The AfPak conundrum:

James Burke writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 9). No-one wants the war in Afghanistan to continue, but governments seem to be more aware than journalists that the war predated Coalition intervention and will continue beyond it. Doubtless many hope that after international withdrawal, a short, nasty bloodletting would be followed by a pax Talibanica, which, however totalitarian and genocidal, would at least be better than the current slow grind of American, Australian and (especially) British troops dying for a questionable cause.

It’s only Afghanistan, after all, and as in previous years we will be able to salve our consciences by housing a few traumatised survivors as refugees, to experience the benevolence of the Australian community by working night shifts in convenience stores and Hungry Jacks outlets. But this overlooks the fact that there is a domino next to Afghanistan that has been rocking back and forth for over a decade, the fall of which could result in a forest of mushroom clouds over South Asia.

Yemen doesn’t matter that much. It’s the same fanatical backwater it always has been, and any terror threat it poses is probably best dealt with by closing our borders to those with Yemeni stamps in their passports. Pakistan, though, has nuclear weapons. The civil war now being fought there is the single most important struggle in recent history. Pulling the rug out from under the regime in Kabul will likely topple that in Islamabad too. This could deliver nukes into the hands of people with a suicide bomber mentality, who may be happy to see Karachi destroyed if it means wiping out Delhi or Jerusalem.

War is never a good thing and it is always a tragedy to lose soldiers to any cause. Even so, and distasteful as it might be to have to point it out, our sacrifice in Afghanistan has been far less than in past expeditions to South Africa, Korea or Vietnam, and the stakes are far higher than in any of those conflicts.


Fiona McLean, Director, Communications Section, AusAID, writes:  Re. “Tips and rumours” (Monday, item 6). Contrary to what your article of 11 January suggests, AusAID’s funding to the Clinton Foundation supports specific global issues, especially HIV/AIDS responses in four countries. This was widely announced in 2006.

Australia’s partnership with the Foundation has been very successful. The number of HIV-positive children with access to life-saving ART drugs in Vietnam has gone from 200 to 1400 in three years.  The number of people tested and counseled for HIV/AIDS in PNG’s Eastern Highlands Province has almost doubled from 7358 in 2007 to 13,662 in 2008.

Your writer would find it instructive to go to our website for more details.

Murdoch’s paywall:

Andrew Dempster writes: Re. “Murdoch’s grand paywall experiment: will Aussies pay?” (yesterday, item 1). Perhaps the reason people who access news several times a day don’t want to pay while those who access it once a day are more likely to pay is related to the media they replace: Once a day news, i.e. newspapers, you pay for; up-to-the minute news, i.e. radio (and TV, sometimes) you don’t.

Golf courses and public land:

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Golf courses just waiting for residential development” (yesterday, item 10). Christopher Joye’s assessment of public golf courses being reassigned to real estate makes little sense. You swallow up the parklands then what? Does the city stop growing? Adelaide has a 36 hole layout that is used by many, not just golfers.

In the late evenings people walk their dogs, jog etc. I repeat, Adelaide  public golf courses are zoned parkland, that is why they are not fenced off. How claustrophobic would Adelaide be without its famous greenbelt, originally planned by Colonel Light as part of his “vision”.

Treating people like sardines is not the answer. High tech public transport to outer suburbs is.

Conroy’s filter:

Les Heimann writes: Re. “Labor Senator Kate Lundy speaks out against mandatory internet censorship” (yesterday, item 4). Go Kate! Kate Lundy stands for freedom in opposing internet censorship — the rest of the lemmings in the current Labor administration stand naked and condemned as “nanny dictators” when it comes to freedom.

How dare anyone censor anything on the internet — we are not a dictatorship — we were a free country. But we are not free if we do not know and censorship is the act of hiding from us information. A truly free people should have the right to travel down any dark road if that is their want.

Whatever party opposes this legislation will gain votes at this year’s election.

Sarah Palin and Fox News:

Barry Everingham writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Sarah Palin’s comment  that Fox “news” is fair and balanced confirms just how crazy she is; O’Reilly, Hannity; fair, balanced.?..only someone unbalanced would say so … she’s in good company.


David Lodge writes: I don’t think any reasonable person would object to Geoff Russell’s complaints (yesterday, comments) about the transportation of tasty animals in extreme heat. In fact I think any changes to the relevant regulation would receive a decent amount of public support.

However, Geoff, like many of his other extreme counterparts, runs into trouble by refering to the eating of meat or cute little innocent lambs as “slaughter”. Give me a break. Would you also seek to stop the actions of other carnivorous animals Geoff? You’re right that it’s murder though — tasty, tasty murder.

Sharon Hutchings writes: Geoff Russell has probably hit a few raw nerves with his candidly astute comments yesterday. The truth can certainly hurt, but on the issue of meat production, it’s the animals who suffer, even more so in extreme weather conditions.

If we were to truck and slaughter loads of dogs, dolphins or panda bears in the same way most people would be horrified. It’s a curious thing that we humans generally obtain much enjoyment and satisfaction in the nurturing and harvesting process of our fruit and veg, yet the same cannot be said for meat.

Is ignorance really that blissful?

A lump of coal:

Justin Templer writes: Tom Cowen  (yesterday, comments) writes that it was Margaret Thatcher who closed down England’s coal industry. Not correct, Tom. It was Arthur Scargill and the National Union of Mineworkers who closed down the industry — Thatcher merely withdrew the taxpayer teat.