ABC journalist Mark Willacy writes: Re. “Fukushima nuke plant ‘in a state of meltdown’” (Friday, item 11). Glenn Dyer writes that the Australian media seems to have missed the partial meltdown in the number-1 reactor at Fukushima on Thursday night. Maybe the rest of the Australian media did, but the ABC didn’t.

In fact, I reported this significant development in a report on the 5pm ABC Radio News on Thursday and then again an hour later on the 6pm edition of PM. In fact, we led PM with the story.

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So rather than missing the meltdown we were hollering about it at the head of our national flagship evening radio current affairs program and on our radio news service. It was then reported on ABC News Online.

As Glenn points out, we then reported it AGAIN on AM on Friday morning. It was quick-turnaround, comprehensive reporting by the ABC’s Tokyo bureau on a worrying development.

As a practising journalist (or is he a commentator?) Glenn should do his research more thoroughly before engaging in self-righteous huffing and puffing.

Abbott’s budget reply:

Martyn Smith writes: Re. “Keane: ditch the budget reply — it’s a waste of time” (Friday, item 2). Whilst I appreciate Bernard Keane’s article I actually found Abbott’s budget reply illuminating so it wasn’t a waste of time for me.

I’ve long harboured suspicions as to whether Abbott is truthful, reinforced by his admission to Kerry O’Brien that only what he has put in writing could be relied upon (maybe).  I wouldn’t accuse him of anything of course, but that was my perception. But in the budget reply last Thursday, I think Tony Abbott told the truth about his party’s policies.

Basically, he told us that his only policy is to put the Liberal Party in power no matter what it takes. Once in power he/they will, as they did before, tell us all to be

“relaxed and comfortable”, whilst they resume their rightful place — in charge, ordering affairs to suit them and their mates. No other matter need trouble us “peasants” when filling in our ballot papers. In fact, we should agitate for an election immediately so that this desirable state of affairs can be achieved. From his address I cannot see that the Liberals have any other policy.

So I congratulate Tony Abbott because the real Tony stood up and confirmed he stands for nothing, or at least he is being careful (assuming he has policies) not to tell us what they may or may not be.

Prior to last Thursday I thought Tony was just a poltroon, but I’ve since been corrected by a Liberal friend that Tony Abbott is a Rhodes scholar. So I’ve amended my judgement to an  “educated poltroon”. His budget reply proved it.. I don’t think it was all that politically astute.

Bruce Graham writes: Mr Abbott quoted some impressive figures. Electricity up by 51%, water by 46%. A $26 per ton price on carbon will add 6.5c to petrol and 25% to electricity.  Where did these numbers come from? Does anybody know?

Superficially, the additional cost on petrol would be less than half that (assuming no compensation). Where in Australia has electricity risen by 51%? (somewhere, no doubt). Are we so conditioned to hyperbole that  such incorrect assertions are of no concern?

John-Arthur Daley writes: The Labor loving Bernard Keane has entirely missed the point of Tony Abbott’s limited reply. The last time he spoke Labor pinched part of his platform the $2billion for Mental Health and made it part of theirs. He feels why should I provide them with my creative thinking when they have so little of their own.

Wake up Bernard and smell the winds of change that are blowing in your direction.

Price gouging:

Ross McOmish writes: Re. “Crikey readers respond: yep, we’re being gouged — a lot” (Friday, item 3). I am sure there is substance to the suggestion that overseas manufacturers charge us more because they know we are prepared  to pay more. The basic rule to marketing is to charge what the market will bear.

I do a little sailing. At a National Titles event last year I was told (on good authority I believe) a story about an Australian Distributor of a major international boat parts manufacturer who was building a new boat for himself. The story was that he himself was buying  his own products off the net from the USA because he could source them that way far cheaper than he could buy them himself. Despite the fact he was the Australian distributor for those same parts!

The question that needs to be asked is why this is occurring? I believe much of the blame lies with the Federal Government and it’s ACCC. They have  set about destroying true competition in this country. Or perhaps, to be fair, creating an environment where small business cannot survive.

At the end of the day it is small business which offers choice and completion. But in the name of consumer protection the Government and the ACCC have all but destroyed competition in this country. Look at our economy. Whilst doing well, it is tiny by world standard. We have huge companies which dominate our economy and society. Our banks, miners, shopping mall owners and supermarkets etc are huge by world standards. Not to mention semi privatized government businesses such as Qantas and Telstra.

I suggest that the consumer cannot afford any more protection! The regulatory maze that chokes small business needs to be lifted so we can get some competition going again.

The Osama cage match:

John Richardson writes: Neil James (Friday, comments) correctly claims that I have a problem understanding his arguments: that I was “incorrect conceptually and legally in citing Blum & Heymann, etc, because they were essentially talking about human rights law in a non-war context, not the application of the laws of armed conflict (LOAC) as the specialist body of international humanitarian law applying to a war. I did caution against this commonplace pitfall but John must have skimmed over this part of the explanation.”

Well, I accept that Neil is right and that I tried to make my point badly … so I’ll try a little harder.

It is my assertion that targeted assassinations violate well-established principles of international law. Such killings are extrajudicial executions; they are unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by order of, or with the acquiescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework. Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict.

In a 1998 report, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions noted that “extrajudicial executions can never be justified under any circumstances, not even in time of war.” The U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Commission, as well as Amnesty International, have all condemned extrajudicial executions.

The United States disavowed the use of extrajudicial killings under President Gerald Ford. After the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence disclosed in 1975 that the CIA had been involved in several murders or attempted murders of foreign leaders, President Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations. Every succeeding president until George W. Bush renewed that order. However, the Clinton administration targeted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but narrowly missed him.

In July 2001, the US Ambassador to Israel denounced Israel’s policy of targeted killings, or “pre-emptive operations”. He said “the United States government is very clearly on the record as against targeted assassinations. They are extrajudicial killings & we do not support that.” How times have changed.

Neil incorrectly suggests that I took issue with Professor Rothwell when, in fact, I simply took issue with Neil’s willingness to cite him as a reputable source in support of his arguments, without bothering to elaborate on those arguments (probably because he’d already run-up a 1,000 words on everything-else).

As to whether Ronald Reagan may or may not have likened the so-called Nicaraguan “freedom fighters” to America’s founding fathers, nothing would surprise me, but there are voluminous reports that he did make that observation in respect of Afghani visitors to the White House in 1985.

My use of the term “al-Qaeda family” was in recognition of the by then widely appreciated links between Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, the Afghan Mujahadin, Pakistan’s ISI and the CIA in opposing the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

I also sought to highlight the fact that the US commonly forges alliances with the “worst of the worst” when it suits their interests, but just as readily casts such relationships aside when they have served their purpose.

Niall Clugston writes: While complaining about misrepresentation, Neil James’s response amply illustrates my criticism of his attempt to distance al-Qaeda from the war of the American-backed mujahadeen in Afghanistan.

Whether he plumps for a date of “mid 1989” or “mid to late 1990”, James’s repeated assertion that “al-Qaeda was founded after the war not during it” simply won’t wash.  The war was not just against Soviet troops, who might have withdrawn months (!) before this, but also against the regime they supported, which didn’t fall until 1992.  And of course the fighting has never ceased, nor has “Pakistani strategic meddling”, nor did Osama bin Laden leave the region.

Of course, al-Qaeda, like the CIA, is a secret organisation, and I don’t pretend to know when it was really “founded”. But bin Laden himself told Al Jazeera in 2001 that it was named after a base set up to fight the Soviet Union. Why would he lie?

Finally, regarding the pan-Islamic jihad, it’s hard to see why Saudi Arabia would have had an interest in Afghanistan without American urging.  You don’t have to be “ideologically extreme” to see this is a clear case of “blowback”.

But does this still matter?  Well, when Western special forces are being deployed to aid a nebulous rebellion in Libya, yes, I think it does.

Harold Thornton writes: Neil James, the William McGonagall of prose, seems to believe the more words he writes the more people will read him. Can someone tell him it isn’t so?

Chris Virtue writes: On a day when we don’t have a contribution from Niall Clugston, we have a lengthy contribution about a Niall Clugston contribution.

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