READER CHRIS RICE, of Sydney, makes a damn good point:

"So now that the terrorists have admitted that they were targeting Americans in Bali and were 'unhappy' that Austalians died, I trust we will be reading apologies from Bob Ellis and other blame-Howard activists in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age?"

I don't think it's gonna happen. Paradoxically, one of the defining qualities of the morally superior is that they never apologise for anything.

LITTLE HAS been written about this, but the US now has its first Jewish female Republican governor.

BUTTERFLIES ARE the latest hip wedding accessory in Sydney:

Forget confetti, rice, balloons or soap bubbles. Brides are paying up to $2500 for the latest hot bridal accoutrement - butterflies, commercially bred for release by Sydney's "butterfly girls".

A business idea suggest itself; if brides are prepared to pony up $2500 for stupid bugs, what might they pay for a beautiful ceremony featuring these babies?

WHAT A difference a Tuesday makes:

"There is a legend in the making," says presidential historian Richard Norton Smith of Kansas University, who thinks Bush is connecting with the American people in a way reminiscent of Truman, president from 1945-53.

"Harry Truman's legend was of the haberdasher from Missouri who was suddenly thrust into the world's most important position amid some of the world's most challenging times."

Bush, like Truman, fits the ideal that "you can stumble into the White House and be transformed by the office, rise to the occasion – that's often the case with our great presidents", says Smith.

On the front page of The New York Times, veteran editor RW Apple likened Bush to Reagan, arguing both were often underestimated by their opponents. "That is less likely to happen after Tuesday," Apple wrote.

And on page one of the rival Washington Post, longtime Georgia Democrat Raymond Strother marvelled at Bush's contribution to ousting his state's Democrat governor and one if its senators. "He's an incredible force. It reminds you of Franklin Roosevelt."

UPDATE. Reader J.C. Jackson, of Seattle, WA, notices this line in The Australian's article:

That changed, of course, the days after September 11. Americans needed someone to believe in, someone to explain why terrorists hated them, and Bush gave answers that a majority of them liked.

J.C. has this to say:

Here's a message for The Australian, from the Center of the Demographic (41-year-old white male ex-Dem twice-a-Clinton-voter who hasn't considered casting a blue ballot in, oh, about the 14 months since, you know, that thing happened because we're bad): I don't give a f**k why the terrorists hate us. Never crossed my mind. And GWB isn't a thumb I suck on to make the hurt go away - he's doing what I would do, and he damn well better.

Message delivered.

MORE DETAILS have emerged about the Bali attacks, including that Australian tourists died because they were part of the "Jewish crusader alliance". People in the West who believe Australia and the US provoked this war are marching in lock-step with Hitler's ghost.

HUGH MACKAY, columnist for The Age, has run out of ideas and now seeks inspiration from the dashboard of his car:

Speed. The very word excites us. Faster, faster, faster: it's the mantra of the age, the ultimate goal of an anti-contemplative society, the sine qua non of life in the modern world.

Hugh Mackay. The very name bores us. Duller, duller, duller: it's the mantra of The Age, the ultimate goal of an anti-readable newspaper, the sinking no of life in the modern press.

Who doesn't want to get where they're going as quickly as possible? Why would anyone take the scenic route, adding an hour to the journey, when the expressway promises speedier dispatch? (Question: what are you going to do with that hour you saved?)

(Answer: write an appalling column about speed?)

Fast food, instant coffee, express checkout, quick fix, snap frozen, speed reading, the fast lane ... why are we always in such a hurry? How did "instant gratification" graduate from jokey insult to legitimate motivation? Patience was once a virtue; now, in everything from baking bread to personal relationships, impatience is the order of the day.

Is there any way we can accelerate Mackay's retirement?

"More haste, less speed" once seemed wise advice; now we'll take more haste and more speed, thanks, with a mobile in one hand and a burger in the other.

Mackay should have taken more time with this column. Then maybe it wouldn't be so abysmal.

Pushing your car through a corner, especially on a country road, gives you an adrenaline kick that more cautious drivers never experience.

Yes, but imagine the thrill of driving your car through a corner! It's so much faster than pushing it.

No wonder road safety campaigners have such a tough time convincing us to slow down. "We have got to make speeding as socially unacceptable in this decade as drink-driving became in the last decade," says Harold Scruby, the chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia.

Harold Scruby, the chairman and sole member of the Pedestrian Council of Australia.

Road deaths have been drastically reduced over the past 20 years, but there are worrying signs of an upturn in the figures this year, and a widespread conviction among the experts in the field that speed is still the No1 killer.

Or maybe drivers are crashing to avoid some old clown in the overtaking lane who insists on driving below the speed limit.

But how do you encourage drivers, especially young drivers, to slow down, when everything in our culture is telling them to speed up? Fast is good, slow is bad, so slow down? I don't think so.

Perhaps they could listen to tapes of your columns as they drive. It's difficult to speed when you're unconscious.

Scruby's drink-driving analogy is a good one, because we have managed to discourage people from drinking and driving. We did it by intervening directly in the driving environment via the introduction of random breath testing. Suddenly, drink-drivers were at risk not only of having an accident caused by their impaired faculties, but also of being caught driving with too much alcohol in their blood. Gradually, the idea of drink-driving became disgraceful.

As has this column. Can we demand sedative testing for journalists?

We haven't gone far enough, of course: we could introduce technology into cars that made it almost impossible for an inebriated driver to start the engine, but RBT was a huge step in the right direction.

We could also introduce technology that made it impossible to take Hugh Mackay seriously. Oh, wait; I'm using that technology already.

Much more could be done. For instance, why is the speedometer on my car calibrated to 240 kilometres an hour? When I'm travelling at 100, the needle is still less than halfway around the dial, which carries a powerful implicit message of potential. Why do we allow cars to be sold with such seductive speedos?

Mackay is embracing the Taliban's concept of individual responsibility. Why do we allow women to wear such seductive dresses? They present a powerful implicit message of potential. Ban them!

And why aren't cars fitted with a piercing alarm - a bit like a smoke detector – that goes off if the needle reaches some predetermined limit?

Like the one that's screaming in my head right now?

The great paradox of modern motoring is that while road safety authorities try to convince us that, in the words of the current safety slogan, "There's no such thing as safe speeding", car makers and highway engineers seem determined to convince us of the very opposite. Which of them is right?

Whichever one you oppose, Hugh.

LATEST ON the Bali bombing suspect:

The suspect who has allegedly admitted taking part in the Bali bombings has told police he wanted to kill as many Americans as possible and "wasn't happy" that Australians died.

How sweet of him.

"THEY SACRIFICE daily hours to defend their view and their opponents in reason and soil talk."

That's a Babelfish translation from the German of Janko Rottgers' warblogger analysis. We need more soil talk! Here’s Janko's whole item, run through the Babelfish device:

Elfte September gave remarkable self-dynamics to the Web log scene. If the Web columns before only inaugurating were well-known, then the terrorist attack provided for a true reader and writer oversupply. At first many wanted simply only a new forum of the exchange, looked for sources of information and opinions beyond the mass media. In the following months however a completely special impact from Bloggern mauserte itself to star the scene: The Warblogger. They are ore conservative, support the war against Afghanistan and naturally also against Husseins the Iraq. They sacrifice daily hours to defend their view and their opponents in reason and soil talk. Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds is most well-known a.k.a. Instapundit and Tim Blair. In their shade tummeln itself dozens on the part of, which are issued themselves like their models in more or less eloquentem Geraune.

I'm certain Janko is much more eloquentem than this translation suggests.

WENT OUT tonight to grab some magazines and got hooked up in an old-fashioned street race through Sydney's eastern suburbs with some guy in an Audi TT. Things like that used to happen all the time when I was a kid; you'd go out for groceries and immediately become ensnared in a 15-minute road battle with whoever pulled up next to you at the lights.

People don't speed enough these days. Shopping is boring.

So are speeding fines. Speaking of which, Roger Bournival has a splendid tale of Triumph and Justice arising from a confrontation with the law over a 10mph speeding charge. Roger won.

(As did I; that Audi can't have been the turbo version. Drive it like you stole it, TT boy!)


WHAT THE hell was I up to a couple of weeks ago? Oh, yes … I was driving a vegan's Chevrolet from New York to Los Angeles. More about that later. First, some highlights from five days in NYC:

If you are a lucky person, and you pray to the correct deities, you will one day be invited to dine in the company of Amy Langfield, Norah Vincent, Elizabeth Spiers, and Asparagirl, all at Jane Galt's Manhattan apartment.

So much wit and intelligence in the one place. Naturally, I resented them all. Langfield invented a new blogging contest while I tried to think up one-liners that might direct attention back to me. There was tequila. The delightful Ms. Spiers later helped me into a cab, which became my home for the next hour because I'd forgotten my address.

Diane E. is exactly as she seems in her Blog – combative, genial, and wry. We met at Chumley's then got lost seeking out Daily Show writer Jason Ross and The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto at a steak place in the Village. Jason is one of the funniest, spikiest comic writers I've met, yet he lacks the typical comic writer's self-loathing and excess of evil. Taranto – a fine jokester himself – was forced to supply the evil.

Col Allan, editor of The New York Post, invited me over to his house one night when ALP heavy Laurie Brereton was visiting. Col looks years younger than when I last saw him in Sydney; his metabolism appears to mesh perfectly with the pace of running a mighty New York City tabloid. Halfway through the evening the Washington sniper struck – the second-last attack, I think – so Col carefully engineered a front-page remake over the phone while fetching ice for our Chivas Regals. Remarkable.

Genius news photographer Jim Lowney must get to Australia soon. He's easily as aggressive as the best Oz snappers – news photography is a body-contact sport – and has a savant's eye for framing and detail. Our happy night began in Soho, took in Langan's (where we'd arranged to meet Business Week's Roger Franklin, formerly chief copy editor at the NY Post and a treasured mentor of mine) and ended elbow-deep in burgers at some late-night dive.

I missed meeting many, many people because I had to grab a car and head west. I'll send grovelling e-mails when my remorse and guilt subside.

Next: the journey begins.

THE USUAL root cause apparently provoked the Bali bomb attack:

The head of the Indonesian investigation team probing the attack, Major General I Made Mangku Pastika, said the suspect Amrozi had said he wanted to "kill as many Americans as possible" in the attack.

The massive October 12 blast ripped through a packed nightclub, killing more than 190 people, mostly Australians. Hundreds more were injured.

Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the murders:

The al-Qaeda terrorist network has said it carried out last month's devastating bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, CNN reported.

The group led by Osama bin Laden said it had attacked "nightclubs and whorehouses in Indonesia" in a web site message which was translated by CNN.com.

MARK BUTLER, confused lefty TV writer for The Australian, thinks that South Park is some kind of anti-Republican socialist satire. This is an excerpt from his preview of the show's sixth series (no link available):

In a world polluted with toxic, warmongering rhetoric, programs such as this, which cast a very cold and contemptuous eye over the smug middle-class attitudes that feed the rhetoric, provide a vital public service.

Along with The Sopranos, Michael Moore and The Simpsons, South Park is a reminder of a different America, of the 60 per cent of Americans who chose not to vote in the presidential elections, not of the 20 per cent who voted for George Bush.

Has anyone besides Butler noticed (much less applauded) South Park's "contempt" for the middle-class? Anyway, someone should tell him that the program's creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, aren't peacenik Leftoids. They are, in their own words, proud Republicans.

TAKE PITY on Wolf Blitzer. The CNN veteran has just interviewed anti-nuke mystic Dr. Helen Caldicott, who is to rational thought what jazz ballet is to full-contact Thai kickboxing. Here's a sample of Wolf's ordeal:

BLITZER: Let me ask you this question, Dr. Caldicott ...

CALDICOTT: And I think there's a 50-50 chance ...

BLITZER: Dr. Caldicott ...

CALDICOTT: Yes -- I think there's a 50-50...

BLITZER: Dr. Caldicott, we don't have a lot of time, so let me just move on ...


BLITZER: ... and ask you this very brief question.

Good luck, Wolfie. When she's not interrupting Blitzer, Caldicott argues with herself:

CALDICOTT: Up to 600,000 children have died, and it will happen again. I plead, as a pediatrician representing the medical profession, you don't go and murder children. That's not right, because there might be a bad dictator. Go and take him out by yourself. But you shouldn't be taking out leaders of other countries either. You should be working with the United Nations.

The closing exchange reveals Caldicott's main purpose for the interview – book sales:

BLITZER: We have to leave it right there, Dr. Helen Caldicott. Thanks for joining ...

CALDICOTT: Read my book.

Sure will, Helen, as soon as you write something that might be described as a book, instead of a cocktail of hallucinations and semi-thoughts conjured during an HRT bender. Why do people give this crazy old scorpion so much airtime?

Link thanks to Bill Herbert.

AN INDONESIAN man has confessed to planting the main bomb in the Bali attack. Meanwhile, young Australians are still burying their friends.

WASHINGTON POST dumbinatrix Mary McGrory is McFisked by Juan Gato, who the Post should hire as McGrory's copy editor. Or – even better – as her replacement. Watch the circulation rise!

Also, scroll up on his site for a fine take on Beltway brontosaurus Helen Thomas.

DAVID PENBERTHY in Sydney's Daily Telegraph:

It is possible, in many parts of Australia – generally the leafier parts – to traverse the following hypocrisy-laden topics of conversation:

"What school are you sending your girls to? Seen any movies lately? Are you going overseas for the holidays? How about these low interest rates! Well done on the promotion."


"These terrorists are obviously mad. But at the same time, America has made itself a target through its foreign policy."

This view is predicated on the generous view that the terrorists are rational, that their indiscriminate murder is somehow linked to a specific event or idea.

You know, like United Nations resolution 638, which demands the Israelis hand back to the Palestinians the disputed Video-Ezy car park on the outskirts of Hebron.

Penberthy identifies that the Islamicist war is not being fought against Western decadence, but against the values of the Enlightenment:

… the separation of church and state, the value of science and free speech, the power of education and self-improvement, the intellectual benefits of travel and an end to the automatic deprivations or excesses of being born "to" a particular class.

And his advice? Laugh at these mirthless ghouls:

I have seen the enemy and he has a really, really stupid beard. He regards the electric toaster as satanic. He has no sense of humour.

THE AUSTRALIAN government – allegedly conservative, remember – has produced a list of 259 types of handguns it intends to ban.

The National Coalition for Gun Control says the government has not gone far enough.

Reading the linked article, you'd imagine such weapons were in wide circulation. Not so. Handgun ownership is already mostly illegal in Australia, and the Smith & Wesson .357 and Glock pistols referred to by the writer are types only able to be licenced for sporting use. There are no "concealed carry" provisions here; indeed, there are no "carry" provisions at all. We're unarmed.

NASSAR HUSSEIN, the England cricket captain, won the toss prior to the First Test against Australia.

And he sent Australia in to bat.

This might rank among the greatest blunders in the history of sport. Perth's Gareth Parker was quick to post an item suggesting Australia could score 600 runs. Possibly Gareth was pessimistic. At the end of the first day's play Australia had scored 364 runs for the loss of only two wickets.

Matthew Hayden is not out on 186. Only Sir Donald Bradman, in 1931, hit more runs on the first day of a Brisbane Test. In my entire life, only 13 batsmen have hit 186 runs or more in an Ashes innings – and Hayden is still there, with a whole new day before him. Moreover, Hussain has exposed his batsmen to the ordeal of facing Shane Warne in the final innings of the match, which might be on Saturday.

Let's see what some of the London papers have to say …

The Guardian admits the decision to bowl first was "crazy" and condemns the England team as "sloppy" yet still has the nerve to mock Australian coach John Buchanan as a "Ned Flanders lookalike." Perhaps Michael Vaughan, the apparently blind English fieldsman, should borrow Ned's spectacles.

The Independent describes Hussain's decision as "bemusing" and rates the day as England's worst since Mark Taylor and Geoff Marsh "finished the opening day of the first Test at Trent Bridge on 301 without loss in 1989 and set the tone for Australia regaining the Ashes later that summer."

Stupid Independent can't even get sport right. The Trent Bridge match of '89 was the Fifth Test of that series, not the First, and by then the Ashes had already been won. The Indy also describes Simon Jones's awful injury as an "accident", when it was clearly due to incompetent coaching. Whoever instructed Jones to dive like that should be murdered.

The Daily Telegraph says Hussain "defied local knowledge" and "erred in his judgement" by fielding first. How very polite.

The Daily Mirror slams Hussein's "extraordinary decision" which "backfired dreadfully", leaving England in a "humiliating, harrowing horror story". And this is before Adam Gilchrist has arrived at the crease. The "enormity of Hussein's blunder", the Mirror claims, was assisted by "unbelievably cack-handed" fielding.

The Times declares that England is "frightened" and has "come to grovel" before Australia. About Hussein's confounding move to invite Australia to bat, it says the England captain was "misguided."

Roll on day two. The Fat Guy – America's number one cricket follower – and I await each delivery with irrational excitement.


BERNARD SLATTERY corrects some revisionist WW2 history that would have Australians defeated at Kokoda. Excellent, heartfelt work.

MY INTERVIEW with Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh is in the November edition of Australia's Reader's Digest. Go buy a copy. Waugh rocks.

FORMER NEW YORKER James Morrow is rightly (and hilariously) puzzled by his homeplace's plans to host the Olympics, and reflects on Australia's Olympic benefits:

Right now I live in Sydney, a city that was "fortunate" enough to have hosted the Olympics two years ago. The idea was to give Sydney and Australia some serious face-time on the world stage. Presumably, Paul Hogan, the Croc Hunter and several decades of Qantas ads (to say nothing of world-famous attractions like koalas and the Sydney Opera House) had failed to clue the world in about the existence of Terra Australis. Sydneysiders, a wonderfully friendly bunch, apparently had a great time during the games, but today the city is stuck with a massive complex of former Olympic venues that have become little more than a venue for school field days. My wife recently had to go to the "Olympic Park" (a good 45 minutes out of downtown) to register for some university courses recently, which shows just how desperately officials want to find some use for the site. The only people she encountered were a busload of Japanese tourists, who were more interested in having their pictures taken with our 9-month-old baby than in looking at countless rows of empty bleacher seats.

James just sent me an e-mail about a female neighbour who told him to "get the fuck back where I came from". Don't be offended, James! That's Australian for "come on over for a drink, handsome."

THIS IS so beautifully paranoid that it makes me want to dance about like a happy little elf. Someone at Indymedia seems to think that Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed by the plane itself, presumably because it was made by a company with defence department connections and couldn't tolerate liberal passengers:

The Beechcraft King Air that crashed was manufactured by Raytheon. Raytheon just happens to be a major defense contractor and supplier of a multitude of missile systems including the AAMRAM, Patriot and Tomahawk. They are also at the forefront of developing Bush's Star Wars missile defense "shield" as well as a leading developer of other Homeland Security projects. They have a long and cozy relationship with the Bush cartel. Their name also surfaces prominently in connection to the Florida flight school that trained many of the Sept 11 hijackers, and the flight that spirited many Arabs out of the country during those attacks while all other flights were grounded.

Stephen King, your next novel is writing itself. Christine was never this evil.

Via Damian Penny, who finds gold wherever he digs. Now, back to more elf dancing …

LET'S REVIEW expert pundit Michael Moore's election bulletin from last Sunday:

Well, folks, Tuesday is the day!

Hooray! We're going to Bennigan's!

The day that George W. gets taught a long overdue lesson. The day that we, the MAJORITY -- the 52% who never elected him -- get our chance to reclaim a bit of our former democracy (back when ALL the votes used to be counted).

Bet Moore wishes now that all the votes weren't counted.

What if, on Tuesday, all of us, regardless of our political stripe, and just for the fun of it, decided to serve one big-ass eviction notice that said, you have two years to remove yourself from the premises-and you had better not damage anything on your way out?

Who you calling big-ass, megapodge?

I think we can give Bush the Mother of all Shellackings on Tuesday. It can happen if you, and the millions of others, who are now reading this letter, will do one simple thing: TAKE THE DAY OFF THIS TUESDAY.

Consider it done.

That's right. Call in sick, skip work, skip school, skip Springer, and then devote the next 12 hours to dragging as many people as you can out of their homes and getting them to the polls.

Looks like the "millions" of people reading Moore didn't obey the magical speaking Michigan landfill.

I know a lot of you cannot afford to do this.

So subsidise them, rich guy.

On Tuesday, go down to the local candidate's office and volunteer to do whatever is needed: give a ride to the polls for senior citizens who can't get there, make last minute phone calls to probable voters who may have forgotten to vote …

Forgotten to vote? This is some sophisticated electorate Moore is targeting.

Or you could just start going door to door in your own neighborhood. Knock on every door and tell people in plain, non-political language why you would like them to go down to the polls right now and vote for so-and-so.

I told you idiots to vote for so-and-so, not Sununu!

Or tell them you just needed to get some exercise. Tell them what they already know: that the corporate guys have made off like bandits while the rest of the country lives in utter fear over whether they will have jobs, health care benefits, or our pensions when they retire. EVERYONE can relate to this -- and trust me, it is on everyone's mind right now. Even many conservatives who have seen their job or their 401(K) go up in smoke are now livid and want their pound of flesh.

If they wanted pounds of flesh, they'd be knocking on Moore's door.

I know that for many of you this will be a new thing. Give it shot. I promise you, at the end of the day on Tuesday, if we succeed, you will never again doubt the power of just one individual who decides that she or he can make a difference.

Nor will you doubt the far greater power of millions who voted for the other guy.

Expect a wake-up call from me at your bedside 6am Tuesday!

Brrrrr … can't sleep, clown will eat me …

SCOTT INGRAM of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, writes to point out that the excellent "two shots to stop" artwork I mentioned recently is actually the work of graphic artist Oleg Volk, a Soviet era émigré to the US.

More of Volk's work can be found here.

ELECTION ANALYSIS: According to Dick Morris, writing in The Australian, "the media was caught by surprise" by Bush and "never realised the extent of the President's popularity or the degree of national support he commands."

By "media", Dick Morris means "Dick Morris".

MENTIONED IN today's column in The Australian: Galileo, former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, the Gaelic Club, Kerry O'Brien, Ayn Rand, and the Leyland P76.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ is Australia's friend, writes Greg Sheridan:

Australians and Americans are mates who will stick by each other, while Washington has no doubts about the courage of Australians.

This is the surprisingly direct, even emotional, view of US Deputy Defence Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, the most intellectually formidable hawk in the Bush administration.

In a long telephone conversation from his Washington office this week he told me he'd been profoundly moved by the Washington cathedral service commemorating the Australian dead in the Bali bombings.

Speaking of which, I'll soon post some more of the 800 or so e-mails received from US readers in the wake of the Bali attacks. I'm sorry I haven't already done so; the amount (and the emotion) was simply overwhelming. And these messages deserve to be read.

PSYCHIATRISTS INTERESTED in the pathology of denial may wish to examine the cases presented here, here, and here. And maybe here. Here, too. As well as here.

UPDATE. Terrey Cobb, of Cedar Creek, Texas, writes:

"I do not mean to fault you in any manner, but nevertheless I think you could do with a little bit of instruction regarding the American Socialist -- uh, sorry, Democratic Party.

"If you wish to understand them, you should first disconnect your common sense. Turn it off. Don't say it can't be done. The evidence for this phenomenon is all around us. Have you done this? Don't be difficult.

"Now please consider the axiomatic proposition that if there is inequality of result this is due to oppression. Don't attempt to analyze this proposition. If you are richer than I am it is because you are oppressing me. The fact that I squander all my money on drugs and substandard prostitutes is immaterial.

"In the same vein, whenever a Democrat loses an election it is because the other side stole the election. Period. As with oppression, this is a definitional thing. Of course there are many ways by which an election can be stolen. Often this is done (or attempted) by intimidating our most vulnerable classes of citizens so that they will be denied their right to vote. A good example of this can be seen in the South Dakota race, in which evil Republicans engaged in an attempt to disenfranchise the dead people of the State, a traditionally marginalized group who even to this day are typically confined in ghettos which are euphemistically referred to as cemetaries.

"I hope this information will be of some use to you."

Love the line about "substandard prostitutes"! And reader Michael Hankamer sends this:

"Wow. If 'denial' were a river in Egypt, it would be overflowing its banks by now."


DAVID BROOKS on the 43rd President:

Never, ever, ever underestimate George W. Bush. It took me two years of being wrong about Bush before I finally got sick of it. The rest of the pundit class had better catch on. He is a leader of the first order. This historic night belongs to him.

Thus far, the reputed idiot Bush has graduated from Yale and Harvard, made a stack of cash in the oil industry, become the first consecutive-term governor of Texas, defeated a dual-term VP for the Presidency, and led his party to yesterday's extraordinary triumphs. Let his opponents keep calling him stupid; if they do, within five years Bush will be King of England, the Pope, and world Formula One motor racing champion.

UPDATE. The Rev. Brian Chapin suggests that Bush would "get more mileage out of a Nascar championship. Nobody watches Formula One in the States." His reader Drew has this rejoinder: "Ah, but it would gain him respect in Europe …"

And reader Mark A. writes:

You forgot: Heavyweight Champion of the World and Miss Universe. But I shouldn't nitpick.

FOLLOW THIS FreeRepublic link for updates on the intriguing Simon-Davis battle in California. With barely more than a quarter of votes counted, Simon is slightly ahead.

He's likely to be swamped by Davis votes coming in from San Francisco, but for now it's a way-close race.

With 30% of votes in, Simon and Davis are tied at 45.5%.

At 31.4%, Davis leads 45.9% to 45%.

At 36%, Simon leads 45.5% to 45.4%.

At 39.2%, Davis leads again, 46.1% to 44.5%.

UPDATE: Ken Layne says it good in a comment at Matt Welch's site:

The best thing that can come out of this dismal race is the death of Gray Davis' national political ambitions. He'll win tonight, but if enough people make protest votes, he'll win by a slim margin. I can't vote for retard Simon or the dingbat Lib/Green loons, so I'm writing in George Foreman. Everybody loves George Foreman and his magical grilling machine. Anyway, Davis is going to have a hard time running for US Senate or (god forbid) president if he can't even get a landslide in a Democrat majority state with no serious competition.

As for the rest of the bums, I'm voting against every incumbent – and NO on every proposition, as always. The only proposition I'll ever support is the voter initiative to outlaw voter initiatives.

IN A piece hacked together from reports in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times, The Sydney Morning Herald compares the CIA's expert destruction of known Al Qaeda murderers with Iran's fatwa against Salman Rushdie:

The attack clearly placed the Bush Administration outside the bounds of actions that previous US administrations have acknowledged taking to defend American interests overseas.

"Where we have refrained from doing this in the past, it's been the judgement of the US that killing our enemies abroad is a very foolish thing to do," said Alfred Rubin, a former Pentagon counsel and a professor of law and diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachussetts.

"After all, the Soviets killed their enemies abroad, and the Iranians have tried to do the same thing against [author] Salman Rushdie. We decided a long time ago that this was not a wise thing to do. It was not consistent with our vision of where the world should be going. But now we apparently have changed our minds."

If the US launches broad bombing attacks on Al Qaeda encampments, it is accused of threatening the lives of innocents. If the US launches a precise attack killing only Al Qaeda terrorists, it is accused of behaving like an Ayatollah. As Rubin says: "Now we have apparently changed our minds."

FLIPPING THROUGH channels last week in a Flagstaff, Ariz., hotel room, I happened upon the horror that was Phil Donahue interviewing Michael Moore.

Donahue's default facial expression (confusion and disbelief blended with alarm) recalls a man who's just been told his entire family has been eaten by cannibals. In a Gap. And Moore appears these days to be disintegrating like an arctic ice shelf. Slabs of him – well, his whole northern aspect – hung dangerously over the edge of the stage, menacing front row guests.

Ryne McClaren also witnessed the debacle. Here is his grisly report.

LOTS TO argue about or agree with at Ken Parish's redesigned, readdressed Australian lawblog.


PEGGY NOONAN channelling Paul Wellstone from beyond the grave was funny-strange. Things turn funny-hilarious when Tupac Shakur is introduced to the afterlife discussion.

FLAG-BURNING is the jackass move du jour of Australia's antiwar left. Can't these people ever think up anything new? To help out, here are a few useful starter tips on exciting, different ways to protest:

•Decorate a pack of wild pigs with the message you wish to communicate. Let the pigs run loose in crowded city streets. Hilarity (and political consciousness-raising) ensues!

•Make yourself the protest by gaining massive amounts of weight on an all-McDonald's diet. Block corporate hallways with your ironic bulk.

•Hasten the destruction of capitalism by consuming the oil it needs in your fleet of Merlin V12-powered monster SUVs.

•Challenge middle-class sensibilities with clothes made entirely from the pelts of domestic animals.

•Subvert the patriarchy by performing in strip clubs under the stage names Roberta Fisk, Michelle Moore, Filipino Adams, Joan Chomsky, etc. Produce a porn video titled "No Logo".

•Get a job. Bring the system down from within.

ACTOR JONATHAN HARRIS, best known for his role as Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space, has died at 87. Ted Rall probably thinks George W. Bush had him killed for being rude to robots.

WHY SHOULD Ted Rall have all the fun of inventing ridiculous conspiracy theories? Let's start some of our own, right here:

Barbra Streisand had Paul Wellstone offed. Pass it on.

UPDATE: Charles Austin joins in with some quality Ralling of his own.

TWO SHOTS to stop … scroll down this NZ Pundit post to see a cool pro-gun image. Some Googling reveals that it was originally produced by the Second Amendment Sisters and is a couple of years old. First time I've seen it, though.

THE TEUTONIC PLATES are being manipulated by the CIA! Angela Bell observes the latest insanity oozing out of Indymedia.

VARIOUS MUSLIM homes and mosques have been raided recently by Australian police searching for local links to Abu Bakar Bashir, the extremist Indonesian cleric. Turns out old Abu has been to Australia 11 times.

Members of one mosque the maybe-possibly-just-could-be terrorist leader visited insist they've never assisted Abu or the Jemaah Islamiah crazyoids:

Manly-Warringah Islamic Society secretary Romzi Ali today denied any suggestion the mosque had collected funds for the organisation, which is suspected of involvement in the Bali bombing.

"We never...collected any money for Jemaah Islamiah," he told reporters at the northern beaches mosque.

"We never funded any organisation because we are not interested in any political issue at all.

"If we (are) collecting some money it's only for human rights."

Er, okie dokie. Meanwhile, the raids have offended some in the "please don't upset anybody, ever, about anything" faction of Australian society. Paul Sheehan yesterday took them to task:

What has been largely overlooked by critics of these raids is that speed and surprise are necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence. Politely waiting at the front door with a warrant in hand, while attentive to everyone's sensibilities, is not conducive to the protection of evidence.

Forced and rapid entry by police happens all the time in this country, usually involving suspected drug dealers. It is not a special show put on for Muslims. It is about preserving evidence and self-protection.

Sheehan also quotes New South Wales premier Bob Carr, a Labor politician who more often than not makes perfect sense:

"As an Australian political leader who's stood with families that have lost loved ones in Bali, who's visited the Concord burns ward, and will be at a funeral tomorrow, and as these people are from my own electorate, my own community, if some have got a link to JI, I want them inspected by ASIO.

"I want them to be raided. I want them to know that ASIO, the Federal Police, with the full backing of the State Government, has got a vigilant eye on them.

"JI has blown up fellow Australians. JI tried to kill a whole lot more in Singapore. If you've got links with JI, I feel more comfortable that ASIO, Federal Police, backed by the state authorities, are checking you out."

AN AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL report says Israel is guilty of war crimes. The report has been released on the same day that two Israelis at a shopping mall were murdered by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

PHILLIP ADAMS worried that tourism would "obliterate Balinese culture". Margo Kingston was concerned that rich foreigners caused the Balinese to "lose their place". Well, thanks to a couple of helpful bombs, all their problems have been solved:

Christmas is usually high season in Bali, but at the biggest hotel on the island they are still without a single booking.

With 750 rooms and 1050 staff, everyone at the giant Grand Hyatt hotel at Nusa Dua is beginning to wonder just when or if the tourists might come back.

Staff have been told to take holidays. You can see in the faces of those on duty the fear their jobs might soon go.

In the weeks after the October 12 bombing, occupancy rates plummeted from 70 per cent to just over 3 per cent, or about 20 rooms. On Sunday night they had recovered to just under 7 per cent or 45 rooms. None of the guests were Australian.

That should make Phil and Margo very happy. The Balinese don't exactly sound overjoyed, though. What's up with them?

TOMORROW: A complete and legally binding explanation of just what I've been up to in the US over the past few weeks. Names will be named. And misspelled, probably.


IF YOU want to be taken seriously as a radical Muslim gang, it pays to have a name that won't be confused with anything sordid and Western. The leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front obviously haven't done their Google research:

The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group yesterday accused the United States of carrying out a campaign to crush all Islamic groups in South-east Asia.

Eid Kabalu, spokesman for the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), made the allegation as he accused the US of making false reports linking the MILF to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and the South-east Asian militant group, Jemaah Islamiah.

MILF, eh? Prospective members searching for information on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front can expect to find sites like this. Happy days, Milfers!

DAVID BROCK'S most recent book – the one he insists is true – has been launched in Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald thinks this is big news.

THE HYPOCRISY of.Phillip Adams glows brighter than any incinerated Balinese night club. In his latest column Adams analyses the Bali bombing, paying particular attention to the West's culpability:

Through the years I expected the onslaught of Western tourism to obliterate Balinese culture. Yet despite the distortions to the economy, despite the invasions of Germans, Italians, Australians, Americans and Javanese, despite being used as an exotic theme park by the world, a sort of tropical Disneyland, Bali and its traditions have proved tenacious.

They sure have. They've also survived Phil's visits. Except, of course, he is no common tourist, because Phil knows Famous People:

On my first trip to Bali, Donald Friend was still living happily in his beach house, enjoying the luxuries provided by attentive staff. He told me he was planning to leave pretty soon. He felt his time was running out, that he'd overstayed his welcome.

On that first trip, I took a letter of introduction from Max Harris, whose column appeared side by side with mine in The Weekend Australian. Max wanted me to meet Hannibal Oprandi, an Argentinean priest from a distinguished Buenos Aires family who'd come to Bali as something of a political refugee. Oprandi was working in the poorest villages, at the far end of the island, a long way from the Australian suburb of Kuta.

Note the contempt for the (mostly working-class) Australians whose visits provided Bali with its main industry. If Phil had his way, Balinese hotel operators would still be toiling in the fields, safe from Western decadence:

The Balinese lost their self-sufficiency in rice production. Drug addiction, HIV and prostitution came to the island on garudas with aluminium wings made by Boeing.

West is bad. East is good. Adams has ranted for decades about the stupidity of Christianity (he once published a book titled Adams Versus God), but show him a happy native worshipping a banana god and Phil loses all his cynicism:

Oprandi talked to me about the mysteries of Balinese culture. This is an island with thousands of temples and every day involves profound religious rituals, the proffering of fruit and flowers to the gods, the oceans and the volcanoes. The Balinese live with fear of the elements, particularly of eruptions, so they spend much of their time keeping disaster at bay. Yet disaster had happened. A volcano got angry and there had been an earthquake that had flattened many villages. Come and see, said Oprandi.

Phil loves what he sees:

The villages remain self-contained communities, venerating ancestors and sustaining societies devoted to temple maintenance, festivals and family rites.

Have you ever read a more condescending sentence in your life? It's not as though Phil venerates his ancestors or is devoted to family rites. Like any liberated Westerner, he is free to despise his father and divorce his first wife. I guess it just wouldn't be cute if the Balinese did the same.

Now this. Not violence resulting from the slow build-up of tensions within the rigidity of Bali's religious and social structures. This violence is not of their making.

Agreed. But of whose making is it?

This violence comes from the political hatreds that increasingly polarise the Muslim and Christian worlds.

Phil is talking about an attack that killed scores of Australians, yet – as Paul Wright points out – he adroitly avoids any direct mention of their deaths. Somehow Christianity is involved, however. And the West in general. At least an enlightened non-tourist like Phil would be spared the wrath of Indonesia's anti-Westerners. He's only an advertising millionaire and property owner. Islamic extremists would never target him.

ACCORDING TO this Agence France Press piece, the Islamist party that has claimed power in Turkey is moderate. But in this AFP piece, the party represents a threat to secular beliefs. I'd bet on the latter.

ASIDE FROM a few rogue elements, the Right has been properly respectful regarding the shocking death of Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, their daughter, and eight of Wellstone's staff. James Lileks wrote a beautiful piece on the nature of political enmity, and the limits to which it should define conflict. Rogue elements of the Left – those who celebrated Barbara Olsen's death on September 11, for example – might take note.

Meanwhile, the broader Left is getting weird, writes Mark Steyn:

So on came Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa to declare that Wellstone "never took himself too seriously" and "never had to proclaim his decency." What a schmuck! Harkin relentlessly proclaimed Wellstone's and by extension his own decency, and he was deadly serious about it. And round about then you realized it really doesn't matter now who Paul Wellstone was or what he did. That Wellstone has ceased to exist. And what's taken his place -- a stew of beatified Jesse-Harkinite clichés -- is just a bloody shroud to rouse the faithful and bully the rest.

There's nothing for the Republicans in this, except the certainty that their hopes of taking back the Senate are being interred with Mahatma Luther Wellstone.

Possibly not, according to this poll. In any case, Steyn is rightly spooked by the sainthood bestowed upon Wellstone following his death. It's creepy and just a little desperate.