Tony Serve writes: Re. “The Crikey Iraq Index” (yesterday, item 1). Today’s piece on Iraq was welcome but a few hundred thousand souls short of being relevant, accurate or informative. Are as many as 600,000 dead Iraqi civilians not worth a few words in your article? Is the glaring omission due to politics (internal or external) or laziness? There are also plenty of other credible sources of casualty figures including Red Cross and Amnesty. Please, be journalists!

Michael Brougham writes: While containing some very telling statistics, Crikey’s Iraq Index nevertheless followed the insultingly Americentric trend of failing to mention the number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded as a result of the invasion of their country. This is of course very hard to quantify, but a vague estimate might have been preferable to ignoring it altogether. As a bare minimum it’s probably 75 times the figure for US military personnel, and yet the US figure is invariably quoted first in almost any article on the subject, if indeed Iraqi civilians are mentioned at all.

Patrick Tobin writes: Your report that by the end of 2008 (Congress willing) the US will have spent $US745 billion on the “Iraq adventure” is staggering. That figure represents close to the entire GDP of Australia for a year!! Imagine if that money had instead been spent on research into alternative fuels – we may well have gone close to solving the greenhouse issue or severely denting world poverty. Perhaps you could ask the Crikey Army to suggest what other world-scale problems could be substantially resolved with an investment of $US745 billion. The Iraq adventure has been a tragedy for many more than the Iraqis themselves.

Wayne Robinson writes: If there are 30,000 insurgents in Iraq, and President GW Bush is planning on spending $100 billion just this year on combating the insurgency, wouldn’t it be considerably cheaper to offer $1,000,000 to each insurgent to just stop and go away? According to my calculations, that would only cost $30 billion, and I can’t see any drawbacks. I would like a commission of 10% on the savings, though.

Tamas Calderwood writes: Thanks for the Crikey Iraq Index yesterday. Curiously, the following numbers were omitted: Number of years Saddam was President – 24. Number of wars he started – 2. Number killed in those wars – 1,100,000. Number of WMD strikes launched by Saddam (1983-91) – 15. Number of people killed in those WMD strikes – about 35,000. Proportion of Marsh Arab lands drained by Saddam – 95%. Number of the original quarter million Marsh Arabs remaining on their land today – a few thousand. Number killed in the 1991 Shia uprising – roughly 150,000. Number of mass graves discovered since the 2003 invasion – 200. Number of years Saddam defied UN “binding” resolutions – 12. Proportion of Iraq’s weapons supplied by UK and USA (1975-2003) – 2%. Proportion of weapons supplied by USSR and France – 70%. Number of democratic elections held in Iraq since 2003 – 3.

Geoff Tapp writes: Re. “Iraq four years on, what pundits and bloggers are saying” (yesterday, item 18). From the Healing Iraq blog: “Regrettably, I can say there is no Iraqi people yet, but only deluded human groups void of any national idea. Iraqis are not only disunited but evil-motivated, anarchy prone and always ready to prey on their government.” – King Faisal I, writing in his memoirs shortly before he died in 1933. What’s new?

David Mendelssohn writes: Re. “The only poll that matters and how other great political clichés work” (yesterday, item 7). I first heard it said that “Oppositions don’t win elections, Governments lose them” in the late 1960s. It seemed to be based on research conducted into voting behaviour, mainly in the UK. I thought at the time it may be true of the UK and other overseas countries with a semblance of democratic elections. But it was not true of Australia. It seemed to me then that, however unpopular a government in Australia might be, the voters would not tip it out unless the opposition looked like a credible alternative government. Menzies played very successfully on that for years. Nothing has happened in Australian politics, Federal or State, in the last 35 or so years to cause me to revise that opinion. It seems likely to be confirmed by this coming Saturday’s NSW State election, unless the polls have got it spectacularly wrong to an extent that no previous polls in Australia ever have before.

Andrew Lewis writes: Has it struck anyone else that it is odd for a Minister of the government, one Tony Abbott, to repeatedly say that it is their job “to hold the opposition to account”? I thought that was what oppositions were supposed to do to governments. Does anyone else find this slip somewhat Freudian? Isn’t it also proof that Tony Abbott is confused about his role? I’m hazarding a guess but I would hope it is “to serve the public by good administration and effective policy”, perhaps, but maybe I’m dreamin’.

Peter Wachtel writes: Re. Early Crikey columnist, Dan McNutt (yesterday, comments), needs to get his eyes checked. John Howard was clearly wearing body armour. Mr McNutt says, “trust me, I know”. Well obviously you don’t or you are lying. Which one is it?

Bill Gemmell writes: What rabid haters like “Early Crikey columnist” Dan McNutt don’t realise is the powerful disservice they do to their cause by the use of irrational invective and name calling. I happen to be one of the thousands of swingers put off voting for the elevation of Mark Latham last time, by not wanting to be in any way associated with those who choose foul language and juvenile, orchestrated abuse over balanced observation and reasoned debate. Trust me Dan, I know.

John Held writes: I’d like to know how much time Santo put into his share trading – judging by the number of trades, he would have had to spend a fair bit of time watching the market, organising transactions. As a hardworking Minister of the Crown, where did he find the time?

Samantha Bowden writes: Re. “Not more interesting news from Queensland” (yesterday, item 17). Having read in such publications as The Age that Crikey writer Christian Kerr’s list of journalism accolades is apparently extensive and that he hails from the lofty ranks of three generations of journalists, one would assume he’d completed Journalism 101, “fact checking”. It may have even made a semblance of an interesting piece of gossip to some, if you could actually substantiate an good reason why Queensland Liberals would actually worry if Mark Powell (yes that’s spelled with two “l’s”), President of the Federal Young Liberal movement, might get elected to parliament by inadvertently being progressed up the Senate ticket, especially since the several hundreds of state councillors that pre-selected did not seem too worried with the prospect of him becoming a Senator when they voted him into the third position on the ticket. In fact, given Christian’s publicised “insider knowledge” of the political system and especially since he has been a staffer for two Liberal Senators in SA, I hazard a guess that he might already know that if one is fortuitous enough to get pre-selected for the Senate it generally means the majority, that is the greatest number of state councillors, wants the pre-selected someone, in this case Mark Powell, to be on that Senate ticket. And what’s more, they would like if he got elected to Parliament also! Indeed it would be such a worry to have a hardworking, driven and ambitious, dedicated and intelligent individual such as Mark Powell in the Senate representing Queensland. Just think of all the great things he might achieve – what a worrisome thought! Next time when wildly aiming slings and arrows even in a throwaway two liner non-story, please try to skim somewhere close to the truth. Or maybe you could get a young Crikey acolyte to do your fact checking for you! Keep up the substandard work.

Mike Smith writes: Re. “The cost of keeping analogue TV on the air” (Monday, item 4). A few points. Some of us remember that decadic is pulse, and that the changeover was to DTMF, or tone. “Industry figures I have spoken to think Encel is basically correct, although they point out there would be other costs – such as helping the elderly and non-tech-savvy to install their set top boxes. Such problems, Encel argues, could be overcome and will exist in any case.” True, and there will always be such people, whenever you do the changeover. An argument could be made that there will be more of them, quantitatively, in the future, so the sooner done the better. Arguing that integrated digital tuners are simpler… well, my (partially tech-savvy) parents got such a TV, and they had to get someone in to tune it. I would have done it but for the distance between Adelaide and Canberra. It’s a pity we’ve had such a series of dud Ministers for this portfolio. I can’t remember a good one. Or, indeed, a good shadow one. So much for the clever country.

Bill Scott writes: Re. “The cost of keeping analogue TV on the air”. If the Government was serious about switching off analogue TV it would insist that digital tuners were integrated in new TVs, thus making the set top box unnecessary. Little old ladies would have no trouble at all with these. Currently you can buy integrated digital tuner TVs at your local Hardly Normal but they cost a bomb. There’s no reason why digital tuners can’t be installed in sets at time of manufacture. Mass production reduces costs. If the minister was serious she’d set a date requiring all sets sold to have digital tuners as a logical first step to turning off analogue.

Vicki Buchbach writes: Wayne Robinson (yesterday, comments) is quite wrong to say that all digital set top boxes need to remain on at all times to keep their settings, thus wasting power and destroying the polar ice caps. We’ve had four different models at home since 2001 (long story) and all of them could remember how to find stations after they’d been turned off – just like ordinary tellies and car radios can.

James Walker writes: Re. “How brown is your garden?” (yesterday, item 19). Just a correction to the ACF water restrictions in Australia. Since the start of March, water restrictions in Hobart have finished so we can water the garden any night we want. Most Hobartians are hoping to give NSW a bath in the Pura Cup cricket final this week.

Gerry Cahir writes: Re. Geoff Penaluna’s response (yesterday, comments) to Monday’s item on the GP, I would ask who paid for the lights at the MCG, how many nights a year are they used, and who benefits from them? You just can’t compare night football/cricket at the MCG with the GP, where for all the expense involved they would be used once a year. I am not at all convinced about the economic benefits of the GP at the moment, and am strongly against the Victorian taxpayer spending even more money on this event. If Bernie wants a night GP, let him pay.

Jim Hart writes: Geoff Penaluna has a very good point. If we can have football under lights with those noisy cheering fans disturbing the night air, then why not the Grand Prix? As a neutral observer (I’m no great fan of either sport) I say bring it on. Provided you can fit the cars into the MCG, and they don’t make any more noise than a flying Sherrin, then I’m sure the rest of us won’t mind if the crowd gives a few boisterous cheers now and then.

Glenys Stradijot, Friends of the ABC (Vic), writes: Re. “ABC tries to be half pregnant over advertising” (yesterday, item 22). While Stephen Downes’s point makes a valid point that the ABC is acting inconsistently when it refrains from using brand names associated to events and places only in some instances, it does not warrant his conclusion that the ABC should join others in this subtle form of advertising. The ABC’s failure in this area says more about the way in which commercial operations and advertising are consuming public life and space than it does about the ABC. It is increasingly difficult for anyone not to engage inadvertently in advertising as the names of major places and events are taken over by corporate brands – presumably one of the reasons that corporate sponsors and advertisers select that form of promotion. Nevertheless, the ABC must do what it can. The ABC Act prohibits advertising on the ABC. Public trust in the ABC arises from the broadcaster not only being independent, but also being seen to be independent – from government and commercial influence. Furthermore, as the names of sponsors come and go, many in the community will find it useful to know what venue or ongoing event a broadcaster is actually referring to. Stephen Downes also accuses the ABC of hypocrisy for refusing to use the corporate names attached to events and places. Yet it is unclear why he thinks any body should have to promote external commercial operators merely because it engages in commercial activities of its own. While some in the community may have come to regard themselves only as “audience” or “consumers” (to use Stephen’s terms), Friends of the ABC’s contact with the public indicates that most expect the ABC to deliver a service to them as citizens. (Consider why there isn’t a Friends of Channel Nine, 3AW or whatever with thousands of members, like Friends of the ABC.) Bodies that exist for profit can pay for their ads to be carried by commercial broadcasters. They have no right to expect promotion, let alone free promotion, on the ABC. The community is entitled to at least one alternative broadcaster in which advertising is not forced upon us – either directly, indirectly or insidiously. Or perhaps some marketers think that because the entire community is forced to pay for advertising/sponsorship (a huge component of the cost of almost every product and service we purchase), we have no right to escape being subjected to it.

Peter Ellis writes: One for the pedant report. You should clarify that the error yesterday of calling the “International Organization for Migration” (correct) the “International Migration Organisation” (incorrect, in Tuesday’s Crikey, attributed to me) was made by Crikey, not by me. I don’t care about the “z” in Organization, but Crikey got the order of the words in their name wrong; I just used the acronym IOM. I would hate people to think I was slack with my details as opposed to just too lazy to type the full name out.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 4: “… parents hoping their prized possessions are not hocked to the porn broker for their kids’ next hit …”. There may or may not be such a profession as “porn broker”, but I think what she had in mind was “pawn broker”.

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