Americana and the race for the White House:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle08: May I never visit Pennsylvania again” (Friday, item 4). I read Rupert Murdoch’s fears of Obama’s protectionist impulses with some amusement. Hasn’t Rupert previously endorsed Obama? Is it just possible that he realises that he may have made a mistake? The EU trade commissioner’s called Obama’s trade protectionism as “irresponsible” and a “mirage”. The UK Labour foreign secretary echoed this too.

On Iran his stance was described as “utterly immature” and “formulations empty of all content” by the French President Sarkozy. A former Republican staffer Ken Adelman who has endorsed Obama commented. “I sure hope Obama is more open, centrist, sensible …than his liberal record indicates.” (Liberal in the US sense means left wing.) What exactly has the US and world been coaxed into by the fawning media? What next, claims that the secular religion of anti-Americanism will disappear?

Put a fork in them, the election is almost done.

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John Goldbaum writes: Re. “What does the G20 giggle say about Kevin Rudd?” (Yesterday, item 4). Dubya wouldn’t know his G20 from his G-spot and I don’t think it is in Dubya’s interest to have his ignorance debated further so that Malcolm can embarrass Kevin about his lack of discretion. Barack is now indebted to Kevin which should help Australia’s interests which would have been harmed if John was still the PM.

If Kevin is sweet with the new US president, he’ll be sweet with the rest of the world’s leaders. Unless it is a crime to expose Dubya’s stupidity, which was no nuclear secret anyway, or it has suddenly become a crime to be indiscreet, as distinct from leaking cabinet discussions, I can’t see where a crime has been committed, so why should the AFP get itself involved? However, if there is to be a leak inquiry, I would recommend it be conducted by Dr Haneef, a man whose forensic skills and integrity are the stuff of legend.

Ken Lambert writes: Re. “Rundle08: I’m with stupid – the curse of the American right” (yesterday, item 1). Having just returned from two weeks in the USA, I can report the end of the American Empire. 62 year old Vietnam vets have lost 40% of their 401K pensions and are drawing social security just to survive, while their dream retirement home in Florida has lost 35% of its value. Fox News and Rush Limbaugh desperately fight for McCain and Palin while CNN, ABC and CBS slant for Obama.

Turn on the TV and 40 channels assault the senses. 35 of them are selling fitness, weight loss, religion, real estate, while the rest show endless news clips of the same bites of campaign speeches as “breaking news”. The underclass and the kiddies are going to vote in numbers and put Obama in the White House. The Bush Boomers who have taken so much and given so little have stuffed up the economy big time — and that’s it, stupid!

Leah Marrone writes: I would like to thank Guy Rundle, not just for his quirky metaphors, observations on society, culture and the like but for his clear sacrifice. I feel somewhat guilty reading these often bleak, yet humorous, musings when I can see that the person reporting is slowly going insane. People have commented about bias and such, I think this is misguided; Rundle has brought us through his experiences, from excitement to pain, each step of the way. I have enjoyed the journey.

Julian Zytnik writes: Re. “Keane: on campaigning, Obama and luck” (yesterday, item 11). Bernard Keane says “It is only because John Edwards kept his infidelity secret for as long as he did that Obama is there.” Bernard sure likes to have a crack, and readers will know that Barack Obama is one of his favourite targets. Back in June he declared “Barack Obama is a disaster of McGovernesque proportions”. Then in August he wrote “Obama’s campaign is taking on that horrible feeling familiar to those who followed Michael Dukakis back in 1988”, and “Hillary Clinton and her supporters were right — Obama can’t win what should be an unlosable election.”

We’ll see what the people say in two days’ time, but with polls pointing to a 6-7 point Obama victory and Obama at $1.15 to win, perhaps Keane would like to revise his apocalyptic predictions for the Democratic nominee. And he should also let go of the sour grapes over Hillary. He is wrong on that count anyway. Most analysts of the primaries saw Edwards as the most “progressive” of the candidates in policy positions and therefore closest to the natural base for Obama. Clinton by contrast was the “establishment” candidate. With the “first past the post” voting systems, Edwards’ presence in the primaries would therefore have hurt Obama as much as help him.

Despina Anagnostou writes: There are people who shout “kill him” at Republican rallies and they’re not talking about McCain, or even Bin Laden. So I can’t help but share the concerns of those who believe that Obama will be assassinated, before or after he wins the presidential election such as Trevor Hedge (yesterday, comments). Oops — did I just assume that Obama will win? Well, that is where we are at.

Here in New York City — admittedly, a liberal refuge for Democrats — the excitement at the pending Obama presidency is palpable. We expect him to win. Every taxi driver I’ve spoken with in the last fortnight has been jumping out of his seat bashing Bush, expressing disgust for McCain, and practically soiling his pants, orgasmic, anticipating an Obama win. It’s not just about the Democrats winning back the Whitehouse, but about Obama. Most of his supporters are beyond “Yes We Can” and have progressed to, “Yes, We Have”.

So, if he loses, people will feel robbed, and there will be rioting in the streets. Hell, I’ll be in the middle of it all. Either way you call it, this campaign has aroused passions – the healthy as well as the dangerous — that I hadn’t expected to see in a country where 60% voter turnout is a success. I just hope that Obama really can build a few more bridges in time.

Bud, an American living in Saudi Arabia, writes: Trevor Hedge is wrong about a number of things; it just shows the difference in our cultures: It is their own racism that they are displaying, they are not afraid of racists … nor to be racists. The rise of Muslim extremism only amplifies the activity of the Religious Right, of which I happen to be a member. Americans can think and practice anything they want, the opinion of the World is just that … an opinion…we honestly don’t care what you think. Sounds like Trevor found that out for himself, how long does take for this to sink in!

First Dog — genius, or a special needs eight-year-old?:

Peter Johns writes: Re. “First Dog on the Moon” (yesterday, item 8). I learned quite shortly into my subscription to skip over the daily contribution from First Dog on the Moon. That it was so consistently unfunny, without poignancy or any other worth made it almost worth looking at simply to wonder how such a desperately untalented “artist” could be given a daily run in an otherwise really worthwhile publication (I won’t be cancelling my subscription!).

I couldn’t help notice yesterday’s picture though. What on earth is that all about? I am not aware that even the most ardent, foaming at the mouth critic of the QPS is suggesting that the individual police receiving the awards are guilty of (at least overt) racism as is clearly represented in the picture. Certainly not that they are cowardly as is the necessary implication from portraying someone in Clan uniform. I am no apologist for the QPS and there is clearly a legitimate gripe with the officers involved on the night in question, the ESC investigators and the QPS hierarchy — but not the individual officers involved in the riot.

If you are going to make such an attention-seeking, provocative gesture you really need to understand what is being argued by the people involved. Otherwise you just come over as another lefty cretin who can’t focus their mind for two seconds to actually make the meritorious points that deserve to be driven home in this case. It is a let down; an insult to the people who have made the effort to provide very thoughtful contributions to Crikey over the last week — rather than just print something out from Google images and spend about 8.2 seconds writing tosh over it that appears to have been drafted by a special needs eight-year-old.

Getting it Wong:

John Harry writes: Re. “We are not climate change leaders, we are its first victims” (Friday, item 1). We’re used to politicians on the telly ducking tough questions from time to time. But Penny Wong’s most recent performance on Lateline was a cracker. Take a look at the transcript. Not only did she blatantly duck most of Tony Jones’ questions, but as every pollie now does, bloated all the answers with fuzz and tired political backhanders. And the delivery was so fake-moderate and anodyne. At one point I closed my eyes and the resemblance to Kevin was eerie. It’s all out of that spin book. Aren’t you sick of it?

The issue was whether sea temperature rises driven by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will affect the Barrier Reef. Something that warranted a degree of seriousness and candour, you would have thought. Tony’s proposition was that the Garnaut recommendations, if implemented, would still mean sea temperature rises of over 2 degrees celsius, risking the majority of the reef. We’d all like to know whether government policy is going to kill the reef, and what the options are.

The Treasury modelling released earlier that day showed that adopting a 25% greenhouse gas reduction target would reduce GDP by an unexpectedly small amount. Wong should have been all over this and the new possibilities it raises. Why waste airtime that could have been given to sensible, knowledgeable people who wouldn’t have treated the public with such disrespect? A minister isn’t meant to disclose secrets or announce policy prematurely, but subject to that is meant to make an honest effort to assess and inform. The fact that this happens, day in and day out, shouldn’t distract people from asking what can be done to avoid what is essentially an abuse. Too much of this is bad for the political process.

Beware Kevin-it’s also terrible for the brand. And, ABC, people really don’t enjoy watching it. Penny hasn’t read her Chomsky. He, the “greatest unraveller of accredited lies” has exposed all the propaganda techniques used by elites and governments for the “engineering of consent”. He would have warned her that when the process becomes so obvious and ridiculous, consent can be a fragile thing.

The Melbourne Cup:

Ray Quigley writes: Re. “Foreign trainers trying to run Our Cup — as well as win it” (yesterday, item 22). Jeff Wall makes an excellent point about the attempted “bullying” by some of the overseas trainers regarding the track conditions. One needs only to remember the annual carping along the same lines from Dermett Weld (one of the “foreigners”) to see how they attempt to “tilt” the level playing field. The mystery, to me, is why these fabulous multi national stables pretend they only heard of the track conditions specifications as laid down by the VRC, “yesterday”! Surely someone had a quick peek at the VRC web site to ascertain the watering policies?

The financial crisis:

Justin Templer writes: Re. “Morrie Newman’s letter to the editor” (yesterday, item 27). If Glenn Dyer were ever to take up journalism as a serious pursuit he would need to increase both gravitas and attention to detail. Dyer’s article variously discusses a Morrie Newman, a Morris Newman and a Maurice Newman — at least one of them apparently the ex-Chairman of the ASX. Dyer describes Newman’s criticism of the failure of politicians to prevent problems in the financial system as “bone headed”, asserting that no one forced bankers to “take the subprime mortgage idea and pervert it beyond recognition”.

Of course no one forced the bankers but (if I may speak for Mr Newman) the point is that it was not up to bankers to take a national or global view on the effect of spiralling credit and inflated assets — we pay governments and their regulatory agencies for that purpose. It is easy now to blame the greedy bankers, but if it was all so obviously, misguidedly and bone-headedly venal where were the public guardians when we needed them? To paraphrase Monty Python, no-one expected a black swan.

Mike Carey writes: If the financial crisis is the fault of governments and politicians, what about the independence, often statutory, of central banks the world over? Is Mr. Newman alleging that central banks and other regulators are in league with the pollies? Looking at the recent regulatory efforts of the ASX, I would find that impossible to believe! But if you were to suggest that regulators and big financial houses were members of the same, self serving club then you might be closer to the mark. US Treasury Secretary, “Hank” Paulson left Goldman Sachs with 600 million and is now charged with administering the US bailout! Whose interests will be closest to Mr. Paulson’s heart (if he has one, that is)?


Tim Villa writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 9). Crikey published: “AT&T, one of the largest internet service providers in America treats our second largest carrier, Optus, with contempt.” Your tipper has the wrong end of the stick, here. AT&T simply subscribe to a third party who keep a registry known as a “blackhole list” of IP addresses that have been sending spam, and choose to block incoming emails from servers in that registry. Optus’s concern is that one or more of their customers are spammers or, more likely, have a computer infected with a spam-sending virus. The problem isn’t with AT&T using blackhole lists and consequently blocking Optus. The problem is Optus not managing their network well enough to be aware of large volumes of suspicious email originating from their customers.

Australian Women Online:

Deborah Robinson, Editor, Australian Women Online, writes: I am writing in response to what Mr Stilgherrian had to say about Australian Women Online (yesterday, comments). I would like to point out Mr Stilgherrian hasn’t got his facts right in regards to Australian Women Online. In the piece written by Danielle Hutchinson from AWO, Ms Hutchinson was making an appeal for rational discussion on the issue of ISP filtering.

We were motivated to make this appeal only after so much of the online community’s anger towards the federal government was misdirected towards AWO when this issue hit the headlines last week. AWO did address the issues related to ISP filtering back in January. However, as the editor of AWO, I did make the decision to delete these from the website’s archive so as to avoid being dragged into the public discussion on ISP filtering. As I have already stated in an update posted on the page where Ms Hutchinson’s article appears:

We are not in a position to provide a forum for this debate on our website. We do not have the available manpower to handle the high volume of comments we could expect on this issue and it is for this reason we have closed the comments on this post. It is not our role nor is it our responsibility, to address the concerns of every single individual who is opposed to ISP filtering. Those who are opposed to ISP filtering have sufficient representation and there are thousands of personal blogs, websites and forums on the Internet where you can share your opinions with like minded individuals.

Mr Stilgherrian is wrong when he wrote, “Anyone using their contact form to discuss the issue was emailed the same “rational” reply…” The text published on your website was a reply sent to ONE individual and is by no means a standard reply, as others who have received personal replies from myself on this issue can tell you. Of course, neither myself or anyone else associated with AWO is now prepared to personally reply to any individual who writes to us about this issue because we cannot trust that whatever is written will not end up on some website somewhere, as it has been on this occasion.

If Mr Stilgherrian is so concerned about the issue of mandatory ISP filtering, then perhaps he would do better to focus his energy towards challenging the federal government’s plans and not on AWO.

F-35 joint strike fighter:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Defence is hush-hush about future fighter jet noise” (yesterday, item 17). Eric Palmer raises many of the valid concerns that informed critics of the proposed F-35 joint strike fighter purchase have been making for some years. The overall problem is more complex and nuanced than he suggests but he is roughly correct in much of his outline. But Eric’s initial throw-away comment that the Taliban do not have an air force, with the inference that any fighter is therefore not required, is plain silly on three counts. Moreover, this type of naïve or callous thinking has caused much of the inadequate defence investment of the last 40 years — and has resulted in many unnecessary casualties in our previous wars.

First, our defence force’s weapon systems and equipment generally have an operational life of around 20-25 years, with 30-40 also being common (F-111 bombers, some ships, etc) and even longer than that is not uncommon (the Navy’s heavy landing craft, the Army’s M113 armoured vehicles and the Air Force’s Caribou transport aircraft are all 1960s vintage).

Second, you try not to fight the last war. Prudent planning requires that most of the equipment we order or buy now and over the next decade is therefore intended to deter, fight or otherwise cope with future strategic challenges, not for current operations. This is also why we always need to go for flexibility and versatility — not try and foolishly “pick winners” in detail now for likely types of crisis and war in the 2030s, 2040s and beyond which cannot be predicted in such detail. It is also why we need measured and sustained investment in our defence over time not the stop-start and overall insufficient funding since the early 1970s which has actually cost us more financially in the long run and also meant increased strategic and tactical risks.

Third, Eric’s (mainly justified) belief that the JSF is primarily a tactical bomber contradicts his assertion about the Taliban anyway. A capability to strike from the air against enemy forces on the ground is required in most types of war, even counter-insurgency ones where the insurgents do not have a conventional air force. This is particularly so because we rarely have enough troops and ships for them to fight without air support, and it is plain immoral for us to ever put them in such situations as we did, for example, in Greece, Crete, Tobruk, Malaya, Singapore, Java Sea, Ambon, Timor, Rabaul, Arafura Sea, Darwin, etc.

Shame on Crikey:

Joanna Pace, East Melbourne resident, writes: Re. “Hilton case reveals planning law as a plaything of the wealthy” (Friday, item 13). The carping tone and gratuitous “cleverness” of Greg Barns’ article on the successful East Melbourne Group’s Appeals Court challenge obscures the significance of the decision and demonstrates his ignorance. Little or no space is given to the substance of the judgment: that this bad planning decision was made by the minister abusing her power. Neither is there any analysis of the impact such ministerial over-riding of planning controls has on councils and communities. Planning controls are designed to protect and enhance Melbourne’s various heritage neighbourhoods integral to Melbourne’s “most liveable city” status.

All community groups should be heartened that, finally, the obligation for the government to follow due process has been upheld: that communities have legitimate rights to object to inappropriate developments: that the process does not bestow on the State government dictatorial powers and licence to trample on council planning controls at will. The East Melbourne Group has been fund-raising for seven years to finance this struggle together with help from myriad volunteers on every level: a few with deep pockets, many working pro bono, others patiently waiting the outcome, most offering to assist however possible and ALL sharing a passionate commitment, courage, grit and determination to see this through to the end. It’s a credit to them all — and a fortuitous, welcome and increasingly rare win for all residential communities faced with inappropriate developments and improper ministerial intervention.

The obligation to comply with due process and the community’s right to expect this is at the core of the judgment. Isn’t it the obligation of a journalist to investigate and report the facts? Had Greg Barns made even a token inquiry he would have become aware of the strength of community opposition to this project and the high-handed approach of the minister — he didn’t but chose instead to write a nasty, supercilious and incorrect personal version of events. Shame on him and Crikey — that’s not journalism!

Cold blooded global warming:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Re. “Global warming” (yesterday, comments). When did I say the world has not warmed in 30 years? I said it was hard to justify Crikey’s editorial claiming that the world is ‘getting warmer and more climactically extreme at an alarming rate’. Look at the scale of the graph I referred to: it has mean zero; this decade has seen average temperatures around 0.3C above the 30 year mean; 2008 temperatures have fallen below the 30 year mean; 2008 temperatures are now around the same as they were 30 years ago and the world has not warmed for over 10 years. Tom Clarke (yesterday, comments) points out the 30 year trend is around 0.16C of warming per decade. At this rate the world will be about 1.5C warmer in 2100 should the 30 year average hold for the next 90. We only have 30 years of satellite data and they simply do not show an alarming warming trend. So again: no need to panic.

Simon Rumble writes: I was going to write about how the climate change deniers like Tamas Calderwood (Friday, comments) seem to have a lot in common with the people who claim that 9/11 was actually a controlled demolition by a giant Jewish-alien Illuminati conspiracy that’s been successfully covered up so they can enslave the human race for the pleasure of our new reptilian overlords. Then it hit me: who would benefit most from unchecked global warming? Of course it’s those same reptiles running the global Zog conspiracy! Have you not noticed how the ideologues at The Australian look somewhat reptilian? Isn’t Greg Sheridan’s beard just a way of keeping warm?

Jeffrey Coombs writes: In seeking to discount the 600 million years of Earth’s climatic history, it is not surprising that Mark Byrne (yesterday, comments) should reference Chapter 6 of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report by Working Group 1. The use of Paleoclimate proxies are an important part of climatic research and are by their nature open to varying interpretations. Predicably, the politically motivated IPCC Report uses proxy data manipulation to come to the conclusion that there is a discernable association between Temperature and CO2. There is however a vast and ever increasing body of evidence to suggest that solar irradiance, in the form of sunspot cycles, and celestial cycles and their effect on atmospheric water vapour are of a far greater influence. As a starting point, refer to The Geological Record and Climate Change.

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