Why are we spending govt dollars on the opera?

Richard Barlow writes: Re. “Carmen rides back into the ring: sponsor must butt out” (yesterday). The sponsorship fiasco is that Healthways is planning to spend $400,000 to get its  message across to the well-known heavy smokers among the opera-loving set, which I guess is that they should stop their mad rush for a gasper at half time? Maybe we could have less confected outrage about “sponsor censors” and more about the waste of health promotion dollars in propping up unpopular art forms.

Let’s put aside conspiracy theories

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association writes: Re. “Who really shot down MH17?” (yesterday). Surely Crikey is above publishing comments from the tinfoil hat-wearing brigade. Even without discussing whether the Ukrainian government was not and is not “fascist dominated” and probably was not “US-installed”, no credible international analyst of the downing of MH17 doubts it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) not an air-to-air missile (AAM) from another aircraft.

The ballistic evidence alone from the independent air incident investigation in The Netherlands supports this. Moreover, the media photos of the wreckage taken immediately afterwards show the aircraft’s engines to be in large pieces but the front of the plane riddled with shrapnel.

A supposed AAM fired from a supposed tailing Ukrainian fighter would most likely result in the opposite, whereas the actual damage strongly, and probably unequivocally, points to a SAM fired (head-on) from separatist areas of eastern Ukraine in front of the plane (heading eastwards).

No doubt the classified ELINT evidence backs this up by revealing the radar and launch signatures of the ground stations involved, including their location and the timings of target acquisition and launch.

The COMINT evidence released so far also points strongly to a SAM launched by separatists, especially the initially boasting, the discovery of a cock-up and then the cover-up. These Ukrainian transcripts might be selective, but they do not appear to be faked — not least because even the Russians have been unable to explain them away.

Similarly, the photographic evidence of SAM launch vehicles withdrawing back across the border into Russia straight after the incident add to the weight of evidence. If they were somehow not involved, why withdraw them? Surely it would have been better to keep them in situ so independent investigations could be used to prove they were not, as the Russians claim, involved.

There is enough angst among the families of the casualties, and diplomatic complexity about the extent of Russian involvement, without airing the ridiculously structured opinion of someone who is either a complete crank, a Russian propaganda dupe or a plain (excuse the pun) idiot.

And I do not believe Elvis pressed the button either.