Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Gerard Henderson’s sleazy tactic” (yesterday, item 17). Richard Farmer’s piece in yesterday’s Crikey was over the top. According to Mr Farmer, I have “sunk down to the sleazy depths of the very worst of the right-wing apologists for the George Bush war machine”. Why? Just because, in my syndicated column, I referred to Barack Hussein Obama by his full name. That’s all. According to Richard Farmer, this is improper. How do we know this? Well, the Washington Post says so. So this must be the case – according to The Thought of Farmer. Mr Farmer asserted that I “seem obsessed” with Senator Obama’s “Muslim heritage” but that I have ignored “the Christian influences” on him. Not so. In my column, I referred to Senator Obama’s books in which he has written that he was brought up a Muslim and that he converted to Christianity. I added that Senator Obama was now a member of the United Church of Christ. In other words, I did not ignore the Christian influences on the United States presidential aspirant. If Barack Hussein Obama’s campaign is likely to be hindered merely by the use of his full name, then it will be a difficult road to the White House – irrespective of whatever sermonising the Washington Post and its followers may choose to engage in.

A former Australian diplomat writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. You refer to Zimbabwe as a fellow Commonwealth member. Historically that’s true. But technically it’s not now. They withdrew a year or two ago. Our High Commission hence became an Embassy.

John Craig writes: I noted your observations about the difficult situation in Zimbabwe – which the West’s “protectors of freedom” are doing nothing about. This raises issues that needed to be considered years ago. Zimbabwe is a failed / rogue state. Such states, which are at times a cause / consequence of terrorism, have become increasingly common (eg there are several candidates in Australia’s immediate vicinity). They are also a risk to their neighbours and ultimately to the effectiveness of the prevailing global order (eg because of the number of votes that irresponsible states now wield in international forums). There are reasonable indications that concern about this was at the heart of the US administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks (see The Second Failure of Globalization?), which focussed on a Neo-con inspired attempt to transform one of the most morally exposed of the rogue states (Iraq) into a stable democracy. Clearly the methods that “the West’s protectors of freedom” chose to use have not proven a sparkling success in that case. Thus I will be interested to read in future of the suggestions that the Crikey team have about alternative methods that might be applied in the case of Zimbabwe. Chalmers Johnson has argued, with some plausibility though not 100% certainty, that the US will be unable to continue acting as the protector of anyone’s freedom for much longer (see ‘National Intelligence Estimate on the United States’ reproduced below). The last time the global order failed in the early 20th century the result was economic instability and “global” conflicts that claimed millions of lives – so, given the development of WMD, there are presumably hundreds of millions or billions of lives at stake in any new failure of global order. For this reason also, I will be interested to read of the Crikey team’s suggested solution to the problem of rogue / failed states such as Iraq and Zimbabwe.

Stuart Mackenzie writes: Wasn’t John Howard appointed chairman of a British Commonwealth committee a couple of years ago to sort out Zimbabwe? What happened?

Nine Network news chief Gary Linnell writes: Re. Yesterday’s report (item 16)that Nine’s 60 Minutes had offered former Corby family familiar Jodi Power $200,000 to take her story to Nine rather than Seven — Absolutely untrue, I wish I had that sort of money.

Former 60 Minutes Managing Editor Mark Llewellyn writes: A small correction but at my insistence the first interview Liz Hayes did with Corby in her Bali jail was not paid for.

Mark Smith writes: Re. Humphrey (yesterday, item 21): I was involved back in 1993 co-ordinating the opening of Toys R Us first store in Melbourne Central. A number of characters were in full dress regalia to entertain the children while mum and dad spent up on opening day. Unfortunately late in the afternoon after what had been a hectic day I chanced upon Humphrey making out with Barbie in the makeshift change area. As Humphrey never wore pants I guess it was a little more graphic than it could have been. Humphrey, perhaps inspired by his discussions with Pluto, was simulating the actions behind Barbies back while she was tending to her pink shoelaces. During one of the more surreal experiences of my life the only witness was Bart Simpson and a sweaty half dressed Mickey Mouse.

Ken McLeod writes: Re. “The PM’s defence of a ‘dumb war'” (yesterday, item 1). Christian Kerr says “Iraq is a mess. We have followed the United States into a war gone wrong.” That is not quite correct. In the interest of accuracy, the Iraq war did not go wrong; it was wrong from the start.

John Irving writes: Iraq has not become a “dumb war”… it always was. Until the people who put us there acknowledge that nothing will change…note the increasing drip of “Iran is the problem” stories starting to appear. Here we go again.

Stephen Paul writes: Re. Vanstone (yesterday, item 5). It is often said that it’s not over till the fat lady sings, well the fat lady is not only singing but she is also writing her own material!

Don Westley writes: If Tony Abbott wants to speed up Federal Parliament, and allegedly make it more productive, then all he has to do, is to restrict the number of “Dorothy Dix'” questions that are asked by his party, as all it does is to give the government Ministers a chance to pontificate and tell us all how magnificently well they are doing their jobs!

Roslyn Pike writes: Re. Australia’s head of state. David Horkan (12 February, comments) is just the tip of the iceburg of ignorance in Australia or should he join the emus with their heads in the surreal sands of time? The Governor General is the Queen of Australia’s representative in Australia. He is not the head of state. Congratulations Mr. Everingham and I wish you every success.

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Looking for silk in all the wrong places” (yesterday, item 14). Peter Faris QC writes with the arrogance of one born to rule. Obviously his QC appendage gives Faris pride and, in his view, adds stature to his words – otherwise why append the “QC”? Faris QC tells us that those who deserve silk get it, sooner or later. These are the words used by any member of a closed shop or cartel, whether it be Qantas, surgeons or QCs – we provide quality (“learning, skill and ability”) at a reasonable price. But who defines the criteria for entry to these hallowed ranks – why, the existing members, of course! Faris QC mentions the Australian cricket team as a similar elite body not subject to review. At this point I suspected he was having a Queeny leg pull. If not, it is surely ironic that a senior QC would compare the blokes who entertain the masses by hitting a ball around a field to the upright chaps who assist in establishing the legal framework under which we toil. If we cannot trust the Chief Justice in this matter of pinning the tail on the next QC who can we trust, Faris QC asks. And well he might. Well, in choosing a chap to trust I might choose the chap next door (who happens to be a lawyer but not a QC). Obviously not good enough (Greek extraction, state school) – but I would prefer him as my QC if only the Chief Justice saw fitting (or if law was a true meritocracy).

Andrew Burke writes: Re. “Time to send a gun boat after the pirates: (yesterday, item 12). This reminds me of that old line about whoever is the first to use the word Nazi automatically loses the argument. I personally find Sea Shepherd’s tactics impossible to support, but the casual use of the word “terrorist” betrays an intellectual shallowness on Michael Pascoe’s part. Sea Shepherd damage whaling ships; they don’t blow people up. To suggest that the two are morally equivalent is silly. Before we know it ferals locking onto trees will be terrorists too.

Kathleen Green writes: Is Michael Pascoe on the Japanese whalers payroll? I think so, as his story is so biased and he has not done research into why whale killing should stop. There is no need to kill whales for scientific research – all the research needed can be done while they are alive. Whaling is not a Japanese culture except for one tiny northern village that only killed what they needed. As at November 2006, there was 4 tonne of unsold whale meat in storage. The Japanese began whaling at the end of the second world war due to a food shortage and America set them up with ships. At the moment, maybe 10% of the population are interested in eating whale meat. The Japanese government is putting whale meat in school lunches and giving away free whale meat cookbooks, forcing it upon the young people. No need to eat whale meat for Omega 3. It is available in plants and other products. The whaling industry was not making a profit, so the government subsidised the industry and then last year bought the whaling industry and controls it. At the rate of whale killing, whales will be extinct in a matter of years. Do you realise what this will do to the ocean’s ecosystem? Do you realise whales and hotoplankton oxygenate the water? Do you realise there are 70 dead zones in the world’s oceans? Do you realise the Japanese over-fished their own oceans and now plunder Australian territorial waters and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary? By the way, a Sanctuary is a protective area for wildlife. If you were to go into the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and kill wildlife, you would be sent to gaol. The same should apply to the Japanese. They are power playing in politics, being very arrogant and environmentally irresponsible.

Nathan Vincent writes: I can’t believe that anyone would be so disingenuous as to compare the Sea Sheppard with the Taliban. I suspect that 50-or-so years ago Pascoe would have stooped to branding the Sea Sheppard “Communists”.

Otto Reith writes: Re. “WA government moving in with first home buyers” (yesterday, item 13). While on face value UK average house prices are approaching that of Australia, a more valid comparison takes into account average wages too, which at current exchange rates shows UK house price to income ratio around 8 times. While this is way above longer term ratios, Australias figure of closer to 9 times average income leaves the UK in the shade – dreariness notwithstanding.

Tony Barrell writes: Noel Tarlinton writes (yesterday, comments) that John Howard cops enough mud thrown at him by the “mainstream media” without Crikey adding its pile of ordure. Did he read the Australian today? It thinks Howard’s Obama bomb was a triumph of political wisdom. One other thing, Mr Tarlinton, when you write to Crikey or anyone, don’t use the expression “we the readers” to bolster your view. You may not be on your own entirely but you don’t speak for anyone else. It’s just you and always will be. 

Lisa Crago writes: Re. State of the Planet. We all have sections of Crikey that we skim over. When this heading was first introduced to Crikey I thought; that should stop the protest of Australian Green subscribers cancelling their subscriptions, plus keep the Green-Menace off of Christian Kerr’s back as they all hover around this little section of Crikey. And what a merry little section it is too. Today I thought I would have a look to see if this section had evolved into anything I would want to read. “Heat waves that kill thousands, gigantic bushfires and regular 100-year storms are part of a frightening new climate change forecast for Australia… There’s a silent killer stalking your bowl of rice: heat… the biggest single problem faced by humanity today – global warming… the gravity of the consequences of messing with the planet’s ecosystem…” Good Grief, it reads like a badly written horror movie, how is this in the Politics section? Give me a full dose of Kerr’s political critique anyday, at least it makes for an interesting read.

Geoff Russell writes: Greg Bowyer (yesterday, comments) thinks that it beggars belief that “the massive … acreage of trees and all the carbon they contain [is] only one fifth of what the harvesting is burning”. I thought it was obvious that forestry was a net greenhouse emitter (but not a big one) but only went to check the reports for confirmation. I cited the Australian Greenhouse Office and the CSIRO. If Greg is right, both organisations must hire a lot of tossers. Once you understand production chains, it is soon reasonably obvious why forestry is a net emitter and why effective carbon sequestration requires that you don’t harvest the trees. The steel in the logging trucks has to be smelted, frequently with coal which is dug out of the ground with more big trucks made from steel which has to be smelted. Rumour has it that none of these trucks moves without the addition of diesel/petrol. Then there are forestry managers who drive around in cars (4WD) made of steel/aluminium which has to be smelted. If we are talking wood chips, then these go to a port in trucks made of steel … and get put in a ship made of steel. The CSIRO Balancing Act report actually captures the emissions of the whole production chain. And it all has to balance with the emissions data Australia gives the IPCC.

Nick Armitage writes: Re. “Arrogant AFL confuses oval ball with round ball” (12 February, item 15). Adam Schwab writes that the English Premier League sold rights to pay tv in order to meet high wages demand from players. I beg to differ: Pay TV, i.e BSkyB, revolutionised top level football in England by financing the breakaway of the top 20 clubs from the Football League into the F.A. Premier League from the beginning of the 1992/93 season. The top clubs were attracted to the new model because of the quantum leap in income arising from showing more games live over a weekend commencing on Saturday lunchtime and ending on Monday evenings, more cameras, more expert analysis and more hype. The clubs then chose to spend the additional income on players through higher wages and transfer fees.

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Peter Fray

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