Rundle, Danby, Israel et al:

Michael Danby, the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports, writes: Re. “Rundle: No wonder Danby is pissed off” (Monday, item 12). Eric Beecher, the owner of Crikey has had the decency to agree that Crikey’s poor moderation and editing allowed some comments/letters during the first three months of 2009 that were bigoted (click here read his comments). That is precisely what concerned me in my speech about “the dark and ugly recesses of the internet“.

Perhaps Guy Rundle, Crikey is hyper-keen to demonstrate he is still a loyal, plodding, knee-jerk, anti-Israel commentator like most of Crikey’s contributors; Jeff Sparrow, Antony Loewenstein, etc. That is why he insists that the focus of my remarks were a disagreement with his extreme Middle East proscriptions. They weren’t. I agree with Rundle when he correctly analyses why anti-Jewish bigots made comments on New Matilda and Crikey when he says “this happens because the anti-Zionist basis of the attack also attracts anti-Semites”.

When, in relation to online publications moderating their sites, he says “I’ve noticed this policy tends to be tightened soon after the editor in question first gets attacked and realises how creepy it is to have crazies wanting your loved ones to get cancer”, and when finally he explicitly concludes “I’d support a more aggressive comments deletion policy”, hooray, I agree.

I challenge anyone to read my speech and not understand that Beecher’s statement and New Matilda’s new policy of moderating comment to avoid anti-Jewish bigotry, are exactly what I argued for in parliament.

Michael Reich writes: Guy Rundle refers to analogies between Zionism and Nazism. Comparisons with Nazism and Hitler have long been used inflame debate rather than illuminate. This has been true for those Zionists who label their opponents with these epithets and politician slurring their opponents. In the case of opponents of Zionism, the same tactic fulfils the dual purpose of irony while is guaranteed to upset the Jewish community. It may be stating the obvious but many in the Jewish community have had much more direct experience (or indirect by one or two degrees of separation) of the Nazis. Even watching the numerous SBS documentaries on the Nazis does not necessarily provide the same insights.

Guy Rundle has, rightly condemned the traditional use of the Zionist/Nazi analogy by rabid anti-Semites while hinting disingenuously that on the other hand there maybe some basis for the analogy. He is correct that the relationship between Zionism and Nazism is complex and needs to be examined. His examination includes newspaper descriptions of storm trooper like uniforms of segments of the Israeli army and the fact that Zionist political leaders referred to their political opponents as Nazis prior to the second world war (political leaders going overboard throwing abuse at each other — how unusual).

Rundle’s other supporting evidence includes the fact that some gentile anti-Semites (as distinct from the Jewish ones!) supported Zionism before the war to get rid of the Jews from their neighborhoods. The overlap of the aims of Zionists to return the Jews to Israel and the Nazis attempts to make Europe Judenrein has enjoyed a good run for rabid anti-Semites in their support for a Zionist/Nazi conspiracy. In a similar fashion, the attempts by some Zionists and Jews to bribe Nazi officials to allow Jews to escape the slaughter of the Holocaust has long been used by the same parties in support of the thesis.

In addition Rundle has pointed out the appalling ethnic cleansing that occurred during Israel’s war of Independence. If this was his sole criteria for making the analogy then there are other numerous appropriate cases for such an analogy. The ethnic cleansing in the Indian sub-continent co-incidentally at a similar period to Israel’s war of Independence comes to mind, never mind the more contemporary horrors of Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia, Darfur etc. The underlying ideologies that led to these atrocities do not seem to attract the attention of conspiracy theorists as much as Zionism.

I normally enjoy Guy Rundle’s pieces for his polemics but this disingenuous piece causes disquiet for his attempt to simultaneously disown some of the traditional anti-Semitic Zionism/Nazism rhetoric while trying to imply there is a ring of truth underlying the canard.

Michael Brull writes: Daniel Lewis (yesterday, comments) says I make the “embarrassing claim in defence of Islam, that: ‘more suicide bombings had been committed by the (secular) Tamil Tigers than any other group’. Wrong!”

If we turn to the link, my full sentence reads: “Even in the case of suicide bombings, Pape’s study showed that more suicide bombings had been committed by the (secular) Tamil Tigers than any other group.” My reference was to Robert Pape, whose study from 1980 to 2003 is described in the New York Times here. Lewis goes on to claim that this was in defence of Islam, when I am an atheist and secularist. Perhaps disputing that terrorism is somehow intrinsically Islamic seems to him contentious. In my view, this simply reflects that one can make gratuitous claims about Muslims in the media that would not be permitted to make about Jews.

This exhausts the facts that Lewis disputes in what I’ve written, but does not exhaust his extensive invective. In fact, his attack is an improvement on Danby, who did not dispute anything I have said in his latest diatribe, and even accuses me of comparing Israel to the Nazis, when I have done no such thing and have in the past publically objected to such comparisons.

Finally, I know belief in a giant Loewenstein conspiracy is fashionable among Zionist jingoists, but the claim that Loewenstein is my mentor or whatever simply indicates the sort of mentality that can’t imagine how two Jews could possibly oppose Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

John Kotsopoulos writes: Daniel Lewis wrote: “The reason Loewenstein and Brull appeal to people like Guy Rundle, and other leftist groups, is not because their commentary is especially insightful (it’s not even accurate). But because they call themselves Jewish, and thus have a novel defence denied to the typical Jew-hating (sorry, anti-Zionist) obsessive.” Not so in my view.

The reason that Loewenstein and Brull have appeal is that are able to see both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and they deny uncompromising Zionists and right-wing reactionaries like Mr. Lewis the cheap and convenient out that anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites.


Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Conroy orders Telstra to do the splits” (yesterday, item 1). What curious bleatings by Senator Nick Minchin and others regarding Telstra shareholders suffering losses in the proposed split of the telco. The share market is a place of risk, it’s not a bank, there are no guarantees.

The fact that a federal government urged Australians to invest in Telstra shares was sufficient warning to be wary i.e.: governments act in their own interests, not citizens’. And will those tiresome media commentators who unrelentingly refer to Telstra’s shareholders as “mums and dads” immediately desist … not only is it patronising, it’s inaccurate.

John Goldbaum writes: The government made Telstra an offer it couldn’t refuse. 1.4 million shareholders may refuse to offer the government a second term.

Far North Queensland:

Greg Williams writes: Re. “Illiterate, but formal: a small miracle of democracy blooms in FNQ” (yesterday, item 3). One may ask “What’s new?” Going back to the early 80s (and in all likelihood well before) you have instances, election after election, of polling officials (primarily teachers) on some Cape York Aboriginal communities insisting only their “preferred” nominee “assist” illiterate voters.

Of, on one occasion 152 ballot papers (out of 700-odd) lodged on one community, being filled in by one official “assisting” illiterate voters, and every last one of the 152 papers being in favour of the ALP candidate. Of, on another occasion the local purri purri man (loosely — “witch doctor” in the African context), who happened to be an avowed Labor supporter, allowed by the abovementioned polling officials to “assist” voters (illiterate, and in some cases otherwise) fill in their ballot papers.

Yes Bernard, indeed a long history of “interesting” goings on. And very little, if anything, to do with literacy.

Student politics:

Stephen Luntz, Returning Officer, Above Quota Elections, writes: Re. “Young Liberals find their campus saviours — the ALP” (yesterday, item 5). I’m sure it was not intended, but Andrew Crook’s article on the Melbourne University student elections came as a triple slap to me.

Firstly, I am sorry to learn I’ve been boring Crikey readers by “repeatedly” pointing something out — I can only recall saying it once. Moreover, I’m disappointed I wasn’t sufficiently clear, since Andrew seems to have misunderstood my point earlier this year. Far from seeing parliament, journalism and union “hackdom” as the only destination for those involved with student unions I was noting how broad the contributions of my era’s student union alumni have been. I mentioned Christos Tsiolkas, Anna Funder and Cate Blanchett, none of whom seem destined for any of those roles.

More significantly, the use of my name in Andrew’s article might be read by some as indicating I was the source. This would be highly inappropriate, as I am running the Monash elections (which get a passing reference), and am part of the partnership that ran Melbourne. I don’t recall ever speaking with Andrew, and certainly had nothing to do with this piece.

Given my roles I’m not in a position to say which bits I agree with and which I don’t, other than that some people might be surprised.

David Mendelssohn writes: Andrew Crook is incorrect to say that Socialist Alternative is “a remnant of the collapsed Communist Party”. Socialist Alternative is, as Andrew says just before then, Trotskyist and, according to its website, seems to belong to that Trotskyist stream which follows the theories of Tony Cliff. This is consistent with it, according to Wikipedia, having broken away from the International Socialist Organisation in 1995.

Most Trotskyists seem to regard the former Communist Party of Australia as Stalinist, to the bemusement of its members and most informed observers. Most former members of the former CPA, if they are now members of any political party at all, seem to have drifted into The Greens or the Left of the ALP and a few elsewhere.

The organisation presently calling itself the Communist Party of Australia was formerly the Socialist Party of Australia, a Moscow-line breakaway from the CPA in the early 1970s, which renamed itself after the original CPA dissolved itself in 1990.

Angus Sharpe writes: To think that (when at Uni) I was forced to pay for these idiots to travel round Australia spouting this pointless rubbish. It makes my skin crawl to this day. Thank God for VSU.

Crikey and The Oz:

Alan Kennedy writes: Re. “A letter to The Australian only Crikey will print” (yesterday, item 18). James McDonald’s letter to Crikey (geez you blokes are hard up for stuff if you are writing letters to yourself next you will have First Dog out flogging subscriptions) makes mention of Ben Sandilands en passant as it were. It reminded me of something in The Australian on Saturday, an “exclusive” by Cameron Stewart on the Emirates near disaster at Tullamarine which happened whenever. I didn’t read it because I had read the guts of the story on Crikey filed by Sandilands. I just wondered about the use of the word “exclusive” on the Stewart piece.

Such wonderful journalism from the old media. It really is an odd newspaper. It goes to all the trouble of doing an excellent re-design but forgets to redesign its journalism. The Review section remains the only reason I buy the Weekend Oz. The rest of it is like those afternoons you used to spend picking over rubbish in the dump hoping to find something useful but generally just going home with smelly empty hands.

And on Cut & Paste has there ever been a more obsessively compiled column? The editor must be like something out of Rain Man some sort of idiot savant able to spew out  information stored  in bottomless memory banks. And like Dustin Hoffman it can spew it out at will but for what purpose?  I used to think Gerard Henderson had the in perpetuity award for never forgetting that some recently deceased lefty had at sometime in the ’20 or ’30s said something nice about Stalin but Cut & Paste makes him look like an amateur.

WA politics:

Tim Villa writes: Re. “After one year in the WA wilderness, Labor is stuffed (part I)” (yesterday, item 9). Great to hear from “The Western Warrior” in yesterday’s edition, I hope he/she will appear more often in future!

The SMH:

Fran Kirby writes: First they have a website that looks like New Idea or Who Magazine, then they remove the on-line crosswords and now Column 8 can’t be read online. They’ve revamped the Opinion section and now call it “National Times“.

A search for Column 8 brings up: “Column 8 is available only in The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper now. Email Column 8 submissions to [email protected].”

I’m a subscriber, but my husband gets the “paper” paper to take read on the bus and I read online then go home to the proper paper in the evening. Do they seriously think others will actually decide to buy the paper because of Column 8 and the crosswords?


Bruce Ferrier, Grace Gibson Productions, writes: Re. “Who gives the best Rudd? A Kruddy lookalike round up” (yesterday, item 12). I read with interest Mel Campbell’s article in which writing credits for Australian radio’s longest running comedy/satire How Green Was My Cactus are attributed to Ian Heydon. The casual reader would come away with the impression that Ian Heydon had created the show or had at least had an extended association with its scripting, which has now been in continuous production for just over 23 years and some 4500 episodes. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Credit where it’s due: How Green Was My Cactus was the exclusive brain-child of Doug Edwards who created it quite single-handedly in 1986 in response to Keating’s “Banana Republic” comment. Doug Edwards has continued to be the chief writer right throughout, but would freely acknowledge co-scripting credits to Ian Heydon for about 250 episodes back in the 1980s, along with Lindy Wilson for about 2000 episodes thereafter, and more recently from Shane Edwards over the past 1000 or so episodes.

Likewise, Mark Strachan has been a regular contributor right throughout. Edwards has won an incredible five AWGIE Awards for Best Comedy Script from the Australian Writers’ Guild for How Green Was My Cactus over the years.

As for best Rudd impersonator, you somehow missed acknowledging the nation’s foremost mimic and stand-up comedian Keith Scott who has played all Cactus Island Prime Ministers from King Bonza the Charismatic to Kevin Krudd along with the majority of other pollies of note. Keith Scott’s rendition of Rudd is quite flawless whilst in contrast his satirical rendition of Treasurer Wayne Duck (as an Australianised Daffy Duck) is priceless!

Take a listen: click on this link and follow the prompts … Cactus is still aired daily by over 50 radio stations right throughout Australia.

A French malaise:

Michael James writes: Re. “The grim reality that is France, happiness indexes notwithstanding” (yesterday, item 13). With Glenn Dyer’s comments on France Peter Hartcher’s almost equally superficial analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald I only wish they were female so I could use the same response I used when Planet Janet gave her two cents worth after a flying visit to Paris (Never surrender to the French malaise), namely: “Sois belle et tais tois”.

When it comes to France everyone feels they can express their ignorance in a gratuitous insult or two. In the past I have been as guilty as most Anglo-Saxons but having the sixth largest economy in the world, the best-rated healthcare system in the world five years in a row, 75 million tourists every year (including aforesaid Hartcher and PlanetJ), and now the earliest European country to emerge from the GFC, maybe we should put the sniggering to one side. After all they do not have a quarry-based economy like us, or indeed have not squandered three decades of North Sea oil like the hapless Brits.

The journalist’s rule is followed: never let the evidence get in the way of a good storyline. The story was that official panic has ensued from the fact that France Telecom has reported 23 suicides among its 102,000 employees. France has a suicide rate (26.4 males/9.2 females per 100,000) towards the higher end in Europe though a clutch of others are similarly high (Austria, Belgium, Switzerland) but lower than Japan (34.8/13.2). Australia (17.1/4.7), Canada and the USA are in the mid-range while the UK and Italy are both suspiciously low (about 11/3)—(the former because, frankly if one was a Brit … and for the latter, statistics in strongly catholic countries are suspect).

It is obviously a complex set of causes and no clear relationship can be discerned between relative measures of economic success. The most recent statistics are available here.

Anyway back to the facts. Those 23 suicides would appear not too far from the national average but because of the huge gender disparities it is not easy to be precise. The exceptional circumstances, not mentioned by Dyer, was that some of these suicides occurred in the workplace, such as a self-stabbing in the boardroom after bad news — reminiscent of but not quite the Japanese seppuku. At any rate the story looks like a classic beat-up.

But what we also need to know and Glen Dyer might report for us, is what is the suicide rate in Telstra, pre- and post-Sol Trujillo, or pre- and post-news on Tuesday of Stephen Conroy’s enforced Telstra splits? Or in people forced to call Telstra customer service lines? Compared to that, perhaps suicide is painless…

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Matt Andrews (yesterday, comments) asserts the satellite temperature record is irrelevant because it doesn’t include surface readings or look directly at the troposphere.

First, the surface station record is unreliable because of the urban heat-island effect and appalling maintenance and placement of measuring stations as found by Anthony Watts, but even the data sets that include surface stations show no warming for a decade.

Second, satellites do measure the troposphere and I specifically used the troposphere data from UAH. The troposphere accounts for 75% of the atmosphere’s mass and 99% of its water vapour.

Matt then goes on to discuss “high risk” “plausible scenarios” that ” might happen” — in other words, he can point to no actual serious global warming but despite “substantial uncertainties” he asserts this will be “near apocalyptic … for contemporary civilization”.

Kieran Diment (yesterday, comments) says I ignore 80% of the data but makes no mention of what this 80% is.

Mark Byrne (yesterday, comments) asks if I “will only be convinced of dangerous global warming after it has occurred”? Well, yes Mark, because despite record human CO2 production no dangerous global warming has actually occurred and the Medieval and Roman warm periods were warmer than today anyway.

In the mean time I’ll again point out that the past 30 years has seen a trend increase in Earth’s atmospheric temperature of 0.38C, the past 10 years has seen about 0.1C of cooling and the Argos buoy program shows ocean cooling since 2003. Average temperatures for the past 15 years have been less than 0.2C higher than they reached in the 1940’s and the past 12 months has been around 0.4C warmer than the average since 1901.

This is not a crisis and I don’t think we need to abandon democracy and enslave ourselves to those who know the TRUTH of global warming when the data don’t support their claims of Armageddon.

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Peter Fray
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