BONNIE STEVENS, of Sydney, writes:

I am constantly amazed by Tim Blair's ability to link the ABC, the Left, and war in a single column on a weekly basis.

I know, Bonnie. It is amazing. Maybe all the genetically-modified food I eat has given me amazing Super Powers.

Speaking of food, I'm leaving now to consume my own weight in sensational Sydney rock oysters and wine with some like-minded publishing friends, at least one of whom has an expense account. It's a small gesture, but we all must do whatever we can for World Peace. Oysters for liberty! Wine for justice!

TINA BROWN, in her otherwise overwrought and self-obsessed Lunching column for the London Times, quotes this enraged e-mail from Time magazine art grouch Robert Hughes to former Time CEO Jerry Levin:

How can I convey to you the disgust which your name awakens in me? The merger with Warner was a catastrophe. But the hitherto unimagined stupidity, the blind arrogance of your deal with Case simply beggars description.

How can you face yourself knowing how much history, value and savings you have thrown away on your mad, ignorant attempt to merge with a wretched dial-up ISP?

I don't know what advice you have to offer, but I have some for you. Buy some rope, go out the back, find a tree and hang yourself. If you had any honour you would.

Nice guy, isn't he?

READ THIS STORY, and you'll immediately understand why the Daily Mirror is losing readers.

LIVE RADIO is always a joy, even if the purpose of it is to allow vengeful ABC types to expose your ignorance (see two posts below). I somehow managed to get nearly half of the audience's questions correct, which is astounding, given that I was asked:

*To name the substance in fireworks that creates green sparks;

*To name the military operation that organised the deployment of troops the day before the Normandy landing;

*To identify the bones in the forearm;

*And to answer something about prime numbers. People, that was never going to happen.

Things I got right: the name of the aircraft that bombed Nagasaki (Box Car), the number of ducks Mark Waugh has scored in Sri Lanka (five), how the Jeep got its name, and a few others involving Nikita Krushchev, Homer Simpson, and Ringo Starr.

The highlight was a call from Imre Salusinszky, who managed to get on air before the show's producer realised a sinister right-wing plot was afoot. Imre fed me an easy question about Natasha Stott Despoja, then was invited to participate in the actual official quiz being conducted by James O'Loghlin, which prompted a fantastic, spontaneous attack on commie comedian Rod Quantock and anti-globalisation protesters in general.

Lots o' fun.

CORRECTION. Just as well this wasn't a written quiz; several readers write to point out that "Box Car" should be "Bock's Car", named after pilot Fred Bock.

THE ANTI-WAR crowd claims to be scared of George W. Bush's America, but they're only kidding around. If they genuinely were scared, they'd do something about it, as Mark Steyn explains:

When they bitch about America's warmongering but think the UN's the perfect vehicle to restrain it, you know they're just posing, and that, though they may routinely say that 'Bush frightens me', they’re not frightened at all. America could project itself anywhere and blow up anything, but it doesn't. It could tell the UN to go fuck itself, but it's not that impolite. Imagine any previous power of the last thousand years with America's unrivalled hegemony and unparalleled military superiority in a unipolar world with nothing to stand in its way but UN resolutions. Pick whoever you like: the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, the Third Reich, the Habsburgs, Tsarist Russia, Napoleon, Spain, the Vikings. That's really 'frightening'. I've now read a gazillion columns beginning, 'He's a dangerous madman with weapons of mass destruction. No, not Saddam. George W. Bush.' It barely works as a joke never mind a real threat. The fact that, in all the torrent of anti-Americanism, there's no serious thought given to how to reverse it nor any urgency about doing so tells you precisely how frightening and dangerous these folks really think the Great Satan is.


SEE HOW SMART I AIN'T. Sydney readers can tune in to the James O’Loghlin show tonight on 702 ABC at 7.10pm, when I'll face a barrage of quiz questions from offended listeners. Should be fun.

TYRANTS LOVE ENGLAND. First we learned of Saddam Hussein's fondness for British buses and Quality Street chocolates; now we discover that Harrod's apparently shuts its doors so Grace Mugabe, wife of Robert, can shop in serene privacy.

Osama bin Laden, of course, is a fan of British soccer club Arsenal. And John Pilger lives in London. Hmmm … does Germany have any leftover doodlebugs?

REBECCA AND JASMINE Nightfall represent the intelligent face (and hairy underarm) of the antiwar movement.

DESCRIBING A TRAITOR as treacherous is treason, writes James Lileks:

It's un-American to criticize a congressman who goes to the enemy capital on the eve of war and calls the president a liar. Merely reading this column reduces your Americanism by 37 percent, and reading it out loud in a coffee shop assures that John Ashcroft's crack Conformity Ninjas will come crashing through the skylight and slit everyone's throat.

None dare call it treason, because that would be politicizing the war. That would make Tom Daschle cry. That would make Robert Byrd wade into another six-hour speech about the Bible and the Constitution. That would make Al Gore speed-dial Meathead for some new ideas. That would make Ted Kennedy repeat his call to drop war plans until Saddam actually has a bomb. That would make Barbra Streisand fire off another misspelled, hectoring fax to Dick Gephardt, begging him to thwart Bush's plan to conquer Iraq on behalf of the timber industry.

DO YOU have any stories about business travel? I'm writing an article, and need instructive, horrifying, funny, or just plain interesting business travel tales. Send 'em in! All names and identifying details will be concealed, if you wish.

THE LATEST COLUMN in The Australian mentions James O'Loghlin, Samuel Johnson, molluscs, Naomi Klein, Buffy Sainte Marie, David Suzuki, Marcus Gee, Noam Chomsky, Steve Earle, Marisa Tomei, Jane Fonda, Terry Gilliam, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser, and this petition.

IN A POST ostensibly about old Mercs and home ownership, Stephen Green somehow delivers the throwaway line of the month:

She had an almost mythical chest.

LAST FRIDAY night I was surrounded by Melbourne lefties who were convinced that John Howard aimed his policies anywhere that polls dictated. No argument would shift them. Gerard Henderson tackles their claim:

There are no votes in being tough on the Iraqi dictatorship, as the Prime Minister well understands. So, why is he adopting such a strong line supporting the United States and Britain? The answer is that John Howard sincerely believes that this is the most appropriate policy at the moment.

Howard has taken unpopular positions in the past, on issues like the republic. He's apparently doing the same on Iraq (although I believe support for war against Saddam to be higher than usually stated). Like him or loathe him, the man has beliefs.


To be honest, the longer I do Webdiary the more I realise how ignorant I am about lots of stuff.

As do we.

THE OLSEN TWINS are evil, writes the Sydney Morning Herald's Miranda Devine.


HERE'S JOHN PILGER writing in advance of last Saturday's march for Saddam in London:

A great many people believe that democracy has been lost in this country. Today, true democracy will demonstrate its resilience on the streets of London.

Not since the days when American presidents were prepared to use nuclear weapons in Europe will there be such a demonstration of the popular will opposing violence as a means of resolving disputes between nations. A sea of people will cover much of central London and Hyde Park; and they will demand that a great crime is not committed in their name. As the opinion polls make clear, they represent the majority of the people of Britain.

Sure they do. Only 150,000 people turned up. One week earlier, 400,000 marched to protest proposed bans on hunting. Join the majority, Pilger – buy a gun.

THE ARCHIVES are down, so I have no way of checking, but apparently a few months ago I mentioned something about actress Tiffany Limos. Or maybe I just mentioned one of her movies. Or maybe someone else did. Anyway, Tiffany sends this note, mainly in regard to a piece in the NY Observer:

I just wanted to make some corrections.

I am single.

I don't talk about my personal life, rarely.

That guy from the Observer sucks dick to get places and was mad at me for whatever reason ... and he has gotten loads of hate mail ... which he deserves.

Just to let you know that I am not a gutter mouth twerp ... I am at Columbia University in New York majoring in psychology and accounting with a 4.0 average. Columbia is an Ivy League school here ...

There is a lesson to be learned ... DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING THAT YOU READ!

Sincerely, your fan,

Tiffany Limos

Consider me corrected.

HERE'S A PETITION all decent, life-loving people must sign. No justice, no peace. Free the Magpie Two. The Grand Final is all about oil. Salary caps kill children. Etc.

WHAT THE HELL is wrong with the senior Democrats? It's as though Barbra Streisand has attached herself to them like some kind of brain parasite. Michael Kelly examines some recent Dem utterings:

There was Al Gore, telling the world that the killers of Sept. 11 had "gotten away with it" and broadly (if, in his trademark weaselly fashion, coyly) suggesting that the president of the United States was pursuing war for the selfish purpose of winning votes in November. Two days later, there was Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle picking up on Gore's repulsive slander and vastly amplifying it on the floor of the Senate. A few days later, there was House Democratic leader Richard A. Gephardt, in a mostly reasonable op-ed column, echoing the calumny: "President Bush himself has decided to play politics with the safety and security of the American people."

And, last Sunday, there were – most memorably, most indefensibly, most obscenely – two Democratic congressmen, former whip David E. Bonior of Michigan and Jim McDermott of Washington, beamed live from Baghdad, to literally parrot Hussein's line – to tell Americans that, as McDermott said, "the president would mislead the American people" in order to get his war, but that, by contrast, "you have to take the Iraqis on their value, at their face value."

How far away are the elections? Five weeks? Man, this could become a meltdown.

UPDATE. Carey Gage analyses Streisandesque spelling strategery.

WHERE'S JESSE JACKSON and his travellin' roadshow o' peace when they're needed?

Gay rights activists picketed last night's Music of Black Origin awards in London in protest at the nomination of three singers whose songs advocate the incineration of homosexuals.

Capelton, Elephant Man and TOK – all nominated for best reggae act – have become notorious for lyrics that urge the burning, shooting and battering to death of gays.

This Capelton fellow sounds like a real piece of work. Check out his, er, lyrics. The man himself says he's misunderstood:

Capelton insists the fires he sings about throwing gay men into are metaphorical allusions to cleansing and purity. "Is not really a physical fire. Is really a spiritual fire, and a wordical fire, and a musical fire," he said. "But people get it on the wrong term. People get confused ... We come to burn for injustice and inequality and kill indignity and exploitation."

And gays, Capey. Don't forget the gays.

STOP MAKING FUN OF GEORGE W. BUSH. Barbra Streisand has spoken! The trillionaire Democrat cash sack, humiliated by her own gullibility and dopey spelling, now declares that dumb mistakes are "silly side issues" that "divert news priorities" from "the really important and relevant truth".

Guess that means no more gags from the Streisand wing of the Democrats about Dubya's word-mangling. You wouldn't want to focus on "silly side issues", would you, Barbra?

ANTI-WAR one day, pro-war the next. Those Reichstag-torching bunker monkeys just can't make up their minds about Iraq:

Germany edged closer to a U-turn on its policy towards Iraq yesterday by making clear that new evidence of President Saddam Hussein’s weapons plans could dilute its resistance to a war.

Statements by two Social Democrat foreign policy specialists have indicated a shift as Berlin begins to buckle under the strain of its argument with the Bush Administration.

Just commit, already. You know you want to. You're Germans.

THE FRENCH trial of an Islamic extremist charged over bombing attacks that killed eight in Paris has been postponed because Britain won't extradite the accused man. Understandably, the French are furious:

The outburst of French anger partly reflects a longstanding tradition in Paris of politicians expecting to influence the course of justice. It also reveals a sense of incomprehension that Britain allows Islamist leaders to publicly preach war against the west.

Britain's policy of keeping Islamist militants under surveillance, but letting them meet freely and speak openly, has prompted several French commentators to refer to the British capital as "Londonistan".

London, you'll remember, was the scene of an Islamic gathering on September 11 that celebrated the attacks of the previous year. England is killing itself.

THE LATEST STEYN is superfine:

Al Gore rose from the dead to demonstrate that his political antennae are still as reliable as a 1948 TV with busted rabbit ears. Remember Al? The first Android-American to run for President? The first candidate to win the popular vote without being popular? Al spent his riveting Gore '00 Presidential campaign in a fruitless pursuit for "the real Al Gore," launching a brand new "real Al Gore" every couple of weeks.

MICHAEL MOORE is an honorary Canadian, according to this wallowing gush from the Toroto Star's Antonia Zerbisias:

Moore, who seems to be more at home here than in his native U.S.A., was defending his polemical film about guns and the American psyche, a film that won a special jury prize at Cannes — here it also earned a sustained 13-minute ovation from the audience.

Moore complained that American critics had not given Bowling For Columbine the attention it deserves, that nobody had reported that the country's largest theatre chain, which is based in Colorado, has refused to exhibit the film when it opens later this month.

I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen him onscreen on U.S. TV since Stupid White Men became a hit.

That's some freakshow octopus hand Antonia must have. Her story is only worth clicking on for the single most honest caption of a Michael Moore photograph that you'll ever read.

Oh, and it looks like Moore Hamburgers Please has some friends in Northern Ireland, too.

UNRELATED HEADLINES in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

Cannabis-schizophrenia study

Stoner untroubled by opinion

PAT SHEIL defends the Australian Naming Rules:

That big concrete thing they use for rock concerts, ice shows and circus acts in the middle of Sydney is called the Sydney Entertainment Centre. Sydney's opera house is called the Sydney Opera House. The railway station in the centre of the city is called Central Station … This makes perfect sense.

For a Naming Rules Primer from earlier in the year, go here.

IT'S NOT A BUG, IT'S A FEATURE. Recent Blogger troubles have caused all manner of problems for users and readers, what with links sending people to sites they never intended to visit, or weird messages appearing at certain blog addresses. But sometimes this works out to everybody's advantage, as new reader (and fellow blogger) John Muller explains:

I'm not quite sure how it happened. I opened my blog as usual this afternoon to check for comments, and something different popped up. Something gray, unfamiliar and... Australian?!

Who was this Tim Blair guy, and what was he doing invading my cozy little cyber-niche?

I'm not sure. I'm quite certain that I have no idea who you are, nor do I know why your blog somehow found its way onto my computer. But since I stopped by and took the time to read it and figure out what in the world had popped onto my screen, I thought I might as well comment. I enjoyed it.

Perhaps Australian media is different from their American counterparts, or perhaps you're one of those wonderful anomalies who exhibits a bit of sense in a profession overrun with idiots. Either way, it was nice to read an intelligent, conservative perspective on the Iraq controversy. Keep it up.

Next time I make it to your blog, it might even be intentional.

So now John knows about me, and I know about him. All due to Blogger's HAL-like impulsive decision-making. We humans aren't running this show any more.


ANOTHER ALL-DAY drive looms - Melbourne to Sydney, 900 kilometres, ten or so hours - therefore posting is again suspended. My tiny mind boils with unworkable column ideas and various money-hatching schemes.

The money-hatching is crucial, as in mid-October I'm flying to New York. There's no real purpose to the trip, apart from meeting significant wonderful people and being in New York, a place which sometimes jolts unworkable ideas into the realm of the achievable. Or, at least, always provides lots to write about.

From there I aim to be in LA three weeks later, possibly via several stops in the forbidden Flyover Zone. Don't know exactly where, yet; haven't made plans.

One thing I must do: meet as many Blogfolks as possible. And stalk Noam Chomsky. And - speaking of money-hatching - maybe I'll disguise myself as John Pilger for a lucrative Berkeley speaking gig, to be delivered in the style of the Crocodile Hunter.

Crikey! The kids would love it.


FROM THE final Christopher Hitchens column to appear in The Nation:

When I began work for The Nation over two decades ago, Victor Navasky described the magazine as a debating ground between liberals and radicals, which was, I thought, well judged. In the past few weeks, though, I have come to realize that the magazine itself takes a side in this argument, and is becoming the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden.

DEBBY MORSE, of the San Francisco Examiner, has worked out George W. Bush's problem:

He thinks he's Napoleon! He's behaving exactly like a corrupt, warmongering megalomaniacal totalitarian. All he needs now is one hand stuffed inside a snappy red, white and blue military jacket. I'm kind of afraid to look in his closet.

I'm kind of afraid to look at Debby's resume. Imagine the entries:

1979-81: School of Delusional Justice. Advanced diploma in Permanent Outrage

1981-85: Under observation, Ward 7

1986-90: Co-authored "Yelling, Shouting, and Stuff: Effective Protest in the Age of the Hegemon" (Remainder Publishing, California)

1991: Listening to NPR

1992-96: Wrote award-winning newspaper series, "All the Homeless People Have Vanished Because a Democrat is in the White House"

1996-98: Off medication at last!

1998-2000: Waiting for a thought

2000: Wrote award-winning newspaper series, "Where the Hell Did All These Homeless People Come From All of a Sudden?"

2002: In hiding, eluding the elite dissent-crushing brigades

WHY? WHY?! Our species does not deserve this. The Sydney Morning Herald's Hugh Mackay is attempting to be creative:

Late at night, two police officers are summoned to a house in an outer suburb of Sydney. They are in a state of intense arousal at the prospect that lies ahead: inside the house is a man they want to arrest in connection with a series of violent crimes, and they are hoping to take him by surprise.

Police = George W. Bush and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Perp = Saddam Hussein. Mackay = so very sad.

In fact, the man has been tipped off by a neighbour and is expecting them. He has denied any involvement in the crimes the police are investigating, but his friends know that even if he wasn't involved in those particular crimes, many others have his fingerprints all over them. He's a nasty man - some say evil - with a reputation for vindictive behaviour, especially when his back is against the wall.

Mackay's metaphors begin to collapse almost immediately. Who are these friendly neighbours of Saddam – Kuwait?

The wanted man has been watching all this from behind a torn blind in the front room of the house. Still proclaiming his innocence to the friends waiting with him, he draws a gun, but his friends persuade him to put it away: "You'll only make things worse for yourself if you fire first," they tell him. "Defend yourself if you have to, but wait and see what the cops do."

Maybe Saddam's pals are the UN, or the media. Or some homeless kids just hangin' with the S-man.

He replaces the gun in the pocket of his windcheater and zips it.

The "windcheater" may be a metaphorical weapons lab, in which Saddam can conceal his arms. The zipping of the windcheater – largely redundant, because the gun has been placed in a pocket, not within the garment – is evidence perhaps of the chilling effect upon Iraq of UN sanctions.

The two police officers have a somewhat ambiguous reputation themselves. The senior man was lucky to have kept his job when his gung-ho attitude got the better of him on a previous occasion. He is well known in this area, and the wanted man recognises him in the pale glow of a streetlight.

Has George W. Bush come close to losing his job? Not that I'm aware. It could be that Mackay's "senior man" is the United States rather than the leader of the United States, although that notion is also problematic; given that the "job" of the US is being the US, how could it have ever been in danger of losing that job?

The streetlight is clearly Robert Fisk, a low-watt device offering poor illumination.

The junior officer is more cautious by nature, but he's never been able to restrain his partner from stepping over the line. (In truth, he's never tried to restrain him, because he's secretly in awe of his partner's swaggering arrogance.) Both officers have been reprimanded for their recklessness in the past, so this is an important assignment: can they get their man without bending the rules?

The suspense is murderous. Mackay has invented a new form of crime fiction: noir lame.

"If they come up and knock on the front door, I'll talk to them," the man tells his friends. "But if they start skulking around, trying anything funny, I'll blast them."

Why wouldn't "the man" tell this to the police? His friends – unaccountably lurking within the targeted house – are hardly in a position to pass this information along, or act on it themselves.

No-one can be sure precisely what happened next …

Except, one assumes, for the friends, who were apparently present throughout.

… although certain facts are clear. The police knocked on the front door, the wanted man answered it and, within seconds, lay dead on the floor with two bullets in his chest.

The police knocked on the door? Yeah, right. Gritty realism by the truckload here.

His friends insisted he had not even unzipped the pocket of his jacket; the police insisted that although he hadn't actually drawn his gun, it looked as if he was going to, and so they had shot him in self-defence.

Oh, the jacket had a zippable pocket. That makes sense; you know how criminals like to make it difficult for themselves to get access to their guns. And a zip is really useful for telegraphing any gun-grabbing moves to nervy lawmen, which is just how criminals prefer it.

In court, their lawyer relied heavily on the concept of "pre-emptive self-defence" to justify the fact that the police were defending themselves against an anticipated attack, even if it had not actually materialised.

I'm guessing that Mackay anticipates a Milosevic-style trial for anyone bad enough to take on Saddam the petty criminal.

When the case was reported in the media, many people unreservedly supported the police officers' actions: "The man was a notorious criminal and whether he had been going for his gun or not is irrelevant. The world is better off without scum like that."

By "notorious criminal", Mackay means "killer of thousands", "invader of nations", etc.

Some went further, lauding the police for taking matters into their own hands: "With this kind of low-life, rough justice works best. Act first, worry later. If the cops had hesitated, who knows what might have happened?"

Not Mackay, who has difficulty enough working out what's already happened.

Others, though, were less certain. They wondered whether there were any circumstances in which it could be right to kill a man - even a man with a criminal record - who had made no actual, immediate threat, regardless of his reputation for violence. Wasn't this a virtual assassination? What about the idea of a fair trial - wasn't that supposed to be fundamental to the rule of law?

"Reputation for violence". Now Mackay has reduced Saddam Hussein to the level of a gangsta rapper.

The story didn't end there. Family and friends of the slain man vowed revenge. They stayed clear of the tough cop, but they pursued his weaker sidekick relentlessly until, one night, they cornered him in a deserted street while he was off duty, and bashed him senseless.

Australia, the weak sidekick, can expect a bashing. But how is this possible, unless Saddam possesses the weapons to do so – the very weapons that justify a pre-emptive strike?

They let him live, so he would be in a permanent state of fear about where the next attack might come from.

From Iraq, by the sounds of it. So let's attack Saddam now! Thanks for the warning, Hugh.

Moral: trigger-happy cops reap what they sow, and so do trigger-happy politicians.

But the only dead guy in Mackay's morality play is Saddam. Hugh Mackay needs help.

SALON IS deeply confused. The notorious online money insinkerator believes Al Gore's goofy San Francisco speech, among other weasel mutterings, will lead to a revival of his political fortunes:

With a series of fiery speeches, the former vice president recovers his voice, his backbone and his place as the 2004 Democratic front-runner.

Talk about your blue-state delusion. Writer Joan Walsh, possibly attempting comedy, begins:

Better late than never, and better now than ever, Fighting Al Gore has emerged to lead his party. Just as congressional Democrats seemed ready to roll over and authorize the president's reckless war with Iraq -- Oh, let's just get the damn thing over before the election! – the former vice president came out swinging, denouncing the rush to topple Saddam in a fiery San Francisco speech Monday. Later in the week, a newly feisty Gore blasted Bush on the economy, the intelligence failures that missed 9/11, and his administration's assault on civil liberties in the name of national security.

Even more confusing: Salon expects you to pay for this. Don't they understand that the Indymedia audience isn't exactly loaded with cash?

THE LUCKIEST MAN in Melbourne: Late on Saturday, after the Grand Final, I was walking along a Richmond street wearing a Collingwood scarf, as were many. A lively drunk extended his hand. "Commiserations," he said, apparently seriously.

Then, as we shook hands, he grinned stupidly and shouted: "Ha! I hate Collingwood! I'm an Essendon supporter! Ha ha!"

I still had his greasy paw gripped in mine.

Experienced bar brawlers and street maulers will be aware of the possibilities presented here. I've seen them used. You've got the guy's hand; jolt him forward into a paralysing headbutt. Or quickly snap the hand back, breaking the wrist. Or, if you've a mind for more artistic manoeuvres, spin the guy around, pin his arm high on his back, and commence the smacking of head against wall/car/footpath.

Whatever. He was drunk, so it would have been unfair. Plus I'm well known as a peace-lovin' pacifist wuss.

Besides, I'm reasonably sure that later in the night, when he tried that same deal on another Collingwood supporter, he'd get a finer beating than anything I could dish out. Maybe Mr Commiserations didn't end up as the luckiest man in Melbourne after all.