BIG WHEELS keep on turning. You know attitudes are changing when words like this appear in The Melbourne Age:

I am eclectically left-leaning in politics, but I cannot comprehend how the left can blithely leave the Iraqi people in the hands of one of most monstrous regimes imaginable. I hear a strong voice of isolationist hedonism in the Western left on this issue.

And then there's this, and this. More significant is the first article, however; it's written by an actual Age staffer. Previously most of the paper's pro-war opinion has been imported.

CRIKEY.COM.AU sent this message to subscribers in a recent e-mail update:

Small-l liberal minded readers of the Oz may have noticed with delight, the absence of Tim Blair's weekly column yesterday.

This is apparently permanent.

The right-wing pseudo-intellectual bovver boy has apparently headed off to the Bulletin, according to his blog.

And didn't he leave on high... last week's column about Osama Bin Laden's State of the Union address was one of the most pathetic, tacky, puerile and offensive bits of copy ever published in an Australian newspaper.

Tim even makes Emma Tom readable.

Let's hope he lifts his game at the Bulletin, and can address an issue without resorting to personal attacks, selective reporting, and distorting facts.

Don't hold your breath.

His efforts in recent days urging his online readers to stack Phil Adams' Latenight Live forum on the looming war failed, with a large anti-war audience filling the old Parliament galleries in Canberra last night.

Amid that welter of personal attacks and selective reporting is the distorted "fact" that I urged readers to stack Late Night Live's forum. Here's what I wrote:

Judy Davis will be among the panellists – my, what fun we could have had! – and the pro-war position will be presented by former Alexander Downer staffer Brad Haynes. Attendance is free. Show up at old Parliament House tomorrow at 6pm.

Hmmm. Late Night producer Chris Bullock sent a note thanking me for this blatant attempt to ruin his program, which he seemed to think was simply a gesture to publicise the event. What is it with Crikey these days? Maybe it would help if I re-subscribed. Not that I'm suggesting Stephen Mayne is running some kind of online protection racket or anything …

BLOGGING has been light to low to absolutely no lately. Apologies. E-mail replies await, too. Paying work has interfered. So has moving house. Oh, and did I mention the agony? Something to do with carrying about 14 tons of books up to my new third-floor office. My back is toast.

Regular programming will resume Monday. Until then, send Valium and whatever other jellifying tablets you can transmit via PayPal.


NUDITY UPDATE. Reader David Griffin wonders why this Saturday's cluster of Australian peace nudists are going to the trouble of writing a whole new song for their unclad protest when he has one already prepared:

Get your tits out

Get your tits out

Get your tits out for Iraq

Catchy! Meanwhile the Sydney Morning Herald explains how the world-changing display will be captured on film by specially trained sky monitors:

Women are being to told to meet at 8.30am at a marshalling point in Federal before being taken to the location where, once they've disrobed, a small light plane carrying photographers will fly over taking shots to be distributed to the media.

Please. No close-ups.

NO COLUMN from me in today's Australian. I've moved over to The Bulletin, now under the editor-in-chiefdom of full-speed-ahead ex-Melbourne Age journalist and author Garry Linnell. If you're a Bulletin reader, you've probably already noticed several changes in tone and layout. More will come. As will more readers.

GREG SHERIDAN on MoDo, ye olde Europe, and Australian anti-Americanism:

Anti-Americanism should be studied as a serious psychological affliction, a pathological condition which paralyses the mind's analytical capacity. Contemporary anti-Americanism has many sources. Let me offer you just a few.

The first is the US itself. No society is more self-critical or self-analytical than the US. As most of our intellectual life is an imitation of the US, so our critique of the US is often an imitation, sometimes a direct import, of the US. Journalists strive to be Woodward and Bernstein of Watergate fame.

The broad and not very intelligent satire of The New York Times's Maureen Dowd – who as The New Republic's Martin Peretz recently commented, has never said a single interesting thing about any serious policy issue – is read here as serious political insight. The New York Times, The Washington Post and a few other left-liberal east coast papers both hate the Bush administration specifically, and are the avatars of liberal guilt generally. Their exaggerated critique is copied here with super-abundant enthusiasm.

Then there is European anti-Americanism, especially that of France and Germany, two faded and unprincipled lags of old Europe. How come these Americans are so powerful when we are so culturally superior, they cry. Condescension is the preserve of the impotent everywhere.

Read the whole piece.

ALL SIX escapees from the Woomera detention centre have been caught. And their alleged escape enablers have appeared in court.

A REMEDY FOR MOTION SICKNESS. Nelson Ascher sends proof that not all anti-war poetry need be asinine and dishonest. The following is by Israel's Yehuda Amichai (1924-2000), and is titled The Diameter of the Bomb; note how the idea of an ever-widening circle is underscored by an elliptical structure that forces delay and review in the reading:

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters

and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,

with four dead and eleven wounded.

And around these, in a larger circle

of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered

and one graveyard. But the young woman

who was buried in the city she came from,

at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,

enlarges the circle considerably,

and the solitary man mourning her death

at the distant shores of a country far across the sea

includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans

that reaches up to the throne of God and

beyond, making

a circle with no end and no God.

MICHAEL JENNINGS, members of whose family were rescued from the Canberra fires by an anonymous federal policemen, is one step closer to rewarding the praise-avoiding hero:

I just got an e-mail from the sergeant who is the immediate boss of the policeman in question. To quote:

"I knew that Bruce had done something fairly heroic on that Saturday, but I can't get any information out of him. He is not one who gloats about his actions."

He can run but he cannot hide. Bruce is one day going to have to accept some heartfelt thanks, whether he likes it or not. Writes Michael: "Apparently the wheels are now in motion to see that he is 'appropriately recognised for his actions'." Good.


THE BUNYIP bids a fond adieu to Phillip Adams, who has vacated his long-held position on the back page of The Australian's Review section (he'll now be published in The Australian's weekly colour liftout, probably at much shorter length, and likely without any online availability. Phil is now Fisk-Proof).

Now some kind words for Adams: his Radio National producer Chris Bullock was generous enough to invite me to join a panel discussion this Thursday at old Parliament House in Canberra, on the subject of war and Iraq. Considering what I've written (and will write) about Adams and Radio National, this invitation was unexpected, to say the least. It was with regret that I declined (deadline commitments, etc).

Judy Davis will be among the panellists – my, what fun we could have had! – and the pro-war position will be presented by former Alexander Downer staffer Brad Haynes. Attendance is free. Show up at old Parliament House tomorrow at 6pm. More details here.

SKY NEWS presents the anti-war argument on Australian Agenda tonight at 7.30pm. This is the follow-up to last week's pro-war program. Featured guests are crazy lefty Kerry Nettle, Ray Richmond, and Hassan Naif, an Iraqi doctor resident in Australia for sixteen years.

Expect to hear the word "oil" a great deal. The 30 minutes will fly by if you make this a drinking game: one beer for each time oil is mentioned, one scotch for each mention of children, and one dose of psychotropic brain medicine if any panellist suggests George W. Bush is avenging his father.

MOMENTS OF awful gravity pass us by. It's a curious fact of human nature that the more serious the implication before us, the more likely we are to miss it. Then, after all clues are processed and clarity is achieved, we eventually stand up and scream, "You've got to warn everyone and tell them! Soylent green is made of people! You've got to tell them! SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!"

By then it's always too late. Follow this example of my own lack of awareness, and sudden traumatic awakening, as I wandered through today's instalment of Margo Kingston's Webdiary:

Non-political people all over Australia have fired up over Iraq, coming up with all sorts of ways to express their opposition to Australia invading Iraq. Grace Knight, singer and songwriter, saw a photo late last week, put the rest of her life on hold, and got the ball rolling on an anti-war 'action' called DISROBE TO DISARM.

Why not "eat clams to disarm" or "make roofing tiles to disarm"? Both are more likely to succeed. Today I founded a group called "enormous numbers of US, British and Australian troops to disarm Saddam Hussein". I have high hopes that my grass-roots action will be a real force for peace.

The former lead singer of Eurogliders lives in the Byron Bay hinterland settlement of Federal, where she's working on the lyrics for an album she'll record with her ex-partner Bernie Lynch. But after seeing the photo and reading the story of a few ordinary American women getting it off to protest the war she emailed an "invitation to the women of the shire of Byron" to join her this Saturday to "disrobe and show them we are willing to go to any lengths to have our feelings respected".

Naked hippies. The world reels.

"In recent weeks a a group of American women - mothers, school teachers, shop assistants, lawyers, couriers, actresses, hippies and housewives - joined forces, took off their clothes and lay down in a paddock to spell out their protest. Their naked female bodies, arranged in letters that spelt out "NO WAR" made a powerful picture to present to their president and the world," she wrote. Why naked?

1. Because it attracts attention. We need the male-dominated parties of Australia to hear us. They are unlikely to listen unless we get their attention.

It sure worked in the US. Bush's instant withdrawal of troops is a testament to the power of freak-ass nakidity.

2. Because of its powerful symbolism. Stripped bare of any clothing or adornment that label and separate us, we become united as a single entity. We are simply female human beings who, in this moment in time, want one thing - PEACE.


3. Because although it's difficult, it makes a powerful statement. For some free-spirited Nimbin babies this might not mean a lot, but for most of us it is at best an uncomfortable idea and at worst, absolutely excruciating. Many of us have already signed petitions which have their value, but how useful does that really make us feel? Do you ask yourself - "What more can I do?" "How much of a sacrifice am I willing to make?" If nakedness is uncomfortable and embarrassing for us, think how uncomfortable and embarrassing the pictures of Iraqi citizens or Australian soldiers blown to bits will be."

The connection eludes me. I'm uncomfortable wearing rented bowling shoes. Does that mean I'm a war protester?

Grace's idea has taken off, with women now planning similar protests in Sydney and elsewhere. "I feel helpless, and I feel angry," she told me yesterday. "I'm angry that children are dying and are about to be murdered. As much as I love my son, what makes him more special than an Iraqi son is to his mother?"

Children are not about to be murdered in Iraq. They are being murdered, and have been for some time, by Saddam Hussein. And no Byron Bay bint shed an atom of clothing in response. Meanwhile, I'm troubled by a vague, nagging thought … did Margo say she'd received an invitation to Grace's nude peace fest?

"I don't believe Australia has ever invaded a country before, and to do it on the back of George Bush terrifies me. Although my political views might be wrong, this should not be happening! And how can anyone by politically aware these days - there's so many layers, so much history, so much propaganda, we all get lost."

This doesn't make sense. “By politically aware”?

Grace believes many women feel as she does - desperate, helpless, and afraid to speak up because "they're not able to back it up with political analysis".

So they take off their clothes instead? What is this, some kind of elaborate blonde joke?

She says she's never done anything like this before, and the momentum her email has generated "thrills me but scares me as well". She's nervous about stripping off, as are most women who've agreed to come, and she asked me not to reveal the location of the protest for fear of unwanted onlookers.

It's a private protest. The most effective kind.

If you're interested in her action, or in doing one yourself, her email is graceknight5@bigpond=.com.

In a subversive act on behalf of her monopolistic mainstream media employers, Margo cleverly publishes a misspelt e-mail address. The "=" renders it invalid.

Since Grace saw the photo and got her action off the ground, she's begun writing anti-war lyrics. Here's the first draft of a song she might sing on Saturday.

Oh, God, no …

how the hell did we end up here

life is worthless, to live in fear.

Are our children's lives merely dust

to be wiped from the coat of the president?

Well, it is a first draft …

Who owns the voice that speaks for me

Caught in a trap, that only HE can't see

Open the door, I'm not going in

......... this is wrong

No, this is terrible. This is shit. This is the worst trash ever committed to print.

How the hell did it come this far

when we send our children to die in war

No fuckin way will you lay your hands

on a child of mine to fulfill your plans

Rhymes aren't her strength.

You bastards of war you took your turn

running our planet into the ground

now you sanction a dying child's last breath

won't stop till you own the rest.

The planet is being run "into the ground". Which ground? The ground of the planet itself? Is the earth being run into … the earth? Is this a bad thing? And what about the invitation to Margo? What could that possibly mean? Margo spends a lot of time in Byron Bay. She's a popular figure there. Maybe she knows some of the people who'll be involved in the protest. Maybe …

(terrified pause)

You've got to warn everyone and tell them! Margo Kingston will be naked! You've got to tell them! MARGO WILL BE NAKED!



Six detainees escaped federal custody yesterday after an orchestrated and violent breakout from the Woomera detention centre.

A source from inside the Woomera centre said the attackers lost a sack of potatoes during the escape but appeared to be well stocked with food nonetheless.

Police have also retrieved video surveillance from Spud's Roadhouse, 7km out of Woomera, where it is possible the escape accomplices re-fuelled on the day of the breakout.

No blood for spuds!

IT'S BEEN at least 20 years since a nude spa party made the news. Many thanks to Wayne Carey for reviving this once-proud tradition.


76% of Australians are against military action without UN endorsement

57% would support a war against Iraq with UN approval

75% believe Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction

65% believe Saddam is a threat to global security.

6% think Saddam has nothing to hide

25% believe Saddam is not a threat to global security

Simon Crean's anti-war bluster has seen his rating as preferred Prime Minister soar to 23%. Way to sew up the loser vote, mate.

IS DISSENT ever anything but "crushed"?

VICTORIAN PREMIER Steve Bracks wasn't drunk at the Heineken Classic golf tournament. The microphone was.

Mr Bracks stumbled over his words, slurred his speech and referred to winner Ernie Els as "Ernie Eels" during his presentation speech. But blame has been firmly placed on a faulty microphone at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club rather than the event sponsor's product.

"Maybe if I was under the weather it would explain my slip-up in referring to Ernie Els and I apologise to him for that, but no, I can't use that as an excuse as nothing was partaken by me," he said. "I can simply say that actually the microphone was echoing and obviously playing back in my ear and that was probably the cause of some of the reverberation and the comments."

Nobody is buying the Premier's comical excuse:

A phone poll conducted by radio station 3AW yesterday found only 4 per cent of callers thought the Premier was sober after hearing excerpts from his speech.

Times have changed. When Sir Henry Bolte was Victoria's Premier, he was only sober about 4 per cent of the time. And he wasn't drinking stinking Dutch ditch water, either.

WHY ARE are Germany and France so opposed to this attack on Iraq? Letter writer Tory Puglisi answers his own question:

Perhaps it's the thousands upon thousands of graves littering their landscape that serve as a constant reminder of what really happens in a war.

Or possibly it's because France and Germany always lose. Is Puglisi aware, by the way, that war graves and memorials may also be found in the US and Australia?

IRAQI GOVERNMENT stooges have belatedly picked up on the "it's all about oil" message. Now Western peace protesters and mouthpieces for tyranny are singing the same lame song:

"Put yourself in our shoes," [Iraq's charge d'affaires in Australia, Saad Al-Samarai] told The Australian. "You are at war and invaders are coming to kill you, to steal your fortune (oil), how would you react?

"Iraqis in general and the Iraqi Government are very grateful for the popular position in Australia, which is against the war," he said. "But they are so sad about the Government's position.

"It's not your case – the Americans are trying to control the oil . . . why do you want to attack us?”

Well done, peaceniks. The Iraqi government is "very grateful".

ANTI-GRAVITATIONALIST Malcolm Street is exulting in his new-found fame. And he's still not a crank.

GERARD HENDERSON on anti-American Graham Greene and Phil Noyce, Greene's latest filmic interpreter:

In a letter to The Times on September 4, 1967, Greene (infamously) declared: "If I had to choose between life in the Soviet Union and life in the United States I would certainly choose the Soviet Union." He went on to claim that he would also rather live in Castro's Cuba than other Latin American nations and that he would prefer "life in [communist] North Vietnam to life in [non-communist] South Vietnam".

Interesting sentiments, to be sure. But Greene chose to live a comfortable life within various Western democracies. Despite the bravado, he never chose to domicile in Stalin's or Brezhnev's USSR, or Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam or Castro's Cuba.

The Quiet American is an anti-American text. The novel's political message turns on the (alleged) involvement of US intelligence in a terrorist bombing in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1952 … The book's hero, Thomas Fowler (who shares certain similarities with the real-life Greene), exhibits a distaste for all things American.

However, Greene at least acknowledged in his novel that the communist Vietminh were engaged in murder and terrorism - on occasions at least. No such impression is created in Noyce's film.

As it happens, I know someone who worked on Noyce's film, and via my contact I understand Noyce aggressively opposed any such acknowledgment. The man is a propagandist, prepared even to alter the text of other propagandists to better suit his weird message. I wonder if Noyce will refuse on principle to accept any American royalties.


BILL CLINTON will deliver a message on the importance of fighting global warming.

From a stage at the Staples Center. In Los Angeles. During a Rolling Stones concert transported to the city aboard 60 trucks and ten buses.

UPDATE. John Bono – the good Bono – crunches the numbers. You'd be surprised at just how much of the planet has to be destroyed in order to save it.

AN EXPLOSION is reported at Indonesian police HQ. Current theories as to who might be responsible focus on four main groups:

Muslim extremists

Extremist Muslims

Muslimist extremers

Exlimist Muslimers

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN after meeting Hitler, 1938: "We are resolved that the method of consultation shall be the method adopted to deal with any other questions that may concern our two countries, and we are determined to continue our efforts to remove possible sources of difference, and thus to contribute to assure the peace of Europe."

TONY BENN after meeting Saddam, 2003: "I put the questions that I wanted to put designed to explore the possibilities that there was an alternative to war, and I think when you hear what the president says, that optimism will be confirmed."

REMAINS OF all seven Columbia astronauts have been located.


SEAN GONSALVES at Alternet reports Robert Fisk's latest call to non-arms:

British social commentator Robert Fisk wrote recently about being "struck by the number of letters in [his] postbag from [World War II] veterans – men and women, all against this new Iraqi war, with an inalienable memory of torn limbs and suffering."

At least Fisk isn't writing about being struck by Afghan children. Not to devalue the opinions of WWII vets, but without the torn limbs and the suffering of that conflict we'd be living in a very different world today (for one thing, there'd be a lot more Nazis). Also, the nature of a war in Iraq would be distinct from WWII, and from Vietnam, as Keith Payne points out:

One of Australia's bravest soldiers has called for war against Iraq with or without United Nations support, saying it would be nothing like Vietnam.

Vietnam veteran Keith Payne, the last Australian to win the Commonwealth's highest bravery award, the Victoria Cross, has backed Prime Minister John Howard's stance on Iraq.

He said if the UN did not act, the US and Australia should.

Mr Payne said it was wrong to try to compare a potential war with Iraq to Australia's involvement in Vietnam.

"There's no parallel . . . because Vietnam was a country at war within itself, a civil war," Mr Payne said. "Here we have one nation that is bucking the UN resolution.”

AUSTRALIAN ASTRONOMER Anthony Beasley witnessed what could have been tiles falling from the Columbia as it flew over California. Losing some tiles is routine, from what I understand; Beasley’s information, however, is said to be significant.

Another Australian connection (of less significance) to the disaster: Columbia was carrying Australian spiders.

MARK STEYN wrote recently that in the current political climate right-wingers were the idealists, while left-wingers had become wretched and cynical. He was right. There is no event that the idiot left will not immediately politicise, as these comments demonstrate:

Can't these Republicans run NASA without getting our astronauts killed? We have had 2 towers, part of the pentagon destroyed with 2823 people and now a shuttle with 7 people killed under this illegitmate administration.

Next shuttle, how bout sending up a Jew and a Palestinian together, instead of arrogantly slapping a lot of people in the face at this time of Arab bashing by sending up a zionist.

I feel so shallow. I was actually upset about those Astronauts in the morning and now I'm already totally over it!

Another Republican, another recession, another Space Shuttle disaster.

What about Duuuuhhhbya? Shittt!! I hate to think how this giggle monkey is gonna comport himself!

Republicans fuck up EVERYTHING.

UPDATE. And just to show that this kind of thing isn't limited to the left, here's a post of similar worth at FreeRepublic.com.