The photo that appeared in “Dictator Watch: Ethiopian despot hides behind snakes, dogs and guns” (yesterday, item 9) was not of the home that Ethiopian dictator Mengistu is supposedly hiding in, but instead was a photo of typical home in the Gun Hill neighbourhood, near where Mengistu lives. Apologies, it was a misunderstanding.

Nuclear issues in Japan

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “Fukushima and rational thinking versus populist panic” (yesterday, item 4) The article by Allan Patience was excellent and highlights one of the great things about Crikey: an article of merit will be published even if it hasn’t suffered from being written by a journalist.

However, I must address his statement that “in Australia it appears that the opponents of nuclear energy are almost beside themselves with delight at the tragedy that is happening in Fukushima. They appear oblivious to the human culpability — mental laziness, moral turpitude, and n-ked greed — that has brought this catastrophe upon the heads of so many innocent Japanese”.

For myself and I’m sure many others, much of our opposition stems from the very intransigence of this, human dimension to the problem.  We accept corruption and bribery, calling it ‘interest’, ‘lobbying’ and we call those making the payments ‘stakeholders’.  No failure, no degree of proven incompetence, error or misjudgement requires even honourable resignation, let alone charges and jail time.

Let’s face it, we expected  those who engineered the NSW ALP disaster to remain in firm control of the party, just as they did after the last federal election.  We knew those who took us to war in Iraq, and who funnelled money to the regime in better times, would retire comfortable.  We accept that although even the company and parties involved now accept the Gunns pulp mill sham assessment was corrupt, the thing should still be built.

And we know that after Australia’s first nuclear disaster, it will just be a systems error, subject to review.  To blame a person would be unthinkable and thus, the idea that anybody would really worry about anything going wrong is delusional.

Professor Douglas Kirsner writes: Allan Patience rightly bemoans the populist ignorance about nuclear power, and recommends rationally examining widespread “deep-rooted problems of governance weakness” so as to thoughtfully weigh up relevant issues. In order to have such a rational debate, I believe that a number of issues need to be unpacked, separated and teased out.

Does nuclear power pose an unacceptable risk in itself? Are there inherent risks in terms of the physical source or do problems emanate from the human systems that organize and manage it? Much nuclear fear emanates from images of the source itself as inherently fearful. Much debate conflates faulty human design and management with problems of the source itself.  Any technology (e.g., electricity, cars, planes) can be unsafe and destructive if not managed and regulated properly.

Think of recent examples of faulty human systems with dire consequences such as the BP Horizon Gulf oil spill and the Wivenhoe Dam in relation to the Brisbane floods.  Many problems are consequences of dysfunctional human systems. A focus on getting them right (governance, accountability, organization, protocols) can prevent much harm and produce great benefits.

Double trouble at KFC

Rosemary Stanton writes: Re. “KFC doubles down for free marketing bonanza” (yesterday, item 14) KFC releases its new super ‘manly’ fat-stuffed burger (March 29). It’s stuffed with fat and high in kilojoules (1940 kJ and 32g fat) but not quite as bad as McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Deluxe (2500 kJ and 28g fat) or McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder (3560 kJ and 53g fat) or their Mighty Angus (2870 kJ and 36g fat) and way behind Hungry Jack’s Ultimate Double Whopper (5085 kJ and 81g fat).

On the same day, we also get news of the involvement of quick service restaurants (McDonalds, Hungry Jacks, Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut, Red Rooster, Chicken Treat, Oporto and Eagle Boys Pizza) in the Federal Government’s Food and Health Dialogue (here). Their representative says she will be “working with the Dialogue Executive to develop a strategy to engage quick service restaurants in the Dialogue’s reformulation, portion sizing and consumer messaging activities”.

You wonder how they keep a straight face but perhaps they’re competing to be the ‘worst first’ so they can cut their products back to size and claim they are now “part of the solution”.

Andrew Bolt

Tim Villa writes: Re. “The extraordinary assault on Andrew Bolt and freedom of speech” (yesterday, item 2) If it were a State sanctioned case against Andrew Bolt then perhaps Bernard Keane might have a valid point to make.  This however is a private case brought to the courts, and every citizen has the right to test the State’s laws.

Keane then goes on to accuse Merkel of vilification when linking Bolt’s statements to arousing genocide.  This, less than a few paragraphs after defending Bolt’s right to free speech.  Pot, kettle, Bernard?

Charlie McColl writes: Bernard Keane writes about the Bolt freedom-of-speech trial:

“But if you find yourself hoping he loses in court, you can’t with credibility criticise any attacks he may make in the future.”

Does Bernard really mean that if Bolt comes back after the trial and writes or utters something that is “….undoubtedly grossly offensive to the individuals concerned…”, and he [Bolt] “… is to be condemned for such a disgusting attack”, that no-one should condemn or criticise because such criticism will not have credibility? Sounds dumb to me.

Jo Lewis writes: You are free to walk down the street swinging your arms around in an aggressive way but your freedom stops where my nose begins. The difficult thing with Andrew Bolt is defining the point at which he starts to impinge on others’ freedom to merely exist and where his rhetoric damages others’ sensibilities and maybe even mental health. This is surely what the court is being asked to assess and in this age of cyber bullying it is a line which certainly needs clarification

NSW election jibber jabber

Romina Aquinchay writes: Re. “Keane: Robbo hands Liberals a perfect win” (Monday, item 2) I could not read this drivel without posting a reply. All you commentators who are having a go at John Robertson, do you even know what the ALP is suppose to stand for?

Morris Iemma was rolled because he listened to the right wing of the party and wanted to privatise the electricity grid. Robertson was one of the few against it. The ALP now privatises as much as the Liberals. Everyone who thinks it’s a good idea to privatise absolutely everything, what happens when the money from privatisation runs out, and there is nothing left to sell?

Once a utility is in private hands the new owners have a right to charge what they see fit and working class people will be worse off. Apparently a lot of the public were against the privatisation of the assets. They should have voted Greens to stop the sell off as I don’t think the Liberals will.

So in my humble opinion, the thing that is wrong with the ALP is that some people in it (the right faction) think hardly any different from the LIBS. The commentators should have a good look at themselves and stop and think before mouthing off. I’m sad the ALP lost, but glad as well. Many of the members were a cancer on the party that needed to go. Tripodi, Costa (even though he left ages before). There were many decent people there but they were drowned out by the right wing of the party.

The right faction is what is wrong with the party, and until all of them leave, nothing will improve.
I use to think a lot of Keating, but that was before I really considered what he had done — privatising many things that were once owned by all of us.

If that is your (by your, I mean the agitators for privatisation) only answer to everything, you shouldn’t be in the ALP.  Consider joining the Liberals and spreading your ideas there. Many of the people that voted ALP will come back if the party reforms and goes back to its roots.  A good start would be to keep:

  • Assets publicly owned.
  • Keep infrastructure in good working order
  • Don’t ignore the need for infrastructure and abandon people that need these services
  • Defend all Australian workers and stop outsourcing and giving employment to workers in other countries. They have their own governments to help them with this.
  • Put Australia first.

And before you think I am some old angry white Anglo-Saxon, I am 39 and a Hispanic Australian and proud union member, and university educated with a Bachelor’s degree in Interpreting & Translation.

Andrew Haughton writes: John Robertson as ALP Leader in NSW. What is it about the rout of the NSW ALP that the NSW ALP doesn’t understand?

Keith Bins writes: Re NSW Labor. And I thought it was only the Bourbon kings of France who had “learnt nothing and forgotten nothing”.

New Zealand: the last bastion of humour

Jackson Harding writes: Re. “Video of the Day: Airline safety, Richard Simmons-style” (yesterday, item) Well, it makes me want to fly Air NZ just so I can see it again.  It also points out something that I’ve noticed over the past 15 years travelling regularly to New Zealand and working regularly with New Zealanders overseas. Across the Ditch the larrikin sense of humour is still alive and well. In addition one of the greatest modern blights on Australia, the dreaded Fun Police, who step in and deem anything that is slightly risky, edgy or just a good old fashioned piss-take, off limits have been kept firmly in check.  If only it were the same over here.

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