TED RALL IS A (UNINTELLIGIBLE): Here's an edited transcript of evasive, gutless, dirt-eating cartoonist Ted Rall's encounter with Fox's Bill O'Reilly:

BILL O'REILLY: Take a look at this political cartoon by Ted Rall. It's called "Terror Widows," and it mocks, at least some people think it does, some of the women who received money after 9/11. The cartoon even mocks the widow of Daniel Pearl.

With us now is the author of it, Ted Rall.

Wow, one of the windows in the cartoon we just — we can put it back up for a moment, we just show you, you have, "Of course it's terrible that my husband got his throat slashed, but the worst is, I didn't have anybody to watch the Olympics with."

Ted? What is that — why did you do that? I mean, what is that supposed to be?

TED RALL: Well, Bill, you're taking one panel out of a six-panel cartoon, and...

O'REILLY: Yes, I know.

RALL: ... separating it. But this is a complete work. You have to read the whole thing...

O'REILLY: Well, the whole thing, it's...

RALL: ... or you can't understand (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY: ... all of the stuff is almost as bad in every panel. I mean, it — you know — I mean, I could read the whole thing, and it's mocking the — seems to be mocking the widows of people who were killed by the terrorists. I mean...

RALL: Well, it — you're right and you're wrong. It's mocking a tiny, tiny percentage of them. Now, 99.99 percent of the widows of the people who lost the — who lost friends and relatives in 9/11 obviously have been behaving in a completely dignified way. They're mourning their dead, our hearts go out to them, obviously. I myself have contributed money to the Red Cross and donated art to raise money for them. Our hearts are — my heart's in the right place. The entire cartooning community is in the same place.

But as we both know, there's a certain small number of people who've been running around, doing the rounds on the networks, and they're not even — they're not particularly interested in memorializing their dead, they're more interested in raising money, promoting a religious agenda, or even a partisan political agenda.

O'REILLY: All right.

RALL: And we know — you know that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

O'REILLY: Yes, but, I mean, you...


O'REILLY: ... all five of your panels here dealing with individual women are mocking them, and the Daniel Pearl thing, you say, OK, you took that one example, but that's an egregious example. I mean, as far as I know, Mrs. Pearl, pregnant eight months, isn't a venal person. Why would you do that?

RALL: Well, honestly, I thought, you know, I was inspired by a number of examples, and before it came out that, in fact, it was confirmed that her husband had been murdered in Pakistan, I thought that she was — that she had been — my heart went out to her, everybody's did. And afterwards, I was, I think, like many Americans astonished that she was on television at all.

I know myself, if I were killed, I don't think my wife would be doing — would be here on the show...

O'REILLY: ... she didn't do it to ask for money or anything, she just said her husband's a hero, and, you know, she admired his courage. What did she say that offended you, or thought that...

RALL: It's not, it's not about — you know, I mean, I wasn't out to attack her or...

O'REILLY: But you did, you did, you attacked her.


O'REILLY: And...

RALL: Not by name, and it's really an amalgamation...

O'REILLY: Oh, come on.

RALL: They're supposed to make you think. This cartoon makes you think.

O'REILLY: ... this cartoon did make me think. It made me think that you were a jerk.

At the very least. Don't you love that line of Rall's about how his wife would be so upset by his death she wouldn't be able to appear on television? And the implication that Daniel Pearl's widow was notupset by her husband's murder?

What a sick bastard Ted Rall is. He should be sent to Pakistan so we can test this wife/TV theory of his.

THE latest Fox column is alive and pulsing.

THE FIRST THREE paragraphs of this Sydney Morning Herald piece tell a fine story:

"Australian special forces troops in Afghanistan have been in intense firefights with al-Qaeda forces and played a crucial role in the rescue of Americans whose helicopter came under attack, it was disclosed yesterday.

"Amid snow and sub-zero temperatures, the fighting has been the fiercest that Australians have been involved in since the Vietnam War.

"As the first picture of the elite Australians troops involved in the fighting was released, Brigadier Duncan Lewis, Commander Special Forces, said yesterday that they had been responsible for large numbers of enemy deaths by calling in US air strikes."

The fourth paragraph reveals the media's true agenda:

"In response to media questioning, Brigadier Lewis said there was 'no evidence' to suggest that the Australians had called in any air strikes which had resulted in civilian deaths."


BLUMENTHAL INDICTED ON CHILD PORN CHARGE ... Naughty Matthew Drudge. That explosive headline on his site leads you not to an item on notorious Clintonista and Drudge foe Sidney Blumenthal, but to this:

"A former Long Beach Little League administrator is facing federal child pornography charges, according to the FBI. Signal Hill police and FBI agents arrested Laurent Blumenthal Tuesday after he was indicted on charges of possession of child pornography."

WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA, NY FIREFIGHTERS! From today's Sydney Morning Herald:

"A group of New York firefighters and police officers received a hero's welcome in Sydney today, six months after terrorist attacks claimed the lives of hundreds of their workmates.

"Twenty-six emergency workers and their families have been invited to holiday in Australia to try to unwind after their harrowing ordeal at the frontline of the airborne attacks on the World Trade Centre on September 11.

"Hundreds of people gathered at Sydney Airport applauded as the New Yorkers began their week-long holiday courtesy of Australian tourism operators.

"NSW Premier Bob Carr welcomed the emergency services officers to Sydney, saying Australians were united in their battle against terrorism.

"'We suffered as we saw you suffer,' Mr Carr said."

IN this transcript of Bill Maher's inaccurately titled Politically Incorrect, US television void Howie Mandel identifies a new Evil Axis:

"I think that America and – no offense – but Britain and Australia, that's the axis of gluttony."

It's worth reading, just to sympathise with conservative columnist Betsy Hart as she battles three airheads out to blame the West for, well, everything.

APPARENTLY SOME FOLKS are enduring a recession. Not us, as The Australian reports:

"Barely 12 months after Australia looked in danger of sliding into recession, the economy is surging back to boomtime conditions and the nation's growth rate is pulling ahead of the rest of the developed world.

"The economy grew 1.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2001, business investment is now kicking in behind persistently strong consumer spending, house prices have registered their biggest yearly rise since the 1980s property boom and the sharemarket touched a new record yesterday."

RICHARD ACKLAND, the only semi-tolerable presenter of the ABC's Media Watch program, weighs in on the Mayne-Price legal debacle.

THESE AREN'T HUNGER STRIKES – THEY'RE DIETS: Detainees at the Woomera detention centre have begun new hunger strikes after unplanned eating outbreaks ended previous hunger strikes.

Something similar is happening at Guantanamo Bay, where prisoners have engaged in "rolling" hunger strikes. That's when you're on a hunger strike until it's your turn to eat something.

IN A RECENT POST, the InstantMan mentioned some media responses to Blog humiliation:

"People have emailed me to say that the venomous Ted Rall cartoon making fun of 9/11 widows has been removed from the NYT site, no doubt in response to Charles Johnson's campaign. And someone said that the Olive Garden piece that James Lileks savaged so beautifully is mysteriously missing from The Guardian. Reportedly, you can still find it with a keyword search for 'Olive Garden,' but it no longer shows up among Matthew Engel's columns, with a noticeable gap where it should be. The power of the Blogosphere in action!"

Add one more: a few weeks ago I noted various wretched errors in a Philip Weiss hatchet piece on Australia written for the New York Observer. Several bloggers linked to the item, which had this effect: Weiss's article was quickly removed from the NY Ob's archives.

HOLY MARY ROBINSON is "worried greatly" by anti-Arab sentiment in the West:

Xenophobia against Arabs and Muslims living in the West following the Sept. 11 terror attacks needs to be combated, the UN human rights chief said in Beirut Wednesday. "What I underestimated is the extent of the kind of broad prejudice and xenophobia that now manifests itself," Mary Robinson told reporters. "It worries me greatly and everything must be done to combat it."

The level of Holy Mary's worry about anti-Western sentiment in Arab nations is unknown, probably because a device capable of measuring such tiny emotional elements is yet to be invented. The best modern science has so far come up with is this $4 trillion subatomic particle detector, designed to locate Robinson's value as a human being.


"GEORGE Bush's decision to impose tariffs and quotas on steel imports is a hypocritical, self-defeating, dangerous, discriminatory, economically damaging, kneejerk reaction to domestic political pressures. It's also shocking timing for world trade liberalisation, a slap in the face for Australia, another case of supposed free-traders supplying ammunition to enemies of globalisation and a reckless snub to America's allies in the war against terrorism. It denies American confidence in its ability to create a new economy by shifting know-how, capital and labour out of old, uncompetitive industries."

That's from Thursday's editorial in The Australian. I'm inclined to agree. Hell, after Dubya's decision on steel tariffs, I'm inclined to change my name to Usama Tim Laden, buy a Tora Bora condo, and join Al Qaeda.

More about this in my Fox News column, available early Friday in the US.

STEPHEN MAYNE is finally out of trouble, but he's also out of money. The Australian politics 'n' business web-writer, whose Crikey.com.au site is one of the few on earth to turn a profit, ended a 15-month defamation trial yesterday by agreeing to pay his victim $50,000.

That's the cost for running an item which incorrectly alleged that radio personality Steve Price had done something wrong. (The allegations weren't exactly in the Blumenthal league, but they won't be repeated here, for fear my own massive wealth will be depleted by the litigious Mr Price. Australia's defamation laws are killers.)

The contentious item was read by perhaps a few hundred people before Mayne yanked it from his site. The poor guy didn't even write it; the Price allegations were in an article written by a pesky Melbourne cab driver, Raymond Hoser, which Mayne posted without careful examination.

Dumb move, especially with anything by Hoser. A quick look at his website will give you an idea why. He and Mayne are now savage enemies, which is no great loss to Mayne, certainly compared to the loss of his house, which he has sold to cover his legal bills and payment to Price.

Now, about Price … leaving aside the matter of journalists suing journalists, which is graceless and weird, Price took this action – at a cost to himself of $150,000 – to restore his reputation. But has his reputation been restored? Most journalists I've spoken to today believe the opposite.

BITE-sized item by me in Thursday's Australian.

A READER sends some advice Archbishop Peter Hollingworth's way: act like Bill Clinton and you'll beat the rap! Both Bill and Governor-General Hollingworth have recently faced audiences in Australia. They fared a little differently, as our reader notes:

"Is it just me, or is there something strange about people applauding Bill Clinton while demanding that Peter Hollingworth be sacked? A head of state accused of serial sexual offences up to and including rape, who is almost certainly a perjurer, and they give him a standing ovation; a bishop who mishandled allegations of sexual abuse by others and they call for his head.

"The Governor-General should have looked down the lens, waggled his finger and said, 'Ahh did not say those things about that woman, girl, whatever', and then dashed off to meetings with blacks, the poor, women, children, pulled the saxophone out of the cupboard, good strong grip on the bible as he goes to a breakfast prayer meeting with Patrick Dodson, express concern for the asylum seekers, rural poor, gays, etc."

Hey, it could work. Especially if he can convince Ann Hollingworth to appear on TV and blame the whole episode on a "vast right-wing conspiracy."

WHY DOES THIS SITE TAKE SO LONG TO LOAD? It's all due to a hack assault on the Bravenet people, who supply the hit counter used here. They've had to shut down their web service, so the page gets confused and upset when it tries to connect to Bravenet, which it can't do, not for now, anyway.

Shortcut to quick loading: after a few seconds, just hit the stop button. Words will magically appear.

Oh, the reason Blog Watch hasn't been seen here lately? It's all because of the Bravenet problem. Yes, that's it. Blog Watch will return soon.

TAM DALYELL IS A GIBBERING LUNATIC: So writes reader Ross F., about the Scottish MP beloved by the Australia media for his anti-US views. Ross continues:

"Dalyell is not merely anti-American, he is also anti-British too. After the Falklands conflict he made a career of denouncing Mrs Thatcher over sinking the Belgrano.

"He claims that she started the war in order to boost her ratings and then ordered the Belgrano to be torpedoed in order to sabotage peace talks. If you check out this website you will see an elaborate Dalyell conspiracy theory regarding Thatcher, the Belgrano and some murdered anti-nuclear protester."

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUDDHA! The 1,700-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban last year will be replaced with new replica Buddhas, if UNESCO plans are successful.

Apparently there is massive support within Afghanistan for the plan, which could take four years and cost $50 million. According to Forbes, helpful Buddha blueprints exist:

"Highly detailed photogrammetric measurements of the largest 53-metre statue were taken in 1970 by Austrian specialist, Robert Kostka. Other data was gathered by Professor Takayasu Higuchi of Kyoto University in the 1980s. It should therefore be possible to reconstruct the statues so that they would appear virtually indistinguishable from the lost originals."


ASSAULT WITH A TWISTY WEAPON: The Minneapolis Star Tribune's account of a George W. Bush visit to the state covers the usual territory, including type and number of protesters:

"Across the street from the Minneapolis Hilton, about 200 anti-war protesters chanted, waved signs and banged drums. Down the block were about three dozen clean-energy advocates.

"Among the anti-war banners was 'Killing Killers Makes You A Killer.' The chants included, 'Two, four, six, eight, down with the police state.'"

Great work, dissidents! Then follows this intriguing information:

"The protests produced one odd piece of street theater. A few demonstrators tossed pretzels into the air, mocking Bush's awkward encounter with one in January as he watched a football game on TV.

"Minneapolis police arrested two of the pretzel wielders. When a police supervisor was asked what charges would be brought against the pair, he cracked, 'It's got to be a felony. You could have called it attempted murder.'"

Arrested … for throwing pretzels? How big were these pretzels? Had the pretzel-edges been honed to a deadly razor sharpness? Were they Semtex pretzels? What is the fate of the Pretzel Two? And how cool is the supervisor to come up with that answer?

THE AUSTRALIAN'S Alan Wood nails enviro-propagandists:

"Most young Australians, like most young people in the West today, know the planet is in peril, its ecosystems collapsing, global warming about to engulf us, poverty and inequality spreading and globalisation making everything worse. How do they know? Because they are subjected to a great deal of propaganda that tells them so."

MORE EVIDENCE, if evidence be needed, that record companies are not your friend.

THE BBC has published a story about global warming, Tuvalu, and Australia. Here's the BBC's piece, with clarifying sarcastic punctuation added:

Australian legal "experts" have warned the government to take "seriously" a "challenge" by the tiny island "nation" of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is "under threat" of "sinking" if sea levels rise due to "climate change" - and "could be" washed away within 50 years.

Its "Prime Minister", Koloa Talake, has announced that Tuvalu and two other island "nations", Kiribati and Maldives, plan to take "legal" action against major "polluting" countries.

Australia would be a major target of action in the International Court of "Justice", he said.

Mr Talake, speaking to "reporters" at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Coolum, Australia, was "disputing" scientific studies that suggest there has as yet been no discernible rise in sea levels.

[Tuvalu] has already hired two "law" firms to look into taking action against those considered most liable for the "greenhouse gases" blamed for "global warming".

Australia Institute executive director Clive Hamilton said Tuvalu's "threat" was a "drastic measure", but one that highlighted how "desperate" the country "felt".

The United States and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which "aims" to "reduce" "humanity's influence" on "the climate".

The United States has drawn up an alternative climate-change programme, supported by Australia but strongly opposed by "environmental" groups.

A GREAT WHITE SHARK has invaded Sydney Harbour. In related news, I've just seen a preview of Ken Layne's Fox News column due to be posted today. If you're a Los Angeles Democratic candidate, you might prefer an encounter with Sydney's genial sea-beast.

DID ANYONE go see John Pilger speak at Sydney Town Hall last Friday night? File your reports here, please.

YOU know how joggers claim to get an endorphin high from their shambling, semi-running activity? It generally kicks in right before the heart attack. Well, I get the same deal from driving. Lots of people do.

It isn't always fun. Today's session was interrupted by Tam Dalyell, the Scottish Labour MP who's been a parliamentarian since the wheel was invented. Old Tam hates US military action, so he's a constant guest on Australian ABC radio, to which I was tragically tuned. The grizzly, slack-jawed kilter declared the West's efforts in Afghanistan a failure and denounced Tony Blair's support for US attacks on Iraq.

We've heard it all before, Tam. Offered up haggis-sized softballs by his ABC inquisitor, the Tamster was cheerily swatting them out of the park when he volunteered this information:

"I'm not anti-American, you know. In fact, I'm a distant relative of Harry S Truman."

Which might go some way towards disproving the Theory of Evolution. Imagine if it'd been Dalyellow in the hot seat in 1945; faced with the task of ending World War II, Tammy would've frozen in fright. He should be forced to surrender his (petite-sized) sporran.

I was about to rip the radio from the dash and throw it out the window when a Ferrari – symbol of Western technological and artistic superiority – howled by. Rule One of Australian highway driving: hide behind the fast guy. Let him soak up the police radar.

Of course, I couldn't stay with the red machine; I lost touch with Ferrari-man at about 170 kmh. Tam Dalyell, meanwhile, has simply lost it.

STEPHEN MAYNE'S Crikey.com.au has a fantastic list of on-air media mistakes.


WHO CARES WHAT EUROPEANS THINK? Charles Krauthammer hammers the Krauts, Frogs, and Limeys:

"We are in a war of self-defense. It is also a war for Western civilization. If the Europeans refuse to see themselves as part of this struggle, fine. If they wish to abdicate, fine. We will let them hold our coats, but not tie our hands."

"IT'S THE AUSTRALIAN WAY," said a spectator as Mark Webber vaulted from 18th to eighth after a first-corner crash wiped out a dozen faster cars in Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Webber didn't quite manage to equal Steven Bradbury's Olympic gold medal – he eventually finished fifth, scoring two world championship points – but it remains an astonishing performance, more so when you realise Webber's car was seriously sick from very early in the race.

Some things you only notice when you're away from the press box. I was at turn four on the Albert Park circuit, and as the race developed heard Webber changing up a gear at progressively earlier points. He was protecting a faulty differential, as it turned out. A lesser driver, or one whose mechanical sympathy wasn't so acute, wouldn't have made it to the end of the race.

(This is impressive: Webber's fastest lap came with only six laps remaining, when he was under pressure from Mika Salo.)

He'll go a long way from here. The last Australian to score a point in a formula one race was 1980 world champion Alan Jones, at Monza in 1986; that season saw Jones collect a total of just four points. With some more Bradbury-style good fortune, combined with wily racecraft, Webber could well do better in 2002. He's halfway there already.

AUSTRALIA'S proud record as the world's most savage abuser of illegal immigrants – a title bestowed by our local media – is under threat. The upstart Spanish have launched a powerful bid:

"Spain's government systematically abuses illegal immigrants in crowded detention camps, confining them indoors for weeks or months, without contact with lawyers or family, and forcibly removing children, according to the group Human Rights Watch.

"In a damning report that provides rare evidence of human rights abuses within the EU, the group described conditions at two camps in the Canary Islands, where up to 500 detainees are forced to share a single unventilated room adequate for only 50."

A WHILE BACK, my sister Dianne underwent a routine pap smear. It revealed pre-cancerous cells. She's now recovering from an operation to discover whether she has anything worse to worry about.

(Any operation, by the way, is bad news for Dianne, a gifted athlete who shares George W. Bush's low blood-pressure condition. Strange, isn't it, how decades of exercise can deliver possibly negative health consequences.)

Early indications are good. Although Dianne is yet to receive the results from her operation, she at least survived the surgery ordeal. I'm betting on a happy outcome; Dianne is super fit and as tough as hell, with a pain threshold so high it would shame a marathon runner. Which Dianne is, come to think of it.

She's a freak of a gal, my sister. Dianne has inherited all the athletic abilities of my father, combined with my mother's terrifying bulldozer determination. Her two young daughters have the same qualities. It makes for fantastic family disputes; I'm constantly in danger of being beaten unconscious by angry women.

I'll post an update when the all clear is announced. Hopefully it will be soon.

FREE TRADE LEADS TO FREEDOM: Some wonks from the National Bureau of Economic Research have discovered that globalisation actually helps poor people. Specifically, it helps poor child-people.

Dartmouth University economists Eric Edmonds and Nina Pavnick examined the effects of globalisation on child labour in Vietnam's rice fields.

"We went in thinking that we would see big increases in child labor related to increases in money to be made," Edmonds told UPI. "But we were surprised to see the opposite."

This is what Edmonds and Pavnick discovered, according to UPI: when Vietnamese parents could make more from the sale of the grain they grew, or received higher wages when picking it themselves, they chose to keep their children out of the rice fields.

Which is kind of like what happens in first-world economies. Much of the anti-globo line is vaguely racist, and is based on a belief that uncaring parents in weaker economies will exploit their young to turn an extra dollar. The Dartmouth study smartly refutes this.

A WHOLE SLEW of environmentalists were made unhappy by my claim in last Friday's FoxBlog column that modern cars are a positive boon to the environment. A detailed response to their many emails will come next Friday. In the meantime, I'll be churning through 60 litres of premium grade on my way back to Sydney (with the roof down, of course; exhaust fumes aid the thinking process).


SOME people just can't pick a trend. Elizabeth Chapman, of Rochester, NY, attempted to get her son Justin into various smart-kid schools by making extravagant claims about the child's enormous brain.

The whole deal sounds like a first-season Simpsons episode. Mrs Chapman has now been exposed as a fraud, and her son is traumatised. What Elizabeth should have done, of course, is to make claims about how dopey and dysfunctional her boy was. Joanne Jacobs wrote about this last month in reference to a Berkeley plan to reward disadvantaged students with easier admissions.


"I love finding all these personal, individual voices speaking to me, instead of the pretended objectivity we're used to in the mass media and in most books we read. To me, blogs are liberating."

That's the opinion of Jill Walker, a researcher at the University of Norway's department of humanistic informatics and "one of the world's first blog experts", according to this piece in The Age.