AUSTRALIAN GORDON SLOAN is off to Iraq to become a human shield, despite knowing nothing at all about the subhuman he'll be shielding:

"I really haven't researched him. He's not an interest of mine," he says of the Iraqi leader. "All I know is there are equally as bad people as him around doing as atrocious things but he happens to be sitting on all the oil."

Of the Americans, he says they "cruise round the world burning resources ... They're not planning on using oil more efficiently or sustainably - they just want to guarantee they have 40 per cent of the world's oil so they can keep having big cars."

Sloan this week left Sydney for London where he joined fellow human shields travelling to Iraq. His cruise around the world burned absolutely no resources at all.

HUGH MACKAY is scared and stupid and feeble and dull, all at once:

It is a distressing thing to have to say on the very eve of Australia Day, but this is a dangerous time for Australians.

Why? Is Hugh's catatonia contagious?

That is not to make the obvious point that we may yet be the target of a terrorist attack, nor that the breathtaking belligerence of our chief ally, the US, may oblige us to send our young men and women into to a war we would rather not fight.

If it weren't for that pesky Geneva Convention we could send deadly Hypno-Drone Hugh, with his laser-like Rays of Predictability.

Those are real enough dangers, but I believe an even greater, more insidious danger looms: the danger of a cultural degeneration that will see some of our most cherished values challenged and possibly even eroded.

No! Not our most cherished values! Our precious amorphous undefined indistinct most cherished fucking values!

Australia Day might therefore be a good time to stare some unpalatable truths in the face and decide whether we really want to go on as we are.

Or to finally sign up for gender reassignment surgery.

We are in danger of swapping our long-held faith in egalitarianism for a tediously conventional three-class structure of social stratification based on nothing but money.

Let's swap it for a thrillingly unconventional three-class structure of social stratification based on hookers and beets.

While those at the top of the heap bray about economic growth and prosperity for all, the yawning gap between top and bottom continues to widen. Indeed, the growing disparity between our high- and low-income earners puts us among the least equitable countries in the OECD.

So take a pay cut, Hugh. Surrender your column (and your pay) to an unemployed kid. Do your bit for equity.

Vilification is back in vogue, under the guise of "being free to say what we really think"; racial stereotyping is rampant; levels of tolerance are slipping as our insecurities multiply. The Government, for its own political purposes, promotes fear and anxiety via a media campaign calculated to keep us nervous ("keep an eye out for anything suspicious"). This is as cynical as anything we've seen in contemporary politics, and it is bad for us.

Where is the vilification, the stereotyping, the intolerance, the insecurity, the fear, the anxiety, the nervousness of which Hugh speaks? There is none, or at least so little of it so as to be not worth mentioning. Hugh is exaggerating, and that is bad for us.

Darren Lehmann's infamous racial slur is but a symptom of a society in which intolerance and discourtesy are given increasingly free rein, even while we pretend otherwise.

Lehmann's slur wouldn't have been news back in the '50s. We're less inclined today to ignore discourtesy and racial intolerance. Hugh doesn't have a clue.

The rest of the column was written by Hugh's Auto-Panic Word Generator:

Treat the children of refugees like criminals …behind razor wire for years … lost something that was precious … national character … sick and elderly … ailing universities … gung-ho support for the US military machine … priorities … urgent … in danger … Bush's deputies … imposing a US-style morality on the world … Bush-inspired concept of the "war on terror" … our role in this grand American plan … global domination … immoral … repressive … political aims and economic interests of the US … replaced with leaders more to the US's liking ...

National wrath … uncritical ally of the US … "pre-emptive self-defence" … "regime change" … moral framework … belief that "might is right" … justifiability of revenge … ultimately self-destructive … bizarre … borrowed might of another country.

A fool … clock … fair, decent and egalitarian Australia … pride … harmonious multiculturalism … speak up more urgently … defence of values … immutable … mouth … careless … the … of … Australians … what … and that's dangerous.

DAVE BARRY'S blog is murderously funny. Which isn't much of a point to make, I guess, him being a professional funny guy and all. Oh, forget I even mentioned it.

DIVERSITY WATCH. Mike Carlton praises Robert Fisk, therefore qualifying him – along with fellow Australian journalists Peter FitzSimons, Margo Kingston, old hate-soaked Alan Ramsey, Phillip Adams, and Tim Palmer – as a member of the Fisk Fan Club:

Heed that greatest of Middle East correspondents, Robert Fisk, who warns in The Independent of London that truth already lies adying as the Pentagon spins the world's TV networks. When the war comes, he says, beware of reporters seen wearing bits of military uniform or carrying weapons, those referring to the units they are with as "we", and those who use the words "collateral damage" when they mean "dead civilians". This is sound advice.

Also beware of columnists who use the word "greatest" when they mean "Robert Fisk".

BEING AN atheist, Phillip Adams is obsessed with God. He writes about God all the time. Why does he concern himself with something he doesn't believe exists? Vapor turkeys that live on Saturn and build school buses don't exist either, but Phil never writes about them. How come? Are there degrees of non-existence?


Australia too will be a partner, of course, and has proved yet again that it is truly our friend. (Not that there was ever really any doubt of that.) With Australia and the UK standing beside my nation in times of trial, I neither need nor want anyone else.

Same here re the US and the UK.


JOHN HOWARD'S middle name is Winston. Simon Crean's middle name might as well be Neville:

In an unprecedented act for an Australian opposition leader, Simon Crean yesterday stood before 350 troops heading for the Persian Gulf and told them bluntly: "I don't believe that you should be going."

I don't believe that Crean should be opposition leader.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE fisks Iraq's declaration to the United Nations:

Iraq's declaration even resorted to unabashed plagiarism, with lengthy passages of United Nations reports copied word for word (or edited to remove any criticism of Iraq) and presented as original text.

INCREDIBLE. Reader donations to the Canberra Bushfire Recovery Appeal now stand at $1920.18. (For earlier updates and donation details, click here, here, and here.)

Canberra residents might like to know where all this money is coming from. Following is a partial list of donor zones (no names, as some donors prefer to not be identified):

Nashville, TN

Houston, TX

Tempe, AZ

Albany, OR

Creamery, PA

Brooklyn, NY

Richmond, Victoria

Folsom, CA

Alexandria, VA

Glen Allen, VA

Christchurch, New Zealand

Danville, IL

New York, NY

Mason, MI

Nelson, NH

Los Angeles, CA

Pleasant Hill, CA

Richmond, VA

Philadelphia, PA

Corner Brook, Canada

Seattle, WA

Sacramento, CA

Five US readers sent $US100 or more. So much for the myth of selfish, uncaring Americans.

WHY SHOULD MORE OF IRAQI BE KILLED? Achewood's Vlad answers the Sydney Morning Herald's question: Do you agree with a UN-backed war?

NO! 1. UN has no base to disarm Iraq therefore its not in any position to endorse any killing of Iraqi. Why not disarm the world's most deadly armed Americans. The US should be disarmed in the first place to free the UN and the world from its intimidation and threat.

2. The UN is not in a postion to endorse the US and its allies or any other countries to invade other countries. Its simply wrong for the UN to allow such invasion. No country should follow such wrong dicision.

3. There already have been more than a million innocent Iraqi killed directly and indirectly by the US and its accomplicies in the Gulf War and in over 10 years of sanction imposed by the Americans. And many more Iraqi will die of radiation littered by bombs used by the US 10 years ago. Why should more of Iraqi be killed?

VARIOUS SADDAM SECRETS – well, it's not really a secret that he'd use chemical weapons if he was attacked, but you understand – have been leaked to the BBC. More interesting than the contents of the leaked secrets is that they were leaked in the first place:

They were passed on to the BBC by opposition group the Iraqi National Coalition, which claims to have received them from serving members of Baghdad's military during secret meetings, the Radio 4 Today programme reported.

A former CIA station chief in northern Iraq, Bob Bear, said that if the opposition was receiving information from elite military units, it suggested that Saddam was in danger of mutiny among those closest to him.

He told the programme: "The Special Republican Guard is controlled by Saddam's family. This means that they really want Saddam to go. If this information is from the Special Republican Guard, then maybe Saddam is closer to the end than we expect."

As John Stone wrote in today's Australian, if the war starts in February, it'll be over in March.

EVERY WEEK IS STUPID WEEK in the lettuce pages of the Sydney Morning Herald. We begin with a missive from last Friday's reeking collection:

I cringed once again tonight when I heard George Bush telling the world he is "sick and tired" of Saddam not doing as he is told … Bush's outbursts smack of the kind of dangerous megalomania we usually see in our enemies, not in our allies.

Julie Wallace, Greenwich


Americans have been lumbered with a dimwit President, elected through trickery and dishonesty, who is taking them into an unnecessary war to satisfy his personal obsessions. But what's our excuse?

David Catchpoole, Bangalow


How would the American people react to a war, however short, which left them "in the first phase" with more than 5.5 million people, one person in 52 of their population, seriously injured; 11 million, one in 26, forced into exile; and 22 million, one in 13, internally displaced?. Not to mention the outbreak of "diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions ... very likely".

Yet, on a proportionate basis, suffering on this horrific, almost ungraspable, scale, is being planned right now by our collective Western leaders for the people of Iraq.

Frank O'Brien, Bellevue Hill.


The solution to world peace: give President Bush a life-time supply of pretzels – two bags should do it.

Ron Harmer, Surry Hills


How infuriating to be told that I'm a supporter of Saddam if I oppose a war that will immediately kill or maim half a million of his subjects, and leave millions more vulnerable to disease and starvation. When it comes to the Iraqi people, I'm on their side, not Saddam's and not Bush's.

Kate Orman, Epping


John Howard, I want my taxes spent on helping the bushfire victims rather than wasted on your preparation for unjustified war against Iraq. I believe most Australians share this view.

P. Bate, Killara

And today:

I wish to pre-emptively apologise to the babies, children, women and men of Iraq who are about to be murdered in the name of freedom and democracy. I do not think of you as enemies, simply as friends I have not met yet.

Sadly I will never be given the opportunity.

As our Prime Minister, John Howard, is intent on our nation taking part in this cowardly and criminal act, I am sincerely sorry.

Phil Moffat, Allawah

MUSHY BY NAME, not by nature:

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has warned Muslims, particularly the Pakistani nation, not to confront the West as such a confrontation will only hurt Muslims.

Musharraf has already annoyed Pakistan's religious extremists … instead of toning down his criticism, Musharraf launched a verbal attack on the extremists, accusing them of "endangering Pakistan's security" for some "unrealistic" religious concepts which have little support anywhere else in the Islamic world.

He reminded Muslims that they were "divided and weak," and no match for the West. Instead of talking about jihad and wars, he advised them to concentrate on providing education and health facilities to ordinary people and work with the West to achieve social and economic progress.

It sounds like Mushy is … what's the word? … oh, yes: sane.

FROM THE letters pages of today's Australian:

If Tim Blair (Opinion, 23/1) believes Scott Ritter, former chief inspector of the UN Special Commission to disarm Iraq, is wrong about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction, he should give arguments.

I don't need to. Ritter already has.

READ THIS – which you'll do more than once, because it's great – and then consider the astonishing fact that it didn't cost you a single cent.

ATTENTION, PHOTOSHOPPERS! An Australian peacenik group has launched Garage Doors Against The War, which aims to debase garage doors nationwide with various dove symbols and appeasement messages. The few examples they have at present (click around on the site) could stand some photoshop improvement.

Or you can create your own photoshopped garage art and send it to them.

IT'S HAPPENING! Ken Layne and Matt Welch are within sight of creating a new Los Angeles newspaper:

Tonight, if all goes according to plan, prototype copies of the Los Angeles Examiner, a new weekly tabloid former mayor Richard Riordan hopes to begin publishing June 5, will roll off the presses.

Over the next month or so, according to Ken Layne, who edited the prototype, the 52-page Los Angeles-focused exemplar will be circulated to prospective advertisers and investors.

The Examiner's prototype, which has about 20 color pages, was put together by Layne, Welch and former New Times Los Angeles production designer Erich Almendral, under the direction of former McKinsey and Co. consultant Tim DeRoche with advice from veteran newspaper and television journalist Jim Bellows.

As someone who was involved in a minor way in the early stages of this project, I can't overstate what Matt and Ken have achieved here. Try launching a newspaper; it's about as easy as performing cranial trauma surgery.

On yourself.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD has finally gotten around to mentioning the Scott Ritter teen-luring case ("a minor sex charge") about four days after the news broke. But they've missed the Albany Times Union's follow-up story about Ritter's prior interest in a 14-year-old net siren.

UPDATE. The London Sun tells it like it is:

A renegade weapons inspector who embraced Saddam’s vile regime has been exposed as a child sex pervert.

Scott Ritter, 41, has TWICE been caught by cops as he waited to meet schoolgirls he lured in internet chat rooms.

He wanted one of the girls, who was 16, to watch him commit a sordid sex act. The other girl was just 14.

Sicko Ritter, a married dad-of-two, has been branded a traitor in the US for spouting pro-Iraq views.

THIS E-MAIL has arrived three times tonight:

The prospect of war with Iraq raises some troubling questions:

1.) Will the U.S. be going it alone, or will we have allies?

2.) Will it be a short, decisive conflict like Operation Desert Storm, or will it turn into another Vietnam?

3.) Does Saddam Hussein have chemical or biological weapons? And if so, will he use them against us? Against Israel?

4.) If the war goes well and ends quickly, will the occupation/transition period go just as smoothly?

These are just a few of the many questions raised by the spectre of a U.S.-led war against Iraq. If we do go to war with Saddam Hussein, there's one thing, and perhaps one thing only that we can be sure of ...

Osama bin Laden will be Laughing His Ass Off.

He might be, if corpses can laugh, and bin Laden's ass isn't already detached and scattered about the Tora Bora hills like so much ass-confetti.

READERS OF this site have so far donated $926.91* (Australian dollars) via PayPal to the Canberra Bushfire Recovery Appeal. The cash, in amounts ranging from $5 to $150, was sent entirely from the US and Canada. Donors included several prominent lefties.

Let's aim for an even grand. Hit the PayPal on your left, and write that your donation is for the Canberra fire appeal. I'm making out individual cheques for each donation so that a record is available for your tax purposes or whatever, should it be needed.

For the PayPal-averse, there is now a direct online means of donating to the bushfire recovery appeal. Or you can mail cheques to GPO Box 515, Canberra ACT 2601. Make 'em payable to the Canberra Bush Fire Recovery Appeal Trustees.

Here's an earlier donation update, and here is what your generosity will help to rebuild. Again, thanks to all.

*Amount has been updated as donations have arrived.


IN THE WEST, dissenters don't want war. In Iraq, dissenters want war now. The London Times reports:

Opposition within Iraq to President Saddam Hussein's regime has surged in the past few weeks, with anti-Saddam graffiti and literature appearing in areas supposedly under Baghdad's control.

You can bet that none of it says "No War For Oil".

Tony Blair told MPs that the pressure on Baghdad was beginning to show. "There is no doubt at all that as a result of the pressure there, the regime in Iraq and Saddam's immediate entourage, there is evidence that they are weakening, they are rattled about the build-up of forces," he said.

Australian Labor leader Simon Crean would withdraw Australia's forces if he was Prime Minister. Which he will never, ever be.

Anti-Saddam slogans, such as "For how long will the Iraqi people sleep?", have been daubed on statues and photographs of the Iraqi leader. Leaflets predicting Saddam's downfall have also been circulated. The campaign of dissent, which is punishable by death for anyone caught, has apparently been co-ordinated by two opposition groups emboldened by the prospect of a looming war.

Why, this just doesn't make sense! Don't these Iraqi opposition groups know that all war is bad? Aren't they happy living under Saddam's benevolent rule?

Toby Dodge, an expert on Iraq at Warwick University, said that the reports were credible and were supported by independent sources inside the country. "There is now a strong sense that the regime's downfall is coming," Mr Dodge said. In particular, he said that the Iraqi Communist Party, which was purged by the ruling Baathists 30 years ago, has an active network in the country.

Even Iraqi communists want the US to attack. You hearing this, Harold Pinter?

Last night Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, ruled out the possibility of Saddam leaving his country to avoid a US-led war. "He will continue leading Iraq until the last minute of his life," he told ABC News in America.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

SCOTT RITTER confronts the damning allegations made against him, and confesses – yes, I have stood before a judge:

I was called forward, I stood before a judge.

Again I'll restate I was arrested in June of 2001. I was charged with a class B misdemeanor. I was brought before a judge, I stood before a judge.

You know I have already stood before a judge, I've already been held accountable to the rule of law.

I want to reiterate that I stood before a judge, I was held accountable to the rule of law and that judge dismissed the case. And I think everybody should remember that.

How could we forget?

AMERICANS ARE gullible, according to Peter FitzSimons. This is the same guy who apologised to Osama bin Laden in September 2001 for causing the "incredible suffering" that led to the attacks on the World Trade Centre:

We accept that such hate as drove the planes into the World Trade Centre towers can only have come from incredible suffering, and we are desperately sorry for that suffering.

Idiot. In the same column Fitzsimons described as a "strong argument" Tamim Ansary's wild panic over war in Afghanistan: "We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age … new bombs would only stir the rubble of earlier bombs".

gullible adj. Easily cheated, deceived, or duped. See FitzSimons, Peter.

T.J. BUTTRICK – a blogger who next week commences basic training for the US Army – has stern words for the president of Columbia University, T.J.'s alma mater. The guy probably deserves them for his name alone: President Bollinger. (Some links aren't working, so just go direct to the site. As of now, it's the uppermost post.)

READER REX R. writes regarding today's column:

I see your still banging on about going to war, and you are miffed that they HAVEN"T FOUND ANYTHING YET.

I see now you're painting anybody who is anti war as a PEDOPHILE.

What is your game Tim?

Are you being funded via the Neo-Cons in Washington or is your funding coming directly from the Likud?

One thing for sure, like all Neo-Cons you'd be too gutless to actually do any fighting yourself.

Rex is correct. There are no conservatives in the armed forces. They're all lefties.

SPACE BLOGGER Andrew Lloyd has military movies that will amaze.

MALCOLM KNOX was telling us only the other day that "Australian triumphalism masks the fact that we lag a generation behind England in resolving the race debate." Here's an example of England's wonderful interracial harmony:

A Muslim cleric toured Britain for four years urging audiences to observe the teachings of Osama bin Laden and kill all Jews, Hindus and Westerners by any means available, including chemical and nuclear weapons, a court was told yesterday.

The Old Bailey was told that Sheikh el-Faisal instructed his followers on ways to murder non-Muslims, a "wonderful" act that would ensure their immediate entry into paradise.

Sheikh el-Faisal, of Stratford, East London, denies five charges of soliciting to commit murder and inciting racial hatred under the Offences Against the Person Act, a rarely used Victorian law which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.

The judge in el-Faisal's case has his own way of "resolving the race debate". He's banned Jews and Hindus from serving as jurors after Sheikh el-Faisal's lawyers said that their presence would prevent him from receiving a fair trial.


Police in northern Pakistan say unidentified attackers have shot dead a writer whose work was viewed as critical of fundamentalist Islam.

The 40-year-old writer, Fazal Wahab, was shot at a local shop.

Fatwas, or religious edicts, declaring his work un-Islamic had been issued by senior clerical figures after the publication of two books challenging the role of mullahs.

See, this is the difference between "crushing of dissent" in the West, which means someone challenging your microcephalic leftist views, and genuine crushing of dissent , which means gunmen bursting into your shop and murdering you. The word "crushing" is a clue.

HAROLD PINTER'S celebrated anti-war poem begins with a sequence of oddly familiar images:

Here they go again,

The Yanks in their armoured parade

Chanting their ballads of joy

As they gallop across the big world

Praising America's God.

Which great artwork is Pinter echoing here, first with a bold announcement of presence and intention ("Here they go") and then with the happy singing, a parade, and random movement around the planet? Yes – it's the theme music from '60s sitcom The Monkees! Inspired by this realisation, culturally-alert Loretta Serrano sends a Monked-up counter-poem:

Here we come,

Rolling down the street.

We get the funniest looks from

All the French we meet.

Hey Hey, we're the Yankees

And liberals say they don't want our tanks,

But we're too busy saving

Your ass, and you don't say, "Thanks."

We go wherever we're needed,

Do what we have to do.

We don't have time for your whining,

Your cheese needs saving, too.

We're just trying to be friendly,

Sorry you don't like the smell,

But we're the ones who get dirty,

Protecting you from hell.

THE AUSTRALIAN'S Emma Tom appears to have fallen for the old Housekeeping Monthly fraud:

The latest reproduction news is that Generation X men are shunning fatherhood – presumably so they don't end up chained to a harpy who won't stop whingeing about the politics of her genitalia.

Clearly there is only one solution to this heinous problem. And that solution is: The Good Wife's Guide from the May 1955 edition of Housekeeping Monthly.

James Lileks receives e-mail crowing about this alleged guide all the time. His analysis:

It's a fake. If you look closely, you'll note that the magazine is called "Housekeeping Monthly" - and yet the issue has a weekly date. The photo is credited "Advertising Archive," which doesn't ring true for the era, and the type and type size for the credit is all wrong as well. I get this thing once a week. Please don't send it. I beg you.

The debunkers over at Snopes point out that the advice contained in the guide was originally supposed to have appeared in a home economics textbook, before being recast on the Net as a magazine piece:

Lately a graphic which is purportedly a digitized photocopy of the 13 May 1955 edition of a magazine called Housekeeping Monthly has been circulating, but the image is almost certainly a fake, created by simply adding text around a 1950s magazine graphic. (The image itself even bears the legend "Advertising Archives" along its side.)

Tom now takes her place among the many others to be taken in by this bogus wife advisory.

WHAT'S THE DEAL with Operation Bastille? Here's your quick 'n' easy guide to Australia's latest military moves against Iraq:

The Daily Telegraph reports that Prime Minister John Howard will today farewell the transport vessel HMAS Kanimbla, to be followed by an SAS regiment:

An expanded support group including commandos will be prepared to help the SAS. It will include specialists trained in dealing with by chemical and biological weapons, drawn from the newly created Incident Response Regiment.

Transport will be provided by CH-47 troop-lift helicopters and C-130 fixed-wing aircraft. The Kanimbla will join HMAS Anzac and Darwin in the Persian Gulf where they are enforcing sanctions against Iraq.

It will carry a Sea King helicopter, Army landing craft, a unit from 16 Air Defence Regiment and an explosives disposal team.

The Sydney Morning Herald calculates our commitment to action against Iraq as larger than that involved in Afghanistan, and more able to operate independently:

The Federal Government has added a range of support personnel and equipment to back the SAS troops.

The RAAF, which played only a marginal role in Afghanistan, has also succeeded in getting more of its personnel involved through the planned deployment of a squadron of 14 F/A 18 aircraft.

A contingent of several dozen "quick reaction" commandos from Holsworthy's 4RAR regiment will be on hand to respond if they get into trouble. If they find weapons of mass destruction or come under chemical or biological weapon attack, elements from the Incident Response Regiment will be available to assist.

The Australian says that not everybody is happy about all this:

John Howard faces growing consternation, even among sections of his Liberal Party, and a series of mass peace rallies next month after confirming yesterday that Australia would send troops and equipment to the Middle East in preparation for a war with Iraq.

Labor and the minor parties have condemned a decision they claim pre-empts UN deliberations on whether Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

ONCE A WEAPONS INSPECTOR, always a weapons inspector. Today's column in The Australian mentions Scott Ritter, Burger King, Harvey John "Jack" McGeorge, Najat al-Hajjaji, Simon Crean, the Prime Minister, and Kofi Annan.

And to whoever it was at The Australian who fixed my stupid mistake before publication: thankyouthankyouthankyou.

YOUR HEAD IS A POOL IN THE DIRT. If my nine-year-old niece ever wrote anything as artistically crippled as Harold Pinter's new war poem, I would sell her to the Saudis. On Pinter's latest work, Nelson Ascher writes:

How should we qualify it? As an attempt to weaponize stupidity and lack of skill? Maybe it will be better for my mental health if for some time I just keep reading Hungarian poetry.

Not me! I'm going to join in the peace-poem fun. The Guardian's standards are evidently so low that this may be my only chance to become a published poet. Here's my submission:

Oil, Oil, Oil

Pulsing like arterial blood

From the throat of a baby Iraqi

Daisy-cut by Republicans

Oil, Oil, Oil

Deep beneath Kabul

Saddam Hussein's only crime

Is that he lives on top of it

Oil, Oil, Oil

We anoint our SUVs

With the liquefied corpses

Of free-range dinosaurs

Oil, Oil, Oil

Hey, how did this get published?

Hopefully by some magical process

That did not involve oil

WROTE CHEQUES yesterday to the value of about $400*, all destined for the Canberra Bushfire Recovery Appeal, from donations sent by readers via PayPal. Many, many thanks, and thanks too to everyone who donated directly to the appeal.

The number of houses destroyed in the fires now stands at 530. Here's an idea: if you're a lesser-known or just-beginning blogger who craves a hit spike, send $5 or more to the PayPal deal on the left. Remember to indicate that your donation is for the fire appeal. A glowing link will be your reward.

*MORNING UPDATE. The total is now close to $600. Fantastic!

MILK-BLOODED sockhead Malcolm Knox, prompted by a sportsman who said something bad, denounces Australia as racist, anti-intellectual, and culturally immature. Naturally, The Guardian laps up Knox's condemnation of his homeland:

Lehmann's misfortune is that he is the man who got caught revealing the unwitting racism that infuses not only Australian cricketing culture but mainstream Australia.

Our secret is out! Curse you, Lehmann!

We're not yet at a stage of cultural maturity where we even know what racism is.

Is it something to do with horsism?

Racism in Australia is insidious, unadmitted. We have few proud racists. There is no open Klan or National Front here. Our white supremacist fringe - the 10% of voters represented in the late 1990s by Pauline Hanson but who, in the 2001 election, swung back into step with Howard's dance of Arab-phobia - do not admit to racism.

Many of Hanson’s supporters were motivated less by her opinions on race than by her protectionist economic policies – policies shared, by the way, by "progressive" parties like the Democrats.

When [Prime Minister] Howard talks of pre-emptive strikes against terrorists in Asia, and of de-democratising the rights of non-white asylum seekers, his favourite phrasing is "ordinary Australians think...".

Given Howard's popularity (elected three times, currently way high in the polls) he's probably qualified to venture opinions on behalf of ordinary Australians. Better qualified than Knox, at any rate.

Three years ago, when India toured Australia, I interviewed Indian-Australians who were supporting India … fathers resented the exclusion of their sons from local and school teams. Every family I interviewed had a story of a boy who had been shut out of the "in" group because of his race, or his teetotalism, or some other cultural difference.

Has any father anywhere ever accepted that his son might just be a poor player?

Lest this be taken as paranoia, one need only look at the make-up of Australian cricket teams at senior levels. The most common name in the Sydney phone book is Lee - and they're not relatives of Brett - yet all our teams can boast is the occasional Kasprowicz or Di Venuto. If you want a cultural snapshot of Australia in the 1950s, look no further than our cricket.

Let's ignore Knox’s advice and look a little further. Look at Richard Chee Quee, who played for New South Wales. Look at Test fast bowler Jason Gillespie, who is part-Aboriginal. Lennie Pascoe was born Leonard Durtanovich. Mike Veletta represented Australia in the '80s and is now coach of Western Australia. Dav Whatmore came to Australia from Sri Lanka. Joe Scuderi has played for Queensland and Italy.

Australian triumphalism masks the fact that we lag a generation behind England in resolving the race debate. While English sporting clubs struggle to harmonise different cultures, Australian clubs fix the problem by leaving non-whites out.

The reason we've never heard of Polly Farmer, Barry Cable, Michael Long, Phil and Jim Krakoeur, Derek Kickett, Nicky Winmar, Che Cockatoo-Collins and Gavin Wanganeen is because Aboriginal footballers are always left out.

On a tour to India, I heard two Australian cricketers call the locals "niggers". I saw Australian cricketers coming across Indians sleeping on a railway platform in Jamshedpur and nudging them awake with their feet in order to take a happy snap.

As isolated incidents, appalling. As indications of anything broader, probably meaningless. Pro sportsmen tend not to display behaviour typical of the wider community. Does every black American eat ears?

No malice was intended, and if you can understand that the cricketers involved were both "good blokes" and yet-to-be-reconstructed racists, then you go a long way to comprehending the incoherence amid which most Australians live.

We live amid incoherence? Well, I guess Knox's readers do. The poor, dumb bastards.


"NICE COUNTRY you have here," writes Vaara, currently storming around Western Australia. He was in Augusta today, is in Margaret River tomorrow, and sent this note earlier from Fremantle:

You'll be pleased to know that the "Resistance Bookshop" in Northbridge (the one next door to the needle-exchange place) is out of business.

The conspiracy to crush dissent continues! Speaking of Americans in Australia, reader Ken P. writes from Queensland, where he's been confronted by anti-US jabbering:

One conversation I had with a backpacker girl was particularly illuminating. She said that John Howard was a lap dog for George Bush because Bush wanted cheap oil so he could make more money. I asked how lowering the price of the commodity would make more money for the oil companies. She said that was not the real point, but that Bush wanted to prove his manhood by kicking Saddam's ass. I then asked if she though there was any validity to the argument that Saddam with nuclear weapons would be particularly dangerous. She did not think he would be a threat to Australia.

So I asked her what she thought about the Bali bombing.

At that point she got really angry and said, if you love war so much, why don't you go fight? So I told her I am an active duty US Marine on holiday and I probably will have to fight them, eventually. And I don't love war, I have friends who likely will die there.

Then she called me a fascist.

In my experience, that is what passes for debate in Australia. She was cute though, and I loved her accent.

Ken's perspective is admirable!

UPDATE. Andrea Harris writes:

Gosh, that was pretty brave of her to diss a US Marine to his face like that. Wasn't she afraid the Evil Fascist Amerikkkan would kick her ass or do something even worse? I guess we really are paper tigers.

YOU WANNA take a shot at Kim du Toit? You'd better not miss.

SCARY. Linked to by Eric Alterman. Must destroy computer.

CELEBRATE THE Feast of Self-Reference! In her latest Webdiary entry – a brutish tirade about the need to regulate journalists – Margo Kingston refers to "my" seven times, "I'd" twice, "me" three times, "I've" three times, "mine" three times, "I'm" three times, and "I" 19 times.

Regulate that ego.

SOME GUY called Bruce Kent has opinions that the BBC would like you to know about:

Kent claims that a future war with Iraq, like the war in Afghanistan and military action in the Balkans, all come back to one basic factor: oil.

Kent is also infuriated by the US position on Israel.

Kent also feels antipathy towards the current Labour administration in the UK.

Bush causes Kent massive concern.

Kent says he cannot work out what the prime minister's motivation is.

Kent says there is little else to vote for either in the Lib Dems or among the Tories.

Blair has not won Kent's admiration.

So now, at last, we are aware of Bruce Kent's positions on the issues of the day. Tomorrow from the BBC: what Mrs. Ethel Porridge of Sewershire thinks about toast.

UPDATE. Mike Smith writes from the UK:

I think you missed the point about Bruce Kent. He was the former head of the CND yet can't understand why Iraq can't have nuclear weapons:

"We've got eight or nine countries with nuclear weapons and those countries all say nuclear weapons are essential for security as we do in Britain. What's the moral logic in saying other people can't?"

Surely even from his point of view it's better that it's 8 or 9 countries rather then 9 or 10?

Quite so. Point taken.


The NSW Government was attacked over its bushfire policies yesterday, with revelations that most of the state's national parks and reserves had no individual fire management plans and accusations that failure to burn off in the parks was a major cause of Canberra's fire crisis.

The government deserves to be attacked. Miranda Devine wrote more than twelve months ago, during Sydney's Christmas fires, about the dangers of not removing excess stupid trees:

With fires burning across the State and the skies thick with smoke, it's been a harrowing end to a harrowing year. But the fires needn't have been so bad, if only NSW's national parks had been properly managed.

While the NSW Government and National Parks and Wildlife Service attempt to hose down growing criticism, experts say proper hazard reduction burning certainly would have reduced the scale of the fires.

FORMULA ONE test driver Sergei Zlobin has taken part in an illegal street race through Moscow, in which he was beaten by a common Russian speed monkey.

Zlobin should be fired immediately. Pro drivers don't lose street races.

IT'S ABOUT time I settled this bet. Here goes:

Dear Mr. Pilger,

Your work has been a lifelong inspiration to me. As a fellow Australian journalist, I am guided by the bravery and wisdom you have shown in highlighting the inequities and evils of Western society. I have often cited your writing in my own articles and columns.

Perhaps when you are next in Sydney you might allow me the honour of buying you a drink.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Blair

There's not enough soap in the entire world to remove the shame I feel.


SADDAM HUSSEIN'S LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, interpreted by the New Yorker's Bruce McCall.

DAVID BROOKS describes the perfect vehicle:

I don't own an SUV, but now that they've been identified as the locus of evil, I'm thinking of getting one. And if I do, I figure I might as well let the inner wolf out for a rampage and get the most obnoxious SUV I can find.

My SUV, assuming Hummer comes out with a model for those who find the current ones too cramped, will look something like the Louisiana Superdome on wheels. It'll guzzle so much gas as I walk out to my driveway there will be squads of Saudi princes gaping and applauding. It'll come, when I buy it, with little Hondas and Mazdas already embedded in the front grillwork. Inside I'll install video screens so that impressionable youngsters can play Grand Theft Auto on the way to weekly NRA meetings. And there will be room in the back for tobacco lobbyists nibbling on french fries and endangered prawns.

I'll have mine with the genetically modified cowhide interior, a gun rack loaded with nukes, and a V-24 engine so powerful that it can drag Jesse Jackson away from a television camera. Vrooooom!

MANY READERS have e-mailed to ask where they can donate to people who lost their houses in the Canberra fires. Here's where. The appeal, launched today, has already raised more than $1 million.

No direct online donations can be made at present, but an online facility will be established later in the week. Or, if you trust me, send donations marked "fire appeal" to my tips jar (on the left of the page) and I'll forward a check for that amount, along with my own donation.

The danger for Canberra continues; a high fire alert is current, and dangerous conditions loom for this weekend.

SEARCHING FOR weapons of mass destruction, one underage girl at a time:

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter was secretly prosecuted in Albany County in 2001 after he was snared in an Internet sex sting operation, law enforcement sources told the Daily News.

He was arrested by Colonie Police in June 2001 on a misdemeanor charge after he allegedly had a sexual discussion on the Internet with an undercover investigator he thought was an underage girl, law enforcement sources disclosed on condition of anonymity.

World Net Daily reports that Ritter lured his imagined teenage chatmate to a Burger King in order "to have her watch him have sex with himself." Well, it's not as disgusting as watching him kiss up to Saddam.


JIM NOLAN, last of the sensible Australian leftists, in today's Australian:

Why won't Labor and the Australian Left call for the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on human rights grounds alone? After all, the party and its ideological soul mates in the community have had a proud and noble record in championing the democratic cause of the oppressed and condemning the evil ways of their aggressors … turning a blind eye to the Iraqi tyrant's regime will only lend aid and comfort to one of the most brutal and murderous regimes on earth. And opposing the Bush-Blair-Howard position of regime change in Iraq will only prolong the life of an ugly, brutal, fascist state.

BAD CONNECTION PROBLEMS today, plus bad Blogger problems tonight. Sorry for lack of posts.

PAKISTAN'S GOVERNMENT says it has very credible evidence against Australian al Qaeda suspect Jack Thomas. Exhibit A: he changed his name to "Jihad".


An American was shot and killed and another wounded in an incident two kilometers from the U.S. military's Camp Doha, according to the Kuwait Interior Ministry.

Few other details are available.


MEMO TO the Sydney Morning Herald: cricket doesn't have a plate. It has a crease.

GOOD TO SEE that those peace-loving, earth-worshipping, No War For Oil people cleaned up all the rubbish left behind after their Hate Bush demonstrations so that nobody could ever accuse of them of being squalid hypocrites and trash-trawling gutter muppets.

WHERE'D THE CHEESE GO? I don't know! Check out Ween's rejected Pizza Hut jingles.

WORD ON the street is that John Birmingham plans to attack me in an upcoming book. The popular writer (and ABC hive-mind component) has been asking friends if I'm the type of guy who might sue.

Well, I'm not, but my lawyer wants a new car, and a lawyer in the grip of new-car lust is difficult to reason with. Your call, JB.

CANBERRA FIRE UPDATE. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Emergency workers have bulldozed a firebreak the width of a four-lane highway around suburbs in Canberra's north-west in preparation for more bushfires … All blazes in the ACT had been extinguished by today but the weather bureau has forecast hot and dry conditions for today but said the strong, gusty winds of the weekend were not likely to create trouble.

Letter-writer Warren Tindall says it's all John Howard's fault for refusing to sign the Kyoto agreement:

As John Howard tours Canberra's charcoal suburbs, I wonder if the unsigned Kyoto agreement pricks his conscience.

Crispin Hull reminds Warren that the best way to prevent fires isn't to embrace evil nature, but to beat it into submission:

In Canberra at the weekend, the very fact that the city has been so beautifully planned was its nemesis. The flames did not meet a fire-resistant slab of urban development - of tar, cement and bricks. Instead they met trees.

THERE WERE BETTER WAYS to enjoy International Anti-America Day:

I spent yesterday buying oysters, eating oysters, drinking cold beer and playing guitar until my fingers were sore and my voice was hoarse.

Or you could have taken James Hudnall's protest pop quiz.

DAVID KENNER has all your Washington DC protest photographs and news – including an exclusive interview with chilly (literally) Ralph Nader, last seen looking for an electric taxi.

JUAN GATO says Senator Paul Wellstone (D – Heaven) may reach full Mumia status by year's end. See also Gato's handily colour-coded Killing Children Moral Rainbow, listed in order "from fluffiest to pokiest".

JEFFREY SIMPSON in Canada's Globe and Mail does in a polished way what several bloggers have already done to John le Carre.

(Via Damian Penny, who also has a report on the huge antiwar demonstration in Corner Brook, Newfoundland)

CANBERRA FIRE UPDATE. The Australian reports:

By last night four people were dead, more than 300 others hurt, at least 3000 were sheltering in emergency accommodation and 368 ACT homes were confirmed destroyed, with at least another 10 to be added to the tally.

The same newspaper's Elizabeth Wynhausen writes:

The sight of any one ruined home, curls of smoke rising from the remains of a bedframe or a kitchen cupboard, was enough to reduce a stranger to tears. But such devastation had been repeated hundreds of times over.

Blame is being levelled at the ACT government, but Prime Minister John Howard says the fires were a "freakish conjunction of events and conditions".

A 40-strong group of federal police continues to
search for the dead as extra firefighters arrive in anticipation of revived firestorms.

The Sydney Morning Herald has maps and photographs of the destruction, while the Canberra Times – no doubt hindered by the blaze, which has cut Canberra's electricity – lags about 12 hours behind other media outlets.

Meanwhile, other fires south of Canberra might require Army assistance.



CANBERRA FIRE UPDATE. A fourth victim has now been found.

More than 200 people required treatment for burns and smoke inhalation, 60 were admitted to Canberra Hospital, and three with serious injuries were transferred to Sydney.

One-fifth of Canberra homes is without power.

LONDON BLOGGER Michael Jennings is searching for the federal policeman who rescued several Jennings relatives from the Canberra fires. The following is an extract from a family e-mail describing events on Saturday night:

Fire had taken hold on Simone's house and they could not get out, no matter what they did. Helen raced around to where a Federal Policeman was directing evacuating traffic and he raced back with her and smashed windows to drag them out, literally drag them physically out of the house. The kids had their puppy and Sophie the violin she had been given for her birthday. They lost everything. The AFP officer drove them out as the flames had joined over the road.

"It would be nice if we could find the identity of the policeman," writes Michael, "so that everyone could thank him properly." Got any leads, Canberra readers? Contact Michael here.

FIRE UPDATE. The Sydney Morning Herald website has linked to an online CSIRO service intended to provide fire location data to emergency crews. The site is now clogged with rubberneckers:

Due to heavy demand this website is currently experiencing delays. Please be patient and allow priority access to emergency services.

If anyone at the SMH is paying attention, please de-link.

UPDATE. The site has been de-linked.

GO TO RIGHT-THINKING for excellent photographs of the comical anti-war protests in San Francisco and stay for the trenchant and informed reader comments. Did you know, for example, that only 125 people turned up to the protest in Des Moines? And that the protest in Vegas was sponsored by the Nation of Islam?

My favourite protest sign: "Saddam Was Elected". Or possibly the ever-so-daring "This Bush Is For Peace".

FIRE UPDATE: A third person has been confirmed killed in the Canberra fires. Television is reporting that the victim is a woman in her early 30s.

Staff at the Mount Stromlo Observatory were given 20 minutes to flee ahead of fires which have destroyed every one of the observatory's telescopes, including the first scope used at the site in 1910.

Marathon runner Robert De Castella's house is among the hundreds incinerated.

One man has been arrested for looting.

Labor Party leader Simon Crean has offered to shelter friends and colleagues who've lost their houses

And no updates from Tex hopefully means nothing worse than that he has been forced to evacuate. Send a note, Tex.

LATEST. This from Tex:

We're cool here. Nerve wracking Saturday, but today nothing more than staying home and awake to keep an eye on things, cleaning gutters and generally drenching everything in water.

Main front didn't get close to us, but there was an extreme danger with flying embers, some of which set light to the nature reserve just up the hill from our house. The whole darkness-at-noon thing was causing a scare or two.

Poor bastards out in Duffy didn't know what hit them. I mean, this is suburban Australia, not a forest community. The whole bloody lot went up at once. Scary how quick a fire can rip thru a city when it's well-vegetated. That's what really gave people the heebie-jeebies. Even the suburb across the road from us was put on the high-risk list, and it's nowhere near Namadgi park.

BRING IT ON, OSAMA! Keith Richards won't be silenced by Islamoid terror:

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has lashed out at former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney for calling off an Australian tour because of the Bali bombings.

"I say to Osama and the boys bring it on, evaporate me," Richards said on the eve of the band's Australian tour. "If it gets to the stage where these guys are dictating if we rock or not, then forget about it.

"If McCartney uses these guys as an excuse, he should give it away. Don't give them the power. I can't wait to tour Australia, even if they take out my plane on the way there."

Richards told Melbourne's Sunday Herald Sun that his son witnessed the World Trade Center attacks, and that he himself is familiar with airborne terror assaults:

"I was born during the Blitz – remember when Adolf Hitler bombed London? – so it was nothing new to me."


United Nations weapons inspectors have uncovered evidence that proves Saddam Hussein is trying to develop an arsenal of nuclear weapons, The Telegraph can reveal. The discovery was made following spot checks last week on the homes of two Iraqi nuclear physicists in Baghdad.

Although Dr Hans Blix, the head of the UN inspections teams, was made aware of the discovery last week, he failed to mention it during talks with Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and Jacques Chirac the French president.

British officials are particularly concerned that Mr Blix appears to be playing down the significance of last week's breakthroughs.


A Taliban soldier who fought British and American troops in Afghanistan has been granted asylum here because he fears persecution from the new Western-backed government in Kabul.

Lawyers representing the 32-year-old fighter have disclosed that the Home Office has given him permission to stay after accepting that his life would be at risk if he returned to Afghanistan.

The ex-Talibanner apparently received taxpayer-funded legal aid from intolerant racist Westerners to process his asylum request.

UPDATE. Bill Herbert writes to point out the inconsistencies of Britain's asylum policy:

Britain has infuriated human rights campaigners by deciding to begin extradition proceedings against a Zimbabwean opposition figure who says he was tortured by President Robert Mugabe's secret police.

THE EURO LEFT is showing alarming signs of sanity:

One thing which has been stressed too little in recent weeks is that it is Iraq's choices that have brought war closer. The debate in Britain and Europe continues to focus largely on what America is doing and why … It devalues debate to belittle Tony Blair as 'President Bush's poodle' - and the crude anti-Americanism which often accompanies this charge also overlooks the nuanced way in which the Prime Minister has sought with some success to influence the approach of his superpower ally. It is similarly unilluminating when detractors dismiss the Bush presidency as 'stupid'.

ATLANTIC MONTHLY recently referred to the blogosphere as "the netherworld of online punditry that exists somewhere above the Drudge Report and somewhere below journalism".

So where does that place Margo Kingston? Here's a recent item by the Sydney Morning Herald's online screechbat, complete with an alternative spelling for "Fremantle" and Margo's patented CrazyLinks™.

Now compare this half-arsed rush job (man, those links!) to almost anything written by any number of unpaid online pundits. Which is closer to "journalism"?

AUSTRALIAN CRICKETER Darren Lehmann was upset at being given out during Wednesday's match against Sri Lanka, and loudly complained about "black cunts" as he entered his team's dressing rooms. Not attractive language, especially not to the Sri Lankan players in their team rooms who overheard Lehmann's slur.

Made aware that he'd been heard, Lehmann immediately apologised, verbally and in writing. The apology was accepted. This should have been the end of the matter. The Australian Cricket Board certainly thought so, declining to lay any charges.

But the London-based International Cricket Council took things further, insisting that a racial vilification charge be laid and at one stage contemplating charges that could have led to a life ban. Lehmann was rubbed out for five matches following a hearing on Saturday, the longest suspension ever incurred by an Australian player.

Why the heavy-handedness? The ICC, faced with threats of a split between white and black cricketing nations, is desperate to hold world cricket together. Last week the England and Wales cricket chairman warned that a split could result if England and Australia boycotted World Cup matches in Zimbabwe.

Lehmann gave the ICC its chance to take the high moral ground. For an organisation that has threatened legal action against teams that refuse to play in Zimbabwe, this is, to say the least, an unaccustomed position.

CANBERRA BURNS: Two dead, 388 homes destroyed, 2,500 people evacuated, fires continuing. Here's the latest AAP report and an earlier Sun-Herald story. Chris Textor was yesterday posting from his house within sight of the fires.