Zimbabwe, cricket and politics:

Stephen Luntz writes: Re. “Bowling for Mugabe: why we must not tour” (yesterday, item 8). It is such a rare thing for me to agree with Alexander Downer and John Howard about anything that perhaps I shouldn’t spoil the moment of my endorsement of their position that this year’s Zimbabwe cricket tour must not go ahead. Nevertheless, I do wonder: Does their opposition to the tour mean that Howard has rethought his support for rebel tours of South Africa in the 80s (perhaps he might even say “sorry”), or do they simply regard Mugabe as worse than Apartheid. The latter position can be defended, but it would be still be interesting to hear them say it.

Tony Thompson writes: Instead of Alexander Downer trying to lobby Cricket Australia and the Players Association to make the decision not to tour Zimbabwe he and the Government should just make the decision to ban it. Is he too gutless to actually make the decision or is he just going through the motions for political purposes? Mugabe is a dictator who is abusing human rights and destroying a country. Isn’t this enough reason to get Alexander and the Government to ban a cricket tour.

Paul Byard writes: Cricket Australia may have a binding contract to play in Zimbabwe but individual Australian cricketers do not. If they all simply refused to be considered for the tour (no doubt citing injuries) Cricket Australia might end up having to select a team consisting of the best cricketers available to it at the time. If, for example, the best available individuals all happened to be Australian employees of the BBC they would be banned from entering the country by the Zimbabwean authorities and Cricket Australia could exert pressure on the ICC to sue Cricket Zimbabwe for damages…

Virtual child s-x:

Steve Johnson writes: Re. “Where’s the harm in virtual child s-x?” (yesterday, item 18). Charles Richardson raises a valid point in his comments but he is incorrect in his assumption that because no-one is harmed directly, it is therefore socially acceptable. The acceptance of child s-x as a concept purely because it only occurs between virtual beings would in fact cause great harm. The result would be a society that is accepting of a socially abhorrent concept, even though it did not accept the concept’s physical-world manifestation. If society is perceived as accepting this activity in a “virtual” format, how can it be legitimately defended when a s-xual assault on a child occurs in the “actual” world? Furthermore, if we were to challenge Charles by forcing him to also accept the virtual concepts of gang rape, torture and mutilation of others, or racially driven violence because no-one is “actually hurt”, then we could reasonably expect society at large to be offended, and want to protect itself to prevent these fantasies being realised. The Virginia Tech and Columbine High School massacres are pretty emphatic warnings of the dangers.

Mike Smith writes: I suspect the argument is going to be self harm, or the old chestnut that things done virtually can lead to things done in the real world. As a World Of Warcraft player, I take issue with that. More nanny state rules we can do without.

Nicola Burgess writes: The harm in virtual child s-x is that for those that par take, it will soon not be satisfying enough to remain virtual. Just look at our insatiable appetite for gruesome and degrading news stories. I remember years ago when the Palestinians/Israelis were shooting at each other and a film crew happened to film a father and son being shot. The boy died in his wounded fathers arms. It was the most horrific thing I have ever seen. I should not have seen it, no one should need or want to see it. When I asked the television station why they wanted to show such a thing, they said they believed that people had the right to be informed, people need to understand what is happening in other places in the world. We now see so much death and destruction courtesy of the TV and internet, that we no longer have any feeling or empathy to people. It is no longer satisfying for us to hear about people dying, we have to see it! We have pushed the envelope, we want more and more. Well, I put to you Charles that a pedophile will not be satisfied with a computer generated child – they will want a real one. As a society we should never allow sickos to participate in virtual child s-x or any form of child p-rn. Where is the harm in virtual child s-x? The harm is that sickos are using their imagination to “get off” on children – you idiot.

Elizabeth Chamberlin writes: Was Charles Richardson trying to be inflammatory? This is not about someone “having s-xual tastes that we disapprove of”. This is about that vulgar sub-section of our world-wide community who prey on the young and the powerless for their own gratification being told, at every possible opportunity, in every way available within our legal system, that there is nothing ok about s-xualising children, real, virtual or otherwise.

Ken Hammat writes: Charles, you are clearly a lucid fellow and you construct an argument with the skill of a lawyer. It is also clear you lack any semblance of fundamental vision on the type of social legacy we should be leaving for future generations to build on. Your article highlights this astounding lack of depth in your critical thinking faculty. It’s the type of writing I’d expect to see in the annual University newspaper. We might be experiencing unheralded scientific and economic advances but you have highlighted how culturally destitute we remain. Anyone not actively uplifting our culture is, by default, actively impeding it. Charles, do us all a favour and go find your true calling.

David Lodge writes: I’ve had a gutful of Crikey’s bullsh-t. Somedays it’s typical lefty tripe, other days its bullsh-t detailing how much water goes into the production of the food we eat. I can tolerate that. But Charles Richardson’s piece justifying child p-rnography is the lowest, most disgusting piece of post-modern journalism I’ve ever seen. What the hell am I paying for? My rottweiler could contribute better quality articles. If you printed his phone number, I’d already be on the line abusing him. Lift your game Crikey, this is beyond description.

Lloyd O’Donnell writes: While Charles Richardson may not see the harm in “a cloud of electrons,” I certainly can. Adults, like Charles, continually discount the reality of “virtual” interactive games. For the uneducated: all of the players in interactive games are real people. The interactions they have are truly human; at least in emotion. The only difference between “phone s-x” or “chat s-x” and the example provided by Charles is that animated images act out the fantasy on screen. The rush the paedophile would get from playing, especially if accompanied by real m-sturbation, is dangerous because of the apparent willingness of the counter-party (the child “avatar”) to participate in the activity. Just as interactive combat games give players the rush of “Yeah, I just kicked your arse – CHUMP!”, I expect the interactive s-x described would give paedophiles not only the rush of having had s-x with a child but more importantly (and scarily) the delusion that the child enjoyed it, wanted it and would take more if they could get it. Because, again, these are real people constructing their sick fantasies with each other in real time. Return players are even likely to find their favourite counter-parties based on the psychological and emotional return they get from those counter-parties. So yes, players of this game should be investigated. At a minimum they should be required to attend free counselling and clinical psychology sessions. Of course, any evidence of activity beyond the virtual world should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As anyone knows, normalising unacceptable behaviour is a dangerous leader to the occurrence of that behaviour. If a paedophile is encouraged to view their natural (and truly sickening) inclinations as normal in a virtual world, it can only encourage them to seek to legitimise their hopes in reality ( ie. to believe children in the real world want to sleep with them too).

Andrew Bolt, the Sun King and climate change:

David Baxter writes: Re. “Bolt isn’t buying global warming, not even from Rupert” (yesterday, item 6). Poor old Andrew Bolt. He has apparently “already felt the pressure” over his greenhouse denialism from his boss: that notorious leftist Rupert Murdoch. Andrew is an absolutely irreplaceable member of the Australian fourth estate. No political satirist could better lampoon the archetype of the good old Aussie Dumb Rich Kid. The man is a walking, talking, breathing, ranting self-parody, all the funnier because he is absolutely sincere in his misguided beliefs. His global warming ostrichism carries such glorious, dogmatic conviction. Never will he be deterred by the mountain of evidence presented by world-renowned experts in the field. To Crikey, and Rupert, and all of those members of the Marxist cabal who conspire to silence Andrew Bolt, that bwana of the Australian loony right, please let him be. He is the last of a dying breed. A throwback to the age of the dumb idle Tory (think Bertie Wooster). His columns bring me no end of depraved, yet harmless, mirth. Please don’t let them take it away!

Don Mackay writes: Many eminent scientists worldwide believe the case against man made global warming has NOT been proven. These are Dinky Di scientists, not kooks. Andrew Bolt is not the only flag bearer on this one. This is a crucial debate because if it becomes accepted that CO2 is the only cause of global warming then governments will take actions that will radically affect our lifestyles and freedoms. What if warming is just part of the earth’s normal cycle of warming and cooling? Surely if there is one issue that deserves to be elevated beyond name-calling and the constraint of political correctness, this is it.

Richard McGuire writes: Rarely do I bother reading Andrew Bolt’s articles. But yesterday’s piece by Sophie Black, on Rupert Murdoch’s metamorphosis, from climate change denialist, to believer, and the implications this may have for Andrew Bolt, and others, aroused my curiosity. Particularly so, when Bolt responded to Sophie Black’s piece, accusing Crikey of always misrepresenting him. In his latest effort in the Herald Sun “Drowning In Drivel” (9 May), Bolt makes it clear he is not about to follow his master down the road to Damascus, when it comes to climate change. Bolt let fly at those he sees as climate change doomsayers. Among those on the receiving end of his venom were Tim Flannery and Robyn Williams from the ABC Science Show. Bolt attributes these statements first to Flannery, “some time in the next thirty years we face significant destabilisation, rapidly rising sea levels, maybe up to 6m.” Then to Robyn Williams, “ABC Science Show host Robyn Williams recently told me on air, we could face seas this century 100 metres higher”. That either Flannery or Williams would make the statements attributed to them, a six metre sea level rise in thirty years and a one hundred metre sea level rise this century, quite frankly beggars belief. I don’t know if either Flannery or Williams have responded to the Bolt article. If they haven’t they should do. The exchange between Williams and Bolt was supposed to have occurred on radio. A transcript must exist somewhere.

A Green Apple?:

Rob Keniger writes: Re. “Can Apple ever truly be green?” (yesterday, item 28). James Massola writes: “A case in point is the iPod. When Apple released their fifth generation iPod, they made a small change that had big implications. Formerly, most after market accessories plugged into the top of the iPod. For generation five, all accessories had to plug into the bottom of the iPod.” James uses this as the basis for much of his argument that Apple is conspiratorially trying to lock customers into an endless cycle of upgrades. The truth is not quite so exciting. All iPods since the third generation models have had a Dock connector on the base of the unit. This has always been available for third parties to use. The 3rd and 4th-generation models also had a small connector next to the headphone outlet on the top of the iPod to support a remote control unit attached to the headphone cable. Some third parties manufactured a small number of devices which used this additional connector, even though Apple did not support its use and recommended that the dock connector be used instead. In the 5th generation iPods Apple removed the remote control socket, so any products that used that socket no longer work with the 5th generation iPod. All products designed for the dock connector continue to work just fine. So the only products affected are those that used the remote control connector – which Apple explicitly did not support. The blame for any obsolescence should be placed squarely at the feet of these add-on manufacturers, not Apple.

Kim Davies writes: My real problem with obsolescence of the iPod, and the reason I am on my third, is that iPods do not have user-serviceable batteries that can be replaced. When the internal battery inevitably loses its ability to retain a charge, you can either replace it by sending it back to the factory, or buy a new one. With new features, cheaper prices and higher capacity, the latter is always going to be tempting.

John Boyce writes: Your comments on Apple not being green enough and the short life span of their products is nothing short of absurd, to me. Do Apple products go obsolete faster than Dells’ or Compaq’s? I don’t think so. I am writing this email on a circa 2002 Quicksilver Mac. Hmmm. Seems like a pretty good life span to me. I know lots of Mac users who are using equipment that is usually much older than our Windows counterparts. Plus, there are lots more pieces of Windows hardware out there than Mac based hardware. Get off the Greenpuke bandwagon and think for yourself. Oh but that wouldn’t conform to your big business is evil template, would it. Greenbarf even admitted themselves that Apple was doing as much as anyone else to “save the earth.” It’s just that Apple had not stated what their future plans were in regards to recycling, etc., and therefore they rated at the bottom of Greenheave’s naughty list. What a steaming, gooey, hot pile of cr-p. Your logic is tragic. I could go on but I am inclined to think that whatever I say will just ricochet off your bony skulls anyway.

David Menere writes: Greenpeace seem to be more pleased with Apple than James Massola – their reaction to Steve Jobs’ announcement includes: “It’s not everything we asked for. Apple has declared a phase out of the worst chemicals in its product range, Brominated Fire Retardants (BFRs) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) by 2008. That beats Dell and other computer manufactures’ pledge to phase them out by 2009. Way to go Steve!” Apple is an easy target rather than a major offender. Consider Windows, where for each new version, Microsoft has effectively enforced purchase of a new computer because of the inadequate performance of the new Windows on old hardware – and Windows has over 90% of market share. How many old but still working Windows computers do Crikey readers have crammed at the back of cupboards etc? Worse, computers are only a small part of the problem – what about all the consumer electronics that we are constantly urged to upgrade? If you’re serious, don’t just rail against Apple, put pressure on the brands with the biggest market shares. PS. if your iPod battery’s expired, fix it yourself with a replacement kit – $30 from Jaycar electronics.

Electioneering and the budget:

Scott Zackeresen writes: Rod Campbell-Ross (yesterday, comments) should understand that not only is voting compulsory here, so is the allocation of preferences. If he marks a box with an “x”, his vote won’t count.

Bill Gemmell writes: Craig Cadby (yesterday, comments) must be a tender young laddie if he doesn’t understand why the Government’s economic credentials are stronger than those of the opposition. As someone who owner-operated businesses through the economic disaster zones of previous Labor eras, I have an excellent, first-hand appreciation of what electing a Rudd-Gillard government will mean to the Australian economy. That’s why I’m looking for the exits, just in case.

Diana Simmonds writes: Call me paranoid (but don’t call me Shirley) there was a knock at the door this morning (in Paddo, NSW); it was a pleasant woman with a clipboard who announced she was from the AEC and checking to see that our household details are correct. This hasn’t happened since just before the last election was called…

What will you do with your tax cut?:

Wolf Cocklin writes: Re. “Your tax cut: a sanga and shake. Or a sock” (yesterday, item 13). Easy… I would ensure that Telstra gets my money… for $59.95 (or $14.99 a week) a month I can have a massive 256kpbs Broadband Plan… now that is speed in a broadband community. Or I could go with another ISP and get more speed and downloads…. but that is another issue.

Sonja Davie writes: Public education long ago ceased to be free. I would easily spend $14-$16 a week sending my kids to a public school. This week, I will be spending $15 for my daughter to enter a writing competition ($11) and a mathematics competition ($4) that are meant to be compulsory for all students.

Anthony David writes: Re. Spending extra $14-$16 a week. All these “sponsor a child” schemes on TV has got me thinking. We need to start one of them for Indigenous children as the Australian Government is obvious bereft of enough funds to help them and their communities out.

Alexandra Penfold writes: With my $14.00 I purchased “John Howard’s Little Book of Truth” by Andrew Pegler for $13.95. Not sure yet what I’ll do with the 5c change.

Tennessee Leeuwenburg writes: Frankly, I’m offended at the jovial attitude taken towards a tax saving of $16.00 per week. If nothing else, it’ll buy me dinner out. Our family is already on a tight budget, and it would be nice to not have to worry about our financial future when tucking into dinner. $16 per week is $832 per year. That figure will go nicely into my housing deposit fund, or go towards a replacement appliance, housing maintenance or any of the many costs facing our family. It’s all very well to make light of such issues, but I am disappointed that Crikey has failed to recognise that for many Australian, $16.00 per week could make a real difference. While middle-class families with two incomes can perhaps afford to laugh about small favours, not everyone can.

The Budget’s solar backflip:

Ian Nicolson writes: Re. “Budget’s solar backflip: how quickly they recant” (yesterday, item 2). Spotters’ Badge in the mail Thomas Hunter, but surely this is the smoke and mirrors game as well as a politician swapping horses mid-race? Step 1) Fund cheap, populist initiative, claim credit. Step 2) Halve funding. Step 3) Reinstate original funding level a sufficient period later (cf controls on “sale” prices on goods). Step 4) Claim credit for doubling funding support. Step 5: Laugh self silly…

Geography and history:

Brad Ruting writes: Re. “Geography and history: the battle lines are drawn” (yesterday, item 16). Humphrey McQueen argues that geography and history need to be integrated when taught to students, in order to give them an appreciation of, seemingly, how Australia’s land management has changed over time. Yet there is much more to these two disciplines than that. While both are, as he notes, prone to ideological hijacking by some, they still both contain a huge enormity of ways of investigating and thinking about the world in which we live, and both areas bring quite distinct and equally valuable approaches towards social science. For high school education, history and geography should rightly taught separately, and breaking up Studies of Society and the Environment courses is a good step forward. States around the country could do well to learn from the NSW system, where modern history and geography are taught in a no-nonsense manner and covering important concepts and techniques to help students better appreciate their world and its people. For example, the geography courses cover topics such as environmental resource management, economic activities and global development, along with the basics of map interpretation and coastal processes. These are all useful and important. Combining history and geography into the one course would reduce the amount of time students spend learning each, diminishing their education in these two important areas.

Malcolm Dougherty writes: Ten years ago were the children of Australia really taught about the environmental problems of threatening the Danube with damnation as suggested in Humphrey McQueen’s article, “…they were made to study the environmental problems from damning the Danube.” If so I too would have supported Professor Dame Leonie Kramer in her endeavour to bring back the basic three Rs to education, even though by the present state of the Danube its not far from the truth.

Oz Story on Peter Foster:

Peter Burnett writes: Sorry Michael Fisk (Wednesday, comments), but I entirely agree with Glenn Dyer on the way that the ABC’s Australian Story missed the big picture on Peter Foster. Their profile reported in passing that Foster had collaborated with police on drug stings, in an attempt to curry favour with the authorities. The obvious question that Australian Story failed to ask was “who has he been collaborating with in his serial involvement in destabilising governments?” – viz. 1) the Cherie Blair scandal and attempts to link this to Tony Blair; 2) Foster’s funding and support for the New Labour Party in Fiji during the 2001 elections, in an attempt to split Mahendra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party; and 3) his recent involvement in attempted sting operations on members of Laisenia Qarase’s SDL party after the 2006 military coup in Fiji. As Ian Fleming once wrote: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

Nuclear power:

Mark Byrne writes: James Eggins (yesterday, comments) accepts there is “little to quibble about” on the energy-payback time for nuclear energy. It says much that despite different methodological assumptions, final figures produced in the Sydney University nuclear life-cycle energy balance, have the same range as Storm van Leeuwen and Smith in the ultimate detail of energy payback time (6-14 years). It is also of note that like Storm-Smith the Sydney University report is in agreement that uranium “ore grade is [one of] the most important influencing parameter[s]” in the energy balance (p.114). This is a matter of physics not a matter of price. For the right price we can always invest enough energy to concentrate sufficient uranium for a bomb. But below a certain ore grade we can no longer get a net energy gain. At such an ore grade we begin to use more energy in the nuclear cycle than we gain from it. Nuclear technology has been around since the 1940s and has received $ billions in public subsidies. All this time and money yet the nuclear industry gets excited by the mere concept of a generation-four design. Compare this to photovoltaics (solar cells) which have the longest energy payback time of all the renewables. Innovation in photovoltaics has brought the energy payback down from 8 years in 1990s, to 4 years in 2001, to 2.3 years in 2005. Today you can buy photovoltaics (PV) off the shelf with an energy payback time as low as 1.6 years. At this rate it is possible that PV could catch up with other renewables like; wind, solar-thermal, geo-thermal, wave, tidal, biomass or bio-digestion.

Viv Rendall writes: There will never be a safe way to operate the nuclear industry. Those who argue that this will all be controlled only need to look at history, the psychology of the human species and the present world state to see this to be so. Australia does not need nuclear power and does not even need to mine uranium. And we should certainly not store spent fuel rods. We should be talking and doing much more on the renewable front. Wind, wave and solar renewable energy options to reducing CO2 emissions actually are more efficient and cheaper than fossil fuel or nuclear power simply because they don’t produce any carbon at all! Politicians and business people fossilized in a past century do not realize the potential, the power and wealth that can be had from clean free renewable energy. Renewable energy our greatest and cleanest resource is where jobs for Australians will be and we must move immediately in this direction because we can.

Kangaroos and methane:

Animal Liberation committee member Geoff Russell writes: Andrew Dempster (yesterday, comments) asks if kangaroos produce methane, and if not, why we can’t use them instead of sheep and cattle. Kangaroos don’t produce methane because of some tricky digestive processes. But they aren’t very efficient in producing meat. Ruminants ruminate! This enables them to extract more energy from good pasture than kangaroos which pass food through quickly and relatively inefficiently. The kangaroo digestive mechanism is better on bad pasture, they take in and process a lot of food, while sheep and cattle face a digestive bottleneck. See Knox’s “Biology” (the standard University biology text) for more detail. The bottom line here is that kangaroos aren’t efficient meat producers, they don’t herd, they fight, they jump fences, the mob structure isn’t good for farming, and no farmer wants to give up cushy evenings watching Big Brother to go out and shoot kangaroos which is a tough, back breaking and thoroughly unpleasant job. The current kangaroo industry can’t get enough shooters to even meet its current quotas which produces very little meat. Read Jared Diamond’s “Guns Germs and Steel”. He explains in detail why so few wild animal species have been domesticated over the millenia – it isn’t for lack of trying. And if you can’t domesticate them, you have to hunt them. Hunting wild animals has never and can never support large populations. Again, see Diamond for more details.

Dr Peter Wood writes: In response to Andrew Dempster’s question, kangaroos produce a negligible amount of methane: Kempton et al, Methane production and digestibility measurements in the grey kangaroo and sheep. Aust J Biol Sci. 1976 Jul; 29(3): pp 209-14. (Abstract here).

Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 21: “… the only things Eddie has shown any interest in has been the AFL Footy Show and the Monday night program Footy Classified”. “Things have” or maybe “thing has”, but not “things … has been the AFL Footy Show etc”.

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