On Chris Kenny’s trip to Nauru

Julie Macken writes: Re. “Kenny: we need more journos on Nauru, but keep Bacon out” (yesterday). Pamela Curr and I were the women who started the group Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru. I just wanted to clarify a point you made in yesterday’s yarn on Kenny saying everyone should go to Nauru except Bacon. You wrote:

“Recently, freelance Australian journalist Wendy Bacon crowdfunded $20,000 to pay the visa costs to get to Nauru (the $8000 free is non-refundable should her application be denied by the Nauruan government — outlets like the ABC, The Guardian and Al Jazeera say their applications have been denied).”

Not that it materially changes what you wrote but I wanted to make it clear that Pamela and I had asked both Wendy and Carmen [Lawrence] if they would be willing to go. They both agreed and I was the one to say that it would need to be crowdfunded. Also the $20,000 was to cover visas and flights and hotels.

I was concerned — given the heat around this situation at the moment — that readers may think Wendy had just dialled up $20,000 to go to Nauru. Obviously this was not the case.

On Blair and Iraq

John Richardson writes: Re. “How we can ensure the Iraq disaster never happens again” (yesterday). Crikey is right to despair at the prospect of Tony Blair ever apologising for his crimes, any more than George Bush or John Howard will. But to suggest that the establishment of a “public body for oversight of the relationship between government, intelligence and people, made up of common citizens” will somehow compensate for the impotence of our existing democratic institutions is surely just wishful thinking. Given that prime ministers and presidents routinely and arrogantly plot, lie, cheat and even conspire to murder without bothering to seek the approval of parliaments or the people, it is hardly surprising that Blair’s “apology” has been likened to him having said to a fat lady: “Lady, I’m sorry you’re fat.” Surely anyone who thinks that our politicians will readily give-up that particular privilege of power must be naive in the extreme?

Mark Newton writes: I’m almost (but clearly not quite) speechless at your editorial on Tuesday. The fact is that we already have “…public [bodies] for oversight of the relationship [between government, intelligence, and people] made up of common citizens.” We call them “juries.” They are formed and empowered by courts and constitutions. To the extent that those bodies have failed, it is because there’s a curious immunity from prosecution for crimes against humanity if you happen to be aligned with the United States. Iraq has made that clear: It used to be conceivable to believe that Western leaders were never prosecuted because history is written by the victors, and victors don’t prosecute themselves; But by any realistic account, the USA and her allies lost (and is continuing to lose) her wars in the Middle East, yet the leaders who run those wars somehow evade the courts. If you’re a friend of America (particularly GOP America) it’s perfectly clear that you can order or commit virtually any atrocity with absolute impunity.

If you want to stop something like Iraq from happening again, find the people who were responsible for Iraq, put them on trial in precisely the way we put the Nazis on trial after WWII, and, if found guilty, punish them. Round up the 2001 CIA and GCHQ leadership. Gather the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib torturers, both bottom and top of the chain of command. And, yes, put Bush, Blair (Howard?) in the dock, and let justice run its course. It sounds obvious enough to be patently silly, doesn’t it?

Iraqs keep happening because the people who make Iraqs happen know that there will never be any comeuppance, they act with impunity, they’ll never have to answer for their crimes. But is seriously anyone prepared to argue that we’d be bombing Medecins Sans Frontieres hospitals in 2015 if we had a history of jailing people who bombed hospitals?

Weasel words

Barry Breen writes: Re. “Check yo’self before you tech yo’self: Wyatt Roy and the new language of bullshit” (yesterday). A little bit “off-message” but I can’t resist reporting a piece of police jargon I saw last week in a newspaper report on crime hotspots. From a police spokesman: “We identify what are the hotspots and that intel is driven into tasking.”  Love it.

For science!

Peter Matters writes: Re. “How Turnbull can show true commitment to science” (yesterday). Above all, science is not an abstract, stand alone field of endeavour, but part of our very lives. This means, that science must help us to new values to replace the current values we buy at the shopping centre. We need these new values to survive the most critical crisis in the history of Homo Nonsapiens. Once we have learned that our current life style imposed on us by our practice of decadent, profligate, totally out of control consumerism is the direct road to the first mass suicide of a mammal species in the history of life on Earth, we then can make the changes to look forward to a gracious life free of the consumerist rat race.

The branch of science we must pursue first of all is research into the most important, the most complicated, the most brilliant achievement of nature: The human brain. The brain transmits messages electronically, just as the computer does. Thus, if you send the correct message to the computer, it will produce the correct result. If you send an incorrect message. the computer simply will not function. The brain, however, is an organ of the body. The messages sent by us to our brain are subject to a very great variety of hormones, some useful, some destructive. If the messages are incompatible, we end up either totally confused, making us to take actions, which vary from inconvenient to catastrophic. One aspect of this situation is that all of us are liars, because acting as our own judge and defence attorney in lying to ourselves – if we have done something wrong, we don’t want to admit it. The brain at its best has produced Shakespeare, Mozart and Einstein, but such is its nature that it is capable of making us commit stupidities equal in extent to its most sublime. It is applied science’s foremost object to guide us to use our brain to the best of its capacity, rather than the worst.

As far as science applied to technology is concerned we here, in a small country, must find small scale, highly sophisticated kind of industries to prosper, for we cannot compete with the big boys in mass production. In other aspects, the budgets must find the money even if it means going into the red, to concentrate on prevention rather than repair – including, of course, sustainable power.
Finally, pure science, must get the resources equalling applied science — not many results like E=mc squared can be achieved with a pencil — but it is pure science which comes up with the unexpected.

Peter Fray

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