Fairfax’s online tabloids:

Howard Groome writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. I heartily endorse your comments in your leader on Fairfax online. As a long time Age reader I cannot believe the triviality and banality of the online version. For my online news and comment the ABC and Crikey are irreplaceable. Why do Fairfax have to dumb themselves so thoroughly. I currently own shares in Fairfax but these will be going on the market soon if things don’t improve.

Another scandal another “gate”:

Simon Hoyle writes: Ben Perez is right (yesterday, comments) about the slack journalistic habit of appending “…gate” to every two-minute scandal going. It’s not just lazy — every time I see it, I make a mental addition to my list of people who are stupid — stupid enough, at least, to think that Richard Nixon’s presidency was somehow brought undone by humble H2O.

The republican debate and disclosure:

Thomas Flynn, executive director of Australians For Constitutional Monarchy, writes: Re. “SA talks tough on prisons; contravenes UN Convention” (yesterday, item 11). Greg Barns wrote: “[South Australian Attorney-General Michael] Atkinson, a right-wing monarchist, last week lambasted magistrate Dr Andrew Cannon for suggesting in a paper on sentencing that courts should take account of crowded prisons when considering a jail term for offenders. Atkinson called Cannon ‘daft’ and ‘delusional’ for these comments.” The by-line does not point out that Mr Barns was campaign director of the ARM during the republic referendum, which the republicans contrived to lose despite having on their side the ALP, most of the Liberals, all the media and oodles of cash. I would be delighted to know the evidence Mr Barns has that an ALP Attorney General — member of a party committed to republicanism — is actually a constitutional monarchist. While he provides that evidence, does he think that “monarchist” is a term of abuse? If so why?

Belinda Neal:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 5). Regarding “Separated at birth: Belinda Neal & Martin Bryant?” Geez Crikey. Talk about a low blow. Notwithstanding everything that’s happened, it seems hardly fair to defame Martin this way. But it might be worth checking whether Belinda went to the same finishing school as Hetty Johnston?

Stephen Mayne and Babcock & Brown:

John Taylor writes: Re. “Can Babcock pull off a PR counter-offensive?” (yesterday, item 21). I think you have to bar Stephen from further comment on Babcock and Brown. He announced the other day that he’d sold 5 of his 6 unsecured notes at 35c in the $ ($35 for the $100 note). He could have sold today for in excess of $60 so sour grapes will be the order of the day for some time.

Religions and war:

James McDonald writes: Re. “Religion, war, Eurovision” (yesterday, comments). A born-again preacher once told me he didn’t fear death because he was a Christian. Being an even bigger smart-alec then than now, I laughed and said no, you are a Christian because you fear death. I still believe religion is chiefly a way of coping with the appalling idea that we die, but gravesides are no picnic for atheists and my witticism wore thin over the years. And I doubt if religion has ever been a necessary or sufficient motive for even the most clearly-labelled “religious wars” in history. Wars are fought for wealth, dignity, or defense of one’s group. Religion isn’t a prime mover. It can provide recruitment centres, cultural flags, and a pretext for people who find killing is what they do best but need a way to make it respectable. In its absence, country, class, race, ideology, revenge, or any other real or imagined shared history will do. Political scientists have had the devil of a time finding what makes an ethnic identity, but for war correspondents religious markers are often the simplest way to guess which side of a civil war someone is on and which media-pass to produce at a given roadblock. If atheists accuse religion of being the root of all evil, then we are just another bunch of religious bigots, and sound just as stupid as all the religious defensives who say “we never did that, don’t you know our religion preaches peace and non-violence?”.

Explosions explained:

Robert Molyneux writes: Sorry Dave Horsfall (yesterday, comments), but if I have a balloon of a thin skin of rubber (say a gram or so in weight) filled with hydrogen (say a few grams), and something (lightning, static electricity spark) causes the balloon’s rubber to start burning (yellow flame, black smoke) and immediately releases hydrogen through the burning hole – then (1) the hydrogen burns with a colourless flame (leaving the yellow flame and black smoke of the remainder of the rubber to be seen) and (2) the hydrogen does not explode. The only way hydrogen will explode is (1) it is mixed up with oxygen, not just comes in contact with it as it escapes the balloon, and (2) it is confined in a strongish container. Normal explosives like TNT contain the necessary oxygen for combustion within them — they are chemically unstable, and a catalyst/shock causes rapid combustion inside a (shell) casing which equals an explosion. Liquid fuels like petrol are quite heavy — so if the fuel tank is ruptured (say a car smash) the fuel falls to the ground and makes a fireball that expands horizontally — nasty. Hydrogen on the other hand will rise rapidly and vertically, so any fireball will expand vertically — not so nasty.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to b[email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name – we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off