The budget, alcopops and Brendan Nelson:

Ryan Solomons writes: Re. “Budget Reply: Nelson’s economic cred on death row” (Friday, item 2). Despite Brendan Nelson missing the point as usual, he is right that the alcopops tax is a bad thing, and not because it makes his five cougars more expensive. As someone that works in the Criminal Justice System the real problem with any tax on alcohol that young girls consume is that it makes a night out cheaper if you use elicit drugs, or if you binge drink at home before going out. The current street price of ecstasy and acid is between $15-$25 a hit and as such makes it significant cheaper than alcohol, for those who are interested. I hope that the blatant revenue raising exercise that is the alcopops tax is used to put money into health care and the criminal justice system as that is where, as a result of the new tax, the money will be needed.

John Goldbaum writes: Keeping down the cost of RTDs isn’t just so Brendan can win back the votes of the ute-men. It is also to delay the day when the knife is plunged into his back. RTDs are de rigeur for boaties and yachties. Some of them live in Wunulla Road.

Judicial independence:

Joe Boswell writes: Re. “Victorian Bar Council out of order on acting judges” (Friday, item 18). Greg Barns describes as “absurd” the Victorian Bar Council’s argument that acting appointments of lawyers as judges compromises the judges’ necessary independence. The Bar Council points out such judges can be dismissed as easily as they are appointed. He says this shows the Bar Council has “little faith in the integrity of its members”. He is sure the acting judges are so “fiercely independent” they cannot be swayed by any venal political blackmail such as a threat of being sacked or any other concerns about how their careers might be blighted. If he is right, it’s hard to see why any judges, acting or not, need be secure from politically motivated dismissal or ruin. Or are all Victorian lawyers who are chosen as acting judges blessed with an incorruptible integrity not to be found in any other judges? I could not discover from the article why, given there has been a shortage of judges for years, rather than just making unsatisfactory acting stop-gap arrangements, nobody seems to have thought of appointing some new judges. Is that just too obvious and sensible to be considered?

Misha Ketchell writes: Greg Barns thinks acting judges are unlikely to be compromised by short term contracts. Perhaps, but that’s what people always say when they want to wish away a potential conflict of interest. The real question is why put a judge in that position? Magistrate Barbara Cottrell has been offered a five year term and is due for retirement a few years after that. Does Barns really think so little of the independence of the judiciary he’s willing to trade it away so Rob Hulls gets the option of sacking a judge a few years early?

The US and isolationism:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “US08: Dubya unites the Democrats” (Friday, item 4). In his latest analysis of US politics, Guy Rundle propounds the myth of “isolationism”. In fact, rhetoric aside, America has always been expansionist: first into its interior, and then from the 1890s in Latin America and the Pacific (Hawaii and the Philippines). It might have been reluctant to join the two world wars but has launched plenty of military action and intervention since. Rundle ignores this history and blames the current conflicts on a “neocon” movement derived from “Trotskyist internationalism”. (The “evidence” for this loopy theory is that some American right-wingers were members of various leftist organisations — mostly not Trotskyist — in their youth.) Just as Clinton continued Bush Senior’s policy on Iraq, a Democratic President is bound to continue Bush Junior’s. Rundle’s idea that Americans will “go back to the farm” is just wishful thinking.

Baby bonus:

Michael Clark writes: If Matt van Breda (Friday, comments) truly believes that eligibility for the baby bonus will determine whether or not a couple decide to have a child then he is just as mistaken as those who now believe that $150,000 is not a large income.

Israel:

Harold Thornton writes: Steve Perry (Friday, comments) accuses Antony Loewenstein of “making up” claims that Israeli leaders have advocated the elimination or ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. It’s a bit surprising that Crikey published this calumny, since a quick Google confirms Loewenstein’s claims and makes Perry look like a bit of an idiot. Israeli leaders publicly advocating ethnic cleansing of Palestinians include current leading Israeli politicians Avigdor Liberman (who also wants to expel Palestinian citizens of Israel) and Binyamin Netanyahu, former IDF Chiefs of Staff Moshe Dayan and Moshe Ya’alon and founding leader David Ben Gurion. Another Israeli PM Golda Meir famously denied that Palestinians existed at all.

Michael Brougham writes: Re. Steve Perry’s comment. It is a little-known fact that the quote attributed to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressing his desire to wipe Israel off the map is actually a poor translation of his original words. Translated into English, the quote should actually read, “The Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] said the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time”. The error was initially made by Iran’s propaganda arm, the Islamic Republic News Agency, but in spite of repeated attempts to clarify the issue, the media (probably unknowingly), the pro-Israel lobby (possibly unknowingly) and the Israeli government (fully aware of but unconcerned with the inaccuracy) have clung to the original. Not that the President does himself any favours, choosing to avoid the issue in interviews rather than explicitly dissociate himself from the original translation.

Childish point:

Dave Horsfall writes: Re. “Weekly Wankley Award goes to…a typo” (Friday, item 22). “Ah, poor sub-editors, no-one notices you until the one day you stuff up.” This is the third time in about a week that you have published this; are you trying to make some sort of a childish point?

Lowbottom:

Kevin Clarke writes: Re. “Lowbottom diaries: An excursion in prose” (Friday, item 16). Lowbottom always makes me laugh but Friday’s olde English excursion was a classic and had me laughing out loud. Many thanks.

Lookalike:

Andrew Griffiths writes: Has anyone else noticed the below similarity?

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