Courtenay vs. Carey:

Colin Kennedy writes: Re. “Peter Carey’s a snob: Bryce Courtenay in defence of popular storytelling” (yesterday, item 1). Bryce Courtenay said: “Now what are they going to say, are they going to say this is a piece of sh-t? Well if ‘they’ won’t then I will.”

Of the thousands of books I have read or attempted to read over the past 60 years or so, ranging across authors as diverse as Joyce, Shakespeare, King, Updike, Gogol, Wilde, Turow, Amis, Dumas, Rendell and Rankin, the ONLY book I have ever given up on in disgust is The Power of One. The most over-blown, self-referential, indulgent piece of boys-own wankery I have ever had the misfortune to buy.

Yes, I actually bought the damn thing!

Courtenay rabbits on that this particular tome has sold 7.5 million copies world-wide. Big deal. How many rolls of toilet paper are sold world-wide each day?

Reminded me when I was slugging through this tosh of Capote’s observation of On the Road … That’s not writing, that’s typing. Pure unadulterated shite.

Jim Hart writes: Poor Bryce Courtney, my heart bleeds for him and his mountain of royalties. He accuses Peter Carey of “literacy snobbery” while desperately playing the reverse-snobbery card.

Yes, he’s absolutely right that there has always been a place for popular story-telling, and yes people have the right to read anything they want, and yes Shakespeare had popular appeal in his day, and so on and so on.

And yes Bryce, you don’t have to apologise for being popular, so why do you keep flaunting that chip on your shoulder?


Mark Duffett writes: Re. “Life under NT’s profit-based royalty regime: Xstrata has no complaints” (yesterday, item 3).  After being one of the most strident supporters of the Government’s RSPT proposal, it was very odd that Bernard Keane yesterday presented some excellent evidence against a profits-based mining tax.

The McArthur River Mine case study is a compelling example of how companies can and will structure their accounts to minimise the tax paid, possibly (as here) to near zero.

If I may be permitted the modest cough of the minor prophet, I tipped that creative accounting was likely to be a problem for the RSPT, right back at the outset, when the Henry Review came out:  “…the sector that will certainly be strengthened is the accounting industry. Expect a lot of innovations in this area as companies (particularly multinationals) look to divorce as much of their profit reporting from their Australian mines as possible, e.g. by cross-subsidising overseas operations.”

Whatever their other shortcomings, at least contained metal-based royalties have the great advantage of being very easily measured and levied. So why is Bernard Keane now putting up evidence against the RSPT?

Could it be that, for him, the merits of the RSPT are secondary to having a good old anti-capitalist bash at a big bad multinational mining company, and that’s what it’s really been about all along?

Bryan Buchanan writes: Interesting piece by Bernard Keane on Xstrata. So the  NT government under the CLP wanted royalties of 35% (a fair figure I think), was beaten down to 18% (i.e. effectively halved) and ended up getting … zero, or less than zero if you subtract the subsidy.

Big mining companies, and indeed multinationals of all stripes, have a long and inglorious history of raping and pillaging the countries in which they operate.

If Mr Rudd and the Australian Government allow themselves to be bullied by the big miners, Australia will definitely have become the banana republic Paul Keating spoke about some years ago.

Helen Thomas:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Helen Thomas retires in disgrace: a Crikey wrap” (yesterday, item 18). She hasn’t retired “in disgrace” as far as I’m concerned. She said what she thought and in a free country she should be able to say what she wants. Her offence was to upset a very powerful lobby group.

The choice between the veracity of Ari Fleischer and Helen Thomas is easy to make, and I’m not backing Bush’s former press secretary.  I wish the lady “all the best” and hope her sacking will not intimidate other reputable journalists.

The US economy:

John Craig writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Bob Herbert’ view of the US’s challenges that were outlined in your article seem reasonable. Some suggestions about what the US probably will need to do as a consequence are in China may not have the solution, but it seems to have a problem. When/if the US gets serious about its problems, then most of the rest of the world will need life support.

Jeff Ash writes: As I read yesterday’s editorial Billy Joel’s Allentown was playing on the radio, the more things change the more they stay the same course.

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: First, I note than none of my critics dared address Phil “hide-the-decline” Jones’ point that the 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 warming spurts were all similar in magnitude. This single fact should be enough to dismiss the idea that humanity’s 4% annual share of a gas that constitutes 0.038% of the atmosphere is driving global warming.

Adam Rope (yesterday, comments) cannot comprehend why I keep using the 1998 El Nino peak as my starting point for recent temperature calculations. Well Adam, it’s because 1998 is when global temperatures, um,  peaked (well, since the medieval warm period).  If man-made CO2 is dangerously warming the planet, why wasn’t the current El Nino warmer than 1998’s?

Steve O’Connor (yesterday, comments) blabs on about tipping points and the mistake free mega-death predictions of the IPCC, yet he does allude to a point about natural variability and the Younger Dryas period 13,000 years ago when temperatures dropped by 5C within a year. We don’t know what caused that climate change, yet he now assumes there is no natural variability and all warming is man-made. Weird.

David Scott asks a question that reveals he doesn’t really get the maths.  The point of Phil Jones’ statement saying there has been no statistically significant warming since 1995 is that the temperature data is so random that we cannot say there is any trend at all (given the standard 95% confidence interval).

But the best is from Steve Simmonds (Tuesday, comments) who has the remarkable ability to ask questions that are “a tad facetious” AND “in all seriousness” at the same time!  Still, seeing as those types of questions frequently come up, here are my quick answers.

What are my qualifications for this debate? Literacy.

Do I work in the energy/mining industry or own shares in them? Nope, don’t work for ‘em, although I probably have some shares in BHP etc through my superannuation.

Why do I do this? Because the world isn’t about to end, so I thought I’d let you know.

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Peter Fray
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