John Howard in Washington:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Mr Howard goes to Washington” (Friday, item 1). I’m sure John Howard will feel very much at home at the American Enterprise Institute, it is, of course, the “think” tank that hosted the Project for a New American Century, the folks that gave us the regime change theory of which he was such an enthusiastic supporter – until 24 November 2007, of course.

Willem Schultink writes: Ah, the bitterness and the gall. Bernard Keane’s comments on John Howard are so bitter I am appalled that Crikey would see fit to publish them. This isn’t journalism guys. It’s not even alternative journalism. The only person it humiliates is Mr Keane himself. I find it difficult to describe this. It certainly does not belong in a publication claiming to be a news service.

Rodger Williams writes: The continual tirade of leftie bashing of the evil Howard government and its members is becoming a little tiresome. Perhaps balance is not in your vocabulary. There seems to be absolutely no chance that from your little pinko ivory tower perspective Kevin O’Heaven or any of his pilgrims could possibly put a foot wrong now or in the future.

Sam Clough writes: So why do you keep bagging him – he has gone – current government news would be better.

Leah Marrone writes: Re. “Rundle: John Howard no zipless f-ck” (Friday, item 2). Guy Rundle wrote: “That final descent would have been longer than my whole life to date, and unraveled it entirely, the sole consolation of dying en route to hear John Howard speak being that you would not actually have to hear John Howard speak.” My favourite piece ever written by Rundle. I was in tears of laughter and had to contain myself as my colleague in the next office began to peer his head around my door… but in addition to being hilarious his observations are startlingly accurate, I particularly like his comments on John Howard as a “delayer” and his term as “a ten-year obstruction”.

Andrew Lewis, the supposedly unfunny one, writes: It was entirely predictable and somewhat lamentable that Crikey joined a chorus of commentators by criticising John Howard’s Irving Kristol Award Lecture. This criticism has seemed to me, all related to the fact that his speech was entirely consistent with things he has been saying for more that two decades. Howard is nothing if not consistent. However, it was humorous and expected that many were singing from the same hymn sheet: Bernard Keane, Jeff Sparrow, and the entirely un-magnificent Guy Rundle with his wonderfully “colourful” language. All we need now is Chris Graham to reiterate why he wants Howard to cease breathing. Maybe a little broadening of the base of people who write for Crikey would go a long way, and I am happy to volunteer. Until then, it seems we will have to be satisfied with the fact that Crikey purged their right-leaning columnists a very long time ago.

Lyall Chittleborough writes: You can’t have it both ways. How can you have “an ineffectual welter of platitudinous symbolism,’” as a summary of Kevin Rudd’s’ first 100 days in office and then in the next breath claim that Howard’s speech to the American Enterprise Institute is “a reminder of just how far the entirety of Australian politics shifted on November 24, 2007.” I am reluctant to subscribe to a Crikey that seems to think balance consists in abusing both the left and the right whether they deserve it or not. Could we list “Crikey” as one of those organs which seeks to do away with that archaic convict practice of lopping tall poppies? Australia needs to recognise all the decency, merit and human nobility that we have.

Afghan poppy crop:

John Walters writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (Friday, item 10). In Friday’s article by Richard Farmer he berates the Australian military et al for not destroying the Afghan poppy crop. Is he out of his mind? What will happen if all the Afghan poppy crops were destroyed? Starvation on a large scale, is what? And what would prove to be a very fertile breeding ground for the Taliban? Millions of starving Afghan farmers. First he should get his facts right. It is the farmers growing the poppies not the Taliban. And they grow them because it is the only way they have of providing enough income to feed themselves and their families. At last though there appears to be a bit of sanity coming into this debate with a serious proposal for the civil authorities to buy the produce of the poppies and turn it into pharmaceuticals. It wouldn’t cost much, the farmers get paid a pitiful amount, it would take it out of the illegal heroin trade and would open up many opportunities for working with the farmers to eventually grow other crops. And of course it would take all that heroin money out of the hands of the Taliban. That would be a good thing wouldn’t it, Richard?

Mike Crook writes: Richard Farmer’s graph of opium production indicates that opium production was at its lowest while the Taliban were in control of most of Afghanistan, and it was only after the US invasion that opium production first reached and then exceeded its pre-Taliban levels. Would it be fair to note that the most significant result of the invasion has been the return to high levels and would it be fair to ask, in view of the inability of the US/NATO forces to eliminate production in areas under their control, whether in fact the return of the opium industry may have been an intended result of the invasion.

Labor’s razor gang:

Geoff Russell writes: Re. “This razor gang might just be a cut above the rest” (Friday, item 9). People who object to the government cutting the Carer’s allowance need to stop their emotive hogwash and consider the logical consequences of this $1600 bonus. The first thing the recipients will do is to pop off to the nearest housing auction where they will compete with BMWed, yuppie, would-be landlords. This will force up prices, leading to spiralling inflation and the end of the economic miracle that John Howard bequeathed us.

Gunns and funding:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Let’s be honest about this banking bloodbath” (Friday, item 5). Stephen Mayne rightly points out that the pulp mill is not even remotely viable in financial terms. A company making about $30 million profit a year building a $2 billion mill, which even in the planning is only (just) viable with free water, free wood, and with the state government remaining a branch office of the parent company? But there are too many egos at stake now, which perhaps explains why it was revealed this week that Gunns has successfully hived off onto the taxpayer the $80 million cost of water pipelines to move the near-free water to the site. State acquisition also allows for compulsory resumption of land and state responsibility for pollution.

Females and public policy:

Robert Manne writes: Eva Cox is a little unfair (Friday, comments). It is an unfortunate fact that there are in Australia many more males writing on politics and public policy than females. After reading Eva Cox’s criticism I checked the gender of the authors of the edition of Crikey in which her complaint appeared and that of those who appear in Melbourne University Publishing’s new Best Australian Political Writing. In both cases the proportion of female contributors is much the same as that of Dear Mr Rudd.


Bro Sheffield-Brotherton writes: Re. “US08 media wrap: Show us the money” (Friday, item 15). Strange that Crikey should give credence to Anatole Kaletsky’s claim that JF “Kennedy was swept to power on the crest of the baby boom, when the largest group of voters was in its twenties”. Despite my failing memory I was born pretty close to the peak tide of baby boom births and was only 12 when Kennedy was elected. Can’t recall having ever heard of the US baby boom at the tail end of the Great Depression and prior to the US entering WW2. Even more challenging to reflect that Richard Nixon was swept to power when some of my fellow boomers got to vote.

Mark Vaile:

Diana Lyons writes: Re. John Richardson (Friday, comments). Dear John – I can’t speak for Peter, I don’t know him, but he will probably agree with me. Yes, I do honestly think there are politicians out there better than Mark Vaile, there are plenty of them. The late Peter Andren comes to mind immediately. So does my local state MP Rob Oakeshott, member for Port Macquarie, a great bloke who works his backside off for his electorate and actually does care about the interests of his constituents. Having the courage to leave the Nats and become an independent because he could no longer stomach the party line won Rob a lot of well-deserved support. Every so often someone says Rob will ditch state politics and run for Lyne. If he did that Mark Vaile wouldn’t stand a chance.

Tiger uppercuts:

Chris Gibson writes: Re. “Tiger’s entry to regional routes are a win-win-win-win” (Friday, item 13). I find it hard to imagine that a country of 21 million could support jet aircraft flying into and out of small regional airports. This is not Europe and the existing services find it hard to fill available seats. Just ask Rex with its 36 seat planes flying at less than 80% full.

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