Manning Clark:

Gerard Henderson writes: Re. “Media briefs: franchise fiction … ‘sophisticated’ comedy … Fairfax AMs sale …” (yesterday, item 14). Life is short — and getting shorter by the hour. So, these days, I rarely read Guy Rundle’s enema-in-reverse-stream-of-unconsciousness pieces in Crikey.  However, yesterday I noticed that — in addition to his daily epistle to the Crikey faithful — the former editor of the leftist Arena Magazine had condemned my “pathetic snippeting” in The Weekend Australian last Saturday.

Guy Rundle rejected my letter criticising Manning Clark’s 1960 depiction of Vladimir Lenin as “Christ-like, at least in his compassion” with a reference to what George Orwell wrote about Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. Powerful point, eh? Mr Rundle also referred to Suharto, whom he described as “the Indonesian leader backed to the hilt by groups such as the NCC from 1966 on”.

The NCC did not have much clout — then and after. President Suharto’s most influential backer was Paul Keating — whom Rundle did not mention. In any event, what’s this got to do with Manning Clark?

One final point.  Guy Rundle gets upset at my description of Lenin as a corrupt killer — he believes that Lenin’s “sins are usually held to derive from an excess of zeal, not personal corruption”.  In his book The Unknown Lenin : From the Secret Archive, Richard Pipes refers to the “boundless corruption of the communist apparatus which he [Lenin] had placed above the law”.  In Lenin: Life and Legacy, Dmitri Volkogonov quoted a 1921 order approved by Lenin that peasants resisting the Bolsheviks “who refuse to give their names are to be shot on the spot without trial”. Sounds like the message of a corrupt killer to me…

Bottled water:

John Richardson writes: Re. “Bottled water: some hospitals pay big time, some tap into savings” (yesterday, item 4). Quite apart from the myth that bottled water is somehow healthier than good old tap water, there is another, even more common reason why so many people seem to prefer the former.

Notwithstanding the huge profit opportunity that this product presents to anyone in its supply chain or the shallow pretension that so often seems central to the occasion of its consumption, the truth is that most people consume the product because it is cold.

I remember years ago successfully driving the plastic monsters out of one company and saving tens of thousands of dollars a year in the process: more than enough to fund bigger fridges with room to store tap water in chilled glass bottles and health was never mentioned.

BHP and uranium:

Joe Boswell writes: John Poppins (yesterday, comments) wrote, concerning uranium:

“The process of enrichment of the uranium for power reactors removes the desired U235 from the majority U238. The resulting U238 waste, the great majority of the uranium, has found one major application in Depleted Uranium (DU) projectiles. These have been used by the US and NATO as tank busters, a job they do superbly well.”

Ok, that’s what I thought.

Poppins continues:

“These munitions are true Weapons of Mass Destruction. They create fine toxic radioactive dust which is active for hundreds of years.”

Hmm. The radioactive isotope U235 is removed leaving non-radioactive U238, and yet the U238 dust is radioactive. How does that work?

Come Fly With Me:

Terry J Mills writes: Re. “Media briefs: franchise fiction … ‘sophisticated’ comedy … Fairfax AMs sale …” (yesterday, item 14). I have never really understood the relationship between Nine and WIN (which we have in my region) but I have noticed a penchant on the part of the latter to annoyingly insert infomercials periodically into Nine’s programming.

This doesn’t particularly worry me as I tend to watch ABC but I was appalled that WIN should decide to edit my viewing choices by arbitrarily censoring out Come Fly With Me seemingly because I am a regional viewer; perhaps this is a prelude to introducing a program of chaplains in the home — does anybody know, was it in the budget?

Big Tobacco:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. “Tobacco lobby’s plain-pack threat not based on reality” (yesterday, item 8). Would that the tobacco CEOs, in the grand tradition of the bullying miners, threaten to cease doing business in Australia…and then stick to their promise. As if.


Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: The Australia Defence Association agrees with John Richardson (Monday, comments) that targeted assassinations are a controversial matter in international law generally and that extra-judicial killings are invariably illegal in both peacetime and war.

But as no extra-judicial killing was involved, the essential point is whether the killing of Osama bin Laden  was a questionable targeted assassination in peacetime or as a result of legitimate military action under the Laws of Armed Conflict in such a conflict. The lawyers will argue about this for years until customary international law, or less likely revisions of the Hague Convention or the UN Charter, catch up with state practice one way or the other as usually occurs.

Niall Clugston (Monday, comments) continues to misquote and misrepresent me but has now introduced the straw-man argument missing from his earlier attempted defences. As al-Qaeda was not really active until the late 1990s, long after the Afghan War including the fall of Najibullah had finished, it continues to be absurd to claim it was somehow founded by the Americans because it arose from part of the anti-Soviet resistance movement in that earlier war.

This is like saying as the allies supported various European resistance movements against the Nazis in World War II, then they must have founded, or be otherwise be responsible for, the communist elements of such groups who later started insurrections or civil wars in some countries during the late 1940s (after their liberation by those allies in 1945).