Jirri Booth's arguments (Write On, GLW #745) regarding the impermissibility of using the word "holocaust" to describe anything other than "the victims of Nazi genocide" are spurious. On February 29, Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai said that if the Palestinians in Gaza continue to fire rockets into southern Israeli they risk "bringing upon themselves a greater shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground" against them.
Since the 1940s the word shoah has been the standard Hebrew term for the Nazi-perpetrated holocaust against European Jews. Vilnai, a former general, used the term "a greater shoah", meaning that a holocaust is already happening and can be made worse. Was Vilnai invoking a "puerile analogy", as Booth accuses GLW of committing when it called for an end to the "Gaza holocaust"?
Booth frets that "GLW is uncritical of Hamas". Why is it that the freely chosen representatives of the oppressed have to demonstrate their credentials to our satisfaction before we endorse their struggle? The Israelis don't have to love Hamas, merely recognise that its candidates were elected fair and square by the Palestinian people as their representatives, and make peace with them.
KRudd's ALP government is in need of a little political direction. As a retired union official and now Socialist Alliance member, can I suggest that the socialist activists in the trade union movement start proposing some new interventions on behalf of the working class.
For example, while this may be an unintended consequence, it seems to me that the High Court, in accepting that the terms and conditions of employees employed by corporations are capable of being regulated by law, opens up other interesting possibilities. Surely, it is now open to federal parliament to regulate the remuneration of CEOs, shareholders' dividends, prices of goods and services produced, and the list could go on. If the "price of labour" can be regulated, then why not the price of management? The federal government's corporations power could be applied to attack the powers of capital.
I have no illusions that this tactic will be wildly successful, but it will be fascinating to see the capitalist oligarchy and its new KRudd government trying to argue that wages are qualitatively different to management loot, although to date deputy PM Julia Gillard (Labor "left"!?) doesn't seem to have had too much difficulty in discriminating against workers and unions.
In feminist circles, it's a no-no to raise the subject of what women wear, though it's acceptable to criticise "outside" forces such as the media for, say, in the recent election campaign, angling the camera to take advantage of Maxine McKew's short skirt. Such media practices are pathetic, but no criticism is voiced of the women themselves for wearing such clothes, and when one does raise the issue, discussion tends to come to a summary halt with defensive remarks of the type, "Women should be able to wear what they like", "Feminism is the right to choose".
Such remarks are somewhat superficial, for if we delve a little deeper, the question arises of why women like short skirts, why they choose tight clothes, etc., and the likely answer is that, consciously or subconsciously, it's to please men. This may be fine, in a particular context, but such clothes are worn in almost every context. For example, a fashion adopted by many women these days, the low-cut top, is seen just about everywhere — in the supermarket, at work, in the bank, on the train, at uni, in the street.
I'd like to see women overcome the issue of presenting themselves, regardless of the relevance of the particular context, in a sexually oriented way, for until this happens, it's likely that they'll continue to be thought of, at least in part, as physical entities on display, and thereby won't achieve total equality with men — who don't feel obliged to behave in this way. Why, for example, do top-rating female tennis-players display themselves in tight-fitting, neckline-plunging tops and almost always in the shortest of skirts which reveal their knickers when they fall over? Undignified and different from their male counterparts' loose, comfortable shorts and T-shirts. I ask that women give this some thought.
Earth Hour means we switch off our power for one hour, feel good, and then drive our SUVs (sales up 4.6%, November 2007) at 110 kph instead of 90kph when doing so would reduce fuel consumption by 25% and CO2 emissions by 2.4kg/litre of fuel. Drivers pump out 76 million tonnes of Australia's total net greenhouse gas emissions (i.e., 13.5%), but we drive fast and keep our engines running even when stationary.
The 1973 Arab-Israeli war caused the US Congress to impose a nationwide 55 mph (89 kph) speed limit — it was estimated that a speed of 55 mph used 17% less fuel per mile than a speed of 75 mph. Now that we have a global climate emergency, when will the Rudd government follow suite and restrict maximum speed to 90 kph? We have learnt to enjoy slow food so why can't we learn to enjoy slow travel and do something really significant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our reliance on oil?
Byron Bay, NSW
Buses & trains
As one who occasionally uses the Sydney buses, I am amazed that I never hear stops announced by bus drivers as is now done routinely, and with internationally understandable voices, in newer trains. This would be a very good policy for buses, especially at night when it is difficult to see where one's desired stop is. Tourists, especially foreigners, have often no idea at all where stops are. This seems to me a service that would encourage bus transport — a commendable result.
As for the trains, which I use quite often, the etiquette of mobile phone use is still not understood by some ill-mannered passengers who, incredibly, seem to think that all passengers in their carriage are happy to listen to their long and often loud private conversations. It may be desirable to dedicate some carriages as "mobile free". Failing that, a notice could be displayed "Keep your mobile conversations short and speak softly please". In Europe, many trains have mobile-free carriages and, in some, complete silence is to be observed so that passengers can do some work. Special cubicles are sometimes provided for those who need to use their mobile phones.
Pearl Beach, NSW