1.26.2002

TALIBAN DUNDEE'S KILL VOW: "Why do US authorities consider [David] Hicks to be among the worst of the captured al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters?" wondered
the Sydney Morning Herald the other day. "Why Hicks is one of the 'bad guys' is not known because he has given no interviews and the Australian Government has released no details of what he has said during interrogation by Federal Police and ASIO officers."

Well, we know now. Buried in an AP account of a US delegation's visit to Gitmo is this information, which has so far not been reported by any Australian media:


"Officials pointed out the Australian inmate as one the military has said threatened to kill an American, according to Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. She said there was no communication with the Australian, and that he appeared 'docile' like other detainees.

"The Australian, 26-year-old David Hicks, is the only detainee identified by name, by his father in a request for the Australian government to demand his return home."



I just called the newsdesk at the Sunday Telegraph; they haven't heard anything about this. Sgt. Stryker – who noticed the Hicks reference in the AP story, and proposes that Hicks appear before the court of the Crocodile Hunter – has scooped the nation!

SEARCH enough subways and alleys and you'll eventually turn up someone still angry at America for its Nicaraguan adventures in the '80s. It must hurt these veterans deeply to read reports like this, from Thursday's Miami Herald:


"The swearing-in took place in Nicaragua's National Baseball Stadium. About 15,000 people sat for hours under a scorching sun and 90-degree heat to pay tribute to democracy. Ninety-three percent of eligible Nicaraguans had voted in the elections; Bolaños had beaten Ortega by 14 points. On this day, the people were there to inaugurate a new president and celebrate the triumph over Sandinista left-wing totalitarianism and the corruption of past governments.

"As the 11-member U.S. delegation was announced, the crowd erupted into cheers and chants of 'U.S.A.' Some people waved American flags."



(This was the election, by the way, that The Guardian claimed Ortega would win. Who does their polling? Gary Morgan?)

- via the unambiguously-named Right Wing News, run by John Hawkins

GABBA GABBA HAGUE: Assuming that Osama bin Laden is presently something else other than Tora Bora worm food, we'll sooner or later have to work out what to do with him.

"The Hague! The Hague!" screams Geoffrey Robertson, the London-based lawyer and master of the pompous gesture. Since September, Robertson has been talking up The Hague as the ideal – indeed, the only – venue to try Binny and his friends.

Here's some Robertson Hague boosting from The Age:


"The only 'guilty' verdict which could persuade the world of bin Laden's guilt will be closely and carefully reasoned, delivered by distinguished jurists, some from Muslim countries, at a court established by the UN in a neutral location. There is just such a court in session at The Hague, dealing fairly and effectively with crimes against humanity committed in the Balkans and Rwanda.

"The Hague Tribunal affords all basic rights to defendants … It has developed reasonably fair procedures for evaluating the kind of hearsay evidence that may be necessary to prove terrorist conspiracies, and has protocols that protect electronic intercepts and other fruits of intelligence gathering."



Yeah. Right. Nice theory. In practice, here’s how The Hague Tribunal's "fair and effective" case against Slobodan Milosevic is proceeding, according to The Independent:


"The trial of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Kosovo is on the verge of collapse because former aides have refused to testify against him.

"The case hinges on evidence collected by Western intelligence officers rather than the UN's own investigators, and some of the 90 witnesses who provided testimony against the former Yugoslav president have died.

"Three weeks before it is due to open, Europe's most important war crimes trial since Nuremberg is reported to be in such disarray that prosecutors travelled to Belgrade earlier this week to try to shore up the case."



Over to you, Robbo. Still think this is right forum for bin Laden?

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

Andrew Sullivan: Taranto sees through Krugman; 13-syllable Starbucks order may be record; campaign finance reform should begin with pundits; Noonan joins the Enron scamsters; when Tina Brown got religion; Krugman a victim of that ever-active Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy

Glenn Reynolds: Collapsed K-Mart now cool; Europe uber alles; The Independent disturbed about itself; Gitmo perspective; pundit finance reform; Bush knows bias; pro-democracy woman is actually pro-dictatorship; onward to Arabia; Enron ethics book sells for $91.00; new traffic record

Natalie Solent: Crafty avoidance of Solent mockery continues; The Troubles by numbers; Taliban prison system lacks genial Gitmo touch

Matt Welch: Turning against Europe; sweet Reason piece; bogus death count still alive; Layne defends SF; anti-globos head for planet's most globalised city

Bjørn Stærk: Breen and Bucailleism; Lochery and Hamas; Iran's Israel fantasy; the wearing of funny hats urged; spell the name right, or taste cold steel; lutefisk is good

Rand Simberg: Socialists in space; Taliboy's harem plans; Will Warren a prince of verse; poor unhappy Mullahs; Lord Acton on campaign finance reform

Virginia Postrel: Krugman prediction wrong; Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy shrinks to tiny, one-person hissy fit; journalists missing

Ken Layne: NYT biased against bricklayers, accountants, waiters; j-school jokers; Enron suicide unlikely to make Clinton Death list; celebrating Mike "The Tooth" Tyson; I Will Kill Damian Penny; Muppets now figures of horror; Obscene Elmo; Muslim cleric needs a solid 10-minute kicking; feast of blood

Shiloh Bucher: Massive Will Warren achievement applauded; Goldblog "fantastic"

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: O’Connor’s final Day still far away; Rich Lowry's mental state questioned; explaining Bay Area madness; the source of lunacy; Supreme Court numbers game

Lawrence Haws: Fake lawyers busted by themselves; Gitmo boss evidence of life’s fairness; Taikonaut era dawns

James Lileks: Screedish fact-finding on a Dutch thespian; blogrolling hits the print world; the false Mr. Noodles

Lileks II – The Screed: Pasolini, visionary film maker and kiddie-diddler; anti-industry industry supported by actual industry

Iain Murray: Battle of Naseby recounted; government disses old lady; money craved; new argument devices identified; nature must be stopped

Jay L. Zilber: Bring on Indy Jones!; back off, Andrew Sullivan!; small cats

Bill Quick: Growing humans; Wash Post loves useless commies; $9000 fine for $35 crime; dots unconnected in Enron coverage

Rallying Point: Trust the art, not the Altman; Rand a TV hit; Reuters tricked

Christopher Johnson: MCJ leading Salon by $75,000,018.72; Sheikh clarifies US enemy status; jackass making; Kingsolver grouchy and stupid; "Charles Krauthammer puts the boot in" comment possibly slightly inappropriate.

Johnny's in the basement

Mixing up the medicine

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government

The man in the trench coat

Badge out, laid off

Says he's got a bad cough

Wants to get it paid off

Look out kid

It's somethin' you did

God knows when

But you'reBlog Watchingagain

A J-SCHOOL victim sends this charming email:


"Dear coward,

"Why don't you put a comment system up on your site? As a sophomore at Cornell majoring in journalism, one of the first thing we've been taught about writing editorial bits is to ALWAYS allow feedback of some sort, or else it becomes less like a dialogue and more like masturbation.

"Dialogue is good, and having to defend your ideas is better, especially when they are so frequently attacking journalists that you don't like. That's why editors to the letter are good.

"I probably won't visit your site any more until you get less biased or more biased in my favor or allow dialogue to exist.

"Cheers, Shalin"



One of the things they apparently don’t teach at Cornell is to search a website before firing off stupid emails. I post a wide selection of reader responses every few weeks. There's at least one example in the archives.

The phrase "one of the things we've been taught" is chillingly reminiscent of the rejoinder directed at Ken Layne by another j-schooler: "In school, we were told it's important to maintain formal relationships with the authorities." The J-School Preface must be a form of code, warning the listener that something idiotic is about to be said.

Incidentally, what would be the big deal if I didn't run any reader feedback? There's nothing stopping Shalin or anyone else launching a site called "Tim Blair is Wrong About Everything, and Here's Why". Create your own dialogue! In fact, why doesn't every j-student at Cornell already have their own Blog? They're meant to be interested in journalism. They should do some.

JAMES LILEKS received an email this week condemning Australian cultural figure Mark "Jacko" Jackson. I followed Jackson's football career during the '80s, so sent a few paragraphs of Jacksonalia to the Star Tribune's favourite columnist.

They've provoked some fantastic Lileks lines. He was particularly taken with the Melbourne suburb named St. Kilda, whose football team Jacko (one of many Australians so named) once played for:


Saint Kilda? According to catholic.org, which ought to know these things, there is no Saint Kilda. I suspect some Outback Aquinas performed some extemporaneous theologizing. A member of the congregation asked: "So, padre, does th' Good Book permit killin' of a pommy bludger what's givin' you the gobful?"

The pastor, noting that his entire congregation is heavily armed and more heavily hung over, improvised: "Uh, yes. Killing was permitted in certain circumstances, ah, according to a little-known saint -- "

"Which one, then?"

"Ah, Saint Kilda." (Pastor pauses, winces, expecting audience to groan; sees only hopeful upturned faces.)

"An' what did th' 'oly sheila say?"

"Uh, put the boot unto others as you would have others put the boot unto you."

Murmurs of appreciation rippled through the crowd. The town changed its name the next day.

FOLLOWING THE STRICT CONSTRAINTS of Australia's naming rules, what would Australia's national day of celebration be called?

That's right. Australia Day. And it's today!

You can join in the fun by making one of the delightful cross-stitch Australian animal patterns for sale at Julia Oliver's eccentric website. All of our beloved critters are available: the kangaroo ("Because the kangaroo never moves backwards it was chosen as part of Australia's national coat of arms"), the platypus ("a rare, protected animal that looks like a cross between a duck and a beaver"), the crocodile ("they were almost wiped out by crocodile hunters in the 1960s"), the emu ("like the kangaroo, this animal never moves backwards"), a fish ("fish are found throughout Australia"), or a crab ("they were particularly respected by coastal-dwelling tribes", although they have been known to move backwards).

I recommend the crocodile.

1.25.2002

CATHERINE KEENAN has made her bid for Andrew Sullivan's coveted Sontag Award. The morally blind Sydney Morning Herald columnist deserves at least a nomination.

"The language of protest is often one of symbols, and few of those symbols are as potent as the hunger strike," begins today's Keenan column, pointlessly. She's talking about the Afghan refugees currently held in detention here while their visa applications are processed.

"Sixty-four have raised the stakes higher still by sewing their lips together," Keenan continues. "This, even more than the hunger strike, is a deeply symbolic gesture." And deeply painful, one suspects, especially for the children treated to a little amateur mouth surgery by their deeply symbolic parents.

All this, however, is mere prelude to Catherine's Sontag paragraph:


"These symbols are important. Think of the potency of the attack on the World Trade Centre, the seat of commerce, or the image of the asylum seekers on the Tampa, washing around the ocean on a cargo boat that nobody would take in. Symbols put issues into people's hearts, as well as minds, and, hopefully, this is what the hunger strike will do."



So that's what September 11 was all about: putting issues into people's hearts and minds. It was an "important symbol" and "potent". Moreover, she describes it as an attack on some entity called "the seat of commerce", although I seem to remember reading that one or two human beings may have been killed.

Catherine Keenan is a symbol, too: of something atop cloven hooves, trailing fumes of sulphur. Where does the SMH find these people?

ARE J-SCHOOLS WORTHWHILE? Of course they aren't. What a stupid question. Mark Day at The Oz has compiled a slew of media and academic opinion opposing the horrible, dehumanising places.

According to Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun editor Alan Howe, j-school graduates "are often very bright, and they have at least learnt the discipline of study. But too often they're unable to spell; they're unaware of syntax, and don't even have a love of words."

Tony Rees, journalism lecturer at Curtin University, slammed communications theorists who've developed "a kind of postmodern mumbo jumbo which argues that reality is only that to those who take part in it."

Rees continues: "They say a television report on an atrocity is real only to those involved, and for the rest of the viewers, it is merely a construct … It's absolute bull. It's fine for people to develop theories if they wish – but it's not journalism."

Even some j-school grads reject j-schools. Angelos Frangopoulos, managing editor of Sky News, says he "learned more in my first week on the job at Channel 8 in Orange than I did in my three years at school."

But other graduates certainly do learn something at j-school. I'm not sure what is it is, though … arrogance? Snobbishness? Elitism? A combination of all three?

To illustrate, here's j-school grad Madonna King, deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney:


"You can never be too educated and the rigour of a uni degree really helped in terms of developing powers of critical thinking and balancing up an argument.

"I wouldn't automatically employ someone with a degree over someone without one. The graduate may have better critical-thinking powers, but the non-graduate might have worked in a country pub and be able to add just as much to the brain trusts of a newspaper."



Beautiful, isn't it? Us non-graduates mightn't be able to think too good, but we sure can sell beer to yokels. Yee-haw!

Matt Welch, Ken Layne and I don't have a degree between us – or a job, come to think of it – but I doubt we'd lose a Battle of Intellects with Ms. King. I've worked with Madonna; she's a clever, resourceful journalist who usually makes sense, but she's no Welch. You want critical thinking? Read this.

Time to go. Some toothless guy needs me to pour him a drink. I'll be right with you, sir!

AUSTRALIA GETS DRUNK, WAKES UP IN NORTH ATLANTIC: Steve Coulter – drummer, writer, student of the human condition – once formed the notion that Australia was "a land of pirates". Then he lifted me up and tried to throw me off a Los Angeles balcony.

Perhaps Coulter is responsible for the beautiful Satire Wire piece linked above.

IMRE SALUSINSZKY'S response to environmentalist Tim Flannery's most recent attempt at thought appears in The Australian today.

Among Flannery's claims: that Australia is massively overpopulated and that we need to develop something he calls an "environmentally based Australian identity". I think that means we have to pretend we're koalas or gum trees.

Imre's article is terrific. A couple of extracts:


"When Flannery floated his 11 million population target a few years ago, I asked him what version of Chinese baby-rationing he favoured for Australia. Oh, he was just trying to provoke debate, he told me genially."

"Flannery and his Green-Left cheer-squad will continue their assault on our children's future prosperity, through notions such as sustainability, population policy and other anti-free-enterprise fancies."



Go read the whole thing. And while you're at The Australian's site, check out the hostile reaction to James Morrow's assault on bleeding hearts. As Dubya would say, James has "smoked 'em out … got 'em running."

INTRIGUED by an item here about Sydney Morning Herald online columnist Margo Kingston, a reader who happens to be a US finance writer paid a visit to war-torn Margostan. His bold analysis of Margo's Enron musings follows:


Anderson's (it's Andersen), the auditors, had ("did." Grammar, please!) lucrative other work with ("for") Enron (actually, Enron was 1% of their global gross), and when the shit hit the fan (why the casual profanity?) destroyed documents. (By "other work," does she mean the bogus "partnerships" described below? Happily, most documents now appear to have been recovered from hard drives)

Enron successfully lobbied Congress to stop any outside scrutiny of the energy futures market in which it operated (true, but all industries lobby to keep government intrusion to a minimum. A decade or so ago, there was a lobby to represent the interests of lawn-dart importers. Enron's most notable lobbying campaign, which Margo neglects to mention, saw it join several accounting megafirms to foil a proposal that would have stopped them serving as both auditor and consultant to the same client. Why only several? The others were working with Justice Dept. to get the measure approved. Incidentally, and this should make Margo happy, Enron also lobbied energetically for Kyoto -- so it could start a futures market in pollution credits), and to stop the shutting ("stop the shutting." Ugh! What a turn of phrase) of its tax avoidance schemes (avoiding tax is Andersen's raison d'etre. It is forever in court defending its interpretations of U.S. tax law - a talent for which its clients pay extraordinary sums).

The Regulator (first we've heard of this guy. A cousin of the Master Cylinder, perhaps?) agreed to delay examination of Enron's accounts because it (the Regulator?) was underfunded (she couldn't be talking about the accounts because "it" is a singular pronoun) and the accounts were so complicated the bottom drawer (where the liquor is kept?) looked enticing (is there a prize for deciphering this sentence?).

Several high profile Enron board members received Enron funding for their other activities. (Not surprising. They were partners in the off-the-book entities at the center of the scandal, the ones whose profits showed up on Enron's statements and whose losses and loans were covered by Enron stock and derivatives. Great so long as the stock kept rising. Tragic when it fell, as fall it did. This is, in fact, the central issue in the scandal: the trading partnerships Margo appears to dismiss as mere "outside activities").

Enron threw cash at the Republicans and some Democrats (75% of the Senate, including Ms. Clinton, pocketed Enron's loot -- but only her husband's Administration appears to have gone out of its way to be unusually helpful, at one stage leaning on India to ink a power-plant deal with Enron. Enron donated soon after, but that may simply have been innocent gratitude for Ken Lay's night in the Lincoln Bedroom), and directly influenced energy policy (California was blacking out. Gas was $2 a gallon and rising, and a drought in the North West was limiting hydro output. Who should the Administration have consulted but the energy industry? The national Audubon Society?) to suit itself. (Hardly. Are they drilling in ANWR yet? That's what Big Oil wanted -- though it will come soon enough because it makes sense to develop domestic energy sources, which Bush and Cheney didn't need Enron to tell them).

At the end, the chief executive sold more than $100 million shares at the same time as he told employees reliant on their Enron shareholdings for their retirement incomes to hold on. (Finally, Margo gets something right. She's absolutely correct -- and what Enron did is punishable by law, particularly if, as it now appears, the pension fund's board was replaced for the specific purpose of stopping workers' sales of Enron stock. Enron doesn't represent "capitalism's internal contradictions" or any other patchouli-scented nostrum Margo might have picked up from the professor of economics and basket-weaving at Wombat Womyn's College. What Enron represents is plain, old-fashioned theft.)



The following Margo
par (or "graf", to use the American term) also interested our guest editor:


The presence of management gurus McKinsey's (name again! It's "McKinsey") throughout Enron's rise is also a fascination (why? Thousands of companies have McKinsey alumni at their helms -- from Avon to Australia's very own Visy. Maybe she has McKinsey confused with the Masons?), as its (!!!!) the fact that it began life as a privatised gas company. (No it didn't. It was never publicly owned. Enron was formed in 1985, when InterNorth acquired Houston Natural Gas for $2.3 billion)



Our US business pal notes that "it took me all of 5 minutes to check these dud assertions. Why does the Sydney Morning Herald tolerate such incompetence?" Nobody knows, my friend. Like the pyramids, Margo – shown here enjoying the happy presence of Pauline Hanson – is a mystery for the ages.

THE DAILY MIRROR continues its "Camp X-Ray is Cruel" campaign today, locating the only 'Nam vet on earth who agrees with the paper that conditions at the prison are awful.

The Mirror's Stephen Moyes can vouch for that. This week Moyes endured one hour inside an approximation of a Camp X-Ray jumpsuit, and his tragic account moved everyone who read it.

Moyes should pursue other clothing-related oppression stories. There are many besides Al Qaeda prisoners who are forced to wear humiliating clothing, gloves, and hats.

Sports mascots, for example. The captions are from Moyes's original article:



"I couldn't shout for help … I could not speak, smell, hear or touch."



"I was instantly disorientated. It was terrifyingly claustrophobic."



"The darkness filled me with fear. The silence was deafening."



"At first, my degrading uniform just felt uncomfortable."



"I gasped for air as I tried to breathe through my nose. I told myself not to panic."



"I knew my moans of discomfort went unheard."

1.24.2002

FREEPERS FOR McGRUDER: The chatterers at Democratic Underground and other lefty sites regularly denounce Free Republic posters as Jesus-screaming racist Nazis. I've always thought the Freepers were a little more balanced, overall, than their accusers.

And now I have proof. Here are some Freeper responses to an article by Brent Bozell slamming Aaron McGruder, author of the Boondocks commie-strip:


"I kind've like the strip in the beginning, despite it's leftist slant."

"Boondocks is an excellent, terrific strip."

"I agree, Boondocks is hilarious, and well written, even if I don't completely agree with its leanings."

"Boondocks is a superb strip; I love it."

"I honestly don't feel the same visceral hatred towards Boondocks as I do towards Noam Chomsky … I laughed myself silly reading Huey's Thanksgiving fatwa."



Don't hold your breath waiting for a DemUndergrounder to praise Rush Limbaugh. Meanwhile, how will McGruder cope with the awful knowledge that Freepers are his fans?

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

Andrew Sullivan: Safire afire; subject Iran to The Fear; men take over fashion, magazines; PBS takes the moral course; private sector outpoints Dems; Sully accused of Enronic behaviour; Farah attacks "soul stealing" TV

Glenn Reynolds: Unexplained hits from Lolitapost.com; Layne's screenplay skills; RuPaul drops by; posting as work avoidance tactic; Afghan prisons no Gitmo Hilton; Shafer v. Sully; NYT shoots first, asks questions later

Natalie Solent: Al Qaeda goes to Hollywood; the Guardian cheers Mugabe; Krugman hypocrisy; evil Captain Kirk

Matt Welch: Relax, you crazy bastards; Glassman's prescient '98 list; Mangan's about-face; Den Beste's airborne violence guide; Mazza Blogga; Prague pal posts; LA unhip?!; Michael Caine, star and gentleman

Rand Simberg: Tina Brown a female Bill Clinton; life before Lileks unimaginable; Krugman's dumbness; Tyson excuses invited; invasion of insect overlords; Clinton's nice mates; Steyn blog looms

Virginia Postrel: Autographed book bargain; qualified Krugman defence

Ken Layne: Spruce Goose abuse; casting, scripting Indiana Jones and the Grouchy Old People; Reynolds' drug connection demanded; what the hell was that thing?; five whole hours of Altman

Shiloh Bucher: Supermarket snobbery sparks Shiloh savaging; Enron wrapup; US gives, Europe takes; Scotch and Patton a cool combo; donate now to K-Mart Kollege; the Martha Stewart mark-up

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Expose the senior execs!; the odd Mr RonK; Enron explained; bosslady Ellen rules Camp X-Ray; Rummy urged to toughen up

Lawrence Haws: Hatemail over Quebec hockey notion

James Lileks: Bloodletting; weariness and urping; the new brain-grinding project; channeling the grumpy spirit of Mr Potter

Iain Murray: Remembering Robert Nozick; NRO's non-blog; illegals no threat to US; class war erupts in Land of the Original Blairs; huzzah for the porter people; professional protesters; forget Afghanistan – bomb Belgium

Bill Quick: I Did Not Have Sex With That Albatross; welcoming Goldblog; unsettling vision of war; hot stock tip; glam Chelsea; Rummy bewildered by Brit horror claims

Rallying Point: Job-eating blob; Islam and reason; let the anti-overalls folks run Gitmo; Rand and race

Christopher Johnson: Fly the friendly skies with the Arab News; Rall leading in race for anti-American prize; "Taliban" becomes liberals favored term of abuse; Raimondo exposes Layne's Rockefeller connection

She walked up to me and she asked me to dance

I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said,

"Blog Watch"

B-L-O-G Blog Watch, bl bl bl Blog Watch …

1.23.2002

ROBERT ALTMAN'S JOURNEY

"If George Bush is elected, you won't see me for dust. I for one will be leaving the country and living in France." – Robert Altman, at a film festival in Deauville, France, September 2000

"This present government in America I just find disgusting … If you asked would I live in London the rest of my life, yeah, I'd be very happy to stay here. There's nothing in America that I would miss at all." – to the London Times, February 2002

"If Bush wins again, I'll abandon the US. I'll go live in – where am I today? Japan? Yes, I'll live in Japan." – to a waiter at the Yokohama Landmark Plaza, June 2003

"Iceland. I'm going to live in Iceland. Fuck this shit." – to his television, election night, November 2004

"And let me tell you one more thing. You won't find me at this number again, because I'm leaving tomorrow. I'm going to Greece, and you can go to hell." – to a telephone canvasser who'd randomly dialled Mr Altman's number, April 2005

"Sick of it. You hear me? Sick of it. Leaving, I am. Out that door! Or that door. Yessir." – in a mumbled aside to himself at California's Happy Twilight Retirement Villa ("Home of the Sedated Geezer"), August 2006

"I love it here in Spain! Hola! Caramba! Ai-i-i-eeeee!" – shortly before sedation at the Happy Twilight Retirement Villa, October 2008

"TOLD YOU I'D LEAVE" – memorial plaque, Rosedale Cemetery, 2010

BOB ELLIS'S ENORMOUS BRAIN: We haven't heard much from Bob Ellis lately, not since he trawled the sewers of his mind for an article published in the Canberra Times following the September 11 attacks. Let's revisit that article once more:


"A lot of lies told in the last two weeks have hurt the things we believe in, or believed in once, and they should, perhaps, be listed."



Yes, they should. Bob's first "lie" is:


"That the terrorist attack was 'an act of madness'. It was not. It achieved a sane end, a real truce in Israel."



Sure did, fatso! And the other lies?


"That it 'unified world leadership behind George W. Bush'. This is not so. Most world leaders think him dangerously erratic."



Bob is qualified to speak on that subject. He continues his list:


"That the evil boffin behind the fiery act was Osama bin Laden. Almost certainly not so."



So, you call Osama a liar, do you? Infidel! Bob ended with this line:


"In a time of war and rumours of war it is important that the truth be known."



So that's why we haven't heard from him.

I SLAM, YOU SLAM, WE ALL SLAM FOR ISLAM: Three experts on Islam provide three different takes on Islamic fundamentalism and its threat to the West. From The Weekly Standard.

ENRON IS THE END: While lesser minds have been trying to figure out whether the Enron collapse is a political scandal, a financial scandal, an accounting scandal, or any kind of scandal at all, the Sydney Morning Herald's Margo Kingston has been calmly examining the evidence.

Today, she announced her verdict: Enron isn't just a scandal. Enron means the death of capitalism!

Margo explains why:


"The inescapable conclusion is that self-regulation is a nonsense, conflicts of interest are endemic, and rampant unregulated capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, as well as that of good government and professionalism among professionals.

"It's the end-game of neo-liberalism, where only money and self-interest in terms of getting more of it matters. How can other values be re-elevated, to save capitalism from itself? And is the Yank's version of capitalism really the one we should emulate? I hope lots of experts jump on this example to really learn from it conceptually, rather than pick at the edges of it. And I wonder whether Enron is just the beginning of the unwinding of the Yank's economic miracle and will finally break the dominance of the neo-liberal 'value system'."



Great writing, compelling logic, and terrific punctuation. Who is this "Yank" she mentions, the nameless, singular individual who defines America's "version of capitalism" and gets to keep an "economic miracle" all to himself? I'd like to meet him.

I don't think I'd like to meet Margo, who has no sense of humour. Imre Salusinszky, a friend of mine and a very funny right-wing writer, encountered Margo during the election last year. He introduced himself with a light-hearted line about how the two of them – who often spar in print – "couldn't exist without each other". Margo wrote about this as though it was some form of vague threat.

Another friend, author Jack Marx, once faced Margo on a TV talk show. When Jack said that politics bored him and wasn't interesting, Margo snapped: "I hope I never succumb to that sort of nihilism."

Jack looked puzzled, then asked: "Neil who?" This outraged Margo, who generally always is anyway, about something or other.

I'd better get going. Now that capitalism is dead, it must be time for me to go stand in line somewhere for my state-approved ration of cabbages and old dog meat. The glory days, they are here!

JAMES MORROW, recently arrived in Australia from New York, has penned an excellent piece for The Australian on this nation's curious reluctance to embrace responsibility. Some extracts:


"Consider the following letter published recently in an Australian daily: 'Let's start where we are all in agreement. Flying a passenger plane into a crowded building is wrong,' it said, taking a very wide pot shot at the US policy of detaining al-Qa'ida terrorists. 'Agreed? Good. Keeping people in cages is also wrong.' While this would-be Socrates probably won't win many converts with that sort of logic, the letter is representative of a broader discomfort with the US passing judgment on al-Qa'ida members."

"When Afghan asylum seekers tear up their passports and hijack freighters (to say nothing of burning buildings and sewing babies' lips shut), they are not breaking local and international law. Rather, it is said, the refugees are issuing a cry for help - and their crimes are Australia's fault for being immoral and selfish."

"These are just a few examples of a broader problem in the intellectual life of Australia and other countries in the West: the extreme discomfort many feel with identifying not just rights but wrongs in a society where tolerance is more highly prized than anything else and being judgmental is the greatest sin."



Good work!

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

Andrew Sullivan: Blokes are back; rebutting torture claims; Krugman obsession ends; Kristol obsession begins

Glenn Reynolds: Neil Bush picks up where Billy Carter left off; smarmy, pious K-Mart loses another shopper; Goodwin gets no traction; fluro horror for Gitmo guests; Natalija Radic image noted, appreciated; anti-hijacker courses

Natalie Solent: Blogger in phone use scandal; getting wiggy with the law; rail safety isn't

Matt Welch: Letter writer advises Emmanuelle to speak English or leave the US; oddly, same letter writer doesn't offer opinion on Cajuns; inside-the-bassway gossip

Virginia Postrel: British health service sick, dying; staring into space; hot church hat action; hard times in Gitmo High

Ken Layne: Indiana Jones and the Ricked Back of Doom; Tony Pierce, Secret Australian; unspeakable Net laziness; better dead than j-schooled; new-media laffs from Berkeley; Aussies win Globies!; "In-and-Out" probably not the name you'd select for a Muslim burger joint

Shiloh Bucher: Andrea Yeats is nutty as the biggest nut in all of Nuttown; Geneva Convention a delightful read, but plot is thin

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Adragna accused of being a common New Yorker; Will, Tony in historic first meeting; the evolution of military decline

James Lileks: Tiny human alarm clock has built-in "guilt" function; uncomfortable hot feeling explained by uncomfortable heat; Giant Swede offers sound death advice; mutant food creature a biohazard; pity the man stuck in DVD hell

Bill Quick: Clinton's easy turn of phrase; sing along to the Tom Ridge song; titans collide; a real prison

Rallying Point: Thumbs up for Black Hawk Down; thumbs down for PC movie reviewers

Jason Soon: World improving

Yabba dabba dooo!

Blog Watch!

Go read Blog Watch!

The one that isn't done by me

It's done by

Will and Tony

They're the kings of QuasiPunditry!

1.22.2002

STEPHEN MOYES, journalist, is the bravest man on earth. In a stunt verging on the suicidal, Moyes has donned the prison outfit worn by Al Qaeda suspects held in Cuba.

Incredibly, after one hour inside this latterday iron maiden, Moyes emerged alive. Here is an extract from his fear-filled journey into the world of overalls and hats:


"My blindfolded eyes refused to adjust to the dark void that engulfed me. I was instantly disorientated. It was terrifyingly claustrophobic. I couldn't even grope in the dark, for my gloved hands were clamped in metal handcuffs and my arms locked in position.

"At first, my degrading uniform just felt uncomfortable, the handcuffs and straps around my head an irritating, numbing pain. But soon it became agonising. I could sense my eyes watering, sweat gathering on my brow. My limbs went dead.

"I gasped for air as I tried to breathe through my nose. I told myself not to panic. All I could smell was the nauseating material of the surgical mask. And I knew my moans of discomfort went unheard."



Curse those surgical masks! They make it impossible to speak. So many patients have died because doctors simply can't be heard asking for arterial clamps or Metzenbaum scissors.

Moyes is genuinely brave for allowing himself to be photographed wearing The Daily Mirror's attempt at Guantanamo Bay fashion. He looks like an obsessive Devo fan

Minus the handcuffs, I've worn very similar attire, back when I worked in an aluminium smelter. Ear plugs: check. Gloves: check. Goggles: check. Overalls: check. Surgical mask: check (used when sandblasting). Millions of people worldwide wear this sort of gear every day. They call them work clothes.

Moyes claims these clothes make the prisoners' lives at Camp X-Ray " a living hell." Moyes should interview a welder. He might learn something about perspective.

SOMEONE, somewhere is bound to suggest that the murderous attack on the American Centre in Calcutta is further evidence of blowback against the War on Terror.

It isn't. It's evidence that everything is exactly as it was before the War on Terror. Calcutta communists have been rioting, shooting, howling, chanting, and jabbering outside the American Centre for years.

In October, a pack of lefties assembled there to denounce the war. Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI) leader Prabash Ghosh declared that the US had not offered proof that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the terror attacks.

Since then, of course, substantial proof has been offered by Osama himself. How SUCI of him.

And, lest anyone think the shootings were prompted by the warlike right-wing presidency of George W. Bush, consider that in March 2000, when Bill Clinton visited India, no fewer than four effigies of the then-Prez were incinerated outside the American Centre.

(Only one effigy was burned at the anti-Dubya rally. The terrible Bush recession has even hit the booming effigy industry.)

What had Clinton done to upset India's communists? According to this account from the kooky All India Anti-imperialist Forum, absolutely everything:


"Holding banners, placards, cartoons of Clinton and shouting slogans like 'US imperialism, hands off Iraq', 'Clinton, stop intervention in the Indian economy', 'Clinton, vacate Kosovo and Iraq', 'Clinton, stop supporting terrorist groups', 'US imperialism, hands off Kashmir', 'Warmonger Clinton Go Back', the activists marched down Barakhamba Road and Tolstoy Marg."



I've never heard of Tolstoy Marg. Maybe she's a regional version of Hanoi Jane. Hey, how about those catchy slogans! It would be awesome to hear thousands of activists chanting in unison: "Clinton, stop intervention in the Indian economy."


"The speakers condemned the BJP Government for betraying India's tradition of anti-imperialist struggle by inviting the chieftain of the imperialist camp on a state visit. They dwelt at length on the many instances of US imperialist attacks on sovereign countries under the leadership of Bill Clinton leading to death and misery of thousands of innocent men, women and children."



The most frightening line in that paragraph: "They dwelt at length". I bet they did.


"Sanctions on Iraq and Cuba leading to the death of 1.5 million Iraqi people, periodic missile attacks on Iraq, threat of attack on North Korea to prevent its nuclear programme, comprehensive bombardment of Yugoslavia violating international law and aggravating the Kosovo crisis, missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan, establishment of a military presence in East Timor under the guise of UN peace-keeping, rape and murder of Somali civilians by US 'peace-keepers', overthrow of a democratically-elected Government in Haiti, the expansion of NATO and its institutionalization as an instrument of US imperialist intervention in Europe, the take-over of national assets of South East Asian economies by US MNCs as part of structural adjustment following the economic crisis, new imperialist and neo-colonial attacks on developing countries by expanding the scope of the WTO; this bloody track record of the Clinton Presidency was exposed by the speakers."



Only a communist would include "structural adjustment" in a list of crimes against humanity.

The latest theory on the shootings is that they may be linked to tensions with Pakistan. Again, we're in pre-September 11 territory here. Stay tuned for the first blowback theorist to tie all this to the war.

IN THE second paragraph of his latest column, Robert Fisk informs us:


"I've written this story before."



Which saves us all the trouble of reading this one. Thanks for the heads-up, Bobby!

AUSTRALIA'S attitude towards asylum seekers has been annoying the United Nations, which is as good a sign as any that we're on the right track. Lately, however, things have become ugly.

Asylum seekers held in detention while their visa claims are examined and processed have responded to delays – understandable delays, given that most arrive without visas or passports – by setting fire to their housing, going on hunger strikes, threatening suicide, and sewing their mouths shut. Their latest tactic? They're sewing their childrens' mouths shut.

That's some great way to prove how worthy you are of citizenship. At least Dr Michael Dudley, Chairman of Suicide Prevention Australia, apparently thinks so.

"Children in detention are not in a safe place," he tells the Daily Telegraph. They're with their parents, Doc. Those children should be completely safe.

He continues: "These people are depressed and traumatised. The act of sewing their lips together is a way to get the message out that they are being silenced."

No, it's a way – an unbelievably barbaric way – of pressuring the government into granting visas.

These paragraphs from today's Daily Telegraph report are ghastly:


"A baby's lips were sewn together as were seven other children's as part of a mass hunger strike at the Woomera detention centre, aid groups said yesterday.

"The children – all under the age of 17 and suffering dehydration and wounds – had their lips unstitched in the emergency department of Woomera hospital, they said.

"Other detained children appeared anorexic, suffered from nightmares and were bed-wetting, an aid worker said."



In other developments:

The Australian reports that the government may "split asylum-seekers' families to protect the children, following the reported involvement of detained children in life-threatening behaviour."

The Melbourne Herald Sun says that detainees at the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia set part of the center ablaze and demanded that all Sri Lankan residents be removed following allegations that three Sri Lankans had sexually molested children at the site.

And the Adelaide Advertiser reports that eight detainees at the Woomera detention centre in South Australia collapsed yesterday following a hunger strike, and that a further 178 were under medical watch.

The strange thing is, I personally don't know a single Australian who isn't in favour of higher immigration (our population is just 19 million) yet many here paint the nation as racist because we're reluctant to allow people with no documents or checkable background to settle here without first knowing what sort of people they are.

I guess we're finding out.

AN ABSOLUTELY HEARTBREAKING letter has been posted at the Sarge's site. It originally ran in the US military journal Stars & Stripes.

I know I have at least a few regular readers among Australia's defence staff. It's a long shot, but possibly they or their contacts may be able to help:


My son, a U.S. Army veteran, went to live in Heidelberg, Germany, about four years ago. When we last heard from him, he was working at a sports bar at Patton Barracks as a bartender. That was in August 1999.

Mail has not been returned to us. We have no idea if he or someone else is receiving it, or if it's just piling up somewhere. The telephone number we had for him (a cell phone) is apparently no longer in service. His family is desperate to know if he is alive and well, and we just have no idea how to go about it since he is so far away. Can anyone help?

His name is Christopher Raymond Fritzke. He was born on Jan. 10, 1970. His last known address is CMR 419, Box 1472, APO AE, 09102. He is approximately 6 feet tall and weighs about 185 pounds. His hair is brown and his eyes are hazel. His complexion is ruddy.

Stars and Stripes has a broad circulation and a great reputation. I spent many happy hours reading it when I was stationed in Germany years ago. I thought perhaps that one of its readers might know Chris. I hope someone can help us find some peace.

Francee Levene

Odenton, Md


ACCORDING to French detectives, British shoe bomber Richard Reid sent a number of emails to Al Qaeda terrorist overlords after he missed his planned flight from Paris to the US in December.

Thanks to the services of Blair News International, those emails and their replies can now be exclusively revealed:


Subject: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:15:14 -0800 (GMT)

From: Richard Reid

To: mullahmullah@torabora.com

Um, guys …

You won't believe this, but I missed the plane. What should I do now? Take the bus?

Allan be praised,

Ricky

Subject: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:30:16 -0800 (GMT)

From: Mullah Omar

To: shoeboy@yahoo.com

By the beard of the Prophet, you are the stupidest of all our heroic martyrs! How did such a thing happen? Did you not follow our orders? Why, you are as agile of mind as the camel your mother most surely resembles.

You are to catch the very next decadent Western aircraft to depart. And if you survive this suicide mission, I will kill you myself.

M. Omar

PS: One thousand times I've told you – we praise Allah, not Allan. Stop confusing us with the goddamn Shia.

Subject: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:35:32 -0800 (GMT)

From: Richard Reid

To: mullahmullah@torabora.com


Well! If you're going to be like that, you can find someone else to blow their feet off.

I didn't join the revolutionary Islamic movement to be insulted, you know.

Ricky :(

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:41:04 -0800 (GMT)

From: Mullah Omar

To: shoeboy@yahoo.com

So, you are now the wimp who says no to glorious martyrdom, yes? This does not surprise me. Mullah Bobo is also here, and he notices that you are the user of emoticons, and he says that emoticons are gay, and that you, the person who is making the emoticon, you must too be also gay!

Now we are laughing at you! Ha! Ha! Do you feel the sting of shame on your soul? It is burning you!

Ha!

M. Omar

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:53:27 -0800 (GMT)

From: Richard Reid

To: mullahmullah@torabora.com


OK, OK, cut it out. I'll do it.

And I am NOT gay. I'm the guy who's got a date with 72 black-eyed virgins, remember? That's why I missed the plane. I was buying all this cool lingerie at the duty-free shop.

There's the boarding call! See you on the other side, Mullahs!

Ricky

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Dec 2001 05:59:02 -0800 (GMT)

From: Mullah Omar

To: shoeboy@yahoo.com

This is excellent news. Mullah Bobo says he meant nothing by his earlier words, and was merely playing the psychological reverse. He says: No hard feelings, pal.

One more last final thing, exalted warrior. You must remember to collect the detonating device from our operative disguised as Courtney Love. He will contact you in the lounge of boarding. Without this device, the shoes will not achieve explosion.

Bomb Voyage! (Mullah Bobo's joke. He is truly the crack-up.)

M. Omar

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: 21 Jan 2001 06:10:23 -0800 (GMT)

From: Mullah Omar

To: shoeboy@yahoo.com

Did you get that last message? Please confirm the getting of it.

M. Omar

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Oops!

Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2002 06:21:45 -0800 (GMT)

From: Mullah Omar

To: shoeboy@yahoo.com

Please, Richard, confirm now that you got that last message! Answer me! In the name of Al Qaeda!

M. Omar

JOURNALISTS from England to Australia and beyond agree that the prison conditions for those captured in Afghanistan are terrible.

But they cannot agree why.

This article complains about rampant mosquitoes set to feast on the Al Qaeda boys in Cuba; this article complains that the prisoners are completely covered - and therefore presumably safe from mosquitoes.

This article bitches about the dark concrete cells used in Britain; this article is upset about the prisoners being outdoors in Cuba.

In one of the Sydney Morning Herald pieces linked to above, we read of "indications of tuberculosis"; here we learn there is no confirmation of the disease.

Without offering evidence, this article claims that prisoners have been tortured and brutalised; this item says prisoners have no complaints.

Is the Cuban camp arid, or is it rainy?

What's going on? Why is everyone piling on about inhumane conditions when they can't even work out amongst themselves what those conditions are?

There can be only one explanation. The planet's journalists have fallen under the spell of the Hypno Toad.

1.21.2002

SMALL TREES ARE PEOPLE, TOO: Julia Butterfly Hill, the brain-damaged Arkansas crank who spent two years living in a redwood tree named Luna, has become the toast of the radical environmental movement.

Her credentials are impeccable. So far she's saved exactly one tree.

Last year Butterfly Hill wrote a book – The Legacy of Luna – about her time in the tree. I wonder if she ever considers the tiny, unknown trees that gave their lives to become one of the 272 pages in Butterfly Hill's memoirs.

Please, a moment of silence for Luna's brothers and sisters. Poor little Tuba, and Bingo, and Loopy!

Their only crime was that they were too small to support a hippie. And now they've been slashed to death so bigoted Butterfly Hill can promote tyrannical redwood hegemony. Down with big trees!

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

Andrew Sullivan: MLK dissed liberals; Clinton's Al Qaeda inertia; formulaic Tina Brown urged to Blog; pundits on the Enron payroll

Glenn Reynolds: Not much buzz for the Congo volcano; attention, K-Mart shoppers!; defending Sullivan; Archbishop an aimless blowhard

Natalie Solent: Canada™; no cameras in courts

Matt Welch: Herold's civilian death count out by a factor of three; lazy motive assumptions; Brokaw a prime idiot; bias a cultural byproduct

Bjorn Staerk: Islamics against Osama; mining the Koran for fun and profit; capitalism and freedom; Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul Johnny Joe Joe Junior Shabbadoo Aziz Alsaud turns against the US media

Rand Simberg: Tough love in the Big House; Tina Brown, welfare queen; Riordan the RINO

Virginia Postrel: $50,000 man Krugman survives; Postrel's Enron connection; stunning, spontaneous WTC photo display

Ken Layne: Affection and understanding dispel Cavanaugh anger; MLK dissed commies; prowling the OJR archives; rabbit returns

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Someone named Davis caused collapse in support for team previously coached by someone named Madden; Madden is a man, apparently; remove TV Guide from "reliable sources" list; O'Donnell O'dious

Lawrence Haws: Mounties on way to address Canadian copyright violation; Picture Of The Week; picture posting wisdom

James Lileks: Clavichord solo a soundtrack highlight; bad TV nostalgia; brain reformatted by '70s sitcoms; Post has no role – none! – in police dramas

Lileks II – The Screed: Kathleen Sara Jane Soliah Olsen deserved a decade inside for every letter of her name; burn the twisted Soliah sister; homeless shelter manners fail to sway jury; the moral equivalence of car parks; America bad, ugly, says ugly, bad American; denied a final cigarette

Iain Murray: Yuggoth? Azathoth? England's new openers, perhaps; September 11 perspective; solve the Sherlock mystery

Bill Quick: Copyright war with Canada; Den Beste praise; AOL Time Warner plans to capture latest piece of planet; message in Ronnie's "madness"

Christopher Johnson: Wash Post continues long march towards acceptability; first US trainspotters since Arlo Guthrie; Cavanaugh mocked; New Hampshire, Missouri guilty of flag dullness

Jason Soon: Reason, logic detected in Australian leftist; local censorship is world's finest; why does Margaret Wertheim write so much crap?

Sittin' in the morning sun

I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come

Watchin' the Blogs roll in

Then I watch 'em roll away again

PRISONERS in Australia aren't subject to inhumane brutality. Here you're free to leave anytime you like, even if you hacked your father's head off with a knife five years ago.

Mark Briscoe strolled out of a Brisbane psychiatric hospital on Friday and hasn't been seen since. He'd been granted supervised release within the hospital grounds, so authorities can't pin down the time of his escape to anything more accurate than "between noon and 5pm".

Apparently a dozen or so such incidents have occurred in Queensland over the past decade.

A spokesman for Queensland Health, which oversees treatment of the state's criminally insane, says there will be no change to the supervised release program: "If you start suspending every mental patient's graduated leave it will have a negative effect on their rehabilitation."

We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

"BRUTAL CONDITIONS INSIDE CUBAN CAGE" reads the Sydney Sun-Herald's headline. Below it is a story that identifies no brutality at all.


"Dressed in bright orange overalls, some with tight-fitting orange hats covering their shaved heads, the imprisoned terrorists kneel face down behind barbed wire fences as army officers inspect them."



We've got kneeling, shaved heads, tight-fitting hats … and orange overalls, which are soooo '80s. But brutality? No brutality so far.


"Since their eyes are covered with goggles and their faces hidden by white masks, it is impossible to identify them. Even their manacled hands are covered with black cloth."



Masks, goggles, black cloth … but we're still lacking that "brutal" element to justify the headline.


"The photographs have distressed [Al Qaeda warrior David] Hicks's father Terry, his stepmother and stepbrother. 'It's just horrific. The family is extremely distressed about the conditions, knowing he is being kept in a wire cage,' [the family's lawyer] Mr Kenny said."



A wire cage might be "brutal" if prisoners within it were being lowered into a nest of taipans, but seeing as it merely secures the prison's perimeter … nope, not brutal.


"The prisoners are fed three meals a day - bagels for breakfast, beef stew and rice for dinner and various snack foods for lunch. They have access to showers and medical attention."



Excuse me, but didn't the headline promise me some brutality?


"They are given a sheet, blanket and two towels - one for washing and one for praying. Two buckets are also provided, one for washing and one for bathroom needs. Shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush and soap are also on hand, as is a copy of the Koran."



And that's all? No spa? No DVD player? Not a single wide-screen TV? No internet?

The Sun-Herald, like its sister publication, the Sydney Morning Herald, is a joke. Did the sub-editor even read this piece before slapping the "brutal" headline in place? Perhaps Fairfax employs robot subs, programmed to put the maximum anti-US spin on any story, regardless of content.

One of the organisation's journalists, David Marr, has been selected to host the ABC's new Media Watch program. He claims that his position with the Sydney Morning Herald won't stop him criticising Fairfax. He could start with this story. We'll see if he does. Anyone want to place a bet?

1.20.2002

SUNDAY TELEGRAPH bore Leo Schofield, the leading cause of unconsciousness in Sydney newspaper readers, usually reserves his dull gaze for the slight and trivial.

But today, Leo – a real-life Jackie Harvey – takes on a more substantial subject: the war in Afghanistan.


"The so-called war against terror has been going for 100 days now – with what results? Thousands are homeless and starving, guilty of no more than living in the wrong place under the wrong government at the wrong time."



It was because of "the wrong government" that so many were "homeless and starving" well before the war began. That's why the US provided $43 million in aid back in May, 2001.


"Billions have been spent on reducing a country already wounded by decades of war to rubble and bankruptcy. A cobbled-together coalition is fraying at the edges; the interim government in Afghanistan is looking shaky. Old conflicts between India and Pakistan and Israel and the Palestinians have been exacerbated."



Down with the cobbled-together coalition! Restore the Taliban!


"A line of pathetic prisoners of war, newly designated as terrorists, manacled and chained, have been shuffled off to a prison in, of all places, Cuba, to face a vengeful nation and a military tribunal."



You got a better plan, Leo?


"And still no sign of Osama bin Laden, nor any real indication of a successful conclusion to the operation."



And it's been a whole 100 days already! This must be the longest war in history!


"As Voltaire said, you can’t fight an idea with a bullet."



I don't think Voltaire did say that; bullets were rare in his day. Never mind. What Leo proves is that you can write a column despite having no idea at all.

LETTERS, WE GET LETTERS, WE GET STACKS AND STACKS OF LETTERS. Here's the latest mail pile:

Brian K., of Kansas, is understandably riled at the use of non-sports imagery in hailstone description:


"I live in the good ol' Imperialistic-innocent-Taliban-al Quaeda-bombing-corporate-my way or the highway-USA and must admit that I'm a sports-lingo hail describing old-timer.

"So you understand that it made me uneasy when I noticed people describing hail as anatomical sized thingees. It just sets a bad precedent."



That it does, Brian. Journalist Mike W., of Melbourne, Australia, asks:


"I have noticed from feedback I have received for my columns that some people seem to have a great deal of trouble reading what I actually wrote. So I get these criticisms for things I didn't write and didn't imply. Is this your experience?"



Welcome to my world, Mike. It's as though some readers are responding to a column composed by the voices in their heads rather than the text before them. How do you answer criticism of something you never said? I've taken to responding in enigmatic Haikus. Ray writes, in an email sent to me, Layne, and Welch:


"I really only know you from what you've put out there. I've read a lot. I honor what you have."



We aim to please. Randy A., of South Carolina, offered this in an email discussion sparked by my noticing that the anti-Bush comments posted on various websites had suddenly vanished:


"The NSA does have some of the most industrious, most intelligent computer people that exist on the planet. They specifically recruit people who can crack CIA and NSA databases. It would not surprise me in the least if the Secret Service called in a favor and had those messages stripped. They probably have a policy of ‘knock once, kick twice’ if their demands, and I'm sure they make demands, are not met immediately. These guys terrify me with the things they can do."



Doug F., of The South, commiserates over Australia's dull naming conventions and provides this antidote:


"As a Care Package, I'm sending along a bit of our southern U.S. dirt track car-racing hard-drinkin' culture: I hereby rename you Nitro-Burning Funny Blair!

"'Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! See Nitro-Burning Funny Blair rip up the track in a flaming blogger showdown that will blow … you … away! Be therrrre! Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!'

"You may substitute 'Oi!' for 'Sunday!' if you can't restrain yourself."



Watch out, Big Daddy Don Garlits! Chris C., of Australia, has travelled widely in Muslim countries, and suggests the following to any Western burka apologists:


"Any Christian or non-Muslim who confuses this hideous outfit with issues of 'race' or religious 'freedom' is an ignorant dangerous fool. I suggest he/she don a burka for a month and then come back and talk some more!"



From Alan R., in the US, some sound fiscal advice re Australia's government covering Aussie Al Qaeda fighter David Hicks's legal costs:


"Well, I hope they do. That may just free up some of our Yank dollars to find more of the baddies."



He has a point, as does Alan A., who says this about McDonald's and globalisation:


"Many companies (especially - surprise, surprise - in Europe) channel money into the coffers of the anti-globalisation mob in return for an exemption from being targeted. If there was ever a cause for shareholder activism, it is to punish the sources of this corporate danegeld.

"One group of S11 protestors (the weedy pot-smoking variety, not the ones who fly planes into buildings) arranged to meet post-protest to review over dinner that day's trashing of a McDonald's outlet. The venue for their meeting: another McDonald's."



Lachlan C. disputes my qualifications as a "journalist, commentator, oppressor". He writes:


"Why not try 'servant, apologist and egotist'? In particular, save words like 'oppressor' for people who deserve it."



I'll work harder at oppressing, Lachlan. Terry O., of Alabama, sends Australia some deeply appreciated thanks for the kindness shown to his father by Aussie soldiers:


"Thank you for the hospitality your countrymen showed to my father while he was stationed in New Guinea during World War II. My dad was always difficult to impress, but Australian soldiers managed to do a good job of it. My dad and his buddies were always on the lookout for food of any sort, occasionally even resorting to conducting unauthorized clandestine interservice requisitions of Army food. Your countrymen, however, extended to him and his friends the kindness of sharing their own meager rations. My dad figured anyone who could enjoy eating tainted canned mutton as much as those Australians were very near to superhumans. Unfortunately, he was not quite up to superhuman status, so he politely refused.

"The thoughtfulness was still greatly appreciated, however, so on his behalf, thank you."



Thank you, Terry. Greg S., of Illinois, identified a Rallism I neglectfully failed to attack:


"The best part of Rall's quote is this: '...[W]e were the only people who were going to be their advocates and tell the truth for them ...' That's the age old cost of left-liberalism: being hated by the people you want to help because they're not smart enough to tell you from the right wingers who want to crush them. That's just the burden of being the smartest man in the world, one supposes."



Sam B., of antiwar,com, sends this:


"You might want to check out Justin Raimondo's January 16 column on ‘Warbloggers,’ which mentions InstaPundit."



Or I might want to shove urine-soaked punji spikes into my eyes. Depends how I’m feeling on the day. John M., of New South Wales, commends me on "Very funny stuff, Tim!" but asks:


"What does Blog mean?"



I'd tell you, John, but then I'd have to kill you. And Raimondo as well, just for the hell of it. Elizabeth B., of Melbourne, sent this in response to a piece published in Melbourne:


"Just read your column in The Age....... YOU ROCK TIM BLAIR!!! Our entire office agrees."



That they are rocked is welcome news. Alan M., of America's midwest, corrects terminological ignorance I revealed in a slight against Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin:


"I have seen 'on the beach' used as a figure of speech to mean 'unemployed' or the equivalent of the sports term 'benched'".



Now I know. Apologies to Mr. Breslin. While we're on apologies, Ted B. says I've misled readers over sweatshops:


"I read the actual article you were linking to, and I'll be damned if I can find the part where it indicates that anti-globalists, feminists or student protesters have a thing to do with these people losing their jobs. It looks to me like they lost their jobs because of a global trend in imports.

"If you want to make the point that so-called 'sweatshops' are the best option that many Third-World workers have, go for it. But why blame people who had nothing to do with it? While you're at it, why not blame pro-choice activists, gays, and the ACLU? Why not skip the middleman and blame Hillary directly?

"In my opinion, this kind of rhetoric is illogical and misleading at best, deceptive at worst. It makes you look bad."



He's right. I should have made a greater distinction between the aims of the sweatshop activists and the outcomes in Bangladesh, which were largely driven by market forces. Simon S. noted the same:


"I may be misreading the news articles, but it looks like they are referring to a general slowdown, rather than anything related to the anti-sweatshop campaigns; the textile import quotas are good old fashioned regular protectionism, and were in place long before anyone the textile unions felt a need to recruit college kids as fronts."



Carey G. declares that the US President has clearly grown in office:


"Better to faint in private in the White House after eating pretzels than to vomit in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister on the evening news. Who says Dubya hasn't learned anything from his father?"



I should get out more often, says John M., of Tokyo, especially when the cultural elites are gathering:


"I hope you will continue to crash these 'cultural elite' events/parties, wherever they are held. You need to be a little more mindful of your manners though. How boorish of you to inject common sense into the 'courageous,' 'imaginative' dialogue of cultural figures."



Jim G., from the state of Washington, is another fan of elite mockery:


"Lileks put me onto your site. Good stuff ... especially your 'debate' on Thursday. Keep up the insightful, yet funny, postings. I try to check everyday. And we're keeping good thoughts for you on getting those fires put out."



Jim's thoughts are powerful – within days of receiving this, the fires were indeed put out. Greg L., of Sydney, actually witnessed the much-remarked upon debate live on TV:


"The few seconds that I saw made my feel like throwing my TV out the window … I think it just shows how vacuous and dumb our so-called intellectuals are. They have nothing to say, because as far as I could see, nothing was said."



Henry C., of France, is a tough audience:


"Sometimes I chuckle when reading online. Occasionally, I laugh. I howled reading your injections into the ABC novelists' debate."



The mysteriously-named "chorgan" has previous Australian experience:


"Mate, I haven't had so much fun with OZ land since I sat between a lad from Melb and another from Syd. Digger this and Mate that. At least I learned the difference between beer and Australian for beer."



Bill P. struggled to cope with the reality of the debate:


"I love the panel discussion. But wasn't it hard to make up all the other panelists? They sound like a bunch of thin-skulled mouth-breathers from here in the U.S."



Daniel S. has similar concerns:


"I know the anwer, but please tell me that you made the entire conversation up. Or that they were drunk, stoned, and had been hit in the head with tire irons before they came on screen. It was horrifying. I thought that sort of drivel only appeared here in the States on Sunday morning bloviating TV talk shows. And you forced yourself to listen and watch. Brave man."



Alex B., of Detroit, has issues with one panelist, the writer John Birmingham:


"Could you point me to a website or book so I can read about the time that Queensland groaned under the Iron Heel? John Birmingham talks about his travails growing up under no doubt police state conditions in Queensland.

"I'd like to find out more about this because I've labored under the impression that all of Australia has been democratic for quite some time. I'd appreciate your guidance so I can better admire those who resisted the horror."



Floyd M. asks:


"By the way, shouldn't Australian Naming Rules make you a 'bloggie'?"



Everything is up for review, Floyd, under the terms of the Australian Creative Names Project 2002. Bill W., of Canada, sends the Project this warning:


"Here in Canada, and in the States, renaming has led to such dismal titles as the Air Canada Centre, GM Place, the Pepsi Centre, and so on. Personally, I would prefer the less imaginative Really Big Mountain to Mount Microsoft, or the Hockey Rink to the Ford Arena, or even the Watery Lake to Lake Cisco Systems. So be careful."



Will do, Bill. "Aarmstead" puts an early suggestion before the Project's panel of experts:


"Please find room for a Kangaroo Court."



Angie S., of Sydney, wants the Project itself to be given a new title:


"As long as you're renaming things, you can rename your naming project. May I suggest you call it the Creative Renaming of Australia Project? You can't go wrong with a zippy acronym."



Hmmm … Creative Renaming of Australia Project … that would give us C, R, A … oh, my Lord! We’ve descended into vulgarity! Russell L. urges that the Project be abandoned:


"I derive great joy and satisfaction from the great Australian tradition of not just calling a spade a spade but going all the way to calling it a f**king shovel. Please do not persist in your campaign to add layers of obfuscation to the clarity that we currently enjoy.

"I like it that I don't have to pause between words, that my fellow Australians can understand me when I say 'Canihavetwoschoonersofoldndacuplapiespleezluv' or 'Packatwistiesandablueheaventhickshaketogo'. I like it that the length of my sentences is only limited by my depth of breath.

"I like it that I can answer basically any question with 'No worries!' I like it that I can call anyone from the Prime Minister to the man cleaning a septic tank, 'Mate' without causing offence.

"I like it that teaching bushcraft to my sons includes cool warnings such as 'beware the fangs of the deadly leaping spider'.

"And finally, I like it that I can look at a place on a map and have a pretty good idea of what it would look like if I went there. I like it that if I see a sign saying 'Caution - blue ringed octopus', I know that I have to avoid octopuses with blue rings. Home, simplicity, joy!"



Too late, Russell. The Australian Creative Naming Project 2002 has already proposed that the blue-ringed octopus be known hence as the "Saturnian Sea Spider". Either that or "Robert Fisk". We haven't quite decided.

THE AUSTRALIAN CREATIVE NAMES PROJECT 2002 is yet to officially begin, but already it has broad community support. On Saturday, this letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:


"What a boring lot of names we've got for public places and buildings in Sydney. There are Sydney Square, World Square, Sydney Tower, World Tower, Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney Convention Centre, the Australian Museum, Sydney Football Stadium, Mid-City Centre, Central Sydney Plaza, the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and, dare I say it, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The only ones with any pizazz are the Powerhouse Museum and Circular Quay.

"Where are the Pompidou Centres, the Times Squares, the Golden Gate Bridges, the Rockefeller Centres, the Carnegie Halls, the Eiffel Towers, the La Scalas or even the Myer Music Bowls?"



Thank you, Mr. Allan Miles of Stanmore (soon to be renamed Utopian Turtletop). We at the ACNP are hard at work locating dull Australian names and selecting new, zesty alternatives. All suggestions are welcome.

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

Andrew Sullivan: Krugman on way out; Hillary cash return stuns planet; mere $50,000 converted Krugman; Romanesko oddly silent; Graydon Carter in poseur shock

Glenn Reynolds: Early end to brutal Afghan winter; the Goldberg boy now available in SF; liberals too busy for trifling book concerns; mocking Cananaugh

Natalie Solent: Mocking Cavanaugh; addicted to Insanity Test; phonics an evil Republican plot; defending Raimondo; do not praise Red Ken

Matt Welch: Persisting, irregardless; Hollywood Blvd now grafitti-free; mocking Cavanaugh

Bjorn Staerk: Hooray for rhymin' Will!; Wakil's voice of reason; Syria's unique view of world events; mocking Cavanaugh; brave (incredibly so) civilians

Rand Simberg: Humpbacked, toothless, redneck hillbilly witch sues Unitarians

Virginia Postrel: Krugman's qualified corruption; Krugman's doomed career; terrorist Postrel kin miss flight

Ken Layne: Weekly paper comes out weekly; Australian naming debate spreads; fine statue notion; mocking, harming, and finally executing Cavanaugh

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Jet logic; crooked Enron bosses; justice and 401k plans

Lawrence Haws: Image posted!

Iain Murray: Murray of the Mossad; British desert sloths; exposed census results; conservatives may yet rebound in the UK; roundabout culture

Jay L. Zilber: Mocking Cavanaugh

Bill Quick: Curious omission at Tehran Times; Dubya clear of Enron fracas; Israeli restraint; mocking Cavanaugh

Christopher Johnson: Roots causes; mocking Cavanaugh

Jason Soon: Red Cross whiners; possible second Taliban Dundee

Is Blog Watch II. Is good.