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Letters to the Editor

From time to time, a commentary on the world will bubble up inside of me to the extent that I'm forced to write a letter to my local, metropolitan, daily newspaper, The Age. This is where I blow of some steam. Feel like venting too? Add your own comment or visit my homepage.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

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Regulation of Gambling

Six months ago in this newspaper Tattersalls' Managing Director Duncan Fischer said he doesn't want money from problem gamblers (16/10). This is around 40% of gambling revenue. Mr. Fischer expresses his view safe in the knowledge that he can't actually refuse wagers from problem gamblers, and Government policy and contracts ensure there will be no shortage of machines to take them (26/5).

The problem of distinguishing between "problem" and "non-problem" gambling revenue cannot be solved by gamblers themselves. The Government should give Mr. Fischer the tools he needs, modelled on the way banks act in their self-interest to stop us over-extending ourselves on credit.

Firstly, we need to eliminate cash from the gambling industry and replace it with a plastic card. Not only will this give self-exclusion teeth, it will link each wager with an individual. Secondly, we need information-sharing between gambling providers akin to the credit industry: before a wager is offered the provider would know the betting history of the punter along with other financial information available to credit card companies.

Then the gambling operators must be prepared to defend in court their decision to offer wagers without the defence of "we didn't know". They will have to turn away and report punters who have embezzled and gambled away amounts far in excess of their salaries. Similarly, they will be forced to have a policy on taking money from low-income gamblers.

Would Mr. Fischer and his colleagues knowingly and publicly accept bets amounting to 50% of the discretionary income of a pensioner?

Monday, May 24, 2004

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Gang Hand Signs (in Spy)

Hello John,

I'm enjoying your guest spot on Spy, but I have a question about your accompanying photo. You see, I have an interest in the various hand signs "thrown" by today's urban street gangs in the US. (Yes, I do have a girlfriend, as a matter of fact.)

You can read about some of them online eg. http://members.aol.com/Spy219/ or the recent Williams sisters controversy at

Fascinating stuff for the student of popular culture.

Anyway, what exactly are you "flashing" in this photo? It looks like it might be a variation on the famous "east side" left-handed three-finger sign thrown widely by the Bloods in East LA. But the use of the "monkey grip" (wrist-lock) is suggestive of a deeper bonding.

Or is it a local sign, particular to the wide boys of Elsternwick (or wherever you grew up) to insult, say, the Malvern crew? I'm sure that there are hand signs used by our own suburban gangsta-wannabes - is this your way of reaching out to them? Letting them know that you're keeping it real?

It's important that we're clear on these sorts of issues. Remember when Perth Glory's Despotovski inadvertently flashed the three-fingered Serbian salute to Melbourne Knight's Croatian fans? That was a very ugly incident, and could have been avoided if the Croatians realised it was simply an unfortunate arrangement of digits.

Please come clean. It would be a shame if your mis-interpreted sign was inflaming suburban tensions in this city.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

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It's Just Business

We've seen this business model before: don't be suprised when, after six months of turning up the heat, John Laws has another Mercedes and nothing but praise for Alan Jones.