Peter Carlisle writes: Peter Faris QC “knows that the Left can (mostly) never grapple” with his arguments (yesterday, comments). He is able to discredit an opponent’s argument through how emotive they are. However, there is obviously something in the way he argues which brings this about. There is no better way to have your views dismissed than to overstate your case. In my view he does this deliberately. I think he does this to make fools of his targets whom he counts on overstating their response with extra righteous indignation, which he knows will come off ugly and ignorant to those who either agree with his opinion or, most importantly, have no firm view at this point. To the casual observer the one screaming and ranting and hurling personal attacks in response looks a lot less reliable than the one calmly (however illogically) stating their view. Putting “terrorist” in brackets after Jack’s name, especially in the context that he did it, is nothing but inflamatory and he got exactly the response he was after. Manipulative and disappointing. Of course if the respondents had just pointed out how he’d overstated his case…

Michael de Angelos writes: Does Peter Faris QC believe the hundreds of Australian citizens who declared they were prepared to sign up and fight for a foreign government in the Israeli Defence Forces against Lebanon should be placed under control orders? After all thousands of Australians were in Lebanon at the time of the recent troubles and came under fire from the IDF.

Peter Wesley-Smith writes: Peter Faris (yesterday, comments) says “The Left is a common expression – most people know what it means …” I once wrote to Crikey asking what it means and, if I recall correctly, got mere obfuscatory abuse in reply. Those who use it often do so to put their critics in some easily-condemned box, and they are surely obliged by the rules of civilised discourse to define the term. Can Mr Faris do so?

Steve Johnson writes: Peter Faris QC’s comments on perjury in Wednesday’s edition (“Einfeld, Vizard and a matter of perjury”, item 3) seem meandering and utterly without point. Einfeld and Vizard appear in the piece’s title, and are then brushed away because they are subjudice, but only after we are shockingly informed that Justice Einfeld has some experience at sitting in judgment on cases where perjury was raised. Insightful? Ironic? This is followed by two confusing utterances from previous perjury trials – I say confusing because I failed to see the relevance. And the punchline? A reminder that we ought not to forget Lord Archer’s sentencing for perjury. Rivetting stuff, Crikey. Surely there is a senior and learned lawyer out there somewhere? Someone unbesmirched by the touch of silk perhaps, who can provide slightly more informative legal commentary than this effort?

Cyril Ashman writes: I consider myself to be a fairly well informed person, who regularly consumes journalism of the right (The Australian) and the left (Fairfax), as people of the opposite viewpoint would label them, but I must admit that I had never heard of Peter Faris QC until a few weeks ago, when I first read articles by him on Crikey. All of a sudden, he seems to be the “person of first choice” whenever an outlet wants a legal sound-bite from the far-right. What an outstanding career trajectory! Crikey should perhaps start promoting itself as a “Prime developer of media careers.”

Ian Newman writes: The PM, commentators such as Miranda Devine, and the overly-excitable Peter Faris QC claim that the major & imminent threat to our future comes from Jihad Jack and these suburban terrorists who are apparently going to bring down “Western Civilisation as we know it”. If you question their apparent “wisdom” or the means in which they are tackling this threat then you are immediately tarred with the “soft-on-terrorism brush”. On the other hand we have Ian Lowe , the President of the Australian Conservation Fund who remarked in his recent speech (Shaping a Sustainable Future): “each year we use more energy, travel further in larger and less efficient cars, live in larger houses, consume more resources and produce more waste.” Add to this scenario of overconsumption & depleted resources the growing consumer-based economies of China and India and I think it becomes more difficult to to verify which of these scenarios is more likely to bring down Western civilisation or at the very least severely damage their economies over the next few decades. I wonder whether future generations will be able to engage in this long-held tradition of educated political debate by calling each other “left” or “right”?

Jesse Richardson writes: For some time now I have been putting up with a gross misrepresentation of my stereotype. It’s not so much that you unfairly apportion a personality of a stoned communist hippy at an art gallery opening of an exhibition on the civil rights of indigenous refugees to me, nor that you seem to suspect that I am incapable of living outside the CBD, having the capacity to use reason, or to be critical of my own philosophical and political inclinations. No, what really irks me, what really inflames my ire, is that you keep making out like I drink lattes. I, like most other civilised people in the world, do not drink coffee, or any milky variation thereof — I drink tea. You’ll find that it is your white-collar, aspirant businessman, with no kids, three investment properties, a four wheel drive and a Howard-loving disposition who is the drinker of the lattes. Not me. So, in future, if you could manage to refer to me as the Howard-hating teaspoon suburbanite lefty, it would be most appreciated.

Doug Hand writes: In response to the discussion of elites. If we take as a working definition of elite someone who has the ability to influence and shape the public debate then it seems clear on any reading of the evidence that Miranda Devine would clearly qualify as a member of the elite. Her rhetoric of labelling as “left wing elites” those to whose views she is opposed enables her to escape the question of her own status, her ability to exercise influence and her role in shaping public policy. The binary definition of them — “the left wing elite” versus the rest of us salt of the earth Aussies — does not accurately reflect the diversity of the groups that make up this society and the complexity of people’s views. Traditionally suspicion of the accumulation of power by the state has been characteristic of conservatives rather than socialists. On those sort of grounds, plus a commitment to the tradition of dissenting Christianity, I am at odds with the government on a range of current issues. How that makes me “left wing” remains a deep mystery.

Timothy Ashton writes: Are the “suburban right wing politicians and commentators” louder, shriller and more ready to mishandle the truth or is that my perception and therefore by default I am a member of the “Inner urban elite” despite having grown up and lived well over half of my sixty years in the bush?

Bill Cushing writes: Sheesh! I’m getting tired of this “inner urban elites” stuff! I’m inner urban. I like the odd latte. Sometimes I ride a bike. And I damn well certainly am not “elite”. I’m quite ordinary, thank you very much. And so are my inner urban friends. I think what you guys must mean is “inner urban pseuds and poseurs”. Plenty of them around.

John Goldbaum writes: Miranda Devine’s class resentment is so passe. We inner urban “elites” come face to face with the working classes every day in our factories and with the country people when we go to our farms on the weekend.

Christina Delaney writes: I’m sick to my ample behind of commentators using the word “elite” to diss anyone they disagree with; such lazy journalism. Cripes, if anyone is sipping champers and avoiding the little people it’s Mandy Devine. I make approximately $600 a week, come from a working-class background (my dad worked in a bar and my grandfather was a shearer) and am employed in a low-level administrative position. I also think that protecting civil liberties is important. Get a new catchphrase, Ms Devine.

David Clark writes: I don’t think it’s farcical at all of the AFP to put Osama Bin Laden on the banned list of people Jihad Jack is permitted to contact. Since no one else in the Western world appears to have communicated with him or knows his whereabouts since 9/11 maybe Jihad Jack is just the man to lead us to him. What a coup that would be for the AFP! 

Adam Michell writes: Regarding Willem Schultink’s comments that atheism is a “religious persuasion”. It is not. Atheism is the absence of a belief in a god or gods. By all means religious people should have a say in making laws, but trying to force all Australians to behave according to the often arbitrary restrictions set by a supernatural entity is not well received.

Michael Jones writes: Atheism is not a religion. It is an opinion, or at least a range of opinions. Religions are based on belief. Catholics believe a piece of bread can really become the flesh of a person who died 2000 years ago, without any change detectable to modern chemistry taking place. In my opinion, that is a logical contradiction. Jews and Muslims believe a being that created the entire Universe is offended if you eat ham, and doubly offended if you eat it with cheese (I think only Jews believe that bit). In my opinion, that is ridiculous. Hindus believe that when you die you are born again as an animal or another human, depending on how you lived your life. In my opinion, that is massively unlikely to be true. Etc, etc. Of course, I accept my opinions could be wrong. People who hold religious beliefs do not.

Geoff Preston writes: Willem Schultink (yesterday, comments) fails to acknowledge one all-important difference between atheists and “religious” people in his diatribe about atheists forcing their opinions down everybody else’s throats whilst allegedly denying the true believers the same freedom : Anybody who practices a religion, whatever it may be, has “faith” in the existence of paranormal phenomena, and makes moral decisions largely based on those beliefs, whereas the atheist makes decisions based on his own thought processes supported by empirical observation. It’s also erroneous to assert that atheists have “their own beliefs about God”. Sorry Willem — we don’t for the simple reason that “God” doesn’t exist. If I did have any opinions about “God”, they’d be similar I’m sure to those about the fairies at the bottom of my garden!

Roy Travis writes: David Tanner (yesterday comments) makes the extraordinary statement that the training Jack Thomas undertook with al Qaeda was similar to that of our own armed forces. Does he really believe that the purpose of the training is the same?

Phil Atkinson writes: To Michael Gilmour and David Tanner (yesterday, comments) — don’t start muddying the waters with spurious comparisons between our (or any recognised) armed services, their lethal capabilities and those of the various terror groups. Terrorists are generally too gutless to wear a uniform (apart from one that covers the face), do not advertise their deadly abilities until it’s too late (apart from the IRA — but that’s the Irish for you) and their leaders may not be answerable under International Law before any Tribunal. Who is the leader? Armed forces serving their countries have several things in common — their government must authorise any military action, each member of the forces has a serial number and a uniform and those committing atrocities are answerable — as well as their superior officers and their governments. To try and make any comparison between persons serving their country and those serving only their own self-interest is fairly wispy.

Brendan Lewis, Executive Director at The Churchill Club, writes: Hooray for Charles Richardson, who wrote (yesterday, item 4) “people have been bewitched by the idea that corporations somehow have their ‘own’ interests, that can be pursued without reference to the shareholders.” In February and May the Churchill Club ran public functions called “How to Build a Killer Board”. I had multiple discussions with NED’s who attended and every discussion left me with the impression that they all felt that an effective Board of Directors was an end in itself. I couldn’t articulate exactly what was wrong with this. So thank you Charles for pointing it out so clearly.

Peter Deane writes: Re. Jeff Bye’s comment (yesterday, comments) that NSW Minister for Roads Eric Roozendaal was never elected in the first place, “having filled a casual Senate vacancy”. If you are going to be pedantic, Jeff, at least get the name of the NSW Upper House correct: last time I looked it was the Legislative Council, not the Senate!

Andrew Elder writes: Both Mark Day and Margaret Simons (yesterday, item 15) produced excellent pieces yesterday on the future of newspapers. I don’t think the generational perspective is useful in charting a way forward for newspapers: David Pemberthy is every bit an old-style media neanderthal, despite being a Gen X’er like me. The value of newspapers is in providing analysis, from which (or against which) opinions can be tested and/or changed. There is no value in the majority of content in most papers, which basically rehashes press releases or wire reports (eg “… the Minister will announce today … a spokesman for the CEO said …”). Considered opinion represents a value opportunity for newspapers: the in-depth consideration that radio and TV can’t provide and the focus that the internet doesn’t have. I have gone into more detail here. I’m just one person, but apparently I am in a demographic in which the media seem particularly interested. Thanks for getting me to think about an issue that doesn’t affect me on a regular basis.

Dr Fiona Stewart, co-author (with Philip Nitschke) of Killing Me Softly: Voluntary Euthanasia and the Road to the Peaceful Pill, writes: Christian Kerr – by condemning (yesterday, item 1) Sandra Kanck’s deliberate effort to challenge the Howard Government’s refusal to allow elderly and seriously ill Australians to discuss voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide on the phone, fax, email and the net you are, in effect, joining the conservative and Christian alliance in condemning these same people to violent and undignified deaths! But I guess you know that hanging is the leading cause of death among the over 70s in this country. Don’t you think we can do better than forcing this upon those who seek an end to their suffering — and who believe they have a right to information about end of life choices? Seems a good time for you to go and have a chat to your grannie before parading your ignorance on an issue you clearly don’t understand. Crikey supports State censorship? Yeah right.

Christian Kerr responds: Readers with an interest in fact may like to look at the Australian Bureau of Statistic’s March 14 release Causes of death.

Peter Papadopolous writes: To Thomas Pietsch and others (yesterday, comments) who [still] doubt Israel attacked the Lebanese ambulance in Qana: Why not telephone Ahmed Mohammed Fawaz, whose lower left leg had been amputated after the attack? Tell him he’s mistaken, and he really does have two legs.

John Delofski writes: I write to voice with pleasure my enjoyment of Christian Kerr’s article “Peter Costello’s FOI follies” (yesterday, item 7). It was with glee that I soaked in the irony of a former senior public servant admonishing the Federal Government’s reluctance towards “open government”, yet the individual’s name is conspicuously not attributed. Was this merely an oversight on Christian’s behalf, or an attempt at wry humour? Or was the senior servant worried about ramifications to his public airing of grievance? Either way, the essence of your article loses all credibility when you discuss accountability, yet your main source is itself lacking such. Other than that, I agree with your campaign on this issue and urge you to keep up the good work.

Dr Jeremy Wilkinson, Senior Researcher at Flinders University, writes: Belinda Robinson (Wednesday, comments) may seek to calm anxieties over future global oil production and apparent scaremongering in the media and in particular 60 Minutes. She seeks to support Michael Pascoe. She denounces the lack of data presented. She also fails, as did Pascoe (Tuesday, item 9), to put a valid counter argument based in sound mathematics and physics. Michael and Belinda, if you were prepared to look at the abundant information available – try the Federal Senate Inquiry on Liquid Fuels Vulnerability for example – and at least inform yourselves we might get some way to having an honest and open public debate instead of decrying the opposing view. The important matter is that we get to the real truth, not just some partisan view. So far I have seen no evidence for optimism over the global oil supply – and believe me I’ve had a good look.

Kevin Tyerman writes: I have been faithfully following the articles by Stephen Feneley about conflict of interest issues relating back to the National Gallery of Victoria and it’s staff. However yesterday’s suggestion of a conflict of interest over the Arthur Boyd paintings seems to be ill-founded at best (yesterday, item 2). The article indicates that Robert Gould, as an art dealer, was given a lead to buy a valuable piece of art and that he actively pursued the lead. The suggestion though is that his partner Geoffrey Smith, as an employee of the NGV and possibly privy to confidential information relating to this lead, should have tipped off the NGV so that they could beat Gould to the deal. Conflicts of interest can cut both ways and, in this circumstance, I would suggest that betraying a confidence, and somebody else’s commercial lead, would have been both unethical and the real conflict of interest. If Smith had been the one to feed Guild the lead to buy the painting instead of offering the opportunity to his longterm employer, the story would have merit as a conflict of interest issue. However as described, I don’t believe that Smith had a right, let alone a responsibility, to tip off the NGV about someone else’s commercial dealings that he may have confidentially gleaned whilst in their presence.

Russell Dovey writes: Who else cares not one whit about the antics of suspended curator Geoffrey Smith and his ex-partner? Surely there’s more than one story in the art world at the moment, Mr Feneley!

Ally Akbarzadeh writes: Re Wednesday’s editorial about Universal Music’s plan to launch a website that will enable people to download all its music. It’s amusing that such an ill-conceived business model still garners the mountain of PR that’s been clogging the media under headlines screaming “revolution” or “free music” in the past day. Although the details are still hazy, under SpiralFrog’s proposed service you’ll watch a 90-second ad to download a single track protected by Windows digital rights management (DRM), then have to re-visit the SpinalFrog website every month to watch further ads and keep your licence valid. SpiralFrog argue they’re tempting kids who currently download pirated music without thought (and with great ease), but they’re doing it through a service plagued by the inherent user-unfriendliness of proprietary, vendor-specific DRM.

So are you one of the 80% of the portable music market that uses an iPod? Sorry, out of luck.

You don’t want to re-download your entire music collection when the licenses expire every 6 months? Tough luck.

So you want to burn a CD of your music to listen to it in your car or on your home stereo? Tough.

So you own a Mac or Linux PC? Sorry.

So you don’t want to have to watch 15 minutes of ads to download a 10 track album? Tough.

So you want to use your music for fair dealing purposes (like research, criticism, review or educational use). Sorry, it’s illegal to do that now…

SpiralFrog isn’t so much a revolution as a last-ditch attempt to keep artists and consumers suckling from the teat of entertainment conglomerates. All music lovers want is a fairly priced, easy to use download service that gives them total control over how, where and on what terms they listen to their music…

Leila Ismail writes: I think the kind of vigilantism shown by the newsagent who posted a video of a woman taking a TV Guide insert on a blog (yesterday, item 12) might turn out to be the tip of a scary iceberg. I thought that the days were thankfully over in which public punishment and humiliation of those who had “done wrong” was de rigueur. Unfortunately, it seems not. The woman in question hardly looks like a hardened criminal (although of course in these perilous times, who knows?) and indeed she may be suffering from psychological problems. (Although she can’t have been suffering too badly if she recognised that the TV Guide is the only worthwhile bit in the Herald Sun.) Wouldn’t it have been better (and kinder) for the shop owner to approach her in private and get her to make reparations, instead of crowing on the internet about his genius in catching a thief and displaying her picture like a prize trophy? He might indeed have related the incident on the blog to alert other newsagents to his “technique” without identifying her. And I hardly think she needs to be put on some kind of newsagents’ blacklist — most people in her situation would be suitably chastised. You busted a middle-aged woman taking a TV guide insert and publicly humiliated her — well done mate. You should feel proud. You struck a blow for newsagents everywhere. Pity compassion and commonsense got left by the wayside. And pity Crikey felt they had to reproduce her photo, twice — to add further insult to injury.

Robert Kennedy writes: Re. Chris Canty and Cricket Australia punishing the wrong people (yesterday, item 25). You can say that again! The entire ticketing fiasco was the product of the incompetence and poor management of cricket Australia. James Sutherland should have resigned immediately the farce was revealed. The arrogant refusal of Cricket Australia to take any responsibility is Hubris writ large.

Mike Roberts writes: Chris Canty’s piece about the nasty Cricket Australia people cancelling Ashes tickets sold on eBay entirely misses the point: Surely no-one who paid through the nose for tickets on eBay could have missed the warnings! Any on-line auction purchase is a risk. Paying over the odds for tickets serves to support the scalpers’ trade. It runs contrary to the “non-transferable” condition normally placed on any ticket. And it is also bloody stupid. A bit less of the “poor petal” syndrome and a bit more of Caveat Emptor is required, Mr Canty.

Mark Sales writes: Glenn Dyer comments yesterday (item 17) that the Today show needs Karl Stefanovic to produce a baby now that Jess Rowe and Georgie Gardner are preggers – Glenn for your information, Karl’s wife Cass is around 5 to 6 months pregnant already with their third child; it has been discussed on the program often.

Glenn Dyer responds: I meant get Karl needs to get pregnant!

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c-ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words . Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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