In my belief, every now and then, a bunch of evil bastards, a consortium of investment bankers and armament industrialists, gets together in a soundproofed room to discuss their next profit-making strategies.
Say the bankers, ''A calm stock market embodies no movement and we can only make money by buying and selling on a volatile investment scene.''
Say the purveyors of guns, bombs, warships and the large panoply of killing machines, ''Our business is flagging because of peace. We need war or the threat of war to keep our factories going. Who will pay for us to make big profits? The generals and their co-conspirators, whose business is war, will make the people pay.''
The interests of both groups are served by their common resolution and the present crisis.
Let's back off and leave the Syrians to sort out their own problems while we try to contain its external contagion. Armed intervention is not only futile and dangerous, but could light a fuse to another conflagration of unpredictable extent and cruelty.
Colin P. Glover, Canberra city
Images all too familiar
Seeing on television the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan brought back 50-year-old memories. The accommodation put together by refugee agencies reminded me of similar camps for Palestinians in the early '60s, when overall numbers were smaller. I then led a team from Cairo to Jordan/Palestine to help bring several hundred Palestinians to Australia.
In 40-plus degree fly-filled heat there was one water tap for each 400 to 500 refugees, with up to six families, including children, in each tiny hovel. It was a shattering experience.
I am not a crying do-gooder, but my heart bleeds that after two generations virtually nothing has changed in that war-torn area. I am ashamed to be a human being - knowing that the fate of thousands of innocent children lies in the hands of despotic rulers wanting only power, and politicians in Western countries who have never been denied a meal, let alone forced to suffer years of barbaric treatment.
Colliss Parrett, Barton
Shooting from the hip
Your editorial suggests that Congress approval for military action in Syria may save US face (''World's policeman changes its beat'', Times2, September 3, p2).
Sadly, if this were to happen, Syria's conflict would not be brought to an end, and the Syrians who were unable to escape to neighbouring countries would continue to die.
The US likes to believe it is a force for good in the world. However its recent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan show little good has emerged from its ''shoot from the hip'' approach.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
Israel's past revisited
J. Halgren (Letters, September 2) asks on what basis I made my ''sweeping condemnation'' of the 1947 UN resolution creating the state of Israel, and of the fledgling state of Israel for its responsibility for the expulsion of some 750,000 Palestinians in the months leading up to, and during, the 1948 war.
As to the injustice of the 1947 UN resolution, a few facts should suffice by way of a response. In the circumstances where the indigenous population of Palestine - the Palestinians - had a legitimate expectation following the Second World War that they, too, would be granted their independence, nevertheless the UN saw fit to allocate 56 per cent of the territory of Palestine for a Jewish state though the Jews comprised only a third of the population of Palestine (and most of those had only arrived in Palestine in the preceding 30 years) and owned only 11 per cent of the allocated territory.
Halgren regurgitates the claim that the Palestinians were not in fact expelled, but rather left of their own accord at the behest of their leaders. But this has been exposed as a myth by the so-called ''new Israeli historians'' such as Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, Hillel Cohen and Tom Segev. They differ only on whether the expulsion of the Palestinians was the result of a premeditated plan or the inevitable consequence of the decision to capture Arab cities and destroy Arab villages when the Jewish forces went on the offensive.
Nahum Goldmann was the founding president of the World Jewish Congress and also served as president of the World Zionist Organisation. In his 1976 book, The Jewish Paradox, he recounted what he referred to as a ''forthright discussion on the Arab problem'' with David Ben-Gurion in the summer of 1956 in which Ben-Gurion declared: ''I don't understand your optimism. Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but 2000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?''
Justin McCarthy, Chapman
A passion for zealotry
So Mary Porter (Letters, September 4) would condemn Dr Philip Nitschke as a ''zealot'', eh? Well, there's nothing wrong with a bit of zealotry if the intent is good and the method is acceptable. Ms Porter is obviously unaware of the screaming headline in the Jerusalem Post circa AD30: ''Unemployed itinerant zealot says we must all love each other.'' Neither can I recall Fred Hollows' lifelong single-minded zealotry ever being criticised.
And politicians love to tell us about their pet passions, which equate to zealotry in my thesaurus. Andrew Leigh tells us twice what he is passionate about four columns before Ms Porter's letter, and she is no lightweight in the zealotry stakes herself, her website claiming she has ''a passionate belief in the power of people to make a difference …''
Ms Porter, don't give us the typical politician's issue-dodging ''Euthanasia … is a subject best advanced by calm and considered discussion …'' when you know it's been discussed for donkey's years. Tell us straightforwardly whether you support it or not - that is, of course, if you're a zealot for truth.
Bill Deane, Chapman
Election not a mandate for Abbott's carbon tax policy
Tony Abbott is again trying to claim a mandate to dismantle the carbon tax if he wins the election, calling it a ''referendum'' on the issue. Language is a major tool in a politician's kitbag; surely he must be thoroughly familiar with it. Abuse of it suggests nefarious intention. An election mandates a person to represent one electorate; it is impossible to ascertain which of the policies that person supported led to his/her election.
A referendum allows voters to choose between policy options and it results in a mandate for the current government to invoke the electorate's verdict. It deals with subject matter, while elections deal with persons, changing the composition of the Parliament. Never the twain shall be confused! The carbon tax helps Australians to do what we have failed to face for decades (centuries?). Winning the election does not entitle anyone to interfere with it.
Siegfried Wagner, Crestwood, NSW
Having finally been forced into admitting to what everyone else in the country with even the slightest interest in climate change already knew (ie, that the funding allocated to the Coalition's Direct Action program will leave no chance that Australia will attain the 5 per cent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020. Tony Abbott responded: ''We've told you the money we'd spend and we won't spend any more.'' (''PM not shy of another poll on carbon pricing if Coalition breaks word'', September 4, p5).
So, we will be dropping a few billion dollars into a black hole, just so that Mr Abbott and the other climate change sceptics (a charitable word for the terminally ignorant on this subject) in his government can say that something is being done about climate change, whenever the need arises. Breathtaking.
Jim Douglas, Kingston
Memo Mr Abbott. The purpose of your Direct Action policy on climate change is to achieve an agreed reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, not to spend a certain amount of money. Will your mooted Brisbane to Melbourne railway stop in the middle of the countryside when the initial estimate has been spent? Or your freeways?
Julian Robinson, Narrabundah
Gittins a lone voice
I congratulate Ross Gittins on his column ''Why taxes would rise under Abbott'' (BusinessDay, September 2, p10). I have been waiting with bated breath for the media to raise questions on the gaping holes in the Coalition's claims and promises.
Even though the Coalition continues to refuse to subject its policies to real costing, it is clear that they have vastly overestimated savings from some of their proposed measures (as they have done in the past).
As Ross Gittins points out, the only possible way of funding their mainly negative policies is by an inordinate cutting of expenditure far beyond what they have been prepared to reveal, or increased taxes and reduction of benefits.
Of course, I have never expected any such questioning to come out of the News Limited media, who have nothing to offer except unprofessional rubbish (apparently Rupert didn't get his expected quid pro quo for his moderate support of Kevin07). It is troubling though that Gittins has been virtually a lone voice crying in the woods so far as the reputable media are concerned.
T. Marks, Holt
The road to change
Not much has been said about the Hume electorate during this campaign. Probably because it is a safe Coalition seat. One of the biggest local issues is the duplication of the Barton Highway, but neither party is willing to commit to it.
As long as we remain a safe seat, nothing will happen. Unfortunately we have seen yet another fatality on the Barton Highway and it is about time the people of Hume acted.
The only candidate willing to campaign on the Barton duplication is James Harker-Mortlock (IND). I do not know this bloke from a bar of soap but if we vote him in, Hume will no longer be a safe seat, and if Mr Harker-Mortlock cannot get the duplication done, then at least in the next election we might get the major parties to commit to upgrading the Barton Highway to win the seat.
Anthony Reid, Murrumbateman, NSW
Setting record straight
Dr Joff Lelliott (''Voters put off by seat names with no sense of place'', Times2, September 2, p4) is incorrect when he stated that William Lyne failed to win a parliamentary majority when trying to become our first prime minister.
There was no parliament and no election had been held. NSW premier Lyne, a gruff, hirsute and imposing man, had been commissioned to try to form a government by English governor-general Lord Hopetoun in what has been termed a blunder of judgment.
It was the former journalist and future prime minister, Alfred Deakin, who was Barton's key numbers man who communicated the outrage about the appointment to fellow colonial politicians via letters and cables. He wanted to secure the position for the Father of Federation.
Journalists and editors were backgrounded and a campaign of destabilisation lasted just a few days before a reluctant Lyne returned his commission, unable to persuade enough people to join his cabinet. Barton took less than 24 hours to form a ministry, which included Lyne and Deakin.
Julian Fitzgerald, Farrer
Careful what you wish
The Canberra Liberals were perfectly competent at sticking to the rules to the most minute detail when they gave Zed Seselja the No. 1 Senate spot, yet they seem unable to do the same when it comes to staff overtime allowances in Mr Seselja's former office or on the correct reporting of gifts and donations (''Liberals asked to clarify $73,000 disclosure gap'', September 3, p1). There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the latter, but a few days out from the election, food for thought.
Nicholas Jarosz, Stirling
Our court system is worth defending
Patrick Jones (Letters, September 2) is on his hobby horse again about the alleged leniency of the courts. That is just unoriginal and tedious but now he is critical of the right of the accused to a fair trial. He is astounded that a murder trial with two accused may take up to eight weeks because the judges ''demand'' that the Crown ''go to extremes'' to prove their case. I can assure Mr Jones that judges do no such thing.
It is entirely a matter for the prosecutor in the case to decide what evidence to call and I agree that at times they seem to call some unnecessary, repetitive evidence when the defence lawyer has already told them the fact is not in issue but that may be inexperience or anxiety about completeness.
I have rhetorically asked this question in these columns before but will ask, again, of Mr Jones whether he would like the system to be changed to his suggested method if he or a loved one were to be charged with a crime.
The courts see the most unexpected people charged with sometimes very serious crimes, no one is immune from the long arm of the law. The system works and has worked for a very long time and there are many people in the world who would literally die over the right to have what we have.
Jennifer Saunders, barrister and solicitor, Canberra, City
Simon Moffat's concerns about lack of consultation for a planned solar farm at Uriarra (Letters, September 3) are relevant to wider issues of procedural justice and fairness. Neither the ACT government, nor minister Simon Corbell, appear to take this seriously.
I am a resident of Reid concerned about plans to demolish the ''ABC Flats'', as they are colloquially known, to make way for large-scale, high-density redevelopment.
Local residents' wishes to have buildings of a compatible size with the current residential character of Reid are given scant attention. Instead, the arrogance that goes hand-in-hand with high-rise visions is all too evident.
It is not just Burley Griffin's vision not being taken seriously, but local residents' concerns.
Merrilyn Fahey, Reid
TO THE POINT
SIGNING UP TO POLICY
If Tony Abbott's signature policy is paid parental leave, surely it is time for him to return to penmanship classes (or get a stamp)?
M.J. Brown, Yarralumla
SPLIT VOTE TO WIN BIG
Regardless of who wins on Saturday, our local members - inoffensive folk, saying little and doing less - aren't going to be of much use to us. Not if we live in a safe seat. If we really cared about thousands of public service jobs ahead of those of a couple of party hacks, we'd vote to make Canberra's seats marginal. Give the big parties a reason to think twice about us.
Peter Mackay, Reid
CAMPAIGN DOUBLES UP
The big ''Zed for Tuggeranong'' sign on Drakeford Drive. Is that recycling at its best or just constitutionally challenged?
Libby Amiel, Kambah
A RATHER CLOSE CALL
The chairman of Fairfax has come out strongly in support of one side of politics and bagged the other just four days before a national election. Wasn't Fairfax's motto ''Independent. Always''?
Ron Lees, Stirling
BOAT SECRECY CUNNING
Gee whiz! Why did we not think of this solution before (''Coalition may keep arrival numbers secret'', September 4, p4)? Just don't tell us how many boats full of refugees have come (or sunk) and we won't have to worry ever again about being ''swamped by illegals''! Clever and cruel, Scott Morrison.
Marguerite Castello, Griffith
This race to the bottom is between a dishonest, arrogant, innumerate, misogynist thug supporting the millionaire mothers of Double Bay leading a team of yesterday's nobodies, against a dishonest, egocentric, dysfunctional autocrat leading a gaggle of divided individuals who couldn't organise a booze-up in a brewery.
A pox on both their houses. The informal party is in line for a record vote.
R. King, Melba
THINK TANKS DONE
May I suggest that The Canberra Times stop using the term ''think tank'' in relation to the proliferation of institutes and centres around the country. Unlike the prototype think tank, the RAND Corporation, there is no evidence that any thought takes place in these bodies.
Rather, they are reservoirs of ideology, which is periodically dispensed for the polemical purposes of their sponsors.
Stephen Brown, Forrest