Georgia v Russia:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Georgia v Russia I: What happened and who’s to blame?” (Yesterday, item 10). I don’t suppose the Georgian kerfuffle would have anything to do with the USA, the world’s self-anointed champion of freedom and democracy and its thus far failed efforts to have Georgia accepted as a member of NATO. Nor the fact that a thousand Yankee Marines, along with 1,000 Israeli “military advisors”, have recently been very busy training the 25,000 members of its armed forces? Of course, George Bush and his neo-con cronies have been busy arming his namesake state for years, in return for their continuing participation in its butchery of Iraq; although their 2,000 strong contingent is currently being rushed home to defend the motherland, courtesy of the US Air Force. Or might the Russian Bear simply be demonstrating to Bush the silliness of the Pentagon’s proposal to deploy mobile radar stations in Georgia as part of its supposed “nuclear shield”?

Niall Clugston writes: Perhaps Georgia should give to South Ossetia and Abkhazia the same self-determination it expects from Russia, and perhaps the USA should have the same non-interference in the former Eastern Bloc it expects from Russia. And pigs might fly.

Tim Dymond writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Regarding your editorial where you state: “Left-wingers around the world were reflexively pro-Serbian and anti-Kosovan simply because the Kosovars had the misfortune to be supported by the US.” Does your straw ‘Left’ include Workers’ Aid for Bosnia, which became Workers’ Aid for Kosovo? It was set up by among others the International Socialist Group to help defend Bosnia and Herzegovina, and campaign against the arms embargo by western governments in the 1990s that in practice helped the Serbs. It is a calumny to suggest that the ‘Left’ were all pro-Milosevic. Furthermore the US was also quite prepared to deal with Milosevic when reasons of regional stability suited them

Ken Westmoreland writes: Crikey wrote: “Australia has happily flip-flopped on separatism before. We long regarded East Timor as the property of the Indonesians. But now we prop up what is in essence a wholly unviable micro-state.” East Timor a wholly unviable micro state? Compared to where – the Solomon Islands? Vanuatu? PNG? What ye reap shall ye sow….

The NT election:

Julian Ricci, Editor of the Northern Territory News, writes: Re. “NT result: bad for the ALP, even worse for pundits” (yesterday, item 2). Bernard Keane wrote that no one picked the extent of the swing. Keane (rightly) mocked the predictions of the bookies, the ABC’s Antony Green, Norm Kelly in The Canberra Times, Paul Toohey in The Oz, Lindsay Murdoch in The Age and even Crikey’s own Charles Richardson. He gave Malcolm Mackerras a pat on the back saying he did best, predicting “a Labor win — but close one” with the Government reduced to 14 seats. Someone should tell Keane that there is a daily newspaper in the Territory. It’s called the Northern Territory News. On Saturday, July 26, just days after the election was called, NT News Chief of Staff Nigel Adlam wrote a comment piece headlined “Will the conservative stars align?” In it Adlam said the CLP would hold its four seats, which it did. He said the CLP would also win seven more, which it did. He wrote they could even possibly win eight seats which for, two days after the election, remained a distinct possibility. Eventually Labor held the final seat (Fannie Bay, former Chief Minister Clare Martin’s seat) by just a handful of votes. Unlike Keane, Adlam proved to be remarkably accurate.

Keating v Howard:

Walt Hawtin writes: Ross Davidson’s complaint (yesterday, comments) about Paul Keating’s track record is off the mark. We are all grown-ups. We recognise in the colourful PJ Keating that there’s a bit of aggro ego, a touch of the old politician who perhaps did not measure up to expectations as a PM and is protesting a touch too much now. But Keating is colourful, and he is true to himself, and he was a courageous politician. Tony Abbott fits the same description, and while I don’t empathise with Abbott’s politics, I can’t dislike the man’s character. But many voters live in their own zones and make reactionary decisions that affect just them at that particular time. Ross might be surprised to know that there are a number of people who don’t actually vote just with their hip pockets.

    Many voters recognise that big reforms have taken place, and they appreciate the risks that were taken to make those reforms happen. It was the ALP who made the big changes to Australia’s economic and trade infrastructure in the eighties, and it was the Howard Government who took full advantage of those reforms electorally. For example, the Asian Currency Crisis hit in May 1997 when the Thai Baht started tumbling, two months after John Howard took office. But no-one in their right mind credits the new government for Australia’s successfully riding that crisis out. Ross now wants to blame an eight month old Labor Government that controls less than 2% of global GDP for an international credit crisis and the way that it now affects his back pocket! Ross Davidson might miss John Howard, but the country’s economy probably doesn’t.

Zachary King writes: Once again we have the refrain that things were better off under Howard, just look at the interest rates. I hate to bring a little reality into your world Ross Davidson, but interest rates in this country are controlled by the fully independent RBA. Essentially the core mission for the RBA is to control inflation utilizing monetary policy. Now stay with me here Ross. If inflation gets too high, the RBA usually reacts by raising the interest rate (known as the cash rate). The most significant factors driving inflation in Australia at the moment are the world financial markets collapsing, and the surging price of oil. Unless you are suggesting that the Rudd led government has somehow triggered these events, your observations about the governments are at best, shockingly naive.

    I am not a die hard supporter of either party having voted both ways in recent elections, but this overly simplistic view pushing the mystique of the Howard government’s superior economic management by quoting interest rates is incredibly puerile. The federal government can certainly have a muted effect by controlling fiscal policy, but it is limited at best. When asked before the last election what difference a win for each party would have on interest rates, Saul Eslake (Chief Economist for ANZ) replied “Good Question. None. “

Andrew Lewis writes: I was interested to read Ross Davidson’s comments that although he doesn’t follow politics, he can remember when things were great under Howard and terrible under Keating. This sums up the average Australian’s knowledge of politics and economics. The Howard Costello years were a mirror of the Menzies years, a period of great prosperity that owed nothing to the efforts of the Coalition Governments.

    If you weren’t mindful of what was happening in politics, you wouldn’t know that most of the prosperity of the Howard years was brought about by the structural changes of the Hawke Keating governments, and you wouldn’t be aware that the lack of vision and intelligence of the Howard/Costello years has left us much more vulnerable to world credit shocks then we should be. The hallmark of the Howard/Costello years is one of laziness and good fortune. Keating is right about Costello, he was right about Howard. He is right about Rudd. Australians will continue to base their political wisdom on five minutes of attention every 10 years, and then express surprise when they don’t understand what just happened.

A Bill of Rights:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “The only wedge is in Glenn Milne’s underpants” (yesterday, item 17). That both major political parties in this country don’t want to pursue and enshrine an Australian “Bill of Rights” is absolutely deplorable. Working families of Australia see pollies as self seeking, narcissistic, cynical sensation seeking ambulance chasers with not an ounce of idealism or willingness to genuinely improve the lot of anyone beside themselves (and that’s being polite). Our so called rights are almost non-existent now unless we gleefully support the right to be price gouged, totally manipulated and left without any say. We can’t be genuinely insured, we can’t seek legal redress unless we are so rich we don’t need to, we buy imported food while our own farmers plough stuff into the ground, we pay hugely overblown prices for everything – not because they are costly but because the conga line of profit takers sweep away huge benefits, we have regressed almost to serfdom in our labour laws, we export our fuel and massively overcharge our own populace for the stuff that came out of our backyard. The only right we have is to vote them out – and they would take that away if possible.

The death penalty:

Brad Hill writes: Re. “Oz government sort of, but not really, opposes the death penalty” (yesterday, item 15). I like reading Irfan Yusuf — but he could not have gotten it more wrong today. The government should indeed make representations on behalf of Australians sentenced to death in foreign courts — that’s what we expect, we do not agree with the death penalty. But apparently Mr Yusuf thinks we should also be doing that for the Bali bombers? Why? Why would we want to do that for foreigners, in foreign countries? Is it our business to make such demands? Why stop there — let’s go and demand action for each individual around the world on death row as well — there must be thousands, or tens of thousands? We would need to set up a new ministry. And if DFAT or Rudd fails to do so, they are therefore hypocrites? You’ve got to be joking. Let’s get real here — The Australian government is NOT Amnesty international — they are there to serve the Australian people. The fact that the Bali bombers are convicted terrorists is not relevant.

Qantas and air safety:

Jackie French writes: Re. “Rationing the skies” (yesterday, item 9). It’s not just Qantas planes that aren’t flying. The Qantas Frequent Flyer web site has only operated very intermittently since the new Frequent Flyer program was launched, with members unable to access details of their bookings. Staff either say that “while their have been problems, they’re now fixed” (untrue) or that the site is “overloaded” and can’t cope. Poor maintenance isn’t a new problem for Qantas. It’s just that suddenly the world has noticed.

Peta Waller-Bryant writes: I was perusing all the articles lately about various planes not taking off or turning back due to being “broken” and was just wondering why this is happening? Is it like when two years passed since the release of the iPod, all of them started breaking because they had been built to break after a certain time so you’d buy new ones? Or is it just another case of US media jumping on every event similar to one that’s happened recently? See here, here, here, here and here … and so on and so forth.

Ron Walker:

Andrew Clarke writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Regarding the tip about Ron Walker and his portrait. During the recent and hugely successful “Open House” day I saw Ron’s portrait in the Melbourne Town hall reception room that leads out onto the balcony. Indeed the Town Hall is almost nothing but mayoral portraits. Ron Walker’s portrait is an epic vanity commission. And who better to make Ron look good than Charles Billich. In fact Billich has made Ron look so good (and overwrought) he is barely recognisable, propped up amid an ocean of mayoral robes and chains. It looks like the apotheosis of Butch Cassidy.

Meet the Spartans:

Scot Mcphee writes: Re. “Mungo: War and the Olympiad — a history” (yesterday, item 16). Unfortunately for Mungo, the Persian king Darius didn’t ever get past Thermopylae to Athens — it was his son Xerces. Darius was defeated at Marathon in 490BC. It was ten years later in 480BC that his son Xerces faced the Spartan 300 (plus allies making up to 2000 Greeks) at Thermopylae, then after he won this famous battle and fought an inconclusive naval engagement at Artemesium, he captured Athens. However his fleet was then defeated at the battle of Salamis by a supposedly half-Athenian fleet, while Xerces looked on from the shore. The army he subsequently left behind commanded by Mardonius to finish the Greeks off (capturing and burning Athens a second time, after the Athenians again refused terms) was itself finished off at Plataea in the following spring of 479BC, with the Spartans doing most of the bloody work. It should be noted that some Greeks, not just the Ionian Greeks either, fought on the side of the Persians.

The Olympics:

Harold Levien writes: Re. “H.G.’s Golden Nuggets: tonight’s the night, Australia” (Friday, item 1). Channel Seven’s advertising breaks during the Olympics opening ceremony were shameless. They not only deprived viewers of a complete viewing of the magnificent spectacle but the breaks in continuity destroyed the aura of the occasion. The Australian Government’s communication powers enable it to require the Olympics broadcaster to screen the opening ceremony without breaks. If this is too much of a public service for a commercial channel the broadcast should be awarded to the ABC. Perhaps the latter would be more appropriate in any case. It would certainly avoid a repeat of the pathetic, ocker comment of a Channel Seven presenter during a brilliant dance routine that “it looks as though they are searching for their contact lenses”.

Stilgherrian writes: Re. “Last night’s TV ratings” (yesterday, item 22). I know the Olympic opening ceremony was on pretty late, so perhaps Glenn Dyer was on the turps when he wrote that “a little girl singing a national song” is “Stalinist”. Stalinist? You mean like Nikki Webster singing Under Southern Skies at the Sydney Olympics? Get a grip, man! Besides, wouldn’t it be more Maoist than Stalinist?


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