Politics, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll:

Darryl Mason writes: Re. “Where there’s (dope) smoke there’s fire?” (yesterday, item 2). Christian Kerr wrote: “Nobody really cares as long as pollies aren’t doing bucket bongs for breakfast…” The correct term, Mr Kerr, is “punching” bucket bongs. How I miss punching bucket bongs for breakfast back in the early 90s, when the mornings were easy, the fridge was empty (except for beer) and the music was always loud. If any Australian MP is tossed out of his gig for smoking a joint after hours (as long as he wasn’t driving home) it would be an international embarrassment and rank hypocrisy. Why the news that Garrett may or may not have smoked a joint rates a major news story is embarrassing enough. Millions of Australians love a joint, or a bong (or a bucket) here and there. Most who smoked heavily in their early 20s either stop completely by their 30s, or reduce their intake to a few times a year. Anna Wood’s father suffered a terrible loss when his daughter died. But she did not die from Ecstasy. She died from drinking more than seven glasses of water, one after the other, filling her lungs with water. The reason why she, and her friends, didn’t know drinking so much water was dangerous (thirst being a side effect of ecstasy use) is because ridiculous anti-drug hysteria, fermented by the likes of the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun, deprived, and continues to deprive, the public of valuable information on using drugs safely, if they choose to do so. Australian adults should be allowed to purchase small amounts of cannabis legally, for their own use. Any politician, who was brave enough to support decriminalisation, with the support of their party, would find great support in the Australian community. No adult, or teenager, should be treated as a criminal for using cannabis, for fun, for relaxation or for the myriad of proven medicinal benefits it provides.

Andrew Farrell writes: Re. “Burning the midnight … what!?” (yesterday, item 9). The sight of alleged rock stars making weasel pr-speak statements about the nastiness of a smoking a joint is one of the low points in the history of rock ‘n’ roll’s addled soul. But unless I’m missing a lame joke here Crikey’s shameless selective quoting of the Oils lyrics can’t be let through to the keeper. Even as a high school student poring over Red Sails in the Sunset I knew the “stuff you couldn’t taste or see” in the song “Harrisburg” was the radioactive material emanating from the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. Of course the chorus “Harrisburg Harrisburg the plant is melting down” was hard to misconstrue. And “lines and lines of swell and smiles” … well, as any surfer would tell you, those lines are of the pure oceanic wave variety. The silliest thing about all this kerfuffle is the Oils were one of the least drug referencing bands around and you missed their most iconic drug line, in an anti-drug song — “Surfing with a Spoon” anyone?

Steven McKiernan writes: Lauren Parle seems to be looking for things that aren’t there, and these are two egregious examples. “Harrisburg” off Red Sails in the Sunset is a direct quote from Denis Kevans (Australia’s poet Lorrikeet). This is acknowledged in the SMH obituary for Denis. Midnight Oil acknowledges the quote in the album liner notes. “Bells and Horns in the Back of Beyond” — the lines and lines of swells and smiles is about standing on a point of a surf break pre-dawn and watching the line-up of surf roll in. Far better to try this “I’m on the whiskey flying, and I’ll run by night” off the first “Blue” album Run by Night.

Andrew McMillan writes: Anyone who can read drug references into those lyrics is clearly under the influence.

Haneef’s detention:

Cathy Bannister writes: Re. “Haneef’s detention is mental torture” (yesterday, item 10). Greg Barns was exactly right in his assessment of Mohammad Haneef’s detention under the new anti-terror laws, and note that Mohammad Asif Ali had his name splashed all over broadsheets nationally despite being released almost immediately. Since when is every suspect named in a crime investigation? Usually they just use the euphemism “a man is assisting police with their inquiries”. It’s hard not to see racism behind these actions.

David Lodge writes: If self proclaimed wet-lefty-civil-liberties-kingpins like Greg Barns were in charge of Australia’s defence or even in charge of protecting western culture, we’d already be living under a theocracy. It just beggars belief how ridiculously naive such pundits are when raving on about the rights of terrorist suspects when actual attacks have been thwarted or, in this case, fallen apart due to the terrorists’ own ineptitude. Greg seems happy to rant and rave about some sort of mental torture of Mr Haneef on ASIO’s part, then proceeds to suggest that, without the tiniest shred of evidence mind you, that Mr Haneef may have, just may have, been subject to some sort of “culturally insensitive conduct by his jailers”. Now I’m sorry, but if we’re ever going to get some sort of handle on these nutcases who are intent of destroying our way of life and our culture, the left is going to get used to strong leadership, and strong tactics. Instead of giving our intelligence the benefit of some doubt he has created out of thin air, Greg Barns would rather make baseless allegations that we torture suspects. It’s about time such lefty pundits came to grips with the reality that we are facing an entirely different enemy that uses our own liberties for its own advantage.

Christopher Ridings writes: Is Mohammed Haneef going to be the new David Hicks or will we need a few more years to decide?

Twelve angry people:

Peter Mansour writes: Re. “Walsham murder Jurors ask: is this really justice?” (Yesterday, item 4). These anonymous people of the jury seem a little precious about their anonymous reputation. Yet reading their letter suggests they are really more miffed that an appeal judge could rule they reached an unsafe conclusion. They state “We all support and recognise the need for, and right of, appeal” — “We recognise that it is the prerogative of the appeal judges to overturn a jury’s decision”. Well, the rest of their letter says they do not, when it ends with “Is this really justice?” Unless they knew a reliable witness who actually saw the crime being committed, their conclusions are based on inference from associated data, and cannot be irrefutably absolute. That is why beyond reasonable doubt is the standard; that is why the right of appeal is so important; that is how justice works. The jury system is an important contributor to this process, because it means the associated data is viewed and analysed from many different angles — but it is still not absolute. It would be more heartening to have heard, instead of this whine, an admission they did their very best (which they did), and are glad that the whole justice system has been seen to work.

Lois Achimovich writes: I could not agree more with the Walsham jurors. The Court of Appeal is available only to those with money or influence or both. It has a place, in my view, when new evidence is available, but even then, without money, you’re up sh-t creek with no paddle.

Positive ways to take things forward in the NT:

Lee Emmett writes: Re. “What is needed for the Howard/Brough plan to work” (Monday, item 19). I’m quite prepared to believe that indigenous communities have problems, but I’m waiting for a national political party to start looking for positive ways to take things forward. It seems to me that the National Government is only prepared to investigate symptoms of the lowest and most brutal aspects within our Indigenous communities, and the federal opposition is going along, saying “Me too”. This approach is inherently racist, worsens social divisions, leaves communities open to exploitation, and will not lead to any long-lasting improvement in outcomes for Aboriginal Australians wherever they live, whether in remote locations, towns or cities. My suggestion is that we need to identify the positive aspects within our Indigenous communities. Despite the abysmal history since the introduction and acceptance of the concept and consequences of “terra nullius”, Australian Aboriginal people have miraculously survived. Art collectors, tourists and scholars have identified that many aspects of our indigenous peoples are unique, yet the “average” Australian knows very little about Aboriginal life and culture. Positive values are based on truth about history, respect for differences between people, a willingness to learn, and genuine concern for the welfare of others. We need to establish an International University for Indigenous Studies, with the Professorial Chairs being held by Indigenous elders. Its “Mission Statement” should be primarily to promote an understanding and appreciation of Australian Aboriginal values (languages, art, culture, oral history) both within Australia (from primary school through to tertiary level), and overseas.

Coles and Wesfamers:

Rob Lake writes: Re. “How golden should Fletcher’s handshake be?” (yesterday, item 28). A bit of a comment on John Fletcher et al and huge termination payouts and bonuses. Bonus and incentive schemes must be based on measurables. The problem is that sometimes they reward the achievement of A when what was really wanted was B. The tenure of CEOs is tending to shrink. Five year contracts are increasingly common. Many CEOs can meet five year share price objectives with a good measure of slash and burn cost reduction or by ignoring or delaying expenditure that is essential for the long term health of the company. A CEO who ignores supply chain, logistics and IT infrastructure (among others) might push the share price up, but at the long term cost to the company. We might even enter a cycle where one CEO is rewarded for driving the share price north, followed by a successor who is rewarded for restoring profitability. If you want to reward a CEO for creating shareholder value, it must be long term value. Thus these incentives should be paid, at least in part, on the state of the company 5 years after departure. Then we will see better management and healthier companies.

Wayne Robinson writes: Wesfarmers’ purchase of Coles is not a done deal. It still has to be approved by a scheme of arrangement (is that 50% of shareholders with 75% of the shares, or 75% of the shareholders with 50% of the shares?). It could still collapse (like the Qantas takeover did in such spectacular and amusing fashion). As a Coles shareholder, though, I’m only disappointed Wesfarmers isn’t offering a scrip only alternative. Though, why Fletcher should be so richly rewarded for failure is beyond my comprehension.

Fighter plane-spotting and Defence:

Rhys Worrall writes: Re. “Australia the losers in the Asian arms race” (Monday, item 3). The debate about Australia’s military capacity, particularly airpower, continues unabated. Whilst Dr Kopp rightly points to the proliferation of SU series Flankers in Asia, what lacks is any reasonable assessment of the likelihood of Australian forces opposing these aircraft in the foreseeable future. In addition, real question marks hang over the token purchases of these sophisticated aircraft by Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Do they have the training, spares, support etc to adequately maintain the force operationally? Past history suggests not. Whilst India and China are purchasing these aircraft in large numbers, and can undoubtedly support them, under what realistic circumstances will Australia be involved in a conflict with these two nations? I fear that a couple of squadrons of F-22 Raptors (even if the US would sell them to us, which at the moment has been refused) will be rather inadequate in the face of these emerging superpowers. Regardless, neither country has any significant expeditionary capability in the form of force projection assets like aircraft carriers, amphibious forces, tankers or AEW capabilities. Our diplomatic and cultural links with these countries is sufficiently strong that they can be viewed as pseudo-allies rather than foes. Australia still has some obvious flaws in its military structure, principally manpower related, but also in areas like high end naval assets and artillery. However, purchases of Super Hornets, Air-air refuellers, C-17 transports, MRH and Tiger choppers, Abrams tanks and orders for new AWDs and amphibious ships, together with precision munitions, place Australia well ahead in the medium sized power category in Asia, and plans for AEW, UAVs and F-35s will make our military far more able to deploy effectively with allied forces – the most likely scenario our nation will face in coming decades.

Peter Lloyd writes: Not sure how much you want to (or should) indulge the fighter plane trainspotters, but Humphrey Hollis and Benjamin James (yesterday, comments) are a little hard on your correspondent. While the P-38 was probably not the panacea for the RAAF in 1941, the decision to send obsolete aircraft to Malaya was not made because nothing else was available. British Commander-in-Chief, Air Chief Marshall Robert Brooke-Popham, should have been clamouring for the Hawker Hurricanes that Churchill was sending to Russia. Instead of demanding the best available, he gave his masters what they wanted to hear, explicitly telling them that Spitfires and Hurricanes were not necessary for Malaya. Perhaps the clearest lesson of the period is that acquisitions need to be based on sound intelligence about the capability of potential enemies, and rigid commitments to a particular country, weapon, or even refusal to postpone a purchase if nothing good is available, are all potentially disastrous.

Dr Carlo Kopp writes: Benjamin James and Humphrey Hollins are in error, as the RAAF took delivery of its first P-38E Lightning fighter, serial number A55-1, modified for reconnaissance duties, in August, 1942, ex US in theatre service stock. Moreover, the US Army Air Corp was taking deliveries of P-38Ds from June, 1941. The initial Royal Air Force Model 322-B Lightning Is, later transferred to the USAAC as conversion trainers, were being built in late 1941. Had the Canberra bureaucrats pulled their fingers out in 1940, the RAAF could have had P-38s as early as the end of 1941, in time to defend Darwin from the Japanese naval air arm attack in late February, 1942. Clearly, much like today’s Canberra bureaucrats, they opted to ignore good intelligence on regional capabilities. Benjamin’s comments on the P-51 Mustang vs. the P-38 in the 8th AF escort role over Germany indicate that he has been watching too much Hollywood and not doing his research. The two escort Fighter Groups, the 20th FG and 55th FG flew escort missions in P-38s from late 1943, and by the time of D-Day, around 50% of the deep escort force was still equipped with P-38s. Bomber crews insisted on being escorted by P-38s as they could easily tell them apart from the single engine German fighters. Veterans of the 20th FG and 55th FG I have interviewed agree with my assessment, not the Hollywood one, and that is good enough for me! The notion that we could not get P-38s in 1941 is foolish, we and the Brits were getting Hudson’s, and the Brits were having modified P-38Ds built as Model 322-BS. In short, there was no excuse for our Defence bureaucrats then, as there is no excuse now.

Peter Ball writes: The history about WW2 is very important but all the replies back on the article miss the point about our equipment purchases. The F35 does not have the payload or range when compared to the F22. That should be the prime concern of out defence purchases. It’s simply a case of history repeating itself. We buy the wrong stuff for Australian conditions (except the F-111). I agree with one writer, spend the money and purchase the rest of the F-111s and their spares and then look at maintaining a proper wing of F22s. Our naval planning still suffers from not maintaining enough hulls. The F100 frigate purchases need to be increased to 6 ships and the submarine fleet again needs to be doubled. Consideration to AV8 harriers for our new carriers makes sense. I can think back to my days in the ARES – we wanted M16 but we got F88s, never mind the facts that we did most of our training with the US. As usual the Libs just don’t seem to get it right; I can only hope an incoming ALP government can.

Marilyn Shepherd writes: Neil James (yesterday, comments) is as long winded as he is tiresome but his cheap shot at Charles Richardson about reading in English takes the biscuit doesn’t it? Japan was never going to invade Australia and I have yet to have anyone tell me what is wrong with speaking Japanese? Almost the entire population of Australia was born after the end of WWII so we would not know any difference, Japan would have had to leave after the war even if they had “conquered us” just on sheer expense grounds and beside all of that Japan bought most of the country without anyone raising a whimper. Fair dinkum, I get tired of people like James denigrating the people we suck up to as our greatest trading partners for the past 50 years with nothing but mindless shots about speaking English or not. Not only that but James doesn’t seem to have noticed that we have more Japanese students and visitors than from almost any other place on earth and we don’t scream at them to p-ss off or learn English do we? In fact people like my niece go to Japan to teach them English while they learn Japanese.

Say goodbye to wine and cheese in WA:

Doug Clifford writes: Re. “The Liberal poll slump: it’s not the economy, stupid” (yesterday, item 3). I don’t know how this story really hangs together for WA. We have had a measurable drop in rainfall of 12 to 20% since 1975, which prompted, inter alia, the desalination plant. The north-eastern wheat belt continues in drought. Other schemes abound and are controversial, such as tapping into the south-west Yaragadee aquifer. The only significant irrigation in WA (apart from the Ord River) is on the coastal plain from Harvey to Dardanup for the purposes of dairying. To assert that water is not an issue west of the Nullabor is fanciful. The scary thing is that the drying out of the South-West is and was predicted from global warming models thirty years ago. If the climate of Kalgoorlie continues to move to Margaret River, then goodbye to the wineries, cheese-makers and fine food outlets.

Getting brutal and effective in Iraq and Afghanistan:

Mike Martin writes: Re. “Spinning Iraq takes a magical turn” (yesterday, item 11). Guy Rundle mentions Paul Kelly’s search for comfort in Afghanistan. It is worth adding that Kelly wrote that the conflict in Afghanistan “will determine the future of NATO, the utility of Western intervention in Islamic nations, the capacity to integrate security and nation-building strategies and the mettle of Western opinion” almost simultaneously with The Los Angeles Times reporting a claim that in the last six months US and NATO troops killed more non-combatants in Afghanistan than did Taliban insurgents, and that “President Karzai unleashed an angry call for caution by US and NATO forces.” In the meantime we have former CIA operative Michael Sheuer running around claiming that in Afghanistan and Iraq we are not being ruthless enough, and that we must “get brutal and effective, or get out”. Um, how much more brutal should that be, Michael? If Kelly hopes to find an illusion of relief in Afghanistan, it may be short-lived.

The Donald:

Paul Higgins writes: Re. “The Apprentice returns” (yesterday, item 26). Glenn Dyer writes that Britons, among those from other English speaking nations, should fear the resurrection of The Apprentice. But the UK doesn’t see “the Donald”. The BBC makes its own local version with Sir Alan Sugar in the role of mentor/firer. Glenn has made this mistake before.


Yesterday’s typos (house pedant Charles Richardson casts an eye over the howlers in the last edition of Crikey): Item 20: “Perhaps ingratiating himself to the PM by attacking me …”. You ingratiate yourself “with”, not “to”.

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