6.29.2002

ARE YOU A SUCCESSFUL BLOGGER? Can you easily combine paid work with your online writing compulsion? It's easy to calculate. Simply divide the number of hits you've received by your car's mileage.

The greater the resulting number, the more successful you are.

My car, for example, is 12 years old. It's got 125,000 miles on it. But I've received 420,000 hits, so I'm showing a Blog-Car Success Index of 3.36 – hey, not too shabby!

Someone driving the same beat-up car as me but with a mere 125,000 hits, well … that's a BCSI of just 1.0. Sad.

Who can guess what InstaPundit's BCSI might be? He's got some kind of German sedan, I think, and it's probably new and shiny. I'd put his BCSI somewhere around 250, at least.

The beauty of the BCSI is that it balances real-life wealth and achievement against blog fame. Poverty-stricken yet popular bloggists will still come out in front. And wealthy pundit wannabes who never receive the hits and love they crave … well, they will be exposed by the BCSI's uncaring logic.

Then there are the bloggers who are both unpopular and drive ruined old high-mileage junk. Their negative BCSI rating with stay with them until they are interred in a pauper's grave.

MOBY GENITAL. Reader Phil is whale-stabbing mad over the British theatre company that has deleted the word 'Hunchback' from its production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame:


"The whole point of the story as I remember it was that one should recognize the handicapped as people who could have heroic qualities and value as human beings, in spite of appearance, ability, etc. This nonsense sanitizes the fact that people have differences and we have to recognize those differences and deal with it on some reasonable level.

"Next up: Moby Genital. Captain Ahab, the appropriately-limbed captain of a capitalist whaling ship, pursues the Whale of Non-Color to negotiate a treaty of reparations for the wrongs done to gamete whales by generations of patriarchal, phallocentric harpoonists."



UPDATE. "Hey, PC vandals," asks reader Tim S. "Why confine yourself to drama? Why not cinema?" Good question!


"My Left Foot and the Rest of My Perfectly Functional Body: the heartwarming story of a man who could do pretty much anything he wanted.

"Or children's literature:

"The Snow Goose: Paul Gallico's inspirational tale of a man who helped evacuate Dunkirk's besieged allied soldiers, despite looking like Brad Pitt and having a large circle of friends."

FLORIDA MUSLIM Sultaana Freeman claims she has a right to be wear a veil that covers all but her eyes for her driver's licence photograph. She's currently taking legal action.

Isn't it obvious what’s really happening here? Freeman is clearly in training to become the first ever female Muslim Formula One driver. That niqab she's wearing is probably made from fireproof Nomex.

WIZZIP BE PRAISED. Vaara points out that British aristopopster Sophie Ellis Bextor's Murder on the Dance Floor is altered for radio play in the US.

The line "DJ, gonna burn this goddamn house right down" is overlaid with what Vaara says is "a sort of record-scratching noise" that changes the lyric to: "DJ, gonna burn this wizzip-damn house right down".

That's not the worst of it. Sophie pronounces "dance" as "dahnce", as though she's the wizzip-damned Queen or something. It's like listening to Princess Diana rap. If Wizzip hadn't already taken Diana to her eternal reward, that is.

PRESIDENTIAL PROBE. The Australian reports an in-depth examination of George W. Bush:


US President George W. Bush will briefly transfer the powers of the presidency to Vice President Dick Cheney overnight while he undergoes sedation for a colon screening.

Bush, who turns 56 next week, said doctors recommended the procedure — a colonoscopy — because benign polyps were found in two previous checks. It is considered a standard preventive procedure for men his age.


DAMNED IF YOU DO, damned if you don't. Press condemnation of US security leading up to September 11 focused on a failure to properly examine various Middle Eastern folk. Of course, had those people been singled out for examination, the press would have screamed: "Profiling! This is goddamned racial profiling!"

As is happening today in Australia:


The Federal Government has defended the cancellation or refusal of passports to Australians of Middle Eastern background, based on adverse security assessments by the country's domestic intelligence organisation.

But the NSW Council for Civil Liberties said the Federal Government's refusal to let these citizens travel, and other cases involving people of Middle Eastern extraction, revealed a pattern of victimisation by ASIO.



Zak Mallah, an 18-year-old Muslim from Sydney, was one of those whose passport request was refused. See if you can find the reasons why:


Mr Mallah, who works in a supermarket, said yesterday that he was a loyal Australian citizen opposed to terrorist violence.

On May 21, he applied for a passport to travel to Lebanon … Two weeks later he complied with a request to interviewed by ASIO.

"They asked me about religious violence and I said it depends on whether you mean a 'holy war', which is a battle, or killing innocents without warning," he said.

Mr Mallah said he told ASIO that he regarded al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden as a "Muslim brother" but did not support terrorist acts such as the September 11 attacks on the United States.

He had added that it was animosity over US support for Israel's repression of Palestinians that was the motivation for terrorism.

Asked if he would ever engage in political or religious violence, Mr Mallah said: "No – I have never even thought of doing that."



No, never! He just digs ol' brother Osama, resents the US and Israel, and sees a holy war as justified. None of which worries Civil Liberties chump Cameron Murphy:


The president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, said yesterday that Mr Mallah's case was symptomatic of a wider problem.

"This would not have happened to [Mr Mallah] if his name was Smith or Jones," he said.


I DON'T mind if strippers become unionists … just so long as unionists don't become strippers.

I SPENT a couple of hours with Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh yesterday for an upcoming magazine piece. Most profiles give the impression that Waugh is an unemotional, terse fellow, but he turned out to be funny and thoughtful and very emotional indeed. An interesting, complex personality.

Because he tends not to enjoy interviews, Waugh schedules them for a single day every few months so he can get them all done in quick sequence. CNN had just finished with him when I arrived. Two American CNN women – both completely charmed by Waugh, about whom I presume they had little prior knowledge – were looking at some Waugh photographs from one of his books, mainly pictures of him with other cricketers, his family, various politicians and celebs. "Is that you with your wife?" one of the women asked.

"No," Waugh replied. "That's Kylie Minogue."

Fun fact: Waugh was briefly enrolled in a teaching college. How brief? He walked out after 90 minutes.

MARGO UPDATE. In the tradition of her comical Enron coverage, Margo keeps getting it all wrong on WorldCom. Reader John R. writes:


"For what it's worth, there is no such U.S. entity called the 'Federal Accounting Standards Board,' as Margo Kingston states. The entity that I believe she is referring to is the 'Financial Accounting Standards Board'. No doubt she would find this further evidence of its bad motives as it's not even a government-run agency. Of course, it could also mean that Ms. Kingston doesn't know how to type 'FASB' into Google to see what the acronym stands for."


Q: What's a Wackernagel?

A: It's the opposite of a Lomborg, as UPI reports:


OAKLAND, Calif., June 24 -- Humanity's use of Earth's resources has exceeded the planet's capacity since the 1980s, researchers conclude in a new study released Monday.

The study, which examines resource use from 1961 to 1999, employed a relatively simple calculation. Researchers added up the total area globally available for growing crops, grazing animals, harvesting timber, accommodating infrastructure, absorbing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels and marine fishing. Then they calculated the human demand for each activity and compared it to the total resource available.

Mathis Wackernagel, the lead researcher, who also is program director at Redefining Progress, a think-tank in Oakland, cited the calculation for corn. "You ask, 'How much corn is being consumed in the world? What's the average yield (per acre) for corn? What is the space requirement to produce the corn (for human use)?' That's the human footprint for corn," Wackernagel told UPI.



Mmmmm. Corn.

KEN LAYNE explains himself to Kevin Holtsberry.

IN A long Webdiary entry, Jack Robertson admonishes Warbloggers for lacking genuine philosophy, writing wryly, being sterile, and much else besides:


I used to think we did the smug moral supremacy thing pretty well here in Webdiary Wetland, but having spent a few months in the blogosphere now, I can tell you that we are mere dilettantes in the pocket-pissing groupthink stakes. Particularly in comparison to the war-blogging sectors of the blogosphere.



Yep, we agree on everything all the time, and we all love guns and we all hail Jesus and we all vote conservative.


The Oz solar system saw life spring forth early this year, mostly around self-styled cyber-sun-of-Oz Tim Blair (timblair.blogspot.com) - a familiar name to Webdiarists on account of his long-term obsession with this corner of cyberspace and in particular its Warrior Princess.



"Self-styled"? I just write stuff and put in on the Web (since late last year, to be accurate). Re my obsession: it'll end as soon as Margo quits writing like this:


The Yank's politicians are bought and sold by the corporates. At times like these, accountability is focused on the immediate disaster. If we're going back to long-term thinking, ethical management, and rebuilding a culture of trust, we need long term accountability too.

In 1995, a US body called the Federal Accounting Standards Board did some momentously dreadful, the results of which are losing suckers like us money like its going out of style.



Great work, sister. You sure can rite gude. Now, back to Jack:


We could waste a lot of WD acreage riffing cutely on the galactic metaphors – Matt Drudge's site (www.drudgereport.co=m) as a once-mighty sun now collapsing in on itself under its own unsustainable weight, with 'newer' neo-conservative US stars like Andrew Sullivan (www.andrewsullivan=.com) and Ken Layne (wwww.kenlayne.com) and Matt Welch (www.mattwelch.com) and Virginia Postrel (www.vpostrel.com) and Glenn Reynolds (wwww.instapundit.blo=gspot.com) now glowing strongest in the cyberspace-heating stakes - but let's not.



Drudge is collapsing? That's news to me. And I didn't know Drudge, Reynolds, and Sullivan had added those funky symbols to their addresses, either.


The blogosphere is fast becoming host to an Attack of the Clones: it's now crammed full of warrior-bloggers who all write in neo-conservative, jackboot-libertarian, selectively-iconoclastic boyspeak (in the war blogosphere, at least, even the girls write in adolescent boyspeak).



I respectfully disagree. Underpants head.


It's the apparent absence among most warbloggers of some genuine - as opposed to mere reactionary - political or philosophical belief that often renders much of their blogging sterile.



The premise is wrong, and the conclusion is weird.


When a few individual warbloggers exposed Marc Herold's Afghanistan civilian casualty estimates as wildly speculative, it was worthwhile; that ten thousand warbloggers are still repeating the same mantra six months later suggests that it's time to start looking elsewhere for your dose of George Orwell.



That Herold's estimates are still being exposed is a function of how often they are cited as accurate.


For all their self-promotion as the Next Big Thing in highly-responsive, real-time journalism (and for all the cheap stunts like the infamous Alex Beam April Fool 'sting' - see Bjorn Staerk's warblog archives at bearstrong.net), the most striking characteristic of the blogosphere turns out to be its complete lack of methodological innovation.



The Alex Beam deal wasn't a 'sting'. Bjorn didn't set up his site in anticipation of Beam's visit. Speaking of innovations, there's these new things called 'links'.


And that's the disappointing truth; most blogging is no more than the same old column-writing bulldust, except a bit faster. By that I mean, among other things, the same old lack of real writerly engagement with news and issues; the same old 'professional detachment' that we see from (most) mainstream journalists, the same air of abstraction and distanced observation and wry, knowing irony.



I don't know what this means.


I sometimes suspect that what drives many warbloggers to write so aggressively about issues like the war, terrorism, market theory and the Middle East is an unhappy awareness of their own lack of engagement with those same issues anywhere but in the blogosphere.



Jack alleges 'detachment' and 'lack of engagement' in blog writing, then alleges the opposite. And where else should I 'engage' issues like the Middle East? The laundry? At an auction? In a motorcycle race?


That the one issue all warbloggers will tackle without any journalistic reserve at all is the blogosphere itself - an 'issue' with which they are unavoidably, inextricably intertwined - is, to me, quite revealing.



What is this 'reserve' crap?


My overall feeling is that the blogosphere is a fun place to visit, but you wouldn't want to get stuck living there. There are many good and funny writers with some very interesting things to say, but then every public library is full of good and funny writers with very interesting things to say, too, and a public library doesn't automatically make the world a better place, either.



Er, yes it does, because it's full of good and funny writers with very interesting things to say.


Sadly, as far as I can see, in the blogosphere as in every other word-based medium we have, to date the post-Goebbels, post-Mass Meeja, postmodern poisoning of language persists. Most writers still seem to regard the clever and eloquent words they write as somehow isolated ends in themselves, rather than mere tools for investing abstract ideas with passion and meaning enough such that those ideas might be translated into action.



Beats me. Anyone out there able to translate this?


This, to me, is the singular defining characteristic of almost all contemporary writing: we've forgotten what words are for, and how to arrange them in a way that ensures they work.



When you find out, tell Margo.

UPDATE. Reader Mike M., of Aptos, California, writes:


"Sounds like Jack loves everything about the blogosphere except the fact-checking, the speed, the lack of editing, the great reads, the feeling of community, the honesty and mostly, the lack of smarmy pricks like him to point out all of your shortcomings."



6.28.2002

THE SPECIAL PERSON OF NOTRE DAME:


A British theatre company has reportedly dropped the word hunchback from its stage adaptation of the classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame to avoid offending disabled people.

Oddsocks Productions has renamed its touring production The Bellringer of Notre Dame.

Producer Elli Mackenzie is quoted in the Daily Mirror saying she feels changing the title again will cause less offence.

The change followed discussions with a disability adviser, who said it could offend people with spina bifida or the disfiguring scoliosis of the spine.



Their next production will do away with sexism: Death of a Sales Manager.

SOCIALISM is yesterday's news, according to the one Australian Labor MP who's been awake lately:


Labor is being urged to dump its central objectives – including the 80-year-old socialist dogma of controlling "production, distribution and exchange".

Labor frontbencher Kevin Rudd has urged the ALP to do away with more than 20 basic Labor tenets because they are now "entirely unmemorable", and the socialist mantra is only being retained for nostalgia.

"While we may not have taken the socialist objective seriously … there are others outside the party who have – and have been fundamentally alienated by it," he said.


A LIE ON EVERY PAGE™, brought to you by John Pilger's ennobling New Rulers of the World, turns to page 13:


In Cochabamba [Bolivia], even collecting rainwater without a permit was now illegal.



Not so. Permits were required for the construction of rooftop water tanks, but not for simply collecting water. It's illegal for me here in Sydney to install a rooftop water tank without a permit. It's illegal in most Western cities to embark on similar projects without housing department or council approval. We're all held captive by the water tank tyrants! Free us, John!

Next: page 14, and the real terrorists.

SALON says that Rolling Stone magazine has no reason to exist. Apart from being profitable for decades, of course.

6.27.2002

WHERE'S THAT post-WorldCom total market meltdown you were so excited about, Margo? Why hasn't it happened? What's gone wrong?


The Australian sharemarket opened higher today, defying weakness on offshore markets prompted by a major accounting scandal at US-based telco WorldCom.

Worldcom, a multi-billion-dollar long distance carrier, revealed early yesterday that its earnings had been overstated for the past five quarters by about $US3.8 billion ($A6.67 billion).

By 1012 AEST, Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index had risen 31.4 points to 3210.8 and the all ordinaries picked up 28.0 points to 3157.7.

On the Sydney Futures Exchange, the June share price index contract was up 17 points at 3206.


SPORTS STARS ON DRUGS! Who could ever have predicted this? From today's Age:


Controversial former Carlton star David Rhys-Jones has admitted he used cocaine and marijuana during his playing career.

In a book to be released in five weeks, Rhys-Jones, a 182-game veteran and 1987 Norm Smith medallist, also made reference to rumours that past West Coast and Fitzroy players had used anabolic steroids.



And:


Tatum O'Neal says former husband John McEnroe took steroids while he was on the professional tennis tour and used cocaine and marijuana.


THE LATEST column in The Australian deals with weird local political identities Natasha Stott Despoja and Greg Barns.

ISRAEL'S FOREIGN MINISTER, Shimon Peres, says US President George W. Bush's speech will cause "a blood bath" in the Middle East.

A furious Peres declared: "The abyss into which the region will now plunge will be as deep as expectations of this speech were high."

Have you read this story? Anywhere? It should be in every newspaper worldwide, but so far it has apparently only been reported by Tim Palmer, Middle East correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

And Palmer himself didn't see fit to run the explosive Peres quotes as his lede:


Criticism from the Palestinian side might have been expected. What's surprising is that it was echoed by most of Israel's most senior newspaper columnists. Most felt that while Sharon government ministers could cheer that they'd won a victory against Yasser Arafat, there was nothing in the Bush plan that suggested Israelis could look forward to a life without conflict.

The senior writer at the daily Yedioth Aharonot, Nahan Baneya, [phonetic] said of the Bush plan "without a timeframe, it's like a soufflé – maybe it will rise and maybe it won't," saying the speech buried the Oslo accords and commenting that President Bush just wasn't built to handle Middle Eastern despair.

"The speech was unbalanced and would complicate the situation" said Hemi Shalev in the Ma'ariv newspaper, "one would have to be naïve to think it would make the Palestinians change course" and possibly most telling of all of the reactions, Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

During President Bush's speech, he became angry. "He's making a fatal mistake" Mr Peres said. "Making the creation of a Palestinian state dependent on a change in leadership. You can't just brush Yasser Arafat aside with one speech."

Mr Peres became so angry that he turned the television off even before President Bush had finished the long awaited speech and before Mr Peres left the room he said "the abyss into which the region will now plunge will be as deep as expectations of this speech were high. There will be a blood bath".



The BBC reported a different reaction from Peres:


"I'm not disappointed by the speech. I know that one speech cannot bring redemption to the world. But this was an important speech. There are still problems left that need to be dealt with and dealt with seriously."



Where did the wild Peres lines come from? Palmer doesn't cite a source. I sent a note to Israeli blogger Tal G.
asking if he'd seen any quotes in Israel's press similar to those reported by the ABC. His reply: "I've heard nothing like the statement quoted by the ABC, and I think it would have received a lot of attention here if the quote appeared in a regular news source."

Tal forwarded the following from Ha'aretz:


Perhaps Peres expected Clinton Plan II, or maybe a reiteration of James Baker's famous five questions to the Shamir government, the last time Peres was foreign minister in a Likud government. In other words, something for a good fight with the Likud to get some color back into Labor's cheeks.

But then came the speech, which sounded like a medley of Effi Eitam statements. Peres, and the rest of the leaders of the peace camp, were dumbstruck - though not for long. Yesterday, along the seam line, with the fence he dislikes so much behind him, Peres squirmed in front of the microphones, finally emitting, "it was an important speech ... a clear statement ... very sharply worded on the matter of terror."



So, nothing there. The Sydney Morning Herald reported something that amounted to perhaps a tenth of the ABC's story:


Prominent Israeli commentators said Mr Bush's address could be harmful to the long-term interests of the region. Israel's leading newspaper columnist, Nahum Barnea, said the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, viewed Mr Bush's address as "another blow, perhaps a lethal blow to the chances of renewing negotiations".

Writing in the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Barnea added: "Bush's call to replace the leadership, to wit Arafat, will achieve the exact opposite: it will force the Palestinian leadership to rally round the besieged Arafat once again."



We still don’t have the turned-off television, or the bloodbath, or an abyss. Tal G.'s translation of Yedioth's account yields only this:


In private conversations [apparently immediately following a Labor Party meeting in Raanana] Peres permitted himself to be more expressive. "Bush's speech does not give any hope for the future, and is bound to complicate the situation even more. The Palestinians didn't receive a diplomatic horizon and thus they will react with more despair and confusion - that means more terror attacks. We cannot involve ourselves in the question of who the Palestinians will choose as their leader", he said.



Tal G. sums up what we know thus far, and adds some Hebrew translation notes:


"It absolutely would be front-page news if it were an 'official' reaction. Actually it would be scandalous here in Israel. But the ABC reporter recounts Peres' initial reaction that supposedly took place in private, and it's an interesting coincidence that the two points made in the ABC quote are the same ones that are in Yedioth.

"So either the ABC has a very well-placed source, or else took Peres' privately expressed opinions and 'amplified' them.

"The language part is tough because translation is involved. Peres is a wimpy guy and in particular uses soft and wimpy language, but Hebrew can be a harsh language. But here goes:

"'Fatal mistake' [Ta'ut Katlanit] sounds too literal in Hebrew. 'Basic mistake' [Ta'ut Yesodit] would be more likely. 'You can't just brush Yasser Arafat aside with one speech' sounds suspicious because the Israeli gov't [of which Peres is part] has been trying to brush Arafat aside for months.

"'Abyss' doesn't really translate - since the sentence is a metaphor that requires the notion of 'depth'. The more obvious word would be 'chaos' [bardak, balagan]. The closest word would be 'Bor' which just means 'pit' but the sentence would sound funny. 'Blood bath' could only be the harsh 'tevach' [butchery].

"So it's unlikely that the quote is a faithful translation of anything Peres said."



Reader David A. alerted me to the ABC's story. He and I, and Tal G., await clarification from the ABC.

UPDATE: Seems the source was Yedioth. From today's Independent:


On the other side of the Israeli spectrum, left-wing politicians and commentators warned against such complacency. Yediot Aharonot quoted Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister, predicting privately: "A bloodbath can be expected."



And via Israeli blogger Imshin:


On Monday he was bitterly saying that Bush was "making a fatal mistake" and that "the area will fall into an abyss as large as the expectations of the speech". Yesterday, he was already explaining that this was a "great" speech."



So Palmer seems in the right, although his report didn't provide a source, and didn't indicate the person to whom Peres spoke (neither, apparently, does Yedioth; it's possible that Palmer was with Peres during the speech, although this, too, is not indicated). Nor did he provide any public statements from Peres in which he recanted his private view. Some questions remain; we may be dealing with translation issues here, or a Chinese-whispers problem of exaggeration. Is Yedioth considered a reliable source? And it's curious that nobody has challenged Peres on the earlier, "private" quotes while he's been providing his more positive public quotes.

UPDATE. Via AFP, we have a source:


Veteran Yediot Aharonot journalist Shimon Shiffer watched the Foreign Minister viewing the Bush speech on television and wrote:

"Shimon Peres's face became more and more weary and angry the longer Bush went on with his speech. 'He is making a fatal mistake', remarked Peres. 'Making the creation of a Palestinian state dependent on a change in the Palestinian leadership is a fatal mistake', he repeated again and again. 'Arafat has led the Palestinians for 35 years, kept their head above the water in the international arena. No, no, you can't just brush him aside with one speech.

"Peres did not watch the speech to the very end. He got up, turned off the TV and left the room, saying before he left: 'The abyss into which the region will plunge will be as deep as the expectations from this speech were high. There will be a bloodbath'."



I wish to apologise to Tim Palmer for any inference that the quotes attributed to Shimon Peres in the above article were concocted or invented, and to acknowledge that his report as originally submitted to the ABC was accurate and reliable.

WHITE HOUSE CHAOS! Rage in Washington as Bush, Powell feud!

The White House, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is "divided over Bush's Middle East speech".

Well, that's what the ABC's headline says. But their story says exactly the opposite:


Now to the United States, where questions are being asked about divisions in the White House following President George W Bush's Middle East speech. The Secretary of State, Colin Powell, a moderate voice in the administration, was as recently as April calling for an acceptance of Yasser Arafat as the Palestinians' democratically elected leader and thus as an important player in peace negotiations.

But yesterday, Colin Powell was standing alongside President Bush in the Rose Garden, apparently lending his support to the White House's official position that the Palestinians must choose a new leader if they are to move toward peace and a Palestinian state.

As our Washington Correspondent Leigh Sales reports, the apparent about face has once again raised questions about whether the Secretary of State wields any influence at all in the hardline Bush White House.



Check that first paragraph again. See where it says "questions are being asked about divisions"? The ABC is actually asking questions about a lack of divisions.

Bush is "hardline"; Powell is "moderate"; Arafat is "an important player in peace negotiations". And the ABC is a "reliable news service".

ARE WE WATCHING THE BEGINNING OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE?

You wish, Margo. Margo Kingston, whose Enron analysis is part of Web legend, thinks WorldCom's collapse may lead to the onset of the cusp of the ruination of the Great Satan. Read her measured, informed, not-stupid-at-all fantasies:


The WorldCom Super-Fraud revealed after the US markets closed last night just has to wake Congress from its corrupt sleep post-Enron.



"Corrupt sleep"? Sounds like a Neil Young tribute band.


A finance type I spoke to today thought there was a possibility the US market could experience a crash of 1987 proportions tonight.



A finance type … who, a bankteller?


Whatever happens, combine a collapse in already shaky confidence and you get a rush out of the $US dollar and US assets. This is just awful in combination with a massive current account deficit and enormous new spending on the war on the war against terror.



The US has declared war on the War Against Terror? Holy shit!


What a way to end the financial year! Even the most conservative Australian super fund manager will be in the red after this.



Want to bet a week's pay? E-mail me before 3am and you're on.


All that crap you were told to believe on executive stock options - that it aligns executive's interests with those of shareholders - is now exposed as just that - crap. All those companies destroyed by short term focus on increasing the share price at the expense of medium and long term corporate health have been destroyed for nothing except greed.



Margo missed class the day they taught "perspective".


All those corporate cultures of loyalty, commitment and pride and the priceless psychic capital those cultures brought to companies destroyed for nothing.



What?!


I'd like to see the criminalisation of up-front and trail commissions for financial planners. I'd like to see specialist audit firms, who do nothing else. Remove all conflicts of interest. And most importantly, beef up regulators so they can FORCE the market to behave as the economic purists say it should.



Force the market to behave as it should … ? This, my friends, may be the Margoism to end them all. And where does it lead, the "trail" you speak of?


Finally, find a way to pay the jerks who do no productive work and just skim the cream off the market what they're worth, not what they can get away with.



Under the new What You're Worth pay system, Margo's salary will be cut to $2.50 per month.

6.26.2002

WE'RE STILL waiting for word from Pilger or Chomsky or Fisk about Iraq's dead baby scam.

Speaking of twisted propagandists, A LIE ON EVERY PAGE™ has been held over while I do Important Other Work. I know, I know; what could be more important, right? Don't panic. ALOEP will return shortly, or my name is John Pilger.

HOW NOT TO BEGIN A NIGERIAN SCAM E-MAIL. This arrived yesterday:


I salute you in the name of Allah, the most high God. I am Mrs. Maryam Abacha … etc ... etc ...


BRAND NEW BLOGGISTS: Welcome to US right-winger Ben Fischer and Australian left-winger John Quiggin. May they scratch and brawl until after all hope is lost.

HOT OR NOT? Reader R.G. Fulton asks:


"I keep reading the name of Natasha Stott Despoja in the Australian press, yet nobody posts her picture, at least not online. Is she too hot to handle?"



Take a look and judge for yourself, R.G. She's too much for Australian voters to handle, that's for sure; she's taken her party's vote to near-record lows. Note also that the poll at her homepage shows a 65% vote against Natasha's planned derailing of the government's changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Hot or not? Politically, not!

SOME CRAZY PALESTINIANS want to make like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove:


Six Palestinians arrested this week near Beit Shemesh were on their way to carry out a suicide attack at a warehouse where nuclear bombs and Jericho surface-to-surface missiles are stored, Army Radio reports today.


ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT FIVE WEEKS LATE. Remember this column by Nick Kristof?


So, does Yasser Arafat really want peace? In several columns in recent months I sneered at the Palestinian leader and reiterated the common view that he had rejected very generous peace deals proffered by the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. That is a nearly universal understanding in the West, expressed by everybody from the former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger to the European cocktail party set.



It ran in the New York Times on May 17.

The Melbourne Age ran it on Monday.

Thanks to alert reader Gabi B. for the tip. What is it with The Age and time? Hit their yesterday's edition link and you're magically transported to the thrilling era of March 1. Who's editing this mess – H.G. Wells?

6.25.2002

MR. LILEKS GOES TO WASHINGTON. Rep. Tom Tancredo delivered this James Lileks screed upon the Congress today. Told you it was good.

If Rep. Tancredo references Lileks's latest, let's hope he can sing:

Baghdad ladies fear his name

Uday! Uday!

There's no limb he will not maim

Oh, the cruel Uday.

Gwanna rule all night! Gwanna rule all day!

The Father of the People has tossed him the keys!

Saddam, he bet on Uday.

HERE'S Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, June 23:


George Bush Junior gave up last week. After all the blustering and grovelling and the disobeyed instructions to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and all the hectoring of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and all the "visions" of a Palestinian state, the President threw in his hand. There will be no Middle East peace conference in the near future, no serious attempt to halt the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, not a whimper of resolution on the region's tragedy … what do we get from Mr Bush? Delay. Obfuscation. A vague plan.



And here's George W. Bush, addressing the US, June 24. Still vague enough for you, Fisky?

FROM UPI in Moscow:


Russian President Vladimir Putin called it "dangerous and a mistake" to remove Yasser Arafat from the Palestinian leadership because "it would lead to a radicalization of Palestinian society."



Yeah. You don't want those Palestinians turning radical. Someone could get hurt.

007: LICENCED TO SPAM. The latest accessory in Sean Connery's Aston Martin is a send button:


Bond actor Sir Sean Connery's website is sending unsolicited email to people all over the world seeking cash donations for the Scottish National Party, it has emerged.

The former 007 actor is using his website to ask fans to contribute between £200 and £5,000 ($573.56 and $14,338.97), or more, to the nationalists' cause.

The appeal for browsers to supply their email addresses and those of their friends - who are then promptly contacted - features prominently on seanconnery.com.

Under the website's Patronage page the actor welcomes fans before inviting them to dig deep for the SNP to help their campaign for next year's Scottish Parliament elections.


LAST WEEK'S NEWS, TODAY! The Guardian's piece on Rupert Murdoch, published Friday, has finally made it to the pages of Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald. Soon we'll hear from the SMH about Charles Lindbergh's amazing air voyage.

APPARENTLY THE BBC was so aghast at President Bush's Yasser-removal plan that live coverage of the President's speech was ended before it was halfway complete. Here's the Washington Post's report:


President Bush urged the Palestinians Monday to replace Yasser Arafat as their leader and adopt "a practicing democracy" that could produce an independent state within three years.

"Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born," Bush said at the White House.



Bush is correct, and only Yasser-happy media wadheads will be surprised by his call. Dumb Bloggers forecast Bush's line months ago:


Q: How can peace in the Middle East be achieved?

A: I couldn't presume to say, except that it most likely will start with getting rid of Arafat. After that, who knows. Different players, different game.


6.24.2002

THE DAY ain't complete without fresh Bleat.

THANKS TO these people for this site's new slogan:


Posts and posts of rants against people who don't agree that Western Values are superior in all cases and that the Palestinians Should Be Crushed.


FOR ARGUMENTS, vulgar language, and bitter feuds, don't watch The Osbournes; read The OzBloggers!

The New York Times can shove its climate change stories where the sun don't shine, says birthday boy James Morrow, who is now equipped with a new knife to help him battle Telstra, his giant Godzilla-style nemesis.

Jason Soon and Don Arthur are fighting about statistics. Jason also continues his examination of stem cell stuff. Brainiac.

Scott Wickstein lists ten reasons why freedom, democracy and capitalism have made Australia and the world a better place – and includes Dannii Minogue as a wildcard 11th reason.

David Morgan rails against claims that sanctions are killing Iraqi infants.

Big Bernie Slattery lists one-liners, mocks Manchester gays who are scared of loud women, and lusts for Russian booze.

Margo has lost her mind, "possibly for good this time," says Paul Wright, and Gareth Parker agrees: "I thought she used to be a fearless and respected political reporter. Why doesn't she go and find some real news?"

Gareth wants some real news from the Daily Telegraph, too, which today front-paged a ludicrous non-story about GM food. The SMH also drew fire for insanely claiming that Osama bin Laden's terror campaign had stopped people using public transport. In Sydney.

Martin Roth is donating $20 to a Blogathon entrant who is raising money for the Bible Society in Australia. I've pledged $20 to the same guy, mainly to annoy Amir Butler.

Where is Bruce Hill? He's done something to his site that renders it invisible to us Netscape 4.76 users (don't ask me to upgrade; I can't, for religious reasons). Jack Robertson is away surfing. Mathew Bates hasn't posted a thing since Friday. Bailz, however, is back, and "blacker than ever."

Bitchin' Monaro has … well, what doesn't he have? Including soju!

YOU WANT the seriously great World Cup photographs? Then Omran – pride of the Persian blogfleet – is your man.

HE'S DESPISED by the elites, ridiculed by the press, derided for a lack of ideas, and mocked as ineffectual. Yet he's been three times elected leader of his country, most certainly DOES have ideas, and enjoys the respect of the broader public.

That's why Dancin’ John Howard is Australia's Ronald Reagan, according to an interesting analysis reported by Glenn Milne.

HOW IS Australia to blame for the sinking of a boat containing asylum seekers? SMH reader Stephen Thomas explains:


A group of uninvited people decide to move to Australia, bypassing the normal entry procedures and flouting a series of laws to do so. They engage in a high-risk operation and base themselves in Indonesia, with the knowledge of the local authorities and government. A rich local businessman arranges for them to be shipped out to Australia. The boat is overcrowded, unsafe and clearly unsuited for an ocean voyage lasting several days. The local authorities are well aware of what is happening and possibly even help.

The boat sinks 80 or 130 kilometres off the Indonesian coast at night; the Indonesian Navy and authorities do nothing to prevent this ship sailing or to help rescue survivors. The nearest Australian ship and territory are 240km and 400km away, respectively.

Yet it's Australia at fault, according to the propaganda campaign being waged by the politically correct.

Stephen Thomas, Wahroonga, June 20.


AUSTRALIA'S smallest house! Australia's cheapest house! And, in a non-housing related development, the latest Smarter Harper's Index!

WAYNE & SALLY & ANTHONY & KELLI update:

•Wayne and Sally are back together!

•But Wayne won't be playing for the Brisbane Lions, because Jason Akermanis says he'll quit the club if Wayne joins.

•And Brisbane coach Leigh Matthews says he doesn't want Wayne anyway.

•A couple of Wayne's former team mates beat up a kebab salesman.

IS THERE a more boring omsbudsman than Lillian Swanson, coma-inducing omsbudette for The Philapelphia Inquirer? The OmbudsGod wants your nominations for the Dullest Ombudsman Of Them All.

MIKE CARLTON addresses those who would convince us that the Australian government and navy caused the deaths of 353 asylum seekers:


The conspiracy theorists have been at it for weeks, ever more shrilly convinced that the navy left a refugee vessel, codenamed SIEV-X, to sink off Indonesia last October with the loss of 353 lives. To hear them, it is black and white: the Australian Defence Force was awash with pinpoint intelligence reports that SIEV-X had sailed on this date, at this time, in the gravest peril, and here's where to find it. The navy only had to zip up north and rescue the survivors, but did not because the Government was happy for them to drown at the height of last year's election campaign.

We now know, in hindsight, that SIEV-X sailed from Sumatra on October 18 and sank the next day. But it wasn't even listed overdue until October 22 and only on October 23 was there confirmation it had gone down.

And at no stage had any Australian eye seen SIEV-X. It was not picked up by daylight air surveillance because the RAAF had no reason, nor diplomatic permission, to search beyond its normal patrol squares 50 kilometres off the Indonesian coast.



Today conspiracist Robert Manne describes the sinking of SIEV-X as "Australian-related" (as though Australians crammed 400 aboard a vessel that could safely carry perhaps half that number, and leaked like, well, a SIEV) and makes a bizarre link to events in the Middle East:


On October 19 last year a grossly overloaded boat carrying 397 asylum seekers sank suddenly in the waters between Java and Christmas Island. Most drowned instantly; 100 or so clung to jetsam. Over the next 20 hours many lost the strength to hang on or the will to live. When two Indonesian fishing boats eventually arrived, 44 asylum seekers were alive; 353 had died.

It is sobering to reflect that the death toll on October 19 was twice the number of Israelis murdered by suicide bombers this year. All those who died were desperate to get to Australia; many had fathers or husbands already here. October 19 represents, thus, what one might call the largest Australia-related catastrophe in the history of this country.



Conspiracist-in-chief Margo Kingston continues to make little progress. On May 28 she asked if the case of SIEV-X was a "cover-up or stuff-up"; four weeks on, her extensive investigations lead to her to inquire whether it was "a cover-up of a stuff-up, or of something too horrible to contemplate."

Margo, give up.

FIREBLOGGER DIANA HSIEH reports that some of the outbreaks in her region of Colorado have been contained. Meanwhile, the small Arizona town of Show Low – "named by the turn of a card" – was dealt a grim hand overnight:


Two raging infernos in the western US state of Arizona merged into a giant fireball today after forcing 25,000 residents to flee and destroying 225 homes, officials said.

The two blazes, which have scorched 1,560 square km of land, joined at 12:30pm (0430 AEST Monday) to form a giant sea of fire, US Forest Service spokeswoman Carrie Templin said.

"It’s one big blaze now and its getting bigger," she said, adding that the fire was completely out of control.

The newly-united fire was heading fast towards the town of Show Low which had been abandoned by its 8,000 residents overnight. The town looked certain to be destroyed, officials said.


THE USE of weak, desperate cliches might be a sign that al-Qaeda has little left in the way of genuine threats:


Suleiman Abu Ghaith – a spokesman for bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, which has been blamed for the September 11 attacks on the United States – told Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television that bin Laden and his network were alive and well and that "America must prepare itself and fasten its seat belt".



Next from Abu: "Don't you make me come in there!", "Because I say so, that's why!", and "Act your age, not your shoe size!"

UPDATE. Reader Dan T. of Los Angeles adds two more threats to Abu's arsenal:

"It's a game all right ... it's a game until someone gets hurt!"

"Don't make me pull this jihad over!"

And from Steve S.:

"That's only funny until somebody loses an eye!"

A LIE ON EVERY PAGE™, brought to you by John Pilger's charming New Rulers of the World, reaches page 12:


Charlie Perkins, Australia's Martin Luther King, lived past the age of sixty, an amazing achievement for one whose people more often than not die in their thirties and forties.



It's amazing, certainly, that Charlie's people die twice. Not so amazing is that Charlie himself – a millionaire – should have lived to beyond 60. Most millionaires do. Suing the Aboriginal Lands Council for nearly $1 million helped, no doubt.

Next: lucky page 13!

THE SUNDAY Telegraph thinks that The Osbournes is "a documentary series" and is appalled about the terrible language:


A controversial documentary series will set new records for the amount of offensive language on Australian television when it starts next week.

Channel 10 viewers will be confronted with the "f" word 22 times in the first 10 minutes of The Osbournes, a fly-on-the-wall series about rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his family.

The 22-minute first episode includes a total of 65 expletives, most of which are uttered by the former Black Sabbath frontman, his wife Sharon and their teenage children Kelly and Jack.



I saw the first two episodes – yet to be screened in Australia – on Saturday night. Lots of swearing. But less than I recall from my time sharing an office with the staff of The Sunday Telegraph.

And who is the writer of this condemnation? Kathy McCabe, who is a dear friend, and among the swearingest fucking people I've ever met. She's got a fucking mouth on her that you wouldn't fucking believe. Fuck! This is sheer fucking hypocrisy.

6.23.2002

DEAR ANN LANDERS,

I'm all cold and covered in dirt. And these worms are just darn pesky! What can you suggest?

Yours,

Grouchy in the Graveyard

WHICH BLOGGER stereotype are you? I identify heavily with the "uncompromising alterna-journalist".

PHILLIP ADAMS is upset about John Howard and the US and George W. Bush. As usual.

His main complaints against Bush – whom he's recently taken to calling "Shrub", some four years after Molly Ivins coined the line – are based on Phil's unerring "feelings" about how Bush "looks":


The guy not only looks hopelessly miscast but is clearly working from the wrong page of the script. For some reason the real US president, Martin Sheen, is working in a television series while young George, who'd look more at home flogging used cars, tries to convince us and himself that he's the most powerful man in the world.

There's something profoundly implausible about Bush. His every public appearance, no matter how carefully orchestrated and autocued, undermines the authority of his office. Even Disney's audio-animatronic Lincoln would be more convincing than this lame excuse for a national leader. And when you see the two of them side by side – their President and our Prime Minister – it's hard to escape a feeling of incredulity.



Phillip Adams looks like Santa Claus after his sleigh has hit an oil slick, and it's hard to escape the feeling that his audience – like his vocabulary of insults – is shrinking by the week.

I'M BEING stalked by elderly women. The self-described "old boilers" at Zarook.com have put on their hunting cardigans and scoured cyberworld to reveal my various entities.

Somehow they failed to uncover the genuine Tim: I'm a US Army propagandist. Who would ever have guessed?

THE NOTORIOUSLY typo-loaded Guardian may have been attempting something subliminal with its misspelling of Rupert Murdoch's Geelong school as "Jolong", according to Don Arthur:


It's possible that the Guardian's apparent slip is actually a subtle literary reference - a sort of cosmic Jungian archetypal thing. You see a Jolong-jolong is an oceanic fish which "Feeds mainly on small fishes," and Rupert Murdoch is a Pisces.

You see, to be a Guardian reader you have to learn to look beyond the surface of things – to penetrate beneath the shimmering surface of lexical correctness and learn how to explore the watery depths of cosmic profundity.


ANIMAL RIGHTS activists are trying to close down the much-anticipated New Zealand chicken races:


The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the contest could "exploit" chickens.

SPCA Auckland chief executive Bob Kerridge says hens could be abused by people who go "too far".

"We are always concerned about public events using animals, particularly in competitive form," Mr Kerridge says. "They normally bring the animal into ridicule."



The issue will now be debated by council officials, who'll no doubt rule for chicken dignity. But sometimes that's just the way the Jell-O judicates.