Newtown school shooting

Richard Armstrong writes: Re. “Rundle: in Connecticut, it’s too calm and too practised” (yesterday). I just want to congratulate Guy Rundle on what I consider to an extremely considered report on the horrific and senseless happenings at Sandy Hook School.

It makes one despair how such a great and civilised nation can have such a lack of confidence in, and become so frightened of, its own people that it espouses a need for everyone to be armed against everyone else. Does no US, congressman/woman, senator, governor, judge have the guts to stand up, to save the little children.

Poor, poor, self-abusing America.

Gavin Greenoak writes: What happened back then, when the Americans fought their war for independence against Britain? And more particularly against the British ruling class and the British Empire. The political foment, and the role of political philosophy was decisive and prefigured the French Revolution.

We are often sententiously advised that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The Americans learned that when push comes to shove, bullets come next, if minions and masses refuse to obey, and democracy gives way to dominion. Hobbes notwithstanding, for the new Americans the relationship between government and people is a social contract, enshrined in a constitution.

Giving a few people power over everyone else, by what ever process, will always be risky, but lessened by a fundamental principle: the government and its agencies must never be the only people with guns. Never, ever. “Freedom” is still a very big word, and it will always have a price. The reluctance to discuss gun control may also and perhaps more relevantly for everyone, be a greater reluctance to discuss the real meaning of that big word in the 21st century.

Patricia O’Donnell writes: Worse, if possible, than watching adults interviewing child survivors for the TV cameras is reading “tips” for doing it “ethically”. The only ethical tip is do not do it; do not do it if the child invites it; do not do it if a parent consents; prevent your colleagues from doing it by any means including physical force.

Just as the children were told to close their eyes as they were led out of the carnage, so, just as urgently, did they need to close their minds to immediate recall.


Andrew Jagels writes: Re. “Time discrepancies and the strange lack of interest in Ashby affair” (yesterday). Bernard Keane wonders about the lack of interest in the media following the Ashby affair, particularly the lack of input from Hedley Thomas. I can help there.

I recently emailed Hedley with an invitation for him to examine the Abbott/One Nation slush fund with the same forensic enthusiasm he has shown for Gillard/AWU. He replied saying he was on holiday and will be back in the New Year. I take him at his word, so will be on his case in January to see which of the two stories he’d like to pursue.

North Korea

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “North Korea” (comments, yesterday). Having been to North Korea, I can assure John Gleeson it does grow food, including in the DMZ, surprisingly.

The ’90s famine was primarily caused by severe floods and the dramatic loss of Soviet aid (particularly cheap oil). This is no longer the sitation. Notably, the World Food Program, which is working on the ground, does not describe the population as starving. However, only 20% of this mountainous country is arable.

What is evident is not a shortage of food, but a dire shortage of imports, notably oil and machines, which obviously has an impact on the productivity of agriculture and everything else. Hence the economic imperative for North Korea to find exports in which it has a comparative advantage.

It is notable that those who see the missile issue solely as a humanitarian disaster do not apply the same criteria to nuclear-armed India, which loses as many people to hunger every year as died in North Korea’s famine.

But, regardless of any of this, North Korea is not going to disarm, so why base any discussion on such a fairytale assumption?