Clarification:

Robert Johnson writes: Re. “Vulnerable Kenya on the brink of collapse” (yesterday, item 11). In my article yesterday, I was not intending to give the impression that Kenya is on the verge of collapse as the heading implied. If anything, Kenya’s history is one of considerable resilience.

Currently, it is under what seems to be an unprecedented range of challenges — domestic, regional and global — that it will hopefully pull through. While the email version placed me in Namibia, the web-based version correctly located me in Nairobi (I moved from Namibia to Kenya within the past month).

Gaddafi v Chavez:

Warwick Fry writes: Re. “Death of Gaddafi: we like the crazy ones the best, they’re not as scary” (Monday, item 13). A grave injustice has been done in lumping Hugo Chavez in with the “crazies”.

For starters, he is not a “dictator”. He has won election after election after plebiscite after referendum in electoral processes that have been recognised by observers as some of the cleanest in the world. Usually with  60-70% of the vote. The only one he lost (narrowly) was for constitutional reform — mainly because he bundled it with more than 60 items. He accepted the result graciously.

The list of his “travesties” is pretty stale — they have been floating around for a decade and none of them stand up to scrutiny. The only item that is new is the one you lifted from The Washington Post, about checking out the mortal remains of Simon Bolivar. Take away The Washington Post spin, it is not as morbid as the WP would like it to appear.

Simon Bolivar’s last days (read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ The General in his Labyrinth) were conspicuous by his humiliation by the wealthy oligarchy who destroyed his dream of a united South America, who constantly blind-sided him, and he was heavily afflicted with health problems, including insomnia, that to people other than Hugo Chavez, suggested poisoning.

As a film buff, I would have expected that the Crikey correspondent would appreciate Chavez’ sometimes brilliant sense of political theatre. This has often gone over the heads of hostile Western observers (check out his UN speech where he brilliantly sends up Bush’s demonisation of him the day before with “Aaah — I can smell that the devil has been here … I can smell the sulphur!”)  — who decontextualise his theatrical, educated, and satirical gestures, and trivialised it as “eccentricity”, “buffoonery”, etc.

Chavez simply isn’t afraid to step outside the square. Are you?

Tony Abbott:

Denise Marcos writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Having injudiciously pledged his blood to undo the Clean Energy Act, Tony Abbott has now stanched the flow. His latest and much safer tack is to predict policy instead. Predicting legislation doesn’t mean he owns it, no responsibility is involved. It’s not binding, it’s a forecast, an opinion, conjecture.

Abbott’s inaugural prediction that mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines will be redundant under his government is not a pledge, nor a promise, nor an undertaking.

The artful dodger, Tony Abbott, seer to the Commonwealth of Australia! No more bloody guarantees — just predictions he cannot be held to. No substance. No credibility. No sale.

Fran Kelly:

Keith Thomas writes: Re. “The quality journalism project: early bird Fran Kelly” (yesterday, item 16). Fran Kelly may have been OK in London, but she never filed as many well-researched pieces from there reflecting the wider UK — as did Paul Raphaele, for example. She may have abundant energy, but that is not unique on the breakfast shift.

Her petulant habit of getting in a last smart-alec word against an interviewee and then moving on to the next topic, ruling out a right of reply, is continually irritating.

I listen to her every morning, and dread the wasteland of her daily interview with a politician (where she lets spin, evasion and red herrings slip by without any of Kerry O’Brien’s tenacity) followed by vacuous discussion with the overrated Michelle Grattan.

I am relieved when the real stories are covered professionally on AM (other than their reserved spots for the disease/charity/good cause de jour on slow news days). Crikey — your standards and expectations are far too low.

Brigid Tancred writes: Fran Kelly is the light of my life. I feel miserable when she takes time off at Christmas and really resented it when she spent three months on the series on John Howard. She is so intelligent and her comments are always backed by good research. It would be a total disaster if she ever decided to move on.

Her only fault is that she appears to be a bit partisan about AFL, which, as far as I am concerned (having once lived for nine months in Melbourne), is an abomination.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW