The death of the neo-cons:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Rundle: The death of the neo-cons” (yesterday, item 2). Guy Rundle’s article yesterday is a fascinating trip down a yellow brick road that comes from nowhere and leads to nothing. A wonderful gossamer of names and expressives but what is he trying to say? My guess, and it has to be a guess, is that the good Guy is trying to express a view that the USA is stuffed. And it is so because the “rightists” ( I can develop these expressions too) are stuffed.

Who are the rightists? I guess our columnist considers all religiously observant American conservative patriots as neo-con racist war mongers — or “rightists”. Of course, in Rundle’s world anyone who is not a “leftist” (whatever that is) is fundamentally flawed in some mystical way. For a genuinely fair minded, educated and concerned person, the constant rhetoric against all that is USA is bloody boring.

For the record, my father was a German Jewish communist, my mother was a Berlin cabaret singer in the early 1930s. These traits were somewhat of a handicap under the Nazis and they got out in the mid 1930’s and emigrated to Australia I was born into an enlightened household. I was taught always to look for the truth and to stand up for truth and freedom above all. The truth, in this world, is often very hard to find and it isn’t helped by irrelevant hypotheses about nothing much really.

In spite of the American glorification of acquisitive individualism and its adherence to its religious roots “in god we trust”, the USA has been the engine room of the world. We owe our freedom to the help the USA gave in the second world war. Remember the USA did not start either of the two world wars. Of course they started and lost many since. But the point being?

Where do we get this right v left rubbish and its insertion into American attitude. Is it envy? Perhaps. Is it anti religion? Perhaps. Is it anger at placing the individual in front of the herd? Perhaps.

Would it not be better Mr Rundle to drop the naive “ismic” expressionism and delve into what you see — and why — as “good” and “bad”. That would indeed be constructive.

Niall Clugston writes: I don’t know what Guy Rundle was trying to achieve by his article about the death of Irving Kristol, or why Crikey ran it so prominently. It was little more than a stream of consciousness expanding on the thesis of a Trotskyist-Neoconservative nexus. Though popular, this thesis is nonsensical (and in some forms anti-Semitic).

Yes, a couple of right-wing intellectuals like Kristol might have been leftwing in their youth, but so what? Based on this flimsy premise, Rundle conjures up a vast intellectual movement, only bothering to drop the name of an actual person or event occasionally.

Exactly how many members of New York’s “urban Jewish European intellectual tradition” travelled from Communism to Neo-Conservatism in round figures? And since when was “Jacobin” a synonym for “Marxist”? But why let facts interrupt the flow of pseudo-intellectual waffle?

Pacific Islands Forum:

Peter Burnett writes: Re. “Leaked document: Oz discouraged Pacific islands from tough emissions stance” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane is right that the Small Island States were done over at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns, as they clearly wanted tougher targets on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Pacific journalists who bothered to turn out to the press conference straight after the SIS meeting all reported Premier of Niue Toke Tolagi saying that the leaders reaffirmed support for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) target of at least 45 per cent cuts below 1990 levels by 2020 — see stories here and here and here.

But as Keane explains, these targets never appeared in the bland release issued by the Forum Secretariat. Then on Thursday night, after the Forum leaders retreat, Kevin Rudd announced the “Pacific Leaders’ Call to Action on Climate Change”, which supported a 50 per cent cut by 2050 (not 85 per cent, as advocated by AOSIS), a peak of emissions in 2020 (not 2015) and a target of 2 degrees Celsius or lower (rather than “well below 1.5 degrees”).

The Cairns climate deal is condemned in a scathing editorial in the major regional magazine Islands Business, which says “the outcome of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting on climate change is essentially a death warrant for Pacific Islanders … The truth of the matter is that neo-colonialism was the order of the day in Cairns.”

Now that Rudd is Forum chair, this climate shuffle is not the only odd manoeuvre at the Forum Secretariat. AusAID’s former trade advisor is taking over the post as head of the Economic governance unit in the Secretariat — just as Australia moves to start negotiations on a free trade agreement with the Pacific island states.

Charles Klassen writes: I have a high regard for Bernard Keane’s analysis of the daily news, but not enough to forgive him the misuse of the word “existential” when he means survival. Poor Sartre!

The Wangaratta Suppression:

Media consultant Brian Mitchell writes: Re. “No white balloons for the city of Wangaratta” (yesterday, item 16). The Wangaratta Suppression is a much bigger issue than it first appears: Judges have far too much sway over public discourse of matters that touch on their courtrooms. If judges believe a jury risks pollution from exposure to information other than evidence before the court, the judge can order the jury be empanelled.

While inconvenient to the 12 jurors, their families and workplaces — not to mention expensive for the justice system — it is far preferable to judges telling the rest of us what we can and cannot read, see, hear and talk about. Instead, many judges are far too comfortable with slapping suppression orders on media coverage of matters before them.

But this judge has gone one further, deeming the people of Wangaratta so slow-witted that they would be excessively influenced by a balloon. That they would be so overcome with emotion that they would ignore the evidence before them and convict the accused simply because he stands before them.

There is a wealth of evidence available that shows juries are not tainted by media coverage and that they are able to execute their duties and cast their judgement based solely on the evidence before them, no matter how inflammatory media coverage may or may not have been.

Australia’s media is already far too house-trained and the ever-more pernicious application of privacy laws, court-ordered suppression and self-censorship, coupled with falling ad revenues and an exponential growth in spin-doctoring, risk journalism in this country becoming a Singapore-style shadow of the ideals of a free press.

The Democrats:

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Democrats’ brave foray into 21st century hits a snag” (yesterday, item 9). The Titanic of the Democrats hit the iceberg when Meg Lees supported the GST, a regressive tax that taxes the rich and poor at the same rate. They were finished as a political force from that moment. They’ve only been shuffling deck chairs since then.

Wong’s climate change compromise:

Angus Sharpe writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: Wong’s climate change ‘compromise’” (yesterday, item 8). Sophie Black, it’s unlike you to pull punches. I think you mixed up Erwin Jackson’s (the Climate Institute) response with Penny Wong’s original “compromise” proposal. Here is what I think you mean:

Q: What does this new “compromise” plan mean?

A: “Compromise” means cave in.

Q: What’s the difference between a binding emissions reductions target for developing nations and a binding “schedule” of how reductions could be made?

A: Binding “target” means we have to do it. Binding schedule of how reductions “could be made” means we won’t do it.

Q: How important to negotiations is the idea that developed nations take responsibility first and foremost for their emissions and take the lead?

A: Developed nations must commit to hard targets. And pay developing nations to do so. Or we will drown while sucking on poison air.

Q: Are the talks for Copenhagen really as off track as Rudd is making out?

A: Yes.

Q: Why does everyone seem to be downplaying expectations?

A: Because developed nations won’t commit to hard targets. Or pay developing nations to do so. We are going to drown while sucking on poison air.

Q: How much clout does Australia wield at the UN meetings this week?

A: As much clout as Norway, Tuvalu, Denmark and Mexico put together. That is, none.

Q: Does anyone really listen to us or is this “plan” just played out for the PR potential back home?

A: No one listens to us. This is just a PR stunt.

Q: Is any one nation leading the discussion on funding for developing nations and emissions targets and prepared to lead by example?

A: No important country. Only the small unimportant countries mentioned above (Norway, Tuvalu, Denmark and Mexico), most of which will drown in the next few decades when nothing is done.

Q: How important is it that the US senate pass their trading scheme before Copenhagen?

A: Sophie got this one right; “It is critical to an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen.” And the US must push China to do the same if this is to work. But in the next 80 days? It won’t happen.

Five weeks Rudd free:

Ralph Spring writes: Re. “Blair’s mission from God rings hollow” (yesterday, item 12). Having just spent five weeks in UK and Europe I am pleased to report being very refreshed. Apart from reading Crikey I have read at least one leading English language paper everyday and only twice has there been a mention of our Dear Leader Kevin Rudd in the foreign press. Once when he was apologising again for something that happened in the past — the report seemed as astonished as the reader — and the other was two lines on his cap and trade mantra.

It really was refreshing to have five weeks Rudd free. What has worried me though is the parallels that can be drawn between the Blair/Brown government and our Dear Leaders approach. It seems we are in the earlier days of Blair but with all current encumbrances of Brown as he survives today.

We should however be thankful that we do not subscribe to the British Peerage system — Blair/Brown have used it extensively from fund raising purposes (flogging peerages for donations) to duchessing their colleagues and fellow travellers.

It’s quite easy to read some statement from Lord Stamford only to find that before his duchessing he was Charley Jones the Labor MP for East Cheam who didn’t get his A levels. Trouble is, Peers or not, they all seem to have their fingers in the cookie jar.

Send your comments, corrections, clarifications and c*ck-ups to [email protected]. Preference will be given to comments that are short and succinct: maximum length is 200 words (we reserve the right to edit comments for length). Please include your full name — we won’t publish comments anonymously unless there is a very good reason.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off