Silvio Berlusconi:

Cameron Bray writes: Re. “Eurozone headaches: Greek credit rating cut, Berlusconi defeated” (yesterday, item 20). While all  right thinking people can enjoy Silvio Berlusconi’s discomfort, can we agree to eliminate the ridiculous usage “referenda” from polite discourse? It is both incorrect and, to use the demotic, wanky.

Referendums is preferred for three reasons:

  1. It’s not an original Latin word as used by rugged Republicans on the Tiber; it’s a 19th century neologism;
  2. In Latin it has no plural so the “-a” ending would never have occurred in the original even if it did exist, which it didn’t, and
  3. Even if it was “real” Latin the “-s” usage is standard in English, and as referendum has been in use for at least 150 years (thank you Oxford English Dictionary) we should probably get round to Anglicising it.

It’s as ridiculous as demanding we stick faithfully to the original Germanic form of the plural for shoe and refer to a pair of shoen. Actually it’s worse. At least shoe is more or less a real old Saxon word.

Using referenda is just being showy in the same way that clever-clogs will ostentatiously mispronounce the champagne “mo-way chandon” just to show they are not one of the plebs. Sorry, plebes. My mistake.

Abandoned Gillard biography:

Marcus Vernon writes: Re. “Media briefs: Gillard bio dumped … Lateline Business in trouble? … Press Club stoush …” (yesterday, item 17). Can Crikey or anyone else in the left-of-centre media, including Fairfax, explain why you are all running soft on the story about Christine Wallace shelving her biography on PM Julia Gillard?

After all, this much-awaited book was tipped by all to be an authoritative insight into the first female PM written by a respected journalist and author.

Wallace herself sits left-of-centre, of that there is no doubt. Her criticism of the Howard government was unrelenting. Fair enough. But isn’t it possible now she has found out something so sensational or scandalous about Gillard during her book research that she can’t bring herself to publish?

On her own breakfastpolitics website over the weekend, all we got from Wallace was a defiant yet curious “won’t explain” statement. Oh, and a lovely photo of our Labor PM looking probably a bit too communist for general public consumption, given her opinion poll standing just at the moment.

Up until the weekend, Crikey has kept us well informed, even allowing for Wallace’s self-promotion of herself and the book. Your stories about the Monthly magazine row, when Wallace was allowed to write a critical review about another Gillard biography, have been informative.

But all we got yesterday was a soft media section brief quoting Wallace saying we would have to wait two years or longer until maybe, just maybe, we might see some of the shelved Gillard book used by Wallace in her PhD thesis.

Two years? That takes us past the next federal election, so any sensational revelation in the book would not affect the ALP’s results at that poll. That coincidental timetable in itself is worth further exploring — you know, a few tough questions of everyone involved in the book.

Or could it be that her husband, ALP favourite Michael Costello, will soon be appointed by the Gillard government to another government position — pick an embassy, any embassy?

The real reason why Wallace has shelved her biography will be revealed, sooner or later. There are just too many people involved for it to remain secret forever. If Crikey doesn’t break the full story, with all of the political and personal dynamics, then we will be entitled to ask why you and others didn’t pursue the story more enthusiastically.

The right are too stupid to understand policy?

David Hand writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. As I have read Crikey over the years I have developed an appreciation of the paradigm embraced by the left elites, including your editor, that most of the right are too dumb to hold a rational view and just soak up what Murdoch and Jones tell them to.

This was beautifully put in yesterday’s editorial where you held the view that “the framing of climate change as a left-wing issue guarantees reflexive opposition from many on the Right, for whom rejecting the need to address climate change — indeed, rejecting its existence per se — becomes a matter of partisan faith rather than common sense.”

I am not taking issue with your view of the willing gullibility of people who listen to Jones’ pseudoscientific “how can such a tiny bit of carbon make that much difference” misinformation. I take issue with the implicit view that the left has “common sense”. I think the polls tend to measure the popular credibility of the players in the climate change propaganda war, rather than objective views of the science itself and if the salesman looks dodgy you tend to doubt what he’s saying.

So the embarrassing exposure of mistakes in the IPCC reports for example, tends to make people sceptical about the whole thing, especially as propagandists such as contributors in Crikey present the IPCC as received truth, which coincidentally, authorises the government to make us poorer.

When the carbon tax legislation appears out of the blue and takes on the form of a massive wealth redistribution from the well off to low income people, with five eighths of not much diverted for action to stop global warming, it takes on an uncanny look and feel of extreme left wing policy rather than being “not an issue that belongs to one side of politics or the other”.

When you add to that the fact that the tax is a political fix to win Bob Brown’s support for Julia’s minority government, it takes the decidedly clear shape of left wing political dogma rather that a “common sense” measure to save the planet and by doing so, it suddenly looks extremely similar to a “framing of climate change as a left-wing issue”.

The flaw in the carbon tax is not the price on carbon, which I support. It is the massive compensation to Labor voters, obfuscated by that inane lie “only 1000 polluting companies will pay”, that renders this carbon tax bad policy and risible in the way it is being sold. If you want insight into why Julia is on the nose, look no further.

I’m on the right of politics, I believe in climate change caused by human activity and I support a price on carbon. I think Julia’s carbon tax is rubbish due to the compensation part of it removing any meaningful price signal.

I think Crikey has lost its way in left wing group think and you are incapable of approaching the issue from your vaunted “common sense” platform and are reduced to taking partisan pot shots at Murdoch.

Come on admit it.  A price on carbon is vital but this isn’t how to do it.

Talkin’ Turkey:

JJ Fiasson writes: Re. “Turkey blazes the trail for a democratic Mid-East” (yesterday, item 14). Charles Richardson contrasts the poor state of autocrats in the Middle East with the success of Tayipp Erodgan, Turkey’s PM who has just won re-election for a third time. What he fails to realise, however, is that Erdogan is a borderline autocrat himself.

The AKP has stacked the police force and the judicial system, and has successfully boxed the military into a corner. He has intimidated much of the nation’s media into complicity, taxing the everliving hell out of those who didn’t play ball (Dogan media group was fined over $2.5 billion for “tax evasion”, a fine that has been condemned by Western democracies around the world).

In fact, there are more journalists in jail in Turkey today then there are in China! Talk of a wide-ranging internet filter has also been on the agenda, which sparked off an attack from the internet group Anonymous over the last day or two. As if all of that weren’t enough, his agenda for this term is to redraft the country’s constitution and centralise power in the Presidential office (which he no doubt plans to inherit).

Let us not forget that this is all from a man who has been quoted as saying “Democracy is a train that takes you to your destination, and then you get off.” I have no doubt he still believes that.

Some extra reading: “Turkey’s Bad Example on Democracy and Authoritarianism” & “Don’t cross Erdogan How tolerant of criticism is Turkey’s prime minister?

First Dog jumps shark:

Stephen Luntz writes: Re. “Vintage First Dog: the world’s endangered species: what’s on their iPods?” (yesterday, item 6). Marvellous as First Dog on the Moon is, I regret that the repetition of his vintage column on Tuesday fails to keep up with the latest science.

We now know that while Great White Sharks do indeed favour a bit of Aussie Rock, it is not Hunters and Collectors they prefer, but something with a much harder edge.

Climate change, coal etc:

George Crisp writes: Geoff Russell (yesterday, comments)  wrote: “Solar PV might be a nice toy for the rich but it is too expensive to replace coal.”

But only because, everyone keeps ignoring the “elephant externality”. It only appears that coal is “cheap”  because we have excluded the health, social and environmental costs.

And over the last 2 decades it has become increasingly evident that  we have grossly underestimated the health costs related to air pollution, especially small particulate emissions, now detailed in myriad medical papers. The health costs of climate change, now described as the biggest threat to human health this century are probably inestimable.

Dr. Paul Epstein, associate director of the Centre for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, published a paper analysing the “full cost accounting for coal” in February  which finds the externalised costs of coal to be 17.8 c/kwh ( mid range ), which makes coal more expensive than both gas and renewable energy generation .

We all pay for these costs, without health, our taxes, lost productivity and quality of life and with our future.

Indeed, coal is anything but cheap, it costing us the Earth.