Peter Leith writes: I am surprised and disappointed at the somewhat hysterical tone of your editorial comment about Ahmadinejad’s speech.  He was playing to the gallery and using somewhat over-the-top language, as do Bush, Blair and Howard. That Britain and, subsequently, America have contributed heavily and long to the development and survival of Israel is a fact of history. So is the fact that both Britain and the US have used Israel to fragment, destabilise and contain other Middle Eastern countries. The fact that Israel now uses Britain and the US for its own purposes is “sauce for the goose”. The fact that Zionism, specially in its most militant form, has destabilised most of the world for many years is also a fact of history… ask Antony Loewenstein. The Holocaust IS used for propaganda purposes; the whole world knows, because it has often been reminded, that six million Jews” died… very few people know, and even fewer care, that 30 million Russians died too! Few people are old enough to remember that the Zionists almost invented “terrorism”. Who remembers the bombing of The King David Hotel in Jerusalem? The State of Israel has mastered the art of “reverse discrimination”; criticise Israel in any way and you are immediately branded anti-Semitic! I am the custodian of the autobiography of a (now) 84-year-old Sabra woman who served with the British Army in 1939 to 1942 and subsequently was a member of Irgun and Mossad. Her memoirs are a litany of Israeli sponsored destabilisation, agitation and assassination that have taken place since the days of David ben Gurion and Golda Meir and continue to this day. Please, spare us your hysterics over Ahmadinejad’s pot-stirring, he is but one of many.

Adam Gall writes: I’m sure we can all look forward to the day that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is removed from office by the people of Iran. Two points though: 1) Doesn’t Holocaust denial make strange bedfellows? I mean, what are all these Western anti-Semites doing hanging out with a bunch of Muslims anyway? 2) Further to that point: it seems like fully-fledged anti-Semites like Ahmadinejad suit the agenda of the hardliners in Israel and the US perfectly. That way, they don’t have to listen to moderate critics, because they can assume that all criticism of Israeli policy and military activity is just Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism. Ahmadinejad is doing more damage to legitimate critics of Israel then to his real antagonists in Washington, who feed off his rhetoric for their own political legitimacy.

Mike Crook writes: On the rare occasions that Crikey comments on international affairs it does not do it well and yesterday’s attempt to demonise the Iranian regime for its ridiculous anti-Holocaust forum is a case in point. The fear bit on the end did it for me. If we are looking for a regime that most parallels the Nazi regime then we must look no further than ourselves. In Iraq, whether it was the reported “turkey shoot” by Australian forces in the Western Desert before the invasion or the willingness to hold a piece of the country in the south to spare US forces for the real bloodletting, we are complicit in a slaughter that puts the Iranians’ talkfest into the shade. Johns Hopkins University tells us that 650,000 Iraqi civilians have died, mostly at our hands – now that’s what I call something real to be afraid of. There are also estimated to be about 100,000 civilian “contractors” (mercenaries to you or me) in Iraq. One wonders how many of these were trained at the “School of the Americas” where the South American death squads are trained, and what part they played in instigating the “civil” war. We and the US have set the world on its current course, not Iran. When Crikey editorialises comprehensively on a real and existing holocaust which we ourselves have created, it may be taken a tad more seriously.

Magnus Vikingur writes: Re. Citizenship tests. As an Icelandic born immigrant I am in two minds regarding the citizenship tests. In 1969 we as a family of ten came to Australia and the only person who spoke English was my mother. We have all assimilated, become citizens and I believe, have made a contribution to this country. But, had these tests existed when we came, we would have been rejected and would still be building boats and gutting fish in Iceland. The professions among my siblings have been: owner of a yacht building firm and prolific employer, lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Army, mechanical engineer in mining, television director etc. Work skills are needed in this country from  overseas so what criteria will determine a reject? Solely race and religion? This legislation is very rubbery.

Adele Major writes: I’m an Australian currently living in Sweden as a resident but not yet a citizen. As far as I’m aware I don’t need to speak Swedish to be granted citizenship. However, in Sweden I am given the right to free Swedish language and cultural lessons, with the intention of allowing me to participate fully in society. Does Australia provide this before people have to undergo this test, or are we going to stop potential citizens at the door without any potential for learning and so use this as an unofficial White Australia policy? If we do provide education and support, then I think the test is acceptable provided it’s a pretty basic level of English and knowledge that is required, and no different to what other countries like the Netherlands require for one to gain full citizenship.  As your article pointed out, the test should not be applied to people who only want residency.

Jack Woodforde writes: What are the odds that if you fill out Howard’s citizenship exam with  “Pleez exployne” in answer to each question, you’ll pass with flying colours?

Niall Clugston writes: On the citizenship debate, Phil Atkinson asks rhetorically (yesterday, comments), “Would you go on holiday (let alone live in) France without any knowledge of the French language, or to Germany, or Korea, or China?” Does he seriously think that all tourists who visit China can speak Chinese or does he just have trouble expressing himself clearly in English?

Brad Ruting writes: Henry Thornton is right (yesterday, item 26): the Reserve Bank still has a way to go on the transparency front. But rather than issuing a public statement after every board meeting, which might result in too much information and misread “signals” that weren’t even signals, perhaps the Bank should take a more discretionary approach. The US Fed releases both statements and board minutes, but I doubt that would be a good idea here, given the number of businesspeople serving on our Reserve Board and the potential for conflicts of interest (not voting in favour of a rate change because it might be construed as harmful to the company one presides over). It looks like the best way for the RBA to improve its transparency while still remaining independent and credible is to release statements when it deems necessary – ie, whenever rates change, and occasionally when they stay steady and they need to justify their inaction. With the recent rise in inflation – which, given capacity constraints, doesn’t look to be plummeting anytime soon – perhaps there would have been a lot of merit in a statement issued alongside this month’s decision not to raise rates.

Jennifer Dillon writes: Re “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Who on earth had the morally bankrupt idea that Crikey should publish an unsubstantiated rumour that Queensland EPA was hamstrung by delays in passing legislation? If the rumour is true, then Crikey has alerted those loonies out there who may attempt to harm protected wildlife in the interim period. If it is not true, Crikey has unnecessarily boosted the number of incidents which will require investigation (as resources for such investigation steadily decline) and potentially put more of Australia’s wildlife at risk. Think about it, Crikey!

Mungo MacCallum writes: Arthur Sinodinis might have been a shadowy public figure but I have always been intrigued by his limerickal potential. Here, belatedly, a possible tribute from Kirribilli House:

Oh Arthur! My lost Sinodinis!
What cloud has descended between us?
I’m going insane
For the want of your brain
To decipher George Megalogenis.

Jim Hart writes: The shock-horror response to the DLP’s disproportionate success in Victoria’s upper house suggests that the other parties have been hoist on their own preference petard. If the voters are not fairly represented then about 90% of them have only themselves to blame for voting above the line instead of choosing their own preferences. As Charles Richardson (yesterday, item 4) points out, most voters are ignorant of where their preferences are going, and probably most parties prefer it that way. The above-the-line option was (I thought) introduced to simplify upper-house elections where previously voters had to number correctly every one of 50 or more boxes. However with Victoria’s sensible new rules that’s no longer a problem – just number five or more boxes for a valid vote.  Writing the numbers one to five is not hard – most of us can do that correctly for the lower house so why not the upper house too? With this simplified preferential system there was no need to also have the one-box above-the-line option but for some reason this was retained. If democracy means seats are in proportion to votes, then voters need to take responsibility for their own ballot papers instead of blindly handing them over to the smarta-se party officials.

John Ley writes: Re. People Power and Victorian Upper House Election. It is a sad reflection on the attitude of its leaders that People Power, through its preference deals, helped the DLP, with 2% of the primary vote, to win two seats in the Upper House, considering that People Power is a party claiming to be giving the Victorian people real electoral power. After the way Family First was able to obtain a Senate seat in the 2004 federal election with a primary vote of less that 2% Stephen Mayne and his party president Vern Hughes could have been under no illusion that giving preferences to the DLP candidates in some Upper House seats could well lead to a similar result. It is very hard to see how the DLP’s very conservative policies are at all consistent with People Power’s. And yet Stephen and Vern seem to be crowing about how they helped the DLP to win two seats and the balance of power, and how Vern is now being offered a staffer position with the DLP. If he were to take it up it might look, to sceptical observers, that a deal could have been stitched up between Vern and the DLP as part of the preference arrangements. How can depriving the Greens of a third seat, when they obtained (and were predicted to gain) 10% of the vote be something to be proud of? As Charles Richardson points out, the Greens should have obtained four seats on the basis of their primary vote. Now the conservative parties (the DLP and the Nationals) will have the balance of power between them when a significant majority of primary votes went to left-of-centre and centrist parties.

David More writes: Re. The Sci Fi Channel (yesterday, item 7). It’s actually way worse – they are showing stuff that is all 3+ years old as best I can tell… not what is on SciFi in the US to protect DVD sales and make sure the downloaders operate at high intensity to get their current fix. Who wants SG-1 series seven, and Battle Star series one and Farscape from the beginning again? I plan to cancel if it does not catch up to the current US channel real quick!
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