Oil and the war in Iraq:

Nic Maclellan writes: Re. “Brendan Nelson: special subject, the bleeding obvious” (Friday, item 8). John Howard and Brendan Nelson may be debating the role played by oil in the invasion of Iraq, but our US allies have no doubts at all. Bush’s former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was quite clear in the ghost-written book describing his time in office. O’Neill stated that less than ten weeks after the Bush administration took office in 2001, “documents were being prepared by the Defence Intelligence Agency mapping Iraq’s oil fields and exploration areas, and listing companies that might be interested in leveraging the precious asset.” War for oil indeed!

Ian Pavey writes: Re. “Henry Thornton: it was oil. Get over it” (Friday, item 9). So Henry tells us: “…at the end of the day it’s a bit like the debate over whether or not Clinton inhaled, and really serves no purpose.” No, Henry, it’s slightly different. When Clinton inhaled (or not), it didn’t result in the deaths of nearly 4,000 US, British and other soldiers, plus anything from 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Plus, of course, a vastly increased network of on-the-ground trained and highly motivated terrorists. I’m beginning to see the problem with politicians and commentators who obsess about “the economy” to the exclusion of all else. They become blind to humanity.

Gary Carroll writes: Has Henry Thornton morphed into Peter Reith?

Steve Moriarty writes: Given the PM’s stressing that energy is important to our future prosperity, I have decided that I need to change my name to protect my family. I should like to be known as Stephen Suzuki-Chan. This is in case some other countries in the region decide that energy is also important to their future prosperity and they decide that the locals can’t be trusted and need to invade. I would have thought that bullying East Timor out of its rightful share would have been easier than going half way across the world to join in beating up our best wheat customer.

Gunns antediluvian forestry practices:

Jack Irvine writes: Re. “Tassie pulp mill looms, despite growing opposition” (Friday, item 5). I used to live in Tasmania, but I moved out because I could not bear to see the ruination being perpetrated by the wood chippers. I would see truckload after truckload of old growth logs going past on their way to the woodchip mills, and the moonscape getting closer and closer to where I lived. If I’d stayed there I would have had to fight them; but I’m an old bloke, and I reckon I’m at a time of life where I want to stop fighting for causes – give the young blokes a turn! – and spend my remaining years writing, which is what I do. Gunns, and the corrupt politicians on both sides who make Gunns’ existence possible, have for so long duped the voters of Tasmania with statements about “loss of jobs” and “economic ruin” if Gunns and their antediluvian forestry practices are challenged. However, the fact is that more sensible and sustainable logging, for furniture and construction timber, would increase employment and almost completely eliminate clear-felling. The forests of Malaysia and Indonesia, from which Australia has for years obtained so much of its fine timber, are almost gone, due to the excesses of multinational companies. Tasmania has some of the finest hardwoods in this country – in the world! – and an enlightened approach to forest management could produce high-grade timbers at high value-added rates on an indefinitely sustainable basis: less felling, higher employment, higher profits! But no, it is too easy to get a sure and regular – if insultingly narrow – profit margin on the pulp they export to countries that do add the value and charge us for it when they export it back to us. How can companies, governments and people in general continue to be so bloody stupid?

Lynn Good writes: Like the flow of herbicides into Tasmanian water supplies, the growing leakage of independent facts into the Tasmanian Government’s massive pulp mill promotion is threatening to poison the whole project. Most distressingly for both Gunns and the Government, public awareness of alarmingly high levels of pesticide contamination, attributed substantially to the heavy aerial spraying of forestry chemicals such as atrazine and simazine, is bubbling to the surface. The incidences of related ailments such as Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and prostate cancer have rocketed in Tasmania recent decades along with logging levels. If Gunns gets the mill up in the face of such daunting foes as medical danger, local drought, and economic illogic, the Tasmanian public probably deserves to lose.

Howard’s NT plan:

Marie Coleman writes: Re. ‘The serious drinking towns: Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine” (Friday, item 16). It is a delightful irony that one of the PM’s team to oversight the ’emergency’ is Roger Corbett formerly of Woolworth’s. You might want to ask Mr Corbett directly if he know of the decision some ten years past by Woolworth’s to refuse to cooperate when there was a move in these ‘big’ towns to restrict the sale of chateau cardboard on certain days of the week. If the pubs would restrict sales, they’d be undermined if Woollies still sold from its own liquor outlet. This was a measure proposed to help to reduce public drunkenness among the local indigenous population which in the event didn’t work.

Helen Caldicott writes: In light of the fact that the railway line between Adelaide and Darwin was constructed by the Halliburton Corporation and has subsequently been bought by Serco Asia Pacific, a company involved in the transport and management of British nuclear waste, I have three questions: 2) Will the Prime Minister publicly pledge (in a core promise) that none of the Aboriginal land his government is expropriating in the Northern Territory will be used (with or without the consent of its traditional owners) as a nuclear waste repository? 2) Will the Prime Minister publicly pledge (in a core promise) that neither he nor any of his ministers will have any association – direct or indirect – with any company, corporation, or other entity involved in the nuclear power or nuclear waste industry for ten years after he and/or they leave office? 3) Will the Prime Minister direct his Minister for Health to publicly cite where in the medical literature it states that land dispossession is a valid treatment for child s-xual abuse?

GetUp needs to come clean:

Tim Le Roy writes: Re. “GetUp: jumping offline and taking activism to the people” (Friday, item 18). Getup would be a good idea if it wasn’t just a total front for the ALP and anti-Howard Government mouthpiece. Ask them whether they have ever campaigned on a state Labor government issue and the list of items is nil, zero, nada, vacant. Their former front man, Evan Thornley, is now a minister in the Bracks Labor Government and Chair of “Progressive” think tank, Per Capita whose broad-minded and obviously unbiased board consists of a wide variety of Bracks government and Labor apparatchiks. I’m sorry for all innocent people that have been affected by terrorism but cannot believe that GetUp’s use of a London bombing victim to promote their cause is anything but cynical politics when we see the dates of the Bali bombing of 12 October 2002 versus the invasion of Iraq in 2003. GetUp needs to come clean on their tactics and agenda.

Peter Hannam writes: Interesting tale about Getup. Might be good to check your maps of China, though. Xiamen is a city, not a province (that would be Fujian). The official quoted is a vice mayor (and not a governor) which is a clue.

We need an Australian Olbermann:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. Friday’s editorial. Thanks so much for the link to Keith Olbermann on the Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby affair, which points out exactly why there could never be an Australian Gettysburg. Olbermann used lots of standard rhetorical tricks: the speech was intelligent, erudite and eloquent with a rhythmic and impassioned delivery, faultless word choice and appeals to morality. Now imagine translating exactly what he said into an Australian accent. What do you have? A w-nker. The only way an Australian could get away with is be to be a smartarse, and by doing that they automatically undermine the message. No wonder the best we can come up with is a washed-up spiv bleating on about coconuts and icebergs.

Carl Maxwell writes: Thank you for bringing the Keith Olbermann ‘special comment’ to the attention of your readers. I watched it the other day. I am only young and probably haven’t been observing politics as long as most of you, but that was the most inspirational, articulate and true analysis of the Bush administration I have ever heard. No media commentator, no politician, no activist anywhere has been able express their frustration with the corrupt state of American politics the way Keith did. The very best of the bad bunch of pundits over here do not even come close to arousing the sense of passion Keith Olbermann does. I am losing the last shreds of faith I have in Australian media very quickly.

The mortgage treadmill:

Kerry Lewis writes: Re. ‘More than mortgages rattling the government” (Friday, item 7). An interesting take on interest rates by the PM, as brought up again by Christian – it’s as though Howard is saying these figures actually represent a good thing i.e. it’s not just the people struggling to buy their first home so much, that pain is being spread around and through the rest of the family, namely Mum and Dad who have to mortgage their future (and just what evidence is there that, as he says, they have “huge equity” in their homes, if something does go wrong aren’t many of them, helping out their kids, just as exposed to a risk of losing their home now?), because the policies of (his) government have, in affect, made this the only feasible way those kids are going to get on the “mortgage treadmill”, which is taking longer than ever to slow down enough to be able to eventually get off.

So bikies invented motorcycles?:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Legislating against bikie gangs will only make things worse” (Friday, item 11). While I have no problem with the thrust of Arthur Vino’s piece on the folly of outlawing, um, outlaw motorcycle clubs, his statement that they have a “120 year history” seems to suggest that they invented the first motorcycle, then the second, and these two brave pioneers decided to don rockers and Johnny Reb boots and start pushing amphetamines. Or maybe they were outlaw horse riding clubs back then.

The politics of history:

Guy Rundle writes: In his comment on my story on the new history syllabus, Geoff Coyne (Friday, comments) suggests that I err in arguing that the Victorian School Readers talk about the role of our “race” in ensuring peace. He then quotes the 1928 reader as saying: “The young readers were to begin at home, to be taken in imagination to various parts of the Empire, to Europe, and to the United States of America, and thus gain knowledge of their rich heritage and acquire a well-founded pride of race. The inculcation of sound morality was always to be kept in view, and support given to the creation of a feeling against international strife and to the implanting of a desire for world-wide toleration.” Gosh, yes no connection between pride of race, the inculcation of personal morality and peace there – or is he suggesting they were arguing for strife-free, tolerant wars? As I noted in the story, I was paraphrasing, the School Readers not immediately accessible in Istanbul. And Coyne seems so desperate to find political correctness gone mad he didn’t see that I explicitly noted that the reference to race was “not necessarily a pernicious triumphalist version” of it. Though of course it was such a well-founded pride in race that fed into the support of burgeoning white Pacific empires and the related 1930s trade blockade of Japan. This blockade was an act of war, or at the very least a casus belli – according to Geoffrey Blainey. I wonder if the PM will let that inconvenient part of the story into the curriculum.

A reverence for the facts:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “Our poll predictors hold their nerve” (Friday, item 13). Richard Farmer refers to The Economist as a magazine. It is not. It is a weekly newspaper and describes itself as such: “Although The Economist is published weekly in a magazine format, it is called a newspaper because it is concerned with views as well as news and works to a newspaper deadline.” It describes itself as “a radical publication of opinion with”, unlike Crikey, “a reverence for the facts”.


Mike Hughes writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (Friday, item 6). Regarding the item titled, “Kevin Rudd addressed the elites at the Lowy Institute yesterday…” If you see the speech you will “here” about Islamic Terrorism, Korea etc. He then moves on to the arc of instability where our core immediate strategic interests lie. So I don’t know what your “tipster” was smoking but I want some.

Phil Teece writes: Re. “Did the organisers of Make Poverty History approach the ALP” (Friday, item 6). Sorry to spoil a good conspiracy theory, but Batemans Bay is no longer in marginal Eden Monaro. The recent redistribution took it into pretty-safe Liberal Gilmour.

Confusion over explosions:

Steve Wright writes: There seems to be some confusion regarding gas explosions (Thursday, comments). A BLEVE is exactly that, a Boiling Liquid, Expanding Vapour Explosion. When a LPG cylinder is heated the gas pressure inside builds up. The pressure keeps the propane liquid until the point when the cylinder ruptures. The rapid reduction of pressure causes the liquid propane to boil and turn to vapour, it also expands by 270 times. Assuming there’s an ignition source it’ll burn as it mixes with air and form a rapidly expanding fireball as it consumes the air in the immediate vicinity. It won’t actually detonate like more conventional explosives but it’ll still make a mess. A small domestic gas cylinder contains a lot of energy but is protected by a pressure relief valve that is intended to prevent the sudden pressure drop associated with a BLEVE. Someone who knew what they were doing could no doubt make a good bomb with a gas bottle but there’s much easier ways! Gas and petrol are more suited to starting fires than actually blowing things up.

Tour de France:

Tim Renowden writes: Re. “Tour de France preview: A guide to who’s who” (Friday, item 26). I’m looking forward to the Tour de France too, but in their excitement your correspondents seem to have gotten confused. By “Alex Rasmussen” I assume they meant Michael Rasmussen. I have no idea who Alex Rasmussen is, but Michael Rasmussen has won a couple of polka-dot jerseys, so I’d suggest he’s probably a decent chance to beat this mysterious Alex character. Anyway, go Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen!

Terry Grealy writes: Attention: Chris Tunnock and Thomas Hunter. Stuart O’Grady’s nickname is “Freckles”, not “Stuey”.

Sport and post-modernism can co-exist:

Warren Swain writes: I could not agree more with Simon Raff (Friday, comments). In a city starved of worthwhile Rugby League commentary (try reading any of ill-informed the rubbish dished up by Geoff McClure of The Age), Crikey’s sports section used to be a breath of fresh air. Why can’t the latte-drinkers/post-modernists just avert their eyes when anything approaching sport rears its ugly head?


Friday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 23: “… it’s apparent The Adelaide Advertiser is not on the same par as other News Limited tabloids …”. On a par with, or on the same level as, but surely not “on the same par” – players have different standards, handicaps, etc. but they don’t have different pars.

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