Anger at Facebook racism:

Former NT deputy chief minister Marion Scrymgour writes: Re. “Facebook page vilifying Aborigines ‘breaks Australian law’” (yesterday, item 2). I logged in and had a look at this page and was absolutely horrified that people are allowed to do this sort of sick and offensive pages in the name of “freedom of speech” and “humour”. I was even deeply saddened when I saw an image of a very respected Aboriginal woman being used as part of their sick little campaign.

As Australians we should all be appalled at this sort of material that does nothing to continue the healing between black and white Australians. I am Aboriginal and I know a number of my very good non-Aboriginal friends are just as appalled and offended by this. As a matter of interest I did do a report to the Facebook site where you can lodge a complaint about the site, after careful reading to see if the site had breached the so-called “standards” that FB applies was then emailed by a person from FB that said, and I quote, “in their view the Aboriginal Memes site was not offensive and did not contravene their standards”. I was obviously astounded at this response, wrote back to them and asked them to re-review their decision as I felt that it had contravened the standards that should apply to social media sites.

The other side of the Syrian conflict:

Gari Sullivan writes: Re. “Kofi couldn’t win as war, not diplomacy, decides Syria’s fate” (August 3, item 8). After reading the account by Charles Richardson of the situation in Syria in Crikey, I’d like to place a bet with Jason Whittaker, the editor of Crikey. As someone who has visited Syria on many occasions, I am deeply concerned by this simplistic, ill-informed reporting and broadcasting of events in Syria. I’m sure that Richardson has never set even a toe into Syria. I doubt he has even bothered to talk directly to someone living there.

I am spoilt for choice as to the examples of errors, contradictions and bias in Richardson’s article. Perhaps I could start my criticism with Richardson’s derision at his so-called “veneer of evenhandedness” or “balanced reporting” as some of us like to call it. It’s an aspect of reporting that even Richardson, himself, dips into when he writes: “Certainly there is blame to go around. The anti-Assad Sunni states do not come with clean hands and the Free Syrian Army stands accused of its own atrocities in the conflict. The otherwise deplorable polemics of the regime and its apologists do contain some truth on this score. It’s rare for anyone to emerge from a civil war with much credit.”

However, Richardson offers no self-condemnation for his adding to the veneer. As Richardson puts it: “The even-handedness may be just a pose”. These skirmishes with the truth, pay lip-service to the complexities of the Syrian conflict.

Perhaps Richardson’s crass comment that “it is now clearer than ever that Assad’s departure is the only realistic outcome” or his foolish belief that the immediate departure of Assad can only be good for the country would be the best starting point for my condemnation. Of course, Richardson cites no proof for his wild speculation, because there is no proof — and no viable opposition.

Richardson writes: “The regime has always had it in its power to end the conflict by demonstrating a willingness to cede power and embark on genuine democratic change.” This sentence more than any other demonstrates that Richardson hasn’t a bloody clue about what is going on in Syria. Assad has demonstrated a willingness to cede power. The fact is not just reported in the Western media that Richardson has churned to create his article. Assad can’t both cede power and embark on genuine democratic change — at least not at the same time; but advocating a longer process of change is not what Richardson’s article is doing.

Assad’s immediate departure from office will create a power vacuum that will result in far greater bloodshed than if he leaves office through a measured process. This can be seen from recent history in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya (which Richardson described in a previous article as “doing well” and “taking a moderate road”) Syria could very easily follow the way that Libya is really going: small-armed militia, religious in-fighting, oppressed minorities and the exploitation of children.

Let us not forget: Under the decade of Assad’s rule prior to Western intervention and the supporting of rebel groups, Syria was regarded — even in the US — as one of the most peaceful countries in the world. If this makes me one of Richardson’s so called “apologists” for the regime, then so be it. I am no great fan of Assad, but he is the best guarantee to minimalise the killing. My belief comes from a far greater understanding of Syria than Richardson has. Better my role of regime apologist than that of an apologist for war, which Richardson seems to be when he states: “We can lose sight of the fact that sometimes there is just no realistic alternative to fighting.”

How many bombs should be planted in the streets? How much blood on the hands of all involved? How many atrocities? How many lost years of young peoples’ lives do you think are worth sacrificing to have a democracy enforced onto a once-safe nation? I have had too many friends and family  friends in Syria killed already. I don’t want to have to grieve the death of a friend — if its all the same to you, Richardson.

I am tried with and worry about this ill-informed churnalism that passes for modern reporting. So, in the end, my criticism is not with Richardson; its with Jason Whittaker, the editor of Crikey, for encouraging the rehashing of biased, ill-informed so-called news that paves the way for intervention — which very few Syrians want, that will result in the destruction of a country and the deaths of many young people — some of whom may be Australian soldiers.

Richardson’s article represents the worst form churnalism: Opinion passed-off as news formed by the reading other pieces of churnalism. If Whittaker wants informed reporting about Syria from someone who has spent more time there than any Western journalists, he only has to get in touch with me. My bet is: he won’t.

Hats off the to helmet debate:

Justin Templer writes: Mike Rubbo (comments, yesterday) has perfectly summarised the legislative grip that kills widespread bike transport in Australia. In other countries those cities with successful cycling rental schemes do not mandate the wearing of helmets because (obviously) the rental system or common usage will not work under that requirement. It is our pathetic nanny society (which continues to amaze our overseas visitors) that will kill any scheme like this. Mike writes: “So, go Bolt in pushing for a repeal of this law.”  A repeal of a safety measure in Australia — you’re dreaming, Mike.

In these debates I am always drawn to the example of the Sydney party-goer who fell off a boat and drowned after hitting his head on the side of a boat moored alongside. The official response was to consider legislation to require boats to moor further apart. Had this legislation been implemented the follow on would be when the subsequent person fell overboard but was too weak to swim to the next boat — obviously requiring boats to moor closer together.

Australia is the first country to attempt to legislate against death — when we succeed with outlawing cancer, those who ridicule us will eat their words (Warning: choking danger, may contain nuts).

Katherine Stuart writes: Instead of arguing safety versus hat hair or where to stow your helmet in this age of minuscule everything, a couple of Swedish women engineers have done something about it: a collar, complete with fashion accessory covers you can buy to match any outfit, based on airbag technology that opens on impact to protect the head and neck but not obscure view. Have a look here.

While it might make some hot around the collar, it’s a step away from the hot heads and hot air we get about this issue regularly in Australia. As someone who’s suffered two major cycling accidents in which my helmet cracked (I will never forget that sound) and saved my head, safety first is a no-brainer. Opposite pun intended.

Crushing the Olympic spirit:

Roger Monk writes: I think we should withdraw from that moronic spectacle “The Olympic Games Games” and spend the money on something useful like encouraging children to be more active and less obese, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless in Australia and overseas. We stopped needing fast runners (i.e. to bring the news of the latest Greek military victory to the capital) when we learnt to ride horses and later invented motorcars and aeroplanes. At least if we are going to continue these “Games” let the athletes appear naked to give us all a laugh.