Daniel Strachan writes: Re. Saddam and the death penalty. Your editorial yesterday begins with a rare ideological assumption – that “there is no doubt that Saddam deserves to die”. It proceeds to paint a rather convincing argument that there is a political gain to be made by keeping Saddam alive through making a statement of Iraqi mercy. What I would question is the need to build what is an otherwise sound, pragmatic argument on an ideological premise. I would also question whether your assumption would have the universal acceptance you claim. People who abhor the death penalty, even those who don’t necessarily have religious reasons for such a stance, would not accept this statement. An editorial which acknowledges the abolition of the death penalty as a sign post on the journey towards a more enlightened society yet makes an assertion that someone “deserves to die” is contradictory and contributes to the rise of ideological rhetoric it has previously been critical of.

David Havyatt writes: Your intro yesterday that “there is no doubt Saddam deserves to die” rests on two premises; that Saddam is guilty of a “heinous crime”, and that for that crime the appropriate penalty is death. There are a number of difficulties with this proposition. To begin with if we believe in the “rule of law” you have to find a law that Hussein broke and there isn’t one on the Iraq statute books. If you believe in the concept of “crimes against humanity” then the charge needed to be brought by an international court. So the first part itself is problematic, at least matching the crime to the court. The second part is that some of us believe the death penalty is never warranted, no matter how severe the crime. So I think there is a lot of doubt that Saddam deserves to die, while not defending his rule or conduct in any way. PS How many Iraqi citizens have the coalition of the willing now killed? When do George Bush and John Howard go on trial?

Anthea Parry writes: Yesterday’s Crikey editorial claiming that many of history’s most evil rulers died peacefully in bed is just weird. Which ones? Hitler shot himself. Stalin was probably poisoned with warfarin, Mussolini was executed, Pol Pot may have died peacefully in bed but since government requests to inspect the body were denied, he may not have, we don’t even know when Franco died (and he was almost certainly on life-support in hospital), Genghis Khan either fell off his horse or was castrated, Charles I was beheaded, Idi Amin died in hospital after weeks of illness, Anwar Al-Sadat was assassinated, Nero killed himself, and Caligula was assassinated (apparently he was stabbed over 30 times). Chairman Mao is about the only one I can think of who died peacefully in bed – and that’s hardly MANY. 

Ebony Bennett, Media Adviser to Senator Bob Brown, writes: Re. “Greenswatch” (yesterday, item 11). The Greens are flattered by Christian Kerr’s implicit assumption that the opposite of saving the planet is attacking the Greens. While it is pleasing that Christian exclusively associates the Greens with saving the planet, we fear he is missing an important opportunity to keep an eye on a much broader range of parties. For example, just last week Tourism Minister Fran Bailey proposed a Great Barrier Roof (floating shadecloths) to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change. Just think of all the similar initiatives Crikey readers will miss out on if Christian focuses exclusively on attacking the Greens. As for advocating a peaceful resolution to the Korean Peninsula Nuclear problem (not that I’m clear how exactly it relates to debunking propaganda about the state of the planet), well… call me left-wing, but I’d prefer a peaceful resolution to a military one any day. When Greens leader Bob Brown met with the North Korean ambassador he made it clear that the Greens utterly condemned the nuclear test and, noting the poverty of many North Koreans, he also reiterated the Greens policy that the money spent on armaments should go to alleviating poverty in North Korea and around the world.

Leo Le Jambre writes: How could any one ever think that you are morphing into a either a green or left daily? Your credentials are firmly with the conservative side, especially with your little right elitist C. Kerr. Nevertheless, I will point out that climate changes transcends political parties, so how can state of the planet be considered left or right? So why single out the Greens as a political party in the same breath as climate change? It would make as much sense to have a Liberalwatch, or Nationalwatch or Laborwatch. I suspect that you are trying to keep your conservative friends on side by now offering them “Greenswatch”.

Patrick Grant writes: Re. “Christopher Pearson: this was not a big error” (yesterday, item 4). An outstanding contribution by Christopher Pearson calling for “competitive neutrality”. Good idea. Let’s start with organisations which have convinced authorities that they constitute a religion. Farewell taxes and rates. Hello competitors.

David Hawkes writes: Isn’t it interesting how other people’s mistakes and sloppy fact-checking are so SERIOUS, and our own so TRIVIAL, Mr Pearson?

Ausculture.com blogger Jess McGuire writes: Re. “News Ltd stakes its claim on the blogosphere” (3 November, item 20). While I must confess that the idea of attending the same Christmas party as Andrew Bolt appeals to me no end (I can almost visualise the exchange of pithy bon mots as we quaff champers and nibble on some Jatz), I am sad to declare that – as far as I am aware – I have not been approached by News Ltd. The Murdoch empire and I haven’t been on the best of terms since Ellen Barkin and I created a satirical right-wing comedy persona called “Janet Albrechtsen” and the joke went wildly out of control. Personally, I am prepared to put the entire debacle behind us.

Dave Gaukroger writes: Re. Australian political blogs. Although Australian political blogs may be increasing their readership I don’t believe that they will be wielding influence any time soon the way that some American bloggers do. The reason that well read blogs can make a difference in the USA is that they can actually be a big mobilising force to “Get out the vote” and encourage participation in campaigns. In Australia compulsory voting does the GOTV job and due to the more formal nature of our political parties compared to the system in the USA there is much less participation in political campaigns by your average punter. I doubt any blogger would like to admit it but they are all merely preaching to the choir, hoping at best to sling a bit of mud that gets followed up by the mainstream media.

Rebecca Melkman, Foxtel Corporate Affairs Manager, writes: Michael Pascoe got it wrong in his piece yesterday “The one–way Foxtel contract gouges again” (item 22). Far from forcing consumers down a one-way street as Pascoe suggests, Foxtel offers subscribers many contract package choices and terms ranging from six months to two years. They can change packages as often as they like within their contract. In fact, Pascoe’s only contractual commitment to Foxtel is to the minimum package which we reduced substantially in price this year from $50.90 per month to $36.95 per month to give consumers more choice and flexibility. Had Pascoe reported the facts on Foxtel’s new pricing instead of going feral, he would have observed that the cost of the minimum package will not increase – it remains at $36.95 per month. The top package will increase by $2 per month. Access to the highly sought after Foxtel iQ personal video recorder will not increase in price. There has been no increase in the price of the Foxtel service since December 2005. But like other businesses, the price of our services will increase from time to time. Pascoe may prove the exception and drop the costs of his services to Crikey, or keep them on hold forever. Pascoe suggests he has no choice but to accept the one-way entertainment street that FOXTEL owns, but then contradicts himself by saying he will choose to move to Optus. How is that a one-way street?

Michael Pascoe writes: Hold on to your cable TV churn for a moment – Optus is putting up its monthly charges too as they pass on the rise imposed by Foxtel. But Optus is still selling your rugby and movie fix for several dollars less than the same thing from Foxtel.

Phil Minett, Publican at the Carlisle Castle Hotel, writes: Re. “The one-way Foxtel contract gouges again”. As a publican let me give you another example of how Foxtel works. After recently closing down the Fox Footy channel they introduced the new Fox 3 channel along with a sports news channel. To be able to receive Fox 3 I have to pay another few dollars a day for the privilege. I managed to resist for a while but they programmed all the Champions trophy cricket on 3 while showing utter rubbish on the other two sports channels. Surprisingly there was no mention of a reduced rate to compensate me for the loss of the Footy channel, should I decide not to take on the new channels and the additional cost…

Jerry Mack writes: Michael Pascoe writes “the one-way Foxtel contract gouges again”. Well for us poor sods still on the analogue service, the lurk gets even better. Foxtel removed the History Channel on 1 October and now just gives us suckers a still page urging us to upgrade to digital. Then at the beginning of this month another two are dropped off: The Comedy Channel and Fox Classics. Again the same still flogging the digital option appears. Question is how many dollars will I be refunded each month due to the REDUCTION in the service I originally subscribed to? I won’t hold my breath. Churn? Optus? Well for me there is no option in the diverse world of media in the West. Can I call the ACCC on this? Anyone care?

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Across his brief – too well?” (yesterday, item 15). Christian Kerr opines concerning Howard that, “It looks as if his fingerprints are on everything and he wants to know everything”. I think I know what Christian is driving at but once again he’s off the mark. John Howard has what the Americans call “Rubber Glove Syndrome”. He is careful to leave no fingerprints anywhere. He knows nothing untoward, for example about AWB, botch-ups looking for WMDs in Iraq etc. etc. and when anything goes wrong it’s never his fault. Like all politicians he’s very quick to claim credit when things work out.

John Hayward writes: Re. “The Mouth from the South shut?” (yesterday, item 13). One of Christian Kerr’s political meaty chunks was a good demo of the rhetorical poverty in the Tasmanian Parliament. Michael Hodgman’s description of Premier Lennon as a “brain-damaged, alcohol-addicted thug” was a commonplace when he first uttered it, albeit with the order of the compound adjectival modifiers reversed, some six years ago. The place needs a complete transfusion of fresh blood.

Kevin Brady writes: Greg Clarke (yesterday, comments), how dare you call for Crikey to “spare us any more contributions from Peter Faris”! Where would I get my daily laugh from? Peter Faris should take up the slot now left vacant by the demise of Glass House (come to think of it, does the newly balanced ABC have that in mind?). I think Greg’s problem is that he reads Peter’s column as though it is supposed to be serious. Think a little bit Elliot Goblet, Greg.

Barry Everingham writes: The ongoing saga of Robert Menzies and Betty Fairfax has taken another turn with the arrival in this bizarre story of Madam Kirsova, who it now turns out, according to an impeccable source close to the Fairfax empire,was Warwick’s lover at the time it has been alleged Sir Robert was courting the newspaper mogul’s first wife. Phew! I must start at the beginning; I am the product of a Sydney eastern suburbs family who, along with most of Sydney society of the time believed the Fairfax newspapers/Menzies feud was because of the prime minister and Mrs Fairfax. I have no reason to believe this story is wrong. However I am now convinced that at this time Warwick had fallen hopelessly in love with the prima ballerina Helene Kirsova and was so enamoured of her, he took up ballet lessons presumably to dance his way into her arms and bedroom. My source is a woman of now old age, and a confidant of Betty Fairfax. Again, Sydney was convinced Fairfax hated Menzies as it was his belief the ballerina danced out of Warwick’s arms and into Bob Menzies’. Wrong. Yet another Sydney source claims Menzies and Betty Fairfax didn’t have an affair; the hatred between the two men was fuelled by legislation enacted my the Menzies government which cut into John Fairfax and Sons profit margin. And to put paid to this ongoing saga it has to be recorded that The Age and Crikey have got their titles wrong. Betty Fairfax was just that – not Dame Elizabeth Fairfax and not Lady Fairfax. There have been three women entitled to be called Lady Fairfax – Warwick’s mother Mabel, his cousin’s wife Nancy and his third wife Mary.

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