Russia vs. Georgia:

Martin Gordin writes: Re. “US plays a shadowy hand in Georgian conflict” (yesterday, item 1). Some friends and I were talking the other day about the Russian intervention in Georgia. When I suggested the intervention seems to have coincided with the first starters gun for the Olympics they completely agreed, the perfect cover! There is a long history in those parts of the world. Georgia has been clumsy, but Russia has happily meddled against separatism for Kosovo in favour of Serbia, and now for Abkhazia and South Ossetia against Georgia. Russia’s ramping up of military action (having previously issued its passports to Georgian nationals) and then an actual invasion has seen a disproportionate use of force, and a total disregard for civilian casualties. The worst features of the military text book from the old Soviet Union are being applied. Russia could develop into a modern country with high living standards, but it seems to want to remain a thuggish backwater. It has made Chechnya a global terrorist hotspot through its brutality. It has a long list of Baltic States, Finland, Eastern Europe and central Asia where it has applied the jackboot and wonders why people hate and fear them? Russia has shown itself very keen to crush small states and through its actions in the UN to support tyrants in Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq (with Saddam Hussein). This is not “realpolitik” but barbarism. There is no defence for it — it is the brutal exercise of power with almost primitive motivation behind it.

Christopher Ridings writes: The trans-Caucasian country of Georgia has had a tough history. This original land of Jason’s Golden Fleece is the neck between Eastern Europe and north-west Asia, the bridge between the Black Sea and the Caspian and thus has been stuck continuously between competing powers. In an aberration of its own hapless history it did ironically produce the unlovable Stalin. While I do see the nation states bordering Russia as now becoming a buffer on its western front, not mentioned so far is the pipe-line running between Russia and its south right through Georgia. This is not just a geo-political struggle but one that is also resource related and I regret to say that more of these appear to be on the way. Unless we can urge the UN to be more alert to this and related struggles, our children will grow up to see that it is not the common good that prevails but only the strong over the weak. So what lessons do we want our children to inherit?

James Burke writes: Any Australian who’s been paying attention to recent events in the Caucasus would know … oh, hang on. That’d be two people: me, “Likes to Pay Attention to the Caucasus Guy”, and that weird bloke Shamil in the “Grozny Nights” kebab joint on Auburn Road in Sydney. Anyway, between us, Shamil and I know that the Soviet reconquista of Georgia has been on the cards for months. Attacks on Georgia from the “breakaway” republics — breakaway as in “break back to the USSR” — have been increasing in frequency since the beginning of 2008. Vladimir Putin wanted this war. We wouldn’t have expected Mikheil Saakashvili to be dumb enough to attack on his own, but then he probably thought he had some sort of approval from George Bush, like the April Glaspie “green light” given to Saddam Hussein. It might have gone something like this…

MS: Mr President, the Ossetians and Abkhazians keep raiding across our borders.
GB: Harsh realm, dude. No way!
MS: The Russians are shooting at our planes!
GB: Man, that is sooo not okay. Bogus.
MS: We may be forced to defend our territorial sovereignty.
GB: It’s about respec’, y’all? Boo-ya!
MS: Putin threatened to crush us …
GB: Well, crush this, motherf-cker! Okay? It’s gettin’ hot in herrre!

Saakashvili, having been raised by the Communist Party to believe in the power of rational thought and the benevolence of humankind, and not being au fait with the dumbing down of Western Statesmen, may have interpreted this as “please, good Sir, attack the Ossetians and we will help you, because we believe your cause is just and noble, and we are strong men and true.” Whoopsie daisy!

Nicholas Roberts writes: Re. Monday’s Editorial. Your editorial regarding Georgian and Russia is as foolish as it is insulting. It’s interesting to see Crikey revert to cheap, capital L Left bashing instead of sensible, detailed, hard news. The nation-state is the only human institution powerful enough to protect people from the market fundamentalism promoted by corporations. I increasingly DO NOT READ Crikey; I don’t give a damn about the Liberal leadership or the gossip of elites. I am finding my news elsewhere.

Dan McNutt writes: Re. “Georgia v Russia v the Olympics: a pictorial comparison” (yesterday, item 10). Am I the only one out here in Crikeyland who is fed up to the back teeth with the obscene jingoistic coverage of the Olympics on the front pages of our major newspapers? It’s the same again this morning on the front pages of the SMH and The Australian. Russia inflicts genocide on Georgia, but all we can focus on is the so-called “heroes” of the bloody swim team. It just shows what a shallow, immature nation we really are when it comes to being world-wise. I’m fed up!

Crikey vs. the ABC:

Karen Ingram writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Your hammering of the ABC over its copyright requests seems pretty unfair to me. The ABC has as much right as any other media organisation to defend its copyright, and I’ve no doubt Crikey would do the same in a similar situation. Being the national broadcaster doesn’t mean the ABC should have to surrender its copyright so that another party — this time Crikey — can show ABC footage, without paying usage fees, and then claim that showing that footage is “an act of public service”. I imagine Crikey’s attitude would champion the ABC had it sent such a letter to The Australian or Channel Seven requesting its IP be respected. But Crikey is a commercial venture and should be willing to pay appropriate fees for using material that is the copyright property of another media organisation. It wouldn’t have been too hard for Crikey to make a couple of phone calls requesting to use the footage, which is what any other media outlet would do. I think you’re wrong on this one — it seems you’ve tried to move the goalposts to suit your own needs, and then got churlish when you were found out. You admit to having breached the ABC’s copyright — why get mean about it?

Michael Tunn, former Triple J presenter, writes: ABC’s recent legal threats against Crikey, smacks of an attack in response to the debate, arguably lead by you, about the ABC’s future role in the new multimedia environment. This recent ridiculous legal demand to remove content that was very arguably in the public interest, a speech by a minister of the crown of all things to get their knickers in a twist about, adds to the argument both inside and outside the ABC, that the product of the national broadcaster, is owned not by the ABC at all, but by the Australian people, and should fall under the now extremely popular creative commons licensing, which allows non-commercial use, like posting on YouTube. The ABC while embracing parts of the Web far smarter than its commercial rivals, hasn’t got it’s head around the idea of sharing content, that it could only have made, out of the kindness of the taxpayers yearly gift. I feel no guilt downloading The Hollowmen by torrent last week, and would love to be served with a letter from the ABC, what a badge of honour from old auntie that would be.

Glenys Stradijot, Friends of the ABC Victoria, writes: Re. “ABC rural sells content, just don’t tell the journos” (Monday, item 3). ABC staff are right to be concerned about the ABC’s sale of their work to a commercial website. So is the public which pays for ABC content to be produced. The integrity of ABC content is compromised, and community trust in the ABC and its staff is damaged if the independent broadcaster’s content appears alongside advertising. There is a risk that ABC Corporate’s drive to on-sell content to commercial enterprises could end up influencing the very nature of content the ABC produces. And ABC Corporate is not only selling content. By allowing the ABC logo to be surrounded by products for sale, it is hiring out the ABC insignia to be used for commercial exploitation and abusing the public trust its insignia evokes. Furthermore, it is contrary to the ABC’s interest to help build a commercial website by providing content and credibility. The ABC should instead be working to draw a larger audience directly to its own site. The ABC’s money-making activities are undermining the best interests of the ABC. The ABC needs to be properly funded by government, and its focus returned to what it is meant to do — produce and broadcast quality content.

Lyall Chittleborough writes: We often get an emphasis in Crikey’s reporting that should be found in the ABC if it was fully implementing the conditions of its charter. While the ABC is seeking to profit financially from its content it must have an eye to material that is commercial and that is the short road to its demise as an outfit that is any better than the other slaves of capitalism. There was a time when the ABC encouraged photographers to submit local pictures for the daily weather presentation, the best dozen being selected for a calendar sold to benefit charities nominated by the successful photographers. This took viewers beyond the visual clichés of their environment and also encouraged community pride as well as a generous altruism, but those days are gone with profits now going to ABC Enterprises, largely because of inadequate government funding. Australia can dissipate hundreds of millions on “Defence” but its cherished Aunt is obliged to walk the streets.

Ambush marketing the Olympics:

Jenny Morris writes: Re. “Coles and Red Rooster lead Olympics cash in” (yesterday, item 17). Who cares if companies make veiled references to the current sporting fiesta in Beijing without paying the AOC for the privilege? The Commonwealth Olympic Insignia Protection legislation is designed to protect the ability of the AOC (and implicitly the IOC) to make money from selling sponsorship rights, by protecting words such as “Olympic” and “Olympiad” and the torch and rings symbols. I’d say all’s fair in love and commercial breaks. If McDonalds is rich (and/or gullible) enough to spend $80 million so they can put coloured rings on paper wrappers, more fool them. Since when was advertising an ethical business? I’m no IP expert, but I’d suggest Coles, Red Rooster et al have taken good advice on their adverts and are in the clear. I’m not wasting any tears on that massive slush fund called the Olympic movement. I’m surprised at Stephen Downes prosecuting their case for them in your “pages”. Oh, and a small but significant detail Stephen got wrong: “ambush marketing” is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum, NOT “the preamble” to the amending Act.

John Richardson writes: Re. “GetUp: not even Stokes could get our ad on air” (yesterday, item 18). Ed Coper and GetUp seem to be really dining-out on the Seven Network’s slippery and indefensible decision not to run their Tibet ad, but how tough are they really? As Ed acknowledges, Australians contributed “tens of thousands” to put the original ad to air, with the time slots “booked, paid for and confirmed to air”. If Ed’s efforts to goad Seven into running an ad during the closing ceremony are successful, I would have thought that the original ad could be run, with any cost of doing so being covered by the dollars originally paid to Seven. If GetUp really believes that a new ad is required, why are they busy soliciting further donations from Australians to pay for it, when they should be asking Seven to cover any cost?

Greenwashing:

Leah Marrone writes: Re. “Green with Envi: Promoting non-existent carbon neutrality” (yesterday, item 4). Thankyou Crikey for this article, I think there are some very real consumer affairs issues that have come about as “green” is beginning to sell. For a long time now I have tried to buy things with less of an environmental impact, for example washing powder without harmful chemicals, free range meat, local produce (reducing transport fuel etc), but now there are so many things claiming to be “green”, as it is now a selling point for the larger community. The other day I saw an ad for environmentally friendly fish oil tablets… which had copious amounts of plastic packaging. This is definitely an area which could do with better government attention/ standards/ testing. It is important that consumers know that the products that they are choosing to buy (and usually pay more for) are actually doing the thing that they claim (reducing environmental damage).

Mike Smith writes: Why do some get so cranky when new theories about this or that in terms of global warming run counter to their carefully held positions? Science is all about floating theories, sure, they may get shot down, but they deserve reasoned comment. Five degrees south of the equator has nothing to do with polar ice caps melting? The countries there must have carte blanche to produce as much CO2 as they like by that argument. Unfortunately that argument doesn’t work, the Earth being pretty much a closed system.

The NT election:

Rohan Leppert writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s political bite-sized meaty chunks” (yesterday, item 11). Richard Farmer tried yesterday to cite the “abnormally high proportion of people who did not bother to vote at all” as proof of his NT election “underdog theory”. His claim, as well as the claim linked to in the Northern Territory News, are both false: the voter turnout for the election will end up being about the same (~80%) as the last two territory elections, once absentee votes are all counted. The recent redistribution and the snap poll both caused an increase in absentee votes, but didn’t cause any real decline in actual turnout. The conclusion that “people who previously were Labor voters could not be bothered turning up at the polling booths at all” is a nonsense.

Paul Keating:

James McDonald writes: Walt Hawtin and Zachary King (yesterday, comments) have spoken the truth on Paul Keating. He was also the last really courageous cabinet minister in federal Australian politics. His only real concession to political nicety was to retract his words on the “recession we had to have” — after all, that’s exactly what it was. So whoever is writing in to quote that gem yet again … please, we’ve heard it. And no it wasn’t really a picnic for me either, but it’s hard to see the prosperity that followed as having been either inevitable or a business response to Howardism. Paul Keating was also the first and last minister (when Treasurer) to challenge the use of negative gearing – more appropriate for start-up businesses and disaster-stricken farmers — as a fixed feature of property investment models. I didn’t agree with all his reforms and philosophies, but I’d rather a PM with Keating’s guts and a few ideas I’m against than a cash-register clerk like John Howard, or a walking talking anticlimax like Kevin Rudd.

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Peter Fray

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