2.16.2002

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

Andrew Sullivan: Rauch reams Krugman; Powell's home run; imminent abortion illegality not imminent; European confusion at changed US mindset; Perelmen's perfect insult; HIV-cocaine study proves the obvious; falling in love with falling in love

Glenn Reynolds: Lay vs. Fitzgerald; anti-terror errors; CNN's Francophobe; anti-war left still dazzlingly stupid; no more comfortable bookstores; Valentine sniping; Slate editor nominations

Matt Welch: Book silenced by liberal oppressors; Nader takes on another popular voice of comedy; reaction to LA Time's Milosevic suckjob

Bjørn Stærk: Bjørn issues this deadly challenge:


"Tim Blair informs me that there's now a state of war between Australia and Norway. At least he quotes a 'senior Australian political journalist' who says so, and if Tim trusts her, so do I. (At least I would, before the war made us mortal enemies.) I'll get back with more when I find out why we're fighting, but I think I can say this much right now: Norway shall prevail. We will allow no rogue nation to blackmail us, and whatever it is the Australians have done to us, they'll sorely regret it. We call on the rest of the world to join us on the side of liberty in a crusade against the evil-doers. I have a vision: I see a global Web of Evil, threads of corruption and oppression woven in all directions, and at the center of it, the Spider of Evil itself, the Australian Government. The time to act is now, and while we do seek the aid of other civilized nations, we will, if we must, go the distance alone."



Go to his site now to check all the links. Beautiful work.

Rand Simberg: Euro coins not cool-proof; supermarket justice; Afghanistan has a "Minister for Transportation and Tourism"?; no matter, he's been killed

Virginia Postrel: Kinsley and Slate and reasons and Reason; the morality of paid talk

Ken Layne: Religion fine in moderation, bad for sustaining human lives; non-progressive logic on asylum seeking; Moops pursue justice over Spain booting; porn maven chases Slate job; Waylon memories via Billy Joe Shaver

Shiloh Bucher: Valentine's Day defended; Valentine's Day loathed

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Will lyrical on Valentine's Day; Wash Post headline gruesomely selective; BMP conspiracy theory

James Lileks: Setzer music dominates wifeless house; unhappy dog; possible new Lileks site arrives Monday

Iain Murray: Thatcher not hellish demon-cow, says unique Brit; new Blog updates; controversial Spectator cover and article; did wimps compromise Osama's capture?; Brit crime increase demands a Rudi response

Juan Gato: McCain's habitual lying; lawyers profit, as usual; Gary Baeur's relevance questioned; apple and razor purchases yet to be attempted; Bill Maher mocked

Bill Quick: Today's letter writer confused about the definition of "democracy"

Rallying Point: Bombing for nature; Miss Cleo lawsuit should have been foreseen; who the hell is Rallyingpoint anyway?; love

Christopher Johnson: Natalija's Valentine's dress; disputing Lincoln's links to the "Leviathan state"

Jason Soon: The Devine Miranda slices apart Greenpeace myths

James Morrow: What would happen if everyone invoked historic rights?; "Olympics Suck" a powerful Google call; don't let young Nick grow up to become a lawyer; Syrian dishonesty shocks planet; stupid sucky Olympics should just collapse, as in the olden days

Yesterday

All Blogwatching seemed so far away

Now it looks as though it’s here to stay

Oh, I believe

In yesterday

Suddenly

There'sBlogwatch IIandBlogwatch III

They are shadows hanging over me

Oh, yesterday

Came suddenly

2.14.2002

MARGO'S WORLD OF WONDER: Part Three

The final part of a three-part series examining the work of Margo Kingston, Webdiarist for the Sydney Morning Herald. Please scroll down the page to read the first two instalments.

This section begins with Margo's panic over the arrival of illegal immigrants …


"From the very beginning, the Government treated it as an act of war by the boat people. Now, we're at war with Norway."



Margo's talking about the Tampa boat people debacle, in which a Norwegian ship rescued some asylum seekers from a sinking ferry in Indonesian waters. The asylum seekers coerced the ship's captain into taking them to Australia rather than back to Indonesia. That much I know about, but the war with Norway I don't remember at all. Did we win?


"Clearly something primal is going on, something that hits the heart of the Australian psyche … It's the fear of non-white, non-Christian invasion from the north by a young nation with no experience of the real thing. This fear is so fundamental that it overcame other basic Australian traits - compassion, a helping hand, a fair go."



According to Margo, we're being invaded by an unnamed young nation to our north. We shouldn't have too much trouble repelling them, though, because they’ve got no experience. This might be over even faster than our war with Norway.


"I'm overwhelmed. Two hundred emails since I left work last night, from people around Australia, Australians round the world, and Norwegians in Norway and Australia. I'm culling a bit, but I want to publish as many emails as possible as a contemporary record of our reactions to this extraordinary event. So far, emails are running at about eight to one against Howard's stand."



Margo actually believes her email is representative of broad public opinion.


"I'm sorry. Another 100 emails - I can't even read them all today, let alone publish. It seems many people feel so strongly about this matter that they want to have their views on record. Perhaps the Tampa will transform the federal election campaign … The balance of sentiment in Webdiary has shifted - now it's anti-Howard by about six to one, down from eight to one."



"Perhaps the Tampa will transform the election campaign." Sure it will – if the election is held in Crazyville, capital city of Margostan.


"Here's the latest batch of emails to Webdiary. I'll post another batch later tonight. The Tampe crisis has seen visitors to Webdiary jump from the usual 9,000 to 40,000, and for the first time ever it's one of smh.com.au's most-visited pages!"



Hooray! Webdiary is more popular than "Conditions of Use"!


"Many Australians think Howard's actions over the Tampa have defended our national honour. Many others think they have seriously stained it. Howard is a danger to himself and his country for creating such a bitter split."



Bitter split? Nearly 80 per cent of Australians supported Howard.


"The polls are in and current public opinion is clear. A whopping 77% of Australians support John Howard's decision to refuse the Tampa asylum seekers entry to Australia and 74 percent approve of his handling of the subsequent crisis. Seventy one percent prefer detaining asylum seekers in camps."



But your emails, Margo! How could they be wrong?


"Hi. It's a strange and scary feeling realising you are in a minority group increasingly vilified by people who don't share your views. At least it makes it easier to empathise with those Muslim, Lebanese and Australians of 'middle Eastern appearance' now under vicious public attack …"



Wealthy white chick Margo feels their pain.


"Since the Tampe crisis broke, a caller has expressed the hope that I be raped by a 'middle eastern gang', some have told me I am a traitor and should be deported, and others have told me to shut up. I've never felt UnAustralian before. What am I?"



Must … resist … answering …


"Kimberley Brandt wrote to Webdiary last week saying she was moved to get active on the Tampa crisis. She's been hard at it since, working with Amnesty International and others to organise a public meeting. It's on Sunday at First Fleet Park, Circular Quay at 2.30pm."



Is that for the Tampa crisis or the Tampe crisis?


"The identity debate has exploded, with questions about the state of our democratic traditions, particularly the rule of law, entering the picture. But the racism debate is still creating all the angst - it's raw, it's emotional, it's genuine, it's reaching out, and it's engaged."



It's married, it's divorced, it's cruising singles bars, it's hitting on a dental hygienist, it's going home alone.


"To me, the Tampa marks the end point of the era of ‘political correctness’, which has been in continual decline since 1996. The squashed minority which bred Hanson in 1996 has won its final victory. Now Hanson's social vision rules. I believe that the nation will come to regret the end of the politically correct era, in retrospect."



A few posts earlier, Hanson was toasted for bring a breath of fresh air to Australian politics. Now her "social vision" is condemned. Which Margo is writing today?


"A request. Clearly Webdiary has outgrown its design. A new design - easier for you, less time-consuming for me - was ready to go before we suffered a 25 percent budget cut before June 30. I need your help."



Why don't you ask your $90 subscribers to pony up some more cash?


"He's no conservative, John Howard. He's a radical man, prepared to challenge the basis of our legal and political system and the confidence of citizens in it to get his way. Tear it all down, tear us all apart, John."



It's true. Since the election Howard has declared himself Caesar, and demolished all the courts. Nobody saw it coming. Nobody - except Margo.


"Don't get sucked into the inevitable Howard argument that it's all Labor's fault for not passing the Border Protection Bill a couple of weeks ago. That was to retrospectively authorise the Defence forces forcing the Tampa outside Australian territorial waters, not to board the Tampa and hold the boat people prisoner."



Really?


"A correction to my last post. It looks like the Border Protection Bill COULD have retrospectively allowed our troops to detain people and force them out of our waters."



Before becoming a journalist, Margo was a lawyer. No lie.


"I am still in the shock phase of grief. Fear isn't allowed in yet. Some people in Australia have hit out and are threatening fellow Australians … Some others have written making judgements about the United States and suggesting it is responsible for last night's events."



I've already dealt with Margo’s coverage of September 11 in a previous post. This was her initial response.


"Being one of the ludicrously out of touch minority I realise I now am, I had thought the atrocity may have softened our attitude to the boat people - they are, after all, fleeing terror."



Here Margo is beginning to turn against her previous beliefs that journalists should "reconnect" with the readers.


"Australia is conducting its own dirty little war now, against boat people, flouting international treaties on refugees as well as our own laws. This is not the action of a responsible world citizen. It is isolationism. It inflames fear … It cannot be undone now. Boat people are doomed. Politicians cannot see the incongruity of their rhetoric and their actions. Neither can most Australians."



So "most Australians" are wrong. Remember when Margo was demanding that journalists must "become reader identified"? To hell with that idea.


"There is no mainstream political debate on the merits of this crazy farce. In the vacuum, prejudice, hatred and ignorance flourish. There is no space for reason."



A crazy farce can have merits?


"In this entry, contributors continue to explore the ramifications - military, economic and cultural - of the new York bombing. I begin with a piece by Christopher Selth, who believes that the financial markets are beginning to realise that it signals the end of naive global capitalism."



She can't even be bothered to spell New York correctly. And, like every other Webdiary mistake, she simply leaves it there, uncorrected, forever. Has Margo no pride in her work?


"The Tampa crisis and its aftermath has been an extraordinary time for the Webdiary. Before the story broke, readership had settled at about 9,000 unique visitors a month. An unprecedented surge when Tampa broke saw readership soar to 23,000 in August."



Those numbers are lame.


"I was in Canberra for the last two weeks of sittings, and was almost overwhelmed by the sense that our national political system has collapsed in on itself. There are no big ideas, there is no questioning of norms now so obviously under threat and there is unthinking overthrow of norms like the rule of law without rationale or discussion."



Someone's been listening to Leonard Cohen again. From here on in, Webdiary ceased to be a political website and became more like a nervous breakdown in instalments.


"Those who dare contextualise the bombing and seek long term solutions to the challenge to Western democracy posed by the terrorists are literally ‘named’ by the blathering right, told they are traitors and sent to rhetorical hell. There is little or no engagement from 'the right' with the strategic and other challenges we face. Do Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, Imre et al advocate the newking of Afghanistan or the razing of the country as do some on the right in the United States? We don't know. Their contribution is smear, distortion, abusive emotionalism and condemnation without engagement. In short, McCarthyism."



Upset at being named, Margo names the namers (although she omits Imre's surname – Salusinszky – presumably because it's too difficult to spell). What is "newking"?


"The campaign opener says it all about the dark dead end to which John Howard has taken us … This is John Howard's address to the nation post terror. The world's troubles have closed in on us, fading our prospects to black. Nothing about the way through. Nothing about how we can make the world or our nation a better, safer, place … The politics of fear. The politics of closure."



The journalism of dumb.


"From Howard, not one scrap of forward thinking, not a hint of new policy, not a smidgen of the vision thing. Instead, the endless repetition of him being the man to 'see the Australian people through these very difficult security and economic challenges that face our nation' … Behind it, nothing. Literally nothing. And the style - awkward, stilted, blinking, lip-licking, defensive, tired. The antithesis of the leadership qualities he's been projecting for more than a month."



Margo's ideal leader would never blink. Great mounds of grit may accumulate, welding closed his tear ducts, but blink he will not. And his lips … why, he'll let them split and bleed rather than disgrace himself with cowardly licking.


"Now our troops are heading off, everything changes."



More chaos, as usual.


"The isolationist Howard, who's walked away from human rights treaties and Kyoto, turned his back on our region, thumbed his nose at the refugee crisis and refused to attempt to tell us an Australian story of the crisis to unite us, is bad for us."



Strange to call Howard an isolationist over Kyoto when hardly anyone else has signed it. He'd have been isolated if he'd agreed with it.


"This election campaign is sickening … Any sane analysis would conclude that if we want security in these crazy, scary times, we'd vote Labor … The Australian people are being played for suckers. In darker moments I think we deserve what we get if Howard romps home. Then I realise the media is aiding and abetting his fraud."



As I said: Try to keep in mind that Margo is a serious, influential political journalist, and not some Indymedia midget.


"Beazley's daily policy announcements, rock solid on costings and focused on improving services, is working."



What's that great Dandy Warhols lyric? "You never get wise, you just get older."


"I got lots of emails on the boat people - for and against - but I'm leaving them alone for a couple of days. It's becoming almost unbearable to think about."



But Margo – that's your job.


"Australia will regret condemning as 'elite' the voices of scholarship, experience, and the wisdom born of deep thought about our nation's interests. The new elite values none of these qualities. The voices of reason, young and old, across the political spectrum, have done their best. They lost with honour."



And there we have it: Margo now completely rejects the readers. They didn't listen to her, so they can sod off.


"I was in a strange space on Saturday night. I'd cried every day since the Liberal and Labor launches, so the grieving was already done. For me, the result was expected and I had emotionally reconciled myself to it. So the night itself was calm."



This is Margo's reaction to the election result. Send your spare Prozac to the Help Margo Learn to Live Again Appeal.


"Among my circle, most cried when Howard said in his victory speech that 'Australia is the best country in the world'. The worst moment for me was when he said that 'the things that unite us are more important than the things which divide us'. Not to me, John. The things that divide us are now more important."



Spoken like a true friend of democracy.


"Imre Salusinszky in Monday's Herald, after quoting from a writer to Webdiary, said 'Fine, drop 'round any time. Only, I have mace.' Is he trying to be funny? Mace is a form of tear gas used by police to temporarily disable protesters. Salusinszky is, consciously or otherwise, identifying with the state to label people of different views to him so dangerous they must be physically shut down."



Imre's father was kidnapped and imprisoned by Hungary's secret police in the 1950s. That is an example of the state physically shutting a person down because of "different views". Margo hasn't got a clue.


"I also think there has long been a real need to articulate core Australian values to which all migrants need to subscribe."



Many migrants supported the government's stand against illegal immigrants. This is Margo's solution. What would she do to migrants who refused to sign her Pledge of Margonian Values? Deport them?


"Mark Latham's views hold sway. Here's what he said in Saturday's Australian: ‘Working families working hard want to be rewarded for effort. On the flip side of that they have zero tolerance for illegality. They don't support illegal migration ... I've got to say I haven't got much sympathy for people who pay people smugglers and arrive in boats that are funded by corruption.'

"What Latham is really saying is that the aspirationals care concerned only with self-interest - ie more money in their pockets - and eschew empathy for people in different circumstances. Us and them. We and Other. This is the antithesis of the progressive vision."



The love affair with Latham is over. Margo's ability to decipher what people "are really saying" is astounding.


"The core values debate is not just something migrants must 'subscribe' to, an unfortunate term which I regret, but that we as a nation agree to. A set of guiding principles."



What Margo is really saying is that she's a tyrant who would impose upon other people her rules and values, and close down debate on subjects she believes should not be discussed.


"Thanks for reading, thanks for writing and have a good Christmas. Back January 4."



Promises, promises …


Thursday, January 10, 2001: "Happy new year, and thanks for coming back."



Only six days late. Does the Herald ever dock Margo's pay?


"So she's gone. I've talked about her, her meaning and her impact since this diary began, so over to you. How will Pauline Hanson be remembered? … Looking back, Pauline Hanson has been the most influential person on my work since I became a journalist in 1987 … After following her in the 1998 election, I examined all my assumptions and began changing my views on reporting politics and the optimum relationship between journalists and readers."



Hanson, a footnote in Australian political history, is "the most influential person" in Margo's career. Imagine a rock writer whose greatest influence is Supertramp's "Crime of the Century".


"I think the government is in a state of psychological siege. They complain that the boat people are trading on our decency. They have responded by losing it. This is impossible to accept, so they pretend we are still decent by saying that the boat people are not human, and therefore our decency is not engaged. So a lip sewing episode is portrayed as an insult to us - we who have human feelings, not an act of desperation by them - who have none."



I'm confused. Who's pretending to be decent? What am I meant to be sewing? Who has no lips?


"We are now seeing a leakage of this mindset to demonise those who support the refugees cause. Now we too are unAustralian, etc etc … This leakage is also infecting the official attitude towards the fate of David Hicks. He too, has lost his rights as an Australian citizen, as have all the Taliban fighters captured during the war in Afghanistan."



All the Taliban fighters have lost their rights as Australian citizens. Tough break.


"[Hicks] is not one of us because what he did was not decent. It's strange, isn't it, that people fleeing the Taliban regime are detained in similar, disgusting conditions as those who fought for them! Just what are we proving to ourselves here? And how much further can this infection go before we realise we're becoming no different to the enemy we just conquered?"


We're no different at all. Why, only yesterday I destroyed a few Buddha statues, crashed a jet into an office building, and moved to Tora Bora.


"I fear that some Australians will attempt a breakout at Woomera, and that some Australians will harbour escapees. This issue could literally tear our country apart."



Literally?


"This matter is out of control. It could go anywhere. There's talk that at least one group is planning to attack the Woomera camp and free the detainees. Several people I've spoken to would seriously consider harbouring an escapee.''



Onegroup. Severalpeople. Yep, that'll get those tectonic plates jumping.


"I'm off to South Africa, back April 2. I hope to be full of new ideas and new energy for the year ahead by the time I get back. I've received many ideas to redesign the Webdiary, and hope we can get into that too. Now is a time for hope."



You've left the country, Margo. It's time for a celebration!

JAMES LILEKS sends this note, prompted by Philip Weiss's addled estimation of Australia (see previous post, somewhere down the page):


"Weiss writes: 'Australian culture feels as grotesque as The Day of the Locust'.

"I hadn't read about the theater riots that resulted in the choking death of a child actor, or the late-night rural cockfight matches, or the collapse of scenery in an Aussie movie studio. 'There's no sense of a high culture anywhere,' he adds, no doubt issuing a guttural moan of satisfaction as he pounds out a river of lager against the wall of the Sydney Opera House.

"Keep in mind that 'high culture' in New York means living in a city awash with theater, museums and music - none of which you actually see or hear, since by the time you're done with work and had a few Stolis at the bar downstairs it's all you can to do slump in the back of the cab and give the glowering driver directions home.

"If 98% of the cultural attractions of New York evaporated, most New Yorkers wouldn't care - as long as the Village Voice continued to print brick-thick listings of events that made them feel as though they lived in the crook of America's cultural cornucopia."



The heartland of America speaks! Prepare for a furious Big Apple rejoinder.

MARGO'S WORLD OF WONDER: Part Two

The second part of a three-part series examining the work of Margo Kingston, Webdiarist for the Sydney Morning Herald. Please scroll down the page to read the thrilling first instalment.

We join Margo as she contemplates leaving Canberra …


"I'm starting the year preparing to move to Sydney, after more than ten years of safety from head office. I'm joining the Herald online team under online editor Tom Burton, and will learn a bit of production, keep the webdiary, and work on a Burton idea designed to break new ground. The bosses have agreed to can come back to Canberra once a month, to stay in touch."



Alas, the groundbreaking Burton idea never materialised. What could it have been? Spellcheck, maybe?


"Is it in the national interest for a foreign company to take over Woodside, our premier natural gas company? … The stories on the issue have been largely confined to the business section of newspapers. Are we too immature to debate this one? Are we too scared to?"



Too scared to talk about selling a gas company?


"Wow! Here we are again, bedazzled by the extraordinary Pauline Hanson."



The Hansonisation of Margo continues apace.


"She had to wait a long time, but she's certainly back now to add spice and fear to what will be a wild election year."



In four years Margo has moved from censorship of Hanson to celebration. Picture a caterpillar emerging from its pupal stage as a gorilla.


"Everything is up for grabs. No one is safe. Anarchy rules."



This is a constant Margo theme: chaos, chaos everywhere! Whatever will we do? Who can save us? Aieeeeeeeeeeeee!The monster has me in its jaws!


"Pauline Hanson has the place rocking, and it's over to you for reaction. But first, I had a call from a bloke called Richard Rae, who's doing the publicity for One Nation for the federal election. He plans to flog off to One Nation supporters a song called 'Sunburnt Battler', to be professionally recorded by an Australian band in three weeks. We're hoping to put the garage version on the web today. Rae wrote the words and Hanson approved the words, and they hope that at $10 a pop, they'll get the readies for TV and print advertisements. The garage version I heard has a Midnight Oil beat to it."



Incredible. Margo is using the Sydney Morning Herald's resources to promote Pauline Hanson's campaign. She's crossed some sort of line here, but it's so far behind her by now that it's obscured by the horizon.


"The snobbery of the last Hanson spotlight is dead, mate. I've heard several female Herald reporters say they LOVED her election nightdress. Maybe they'll buy one when it comes out under the 'Please Explain' label. The vibe in our paper is sheer excitement about what Hanson means and what will/could happen next."



This is what excites the Sydney Morning Herald: a political philosophy calling for trade barriers and slashed immigration as articulated by a red-headed cretin.


"What can progressives do to help rethink the economic policy agenda and use the One Nation juggernaut to further progressive causes?"



Aha! Margo's agenda is revealed: she's looking to combine the anti-trade One Nation Right with her illiterate Indymedia friends on the anti-trade Left to create an unstoppable force of blind ignorance. How can such a wily plan possibly fail?


"For those of you who allege I'm obsessed with Hanson, I say I'm obsessed with what she shows about our identity and how her political plays will reshape our policies and our nation. For those of you who say the media is excited by Hanson, I agree."



You'd think, reading this, that Hanson had massive popular support, and was therefore able to "reshape our policies and our nation". But Hanson won only a tiny percentage of the vote in last year's election; she's meaningless to all but Margo.


"Peter Gellatly in Canada suggests that anyone interested in reforming our 'democracy' might try www.rafeonline.com/events.html. Rafe Muir was a Cabinet minister in British Columbia, is a talk show host, and has co-written a compelling case for reform."



His name is Mair, not Muir. Reform your "spelling", Margo.


"Pauline Hanson has done something fantastic for the intellectual health of Australia - she's got the purveyors of snarling, hate-filled polemic on the New Right off their nah, nah, nah nah nah pedestals. I am sick to death of the Christopher Pearsons and Paddy McGuinnesses and their ilk screaming abuse at the 'politically correct elite' long after they beat the hell out of us in newspaper column inches, political power and social engineering."



At a guess, a "nah, nah, nah, nah, nah pedestal" is something similar to a "wah, wah, wah, wah, wah pedal", but for some other application besides guitars. I think.


"Australians like strong leaders. Gone. Australians want to believe their government is competent. Gone. Australians want unity in government. Gone. Australians want Government which listens and takes up genuine complaints without brute force. Gone. Australians want Government with genuine vision. Gone."



Australians like good journalism. Gone.


"We live in exciting times. We live in dangerous times. Will we throw up a real leader again? I voted against Paul Keating in 1996. I miss him now."



Margo craves leadership. Boss her around, tell her what to think; she loves it.


"How about we wipe the slate clean and start again. Let's get rid of the men and women with baggage, and catapult fresh minds and faces to the top, without them having to play the games and do the deals to get there. Out with John Howard, in with Julie Bishop, deputy young radical Ross Cameron from Paramatta. Out with Kim Beazley, in with Jenny Macklin, deputy the passionate outsider Mark Latham."



Get rid of the baggage people! We'll carry our own bags from now on! (Latham wouldn't survive as a Margo favourite, incidentally. Read on and you'll discover why.)


"When Howard admitted the people were right and he was wrong - not after hearing good arguments but after taking a bath in two elections - he handed control over to us. We don't want it. It makes us scared."



Yes. Control terrifies us. Speaking on behalf of the entire nation, I'd like to say that we don't want to control anything.


"Howard is crumbling. I reckon he's finished."



More insight from the expert.


"It's good to be reminded that capitalism and democracy aren't a natural or necessary fit, although I wonder whether the forces we rely on to protect our democracy and sustain our human rights in the face of rampant global capital have the strength and integrity to do the job."



Margo thinks we need to be protected from money.


"Because he expresses my fears much better than I, here's some quotes from John Ralston Saul in The Unconscious Civilisation …"



You know you're in trouble when a jargon-sucking word-mangler like Ralston Saul is better at expressing your own thoughtsthan you are.


"It's been a difficult transition from a culture where customers were treated equally, to one where you have to bargain and carry on and waste a great deal of valuable time to get good service … It's individualism at work, I suppose, but it's also a nasty, narky, game where you know you're being taken for a ride unless you play dirty."



Sounds like she's talking about the Soviet Union after the collapse of communism, doesn't it? Margo is actually commenting here on Australian bank deregulation.


"How pathetic is Australia when it comes to fawning on the United States? Yesterday, Cabinet decided to back the Yanks on its walkaway from Kyoto."



Oh, there may have been one or two other issues involved. Like maintaining Australia as a first-world economy, for example.


"I've noticed an almost complete absence of fear and loathing in the media since [Hanson’s] second coming, and the broadsheets are running as much on her dress sense as her political influence. She's had the privilege of a Woman's Weekly makeover. There's a complete absence of investigation into the structure and personnel of her reinvented party, and and an almost total lack of hard questioning on her policy prescriptions. None of the major parties are going in hard either … For now at least, she's gone from devil incarnate to celebrity, a touch of excitement, a breath of fresh air. And don't we need it."



Reheated protectionist policies from the 1920s are a "breath of fresh air"?


"My online boss Tom Burton wants to revamp the webdiary and we're in the market for ideas."



Here's one: fire Margo and replace her with someone smart enough to close HTML tags.


"I believe:

*that widely read broadsheet newspapers are essential to the health and vibrancy of our democracy

*that they are yet to adapt to a multi-media future pressing on the present

*that there is a vacuum of original, genuine, passionate and accessible debate on the great political, economic and social issues of our time in the mainstream media, despite the desire of thinking Australians in all age groups to read and participate in such debates

*that newspapers have lost their connection with the readers they serve

*that the future lies in a collaboration between journalists and readers."



Questions:

*Why do they have to be broadsheetnewspapers?

*This futuristic multi-media thing you speak of – will it have moving pictures?

*I take it Pauline Hanson is one of the "great political, economic and social issues of our time"?

*Isn't it a little bold for someone who attracts just 300 visits a day to be lecturing newspapers about why they've lost readers?

*If readers collaborate with journalists, will we get paid?


"The mission of the webdiary is:

*to experiment in the form and content of the Herald online

*to assist in the integration of the newspaper and smh.com.au

*to help meet the unmet demand of some Australians for conversations on our present and our future, and to spark original thought and genuine engagement with important issues which effect us all

*to link thinking Australians whoever they are and wherever they live.

*to insist that thinking Australians outside the political and economic establishment have the capacity to contribute to the national debate

*to provide an outlet for talented writers and thinkers not heard in mainstream media"



Only "thinking Australians" need apply. As for you non-sentient, single-celled or vegetal Australians, you can just carry on photosynthesising or reproducing asexually or whatever the hell it is you do.


"The weekend before last, Former ALP national president Barry Jones said his work on producing a blueprint for a knowledge nation was complete. He heads a committee of mega-brains working on the topic for Beazley, and he said that at their final meeting, they decided the draft had to be radicalised because the task was now urgent."



Translation: the Australian Labor Party's leading nerd is working on a policy document called Knowledge Nation that essentially calls for big government involvement in education, science, and research. He'll give this document to the ALP leader Kim Beazley as soon as he's finished … ummm … "radicalising" it.


"Waiting, waiting for the vision splendid. Labor's blueprint for the Knowledge Nation, from a committee chaired by the redoubtable Barry Jones, has reached Kim Beazley's desk."



It's reached the desk! The desk, I tell you!


"I'm about to go into the budget lock-up, an annual exercise in surrealism where the cream of Australia's political, economic and business writers and their editors gather in one place for six hours."



Margo happily includes herself among the cream of Australian journalists covering the federal budget.


"The Herald alone will send in 56 people … The idea is to have the budget liftout ready to go to the printer at 7.30pm … It's a big day for newspaper sales, and the editor's judgement is on the line - on headlines, leads, content and presentation. It's the day when the paper is its people, and when journalistic pretensions can be blown and reputations made and lost."



Will Margo ever return to her home planet?


"Thanks for your suggestions on my TV presentation - yes, the T shirt was too old, yes, I'll concentrate on not being so excitable on air, yes I did interrupt too much."



She's pulling down five grand a month but she can't afford a new T-shirt. Send your donations of used clothing to the Margo Kingston Rags Appeal.


"Sorry about the gap in diary coverage. I no sooner got over the flu when I got dreadful news from my dentist. Forget a sponsor for this page, I need a sponsor to save my teeth."



Send your old dentures to the Margo Kingston Mouth Revival Appeal.


"Where will Labor take us, if they win? It all now depends on knowledge nation, now scheduled for release late this month."



Is it still on the desk?


"It looks like the blueprint will be a vision for education and innovation and set out Labor's long-term priorities in government, without committing it to precise spending … Wouldn't it be nice to have an election campaign not dominated by figures, but by competing visions? I think Labor's on a winner here."



Think again, my toothless friend.


"Knowledge Nation is now available at www.alp.org.au. It's voluminous, very big picture, and pie in the sky in the short term. Releasing it now is a gamble for Kim Beazley to give him substance momentum before the Aston byelection. It is also a wonderful opportunity for interested Australians to participate in a debate over priorities and directions. I will ensure your feedback gets to the Labor group running the knowledge nation show, and I hope to interview some of the players for online as the debate develops. We also hope to establish a special knowledge nation sub-site."



Now she's donating Sydney Morning Herald resources to the Labor Party, and corralling her readers into some kind of Labor-assisting think tank. This is journalism?


"When was the last time a political party produced an unashamedly intellectual document which dared to use big words and invited debate and critique before decisions on priorities and how to pay for them were made?"



I don't know – the last time a party decided it wanted to lose an election, perhaps?


"Knowledge Nation talks about the disappearing public intellectual, the need to reassert the value of the humanities and the need to rebuild great national institutions like the CSIRO, the National Library and the ABC. It talks to people like Elen Seymour, who says she's freezing in Ottawa because her research scientist husband had to leave Australia and is desperate to come home and put on her bikini. Since pygmies in the media have chosen the path of anti-intellectualism, let's hope they retire to snigger corner and let people who care have a read and a think and make a contribution to a fundamental debate."



It's always been my dream to retire to Snigger Corner. It's plenty warm over there. Maybe the Ottawa bikini gal could join me.


"Today, the view from the trenches in Genoa, courtesy of my brother Hamish Alcorn."



You never know where those anarchist taxis are going to end up.


"Are you as sick and tired of the blah, blah, blah as I am? Is this really the level of debate we deserve? Am I the only person refusing to waste my time engaging with this trashing of our yearning for some sort of vision thing?"



Margo is channelling Professor Frink. "With the refusing and the engaging and the trashing and the yearning GLAVIN!And the vision thing m'hey hey!"


"The Genoa protest was partly about the crisis in funding in our primary schools, because guess who's happily filling the gap? McDonalds."



Yes, Margo. The Genoa anti-globalisation protest was about state school funding in New South Wales. And the Seattle riots were about fishing bylaws in the Hawksbury River.


"The election debate, for now, is about services. And that's where Beazley is on a winner."



Beazley lost the election and was forced to step down as the ALP's leader.

In Part Three: refugees arrive, and Margo's sense of perspective leaves.

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

Andrew Sullivan: Terrifying Tina sighting; Friedman supports Bush "craziness"; dick in a can; book club numbers soar; lad mags collapse

Glenn Reynolds: Campaign finance reform loopholes loom; Nat Review explores antiwar left; explosions at US base in Kandahar; New Statesman rallies behind Milosevic; NYT is Hillary donor; EU's musical rules; Saddam echoes Patten; excellent Brit letter; Patten fisked

Matt Welch: Secret market located by crack LA investigative writer; Mazza on the massive people; Milosevic monitored; Tony Pierce photo-essay a triumph; the perils of dudeism; Milosevic let off the hook by LA Times

Bjørn Stærk: The lowdown on Palestine; Iran should adopt key element of US Constitution; when Iran was free; no representation with taxation in Arab states; Norway wobbles in face of the Axis of Evil

Rand Simberg: Gore and war; when dancing bears attack!; Robert Fisk's carnival float; Reuters gets thinner

Ken Layne: Den Beste the best; Riordan's clever tactics; dumped at Dulles "like a sack of anthrax"; great eagle news frightens Wash Post; Black History Month feature visits Africa

Shiloh Bucher: Pudenda pep-rally; hooray for V-Day; McCainiac hypocrisy; violence towards women allowed for one more year

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Valentine's Day warning for the forgetful; campaign finance grey zone; say your prayers, Taliboy; WSJ's Enron insight; Wash Post edits Spann's Taliboy remarks; print Punditwatch is live; at war with Democratic Underground

James Lileks: Daughter's special K; zoo features trapped citizens; legal complexities of CD offer solved; suburbanites actually choose to live that way; Liza's New York beats Frank's

Iain Murray: "Cakewalk" the ideal rhetorical rejoinder to "quagmire"; effective anti-drug ads; Gove Pattons Patten

Juan Gato: Explaining the military's role; Triumph the Insult Comic Dog is missing in action; crazy grandma allowed to ask questions; Daschle veers away from "axis of evil" criticism; alcohol the key to Winter Olympics

Bill Quick: The folly of yielding rights to the state; Michael Kelly's Chainsaw of Vengeance; AP quagmire alert; handy travel advice - smoking crack won't set off airport alarms; letter writer claims San Francisco is "paradise"

Rallying Point: Diversity is code for conformity; Altman, Baldwin et al still in USA; disguised creationism; happy T-shirts available; television execs angry at useful television devices

Christopher Johnson: New idiot identified; Clinton's Afghanistan triumph; evil explained; the figure skating fix

Jason Soon: Ned the thug; Osama's wild Web life; fine tribute to Robert Nozick; "bellicose poindexter" Paul Wolfowitz

James Morrow: Have a Viagra Valentine!; Saudi minister's way-subtle Jew hint; Grigori deathwatch begins

I goBlogwatching

After midnight

Out in the moonlight

Just hoping you may be

Somewhere Blogwatching

After midnight

Searching for me

MARGO'S WORLD OF WONDER: Part One

On April 27, 2000, the Sydney Morning Herald's website announced an innovation that would change journalism and the Internet – indeed, the very nature of human communication – forever:


WATCH OUT FOR MARGO'S WEBLOG:

Coming soon - Margo will be keeping a notebook of

the happenings in Canberra that stir her up.



What follows is a chronological three-part Margo Kingston highlights package, from her first Webdiary entry on July 4, 2000, to January 31, 2002, when Margo left for an adventure in South Africa. Try to keep in mind as you read her stupefying semi-thoughts that Margo isn’t an irrelevant Indymedia imp; she's a senior Australian political journalist who regularly appears on national radio and television programs, writes books, and shows up at press conferences.

She's serious. She's influential. Try to keep that in mind.

Just try.

Now, let's enter Margo's Wonderful World ...


"Welcome to my Canberra diary. I'm allowed to say what I think whenever I like, and lucky you can interact if you like. The downside for this indulgence is that all the words stay forever so I can be judged for my sins."



OK.


"I say the egalitarian streak survives and that unless [conservative Prime Minister] John Howard can alter his tax reform to make gestures to that ideal, he'll be out of office next year."



Howard was re-elected with an increased majority on November 10, 2001.


"What I really want for this diary is an 'outside in' button, so people can post their comments to the public, not just me through email. I'm told that's possible."



No 'outside in' button ever appeared. As you'll discover, Margo often predicts new features at her site, but they rarely eventuate. This adds to the delusional quality of her work many of her fans find so appealing.


"The apostrophe absence was not an expeiment in style but the failure of the CyberNews system we work on to pick them up when the story was transferred from Microsoft Word. The on-line operation is small, frenetic and frantically busy at the moment so you get the product pretty raw. We will improve."



Margo remedied the early absence of apostrophes by later adding them randomly. Perhap's she never learn't anything from her teacher's.


"I am indepednent and so are my views. No one pays me to spruick their line."



Don't try to buy Magro! Her opinoin is not for sael!


"I've asked our three photographers to come up with an image each parliamentary sitting day for a diary 'Potshot'. There are no rules, except that the image not appear in the paper."



This post announced the first Potshot. No subsequent Potshot ever appeared.


"The point is, there are two major types of conservatives: (A) the ones who resist change because it threatens their entrenched privilege at the top of the economic heap; and (B) those who are frightened of change because they lack the skills to cope. In order for the type A conservatives to maintain their political power, they must distract the type B conservatives with non-economic issues."



Sophisticated political analysis from one of Australia's great intellectuals.


"Tonight, one of Australia's most apolitical citizens climaxed the Olympics we had to have with an exclamation mark. As an Aboriginal Australian she won easily after coming from behind. When she'd done it and celebrated draped in the white and the black flag, she set us free to be us."



There was a time when Australians were only free to be trampolines or pelicans. Then Cathy Freeman won a race at the Olympics. Thanks, Cathy, for setting us "free to be us".


"It's a funny feeling coming back to the formulaic, jaded political aesthetic after a weekend raving with 2000 young people from 'Indymedia’, the independent, out there, experimental media/writer/visual artist types with bare feet, big ideas, and amazing ingenuity."



Not to mention their big ingenuity, bare ideas, and amazing feet. Margo is easily impressed.


"It's an explosive rorts day in Canberra, with Peter Reith on the block over an unauthorised $50,000 bill on his parliamentary telecard … I'm getting my head around developments and will file a piece for online news later."



By the time of her next report, Margo's skull was still engaged in circumnavigation:


"Once I get my head around today's developments, I'll write a take on whether this scandal could bring down Reith, or even the Government."



The government is still there. No update on Margo's head, however.


"I don't think you have the 'right' to know what I am paid because you don't pay my salary … Let's disclose anyway: my net pay for this month is $4,880.33. I work about 45 hours a week officially, and most of my waking life unofficially. I get 6 and a half weeks leave a year."



That net amount probably works out to around $90,000 per year, before tax. Who says the Internet doesn't pay?


"My brother, who's an anarchist turned taxi driver, used to berate me every Christmas for working within the establishment and not outside it."



That is just so typical of anarchist taxi drivers. Every Christmas, always with the berating.


"In January, I flew around Australia with the acting Prime Minister John Anderson. He told a public meeting that sexual propriety in marriage was vital because if your family couldn't trust you, why should the people? I reported this diabolically dangerous statement …"



Diabolically dangerous?


"Perhaps we need to restore the 'partnership', to use a current buzz word … Journalists must get back on the ground - out of their office on their phones - to reconnect. Reconnection means more raw, interesting and even exciting work. Through us, readers can connect to issues outside their experience. We must also move away from writing identified with power (eg in political journalism, identified with the politicians) and instead become reader identified."



Margo discarded this notion once it became apparent that the "readers" held opinions vastly at odds with her own.


"When [Pauline] Hanson made her maiden speech in September 1996, I was chief of staff at the Herald Canberra bureau, and unsuccessfully argued that her speech should not be reported at all. I also had a personal policy of refusing to speak to Hansons then adviser, John Pasquerelli, and not to write news stories about Hanson or her party. I even quietly cheered when watching violent protests at formation meetings of One Nation."



To use a Margoism, try to "get your head around" this: She's a senior journalist. She hears a speech in Parliament that is clearly front-page news. Her first impulse is to censor it. Moreover, she is happy to see people physically attacked for expressing their views. And she kept her job.


"Since the President of the United States is a symbolic figure embodying a vast and complicated nation, how bad is it that Bush could win the White House but lose the popular vote?"



Not bad at all, as it turns out.


"If Bush wins and the economy falters, how about Hillary for president next time round? I'm bored being depressed about the state of the world: it's much more fun to imagine a silver lining."



Margo thinks a faltering economy – which means, among other things, people losing their jobs – is a "silver lining". It's fun to imagine what colour the sky is in Margo's world.


"How much would you pay, if anything, to access this web page? It's cost is basically my salary plus the technical and back-up resources of the paper. Say no advertising was allowed on my page. The annual budget would be, say $450,000, allowing for a reasonable return on capital. Say about 5,000 people visited this site, about the same number as bought my book,. Would you be willing to pay $90 a year to subscribe? A big advantage, again, is that subscribers would ‘own’ the site in a very direct way, and thus have enormous power to help shape its content. Subscribers would have confidence that the space is independent, because it would not be in the papers interests to compromise the site. I could even envisage a 'contract' with subscribers, including guaranteed access to critique the site, and a transparent accountability system.

"My guess is that the answer to these questions would be no. So what value does the public place on independent quality journalism?"



Margo defines herself as "independent quality journalism". This bizarre payment idea, by the way, apparently leapt into Margo's mind on the strength of 9,000 unique visits per month – just 300 per day.


"I, for one, now believe that Hanson's scream from the margins had several positive benefits, including forcing the powerful to acknowledge the suffering of the losers from globalisation and trying to assist them join the party."



In 1996 Margo wanted Hanson crushed. Now she begins the first baby steps towards full-blown Hansonism.

To be continued ...

2.13.2002

GREAT UNSOLICITED EMAIL. This arrived today. You may fault it for various reasons, but there's no denying it's more interesting and informative than promises to "increase your penis size naturally!"

One phrase - "the constant grinding process" - stands out. It could be the title of a journalist's autobiography.


Dear Sir,

My name is Chen Hua, and I'm writing on behalf of the
China-Lutong mechanical company. Located in the south east
of China, we specialize in hydraulic heads for the VE
distributor pump.

We can supply standard, good quality units at a very
competitive price.

We use precision forging technology to create our products
and surface treat them using an imported shot-blasting machine.
The constant grinding process guarantees identical clearance
in each plunger.

Because we have been in the field of diesel fuel injection
systems for quite a few years, we are acquainted with many
domestic manufacturers of, and sales agents for, parts such as
injector nozzles, plungers, delivery valves and so on.

If you are interested in our products, please contact me. Thank
you for your interest in our company.

C.Hua

TRANSPLANTED NEW YORK journalist James Morrow has become obsessed with the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Conversations with him are dominated by the program, which lately has developed a curious sub-plot involving Grigori the refugee. This is, as best I can recall it, our discussion during last evening's visit to the Nelson Hotel:


James: Grigori might be sent home, where he will be killed.

Me: So, what are his options?

James: He doesn't have any! No other country wants him. He either stays in Ramsey Street or he dies.

Me: Why doesn't Grigori get some sympathetic journalist to write about his ordeal?

James: Grigori isa journalist. That's one of the reasons he's in all this trouble.

Me: You've been following this pretty closely, haven’t you?

James: Every day at 6.30pm. I never miss it.

Me: It's a pity you didn’t arrive here years ago. You could have seen all the early episodes.

James: I have! They show those at 3.30pm.



James is raising a newborn infant in this environment. Little Nick's first word is likely to be "Grigori".

DESTINED for the Bleedingly Obvious Headline Hall of Fame – where it will feature alongside the New York Times' famous "Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction" – is this screamer from today's Sydney Daily Telegraph:

"Spies Broke Rules".

MARK STEYN'S latest National Post column describes lunch in the company of a viciously rude Dame Vera Lynn and cigarette fiend Princess Margaret:


"According to the obituaries, she was a 30-a-day gal. By my reckoning, she got through a good couple of dozen over lunch. By the time Vera Lynn sent back the fish and asked them to bring her some chicken, Her Highness had had at least three. By the time Dame Vera sent back the chicken, telling the waiter 'This is inedible,' Her Highness had had maybe six or seven. By the time Dame Vera remarked to me that 'the colour of your jacket is making me nauseous', Her Highness was on her second pack. She smoked between mouthfuls, she smoked between gulps, she smoked between cigarettes."



Very kindly, Steyn also mentions this site. Much appreciated.

THE New York Observer's Philip Weiss recently visited Australia, and hated the place:


"Racism is a great Australian tradition, and one that has been thriving even as Australian actors make their homes in the States. Once, famously, Australia had a whites-only immigration policy ('Two Wongs don't make a white' was the saying), and though that policy has been renounced for 30 years, it lingers on in subtle ways. Australia is the whitest place I’ve been in a long time, the whitest place in the English-speaking world. Even hip districts, like St. Kilda in Melbourne, are all white. This is in stark contrast to neighbor New Zealand, which has made a concerted effort to honor Maori place names and Maori pronunciation, and whose leading city, Auckland, is a city of the world, with Asians and Maoris everywhere."



My response is published in today's Australian.

2.12.2002

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

Andrew Sullivan: Newsflash – London is cold and grey, and the papers are whiny; bipolar Princess Margaret; one is pleased, what; Carville turned down Enron cash

Glenn Reynolds: Enron isn't a call for more regulation; Dubya the human rights czar; the UN's latest attempt at self-demolition; Al Gore revival signalled; Blog parody popular; back in the studio

Matt Welch: Friedman vs anti-Semitism

Rand Simberg: Dubya's di Caprio unawareness

Virginia Postrel: Bring back the USSR to make Olympics fun; corporations funding their own destruction; Reason recommended; email can embarrass

Ken Layne: Writing books

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Gore is gone, at least until 2008; provoking the Sammy's Data collective

James Lileks: Freedom! Sweet, intoxicating freedom!; Maxim moistness; Cosmo code words; magazine madness; confrontations with Young People; addressed as "dude"; the magic of The Melody; buy The Melody now!

Iain Murray: Privatised monoliths forget they ain't monoliths no more; not hot for teacher; what do doctors know?; defining fascism

Bill Quick: Palestinians in death dance; bitter Dems learn nothing from history; planning a SF blogger counter-fest; Bush's halo effect; who cares about Sex And The City?

Christopher Johnson: Welcome, Emily


James Morrow: "Let's roll" subject to dopey postmodern analysis; Neighbours clamber aboard the sinking refugee ship; give everyone an Olympic gold medal; Thatcher's enduring wisdom

Early one mornin' the sun was shinin',

I was layin' in bed

Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all

If her hair was still red.

Her folks they said our lives together

Sure was gonna be rough
They never did like Mama's homemade dress

Blog Watch IIIwasn't long enough.

And I was standin' on the side of the road

Rain fallin' on my shoes

Heading out for the East Coast

Lord knows I've paid some dues gettin' through,

Readin’ Blog Watch II

MAYBE Princess Margaret wasn't such a wicked party gal after all.

A Reuters report – forwarded by elite London-based international lawyer Gillian Lyons, who has sometimes forced herself to investigate smoking and drinking for purely professional reasons – quotes a friend of the Princess denying her alleged lifelong fondness for wild living:


"It always used to irritate me that whenever there were any sort of cartoons depicting her that somehow she was always attached to a bottle of Famous Grouse (whisky) and a cigarette holder and a packet of cigarettes, when for many years she neither smoked nor drank," Lady Elizabeth Shakerley told BBC television.



Of course, being Reuters, that paragraph is followed almost immediately by this:


"In the end, a diminished Margaret lived in a semi-twilight world, robbed of her film star looks and dogged by ill health after a life of heavy smoking, drinking and partying."



Looks to me like they're calling Lady Elizabeth a liar. She should sue.

2.11.2002

CONTRARY to my assertion several posts below, it seems that left-wing bloggers are at least as plentiful as Irish porn; perhaps they are even as abundant as Scottish porn.

And they're increasing in number even as we speak. Scoobie Davis writes:


"I'm center/left and my blog is still under construction, but you'll probably be hearing about me if you follow American politics. There are a few bombshells that I'm sitting on. Just thought you'd like to know."



Thanks for the warning, Scoob. Reader Aaron Dickey tracked down another of the lefto-bloggo persuasion:


"There is at least one other left-wing blog:
Xymphora. And it's far more amusing than Westerby, because Xymphora's not just a leftist, he's a lefty conspiracy theorist. He also operates completely anonymously, as I suppose you would have to when you're the only one willing to print The Truth about Bush, bin Laden and the Carlyle Group. He doesn't even have an email link."



Devilishly secretive Xymphora may be, but Aaron found a way inside the Xymphora fortress:


"According to his non-password-protected stats page (oops), he gets a whopping 20-40 hits per day, about a quarter of which seem to be the same user reloading the page over and over."



Aaron's theory as to why the left-wing bloggers aren't as numerous or visible as bloggers on the Right is concise and cogent:


"In short, who the fuck wants to be Ted Rall without at least getting Ted
Rall's paychecks?"



As was I, Aaron uses the term "left-wing" in its Euro-Brit-Australian sense, which means something closer to socialism than to US left-liberalism. Dan Hartung correctly points out that there are any number of left-wing bloggers out there if you use an American definition of "left-wing". My error; I should remember to keep these distinctions clear:


"The early blog community was most definitely overwhelmingly liberal. The first major blogger, long before the journalists entered the fray, was Jorn Barger's Robotwisdom.com. (Others preceded him -- and really, the idea of an updated link list goes back to Justin Hall's links.net in 1993-94, but his is the first that best matches the description.) The majority of voices in the first 100 bloggers were typical post-college public-radio-listening globalization-is-bad liberals. The first major community site to come out of the blogging world, Metafilter.com, is a hornet's nest of liberal shibboleths. (I should know, I used to spout most of them.)

"Two of the most respected liberal names in the core weblog community are Rebecca’s Pocket and Ethel the Blog. I should probably mention my college pal at The Tomb of Horrors even though he isn't exceptionally well known. A few more moderate voices are Now This, BookNotes and Follow Me Here."



Fred Lapides, himself a liberal blogger, wants liberal numbers culled:


"There are too many liberal blogs! I run a few blogs, am fairly liberal (fairly meaning not radical) and note that the blogs I visit daily are very predictable in what they will post and comment upon. If you think American blogs are not mostly liberal, I would be glad to send you the names of a number of them.

"As for Fisk: a total waste product, from what I have read of him."



Robert Fisk: uniting liberals and conservatives since September 2001! Brian Linse, who knows a thing or two about Irish porn as well as liberal politics, mused on the left/liberal, right/evil distinctions in post-September 11 politics, and asked:


"Am I not a 'Left-Winger' anymore?

"I mean, I'd do time for the chance to pummel Fisk in such a way that he'd wish he were being mugged by Islamists again instead of meeting me. Yet, I don't personally know anyone more liberal than myself. So ... maybe the term 'Left-Wing' doesn't mean what it used to mean in those innocent days before 9/11? Prior to September 11th, I didn't really give much thought to the fact that the Chomskys, Sontags, and Fisks of the world were all lumped in with a standard issue 'bleeding heart liberal' such as myself. Which is kind of strange when you consider that most conservatives actually have more in common with their fringe wackos than most liberals do …

"So what does this all mean? I think it's safe to say that it means that it's time for conservatives to stop tying to paint all Liberals with the same brush that they use for the guys who are really out where the buses don't run.

"For me, the political spectrum is like a clock. At 12, you have moderate republicans rubbing elbows with economically conservative democrats. As you move to the right (clockwise), you get progressively more conservative, and to the left (counterclock) progressively more liberal.

"At six o'clock, you're a fascist asshole no matter how you got there."



We might need to codify a new poli-language to erase confusion over this, but for now I'll use "left" to describe the more doctrinaire, Marxy type of (generally) British lefties, and "liberal" to describe liberals: people who don't want to overthrow capitalism but would prefer to see more of it regulated or placed under government control.

In private, of course, I reserve the right to call all of them commies.

BREAKING THE SILENCE: War, propaganda and the new empire. John Pilger speaks at the Sydney Town Hall on Friday 1st March at 8 pm. Guarantee your seats. Book now. Bookings: Sydney (02) 9690 1977 or 1800 634 206

I'll be there. I love stand-up comedy.

EU COMMISSIONER CHRIS F. PATTEN vs. US GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON:

PATTEN: "I don't know but I think it's very dangerous when you start taking up absolutist positions and simplistic positions."

PATTON: "Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed."

PATTEN: "There is more to be said for trying to engage and to draw these societies into the international community than to cut them off."

PATTON: "We're not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches. We're going to rip out their living goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks."

PATTEN: "However mighty you are, even if you're the greatest superpower in the world, you cannot do it all on your own."

PATTON: "We have the finest food, the finest equipment, the best spirit, and the best men in the world. Why, by God, I actually pity those poor sons-of-bitches we're going up against. By God, I do."

PATTEN: "We have realised that we have to tackle the root causes of terrorism and violence."

PATTON: "The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home."

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

Andrew Sullivan: Conservative leader too lifeless for wax museum; Bono turns crucial corner; inhumane non-Gitmo prisons; resister Greenberg continues to resist; Joseph Epstein's insult du jour; Kansas lust ends gets 17-year sentence

Glenn Reynolds: PunditWatch is live!; Wash Post editorial misses point; Czechs win gold medal for flag enthusiasm; 1.6-kilometre aircraft flightdeck exists, according to The Observer; Pepsi v Death; Foster's, Victoria Bitter part of formative Reynolds years; Heffermania

Matt Welch: Frugal travel tips for the filthy rich; bring down trade walls for the sake of the poor; jittery Saddam may be about to cut a deal; happy birthday, semi-anonymous Rallying Point dude; to hell with the Olympics; ten years ago in Prague

Bjørn Stærk: The fabled funny hat returns tomorrow, after Saudi infiltration is complete

Ken Layne: Journey to DC never actually makes it to DC; Wiccan ice-fest opens Winter Games

Shiloh Bucher: Worthless cough cure does absolutely nothing; Reuters confused, again; supercats save the day; chicken fat technology will put those Saudis in their place

Will Vehrs and Tony Adragna: Tony taunts the mighty IOC; praise for Joshua Micah Marshall; Greta van Facelift chewed up, spat out by Dick Morris; Byrd v O'Neill warfare spreads

James Lileks: Controversial Shakespeare features no rap, global warming, or anti-capitalism themes; thinking about clarinets; remembering a friend; the Macarena returns

James Lileks in Print: Gargantuan diner deal drains brain; inspirational/comic work posters savaged

Iain Murray: Moved to tears over Margaret; rambling imbeciles

Juan Gato: "American On Board" replaces suction-cup Garfield as choice car decoration; precious print media begs for relevance; pre-emptive Patten strike

Bill Quick: Today's letter writer links Bush with Barnum; conventional non-wisdom on Vietnam

Rallying Point: Polygamy OK by me; civilisation v environmentalism; learn to love your inner egomaniac; NPR must change or die

Christopher Johnson: EU commences futile Middle East meddling; Chris Patten put through MCJ evisceration machine

James Morrow: United Arab Emirates holds beauty contest for camels; seriously; go to Morrow's site if you don't believe me; I'm not making this up; in non-camel news, NYT writer's book attacks Bush the Rube; get retarded to get into college; Maureen Dowd – hey, we're back on to camels again – writes something even less legible then usual

Blog Watch, Blog Watch

Watcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Blog Watch, Blog Watch

Watcha gonna do, watcha gonna do when they come for you?

2.10.2002

PRINCESS MARGARET has died at 71. The press was quick to identify her killer:


"A heavy smoker for many years, she suffered repeated respiratory illnesses and had part of a lung removed in January 1985."

"A heavy smoker and drinker, Margaret will best be remembered for relinquishing true love in her youth, turning her back on a dashing divorced air force officer when protocol dictated that a princess could not marry a divorced man."

"A heavy smoker most of her life, keen on whisky, gin and luxuries, a party creature -- she led a glamorous, rather turbulent life, to the extent that she was described by some as the 'black sheep' of the royal family."

"A heavy smoker for many years, Margaret's health had been failing in recent decades and she had suffered at least two strokes."

"In the '60s and '70s, Margaret became somewhat of a jet-setter, attending parties and becoming a heavy smoker and drinker."

"After more than 50 years of heavy smoking and drinking, Princess Margaret's final years were dogged with ill health. The stroke she suffered yesterday afternoon, a day before she died, was her third since 1998 … During her life, she suffered migraines, laryngitis, bronchitis, hepatitis and pneumonia. In 1985, she suffered a cancer scare but was eventually given the all-clear after tissue taken from her left lung proved to be benign. This did not stop her smoking; nor did the fact that four monarchs - Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII and the Princess's own father, George VI - died of smoking-related illnesses. Within months of the biopsy operation she was smoking 30 cigarettes a day."

"She had been a heavy smoker, consuming 60 a day through an elegant, long holder. And she liked whisky and gin."



Compare this condemnation of the Princess's lifestyle choices with coverage of Linda McCartney's death. McCartney died in 1998 at 56, 15 years younger than the boozy, smoky Royal:


"She was a photographer. A member of the 1970s band Wings. A vegetarian activist. In the statement released Sunday, Paul asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to cancer-research and animal-welfare charities. Or, he suggested, if you really want to offer a tribute to his wife, 'Go veggie.'"

"Her passions for very personal brands of environmentalism, animal welfare and vegetarianism sometimes seemed quirky, but were obviously sincere and deeply-felt. Her courage in confronting her illness demanded widespread admiration."

"If her conversion to vegetarianism - shared by her husband and family - was once seen as a fashionable fad, it became an article of faith … She said she was converted in vegetaranianism while on the family farm in Scotland with her husband and three daughters. They had watched lambs gambolling outside. Inside they contemplated their lunchtime leg of lamb. Something cracked. 'God,' she thought, 'we're eating one of their legs'."

"A committed vegetarian, she promoted the cause extensively and the couple ran a successful business, Mac Vege Ltd, providing prepared vegetarian dishes."

"When Linda McCartney died of breast cancer, I felt betrayed. She was the first person I was aware of who was a vegetarian, long before it was in vogue. Linda McCartney was inexorably linked in my mind with a healthy life style, and she certainly had access to the best medical care available. For her to have died of breast cancer was inconceivable, and frightening."

"Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer in April at age 56, was remembered by friends and family as a loving soul, a talented photographer and proud vegetarian and animal rights activist."



The double standard is impossible to avoid. A smoker dies at 71, and cigarettes are the obvious cause. A vegetarian dies at 56, and, well, that's just the luck of the draw. Could've happened to anyone.

Curiously, at the time of her death few mainstream news outlets noted Linda McCartney's lifelong fondness for marijuana. She’d been arrested for carrying some in 1972, and again in 1975. In 1984 she said she was still a user. In 1996, it was reported that McCartney smoked marijuana to relieve the pain of her chemotherapy treatment.

This wasn't mentioned in the obituaries. Being a plant-eater covers a multitude of sins.