11.23.2002

"DOWN WITH BEAUTY". Muslim lunatics leading the Miss World riots in Nigeria have perfectly defined the motive philosophy driving Islamic extremism:


Schools and shops hurriedly closed this morning as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar" ("God is great"), ignited makeshift street barricades made of tyres and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin".



"God is great" has a certain obvious logic, but "Down with beauty" – with the visual accompaniment of burning garbage – is far more expressive as a statement of political belief. Next they'll be screaming "Bad is good", "Hooray for ulcers", and "Al Gore in 2004!"

MICHAEL P. OWENS, Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Sydney, called a couple of days ago with some nice things to say about my column in The Australian. "If we can ever help you with anything," he said, "please ask."

I'll send him a list of people who need taking out by the end of next week.

ENGLAND IS now under Taliban rule:


A popular pub chain has been fined STG5,000 ($A14,080) after undercover inspectors caught a handful of patrons dancing at two Pitcher and Piano bars in central London.

Westminster City Council inspectors were shocked to spot four, and then five, people dancing to background music in one pub, while in the second, 11 drinkers were flagrantly breaking the no-dancing laws.

Westminster Council has also served two written warnings to another pub in Wardour Street, London, about people found "swaying", trade newspaper The Publican says.



If "swaying" in pubs is a crime, I'm looking at a life sentence. The most brutal part of the British no-dancing regulations is that they apply regardless of the presence of music:


"Dancing could be described as the rhythmic moving of the legs, arms and body usually changing positions within the floor space available and whether or not accompanied by musical support," Westminster Council's community protection department director Bob Currie told The Publican.



Where's John Lennon when he's needed? "All we are swaying/Is give pubs a dance … "

THE TED Rall Challenge has attracted some of the Web's finest opinionists. And, as always, Jim Treacher has the answer to everything. (He also has the answer to this question: "What is the best description of Michael Jackson's freakazoid balcony child?" Go to his site and find.)

THE MORAL to this story: never buy a secondhand computer from Michael Jackson.

IF BOB CARR is so offended by Margo Kingston's victim-blaming over Bali, why does he tolerate similar (or worse) opinions from his old pal Bob Ellis? Jack Robertson – who rejects my analysis of Kingston's Bali piece – submits the following:


Here are the last public comments I can remember Bob Carr making about Bob Ellis, who, as US readers may not know, is a regular speech-writer for our magnificent Premier. This is from the SMH's coverage of the launch of Ellis's most recent book:

NSW Premier Bob Carr launched the sequel to Goodbye Jerusalem at a packed room of an inner-city pub.

Mr Carr said Ellis, whom he described as a "conservative radical", had the ability to be insightful even when he was incredibly wrong.

"You can be so wrong, you're right," he said.

Mr Carr advised the public to buy copies of the book fast.

Carr launched this book long after Bob Ellis's many and various ugly outbursts regarding September 11, very effectively helping Ellis circulate certain views far more 'insulting' to victims of terrorism than even the harshest interpretation of Kingston's Bali piece could yield.

In the book, Ellis offers this response to George W. Bush's fine speech to the American people on September 11, 2001:

And so he [Bush] laid down, and cemented in, the second Big Lie of this new war: that what the terrorist loathed in America was their free way of life, not their habit of smashing other ways of life with their money, their weapons, their cultural deafness and love of cheap foreign labour at work in their far-flung factories.

Bob Carr – who a few weeks later publicly accused Margo Kingston of 'insulting the Bali victims' and 'blaming them' for the attacks, despite the sensitive, heartfelt and very human opening paragraphs which set the tone of the piece upon which he based those attacks – endorsed the book carrying this, and other similarly-expressed opinions on terrorism's 'root causes'. Carr also spoke generously of their author in public, his status ensuring the book maximum publicity. He urged us all to buy it, fast.

In my view, Kingston's Bali article certainly does not amount to an insensitive 'blaming of the victims', and Ellis's response to S11 unquestionably does. Whatever anyone's particular interpretations may be, however, Carr's hypocrisy here is indefensible, and his behaviour in this affair base. He should be called to account for it. There is too much at stake now to fling these accusations about for dirty political reasons.


MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA, is still a hotbed of prejudice and division. Years ago restaurants in the city were segregated; now certain minorities are banned altogether.

MARGO KINGSTON, the only journalist in history to be mocked by both Mark Steyn and John Pilger, has what Iraq turnabout sap Scott Ritter might describe as an "evolving" point of view on Labor frontbencher Mark Latham. In November last year, Margo despised Latham as the "antithesis of the progressive vision":


Mark Latham's views hold sway. Here's what he said in Saturday's Australian: "Working families working hard want to be rewarded for effort. On the flip side of that they have zero tolerance for illegality. They don't support illegal migration ... I've got to say I haven't got much sympathy for people who pay people smugglers and arrive in boats that are funded by corruption."

What Latham is really saying is that the aspirationals are concerned only with self-interest - ie more money in their pockets - and eschew empathy for people in different circumstances. Us and them. We and Other. This is the antithesis of the progressive vision.



But in November 2002, Latham is suddenly "optimistic enough to go for the vision thing", whatever the hell that means:


Gee I like Mark Latham … He's a passionate man. He's a romantic. He's as tough as nails … brave enough to mix it with the big boys, bright enough to enjoy grappling with ideas, decent enough to have a few ethics, and optimistic enough to go for the vision thing.



Latham's earlier views haven't changed. Presumably Margo now agrees with him on border protection. Good for her.

THE FOLLOWING question appears in this gender-defining test at TheSpark.com:


23. Does Canada suck or what?

a – yes

b – yeah


HUGH MACKAY has lost count of how many states there are in the US:


A deal like that would create a very different Australia: we'd be so beholden to the US that we'd be at risk of being treated like a de facto 52nd state.



Who got in before us to become the 51st state, Hugh? Was it Norway?

UPDATE. Frederik Jacobsen, of San Francisco, writes:


As an American of Norweigian ancestry (paternal grandparents both from Norway), I am offended not by Mr. Mackay's confusion about the number of states in our Union, but by the idea that we would even consider letting those squarehead wusses in as our 51st state.

I am generally pissed at Norway, and specifically pissed at the Jimmy Carter Nobel Prize chicken-out. Australia as a 51st state is probably unworkable, but God bless 'em as allies.

I love America, and have no desire to change my citizenship. But is it possible for me to apply for Australian ancestry? It would make me proud and save me the embarrassment of admitting my Norweigian DNA.


SIMON GREEN sends two re-written Margo paragraphs in the hope that they may make Margo "realise just how offensive her article was":


I know little about Germany, and whether Jews respected and nurtured the place they love to do business in or colonised it with their wants. A friend in Austria said Jews had taken Germany over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Germany were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

Maybe part of it is a lack of services for average Germans. A completely inadequate hospital, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people – Jews like us, elite big city Jews – make their fortunes. Has the average German lost his place, their power to define it? Did the rich Jews fail to give enough back to the German people who belong there, whose home it is?



Writes Simon: "Her article was not root cause analysis, just plain offensive appeasement."

THE CARLTON football club is whining about getting caught breaking salary cap rules:


Carlton says it is on the brink of going out of business and will have difficulty fielding a team in the AFL competition next year after being fined $930,000 and being hit with heavy draft penalties last night.

The AFL said there was no doubt Carlton was guilty of paying players under the table and thus breaching the salary cap in 2000 and 2001.



Rumours of salary cap breaches have surrounded Carlton for years. The late '80s sale of a Mexican restaurant owned by then-Sydney Swan Greg Williams at the time of his transfer to Carlton was said by some to have been a salary cap dodge. I'm not sure the case was ever fully investigated. The amount involved in the Williams "sale" may have been greater than Carlton's fine.

11.22.2002

NO NEW posts. I'm driving to Melbourne. More hellbound craziness tomorrow. In the meantime, go check out Jim Treacher, James Morrow, Jessica, Neale Talbot, Paul Wright, Tex, or any of the other one-person entertainment factories that abound. And send them spiteful e-mails! It makes them zestier.

11.21.2002

TIM PALMER, formerly the ABC's correspondent in the Middle East, now posted in Jakarta, reveals in a letter of support to Margo Kingston that bigoted anti-Western crank Robert Fisk is his journalistic guide:


After three years in the Middle East I am quite used to this sort of assassination for suggesting any violent act has a root cause (even though your obviously sensitive column barely fell into that category anyway).

I frequently refer people (including my editors) to that man Fisk and his long analysis in Pity the Nation of those who want to force the word 'terror' into every sentence while attempting to silence any other debate (cf Michael Danby, Colin Rubinstein).

How long till Bob resorts to the GW Bush expression "if we [insert opposing political action], we let the terrorists win".



And still people argue that there is no anti-US or anti-Western bias at the ABC. This is evidence to the contrary, directly from one of its senior reporters. I wonder if Fiskite Palmer intended this e-mail for publication?

UPDATE. Ken Parish's take on the Margo Imbroglio is calm, comprehensive, and clear-headed. Go read it.

First they came for the grills

and I did not speak out

because I did not use a grill.

Then they came for the sandwich makers …

TODAY'S COLUMN by Miranda Devine is a must-read:


The loopy ideas which took hold in the last part of the 20th century - in environmentalism, politics, economics and science - are being reassessed rationally by former believers. The West may even be on the brink of a "New Enlightenment".


HOW MUCH is a life worth? If you're a murderous Islamic fundamentalist, the going rate is around ten bucks, give or take a few cents:


The Bali bombers were paid about $10 in blood money for every person who died in the attack on the Sari Club in Kuta last month, a report said.


THE ULTIMATE challenge for any Photoshopper: make this Ted Rall cartoon funny.

BELLESILES UPDATE. As the debate on US toaster laws continues, Gregory S. Taylor of Chicago's Northwestern University School of Law lends his support to the controversial findings of an anti-toast academic:


Michael Bellesiles' research demonstrates (Toasting America, Knopf 1999) that a very high percentage of toasters found in the probate records of the estates of colonial and revolutionary Americans were rusted, broken, or otherwise inoperable. So the "toasting culture" you speak of didn't really exist until after the Civil War.

Don't believe Professor Lindgren's smears – I know him personally, and he's in the pocket of the NTA.



Speaking of the NTA, Ken Summers writes:


They can have my toaster when they pry it from my crisp, lightly-browned hands!

First toasters.

Then toaster-ovens.

Then broilers and popcorn poppers.

Next they'll be suing Ron Popeil.


Charlton Heston West Bend is my president.



And a sobering point from Opinion Journal's James Taranto:


Toasters are so dangerous that in most states even the police don't carry them.


MARGO IS in meltdown. Check Tuesday's piece, then read on; she's unravelling live on the Internet:


I faxed the following note to the Premier's office tonight:

To: Premier Carr

From: Margo Kingston

Sir,

I refer to the press conference you gave at midday today in Parliament House and the interview with you broadcast on 2GB at 12.30 pm.

At the press conference you falsely accused me of having written in The Sydney Morning Herald that the victims of the Bali bombing were to blame for their own deaths.

Your allegations are false and baseless.



And so on, ending in a demand for an apology. Carr shouldn't back down. By the way, what's the opposite of a Fisking? This post of Margo's ends with one, by former blogger Jack Robertson, who misses the point by a distance so vast that it must be measured in terms of continents. Nobody is disputing Margo's right to publish idiotic articles, Jack. The issue is Margo's capacity to deal with a response to them. Reader Nathan Hall, of Missouri, identifies her problem with criticism:


Margo Kingston writes:

"Mr Carr's allegation is not true. Truth doesn't seem to matter to the man who wants us to trust his administration with sweeping new police powers over citizens. I am a relatively well known journalist who the Premier of NSW trashed in public. I fear for the fate of the powerless in private."

If she thinks that's scary, just wait 'till she hears that the Premier of NSW has been publicly trashed by a relatively well known journalist! The end is coming. The powerless should get their affairs in order.



In a frenzy of self-protection, Margo launches into Carr's reaction to her demands:


During yesterday's press conference, Mr Carr said: "Margo, let me supply you with the quote that you wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald ..."

Mr Carr did not send me the quote. Instead, one of his minders visited bureaus in the State Parliamentary Press Gallery distributing a piece by hard-hitting right wing commentator Mark Steyn called 'The root cause? We're all infidels' in a publication called 'National Post'. This constitutes Mr Carr's proof, and is almost identical to a piece published in the British magazine 'The Spectator' on October 19 entitled "They want to kill us all'.



A publication "called" National Post? What, Margo's never heard of it? Apparently she’s also unaware that essentially the same article was published in The Australian. Sad. Margo is dismissive of the fact that Steyn's piece contains the quote she's wailing about, and says it is "stripped of context". Oddly, she also says Steyn's treatment is "intellectually honest". This confusion, I suppose, is what you'd expect from someone who is proud to be associated, even in mockery, with Robert Fisk:


Everyone has their heroes, and one of mine is Robert Fisk. I was proud to be mentioned in the same sentence as him.



Margo has posted more in the past two days than she has in any other two-day period. Presumably this is because the subject is herself. Her sudden productivity comes despite the imminent threat of jail, or torture, or worse:


We may as well do free speech while we can. We're about to enter a period in the lead up to the March election where you may not feel safe to publicly express your opinions.



As Jack Strocchi writes in a comment on this John Quiggan post:


Every instance of adverse attention that she receives from authority only validates her pre-existing sense that the world is a hostile place, filled with malevolent forces seeking her destruction. Actually, if a malovolent force did seek her destruction, I might vote for it.


FAIR & BALANCED. Margo supporter Sean Richardson writes:


Re your continued pigtail pulling of Kingston, I don't get it. Have you become a hard core Labor man who'll put up with any of the Carr government's obvious corruption (in all senses)? Were you having an office tiff with your colleague from the Oz who was trampled by the police horses, and are therefore grateful for that crapulent and brutal over-reaction to an overwhelmingly peaceful protest? In case you're wondering, I actually SAW the hippies. As one of the "corporate sluts" they derided, I'm sleeping much more soundly now that I know the NSWPS is bravely defending me from such horrific barbs by brutally assaulting unarmed women.

Regarding Kingston's article: we all know that the leaders of these terrorist groups are fired by the usual combination of bigotry, sociopathy and megalomania. It is not treason to ask why they seemingly find it so easy to recruit. To make a blindingly obvious analogy, homicide detectives will ask themselves "What is the motive for the murder of this young woman? A jealous ex?" It does NOT therefore follow that they believe young women should never break up with their boyfriends, or that murder is good. Kingston's article does not imply that Australians should refarin from travel for moral reasons. It asks why someone would be motivated to do such a thing, and CLEARLY AND EXPRESSLY expresses grief, sorrow and empathy with the victims.

I suspect that you do in fact have enough brain cells to grasp this simple truth and are just writing for your market. However, the by-line at the top left of your blog says "journalist", and issues such as liberty, the democratic process, assaults by police (with goddamn horses!) and rank government corruption are important areas of social policy. This is what Carr was being questioned on when he launched the diversionary attack which has sucked you in so completely. Your attack on Kingston is just helping a LABOR politician avoid important questions! Either change the by-line to "creative writer" or start telling the bloody un-spun truth.

Oh, and "oppressor" should probably be changed to "sycophant to wannabe oppressors".


TODAY'S COLUMN in The Australian mentions the Great Satan, George W. Bush, John Howard, the LA Times, the Washington Post, the Sydney Morning Herald, Matthew Spencer, the New York Times, Virginia Postrel, Exxon, and three American heroes.

11.20.2002

LIAR, LIAR, plus-size pants on fire! Michael Moore faces questioning from Canadian authorities over a particular scene in his new documentary:


At one point, Moore enters what he says is a Wal-Mart store in Ontario and purchases ammunition, which the clerk hands over immediately. So? Well, that's not how things are done in Canada, and Canadian officials are concerned. David Austin, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, says, "You would have to show some ID ... What is unfortunate is there is misinformation out there -- not only for viewers who see the movie in Canada but the rest of the world -- that it is relatively easy to buy ammunition in Canada, and that is not the case."

So far, Moore has not seen fit to answer the department's questions, failing to return e-mails and telephone calls about the matter. So Moore may have distorted the facts to advance his own agenda? Well, I never!



Facts, history, chairs … is there anything Moore hasn't distorted?

WE'RE UNDER a nationwide security alert, whatever that means:


An al-Qaeda terrorist attack could be launched on Australian soil within the next two months, according to "credible" intelligence gathered by the Federal Government and revealed to the nation yesterday.

The Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, took the unprecedented step of of declaring a nationwide security alert, saying state and Commonwealth agencies were in a state of high readiness.

The Government did not "make these sort of statements lightly" and had considered the matter carefully before going public, Senator Ellison said.

He said the threats were linked to al-Qaeda and were based on two items of intelligence received last Thursday and confirmed on Monday. He would not reveal the source of the information.


MYRA HINDLEY is getting in some hell practice today in preparation for her post-life transfer from Highpoint Prison.

TERRY OGLESBY has news of a competition that, if he cared to enter, Michael Moore would surely win.

FOLLOWING this item mentioned here yesterday, OpinionJournal has more on the desperate need for toaster reform:


Plainly existing laws are not enough to prevent far too many Americans from dying in toaster-related violence--to say nothing of accidental fires and electrocutions. Our goal should be a total ban on toasters, but at the very least we should be demanding laws requiring licensing of toasters, a 30-day waiting period before buying a toaster, and locks to prevent children from accidentally setting off the toaster's "trigger."



Which is fine, as far as it goes. Me, I won't be happy until toast racks are removed from every pickup truck in the US, and we begin to move away from the toaster culture that permeates society. And, please, all you toast nuts and NTA members out there – don't bother sending any e-mails. They won't be published.

ATTENTION, ALL actors, musicians, and artists! Cease your creativity and man the barricades! Comrade Sarandon has spoken!


Susan Sarandon has a message for Australian actors, musicians and artists who are cowed into suppressing their opposition to war or the treatment of refugees by the fear of being labelled un-Australian - it's your job.



Besides the acting and the music and the art, of course.


"It's always been not only the duty but the natural place of artists - because they're outside society - to comment on, to question, to make people look at things, to challenge their perspectives on anything," she said yesterday.



They're "outside society"? Lady, you're getting your rich artist friends mixed up with the homeless.


"Not to get an answer necessarily but to reformulate the question. Maybe because the arts are in bed with corporate America, [publicly opposing] has become more unacceptable but an informed populace is better: the more information you have, the more diversity of opinion, the harder it is to control them."



Diversity of opinion is important to Sarandon. Just so long as all artists are united in dissent.


"I live in a democracy," she sighed. "I was under the impression that it was not only our birthright but our responsibility. It's terrifying to me to feel the fear that exists now in the United States to even question anything for fear of being labelled anti-American."



Or the fear that exists for fear of being labelled inarticulate.


Although most artists are encouraged by their minders not to take stands in case it jeopardises their sponsorships or box office, the 56-year-old star of Dead Man Walking, Lorenzo's Oil and her new film, a comedy with Goldie Hawn called The Banger Sisters, bucks the trend.



She's the star of a stupid movie about old groupies. With Goldie Hawn. Fight the power, you crazy fringe-dwelling radical!


"I've maintained a fairly low standard of living in terms of cars, houses and planes and in that way I don't have to make a huge amount of money to maintain my lifestyle," she said.



That's your average struggling millionaire liberal for you. Just barely getting by with last year's Turboprop. Life's tough when you're "outside society".

UPDATE: Matt at Overtaken By Events also addresses the Sarandon menace. And from James Lindgren, Professor of Law at Chicago's Northwestern University, comes this:


Reading Susan Sarandon, one is reminded of Homer Simpson's admiring comments in the episode on vegetarianism with Paul & Linda McCartney:

"Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know?"



11.19.2002

THIS PROBABLY should be the end for Margo Kingston, who was yesterday damned as a parody and a joke by New South Wales premier Bob Carr. And with good reason, as we'll shortly discover:


I attended the press conference of NSW Premier Bob Carr this morning for his announcement of his new anti-terrorism measures. By the end, I realised I was right to be scared. Mr Carr saw fit to refuse to answer any of my questions and instead to intimidate me with the claim that I "blame the Bali dead" for causing their own deaths. The enemy is me.



Check the ego. Margo puts herself right up there with Osama bin Laden. She be bad!


"This is not about a demonstration, this is about murder. What happened in Bali was the murder of innocent Australians, not people who were guilty because they were celebrating in a 3rd world country as you argued in the Sydney Morning Herald," Mr Carr said in answer to my question about whether the new terrorism powers extended to people in political protest marches where the police had refused a permit, like last week.

Mr Carr's allegation is not true. Truth doesn't seem to matter to the man who wants us to trust his administration with sweeping new police powers over citizens. I am a relatively well known journalist who the Premier of NSW trashed in public. I fear for the fate of the powerless in private.



Pray for the powerless: someone might disagree with them. Why, in this Hitlerian hell-state, even Margo Kingston isn't safe!


I've read through everything I've written about the Bali bombing, and I can't find anything in which I blame the Bali victims for the bombing. The very idea makes me feel sick.



Oh, really? Better grab a bucket, Margo. Here's what you wrote on October 14, three days after the Bali attack:


I know little about Bali, and whether we've respected and nurtured the place we love to visit or colonised it with our wants. A friend in Byron Bay said Australians had taken Bali over, business wise, and that acquaintances with businesses in Bali were considering coming home before this horror. They sensed resentment, and felt a growing unease.

Maybe part of it is the lack of services for locals. A completely inadequate hospital, for instance, so graphically exposed in the aftermath of the horror. Some people - foreigners like us, elite big-city Indonesians - make their fortunes. Have residents lost their place, their power to define it? Did the big money fail to give enough back to the people who belong there, whose home it is?



Read that again, between heaves. Have we "respected" Bali or "colonised it with our wants"? Have we "foreigners" – that is, Australian tourists – caused locals to "lose their place, their power"? Have we failed "to give enough back to the people who belong there"?

Margo continues, oblivious:


Mr Carr said he'd dig out the piece that proves his allegation and send it to me, but he hasn't.



As perpetually link-challenged Margo would write: here.


He said he'd read the piece in the Herald a month ago, so he might be talking about the first piece I wrote on Bali, called October 13:Bali.



He obviously is.


The only time I expressed a firmish view on the motivation for the Bali bombing was in a piece for the Northern Rivers Echo newspaper last month ... I disagreed with the view of some that John Howard's support for a US strike on Iraq was to blame and said it was more likely to be about our stand on East Timor. The headline, 'So this is what it's like on the other side', took on a new meaning after my experience today. I've republished the two pieces below.



In which we find the very quote Margo is seeking to deny. Could it be that she genuinely doesn't see how her words read as a condemnation of Australians in Bali? Anything is possible, I guess, on Planet Margo. The press conference apparently ended with this exchange:


Margo: You're lying.

Bob: - and you are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: You're lying.

Bob: You are a parody of a journalist.

Margo: Thanks for your accountability.

Bob: You're a joke.



Margo is a joke. No lie.

ALL TOASTERS, especially two-slice military assault toasters, should be banned.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVIST and Midnight Oil singer Peter Garrett got chomped by Bjorn Lomborg on Australia's 60 Minutes last Sunday. Alan Wood has highlights of their debate:


Garrett: "The real guts of the issue is that there will be significant numbers of people who do not have access to food and who effectively will be hungry, as there are now."

Lomborg: "I'd like to first just hear you say that there are fewer people, in absolute numbers, that are starving today than there was [sic] in 1970, right?"

Garrett: "Well I don't think the statistics actually back you up, Professor Lomborg. All those experts who study these things in their complexity and their depth basically dissent from your findings. They don't agree with what you say, in respect to just about everything."

Lomborg: "You're wrong. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation have put out figures on starvation since 1970 and [they have] shown a dramatic decrease – from 35 per cent to 18 per cent [of the world's population], from 947 million, now down to 840 million."

Garrett made no attempt to refute these figures from a respected source, but fell back on the emotional assertion that there were still millions starving, the problem hadn't been solved, and to argue anything else was a statistical lie.



Things became comical when Garrett introduced his "peace & love" solution to environmental issues:


Garrett: "In short, all problems are solvable, just have faith. Just stop the world spending money on defence, for example, and you won't have to worry about deciding whether to spend money on global warming or on providing clean water and sanitation to the Third World."



Which reveals Garrett to be, of course, a member of the Church of the Zero Sum. We have a finite amount of capital; if we could liberate the cash spent on arms, it would naturally be spent on water and global warming and yummy chocolate cake for all the children of the world. Yay!

Lomborg was properly dismissive:


"The real scary part here is the extent to which you are willing to say, no, no let's not think about the figures, let's just do everything I like. Now I really honestly think we should focus on the [worst] problems first . . . and here the information and the statistics really do matter."



Not to Peter Garrett.

UPDATE. Peter Garrett is right, says reader Joe Geohegan:


"Just stop the world spending money on defence, for example, and you won't have to worry about deciding whether to spend money on global warming or on providing clean water and sanitation to the Third World."

True, 'cause you'll have a machete in your head!


GOON ARRESTED, via AAP:


An Australian man charged after a series of counter-terrorism raids this month allegedly planned to bomb Israeli diplomatic buildings in Canberra and Sydney.

The 49-year-old man, named as Jack Roche, was arrested in Perth late last night over an alleged plan to bomb diplomatic posts in Australia.

English-born Mr Roche, a convert to Islam 10 years ago, recently admitted attending meetings in Australia with Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged spiritual head of outlawed terror group Jemaah Islamiah.


11.18.2002

"DON'T USE my name or anything," writes an extraordinarily generous American reader:


"I just wanted you to know that I just contributed $1500 AUD to the Australian Red Cross' Bali fund. I enjoy your blog and, having lost six friends and colleagues on 9/11, understand the horror Australians feel. Our National Public Radio had a great essay about Yanks and Aussies and our shared loss. Don't let the SMH spread the idea that Americans don't care."



Make a mental bookmark of this post. Think of it the next time you read anything about American indifference towards its allies. And to you, sir: thank you.

AUSTRALIA'S NATIONAL Library is preserving blogs as part of our documentary heritage:


Dear Mr Blair

The National Library of Australia aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. The Library has traditionally collected items in print, but it is also committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting cultural value.

We would like to include your web page, http://timblair.blogspot.com/, in the PANDORA Archive and I would be grateful if you would let me know whether you are willing to permit us to do so, that is, grant us a licence under the Copyright Act 1968, to copy your publication into the Archive and to provide public access to it via the Web.

The PANDORA (Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia) Archive was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications. Since then we have been identifying online publications and archiving those that we consider have national significance. Additional information about PANDORA can be found on the Library's server at: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/index.html

If you grant us a copyright licence, the Library will take the necessary preservation action to keep your publication accessible as hardware and software changes over time. The Library will catalogue your publication and add the record to the National Bibliographic Database (a database of catalogue records shared by over 1,100 Australian libraries), as well as to our own online catalogue.



I'm not sure about the "lasting cultural value", but I've granted copyright. Hi there, future generations! Hope you're allowed to read this, and nobody is forcing you to wear burqas.

AUSTRALIAN COMEDY writer and wedge-headed commie stooge Guy Rundle deploys his usual grace in this description of conservative Victorian opposition leader Rob Doyle:


On TV, he looks bloated and pompous, his thick-lipped smile spreading across his face like crude oil across virgin wetlands.



Even in Victoria, Australia, it's all about oil. As similes go, this is a debacle; Doyle is "bloated and pompous", yet his face also provides a "virgin wetlands" backdrop for that hideous smile. The images are inconsistent. Here's an example of a simile in which the various elements are cohesive and clear:

"Guy Rundle's words infest the Melbourne Age like maggots in a corpse."

See? Easy when you know how.

JOURNALISM QUIZ. Who is the author of this howling madness?


It's a Medusa moment. In New York we live in a state of dazed ambient anxiety relieved only by improvised avoidance therapy. People here have so many competing jitters that we no longer dare look at them. We have enough trouble rocking without turning to stone. The imminence of war with Iraq is the last turn of the screw. A few blocks down from my apartment, sinister alien toadstools are sprouting on First Avenue. The satellite dishes around the United Nations proliferate along with our angst.



Is it:

a) a discarded Susan Sontag tone poem written after a prescription mix-up?

b) someone from the Czech Republic whose letter home from New York has been translated first into Portuguese and then into English via Google?

c) Tina Brown, a former editor of The New Yorker, now paid by the Times of London to write whatever the hell ferments inside her tiny, Tina Brown-fixated head?

There's more. Possibly influenced by those toadstools, a Princeton panic booster gives Tina his vision of the future:


"By the end of the year there will be a hyper conveyor belt in place to move every possible wingnut cause like greased lightning through the judiciary. Abortion? You better live on one of the coasts. Environment? I'd invest in gas mask futures — and it has nothing to do with al-Qaeda, let alone Saddam Hussein. Ever try to breathe in Houston?"



People don't struggle to breathe in Houston. Breathing is generally easy anywhere in the US so long as your head isn't stuck up someplace where oxygen is limited. The only sanity in the whole item comes from Robert De Niro, who was obviously about to go all Travis Bickle on Ms. Brown at a recent dinner:


Robert De Niro, a Democrat like most of his Hollywood brethren, suddenly broke his usual mordant reserve at a dinner party this week to declare: "Gotta take Saddam out and figure it out afterwards! Saddam is history and the world will have America to thank for it!"



He's talking to you, Tina.

THIS IS absolutely wrong and should not be laughed at. At all. PETA's message is serious, and must be, er, respected. Yes.

UPDATE: Woo hoo! Those photoshop phreaks at Fark are going hogwild on the PETA chicks. Thanks to Doug Morris for the alert.

SLOW TRAFFIC stories are a modern newspaper staple. You know the sort of thing: latest studies show that cars are moving slower through the city than ever before, bicycles are faster, the planet is doomed, etc.

So imagine the shock at the SMH when the paper discovered that traffic in Sydney is moving faster than years earlier. Cars are doing exactly what they were designed to do; delivering people to their destinations quickly and efficiently:


The car has tightened its grip on Sydney over the past decade, but despite 1.3 million new vehicles on state roads, speeds are actually increasing, new data shows.

While promoting the benefits of public transport, successive governments have paved the way for cars by building tollway after tollway, with five motorways and a second harbour crossing added to Sydney since 1990.

The motorways and better traffic management have meant cars now move faster than a decade ago.



This is a happy story, right? Reflecting accurate urban planning and clever road design? Wrong! Cars are Evil, no matter whether they're causing gridlock or simply taking us from home to work and back in a minimum of time. In its story, the SMH only quotes one person directly. Guess what he has to say?


A spokesman for Action for Public Transport, Jim Donovan, said the increase in traffic speeds may have been partly due to working hours becoming more flexible and people commuting further to work.

"People are using their cars more, and that's a bad thing," Mr Donovan said. "An increase in the usage of cars is an unhealthy sign for our city."



In the SMH, no news is ever good news.

11.17.2002

HUGH WILSON sends word of some creative subediting:


Headline on page 19 of Saturday's SMH:

"Most see Bush as the greatest threat to world peace"

First sentence of article:

"London: One-third of Britons believe that George Bush poses a greater
threat to world peace than Iraq's Saddam Hussein, a new poll revealed."


Apparently one third is "most" nowadays.



The SMH: building a better world through the magic of innumeracy.