘decumulation’ “Australia’s superannuation system may be one of the most sophisticated in the world, but it is really geared towards accumulation,” he said. By contrast, MoneyForLife identifies the growing product gap in the market – products for people who are moving out of the accumulation phase and into decumulation, such as the baby boomers. Decumulation!! Are they serious??

Bariatric surgery:

Zachary King writes: Re. “Looking for a fair shake in bariatric procedure land” (yesterday, item 12). David Gillespie’s rants against all things sugar are all very well intentioned, I am sure but in this article he has strayed into areas that he clearly does not understand. To begin with, representing bariatric surgery as a sneaky, easy fix, just pop-in-and-get-er-done-for-cosmetic reasons is complete bollocks.

The NIH guidelines recommend that it be considered for patients with a BMI of over 40, and have other comorbid conditions (such as diabetes) when diet, exercise and drug regimes have failed. So that means for 1.83m (6ft) tall people, they must weigh more than 135kg (300 pounds) and have already developed life threatening conditions. Hardly the cosmetic option he describes, it is an option of last resort for those who are classified (with good reason) as morbidly obese.

And if Gillespie had bothered to read the CORE annual report that he snidely produced as evidence that Allergan is the principal sponsor of the group, he could have easily found out why they are also critical for the research. Allergan provide access to their customers — i.e. people who have undergone lap band surgery. How else is a research group focussing on obesity supposed to find subjects? Hang out at McDonalds asking the patrons if they have had the surgery? Yes they provide funding, but it is unrestricted.

Surprisingly for someone who is apparently railing against unsubstantiated, biased research, Gillespie then drops this howler “it’s not the surgery that makes them thin, it’s being forced to stick to a very low calorie liquid diet” which he then uses as a clumsy segue into the evils of fructose. Really David? On what basis do you make that claim? Recent peer reviewed studies on the procedure in Sweden (26% reduction in mortality after 11 years) and the US (33% reduction in mortality after seven years) would seem indicate otherwise and make no mention of your liquid diet.

Industry sponsored research interactions are complex, complicated and should be carefully monitored, but this kind of lazy, guilt by association reporting is nothing short of irresponsible. It is hard enough in this country to source industry funding for research as it is. Speaking from experience I know that reputable universities will walk away from millions of dollars of research funding if their right to independently publish findings is jeopardized.

Disclosure: I have never worked with Allergan or CORE, but do work in the space of university — industry interaction and have in the past had dealings with Monash.

Dangerous ideas:

Mark Byrne writes: Thanks to Crikey for facilitating cross-world dialogue between financial planners like Michael O’Hara (yesterday, comments) and others like me who need to Google “golfer’s NAGA”. Mr O’Hara says that that it is strange for Clive Hamilton to call for civil dissent owing to the lack of action on climate change. The peculiar thing for me is that Mr O’Hara finds it strange for this comment to come from a Professor of Public Ethics.

It begs the question, what role does Mr O’Hara think a Professor of Public Ethics should play? I’m sure he’d not prefer their silence, nor likely would he prefer support for the current business-as-usual unsustainable trajectory (in the face of overwhelming evidence of consequential harm). Surely the role of a Professor of Public Ethics is to weigh the ethical dimensions of a situation and articulate an ethical response?

I find the general head-in-the-sand response to be unethical.

Particularly the “rich world” non-response, leading to deepening both financial and ecosphere debt.

Without wanting to isolate Mr O’Hara, I’d be interested to ask him what types of metrics do financial planners use as performance targets?

Particularly, what are a Financial Planners key performance measures?

I’m interested as these KPI might have ethical implications. I don’t think our rich-world’s non-response is due to individual immorality, rather it is structural inertia. An inertia that has more resistance given the fraction of democratic process that is displaced by plutocratic influence. Under these circumstances the Demos can either watch the inaction, or the Demos can put their shoulder to the wheel and exert their public dissent.

This is the type of awareness I expect a Professor of Public Ethics might bring to consideration.

Keith Thomas writes: Michael O’Hara asks what the case for political violence and terror would look like. The case for violent protest has been made in practice by the occasional anti-abortion campaigner in the US and suicide bombers elsewhere. They have apparently decided that the rights of an unborn child or their religious beliefs override any commitment they may feel to peaceful protest.

There must be many people who could imagine some cause or issue which they would support more strongly than their commitment to non-violent protest. I’m amazed we don’t see more people deciding to take the violent route.

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