THE LATEST Fox News column – which mentions Regis Philbin, Amr Moussa, Big Bird, and George Kurhadi, all in a shameless drive for enormous hits – is here.

I’M A REQUIREMENT! Polly Bush, one of Margo Kingston's several devout followers, believes that reaction to me is a criteria for membership of Margo's new Moron Militia. In the latest Webdiary, Polly lists her ...

Prospective Bleeding Hearts Club Requirements

1. Qualities:

- must have a heart therefore to bleed

- should have a high threshold for disappointment

- must be proud to declare bleeding heart status in own environment

- extra points for dry retching after reading anything by Tim Blair

Glad to be of help, stupid. In the same Webdiary entry, Margostan refugee Jack Robertson – who has now found safe haven at www.blogger.com – is quoted:

"I'm at jackrobertson these days. It may not be your cup of tea - without the leash, I've been lobbing bombs like a foaming nutter lately. (And I seem to have been being very rude to boomers, too.) But the blogosphere has been positively teeming with Tim Blairites while you've been away, and I was f...ed if I was about to just sit around getting sneered at."

How very odd. It was an encouraging e-mail from me that convinced Jack to stop sitting around being sneered at and to start his own blog in the first place. And this is the thanks I get! Speaking of which, two mentions on Webdiary and no links – what's the deal with that, Margo, you corporate tyrant censor bully ghoul monster? Trying to close down the small voices of independent media, eh?


DEBATE RAGES: Should we call them suicide bombers, homicide bombers, fragheads, Islamakazies, or splodeydopes?

Beats me. In the meantime, here are some other potential designations to consider:



And my personal choice: Palestinian separatists

WE'VE ENDURED the harsh Afghan winter. Now we can look forward to the happy Israeli summer. From Tal G's Jerusalem blog:

"It's going to be harder to carry out a suicide bombing now that summer is on the way. Wearing a jacket in late April looks pretty suspicious here."

CHRIS KERSTIENS on the name of the beast:

Uma, Osama. Usama, Oprah: I've noticed that saying "Usama" Bin Laden is back in vogue. Why can't we get some consensus on this? There's no agreement on the last name either. Most people like Bin-LAHden, but some still cling to Bin-LAYden, which calls to mind Jerry Lewis - Hey Bin LAYYYDEN!

I favour the Lewis option. As well, there is potentially some psy-ops benefit in giving the War on Terror a new, Professor Frink-derived title: Operation HOYven MAYven. Run in fear from Hoyven Mayven's deadly force, terrorist cave-bunnies!

TO THE sprawling plurality of Australian bloggers – which already includes anti-war bumblers, hot-tempered New Leftists, commie-insulting booze Hoovers (and insulted commies), punchy veteran journalists, thoughtful Adelaide cynics, pro-war ex-lefties, and politically-savvy football umpires – add one more: Martin Roth, the Australian Jesus Blogger. Welcome aboard, Martin. No swearing.

Meanwhile, excellent Oz blogger David Morgan reveals that he long ago urged the Spectator's Theodore Dalrymple to flee Britain for Australia, as Dalrymple – see post below – is now apparently planning to do. (For a self-described "elitist", Morgan has lately been seen in some strange, very non-elite company).

Anyone else running a political blog out of Australia, or anyone I've overlooked or forgotten, send information my way. Strength through diversity!

TERROR LOG: German authorities suspect al-Qaeda involvement in the Tunisian synagogue attack; a truck bomb has exploded in al-Qaeda infested Khost; 14 suspected al-Qaeda rabble have been arrested in Malaysia; and now a light aircraft has crashed into a 30-storey tower in Milan.

Fox news is reporting that the Milan crash appears to be an accident.

THE ARAB NEWS – nobody here but us fact-checkers – thinks Charles Krauthammer is a left-winger:

"What should we do about Saudi Arabia?" asks Sean Hannity, the right-wing extremist, on his syndicated radio show. He is frothing at the mouth … On the left, there is Charles Krauthammer, who decorates his syndicated columns with visceral headlines: "Saudi Peace Sham," "Arafat's Harvest of Hate," "Banish Arafat Now."

Coming soon in the Arab News: the world mourns the passing of vegetarian activist Dave Thomas, Steven Spielberg has a new book out, and President Chomsky's State of the Union speech is a big hit in Alabama.

LATEST column by me in The Australian. Richard Neville, Fiona Stewart, and – yes! – Margo Kingston are mocked.

AUSTRALIASTAN. Another Australian with ties to al Qaeda has been arrested, this time in Pakistan. That's four so far. Are we beating Canada? Who's keeping score?


JOHN PILGER'S return to The Daily Mirror (see post further down) reminds reader Ross Fitzgibbon of Conservative politician Ken Clarke's celebrated comment: "The Mirror is a paper read by morons."

Adds Ross: "Apparently it is now also written by morons."

JOHN SAFRAN interviewed me this morning on 3RRR about The Book, or at least my small contribution to it. The conversation ranged over various US, Australian, and Middle Eastern issues, and ended cheerily with my new radio interview sign-off: "Death to Hamas!"

(Safran knows a significant amount about Middle East tensions. A few years ago he ran naked through the streets of Jerusalem for a TV stunt, and was hauled away at gunpoint by hostile Israeli soldiers.)

Anyway, I figured that after I was off air the switchboards would ignite with angry anti-US, anti-Israel callers (3RRR is an "independent" "community" radio station, so attracts those types). But that didn't happen. An e-mail from Safran explains:

"Thanks for this morning. You'll be happy/disappointed to note that most of the calls we got were people asking for details of 'Blaming Ourselves' rather than antagonised pinkos. Oh well. Maybe chuck in a few Michael Moore fat jokes next time."

Consider it done. Next time I'll say "Death to Ham-Ass!"

ALL-TIME FAVOURITE HATE-MAIL. I just received a note which begins:

"Man your ignorant."

THEODORE DALRYMPLE has had enough. The UK Spectator's compelling prison lunacy roundsman says Britain is overrun with vile gangs, illiterate scum, and Tony Blair. A few weeks in Sydney have convinced him that here is the place to be.

He's right. An extract from Dalrymple's piece, written for The Australian:

"Britain is an increasingly unpleasant little country to live in, devoid of all its former charms, while adding daily to its defects. It is now crime-ridden and its people crude and boorish. Indeed, they take pride in a lack of all refinement or cultivation.

"Australia, by contrast, seems a haven of civic virtue and optimism. Oddly enough, for a country so long derided for its militant philistinism, it now appears considerably more cultured, at least in a broad sense, than Britain. I looked in vain for the hardened, brutal, life-hating faces that one sees everywhere in Britain. The British have a grudge against the world and existence in general."

He's only getting started. Go read the whole, searing piece.

WHO HAS profited the most from the current conflict? Big Oil, with its obvious Cheney links? Big Military, which feeds its wealth directly to Crawford, Texas? Or Big Warblog, whose members reap millions of dollars every day from giant underground cybermines?

None of the above. Try Big John Pilger, whose stalled journalistic career has been revived by US acts of aggression. Pilger is now back on staff at The Daily Mirror. Announcing his re-hiring of the Great White Mope, Mirror editor Piers Morgan said: "For too long we have underestimated our readers."

Presumably he's talking about their gullibility, not their intelligence. Hail Pilger, the circulation-booster! He'll tell us what to do!

MARGO KINGSTON'S BLEEDING HEARTS CLUB BAND. I'd almost given up hope of ever again reading Margo's Webdiary. When it didn't return to the Sydney Morning Herald's website as promised on April 2, or during the following two weeks, I made plans to fill the aching void in my life with 'shrooms and industrial solvents.

So you can imagine my delight when this e-mail from reader Ken McAlpine arrived yesterday:

"She's back in town. So now you can stop writing pro-Israeli bullshit and get back to what you're best at ... Margo-baiting."


Margo's absence hasn’t harmed her ability to enthral and entertain. Let's roll:

"When I left Australia in February, the commentariat war had shifted. Progressives were finally using their heads - not their hearts - to satirise the absurd claims of the neo-conservatives that we, not they, were 'the elite'. On my return, the winners appear to have finally dropped 'elite' from their arsenal of abusive labels. Perhaps even they thought it too ridiculous."

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Either way, nobody cares!

"After Howard's six years in power, and another term, it is easy to pick the elites, and the losers in the cultural war over our social values aren't on the radar. It's over. The other side won."

We barbarians now enforce our brute laws throughout the land. Today's book burning: all authors from Auden, W.H., through DeLillo, D.

" … social progressives have, at last, conceded that they are a tiny minority of the Australian people. They have left behind their anguish, shame and breast-beating and their refusal to accept that their concept of the Australian identity is not mainstream. And so they have begun to transform the abusive 'bleeding heart' label into something to glory in, just as Italian migrants did with 'wog' and gays did with 'queer'."

Poor progressive Margo! Forced to work in a menial high-paying newspaper job, just like a common Italian migrant.

"'Bleeding hearts' are beginning to understand that to influence power and change attitudes they need to understand the dominant discourse and engage with it, and they need to use the legal system to press their case. They need … to make people feel that there are others like them, that they belong, and that together they have the energy, commitment and intelligence to make a difference. They need to understand the enemy."

Use the legal system? What, you're going to sue people for not being progressive enough?

And who are these "enemies"? Oh – right. They would be other Australians.

"Phillip Adams mentioned today that he had received $250,000 in donations to help further the refugee cause. He and others have set up a board to dispense cash to groups which need them."

I'm a refugee from Melbourne, where tribal violence between Collingwood separatists and Carlton's extremist jezza jihad has destroyed my family. Send your money to me.

"It is becoming risky to express an opposing point of view."

Margo is right. Look at what they're doing in Oxford Street!

"I'm thinking of starting a bleeding hearts club. Any suggested definitions of the term?"

Don't tempt me. This is a family blog


DO YOU have what it takes to become a modern journalist? Take the Lileks Test® and find out!

MEASURING DEVICES should be regularly tested to make certain of their accuracy. Police radar and breathalyzers, for example, are tested frequently, and re-calibrated if need be. Supermarket scales, weather monitoring stations, petrol pumps … all require periodic accuracy checks.

Journalists are measuring devices. They compare opinion, weigh issues, and estimate public interest. Yet no standardised test exists by which we can judge them!

In light of this Robert Fisk column - where up is down, in is out, death is life, and Fisk is right - we clearly need such a test. Perhaps every six months or so we could ask journalists to describe certain basic objects, and thus assess their perspective.

I've already begun some preliminary studies, here in my Laboratory of Writerness. They involved Mr Fisk; a tabloid writer; a broadsheet writer; and a control journalist.

TEST 1. Subjects are presented with Basic Test Object A: a small rock.

TABLOID WRITER: Got yourself a rock there, pal.

BROADSHEET WRITER: I think it's a rock … an igneous rock. No, wait; sedimentary. In which case it might more properly be described as a stone.


ROBERT FISK: A tool of liberation! Take that, Israeli warpigs! (Subject hurls Basic Test Object A at wall; misses)

TEST 2. Subjects are presented with Basic Test Object B: a cigarette lighter.

TABLOID WRITER: Thanks (lights cigarette).

BROADSHEET WRITER: A personal butane igniter! My, my … look at the tiny flinting mechanism. How very interesting.

CONTROL JOURNALIST: Umm .. it's a lighter.

ROBERT FISK: Time for justice, oppressor filth! Prepare to eat lava! (Subject attempts to set fire to Basic Test Object A. Attempt proves unsuccessful)

TEST 3. Subjects are presented with Basic Test Object C: a common housecat.

TABLOID WRITER: You're kidding me, right? I'd better be getting paid for this.

BROADSHEET WRITER: It's a companion animal. Has it had its shots? These creatures, though superficially adorable, do threaten native birdlife, you know. You should probably put a bell on his collar. Or hers. Sorry.


ROBERT FISK: Cerberus! The helldogs of war are let loose! Aieeee!

Mr Fisk has been sent to a refugee camp in Pakistan for emergency re-calibration.


PACK-A-DAY man Don D'Cruz lights up in defence of smokers, society's most loathed outsiders:

"Make no mistake, the smoking debate has been lost for smokers. All that remains is for smokers to hear their terms of surrender."

Anti-smoking activist Simon Chapman (there's someone with too much time on his hands) fires in this rebutt … er, reply in today's Australian:

"Smoking in Australia today is increasingly a badge of low education. More than double those who didn't finish school smoke than do the tertiary educated. These are people for whom brand names such as Holiday and Longbeach often mean the closest they will get to such treats."

Don, a former university tutor, will be alarmed to learn that he's uneducated. He should join the other smokers maligned by Chapman's slur in a class action lawsuit. May I suggest this law firm?

THIS INEXPLICABLE and creepy mini-screed ran at the end of yesterday's Editorial in The Australian:

The Prince of Wales gave Prince William a high-precision hunting gun. That's nice. Now the grieving lad can lessen his grief over the Queen Mum's death by killing something for fun.

Someone at The Oz is still upset about losing the republican referendum a couple of years ago, apparently.


THE FUTURE AS PAST: Sydney writer Richard Neville describes himself as a "futurist" – you know, like Virginia Postrel. Unlike Postrel, however, Neville is a sloth-witted commie hippie whose vision of the future involves regulation, closed markets, an inability to sort facts from lies, and total faith in any US conspiracy theories that are hocked up on his computer screen.

On Saturday, Neville's view of America was published as the cover story in the Sydney Morning Herald's weekend magazine. Let's read …

"The policies of Washington, I came to realise, reflect the ruthlessness of corporate America, which treats other lands according to their rating: market, mine, sweatshop or basket case. Uncle Sam's rapaciousness is both driven and disguised by a mix of pop culture, mass media, brand fetishism and propaganda so clever and tantalising that most of us feel the sooner we're indoctrinated into the American Dream, the better. Hey, don't stop the music."

The howling noises in Neville's head make a compelling case. Hey, don't stop the electroshock therapy.

"Uncle Sam wants to preserve the cash flow at head office by any means necessary, even if it destroys the planet and all the wretches who get in the way."

Someone should tell Future Boy that the phrase "Uncle Sam" is getting a little old. Besides, here Neville seems to be describing some other entity. Godzilla, maybe? Megatron? Enormous cyborg killbots from Mars? Puny earthlings! I destroy you! ! RRRaaaRRRGH!

"Washington handed the Taliban $US42 million to suppress the cultivation of opium poppies, now back in bloom."

The Great Bush-Taliban-Opium Lie continues. Weeks after Michael Moore wheeled out this load of Rall for what we thought would be its final public showing, Neville adroitly slips it past the SMH's vigilant fact-checkers. He even got the amount wrong; it's $43 million.

"Enron … managed to deregulate, privatise and vandalise several developing nations."

What the fuck!?

"Enron had 'intimate contact with Taliban officials' according to a report in the Web newspaper Albion Monitor."

Also available in the Albion Monitor: "Sharon's War on Palestine"; "Listen to Michael Moore", "Bush Was Allied With Taliban Until August"; archived columns by Molly Ivins, Robert Scheer, Norman Solomon, and Alexander Cockburn; plus articles cheering North Korea's dismissal of Bush, along with everything you ever wanted to know about Julia Butterfly Hill and her boyfriend, Luna the tree. Welcome to Freakazoid City, USA.

"Apart from a thirst for revenge and a thirst for oil, the official reason for the bombing of Afghanistan is to eliminate terrorists. In that case, why isn't America bombing itself?"

From a place several miles below rock bottom and light years from reason, this is Richard Neville reporting.

"Florida reportedly seethes with a multitude of hot-blooded anti-Castro saboteurs and hijackers."

Bomb them! Bomb the scum who oppose Castro!

"Uncle Sam launched a token drop of photo-op food parcels promoted as 'ethnically sensitive', containing cookies, jam, peanut butter and moist serviettes. Their yellow packaging, by dumb coincidence, resembled that of cluster bombs. Images appeared of bandaged children who had confused the two, though not on CNN."

Those are some mighty cluster bombs. Kids eat 'em and only need a few bandages afterwards. Were they peanut clusters?

"In Australia … deep criticism of our ally was rare. While not to everyone's taste, John Pilger's coverage of trouble spots over the years and his prickly media profile should have earned him a place on local Opinion pages. It didn't."

Deep criticism was everywhere. Nice of Neville to stick up for his pal Pilger, whose lies, paranoia, and inaccuracies he believes are merely matters of "taste".

"Even before the bombs fell on Afghanistan, the missiles of Noam Chomsky surged through cyberspace. One day a public cyber library will be built in his honour and our children will toast his devotion to freedom of thought."

Like the freedom to think that the Khmer Rouge were really cool. I wonder if Cambodia's orphans honour old Noam?

"Another fact-packed anti-war Web site is that of William Blum, founding editor of the '60s underground newspaper Washington Free Press."

At his site, deranged Dr Helen Caldicott reviews Blum's latest alarmist masterwork: "Each chapter I read made me more and more angry."

For the first time, I suspect I would agree with Caldicott. And you knew it was here somewhere: the obligatory Orwell reference. Neville helpfully explains the little-known author's work:

"One is reminded of Big Brother's slogans in George Orwell's laboured masterpiece, 1984: 'War is peace, love is hate, truth is lies.' In this dark vision, the Ministry of Truth manipulates the media to suit the political objectives of Big Brother."

Really? Is that what happens? I must read this book. I hope it's as good as the TV show. Speaking of lies, Neville reports as unchallenged fact Marc Herold's discredited Afghan death count:

"It took Marc Herold, an economics professor from the University of New Hampshire, to amalgamate the disparate reports of 'collateral damage' and come up with a total. If the evidence conflicted, said Herold, he settled for the lower death count … At the very least, according to Marc Herold, the death toll is 3,700 - greater than the number slain in the twin towers. In January, Herold told ABC Radio that 'a much more realistic' estimate of civilian deaths is 5,000."

But the Giant Media Conspiracy hid Herold's analysis from a brainwashed American public:

"Herold's estimate was given wide publicity in Europe, and next to none in America."

Except in the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Boston Herald, the Village Voice, the Des Moines Register, Wired, LA Weekly, the Progressive, Cox News Services, the Weekly Standard, the Seattle Times, and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

And also on PBS and MSNBC.

And in the Norwich Bulletin, the Sacremento Bee, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Press, the Utne Reader, and the Boulder Weekly.

Apart from them, nothing. This savage evil extends all the way to the top:

"Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, for instance, is a boardroom veteran of the mighty Tribune Company, publishers of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. He is also a former director of Gulfstream Aerospace, acquired by General Dynamics in 1999, a deal which netted him a cool $11 million. What is General Dynamics? A major defence contractor. And so it goes."

So it does. The pity of it is that next week's SMH magazine will be filled with admiring mail for Neville's brave work.

None of it will be from Jack Robertson, whose new Australian blog slashes Neville from the left. What I've missed, he's caught.

IMRE SALUSINSZKY writes regarding The Australian's Jane Cornwell, who believes that "decent satire" should rid society of things she thinks are bad (see post several items down). Says Imre:

"She's more wrong than you think. The major traditions of satire are intensely conservative; its usual targets have been, not 'misogyny' and 'homophobia', but busybodies like Cornwell who think they can badger us into adopting new notions and becoming better people. Barry Humphries, and maybe Lennie Lower, are the only true satirists this country has produced. People like Peter Berner and Rod Quantock are fitting OBJECTS for satire."

Imre's right, although he fails to note that Berner and Quantock are also fitting objects for holding doors open, loading trucks, cooking fish, or in fact any role where they aren't required to tell jokes.

MOTOR SPORT is technical and complex, so at its higher levels eludes easy appreciation. Musicians, for some reason, find the sport easier to understand than most.

I met George Harrison (extremely briefly) at the Australian Grand Prix a few years ago; he was talking aerodynamics with team owner Eddie Jordan. In the mid-70s, Harrison once briefly drove a Formula One car – the Surtees of Australian driver Alan Jones. And in 1979, Harrison released a song that included the sounds of two F1 Lotuses competing in the British Grand Prix.

Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is another race freak (here he tells fellow speedster Dave Letterman about his collection of racing machines). Squeeze pianist Jools Holland attends every Grand Prix he can. Some guy from New Order is a drag racer, I'm told.

Altcountry rockblogger Ken Layne was at the Long Beach Grand Prix all weekend, with wife Laura and the shadowy corporate identity who feeds him free topline sports tickets. He'd never been to a major motor race before, but without checking any timing information was able to pick Bruno Junqueira as being among the speediest in qualifying.

The Brazilian was third fastest. "Real goddamned smooth," Ken wrote on Saturday. "We were in the grandstand over the first turn, and just over the sixth turn. He made most of the other drivers look like they were stalling before that first turn."

Ken has the Musical Advantage. I think the race will fuel his Fox column this week. More from Ken's e-mail:

"The celebrity race was dull. Captain Picard of Star Trek is a loser, and the rest of the celebrities ... well, we'd never heard of them. An Olympic swimmer gal won the race, I think. The Toyota Atlantic Qualifying was okay, although we missed half of it while waiting in line for booze. The CART qualifying was terrific.

"The place was full of porn stars, Long Beach and nationwide rednecks, mooks with studs in their heads, Mexican families, yuppies, Hollywood types, Asian gang kids, racing fanatics, people excited to take a snapshot of a soap-opera actor, rich Europeans, etc. The track and grounds are lovely and easy to get around -- it's spread out, so huge human bottlenecks are rare. There's a whole expo in the LB convention center (which the track circles) with hundreds of car & moto-related displays and lots of girls in tiny bikinis. Beautiful weather, breeze off the harbor."

JOHN HAWKINS at RightWingNews has interviewed me for his zippy site. He asked good questions, but bad answers will always prevail.

LOTS of e-mails arrived after the last Fox Blog column. Christina Wilson sent the following, which summed up the feelings of many readers towards Australia's anti-American left:

I can only speak for myself as an American citizen - not an American celebrity or any American you may find in the international spotlight. I am not an American with enough time or money to travel abroad. I managed to get through college, I work like a dog, and I'm trying to raise a respectable, productive family.

I had hoped we had more friends in Australia, but I am not surprised. We have our own critics here in States. A congresswoman from Georgia suggested that our president and his administration could have done something to prevent September 11, but instead chose not to do anything. The suggestion is that the Bush administration's inaction was so that it would profit, politically, from the tragedy. It is one of the most despicable accusations I have ever heard.

At any rate, as an American citizen, I believe everyone has a right to their own opinion. I also believe they have the right to express it as loudly as they see fit, even if I know they likely do not have a complete picture of what is really happening over here. I wish I could take the time out to express my views and push my ideas of what is and ought to be. I'm too busy working and trying to raise a family, evil capitalist that I am.

Your article made me cry because it reminds me of how misrepresented we are. We are not a bunch of clones over here. That is one of the things that makes our country so great.

MICHAEL MOORE, he who puts the "hippo" in "hypocrite", has attracted the attention of J. Peder Zane, book reviewer for the Raleigh News & Observer. Zane makes several excellent points about Moore's best-selling Stupid Fat Idiot book, these among them:

Moore might have written a better book had he paid closer attention to his own words. For example, a section on global warming notes that cars account for "almost half the pollutants in our air." Then Moore tells us that although he lives in Manhattan, he owns two cars, including a minivan that gets 15 miles to the gallon.

He drinks bottled water because he doesn't trust his tap and defies New York's recycling laws because he believes his newspapers and cans wind up in the dump anyway. Moore is a portly fellow, but that doesn't stop him from advising us to "lighten up on the food and drink. ... If you and I would eat less and drink less we'd live a lot longer."

Please, Michael. Ignore your own advice.


Random cliché generator Jane Cornwell, of The Australian, thinks British comic creation Ali G isn't funny any more. And she knows why:

"Instead of satirising inane misogyny and homophobia and shaming its targets out of existence, as all decent satire should do, Ali G seems to be actively celebrating it."

Emphasis mine. Witless lack of insight hers. Cornwell is of the school that believes comedians should function as social workers. There's no link available to her piece, sparing you exposure to Cornwell's cliché collection, which includes "screams of delight", "glowing reviews", "barely batted an eye", "jam-packed celebrity party", "control freak", and "torrent of complaints".

No links to the following items either …

Sydney Morning Herald television reviewer Greg Hassall did not recommend Sunday night's ABC documentary examining the Vatican, in part because the doco was "a reverential piece, never questioning the appropriateness of such an obscene display of wealth."

By that standard, there is little Hassall would ever recommend. Each episode of The Simpsons costs millions to produce. Is that appropriate? The teams competing in Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix spend hundreds of millions each year, but this was not questioned during the broadcast. How much does it cost to publish the Sydney Morning Herald? An inappropriate amount, I'd say.

In the same edition of the SMH TV guide, Bruce Elder previewed a documentary on Fidel Castro. The program swayed Elder to the benefits of tyranny. Some extracts:

"Fidel Castro … all he wants to do is assert the independence of his island state in the Caribbean."

"Cuba's answer to Thomas Jefferson."

"A leader who never lost his vision for his people."

"A tiny victim of a power struggle between the Soviet Union and the USA."

"Mindlessly victimised by a lobby group of right-wing loonies."

"When he dies, Castro will be recognised as one of the great figures of the 20th and 21st centuries – a man who cared about nationhood and put his heart where his ideology was."

The same could be said of any dictator. Elder is a zombie, but even zombies deserve happiness, so I'll happily provide him with a ticket (one way) to Cuba. Go live in your hero's paradise, old man! Leaving Cuba, however, will result in a default payment to me of double the ticket cost. I'm serious; e-mail me now. Put your heart where your ideology is!

Cuba is also the subject of a new docu-mocku-crockumentary by Libby Gorr. She promoted her upcoming Cuba-fest in a piece written for Sunday Life magazine, which provided this headline summary: "Cuba possesses a freedom that America, the land to which so many Cubans dream of emigrating, will never, ever match."

Which explains why so many people flee Miami each year for the "freedom" of life under Fidel's Cuban heel. One of Gorr's observations:

"It's fascinating and liberating to see how a society deprived of Ally McBeals and weekly women's magazines is so at ease with itself and its sense of community."

Still, Gorr – who once described a suit I wore in 1984 as "a criminal case of fabric abuse" – at least offers some details of Bad Cuba:

"Police on every street corner will stop you talking to fat faux-Americans like us for fear you will tell us what really goes on."

Bruce Elder, you've been warned. No more fearless TV reviewing from you once you move to Cuba, pal.



What have we learned from this last extraordinary month? Not much about the Middle East, but quite a lot about Europe. What happens when Palestinian civilians strap on plastic explosives and head for Israeli pizza parlours? Europe says Israeli checkpoints for Palestinians are "humiliating". Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances permit themselves to be used as transportation for bombs and explosives - and Europe attacks Israel for refusing them free movement.

Documents are found authorising Palestinian Authority funding for a suicide bombing on a young girl's bar mitzvah, signed by Arafat himself – and members of the Nobel committee publicly call for taking back the 1994 Peace Prize, from Shimon Peres. Synagogues are firebombed in France, Belgium and Finland - and the EU deplores the wanton destruction of property, in Ramallah.

"Ah, those Jews," an attractive, intelligent, sophisticated Parisienne sighed over dinner with me the other night. "They cause problems everywhere they are."

WHAT YOKEL CHARACTER FROM AN OBSCURE SCI-FI NOVEL ARE YOU? I'm the scrawny Nebraskan meat-packer sports dude:

In rural Nebraska, the whispered rumors about the aliens spread like wildfire, even though the closest ship landed in South Dakota and not in the Cornhusker State. Tim Blair, known as "Skin" by his friends for his thinness (and partly, he thinks, because of his mother's step-brother, who was half Indian), listens to these rumors but says little. The life he shares with his wife Lisa is simple: working long shifts at the meat packing plant during the week and going hunting or watching sports with his old high school buddies on weekends. He doesn't want the aliens to screw up his life and the lives of those he loves.

HANDGUNS are largely illegal in Australia. Have been for decades. Very strict laws apply. As well, in 1996 further laws were introduced to ban semi-automatic rifles.

That's part of the reason things like this are happening in New South Wales:

Murders with a handgun jumped 300 per cent while shoot with intent offences climbed 440 per cent between 1996 and 2001.

Figures compiled by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research for the past three years show murders with handguns jumped 240 per cent, shoot with intent offences climbed 80 per cent and robberies with handguns went up 25 per cent.

The latest victims in the spate of gun attacks were a teenager, who was shot dead, and two young friends injured in a separate shooting.

An 18-year-old youth was gunned down during a street brawl between up to 15 youths outside a karaoke club in Surry Hills at 12.40am

In related news, the Sunday Telegraph also reports:

A 19-year-old man was last night recovering from a gunshot wound to the stomach in Liverpool Hospital last night, while a second man, 20, who was shot in the foot, left Fairfield Hospital just hours after the attack in Mt Pritchard.

"I was just standing there talking to my friend and we heard this popping sound," said the 21-year-old, who can only be identified as Adam.

"Then someone said Kenny had been shot in the stomach."

Oh my God!

WHEN TREES ATTACK. From CNN, via David "Hellbound" Janes:

PORTLAND, Oregon (AP) -- A tree sitter fell 150 feet from a platform in the Mount Hood National Forest, was badly injured and died before rescue crews could reach the remote site.

The timber sale she apparently was protesting had been canceled three days before her death, and the protesters expected to leave the area within a week.

GREAT NEWS from those deaf lesbian parents who deliberately conceived a deaf child: their baby boy didn't say his first word today. Awwww!

WHEN MARGO Kingston fled the Sydney Morning Herald Webdiary in January, she wrote: "I'm off to South Africa, back April 2."

Now the Webdiary site has been changed to read: "I'm off to South Africa, back in April."

What's going on? What are they doing to her? Is she in a Panic Room? We want Margo!

NEW PRIORITIES: Australia's Fairfax papers are suddenly concerned about the amount of money the US is spending on the war in Afghanistan. This is obviously a burning issue here in Australia. We speak of little else.

And pro-Palestine Fairfax has also discovered the magic of Christianity. Brutal Israeli soldiers have shown Fairfax the light. Andrew West reports, sort of:

It was the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but now it is a scene of war and suffering.

The siege by Israeli soldiers of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, built over the grotto where Jesus was born two thousand years ago, has entered its 12th day.

Inside are 200 Palestinians. Some are armed resistance fighters against Israeli attacks in the West Bank, but most are just Bethlehem residents who took refuge inside one of Christianity's holiest shrines to escape the gunfire.

"Resistance fighters". "Siege by Israeli soldiers". Jesus Christ …

THE MELBOURNE AGE will no doubt receive complaints about this headline, which sounds like a pervert's description of the audience at a Fabio poetry reading.


A South African man was in serious condition in an Empangeni hospital after an hippopotamus virtually bit off his face, a news report said today.

Fumukwiyo Mbonambi, 35, was walking home along a dirt road in rural KwaZulu-Natal in eastern South Africa when he stumbled onto the animal in the dark on Thursday night, the Saturday Star reported.

The animal lunged at him, biting him in the face with such force that it removed most of his features including his nose and right eye.

MATT WELCH has details of a "special opportunity" in LA today:

Please join us for this special opportunity to hear a first-hand report from a controversial, passionate, and articulate world reporter. ROBERT FISK is Britain's most distinguished foreign correspondent and has received the British International Journalist of the Year award seven times. He has reported on the Middle East for the past 26 years and is currently the Beirut correspondent for the London Independent. He will report on, among other topics, his interviews with Osama Bin Laden, the independence of journalists from the military the murder of Daniel Pearl, and his own persecution in Pakistan. He was in Bethlehem last week reporting on the war in the West Bank. Seating is limited. Please arrive early to beat him up.