Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle: MLK day in DC — sirens, no wifi and hair up to here” (yesterday, item 2). I find it interesting that there is a plethora of media stories articles talking down the expectations of the Obama administration. The campaign of denigration of Bush is petering out, i.e. the “Bush can do no right and Obama can do no wrong campaign”. It has run for some years now.

There is recognition that Obama will continue virtually all US policies. The visceral hatred of Bush fanned by the media will mutate into endorsement of the identical Obama position. The “media” may need to work some overtime to assuage public scepticism from this continuity.

But if you had missed it and some days it seems like more of the same rather than change there is an explanation. Things are not changing that much as a Kennedy or a Cuomo (formerly married to a Kennedy) is to replace a Clinton in the Senate, a Biden will eventually follow his father into the Senate, a Salazar will replace his brother in the Senate, and in Chicago a corrupt Governor appoints one of his cronies to take over from Obama in the Senate. Then in the last few days the US equivalent of the new Treasurer Tim Geithner was defended by the Democrats despite having not paid some taxes!

If this is change I would hate to see more of the same!

Gerald Ford:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “Inauguration day addresses: a Crikey guide” (yesterday, item 3). As Gerald Ford was never elected President it is hard to see how he could be included in that list of speeches. Sworn in yes but inaugurated? Technically maybe. He became President via the via the vice presidency to which he was appointed under the 25th amendment of constitution when Spiro Agnew had to resign and then President when Tricky Dicky took the long helicopter ride into the west.

Up until then he was Republican minority leader in congress and he was the first and so far only person ever to get to the White House by taking the 25th. Apart from falling down the stairs when getting off aeroplanes and I think he sconed someone with a golf ball once, he seemed to be an affable nobody.

His wife became famous for having an addiction clinic named after her so maybe life with Gerald wasn’t all that peachy. He is remembered as the longest lived president having handed in his dinner pail a few years ago at the age of 93.


Steve Simmonds writes: Re. “News Ltd takes campaign journalism to new heights” (yesterday, item 4). Here here to Andrew Crook, the first person to actually highlight it was the Liberal Government that sold off the public transport in Victoria which has led to this mess. I thought selling them off was meant to lead to a better service for less cost. Why less cost? Because the operators would be better at running it and they would provide the new trains and infrastructure etc.

But like every (every — correct me if I’m wrong!) other privatisation, the result is worse service, more expense to Government with some wealth distribution to a few individuals and companies the only sure bet. It is not Kosk’r fault. She is hopeless but not because the trains are terrible but because she has not explained who is at fault (mainly because they also tow the privatisation line too) because the fault is plainly with the operators. If it is not then the Kennett Government is at fault for not making this the case in the contracts.

She should just be honest — if you want a transport system that works it will cost money and the whole state should pay — if that means higher taxes then pay up people and stop complaining!

The tax system:

Kirk Broadhurst writes: Re. “Real economy: Corporate jet travel down” (yesterday, item 23). Adam Schwab writes “With the Federal Budget soon to be in a significant deficit position, perhaps one small area of tax reform could be for the Labor Government to limit the tax deductibility of corporate air travel to the value of the cheapest available ‘economy’ fare.”

Yes, the government could limit the tax deductibility of corporate air travel. But why stop there? They could also limit the tax deductibility for business lunches to $6.75 – the cost of a regular Big Mac value meal. They could limit the allowance for company cars to roughly $30k for a basic Ford Falcon. Perhaps the tax deductibility for mobile phones should be around $100 for a simple Nokia, or $350 for the basic Asus netbook that everyone is buying.

Business suits could be limited at $250 because they can be purchased from Lowes for that price. We could even limit tax deductibility for office leases to whatever they pay per square metre in the outer suburbs of your favourite regional city. Anything else is being subsidised by the downtrodden Australian taxpayer. For years the governments have tried to simplify the tax system by removing loopholes and exceptions just like this. The last thing we need is more “if-but-except-or” clauses.

The Howard Years:

David Abbey writes: No doubt in coming months we will here the Howard supporters trumpeting once again the amazing budget surplus that Howard and Costello conjured up. With Health, Education and other services or infrastructure being starved of funds it is easy to run a surplus and pander to middle class welfare. Howard’s surplus is identical to the corporate vassals which are now emerging of starving part of the beast to deliver short term outcomes.

Plane spotting:

Wayne Robinson writes: Re. Sam Collyer (yesterday, comments). This month’s issue of Vanity Fair has an article on the incident where two jets collided over Brazil in 2006. It is not only difficult to tell the difference in altitude of planes from the ground; it’s also (apparently) difficult to tell the comparative altitude of planes from the planes themselves, even if the pilots manage to see the other plane itself (which is difficult at the speeds the planes are travelling at).

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