Talking on Wall Street:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The deep cracks of Wall Street” (Friday, item 22) I think the significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement is that finally the Tea Party is not the only voice speaking out for the American people.

Brand Labor:

Peter Ormonde writes: Re. “Poll Bludger: the state-by-state damage to Brand Labor” (Friday, item 1) Ah yes “brand Labor”, what a truly incisive concept. This marriage of marketing and politics and, since Labor is a brand like any other, the solution itself should be derived from marketing yes? New, improved, now with extra integrity, new packaging… perhaps a miracle ingredient? Or a new leader, a new image, a different hairstyle, higher hemlines? Let’s see how shallow and superficial we can make ourselves?

I’ve spent a lot of my working life arguing with this sort of facile apolitical thinking — explaining to politicians that marketing has very very little to offer political parties. Sweeping generalisations do not provide any insights whatsoever into how to change those attitudes or what sort of policies are required to meet the specific needs and interests of those sections of the electorate that can be won.

One of the characteristics of market researchers in their approach to politics is that the results of their questionnaires (the averages, the generalisations and approximations) become the artifacts of discussion, that trends are imputed to them, that all other variables — such as local issues, history, policies and broader issues (such as economic conditions) — are ignored and politics is reduced to “scores.” And these scores, these artifacts of artifacts, ten times removed are elevated, reified, deified as political laws, as yet more generalisations built upon generalities and these become the “science” of pollsters. Not too far removed from those ancients with expertise in reading the entrails of chooks.

So we have “honeymoons” to explain apparent differences in popularity … influences are imputed — albeit two years removed. My goodness me yes, it’s so clear to me now. It’s just how things are — it’s written in the polls.

I am still waiting for a market researcher to ever make any serious suggestions about how to turn public opinion beyond the most superficial and shallow. That after all is what they deal in. Packaging and slogans. Welcome to 21C politics and its pundits. Welcome to it indeed. And hey — it’s INTEREST FREE … completely.

Giving circumcision the snip:

Ant Mah writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (Friday, item 12) Few subjects remain as shrouded in myth and misinformation than circumcision so a little more research into that “kind or unkind cut” story mightn’t have gone astray.

They state the well known fact that circimcision reduces risk of HIV in heteros-xuals in African countries by 60% — this is true and so should be recommended in sub-Saharan Africa — but how does that help in the US (or Australia) where HIV is predominantly spread among the gay and drug-injecting communities? They suggest having the procedure in infancy reduces the risk of UTIs, etc — but as evidence they ironically cite the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision policy statement which states “data are not sufficient to recomment routine neonatal circumcision”. Finally they mention results from a paper that “reported no difference or even increased p-nile sensitivity during intercourse” for men after circumcision, without mentioning the several experts who pointed out serious flaws in that study.

Immunisation is one of the great achievements of modern medicine — there is overwhelming evidence to support that. To liken circumcision to immunisation as a preventative health measure is egregious.

Peter Fray

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