Mike van Niekerk, Editor-in-Chief, Online, Fairfax Media writes: Re. “Reds v Sharks: Calling it as he sees it” (yesterday, item 24). It really grieves me when I read this kind of thing in Crikey: “A Crikey reader notes the rather flexible rugby league coverage offered by Brisbane Times reporter Phil Lutton: The performance of Phil Lutton has been a joke so far at Brisbane Times, no more so than this effort. How did this make it to their online web page? It doesn’t get more unprofessional than this, which appeared 12 minutes after kick-off.” It grieves me not because the distinction between rugby league and rugby union usually trips up those unfamiliar with sport played outside of Victoria — but because this is a gratuitous insult against a young, hard-working and talented journalist. The “Crikey reader” may well be a competitor of ours in sunny Queensland and I’m sure they take great delight in using Crikey to score points. It grieves me most of all that Crikey is maintaining its tradition of publishing first, asking … never. If you had asked I would have admitted that it was indeed a stuff-up — but not by brisbanetimes.com.au sports editor Phil Lutton. In this case Phil tried something different in advance of the Super14 game — two versions of the same short paragraph to be sent live with the score at the final whistle, and then to be updated when he had done interviews and written a full match report. Unfortunately the copy was parked in the wrong place and an auto-publishing feature in the online content management system regurgitated both versions to the site. I accept that this was an uncomfortable lesson in process, but I will strongly defend the quality of Phil’s work against your publication and your cowardly, anonymous readers.

Peter Ellis writes: Re. “È (almost) ufficiale! Vanstone’s going to Rome” (yesterday, item 1). One of the oddest bits of the Public Service Act is Section 17(2) which makes the appointment of an overseas Head of Mission (ie Ambassador or High Commissioner) the only exception to the public service rules that prohibit patronage and favouritism. Surely the day is gone when these important positions could be exempt from the merit principle. If other public service positions are important enough to give to the best person available for the job, doesn’t this apply just as much to our ambassadors? This remnant of “patronage and favouritism” — better known to common folk as corruption — should be removed by Parliament.

Matt Cowgill writes: “A source close to Melbourne’s Italian consulate remarked that the appointment has shades of Vincent Gair’s appointment to Dublin 33 years ago.” Vincent Gair? What about the appointment of Brian Burke to Dublin?

Kate Finch writes: Re.”All hail the male lesbian” (yesterday, item 18). What the hell was that misogynist piece of clap-trap from Patrick McCauley?! I read Charles Richardson’s piece last week with interest — it raised some points which I felt were worthy of debate. This however left me speechless and quite honestly wanting to be ill. Feminism is about equality for women, not making women better off than men. Patrick, I’m sorry if you’ve experienced otherwise at the hands of other people, but really this kind of misogyny is not on. And as for feminism being the enemy of love and saying that it hinders heterosexual love? If you mean in so far as women now feel that they have the right to say, “No, I’m not interested tonight” and somehow that’s interfering with your rights as a man, I think you need to seriously examine what you regard as love, equality and partnership. If I want to read this bullsh-t, Crikey, I can visit any number of vicious right-wing, woman-hating blogs. Please don’t make me hand back my subscription.

Mike Cowley writes: I’m not sure who it is that Patrick McCauley thinks is disputing there is a “clear connection between the emancipation of women and the falling birth rate”. Anthea Parry certainly wasn’t. In a rather muddled contribution, McCauley has a go at a few different arguments, starting with feminism = anti-family. Well maybe, depending on your conception of what a family is, but that argument has been done before, and much better. A nice touch though is suggesting that women are “more interested in wealth and power than children” — ah, that must be why they have so much of it! All those female politicians and business leaders, crowding the men out, dominating the BRW (and CRW) rich lists, earning more than men in equivalent jobs — and they did it all behind our backs! How clever of them … As a man who is a feminist, I’m not at all surprised that McCauley’s heterosexual love life has been so frustrated if he expects all his women to think of nothing but child-bearing and housekeeping — I suspect his dry spell may continue for some time. Mr McCauley, I think you missed the best suggestion of all from Karen Hardwick (5 April, comments) — if you are so worried about the falling birth rate, if you think women are letting the side down, go find a nice career-oriented woman who would like a little man around the house and bring the kids up yourself!

Megan Yarrow writes: Surely this is a joke? Mr Patrick McCauley laments the declining birthrate, yet in his Australia Day poem, “How to be Australian (2)” (published in Quadrant and The Australian) says: “The Australian population has grown too big for the rainfall.” Does Mr McCauley tell his daughter the world is her oyster and its opportunities are limitless for a girl in a free Western capitalist democracy? Or does he tell her that her main objective should be snaring a man, having his babies and knuckling down to a life of primitive subservience? My guess is she’s wishing he would get a life, ‘cos her Dad is becoming a real pain, and needs to get out in the real world, where not all women are gold digging b-tches. I can read this misogynistic garbage in his contributions to Quadrant for free at the local library. I do not pay good money to get these backward, incendiary views in my Crikey!

Daniel Nesci writes: I’m still not sure if Mr McCauley was taking the piss or not but just in case he was serious I would like to make a few points. When he states that “Apart from Camille Paglia, there has not been a feminist narrative anywhere (particularly not in Australia) that has supported a family in which a man can achieve parental equity” it is anyone’s guess what he means by “parental equality” but from my point of view I don’t see the rise in women’s independence, which is what we are really talking about here, as threatening as he obviously does. For me it has merely meant choices for both women and men that were not previously available or acceptable. My partner of 10 years (yes, shock horror, we are not married) brings home the tofu (she is a vegetarian I’m afraid) while I look after our 18-month-old daughter. We swapped roles when our daughter was seven months. The fact that many families do not, or cannot, chose the option of a stay at home parent has more to do with economics than feminism. The fact that few men do has more to do with the anachronistic, but still prevalent, stereotypes that no doubt Mr McCauley would dearly like to preserve. And the fact that the family and birth-rate have fallen in inverse proportion to the rise of the women’s movement is hardly an example of sound statistical analysis. They have also fallen in inverse proportion to the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, so maybe we should blame it on the Greenhouse effect. As for the statement that “As a man who is not a feminist, I have experienced feminism to almost always hinder heterosexual love much more than it has nurtured it”, I really have no idea what he is talking about.

Dave Fawkner, Nimbin et al. writes: Re. “Byron, Bundy, blues and various other b words” (yesterday, item 17). I couldn’t agree more with Mitra Ardon. Easter Saturday we had more than 600 cars, a large number of them Queensland registered 4WDs, leave their dirty carbon footprints all over our quaint little towns. It’s as much a part of the enlightened vision of Aquarius as the capitalism-deniers who continue to make big tax-free bucks hawking overpriced hydro to tourists in the main street. After living here for 34 years I’m starting to think the rednecks might know something after all.

Barry Chipman, Tasmanian State Manager, Timber Communities Australia, writes: More than happy to keep our few anti-pulp-mill critics up to date (Tuesday, comments) regarding the level of support for or against our $1.5 billion value adding down-stream processing state of the art pulp mill. In the last Tasmanian election held in March 2006 (just last year), the State ALP who held a pro pulp mill policy was returned to majority government. During the election all ALP and Liberal candidates signed a pledge of support for the mill and they attracted 80% of the total vote. Then we can look more locally, a Mr Les Rochester stood in Bass (the Tamar Valley and NE Tassie) on a single issue of opposing the pulp mill; Mr Rochester, received 1,178 votes out of the 63,703 votes available (1.8%). Even more interesting if you add the total Green vote in Bass to the Rochester 1.8%, the registered pulp mill opposition is weaker in Bass than what could be said to be the state anti-pulp-mill average. Democracy is all about giving a fair go to the government elected by the majority, especially to a government that is aiming to achieve an election promise, in this case seeking to assess if the pulp mill can meet the emission guidelines established in 2004.

Linda Carruthers, Communications & Research Officer with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (NSW), writes: Re. “Getting a touch shrill: voices of the Right” (yesterday, item 15). It is indeed delicious seeing the fantasies of the neo-liberal right (aka right-wing anarchists) finally meeting the “rock” of the moral economy of the country. If Albrechtsen, Hendo and silly old Paddy think it is all so unfair, why don’t they get together with their mates, you know, the millions and millions of voters who shyly and quietly agree with their views about the necessity for a vigorous dose of bracing “risk” downloading, and ask them to donate their pennies to a media and grassroots campaign to convince everybody that doing more for less at work, is a truly splendid idea? Better still, why not go to the battlers in the BCA and ACCI, and offer to do it for them, for nix. After all, if an idea is not only good, but truly salvationist in its national and personal purposes and possibilities, doesn’t the moral clarity brigade have a duty to go forth and do the necessary work, whatever sacrifice it might entail? All they have to do apparently, is to explain the laws properly, you know, correct the facts about the actual laws, which it seems both the political class and its coutiers, thinks are too “difficult” for your average pleb. That would be because the maoists and post modernists have succeeded in preventing people being able to actually read the laws presumably. I mean, if these moral conviction types actually believe in the power of their ideas, why don’t they demonstrate firmness of purpose, grasp the idea of power, and get out and spread the word? Correct the misapprehensions and misunderstandings spread by the usual suspects, and give Prosperity a chance! Should be a winner out there in struggle street, where Janet, Paddy, Gerard, Paul, Dennis and the rest of the lowly, but proud and morally convicted scribblers live and ply their lowly trade. No?

Yoni Bashan writes: Re. “Led Zeppelin, Blackadder, Hilaly and McIlveen” (yesterday, item 7). I like Irfan Yusuf and I especially enjoyed his article. However, I’m not sure most people would know that Manny Waks is in fact the Executive Officer of the B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC). I certainly do because I deal with the ADC on a regular basis where I work. He should probably specify that, or at least include a hyperlink that doesn’t go to a dead end on the online Canberra Times. Just a heads-up, otherwise, love his work and Crikey’s too!

Simon Jenkins writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Actually Sheikh Hilaly is half right about Muslims being in Australia before the British invasion. There is ample evidence that Indonesian and Malay fishermen spent much of the year in north-western Australia fishing for sea slug, oysters, other shell fish, and shark for centuries before that time. What flows from this is probably unimportant except that there is some issue regarding Australia’s right to stop “foreign” fishermen from following their traditional practices. Many of these fishermen were Muslims. It would be interesting to see how much chance there would be of them claiming these rights in the courts.

David Cook writes: You quote the Sheikh as saying: “Those atheists, people of the Book”. He should catch up on his reading of the Holy Quran. Muhammad taught His followers (mainly illiterate pagan converts to Islam) to honour the “People of the Book” (ie. those that were literate and fellow believers in the same God). These were the Christians and Jews among whom early Muslims lived. The Quran tells us that Jesus is held in high honour and will be one of those closest to God in the Hereafter (Quran s 3:55). In fact, Jesus is mentioned 25 times in the Quran and Muhammad only five.

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Howard: cut off, not cutting through” (yesterday, item 3). There was interesting corroboration of Christian’s thesis on the ABC 7.30 Report that evening. A clearly irritated Alexander Downer finally got on air at about ten to eight, after cooling his heels through a long story about — get this — primary schoolchildren’s homework load, to try to talk up the new deployment of Australia’s SAS to Afghanistan. Before that, Howard had already, in the news, delivered his grim-faced warnings that Australians had better be prepared for casualties. Whether or not that should happen, and we all pray it won’t, does Howard really think such chilling pronouncements will win him back significant voter support now? Two years ago, this kind of stuff would have been the lead news story. Now, it’s just ho-hum — another Howard national security beat-up. It’s remarkable, and joyous, how fast things have changed.

Michael de Angelos writes: Neil James (yesterday, comments) continues to apply selective thinking about the David Hicks case — now quoting the Geneva Conventions under which both the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions can be deemed illegal war-crimes committed by the Coalition Of The Willing. Justifications can be found for any act committed by those who win a war as they write the rules. But the so-called “War On Terror” has never been given legal status or formally declared unless James knows something we don’t and has actually seen a document of war. Legally, it has no beginning or end. That is the Kafka-style nightmare that anyone caught up in it, finds themselves.

Mike Newton writes: Terence Kidd (yesterday, comments) ties himself in knots trying to excuse the Howard Government of blame over David Hicks. Mr Kidd should have stopped while he was ahead: “Any interrogation worthy of the name should have established very early on that he (Hicks) was no more than a foot soldier and not worthy of further imprisonment.” So what are we to make of the next 5 years of unlawful detention (and who knows what else) to which Hicks has been subjected? Going on to imply that the Government should be excused for just dithering as “no laws existed to charge him, or control what he did” firstly is self-contradictory, since Kidd admits Hicks had done nothing to warrant it anyway, and secondly is a damning indictment of Government incompetence and spineless populism. Not only did the Government abandon an individual for the basest of reasons, in doing so it also abrogated its duty. Mr Kidd may wish to “move on” but this was a privilege denied Mr Hicks for five years. I hope Hicks makes his “motza” out of his saga. Would you do such a trade of your freedom for money? Perhaps some already have, signing their lives away in the rat race. Your choice, however, and something that Hicks was denied by government fiat. And another thing. All this hysteria about David Hicks making a motza out of a media coup assumes the subject is articulate and personable. If so he’ll become a celebrity. But if it goes down like a lead balloon the mob will condemn on a haircut. No legal process required — just get yourself tried by the media. Thrown to the wolves again — this time please be photogenic. Maybe that gag was the defence’s idea.

Gary Carroll writes: Re. “Rudd throws the switch to scaremongering” (yesterday, item 12). Charles Richardson needs to polish his rose-coloured glasses. This is something the PM can turn to his advantage, that’s why Yvonne Ridley, received a visa. Security, terrorist threats, that’s the PM’s bread and butter.

Geoff Russell writes: Moira Smith (yesterday, comments) is spot on that when we take carbon from under the ground and add it to the atmosphere we increase global warming. Most other processes just recycle the carbon and have no net effect. But … and this is critical … if you take a carbon atom that was in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2) and convert it to methane (CH4), the amount of carbon hasn’t changed but its effect on global warming has increased by about 60 times compared to its effect as CO2. To parody George Orwell: not all carbon is equal — some is more equal than others.

John Carusi writes: Re. “The Economy: Jobs, jobs and yet more jobs” (yesterday, item 29). C’mon Henry … just for a moment, can you please get off your ideological high-horse for at least once, perhaps? Or have you never been in the position of working a sh-tty job at one stage of your life? Many of us have (or still do) and not all Crikey readers are blind acolytes to neoclassical economic theory; some of indeed still have empathy towards those for whom choice amounts to “take it or there’s the door” and have precious little negotiability with ascertaining their income. To suggest that workers on the lowest rungs on the ladder have real choice (especially women who are parents, those with limited educational ability/scope and younger people) is either a position as deluded as of that of the union “bruvvers” you speak of (here’s a tip, dear Henry: would seriously limiting access to workplaces by union reps perchance have some downward effect on membership?) or at worst, completely fallacious. Get over it and while you’re at it, get a heart.

Martyn Smith writes: Re: Cassandra (yesterday, comments). “Cassandra doesn’t like it when Henry refers to himself in the third person. Cassandra thinks it’s both pretentious and slightly creepy.” I wish to second the motion and add that its highly pretentious. I no longer find Thornton as residing on the same planet as the rest of us, and suspect ‘Henry’s’ brand of economics will soon be discredited. So Martyn’ skips ‘Henry’s’ smug ramblings entirely now in favour of better material.

Roslyn Pike writes: Well done Cassandra — couldn’t agree more. And why didn’t he at least speculate on the possible impact of the new Industrial Relations Legislation on the economy and on interest rates? And why didn’t he connect the impact of Chinese legislation which enabled private citizens to own land thus giving the Chinese another form of investment; on their stock exchange, which dived as did ours. If I was the share speculating kind, which thank the lord I am not sir, I would be most upset that information necessary to make sound investment decisions is not getting tossed around before the event. What say Henry?

Sue McKenna writes: Re. “Iran’s big step forward in bid for the bomb” (yesterday, item 6). Regarding the question of Iran and its nuclear use, could you please ask the Prime Minister which country is supplying the uranium?

David Lenihan writes: Re. “Never on a Sunday?” (yesterday, item 13). I find those annoying telemarketers usually do not phone again after being invited to “p-ss off”. Rude? Yes. Effective? Bloody right.

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 21: “It has been described in hushed tones by concerned government scientists as one of the most gratuitously, stupid policy decisions ever made.” OK, it’s only a comma, but it’s an object lesson in where not to put one. Since “gratuitously” modifies “stupid”, putting a comma between them ruins the effect; if you want it to modify “policy decisions” instead — in which case the comma would be appropriate — then it would have to be an adjective, not an adverb: “gratuitous”, not “gratuitously”. Incidentally, although I don’t think it’s a typo, the next sentence is also curious: “The feral cats and rabbits basically kept each other in check.” How do rabbits keep feral cats in check?

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