Film violence must be curbed to improve attitudes
Let's face it, there is absolutely no chance for gun control in the US. Even raising the issue is a waste of breath. This latest massacre will probably result in legislation requiring all teachers to carry guns on the assumption that this will make it easier for them to gun down would-be murderers. But we shouldn't think that it is just the money-making power of the US arms industry which is to blame. Many Americans who would be horrified and appalled by such gun tragedies see their governments and their violent, heavily armed, testosterone-charged multiple law enforcement and security agencies as the major threats to their freedom; especially since the enactment of the undemocratic Patriot Act and Homeland security laws, which flagrantly undermine the constitution. Notwithstanding these gun tragedies they are afraid and with a great deal of understandable fear in my view that their guns are their only protection against future enslavement.
But if there is no hope for gun control then there may be some hope for addressing the other side of this epic human tragedy, which is the unbridled pornography of the American entertainment industry. Hollywood is now little more than the public face of the international porn industry. Many of the movies made today are disgusting, decadent, hate-filled glorifications of extreme violence and murder, to say nothing of the glamourisation of drug-taking, alcohol abuse and promiscuity and perversion of all kinds. If you doubt this go and see the recent movies by the feted, filthy-rich glamour pusses of Hollywood such as the Weinstein brothers and Quentin Tarantino whose movies such as Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds are deeply perverted orgasmic portrayals of pornographic violence and race-based hatred. Tarantino shows his profound insensitivity and indifference to the latest massacre declaring that he is ''tired'' of defending his films, every time there is gun violence (''TV Shows taken off schedules'', December 17, p5). Little children are dead, parents, friends and a community are totally destroyed. But, god help us, Quentin Tarantino is tired. Oh dear, pity the poor exhausted pornographer of violence. As a long time advocate of gun control, I don't suppose for a minute that banning such filth is sufficient but this populist pornography is unquestionably corroding America's (and our) moral centre.
Chris Williams, Griffith
Your editorial (''America must take a stand against gun lobby,'' December 16, p12) is high on emotion but short on evidence. Statistics freely available on the websites of the FBI and the US Department of Justice show that both the absolute number and the rates of murder and violent crime in the US are steadily declining.
Even if the US introduced stricter controls on guns, mass murders are unlikely to be prevented. These are not opportunistic crimes where possession of a gun turns a minor offence into a major one. They are planned, giving the offender opportunity to obtain guns on the black market. Given the penalty for mass murder is life imprisonment or death, a comparatively minor term of imprisonment for illegal gun possession will not discourage the offenders.
Stephen Jones, Bonython
Many American presidents have bemoaned the fact that the National Rifle Association lobby has too much power. Each president has made statements regarding restrictions pertaining to the ownership of firearms and on each occasion they have been shouted down by the NRA. Following the Port Arthur massacre, John Howard took strong and decisive action and was lauded by the electorate. Could President Barack Obama achieve the same result? Doubtful.
One irony yet unrevealed probably exists and that is one has to wonder how many of the parents with children at that school actually have firearms accessible or visible within their own homes and if they do, do they subscribe to the fact that they are entitled to possess them? Until that mindset is overcome, it is a certainty that such tragic instances will continue within the US.
N. Bailey, Nicholls
The easy way out
Love it or hate it, the legislation and legal precedent were, in my humble opinion, pretty clear that the worker's after-work activity was covered by the compensation provisions (''Motel sex was work …'', December 17, p1). The claimant should not have had to go to the full bench of the Federal Court to prove what, I think, was already legislatively obvious.
It seems to me that, in recent years, a trend has developed that, where legislation could result in an inconvenient outcome, occupiers of public offices decide to not comply with legislation, or to interpret legislation in new ways.
It seems to me that it is possible to infer that the handling of this case is not inconsistent with that trend.
These days, I think officials are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they make decisions in accordance with the law and end up with what seems to be a silly outcome, they are subject to criticism by the public and media and by their political masters. If they try to achieve an outcome that is more satisfactory to the public, media and politicians, they can get rolled on appeal.
If the law is an ass, the law needs to be changed - not ignored.
Gordon Fyfe, Kambah
Bring on appeal
R. S. Gilbert (Letters, December 15) is spot-on. There must be plenty of service officers shaking in their boots if all you have to do to be charged with fraud is to be having a bit on the side when being paid an allowance for being separated for ''service reasons''. I don't recall there being stages of divorce, except the now-rare decrees nisi and absolute, and if you are not divorced, you are still married.
I also don't recall any service regulations regarding informing your commanding officer of the status of conjugal relations with your wife. Further, if the naval officer was making any contribution, financial or in kind, towards the upkeep of a family home in Canberra, or some of his, or the joint personal effects, were located there, then he was maintaining it regardless of the sexual and emotional status of the marital relationship, and that's what these allowances are all about, not what you are doing with your spare time.
For the prosecution to argue that ''because he would not have lived with his wife in Canberra anyway, he should not have claimed those allowances'' seems ill-considered at best, or fatuous at worst. I am very surprised that five clear-thinking, four-ring captains could be convinced otherwise. Perhaps the Lieutenant Colonel Judge Advocate, the military panel of five navy captains and the brigadier prosecutor may have to eat their words. Since when did courts martial drop their standards to those of tacky Family Court costume dramas. I will follow the appeal with interest.
Warren Feakes, Wanniassa
A raft of concerns arises from the court martial of Captain Stefan King (''Captain facing jail time for fraud'', December 13, p1). Not least is the way in which private emails from his navy email address were used by the prosecution to help prove that the captain was ''emotionally and sexually separated'', and thus apparently ineligible for travel allowances.
Navy officials clearly had trawled through a couple of years of personal emails. The media subsequently had a field day quoting salacious extracts from court proceedings under headlines such as ''The Captain, His Wife and Three Lovers'', and ''An Officer, If Not Quite a Gentleman''.
Public dissemination of these very intimate emails represents an enormous invasion of privacy, not just for the defendant but also for the women in his life, who committed no crime. The clear moral disapproval expressed in some of the headlines is also at odds with the convention that reporting of cases before the courts should be confined only to factual matters. It seems strange for a navy, where lengthy separation during postings is common, and where the sexual antics of sailors away from home are legendary, to assert that ''emotional and sexual separation'' is considered sufficient to end a marriage.
More generally, the accepted rationale for employers paying living-away-from-home allowances is to compensate for the costs incurred in maintaining two separate households. In this context, whether or not a claimant was continuing to service his wife (or any other lover for that matter) seems entirely irrelevant and solely a private matter.
J. B. O'Reilly, Palmerston
What is the poetic link between a recently laid footpath in Rosenthal Street, Campbell, and a soon-to-be opened public toilet at Campbell shops? A gentleman who, as a wordsmith, was once selected as Writer of the Year by The Canberra Times, and who, on behalf of his fellow Campbellites, stood firm for years as he jousted verbally on radio with Jon Stanhope for the facilities.
Harold Grant is joined by Campbell residents and myself in looking forward to the opening of the toilets in Canberra's centennial year.
For them to be known simply as the Campbell toilets would be dull as dishwater.There is a welter of opinion that seeks to mark out this public facility by reaching into history for an appropriate name. And what better name than Clochemerle, that 1934 French satirical novel by Gabriel Chevallier about plans for a public urinal in Vaux-en-Beaujolais. Many will remember it coming to life in the 1972 film starring Peter Sellers.
Colliss Parrett, Barton
Lay off teachers
I am glad that The Canberra Times in its article ''Global race to top of the class'' (Forum, December 15, p1) included comments suggesting that community attitudes and culture play a significant role in formal education and its outcomes. We see this daily in Australia among students whose families originally come from cultures that value hard work and education as a means of personal advancement. Those students regularly achieve the highest results, yet they are taught by the same teachers as those students who underachieve.
Politicians and academics must stop hammering teachers, most of whom do a good job using modern teaching strategies, but spend so much time managing poor behaviour and anti-school attitudes that it is hard to give all students the time they need and deserve if they are to achieve their best.
Dr David Baker, Latham
Roll of Honour listings must meet War Memorial's criteria
Peter Londey (''All peacekeepers should be included on Roll of Honour'', December 14, p23) suggests that all who died after enlistment would be included on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial. This is not totally correct, and the War Memorial's website details the criteria, which include a cut-off date for the death. For World War I, that is March 31, 1921, the date when the AIF was disbanded.
Many of the more than 150,000 individuals wounded in the Great War died as a result of their service, but are not included on the Honour Roll because they died after the cut-off date. There are 61,512 people listed on the Honour Roll under World War I, but if returned servicemen who died young as a result of their war service were included, the number could be twice as large. The cut-off date for World War II is June 30, 1947, again when the AIF was disbanded. HMAS Warrnambool was clearing Japanese mines on the Great Barrier Reef on September 13, 1947, when it hit a mine and sank with the death of four sailors. Because the deaths occurred outside the specified dates, the sailors are not listed on the Honour Roll. Again, many who died of wounds incurred in World War II will not be included on the Honour Roll. The Honour Roll should therefore not be seen as recording all of Australia's war dead, only those who meet criteria determined by the memorial's council.
Eugene Holzapfel, Campbell
PM the offender
Ross Peake's op-ed article (''Gender an evolution in Gillard strategy'', Forum, December 15, p2) addressed the political mud-slinging that characterised federal politics in 2012. Peake clearly saw Tony Abbott as the main offender and, for example, treated Gillard's past and planned gender strategy as simply a different approach. Clever politics to win the female vote.
Peake should know that the so-called gender wars are most likely the strategy of imported spin doctor John McTernan.
The orchestrated and somewhat clumsy attacks on Abbott by the women of Labor, culminating in the misogyny speech, were calculated to characterise the happily married Abbott as someone who has a problem with women. Any sensible person knows that the blokey Tony Abbott for all his shortcomings, is no misogynist, however the word is now defined.
It was an exercise in the politics of division and smear, and the fact that Gillard's misogyny speech went viral on the net needs to be treated with caution. A squirrel on a skate board also goes viral these days. Most of those who viewed Gillard's performance were not Australians and would not know the context of the rant, and those locals who heard what they wanted to hear are probably already in her camp.
The office of the prime minister is not the place to prosecute febrile feminist politics and to cast yourself as a victim. None of the great women in history would ever demean themselves in this way. Indeed, any prime minister who sets out to divide the people rather than bring them together diminishes themselves and their office. Gillard may well pick up a few female votes with her gender strategy, but I wonder how many she loses in the process.
H. Ronald, Jerrabomberra, NSW
If H. Ronald (Letters, December 14) thinks my sole source of news is the ABC, his would undoubtedly be News Limited, whose disgraceful standard of journalism he would regard as unbiased.
He seems to believe that the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had some sort of obligation to alert (unspecified) authorities of irregularities with the finances of the entity that she had helped to create.
Of course, it is clear that these concerns arose well after Gillard's limited involvement in the whole matter (as did her reference to a ''slush fund'' when that eventually became apparent).
Not one of the Coalition's insinuations (they have not dared to make allegations other than the ones that have been immediately rescinded) has been substantiated, but this will probably not dissuade your correspondent from his desperate beliefs.
T. Marks, Holt
TO THE POINT
THE GUN DEBATE
No doubt the gun lobby in America will suggest that had the teachers been armed then they could have stopped the killing before it had gone too far. In other words, more guns. But what should be is less guns and more control over them. Restricting guns would mean that persons wouldn't be able to start their rampage. In other words, if they didn't have a gun, then they couldn't start their massacre and teachers would not have to be armed.
M. Moore, Lyons
The US projects an image of being all powerful in changing regimes in other countries by directing any amount of money and lives to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, they are impotent in changing a regime of gun control in their own country. As a people they are poorer on both counts.
Jeff Bradley, Isaacs
The head of Google, somewhat cockily, has justified his company's tax avoidance in the UK by declaring he is simply adhering to the principles of capitalism (''Google boss says he's proud of global tax avoidance scheme'', December 14, p15).
One cannot help but feel that those of us who obey the country's law and pay their taxes are proud that they do not share such values, which place greed above all else.
Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW
Companies operating in Australia and not paying a fair share of tax such as Google should be hit with a turnover tax on all income generated in the country. This should be set at the business tax rate and then let the companies prove any valid expenses deductions with the tax office. These deductions should only relate to operational expenses within the country.
Robert Knight, Bywong, NSW
According to Sasha Grishin's enjoyable article on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (''Brilliant reunion of Elles'', December 15, p21), the artist inherited a number of congenital illnesses, attributable, in all likelihood, to inbreeding in his ancestors. But if his inbred genetic inheritance must take the blame for this, it must also be given the credit for his inherited potential for artistic genius.
Paul Pollard, O'Connor
Let me, as a former proof reader's assistant, come to Bill Deane's aid. His original letter about the ACT Human Rights Commission (December 11) only makes sense if a hyphen is put on both sides of the phrase ''even King Solomon would have trouble sorting that one out''.
Stephen Holt, Macquarie
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