TURNCOAT TIM: Someone once told me I looked a little like Tim Cavanaugh, so I've been busy all morning self-administering some plastic surgery. Tip for beginners: check you've got some sutures handy before you make the.first incision.

I wouldn't want anybody to mistake me for Cav, not after this column in the Online Journalism Review, which is less journalism than it is a doglike act of perversion. In it, Cavanaugh deploys Old Media arguments that were once aimed at the Net: Blogs are new, therefore bad and wrong. Blogs don't have many readers. Blogs are written by nobodies.

The dead-woods were using lines like this about the Net six years ago. Now we're hearing them from Old Net people, like Cav and Raimondo the circus freak. The more things change, etc …

The worst thing Cav could say about me was that I live in an unusual time zone. Consider me zinged.

What do OJR's readers make of Cav's Blog assault? Take a look. It ain't pretty.

MARK STEYN'S latest examines Marc Herold's homespun Afghan death count, press gullibility, and that thrilling Packers-Giants footbase game.



Dozens of asylum seekers held at a detention centre in South Australia have sewn their lips together to protest delays in processing their visa applications, the Herald reports.

Other detainees have been on a hunger strike since Wednesday.

In earlier attempts to prove themselves worthy of Australian citizenship, Woomera detainees attacked and injured 21 guards, set fire to buildings and performed other acts of self-mutilation.

INCOMING: More angry reader mail from the letters pages of The Australian. The column they address is linked to below.

WHEELS: So we got home from the pub last night and turned on the television. On Fox Sports, there's a preview of this year's World Rally Championship. Cut to footage of Colin McRae arriving at an ice-covered hairpin corner at about 200 kmh; he throws his car sideways, punches the handbrake, hits the throttle, and exits the corner like a nuclear cat.

Nadia says: "God, I wish I could drive like that."

Well, she's Italian. And she does drive like that, except now we've got super-grippy Pirelli tyres on the MX-5, there's much less sideways chaos.

These rally people are unbelievable. Last year I drove a 350 horsepower Mitsubishi at a professional rally driver's private test track west of Sydney. I'm no bad driver – that is to say, I didn't crash the thing – but in comparison to the rally pro, I was pathetic. After I'd finished terrifying myself, the pro took me for a ride.

At points on the course where I was changing down two gears and hitting the brakes hard out of fear I would be killed, he was changing up a gear and accelerating. My frightened weeping was audible above the scream of the exhaust.

I wish I could drive like that. Or do anything like that.

ANGRY PEOPLE: Both The Age and The Australian ran pieces by me this week. Lots of mail resulted, most of it the cheery, happy kind, but much also from hostile anti-Tim factions.

Here's one response to the column in The Age, which made fun of Monty Python member Terry Jones's absurd demand that Al Qaeda terrorists captured by US forces should not have their heads covered, burka-style:

"Dear Mr Blair,

"After reading your article 'Of bags, burkas and Western Arrogance', I'd like to make you aware of some incredible 'arrogance' (read: historical inaccuracy and misinformation) you portrayed while accusing the likes of Salter, Fisk, Leunig, Pilger, FitzSimons and Jones of similar misdeeds.

"I don't want to sound like an 'apologist' for any of those fanatic and anti-democratic groups like the Taliban and I don't condone the Taliban's extremist and 'Un-Islamic' interpretation of the Muslims scripture, Quran, in relation to the dress code for the (Afghan) women (not just for women but for men too which doesn't get a single mention in any Western media); however, I need to remind you of a (historical) fact which you greatly overlooked about the history of 'Burka' in Afghanistan which many rural, regional and even urban-living Afghan women have traditionally been wearing -- 'outside home' -- as an 'unofficial' national dress code for almost two and half centuries. Yep, you heard it right, nearly 250 years."

Wow! 250 years! I guess that means we in the West should revert to the ancient tradition of denying women the vote. Tradition is everything. Nothing must change!

"While in the Muslim world, the Talbanesque style of an Islamic governmentality is (rightly) not widely supported or respected as the only and 'puritan' form of an Islamic State (as the Taleban have always claimed to implement) which according to Muslim scholars, their imposition of such type of 'Islamic' dress code (head to toe Burka) even breached the orthodox Islam's notion of an 'Islamic Hijab' (head scarf) as well as significantly violating the women's right."

Right to what? Blah, blah, blah. This email was longer than my article, and even less logical. Whoever wrote it signed off as "Ozi Media-Junkie". I suspect we're dealing with a tragic victim of journalism school. He/she/it continues:

"Now lets closely examine your clever attempt to the jump to the high moral ground of journalistic commentary. I always believed that journalists are trained to be partial observers and objective commentators. I just wonder if a little bit of research could have put some credibility into your diatribe against 'arrogant' commentators. Little background info would not have harmed you argument and article's authority, it might have even brought you couple of more readers.

"I find it puzzling that for someone like you who's a keen advocate of free speech, is attacking those rival commentators from the other end of the political spectrum for being self critical of our Histories, Official policies and our dealing with the rest of the world in this 'uncertain' and borderless global village. It's not shame to disseminate information but it's shame to censor information."

Criticism is censorship. And spelling, grammar, and brevity lie bleeding on the ground.

Here's another missive, this one written by an actual academic from an Australian university, taking issue with me over my column in The Australian about McDonald's:

"Fastidious supporters of globalisation don't welcome scrutiny of their position. Question the universal benefits of free trade and pretty quickly you're plastered as a flat-earther, a regressive protectionist, a throw back to Neanderthals. Dare and suggest that big-money corporations might have a little too much influence over the democratic process and you've bought your ticket to la-la land. Globalisation is a religion, you're either a supporter or a heretic. Embrace the system, or be damned."

We're off to a promising start. "Dare and suggest"?

"Trouble is, like all good evangelism, the stronger the preacher's demand to conform, the more people want something different. After all, isn't 'consumer choice' the modern mantra? If you oppose McDonalds, then sure, no one makes you buy it. But should Hungry Jacks be the only opinion?"

He/she means "option". What snobbery! As though McDonald's eaters only frequent fast-food restaurants.

"Of course, then there's KFC -- yet they all do pretty much the same thing. Mass advertising; outlets everywhere; deals and meals; drive through or eat-in. A fast-food culture, wrapped, branded and available now. Well, perhaps you can always eat your tofu and lentils at home."

Yes, you can. Or at any one of Sydney's vegetarian restaurants.

"It's easy to demonise the protestors from recent years as a lost tribe of miscreants, intent on destroying the bounties of this age. 'How could they possibly oppose McDonalds?' people want to know. 'McDonalds is just a business, making its way in the world, creating charities and making people feel good, with full tummies to boot.' This obscures the true focus of the protestors. The battle for public hearts and minds is changed to turf that favours a massive multinational, laden with advertising, image consultants and spin-doctors, compared to a disaffected group armed only with alternative ideas.

"People's eating habits are only a sideshow for the protest movements. McDonalds is representative of mass Western culture, the same menu worldwide, replete with fountains of Coca-Cola. There are plenty of symbols for cultural homogenisation -- business practice, economic theory, school teaching styles, even the idea of sovereign countries all emanate from the West -- but McDonalds provides a common reference point. McDonalds makes a convenient target for protestors by insisting on such prominence in our public space.

"Opposition to McDonalds is only a symptom of a deeper malaise, where people are questioning their expected role as an atomised consumer. This is a global issue because economic interaction occurs at an international level. Protests will stay global as long as brands do."

With enemies as scatterbrained and illogical as these, who needs friends?


BREAKING THE RULES: Hailstones are always as big as golfballs, or baseballs, or – allowing for regional variations – cricket balls. The largest ever to strike the US is described as being as big as a football.

This is a journalistic law. Hailstones must always be compared to some sports orb. Sure, reckless non-professionals might get away with using lentils or grapefruits as a size guide, but us Serious Media Types never deviate from the ball rule. If a hailstone the size of a truck were to hit the earth, I'd describe it as being as big as a baseball transporter.

The Sydney Morning Herald has broken the rules. This week, according to the SMH, hailstones as big as rockmelons pelted the city. It's the second time that the SMH has defied the ball law.

(By the way, you'll notice in the above link another example of Australian naming laws – ambulance staff are referred to as "ambos".)

Perhaps the SMH weather writer is pursuing a late-night TV role; in his days as a television weatherman, David Letterman once predicted hail "the size of canned hams".

Chip Rowe has done a wonderful job of listing various hailstone terminology rule-breakers. As mainstream media consumers, we will not stand for this. Give us the cliches we crave!

BLOG WATCH I: Your guide to who is saying what, where

Andrew Sullivan: Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy now engulfs Europe; shocking Goldhagen; conservative bashing (literally); Egypt’s unnoticed terror crackdown; whites are racists, non-whites are non-racist; yet another non-war lefty emerges to boost evidence that none of them exist

Glenn Reynolds: Heroes of the Appalachian Law School shooting; another Ambrose gotcha?;West update; lice and the law; Dubya, Newt, Strom, and lap dancing; Chuck Schumer throws his Enron cash away; Second Amendment, the stage show; Wash Post gun bias

Natalie Solent: Will BBC discover existence of heretofore unknown "black conservatives"?; parking meters earn more than the minimum wage; Antiwar.com’s numbers don’t add up; mother Maggie; Guardian becoming weirder; Raimondo responds

Matt Welch: Zuckerman hammers the House of Saud; the astonishing serial evasions, lies, and rationalisations of Wyche Fowler -- go read it now

Bjorn Staerk: Hilarious pro-Saudi journalism; Saddam says it’s End Game for the US; elegant Raimondo rebuttal

Rand Simberg: The Nation awards co-ownership of the Houston Astros to Dubya; Clinton’s legacy good for 4 out of 10; pothead busted; Aussie naming convention theories

Virginia Postrel: Pay attention, NYT; welfare for accountants; the chicest Afghan

Ken Layne: Twain’s timelessness; Hofer’s goofiness; New Englanders demand English; more literal Australianisms, plus some literal Californications; women are insane; huge monkey-war combo-link

Shiloh Bucher: Abandoning Blogger; where are my virgins?; the last clean, neat, heterosexual male in captivity; coldness proves warmness to enviro-religionists

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Buchanan’s gay ranting; Enron fallout; seeking fairness in chick-jock numbers

Lawrence Haws: Post-civil rights, American blacks are winners

James Lileks: Advice to Dave Barry; Clancy novels useful airborne weaponry; laughter of the lunar Gnat; where is Neil Armstrong?; Rolie Polie Olie; Manson memories

Iain Murray: Fine new salvo against liberal press; Red Ken gets something right; keep an eye on the Afghan prisoners; Euro pushes prices up

Jay L. Zilber: The Accutane verdict – not guilty

Bill Quick: Kettle Cavanaugh informs pots of their shady hue; burqa five make a run for the county line; Kinsley offers proof of conservative wisdom; latest Bad Writing nominee will be hard to beat

Christopher Johnson: Prepare to spin, Reese and Raimondo; slicing Sobran to bits

There are a million stories in the Blog city. These are just a few of them.


NATIONAL SHAME EXPOSED (AGAIN): Jeremy Clarkson, a British journalist whose latest Sunday Times column appears in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph, has attacked Australia over our lame names. He writes:

"What do you expect from a people who named a blue spotted ray that lives in lagoons the blue spotted lagoon ray, or a range of mountains with snow on them the Snowy Mountains?"

At least they're not called "Jeremy".

Still, he has a point. Ken Layne drew attention to Australia's Naming Rules last December:

"The name must either be blandly literal ('Western Australia,' 'Sydney Opera House') or pointlessly diminutive ('breaky' for 'breakfast,' 'footy' for 'football') -- preferably both. This fascinates me. Say you're an 'Aussie,' and you discover a fish with a thin, hair-like tail. By law, you must name it the Hairtail. A long, thin ribbon-like fish would be named, obviously, the Ribbonfish. And if you carefully followed both Naming Rules, a fish with a pattern of stripes would be, of course, the Stripey."

Something must be done. (Besides this). As soon as the fireys have finished cleaning up the wreckage from the bushfires and all the pollies have returned to Canberra after the summer break, I'm going to call upon my fellow Aussies to address Australia's shortage of creative names.

I think I'll call it the Australian Creative Names Project. No, wait; the Australian Creative Names Project 2002. Perfect.

YOUR TAXES AT WORK: The Australian Labor Party says the government should supply legal aid – funded by taxpayers – to captured Australian Al Qaeda warrior David Hicks.

Labor justice spokesman Daryl Melham told ABC radio that the Kabul Kangaroo "should be afforded legal representation … there's got to be an independent and impartial tribunal as well."

And the ALP wonders why it lost last year's Federal election …

YOU WANT BELLICOSE WOMEN? WE GOT BELLICOSE WOMEN: Is David Hicks being treated fairly? So asks the Sydney Morning Herald about Taliban Dundee, the Australian Al Qaeda member currently cooling his heels in a US military lock-up.

The responses are intriguing. While a number of male emailers wuss around or wander off topic – "We are culpable and guilty of killing people in their own land, governed, at the time, by a legitimate parliament," writes Merv, who is probably still fuming over the destruction of the Third Reich – the majority of female respondents would prefer Hicks to be beaten like a redheaded stepchild.

Some samples:

"He has gone against everything we believe in and everything we have fought for and I believe he should face the consequences of his actions."

"Were the people in the towers being treated fairly.......let him suffer. When he involved himself in such a group of animals he gave up all his human rights."

"David Hicks is an evil man and knew exactly what he was doing. Had he not been captured he could have killed many people - that's what should be addressed."

"I beleive that David Hicks is being treated more than fairly. He should be taken back to Afghanistan and given a traditional stoning. Does Australia want these type of people to be given another chance? I know that I don't."

"He took implicit part in the manslaughter of thousands of innocents. Do the Aussie thing and get rid of the rot. Real people wouldn't give a damn who does the job. Just do it."

"Hang him."

"David Hicks has forfeited his rights by choosing to be a mercenary."

Aussie women. They rock, yes?

IF NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA – the Doc Martens-wearing, anti-American leader of the Australian Democrats – promises to wear these latest designs from the house of Martens, I promise to buy her a pair. Seriously. C'mon, Natasha! What size? You could always donate them to charity afterwards.

RALL FISKED! Commie cartoonist Ted Rall's adventure in Afghanistan began much like Robert Fisk's: as an attempt to present the human side of a nation rent apart by Western wickedness. For his trouble, Fisk was beaten and robbed by his beloved victims.

Apparently the same sort of thing happened to Rall. In an interview with a New York radio station, the little Marxist complained bitterly that "local" Afghans had attempted to impose Marxism upon him and other Western journalists:

"I was kind of disgusted with the local Afghans for viewing us as walking money bags and trying to rob us and, and kill us for our money, simply because, because we had it when we were there – we were the only people who were going to be their advocates and tell the truth for them, and there was – just nothing was like I expected it."

They tried to take the money "simply because we had it"? What a beautiful shoe-on-the-other-foot scenario for Ted to dwell on. In the US, he demands that the rich be taxed at a greater rate – "simply because they have it", to coin a phrase. In Afghanistan, where Rall looms over the populace like a freakin' Rockefeller, he's desperate to hang on to his wealth and disgusted that the poor want a slice.

In fact, Rall's wealth would only have increased thanks to the stories he filed from Afghanistan about all the miserable poor people. Exploiter! Tyrant! Capitalist! American!

SATAN'S SCALES: You know those weighing machines you see at airports and shopping centres? The type that analyse if you're too fat by calculating your weight and height? The sort that provide a little print-out of your fat details?

One such machine in Melbourne has developed a psychotic personality. Bruce Hamilton, concerned about weight he'd gained over Christmas, consulted the black-tempered device on Sunday; his print-out called him a "fat c**t".

A large woman was ordered to "get off, fat pig".

This machine tells it like it is. Expect it to host a Fox News show by June.


THE FIRES ARE OUT: We've had some massive rainstorms here in the last 24 hours, and they've doused the last remaining traces of the bushfires that began on Christmas Eve.

We will now proceed to Phases Two and Three of the operation. Phase Two: the beating up of environmentalists who block prudent forest management. Phase Three: the importing of Taliban-quality execution expertise to deal with any convicted arsonists.

BLOG WATCH I: Your guide to who is saying what, where

Andrew Sullivan: Doctored titles at the NYT; I don’t want my gay TV; US offers no choice between jockdom and junkiedom; Dems ashamed of Clinton; Daschle not even an Atlee; hooray for unelected failures

Glenn Reynolds: Latest Osama location theories; Saudis should fear the Angry Women; employment, responsibility distract Reynolds from crucial blogging tasks

Natalie Solent: Give me money!; racial profiling for smokers; defining feminism, and other chick stuff

Matt Welch: Justin Raimondo (who he?) lashes out at Warblog people; some liberals earned their limos; Welch explains The Hat; troubling European vignette vignette

Rand Simberg: Space madness; who is the Mystery Blogger?

Virginia Postrel: Dallas fake drug scandal grows, but is unnoticed; popularity challenge presented to Reynolds; left without a label; NYT remembers (and remembers, and remembers) Cyrus Vance

Ken Layne: Steyn linked at last; hail Tacos Delta; introducing the iLayne

Shiloh Bucher: Republicans are "white bread", says reporter; Bush should dine at Tacos Delta; jury duty missed; headlines hard to write

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: "Show me the weblog data!"; new Supremes show lacks Motown sizzle, Mary Wilson; Jarvis’s Putin-like soul

James Lileks: Hardee’s the Nader of burgers; Poppycock, Balderdash, and Bullshit not a legal firm; new New Order orders volume; bankrupted by own success

Iain Murray: They’re our marble things, so naff off out of it; dead hand of Marxism still twitching; Australia and Argentina equally lucky; the single life; choking abates

Jay L. Zilber: Edge Connections contract or white-hot needles into eyes? The choice is easy; postings promised

Bill Quick: Bias confessed; vale Boomer, bound for Good Boy heaven; Charles Johnson, Matt Welch shooting, scoring; unbiased education system generates unbiased journalists

Rallying Point: Idiot academics more idiotic than first thought; comedian meets mental patient; LA Times wussy on fat miracles

Christopher Johnson: Future of NYT foretold; furious Dr Tash lashes the US

It’s Blog, Blog

It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood

It’s Blog, Blog

It’s better than bad, it’s good!

IT WOULD BE so much easier to tolerate The Independent's relentless anti-US, anti-Bush wailing if they could manage to get even the most basic facts straight.

I mean, please, the Green Bay Packers versus the San Francisco Giants, who are (as Bill Quick quickly told me) a baseball team?

Chokin' Dubya was watching the Baltimore-Miami playoff game. Of football.


SYDNEY MORNING HERALD readers have reacted furiously to a piece by Gay Alcorn and Cynthia Banham that accused the Australian government of not doing enough to help captured Aussie Al Qaeda terrorist David Hicks. Extracts from the letters page in Tuesday's SMH show little sympathy for the Vegemite Islamite:

"Gay Alcorn's concern for the comfort of the Aussie jihadi David Hicks is very touching. He must have risked a serious case of economy-class syndrome on a 20-hour flight shackled to his seat - and no in-flight movie! There is, however, one comfort that Mr Hicks enjoyed on his flight that is denied to the rest of us – the knowledge that his plane would not intentionally be flown into the side of some tall building."

"Do Cynthia Banham and Gay Alcorn really expect a prisoner of war to be brought before a magistrate and have his counsel apply for bail? The fact that Hicks is an Australian citizen is a small component in the overall picture. He is first and foremost a terrorist fighting for the al-Qaeda."

"As a suspect of crimes against the US and, oh, by the way, humanity, he should be detained, investigated and prosecuted if guilty. And if it were at all possible, shuttling him off to another planet would make the world a safer, more peaceful place."

"I am at a complete loss to understand the rantings of the do-gooders and the civil libertarians in their anxiety to bring David Hicks, the Australian al-Qaeda terrorist, back to Australia. The US justice system is far more likely to impose a more adequate punishment."

"If it were my preference I would place Hicks and his fellow terrorists out in the frozen tundra of my home in Alaska, USA. After a day we wouldn't have to worry about feeding them - they would be frozen bear or wolf food."

And my favourite letter, possibly of all time:

"I am the father of three wonderful sons. To David Hicks's parents in South Australia, my heart goes out to you. I can't begin to imagine how you must feel at this time. To the rest of the world I say: put Hicks and his cohorts up against a wall and shoot the bastards."

ENGLISH football stars David Beckham and Michael Owen use boots made of kangaroo leather. How fantastically cool is that?

ON JULY 20, 1985, Finland's Keke Rosberg stubbed out his cigarette, strapped himself into a 1,200-horsepower Williams-Honda F1 car, and turned a lap of Britain's Silverstone race track at an average speed of 160.925 mph. It remains the fastest qualifying speed in the history of Grand Prix racing.

In October 2001, Finland's Anssi Vanjoki, director of the Nokia telephone company, was timed at 47 mph in a 31 mph zone while riding his Harley Davidson around Helsinki. He has been fined $103,600. It is the largest speeding fine in the history of nanny state bullshit rulemaking.

BUSH, PRETZELS, AND JOURNALISM 101: Think George W. Bush choking on a pretzel is big news? Actually, it's not. Not unless readers can identify with the story.

That requires seeking out what a former editor of mine, Ken Edwards, called "the small voices". He didn't mean it in a dismissive way; on the contrary, Edwards loathed press-conference journalism, where only mighty voices were heard. He much preferred the opinions of common folk.

If he were still alive (Edwards died of a heart attack a few years ago), Ken would be yelling at me about the Bush-pretzel deal and demanding the story of someone besides the President who'd endured a pretzel-related choking incident.

Here's a story for Ken. Last year, Diane Hileman got a pretzel stuck in her throat. It happened as she sat in the stands watching a minor league baseball game in Lawrence, New Hampshire.

"If it wasn't for my husband, I wouldn't be here today," says Diane.

"You cannot describe what you are going though at the time. You can't talk, you can't do nothing.

"It's a very scary feeling. I panicked. I was hitting my husband to get him to help me." Alerted to the crisis, her husband Raymond belted Diane on the back and dislodged the pretzel.

Hileman, who works at Lawrence's City Hall, hasn’t been contacted by any journalists. She isn't difficult to locate; I found Diane via a Google search using the words "pretzel" and "choking".

Only her co-workers have so far commented on any connection between Diane's choking and Bush's. "Choking on anything is serious," she says. "A pretzel, that's a hard piece of food."

Diane also shares the President's lower-than-average heart rate, but, unlike him, didn't pass out. That she didn't possibly saved her life. She was able to draw attention to her problem in time to be rescued.

"She kept hitting my leg," husband Ray told the Eagle-Tribune. "She was gasping for air and her face was turning red."

Diane should be all over the US papers today. She's a small voice who tells a big story.

FAREWELL, PAULINE: Back in June, 1999, Salon's Douglas Cruickshank wrote an item about Australian politician Pauline Hanson in which he damned her and her One Nation party as "right-wing", and "an unfortunately significant force in Oz politics".

She wasn't "significant" at the time, having lost whatever support she'd won three years earlier in the 1996 federal election, and was obviously doomed to continue her downward course. I sent Salon an email: "The chances of her making a comeback are minimal".

Make that less than minimal. Hanson, who failed to win a Senate seat in last year's election, has now resigned from the leadership of her party.

BLOG WATCH I: Your guide to who is saying what, where

Andrew Sullivan: Sully's money says Enron will hurt Dems; spook set to blast Clinton; Sissy Spacek "gut-wrenching" in good way; transsexual inheritance fiasco has a message for us all; young people aren't as stupid as they look, act, etc; Katharine Seelye is as stupid as she looks, acts, etc; NYT leaps out of the closet

Glenn Reynolds: Deadly nailclippers make it past airline security, undeadly pilot doesn't; whaling on Wendy's; InstaPundit phase two will shortly commence; Nigerians head for the moon; did reading Reynolds make Bush choke?

Natalie Solent: Sympathy for sub-editors; EU slips on sauce; Guardian identifies (as ever) multinationals as bad; turbo McLaren pushchair blitzes School Gate Grand Prix

Matt Welch: Blogdom's terrible expansion; Zahn just a little bit hopeless; pining for the Lakers' true voice; oil is one thing the war is not about

Bjorn Staerk: Happy little Taliban were monstered by Binny; Indian reactions to Musharraf; Pakistanis call Musharraf "Mushy" (which is probably insulting and racist in Canada or England or somewhere)

Rand Simberg: Amnesty International is amnasty; "right-wing" an insult worldwide, regardless of location or context; bluegrass is to music as blogging is to media

Virginia Postrel: Dallas non-drug user case grows murky; anti-globos enemies of logic, reason, progress, Postrel; what blogs are, and what blogs aren't

Ken Layne: The Old Man and the Cancer

Shiloh Bucher: Better blogging through cleanliness; Martha Stewart's mass increasing

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Schottenheimer fired, replaced by someone easier to spell; Tony's aching brain; fond pundit memories

James Lileks: Man grilled – literally – in quest for the word "Lego"; new Ocean's 11 makes old version look like Puddle's 3; Julia Roberts de-fleshing; Elliot Gould super-sizing; restaurant loudness offends; genius of Mike Maltese applauded; includes Bonus Screed

Iain Murray: Ominous silence

Bill Quick: Turner-free CNN angling for conservative viewers; Saudis actually think they can take on all comers; Wash Post upset by people seeking liberty; do not, under any circumstances, attempt to steal Bill's Toyota

Rallying Point: Mmmm … meat jelly; what to do at WTC site?; polygamists yield to Olympic fever

Christopher Johnson: Midwest Conservative Journal moving steadily north

Ask not for whom the Blog Watches. It watches for thee.


INSTANT reaction to Bush's choking from the insightful people in lefty chat rooms:

"How embarrassing this fool is."

"I think he was drunk, and that pretzel story was a cover."

"You know they are hurting for ideas when they use a choking spell to distract the media."

"Holy shit! Dubya chokes on a pretzel and passes out while watching football. He could have died!!! Better luck next time."

"Must have been visiting with his buddy Jack Daniels today."

"Wouldn't have anything to do with anxiety over the Enron scandal, would it?"

"He must feel like a scared rabbit caught in the headlights! Tsk, tsk, tsk! Pitty, pitty, pitty!"

"Lame attempt at diversion. They have to come up with something quickly before the week starts - I think an airline disaster is no longer a possibility. The nation is waking."

"Id like to send a few bags of pretzels. Who knew it could be so easy. Im gonna find some real old and dry ones. Got the address?"


"My guess he was tossing them in the air and trying to catch them in his mouth. When he actually caught one, he fell over backwards in his chair."

"He's on a bender over Enron. The pressure is on."

"Bet he was drunk!"

"Betcha it wasn't a pretzel; betcha he shoved the coke spoon too far up his nose."

"A bizarre suicide attempt."

PRESIDENT BUSH fainted briefly in the White House after choking on a pretzel, reports the Associated Press.

Dubya was watching a NFL game when the rogue pretzel struck, White House physician Dr. Richard Tubb told the wire service.

"I do not find any reason that this would happen again," said Tubb. "He fainted due to a temporary decrease in heart rate brought on by swallowing a pretzel."

ONE HOONDRED AND EIGHTY: Australia routinely defeats England in cricket, but this must really hurt – Aussie Tony David has just won the world darts championship, beating Britain's Mervyn King.

While we're in the UK, Jimmy Breslin reports in his Newsday column that sacked British Enron employee Daniel Dexter is these days relaxing "on the beach in London". On the beach? In London? In winter?

THIS COLUMN by Maureen Dowd appears in today's Sydney Morning Herald. I live in Sydney, and I read it five days earlier, here.

How much does Dowd earn from the republication of items that have been kicking around cyberspace for the best part of a week? An why does Fairfax, the Sydney Morning Herald's parent company, which claims to be vigilantly cutting costs, think it makes sense to run old Dowd columns several days after anyone who cares has already read them?

Beats me. Over to you, Fred Hilmer.

FREE THE AL QAEDA DINGO! The Sydney Morning Herald is outraged at the treatment of David Hicks, our own Taliban Dundee, who fled Australia to join Osama bin Laden's murderous idiots.

Why, the captured Hicks is in an "exposed cage-like cell" at a US military prison in Cuba, where his "treatment is so harsh that Amnesty International describes it as inhumane". No step-aerobics for you, Dave.

Hicks, according to reporters Cynthia Banham and Gay Alcorn, has been cruelly let down by the Australian government. "What does the Government say to criticism that it is failing to look after one of its citizens?" they wonder, while failing to mention the 22 Australians killed on September 11.

Worthless Hicks, whose own father has condemned him as a traitor, is described as "a father of two", an "accused al-Qaeda fighter", and a "convert to Islam" who has "not been charged with any offence".

(This is, by the way, a straight news report. I can't wait for the opinion pieces.)

"Hicks spent his first night on a rubber mat on a concrete floor in an open-air, cage-like cell lit by floodlights blazing 24 hours a day," write Banham and Alcorn. "There are swarms of mosquitoes."

Mosquitoes! Aren't they banned under the Geneva Convention?

Banham and Alcorn continue: "Four of the prisoners had arrived by cargo plane on Friday with their faces covered with masks, indicating tuberculosis."

Or Halloween. Who knows when Islamic Halloween is held? Was it this weekend?

Banham and Alcorn end with this: "The Defence Minister, Robert Hill, has said the United States would agree to send Hicks home to Australia to face charges when the Attorney-General's Department had decided what crime, if any, he had committed."

"If any." Great reporting, losers.


A STATUE based on the celebrated photograph of three firefighters raising the flag at Ground Zero is drawing criticism because of its politically correct racial mix.

The three guys who raised the flag – Dan McWilliams, George Johnson and Billy Eisengrein – all happen to be white. But the statue, as Steven Den Beste has lamented, depicts one white guy, one Hispanic guy, and one black guy. According to Newsday:

"The decision to represent different races was made by the Fire Department, the makers of the statue, and the property-management company that owns the department headquarters building and commissioned the work."

This is completely indefensible. Why should the statue only represent America's three most numerous racial groups? Society's genuine poor, its weak, its victims, and its stupid are further marginalised by crude grovelling to majority minorities.

To correct this, I propose that seven flag-raising statues be created – each one presenting three threatened and victimised people, groups, ideas or things working together in harmony to raise a flag, even though none of them were at Ground Zero and probably wouldn't know how to raise a flag anyway.

Here are my Seven Statues of Well-Intentioned Stalinist Revisionism. You may submit your own, either to me or to the Berkeley Statue Justice committee no doubt being formed as I write.

1. Buddy the dead labrador, Tina Brown, and Napster.

2. A Steinbeckian idiot farm boy , Naomi Klein, and the Kyoto protocol.

3. Paula Zahn, Argentina, and Luna the redwood tree.

4. Tawana Brawley, Elian Gonzalez, and a spotted owl.

5. Keiko the killer whale, some crack babies, and a Chevrolet Corvair.

6. Diana, Princess of Wales, Enron, and the ozone layer.

7. Winifred Skinner, a Mexican leaf blower, and a Wiccan.

In the interests of total fairness, we’ll need to provide at least one statue of people burying the flag. Anyone got a few spare tons of crap to build a lifelike Susan Sontag?

BLOG WATCH I: Your guide to who is saying what, where

Andrew Sullivan: Talk about a waste of money; branding the talking heads; Clinton finally secures his legacy

Glenn Reynolds: Send your non-anthrax opinions on sky guns; the ease of punditry; Secret Service becoming Pack of Bastards; accountants spooked; Al Hunt launches into Sharpton and the Illegitimizer; US selling terror ideas

Natalie Solent: Man drops plain name

Matt Welch: Paris needs a dose of King Rudy; centralized economies produce Ladas, lies; Speilberg's spine removed; McRoyal rocks; welcome back, Matt and Emmanuelle

Bjorn Staerk: Taliban's cunning plan revealed; Musharraf continues sane-person impersonation

Rand Simberg: Enron, shmenron; Kandahar becomes Candyhar; Fox poll baaaad news for demagogue Dems; more Dubya "rudeness"; Swiss ho cows

Ken Layne: Perfect tacos agonizingly beyond reach; Green Berets multilingual, multitalented, tough as hell; breaking Enron down to its prime elements reveals … nothing at all

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Enron is about business, not Bush; yet more new blogs; Churchill "cute"

Lawrence Haws: Step aside, baseball guy!

Bill Quick: Holy Joe Lieberman's 2004 plans; barefoot and pregnant for Muhammad; clean cars will produce tons of black, acrid smoke; Enron owned everybody

Christopher Johnson: Canada collapsing, few surprised

Tried to run

Tried to hide

Blog on
through to the other side

Blog on
through to the other side

VICTORY AND JUSTICE! Good, caring people who know what is right have long fought against Third World sweatshops. Naturally, they have been opposed every step of the way by the forces of evil.

I can now announce that good has triumphed. Some 100,000 Bangladeshi sweatshop workers have been liberated. No longer do they work under tyranny. In fact, they don’t work at all!

Those ex-slaves should be grateful to the wealthy Western activists who've protested so long on their behalf, and to quota-loving Western clothing unions. Thanks, student protesters who refuse to wear any school garment produced by sweatshop labor and don't understand how developing economies develop! Hooray, anti-globalists! Three cheers, feminists!

There's just one little problem.

The Bangladeshis all want their jobs back, otherwise they'll be have to take even worse jobs on farms.