The legacy of Cold War spies

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “‘Spectacular’: a brief history of spying in the digital age” (yesterday). Paul Budde’s comment about the US government’s “new spying machine” is misleading. The National Security Agency and the CIA are not new. They were set up in the aftermath of World War II, as the Cold War developed, as were their Australian counterparts.

America’s dominance in telecommunications spying (“signals intelligence”) was well established during the Cold War. This relied on not only compliant telecommunications companies, but spy planes, spy ships, and spy satellites, the latter served by the Pine Gap facility in Australia. The development of the internet, mobile phones, and so on, has created new avenues for espionage,  and September 11 has provided a this machine with a new lease on life, though eavesdropping on Angela Merkel is stretching this excuse a bit thin.

At conception, this apparatus was highly controversial, being described as an “American Gestapo”. In the 21st century, we have inherited this Cold War spying machine, which operates without scrutiny, above the law, and, in the views of many, beyond reproach.

Debts no honest man can pay

Roy Ramage writes: Re. “Debt for investment does not equal debt for recurrent spending” (yesterday). Debt is the primary way of funding infrastructure investment (NBN and Sydney tunnels as examples), and provided the terms of the debt are commensurate with the risk and calculated returned on investment, then all should be well.

Funding recurrent spending is indeed the issue — and is now a massive problem for the US, Greece, Spain, France and everybody else truly living beyond their means. Our problem is in the current climate where the sum of both private and public debt is so high in Australia that it now equals the US total per capita debt.

It is now possible, indeed necessary, to point to the total debt and say, “This cannot be repaid.” Why? Because it will be the same people carrying the private debt who have to pay off the public debt! There is no distinction here, the same people are on the hook. That’s us!

Thus it follows that anything that adds to the total debt should be deeply scrutinised.

Nicky Hungerford writes: Can you imagine the outcry and tantrums that would follow if Indonesia was listening into an Australian PM’s (past or present) phone calls!

Christian Kerr’s heavy-handed Strewth

Dennis Pratt writes: Re. “Kerr grinding axe after axe in Strewth.” (yesterday). The comments on Christian Kerr’s locum stints at The Australian’s Strewth column were spot-on. James Jeffrey does a brilliant job with wit and perceptive writing. Kerr’s heavy-handed approach is dull, and his comments on any topic are totally predictable.

I maintained my subscription to The Australian for a year, only because Jeffrey’s column was behind the paywall. I don’t have to pay to read Jack The Insider and Mumble, and with Kerr making frequent appearances in Strewth, there was insufficient reason to keep paying.

I found it interesting that when I unsubscribed, The Australian simply erected the paywall and refunded the remainder of my last month’s subscription. My experience of cancelling other subscriptions has been totally different, with a lot of interest being shown in my reasons for leaving, and sometimes special offers to entice me to stay. From the News Corp subscription department, no interest whatsoever. Maybe they don’t need the money?