ONE BLOG IN SEPTEMBER is devoted solely to next month's Australian Football League finals series, with coverage provided by a nationwide matrix of blogging sports experts. Perth's Gareth Parker will monitor the west and answer all reader questions about perverse and corrupt umpiring decisions (he's a WAFL umpire); Adelaide's Scott Wickstein will relay information from Australia's City of Churches and Inexplicable Mass Killings; talkback radio menace and Crikey correspondent Neal Woolrich, a former Fitzroy supporter, will observe Brisbane's collapse from his Redfern bunker; and I'll offer misinformation, half-truths, distortions, spite, and lies via my shadowy network of highly-placed AFL moles.

The burqa has not been invented that delivers so much coverage. Bookmark OBIS now! And delete OBIS on September 29!

THE PHILADELPHIA Inquirer has booted Fred Basset, reports the OmbudsGod. Readers are unhappy.

A friend has a theory that the weirdly inconclusive, eternally jokeless three-panel Basset 'toon is actually a four-panel work edited down for space reasons. The excised panel is recycled as a Marmaduke.

MARGO KINGSTON recently attended a writers' festival. Too bad it didn't have a remedial class:

After avoiding the 'war on terror' for so long, I thought we'd better get back to it now that Dick Cheney has told the world Iraq will have nuclear weapons unless Yanks invade now and Howard and co have said yes please before anyone could ask for the evidence.

I interviewed Labor foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd yesterday on the related matter of the Yanks pressuring all its allies and the neutrals to promise never ever to refer anything it ever does to the International Criminal Court. Of course Australia will say yes, although it's getting more and more interesting that Labor is not towing the "all the way, whatever you say" line of the government.

Towing the line? The Yanks pressuring its allies? The Sydney Morning Herald pays Margo a six-figure salary for this worthless gibberish. Hire a tutor, Margo!

NEW BLOGS! Bargarz is the latest Australian politics and commentary site (it's named after this guy – contact Bargarz for an explanation); Sabertooth Journal aims to munch on the Left; and Matthew Martin warns of impending strong opinions.

JOHN HAWKINS interviews Daniel Pipes, who has this to say:

The Middle East and the Muslim world more broadly have had a very difficult time coming to terms with modern life. You will find a bewildering range of conspiracy theories and alternate realities to explain what's going on … There are legions of theories about whatever subject you touch. There is a reversal of reality, appearances deceive, everything is topsy-turvy, friends are really enemies, and enemies are really friends. If there's good evidence Bin Laden did it then it must be the opposite of Bin Laden. It must be the Bush administration or the Israelis or whatever. It's endemic on almost every political subject.

If you doubt him, go read Amir Butler. Here's one more excerpt:

Daniel Pipes: I think contrary to the deposing of the Taliban regime with few implications, the deposition of Saddam Hussein will have vast implications on every sort of level. On militant Islam, the energy market, the Israeli conflict, the general problem of the Arab states modernizing, you name it, it'll be a large event.

John Hawkins: Largely positive or largely negative?

Daniel Pipes: Every single way positive that I can think of.


I FOLLOWED Layne's instructions. Didn't get home until 3am. Much pain.

A STUDY proves that mobile phones don't cause cancer in mice. Guess I'll go back to using old-fashioned mouse traps, then.

EVIL RACIST Australia, under the bigoted rule of John Howard, is happily increasing its migrant intake. The ABC's Ian Henderson struggles to comprehend how this can be so, but his World Today interviewees set him straight:

IAN HENDERSON: Between the election that made John Howard the prime minister in 1996 and the election that saw him re-elected for a third term in 2001, support for a reduction in the level of Australia's immigration program fell from 63 per cent to just 36 per cent.

The Australian Election Study that uncovered that fact also found the following: the proportion of people thinking the intake was too few rose between 1996 and 2001 from 8 per cent to 25 per cent.

And this was at a time when the prime minister was campaigning vigorously against the illegal arrivals of asylum seekers.

Katharine Betts from the Swinburne University of Technology and a specialist on immigration says she's not surprised at the research findings.

KATHARINE BETTS: I think the public makes a very clear distinction between a formal control program and uncontrolled arrivals, so that doesn't surprise me.

Henderson is similarly rebuffed by Macquarie University politics professor Murray Goot:

IAN HENDERSON: So surely it's a surprise that at a time when asylum seekers were among the targets of the Government's election campaign, that support for immigration was on the rise?

MURRAY GOOT: The Howard Government never attacked immigration, it talked about asylum seekers as a threat to Australian boarders.

It talked about the way it was important to protect the ordinary flow of migrants into Australia at least to keep out illegals. And it made a very clear distinction between illegal and what they would call legal.

A lot of people have thought people are anti-asylum seekers because they’re anti particular sorts of ethnic groups.

What they've overlooked is the very strong feeling about the illegality of these groups and this is what the government has stressed, that these people are illegal.

They’re brought here by smugglers, they are queue jumpers. All of these things plug into views about law and order, about what is proper and so on rather than about ethnicity and immigration.

I was talking to an ABC producer about this yesterday (I was a standby guest in case Paul Sheehan couldn't make it for a Radio National appearance). She seemed a little surprised, given my obvious criminal conservatism, that I was in favour of increased immigration.

The bad guys in this debate are on the other side. It's the green Left who oppose immigration. They think Australia is overpopulated.

IT'S BEEN months since the Cannes Film Festival, but the ABC thinks a Mike Moore press conference held in Cannes last May is somehow important. One comment from Michigan Fats, the Shame of Flint, is worthy of note:

I love being surprised and my own thinking being proved wrong.

Moore must be enjoying himself a lot these days.


DIANE E. has a theory on why anti-Israel views in the press were once accepted, and why they are accepted no more:

I truly believe that the instantaneous nature of electronic information transmission helped to squelch anti-Israel lies rapidly and with finality. Speedy and personal information transmission has also acquainted a huge audience with the sadistic brutality of Arab/Muslim governments – and of their culture.

Without instantaneous communication, the Jenin massacre story would have been set in stone within a week. The difference this time was a network of curious people who were interested in getting the truth, and who were in constant communication with one another, asking questions, pointing out inaccuracies, digging and pestering. Professor Reynolds, as the central nervous system of the blogosphere, deserves special credit. But it is the medium itself that is the engine of what I call energized skepticism.

You can't manufacture opinions when energized skeptics question the received wisdom. That's why traditional journalists react towards the blogosphere as if we are practicing a form of insubordination. Because we are.

Blogging matters.

Rock on, Gotham letter lady!

GOOD TIMES for the government means bad times for pundits. Don Arthur summarises.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD quotes former Greenpeace member Patrick Moore on delegates at the Summit of the Vanities:

"They are mainly political activists with not very much actual science background who are using the rhetoric of environmentalism to push agendas that are more political than ecological."

And here's Moore's opinion on Gar Smith, the poverty enthusiast who this week complained about electricity harming the third world's "vibrant culture":

"What does he think – that some illiterate with her teeth falling out in the mountains is a good thing?"

Apparently, yes.

MODO GETS it right, for once. Shocked to find themselves agreeing with the frump of 43rd Street are James Morrow, Josh Chafetz, and Glenn Reynolds.

Speaking of James, go enjoy his site while it's fresh, because the senior Morrow is due to arrive any minute now on his first visit to Australia and will possibly distract James from his blogging responsibilities.

LEONARDO DiCAPRIO demanded that George W. Bush attend the World Development Summit – but Leo himself has failed to show up in JoBurg, despite promising to do so.

Maybe there was an important pie sale on or something.

WHAT WOULD Churchill do?

GREG BARNS continues to display the logic and wisdom that saw him leave the Liberal Party for the Democrats exactly five seconds before the Democrats decided to abandon politics and become a daycare centre for Australians without friends. Barns, an opponent of the government's policy on illegal immigrants, has sent Crikey what he thinks is a clever quiz:

Who said ...

"People should listen to us when we say, again and again: we determine the order at our border! And we ensure that it is maintained, for good reasons. Whoever wants to traverse [our] border needs permission. Otherwise, stay away from our border! I know, ladies and gentlemen, it sounds hard. And will perhaps even be interpreted by some of you as 'inhumane'. But what is 'humane' and what is 'inhumane'?"

Was it:

(a) Phillip Ruddock?

(b) John Howard?

(c) Karl-Eduard von Schnitzler, chief propagandist for the East German secret police, the Stasi, in a television broadcast made in 1965 after East German border guards had shot two people trying to escape over the Berlin Wall?

The correct answer is c. But what has East Germany's slaughter of its own citizens got to do with Australia's border protection policy, which accepts genuine refugees and merely returns to their home countries those who are found to be making false claims for asylum?

(a) Nothing at all

(b) Nothing at all except in the jackass imaginings of anti-Howard obsessives

(c) Greg Barns should be boiled in his own urine

A SIMPLE GESTURE. But a nice one:

The Herald Sun wants motorists to turn on their headlights at 8.47 on the morning of September 11 -- the moment in New York a year ago when the first hijacked passenger jet hit the World Trade Centre.

The tribute is the suggestion of school teacher Paul Gyulavary, whose twin brother Peter was one of 10 Australians killed in the tragedy.

Premier Steve Bracks and Police Commissioner Christine Nixon immediately backed the tribute.

Mr Bracks said all government and official cars, as well as State Emergency Service vehicles, would join the tribute.

Ms Nixon said the police fleet of more than 2000 vehicles would turn their headlights on.

FOR THE love of God, please buy the Achewood book and stop the forced sale of any more body parts.

SENATOR ADEN RIDGEWAY is a wimp. So says me in my latest column in The Australian, which mentions John Howard, Barrie Kosky, the Bee Gees, Guy Rundle, Max Gillies, B.A. Santamaria, Warren Zevon, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini, and Henry Mancini, as usual.

ENGLISH IS not Margo Kingston's first language. Well, we all suspected as much, but Professor Bunyip proves it.

CULTURAL DIFFERENCES. In America, a thong was used to attract a President. In Australia, a thong is used to repel a buffalo.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD reports an international outcry over Dick Cheney's anti-Saddam speech. Who led this "outcry"?

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the call for possible pre-emptive action had been a "mistake".

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that no Arab government could support a strike against Iraq while Israel was continuing its occupation of Palestinian lands without risking a popular outcry.

Similar comments have come from senior Saudi and Jordanian officials too.

Oh. Those guys.

CRAZY "PAYING" work with its uptight "deadlines" and authoritarian "editors" has been taking up all my free-lovin' hippie blogging time, so let's catch up on a few things I've missed:

Big petrol tanker fire in Sydney the other night. Greens member of parliament Lee Rhiannon wants an inquiry. Reader Daniel M. sets Lee straight:

"Let's have an 'inquiry' to try and work out why toxic/flammable liquids like petrol are carried through residential areas. I'll give you a hint: petrol stations are in residential areas. Petrol stations need to have their tanks filled. Big tankers go and deliver the loads of fuel so that you can fill up your car wherever you are without having to drive 15km out of your way thus using more fuel and creating more emissions. It's not that hard, is it?"

It is if you're green. Osama bin Laden is apparently alive and writing letters, according to Islam Online. The intriguing thing about this alleged Osama letter is the section bin Laden has crudely scribbled over. Precision attacks on Afghanistan have obviously destroyed all of al Qaeda's WhiteOut™ stocks.

As the World Summit on Sustainable Development enters its crucial Total Spazmo phase, Daily Summit becomes ever more vital reading.

Reader Philip B. has the last word on the Tampa phone-tapping controversy:

"I work as a systems engineer in the oil and gas industry. As many of the installations are in remote areas, part of the work involves setting up communications networks. These invariably involve radio or satellite comms, both of which the Tampa would have used. We don't have any 'clicks' happening when we listen in to check the things. The 'click' from the movies is based on the old mechanical connection made when you picked up the phone. Australia's spy agencies would have to be using very old equipment to get a 'click' when listening in. They must have raided a museum for their equipment, as I don't know where else you would get such gear."

Oriana Fallaci's The Rage and the Pride is soon to be published in English. I can't wait.

Blogwise, Rich Baillie claims Gareth Parker was "cruising around the Ruby Room like some sort of drunken casino-visiting blogger", Ken Layne is now available via syndication (heads up, Australian newspapers), and James Lileks has screeded George Monbiot into microfine slices of Dumb Bastard.

There. We're completely up to date. Nothing important has been overlooked.


WE'RE A JEDI NATION! The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

More than 70,000 Australians identified their religion as Jedi, Jedi Knight or Jedi-related in last year's national census.

The high number of Jedi-related religions was a response to an email published before the census calling on Star Wars fans to state Jedi as their religion.

"If there are enough people in the country, about 10,000, who put down the same religion, it becomes a fully recognised and legal religion," the email said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said Jedi or Jedi-related responses had been categorised as not defined for census output purposes.

"However, due to interest in this matter further analysis of census responses has been undertaken since the release of census data on 17 June to separately identify the number of Jedi-related responses," an ABS spokesman said.

He said 0.37 per cent, or 70,509 people, provided Jedi or a Jedi-related response on their census form.

Not me. I listed my religion as Jed.

NEW AUSTRALIAN Greens senator Kerry Nettle delivered her first Parliamentary speech last week. It contained these phrases:

•the pain and the suffering

•European invasion of this country

•past injustices

•past and current discrimination

•the tragedy of uranium mining

•the environmental crises that we all face

•shameful fact

•bulldozing rare woodlands

•unprecedented disaster

•ecological vandalism

•economic fundamentalism that has blighted much of Australian society

•the destructive policies of the World Trade Organisation

•corporate takeover

•people are outraged

•loss of democratic control

•the silencing of the electors

•globalisation is the greatest threat to our current democratic systems

•creeping coup

•privatisation is a form of social theft on a grand scale

•international nuclear waste dump

•an opportunity to reflect calmly and rationally on the reasons behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre

•growing inequities between the haves and the have-nots

•arrogant unilateralism from the United States

•so-called war on terrorism

•we have only succeeded in making ourselves look foolish

•George Bush's comic book world of goodies and baddies

•more weapons of mass destruction are developed and held illegally in Western countries than in any axis of evil

•throwing a Molotov cocktail into the Middle East peace process

•ensuring total US dominance

•blatantly inhumane

•warmongering rhetoric

•appalling inequalities

In the middle of this Indymedia-sourced litany of horror, paranoia, panic, and grief, Unsettled Nettle proclaimed:

Communities in Australia and overseas are increasingly turning towards the Greens because we offer an optimistic and caring vision for the future.

Optimistic? Sure, if that word means something between "apocalyptic" and "idiotic".

(Link courtesy of the Margoid, who added 46 words to the top of Nettle's crock of doom, another 75 words to a Tony Kevin speech, and then, with democracy safe, apparently finished work for the day.)

"LAND REFORM PROGRAM". That's how AFP describes what's happening in Zimbabwe, and the Sydney Morning Herald is quite happy to use Mugabe's term, too. Warsaw in the '40s was an Urban Renewal Project.

DOES LYING GREENPEACE ever do anything besides tell lies like filthy lying rat bastard liars?

EVA COX, one of the human boat anchors who keeps Australian political debate forever moored in the 1960s, claims to have uncovered "evidence" that we're suffering "anxiety" due to a shortage of socialism:

Evidence is mounting that the withdrawal of the state, evident in neo liberal policies, has increased anxieties. Privatisation policies have increased perceptions of more individual and family risks. The loss of collective support has encouraged self interest and increased pressures for individual wealth accumulation, and against pooling of resources by paying tax. Fear is inimical to collective action for the common good.

My only fear is of Eva Cox and the three remaining humans who take her seriously. Just as well she's only ever heard on the ABC, which reminds me: abolish the ABC.

COFFEE TRIVIA. What's the connection between Berkeley's anti-globalist angels and the sulphur-breathing globalist demons at Starbucks?

America's speciality-coffee revolution kicked off in the late 1960s in Berkeley, where Alfred Peet, a Dutch immigrant and founder of Peet's Coffee, trained the men who would later start Starbucks in Seattle.

From this article in The Economist, on Berkeley's attempt to legislate for ethical java. Send in the National Guard, already.

READER FRED L. writes to defend Mough Dough:

"M. Dowd: cute in part but clever mostly and just because you like Bush does not mean you must badmouth the crap out of her. If you check back over 6 month's worth of Dowd articles you will see that she makes fun of both sides of the political spectrum. You just don't like her being clever at the expense of your guy ... she is being funny. Yes. And for many of us, it works."

Hmm. On matters literary, I always defer to Ken Layne, who is no starry-eyed fan of the 43rd President:

You know how some older children try to act toddler-cute to get attention? You know how repulsive it is to see a large, ugly child act like a baby? That's how Dowd writes. It's shameful.

THE LEADER of a gang of Lebanese Muslim rapists has been sentenced to 55 years' jail, and Kathy Marks of The Independent knows why: it's all because of Australian racism!

The men's ethnic background has been highlighted by police and politicians, who insist that they specifically targeted white Australian girls. The sentence, harsher than the penalty handed down to most multiple murderers, has sparked a furious debate and exposed deep cracks in Sydney's tolerant veneer.

We should tolerate rape? Marks then mentions a case that she thinks exposes our racist double standards:

Many Sydneysiders recall the three Murphy brothers, who abducted a nurse in 1986, raped her for two hours and left her bleeding to death. One detail they probably do not recall is that the Murphys were Irish Catholics. That fact never featured in the case.

Possibly because few people need to be told that someone named Murphy is Irish Catholic. And here's a fact that never features in Kathy's story: the Murphys and their two fellow gang members received harsher penalties than the Lebanese rape leader. Their files are marked "never to be released". They will die in prison. Hundreds of people swarmed to the police station where the accused men were first held, wanting to kill them.

Australians aren't racist. We just don't like rapists.


THE LONDON TIMES editorialises against the Hate Capitalism Summit in Johannesburg. No link is available, due to the Times' policy of charging insane rates for foreign subscribers; this was sent by helpful UK reader David:

If proof were needed that dictatorship exacerbates environmental damage, wastes human talents and entrenches poverty, delegates to this summit need look no farther than Zimbabwe next door, where the obsessions of an African tyrant have damaged urban livelihoods and agricultural productivity alike. In this African breadbasket, six million now face food shortages as needless as they are acute. Yet at this summit, Robert Mugabe's courteous reception is assured.

Until sustainable development, in all its environmental and economic dimensions, is recognised as an essentially political challenge, conferences like this, and the recent one in Monterrey, will be exercises in hypocrisy that invite rising derision.

Economic growth, far from being the problem, is part of the solution; over the next five decades, global output is expected to quadruple, far outstripping the predicted 50 per cent rise in population. Since poverty is the greatest single cause, and the poor are the principal victims, of pollution, that should be a message of hope, not despair. But growth can yield its human and environmental dividends only where legislation governing economic activity and resource use is transparent and impartially enforced. That, history shows, requires open societies.

It is dictatorship, not freewheeling capitalism, that has landed the world with its greatest man-made environmental disasters.

IT'S ONE year since a Norwegian vessel, the Tampa, rescued some illegal immigrants whose sinking vessel was headed for Australia. A few old stories are being recycled here, among them the fact that the Australian government tapped the Tampa's phone line. Tampa skipper Arne Rinnan says he knew the line was tapped because he could hear "clicks". Reader Paul C. writes:

"As the phone line on the Tampa was obviously not a land line, how were the calls tapped? I presume by plucking signals out of the air, many kilometres above the Tampa. Now, I don't pretend to be an expert on these things, but if that were to produce 'strange sounds and clicks' I'll walk nude backwards to Oslo."

Any expert care to help out? Would modern bugging technology produce any audible interference? Save Paul from his naked wandering pledge.

UPDATE. Mathew Bates – to whom I should link more often – writes:

"As far as I know your reader is right. Electronic radio intercepts should not degrade the signal in any way. Radio transmission is a diffuse, as opposed to focussed, medium. It's relatively easy to hear things that you may not be the intended recipient for."

UPDATE UPDATE. Reader Trevor A. writes:

"I'm not an expert, but I believe that even with satellite phones the 'radio' part of the link only serves to plug you in to the regular terrestrial phone network - kind of like the 'last mile' that connects your home to the local switch. You could, using very sophisticated gear, eavesdrop the radio part of the connection (even though it might be a very tight beam, and you'd have to intercept its line-of-sight to the satellite) without affecting the signal in any noticeable way, or you could use your regular, trusty PC Plod Xmas Phone Tap Set and plug it in at the telephone exchange, just like you would with anybody else. Whether that would click or not would then depend on which movies you have watched."

UPDATE #3. Reader Paul B. brings his insider knowledge to the case:

"I spent 16 years with the Australian Customs Service, and if the Tampa is still fitted with the HF set it had when I was still in the job, anyone within about 50 nautical miles with a hand held scanner could listen to any transmissions, either by seaphone or on marine band. All of these transmissions are analog, not digital, so are not encoded. Also, as they are broadcast and not subject to copyright, they are public domain - no spying is involved."

RAND SIMBERG'S coverage of the administration's split over invasion plans has been linked all over, but deserves greater linkage still.

LATEST NEWS from the Festival of Lunacy:

Conservation and other activist groups threatened protests to close down the Earth summit in Johannesburg.

Please do. Among complaints from the X-treme Greens is that the evil West is trying to take over the Summit:

Rich countries, headed by the US and the EU, had earlier been accused of trying to hijack the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Why shouldn't they? After all, rich countries know more about sustainable development. That's why they’re rich.

WAR AMONG THE PEACEFUL. Dave McKay, one of the leading protesters against Australia's Woomera Detention Centre, says he is suing other protesters for defamation:

At some point it becomes necessary (just as it becomes necessary to speak up against a person like Ruddock) to speak up against such unwarranted defamation against myself. If I have over-reacted, I am prepared to let the courts decide that.

McKay's main gripe seems to be against someone called Steve Georgopoulos, although other activists are also threatened:

If you do decide to dissociate yourself from some of the statements at the bottom of this letter, please send me a copy of whatever you post on the Hope site, so that I can take note of that when I send out letters of demand this week.

Letters of demand! From a peace-lovin' peacenik peace boy! McKay is the author of The Worst of Woomera, which apparently included accounts from detainees that some detainees were unhappy about. This is the source of the friction; Steve yanked extracts from the book off one of the Woomera activist websites, and railed against Dave while doing so.

Meanwhile, other anti-Dave forces have been digging into the background of their ex-comrade. One of them claims to have discovered that McKay was formerly some kind of cultist.

Go here to read all the kooky, scrambled details. I am. I'm also going to open a bottle of Moet.

FAIR AND BALANCED. The Australian's opinion page, sometimes accused of being a playground for the Right, today features Democrats insider Glenn Milne, Tampa weeper Alison Broinowski ("this no longer seems a just society"), and fossil fuel fearmonger Frances MacGuire ("many people don't realise that burning fossil fuels for our energy needs also affects our health").

MacGuire's piece – she’s a senior member of the Greenpeace religion – is hysterical:

The smoke from fossil fuels contains two very different, but equally important, threats. First, the carbon dioxide emitted contributes to the greenhouse effect and is already disrupting the global climate system. For example, extreme weather events such as floods bring water-borne diseases as well as injury and death.

Fossil fuels cause floods! (By the way, when did people get the idea that "extreme" weather is something unnatural? Are floods a recent phenomenon?)

Second, air pollutants cause direct harm to the human body, exacerbating respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and asthma, and causing premature deaths.

Fossil fuels cause gasping!

Tony McMichael from the Australian National University's National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health … refers to an increase in deaths from heat waves and extreme weather events such as floods and bushfires. More ominously, he warns that infectious diseases that flourish in a warm and wet environment, such as mosquito-borne malaria, dengue fever, Ross River fever and viral encephalitis, could become more widespread around the world.

Fossil fuels cause malaria!

Which means that there could be a significant rise in public health and insurance expenditure, in treatment, vaccination and prevention, if climate change continues unabated.

Fossil fuels increase my insurance bill!

Heat stress on crops and cattle would lead to big losses in Australian agriculture. The likely loss of the Great Barrier Reef and our snow fields is already a grave concern in the tourism sector.

Fossil fuels hurt wheat, cows, fish, and snow!

Phasing out fossil fuels is not just about environmental and health protection. It makes economic sense and it creates jobs. Some jobs would be lost if we seriously addressed greenhouse gas emissions.

MacGuire exaggerates everything except the amount of jobs that would vanish were we to adopt the Kyoto Protocol. "Some" jobs?

According to the US Department of Energy, non-polluting wind energy provides about five times more jobs per dollar invested than coal power. Solar energy and the energy efficiency industry provide many more again.

And building a dam with shovels provides many more jobs than building it with earth-moving equipment.

This week in Johannesburg, more than 65,000 people are congregating for the Earth Summit. The eyes of the world will be fixed on Australia, the US and Canada, all of which have played obstructionist roles in climate negotiations during the 10 years since the previous Earth Summit in Rio.

Hooray for the Obstructionist Three!

It will take government policy changes and support to benefit from the opportunities of moving to a low-carbon, energy efficient future. If Howard really believed in personal responsibility for the health of future generations, he would have joined Britain's Tony Blair, Germany's Gerhard Schroder and Jacques Chirac of France at this week's Earth Summit.

What? And burn all that fossil fuel to get there?


PRAY FOR MODO. Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times column contains a grotesque example of what Oxblog identifies as the Fourth Law of Dowd: "It is much better to be cute than coherent."

Inspired by a George W. Bush interview with an AP reporter – during which the jogging president spotted a herd of cattle and said, enigmatically, "Bovine" – the Modeo Clown launches into this too-cute, way-incoherent whipsong of whimsy:

At the risk of sounding feline, I must say that "bovine" leaves me supine and is not fit for "Nightline," much less "Frontline."

At the risk of sounding routine, I must say that Maureen is a has-been who is not fit to be seen in a webzine. What did she expect from Bush during his morning jog? An on-the-fly translation of Othello into Cantonese? Perhaps he meant the word as a review of MoDo's recent work, in which case Bush has mastered commentary's two prime requirements: accuracy and brevity.

HOW GOOD is the Honda S2000? So good that when it came time to return the car on Friday, I called the Honda people and told them that, no, they would not be getting their car back until after the weekend. The Honda folks seemed to understand. This car has addictive properties.

Most of them are concentrated high in the rev range, above 6,500 rpm, where Honda's variable valve timing kicks in. The engine note changes from normal-speedy-loud to howling-psycho-very loud (87 dB), and keeps shrieking like a treed cat all the way to 9,000 rpm. At which point either the electronic engine cut-out or driver panic intervenes.

Well, not panic – more concern at imprisonment. Hit 9,000 rpm in first and you're already 20 kmh above Sydney's urban speed limit, with five gears still to go. Handling is too good for me to properly judge, as my surname is not Andretti, although it does have this odd twitch-oversteer thing entering medium-quick corners; dicking around with tyre pressures would likely fix it. Gearbox is flawless. I managed to miss one heel-toe downchange entirely, but this is the sort of thing that happens when you're me and you're showing off with a friend in the car. Reminder to self: surname is not Andretti.

Full review to be published shortly. I'll post a link. Or maybe I'll just never return this car, and everyone (maybe even Vodkapundit!) can come over to my place and drive it themselves.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS thinks Henry Kissinger is opposed to a war against Iraq:

A week or so ago I wondered when he was going to pronounce on the impending confrontation with Iraq. And I bet right. He is against it.

But he ain't. In his August 9 column on the subject, Kissinger rambles and equivocates – he must getting paid by the word – but ultimately reaches this conclusion:

The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demonstrated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for pre-emptive action.

UPDATE. Mark Steyn also points to the Kissinger-dove myth:

Despite the best efforts of The New York Times, the good doctor is not opposed to war with Iraq. He states explicitly that there's an "imperative for pre-emptive action" and sooner rather than later.

Not only does Kissinger not break ranks with Bush, but, more remarkably, he breaks ranks with himself, acknowledging that Kissingerian "realism" is no longer sufficient in an age of enemies unsusceptible to concepts like "deterrence".

EVEN BEFORE it's begun, the World Summit on Sustainable Development is making poor people richer:

Four days before the start of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, a Romanian became the first delegate to be mugged.

The man said he was attacked in Eloff Street and robbed of his watch and $70 (about R750). He had not laid a charge because he believed the muggers were the very people who needed to be helped by the summit, he said.

Sounds like they're helping themselves. Via Countrystore.

THE PLANET has been saved, thanks to Greenpeace gimps who bravely climbed on top of a large object and hung a banner on it.

FAIRFAX PUNDIT Hugh Mackay directs his laser-like gaze towards the subject of suburban life. In a series of alarming insights, Hugh reveals:

•That neighbours in the suburbs are rarely related.

•That people in the suburbs will, over time, become acquainted with their neighbours.

•That sometimes neighbours become friends.

•That people in high-density housing crave privacy.

•That rich people have security systems.

•That people sometimes fight with their neighbours.

He ends with this: "It is how we live, not where we live, that determines the quality of our lives."

No subject is too controversial for fearless Hugh. Next week: are you a cat person or a dog person?

PROFESSOR BUNYIP is tired and he's been drinking again, but he nevertheless provides two rules that all of us may live by: don't stare at monkeys and never, ever, humour anyone who thinks Margo Kingston is intelligent.

His target is Margo enabler Tim Dunlop, publisher of an "intermittment" weblog. Quite aside from the Prof's concerns, Dunlop has this to say on Australia's treatment of illegal immigrants:

"We need a better way to deal with this than 'border controls' based on vilification, self-satisfaction and the mandatory detention of children."

So come up with one.

FREELANCE JOURNALIST Alistair McLeod has been killed in a car accident in Afghanistan. McLeod had been working for The Australian, and was the first journalist to investigate Ali Bakhtiyari's refugee claims.

All sympathies to his family and friends, and to the family of Spanish journalist Luis Alvarez, injured in the same accident.

HOW THE hell can any list of the top 100 Brits not include this guy?

REVEREND GEORGE MULLINS of Victoria is the very first person to apologise to Australia's Prime Minister for doubting his stance on illegal immigrants. In a letter to The Age, he writes:

Many thanks to Russell Skelton for his research on the Bakhtiyari family, and the courage to publish it. The question now is, is anyone going to apologise to the Prime Minister, Philip Ruddock and the Immigration Department? I do.

Rev. George Mullins, Bell Park

Meanwhile, other letter writers can't handle the truth. Bruce Paterson thinks The Age was wrong to investigate Bakhtiyari's claims:

Surely The Age has better things to do than Ruddock's dirty work? I do not care where Ali Bakhtiyari comes from, unless you can also demonstrate some character fault greater than his lying to our barbarous Federal Government in an attempt to secure a better life for his family.

Bruce Paterson, Elwood

I might steal Bruce's car. It would help secure a better life for my family. If I get caught, I'll simply lie about it.

FORMER WORLD motorcycling champion Barry Sheene has been diagnosed with cancer. I met Sheene, a charming person, at the Australian Formula One Grand Prix a few years ago. He very kindly introduced me to Jacques Laffite, Eddie Jordan, Murray Walker and various other racing bigshots. George Harrison wandered over to say hi. Everybody loves Barry. Best of luck.

JAMES LILEKS takes on the antiwar oil obsessives:

"Oil-based economy" is not exactly a stinging indictment. This would be more impressive if you wrote your missives from computers made entirely of hemp, instead of petrochemical products; it would be more convincing if I had forgotten the sight, in 1991, of buses pulling up in DC to disgorge protesters who shouted NO BLOOD FOR OIL. The more you sneer ooooiiiiilll, the more I wonder if you were sodomized by a gas-pump nozzle in your formative years. I understand that in your circles, oiiiillll says it all, but this doesn’t have much resonance outside the student cafeteria or the Kinko’s where you run off your fliers. If you doubt me – and you’ve every reason to do so, given my oil-soaked family - say "oil you" to a stranger, or sneer "get oiled!" in a locker room.

Protesters at a Bush appearance on Friday in Portland, Oregon, were sticking to the oil line, despite it having an 11-year record of failing totally to influence anyone who isn't customarily under the influence of something else:

"I don't think any American boys' lives are worth a barrel of oil," said Rob Moitoza, 57, who carried a sign that said: "Vets Against Bush."

"If he (Bush) starts a war against Iraq, it will be to get re-elected. All he cares about is wealth and power," Moitoza said.

Oil and wealth and power. Isn't that the Saudi national anthem? Anyway, the fossil fuel fantasists – who really ought to read John Hawkins on the subject, as should everyone else – also targeted Bush as he drove around Oregon:

About a dozen protesters dotted Bush's motorcade route. Some waved signs saying, "No attack of Iraq. You can't fix Daddy's mistake" and "More forests, less Bush."

The demonstrators along the route were far outnumbered by people waiting at the ends of their driveways who held signs saying "We love you" and "We support you."

NOAM CHOMSKY was right – Amerikkka is an oppressive police state. Except the people being silenced aren't Chompy Gnome and his platoon of noisy elves. No, the victims of the war on dissent are dimwit radio stars Anthony and Opie. The OmbudsGod has the story.