Damian Clarke writes: Rob Astbury was a bit sensational about the Thai coup (yesterday, item 1), and completely at odds with calls to my father who lives in central BKK and the views of the CEO of Aberdeen Asset Management in BKK who was interviewed on the BBC this morning. Their attitude was that it’s September, so a coup was likely, and pretty much part of the political process in Thailand. Unfortunate that it’s reverted to coups, but if Thaksin won’t admit defeat then something decisive had to happen. For most people in BKK it seems that the standout feature of the day is that the lack of traffic caused by schools and government offices being closed has made their journeys easier. And contrary to the sleepless night, when I called my dad at 10.45pm BKK time, we had a short conversation and then he said, “If you don’t mind, I’ll go back to sleep now and give you an update in the morning.” Here’s this morning’s update:

All well here, just about to go to the office, all schools, banks and gov’t offices shut so no traffic jams. Great.

Give you more details later.

Bruce and Meow

Let’s keep things in perspective, and report the real news shall we: that there has been a bloodless coup in Thailand because their constitution does not seem to have a facility for the dismissal of a prime minister who appears to be corrupt and flouting the country’s democratic process.

Ron Perrin writes: Let’s hope that the current Thai coup remains bloodless. Many will remember the sad fate of cameraman Neil Davis who was killed in a previous Bangkok coup in 1985. As I recall, Tim Bowden’s biography of Davis, One Crowded Hour, is a compelling read, especially for its poignant account of Davis meeting his fate.

Jacqui Caldwell writes: Re. “If you don’t believe in war, do you believe in free speech?” (yesterday, item 14). Mr Kerr, for starters, your title is… well, plain silly. The majority of oppressed Muslims in the world would like nothing more than an opportunity for free speech and I look forward to some day seeing these moderate people (even those within Australia maybe?) get some airtime instead of only seeing repeated footage of violent reactions and radical elements displayed ad nauseam. Are you saying that Muslims don’t have the same values as us? You mean they don’t believe their children should be safe, happy, healthy and educated? They don’t want employment, stability and prosperity? Had the Pope not defamed the entire religion and stuck to pointing out that it is only criminals using religion as a crux for murderous behaviour, I would have probably agreed with him. It is rather ironic that he quoted from an ancient text in reference to problems facing religion today considering that today, it is OUR “Judeo-Christian” WESTERN “values” being spread by equally radical world leaders and their “sword” in the form of military “options” as an expression of their “faith”. These “options” include the use of depleted uranium, phosphorus bombs, kidnap, privatised death squads, torture of yet to be charged “suspects”, as well as generally degrading treatment. This culmination of events may make the rage expressed by Muslims a little more understandable but this does not manage to find its way into your commentary, as if it was all peachy between “them” and “us” before the Pope spoke. I find your rant hypocritical to say the least. Empathy (ie: putting yourself in the position of others) is something all humans need in order to remain human, whether from the left or right. I imagine if I were Iraqi, Afghani, Palestinian, I would find it tempting to take issue with my religion being denigrated while my people and country were being destroyed and their dissenters silenced without a peep from selective moralists and “free speechers” such as yourself.

Michael Jones writes: Journalism is a selective art, isn’t it? While Christian Kerr scours the world’s press for reports of outrageous Muslim overreaction to the Papal foot in mouth act, I found a couple of different views just next door in the most populous Muslim nation on Earth. On Monday, the chairman of the world’s biggest Islamic organisation (that’s right, the biggest Muslim organisation in the world), told his followers to cool it in no uncertain terms: “If the rage continues, perhaps what the pope said is true”. Yesterday, the executive director of the International Centre for Islam and Pluralism, Syafi’i Anwar, said that while Muslims were entitled to criticise the Pope, it should be done through considerate ways, not anger. He also pointed to “accumulated frustration among Muslims about facing constant accusations as the ‘bad party’.”

Jacinta Rogers writes: So I suppose we’ll see Christian Kerr signing up to join the army, what with him being so keen to promote the idea we’re at war. While he has a point about extremist Islam, I think it’s very easy for him to promote conflict while sitting in his luxury office on a fancy leather chair while sipping lattes and being fed grapes by some Crikey Army lackey. Come on Kerr, your country needs you. Frankly, I don’t think anyone would send the Crikey Army in to win the war.

Christian Kerr responds: Got flat feet.

John Walters writes: I would like to make a plea on behalf of Christian. Some of you may believe that he is capable of looking after himself. Possibly. But with so many correspondents calling for his censure or even condemning in forthright terms those things and those  people whom he obviously holds dear, I believe that we, the loony left, should exercise restraint. Gentle readers, we don’t want to drive him into such a rabid right rant that the people with the white coats swoop on him and carry him away to Lalaland, never to be heard of again. Sometimes, dear colleagues, tree huggers and latte sippers, he may actually have a grain of truth in what he writes. Let us acknowledge that, be thankful and then with reasoned argument show him the error of his ways. F-ck this! Hey guys, can’t you see he has a sense of humour? Let him be, he is an endangered species in line for nomination as a national heritage.

Cathy Bannister writes: It mightily amuses me that every time Christian Kerr says something libertarian, people go all snotty and threaten to chuck their subscriptions. It’s so pathetic. While I don’t agree with much that Christian says, at least he’s upfront about his biases so the reader knows where he’s coming from. Ditto with Mayne, Black, Nethercote, the Kooka brothers, Faris, Pascoe, Richardson and Chris Graham. It’s immeasurably better than the editorial and advertising pressure on content which seems at the moment to be driving the broadsheets more towards tabloid standards.

Cameron Bray writes: When did Crikey replace Christian Kerr’s brain with PP McGuinness’s?

Duncan McNab, author of the Abe Saffron biography The Usual Suspect, writes: My goodness, Richard Walsh does have a habit of getting wound up (18 September, item 6). In particular it seems my book on Abe Saffron has a knack of getting him really wound up. When I read his op-ed piece in the SMH last year I scratched my head because his points were elusive. I think he was just p-ssed off. I also thought he hadn’t bothered to read the book. He now clearly reckons my biography is “revisionist”. Well, firstly the book was unauthorised, and written from a diverse pool of information including stacks of reporting since the early 1940s and a personal interest going back about 30 years. I relied on facts rather than tubthumping and rumours. Saffron could claim to be the most investigated man in Australia’s history; the only trouble was that despite that, evidence of criminality was elusive. He was no angel, but he wasn’t “Gomorrah” either. As for the inevitable Mr Sin allegation, the well respected ex senior copper Ray Blissett once wrote to the SMH (Saffron wasn’t holding a gun to his head at the time… sorry Richard) saying something along the lines of “Abe Saffron wasn’t to my taste, but he wasn’t Mr Sin, that was someone else.” A little research would suggest there were a few competitors for the title… and perhaps Mrs Sin as well. Howard Hilton liked my book and said so when he reviewed it for the SMH. I reckon he’s got good taste, but I would say that wouldn’t I? “Officially the Herald will not have a bar of Duncan McNab’s revisionism”. Hmm, perhaps that’s why I was called by three of their journalists shortly after Abe’s death last Friday for both background and interviews. Where Richard and I do agree was Tony Reeves’s book on Lennie McPherson was entertaining… I only hope Richard will like my next book The Dodger on Roger Rogerson, published by Pan Macmillan and due out in about ten days.

Howard Hilton writes: I am obliged to Richard Walsh for not wanting me banned as a reviewer, very decent of him. My review of the Saffron biography I thought was fair and dealt with the book in front of me. Perhaps Richard Walsh would have preferred a different book to have been written and reviewed. Abe was a man about whom people have strong views and it would be difficult to find an informed and neutral reviewer, I openly informed my readers of my friendship with him. It is possible that I have misjudged the man I knew for 20 years. I merely seek to have the information put before me so that I might assess it and if convinced, change my view. There has been much assertion but nothing by way of believable evidence. As I told Richard in response to his attack in the Herald, it is time to put up or shut up. I renew that invitation.

Michael Dowe writes: Here! here! for Richard Walsh’s energetic stance on defamation laws and Abe Saffron. And for keeping the Mr Sin debate alive. Many would argue that considerable hagiography farewelled his former employer, Kerry Packer. Is Mr Walsh equally interested in commissioning a similarly “polemical” piece on the man they called the Goanna?

Neil Patterson writes: The Charles Richardsons of the world should not be too hasty to condemn (yesterday, item 9) those police who have to deal with violent criminals on a daily basis. At this time we have a situation where the government and the Chief Commissioner in their naive wisdom have created an inquisition run by otherwise unemployable barristers, who are now enjoying the moment. This same situation was evident in the Beach enquiry and Charles Richardson is right, there were allegations made against serving Police officers, however, the evidence that Beach listened to (and published) was in the main hearsay, unreliable and made by people with similar reputations as those who are now doing deals with the current enquiry. The end result may well be the same as it was for Beach. Charles should also give more credit to the jury system, as most jurors have more common sense and a feeling of what is right and wrong than a cage full of barristers.

Col Sutherland writes: So it’s official now from Crikey: the economy doesn’t count, only unilateral greenhouse reductions by Australia (yesterday, editorial). Have a look at where Australia earns its credits in our balance of payments. 11 of our top 15 exports are energy intensive and you apparently support trashing their commodity prices with carbon penalty schemes, when our competitors (Indonesia, Brazil and Africa) would gladly watch us slit our own throat. Wake up! Nobody in Asia, the Middle East or Africa gives a hoot about global warming and nor do they intend to constrain their national development for the sake of trendy, morally smug, middle class, economically secure Australians preaching at them. Finally, Australia could close down tomorrow and it would make about a one week blip in the accumulation of global greenhouse gases. If you like futile gestures because they feel good, spare a thought for the Australian workers and families who would bear the brunt of this naivety.

Keith Thomas writes: When these lawyers are engaging in public debates they should drop their in-house conventions and speak plain English like the rest of us. If Peter Faris is a Queen’s Counsel and Maxwell is a P (whatever that may be), why should we ordinary mortals have to put up with this being paraded before us every time their names are mentioned? They wear silly hats, dress like goths at work, talk pompously about “being called to the bar” and “taking silk” and the more they carry on like this the more like turkeys they look and sound.

Adam Schwab writes: While most of the time Glenn Dyer is generally spot on with his TV analysis, when he personally doesn’t like a show, he tends to place his own feelings above the raw numbers when providing a viewpoint. No more clearer example of this is what Glenn said yesterday (item 17) about Ten’s Real Stories, the brainchild of top-rating radio duo, Hamish Blake and Andy Lee. Yesterday Dyer noted the audience for “Ten’s duo, The Wedge with 784,000 and Real Stories with 798,000. Oh dear, slowly disappearing. Viewers say no to bogan humour.” However, rewind one week back and Glenn claimed that “The Wedge had 766,000 and Real Stories, 751,000. Not good — a bit bogan for the audience I feel.” Therefore, despite the audience for Real Stories (and also The Wedge) actually increasing by 5%, Glenn claimed that viewers were disappearing. That analysis is not only wrong on facts, but given Real Stories‘s audience would be heavily skewed towards a younger demographic, it is likely that Ten would probably be quite satisfied with their performance. While not in the leagues of The Comedy Company, Fast Forward or The Late Show, Real Stories is probably one of the better sketch comedies that Australia has produced in recent years.

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 (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Peter Fray

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