That's Australia and Great Britain the Times is talking about, among others. Remember when the Times was worried about George W. Bush insulting and alienating friendly nations? Now the Times is doing the same. They will anger the Australian Street.
AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX NOTES:
Quote of the day, from Australian Jaguar racer Mark Webber: "If I wanted a low-pressure life, I'd go live in Tasmania somewhere."
No lack of pressure at Albert Park, particularly for Williams drivers Ralf Schumacher and JP Montoya, lumbering around in pre-qualifying behind the likes of Toyota and BAR. Damian Penny suspects the BMW-powered duo might be sandbagging, but it could be that winter rumours of an elemental aerodynamic flaw with the Williams were accurate. There's nothing wrong with the engine; Ralf was timed at 314 kmh yesterday, the highest top speed recorded.
Rain may be the slower teams’ race-day salvation. Sunny weather yesterday lured 80,450 fans (550 down on last year) to pre-qualifying, while Thursday saw 47,300 (down 4000). I'm among this year’s abstainers. Why? Because on my last visit to Victoria I got a $125 speeding fine for doing 108 kmh in a 100 kmh zone. That's just five miles per hour over the limit. Victoria can go to hell.
Provisional pole-winner Rubens Barrichello can go a lot faster. He finished on top in pre-qual despite running only fifth-quickest in the track's second sector, behind Olivier Panis, Kimi Raikkonen, Christiano da Matta (competing in his first Grand Prix) and Jacques Villeneuve.
Da Matta is a rare talent. The CART champion is adapting to F1 almost as rapidly as did Montoya and Villeneuve, who claimed pole here in his first race, back in 1996.
Here's another first: The Australian's Patrick Smith describes McLaren boss and tortured management-speak addict Ron Dennis as articulate.
Qualifying this afternoon is impossible to predict, especially since Michael Schumacher and Raikkonen both crashed and damaged their cars in this morning's practice session. Fastest in that session: Jenson Button (!), followed by Barrichello and a recovering Ralf Schumacher. Webber was ninth.
EVER WONDERED why the Big Gold Dog website is called Big Gold Dog? It's quite a story. Congratulations, Wallace!
TIME MAGAZINE'S Australian war correspondent Michael Ware observes a suicide bombing in Iraq:
The bomber, carrying a package of explosives and ball bearings strapped to his chest, was the sole passenger in the Land Rover taxi, sitting behind the driver and passing through a number of checkpoints. But when he neared Halabja, two wary soldiers had asked the passenger to produce his ID. Although local officials believe the bomber's intended target may have been the nearby military headquarters, once accosted by the government soldiers he knew he would get no further. Opening the left rear door, he stepped out with one hand in his pocket, a finger poised on the trigger mechanism. TIME's correspondent witnessed the explosion from a ridge-top bunker a short distance away.
The rest of the article is not for the faint of heart.
GORDON SLOAN'S game of "human shield" is over. The most airheaded of the Australian shields has been ordered to leave Iraq by the shadowy Dr Hashimi. He departs with this fascinating line:
Mr Sloan said the group's members were spread across six sites, which he described as "UN-endorsed", but that a number of "Italian subversives" had insisted on placing themselves at a Baghdad communications facility that almost certainly would be a target.
Damn subversives! They've undermined the whole human shield effort by planning to actually be human shields. As for "UN-endorsed", I don't buy it. Meanwhile, Tony the Teacher reports that human shield mockery is The Melbourne Age's Meme of The Week:
The retreat of most of the so-called "human shields" was much commented on by bloggers, along with various reports on the United State's preparation for war. Most comments were along the lines of the shields chickening out and being spineless - mostly written by people who are nowhere near Iraq.
You mean like the human shields themselves?
PHILLIP ADAMS reveals possibly a little more than intended in his latest column, in which he argues that he and his fellow chatterers aren't anti-American:
I don’t think the “chattering classes” were virulently anti-American during the Clinton years. It was “regime change” that detonated the resentments and anxieties that got millions marching in the streets. And most of us were anti-Bush long before September 11. It was when Clinton, for all his flaws, was replaced by the dreaded Dubya that our love-hate relationship started tilting. As he squandered the goodwill extended to the US after S11, it tilted further ... blah, blah, etc, etc, repeat until asleep ...
It's all about Bush. These people are as shallow as Lake Eyre.
THE ASIAN Wall Street Journal on John Howard, Australia, and Canada:
Comparisons are being drawn between Mr. Howard and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Like Mr. Blair, Mr. Howard is regarded by senior figures in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush as a staunch, unswerving ally, and his recent summit meeting with Mr. Bush at Camp David was recognition of the growing importance attached to the U.S.-Australian relationship. It is striking that just four world leaders have been invited to talks with Mr. Bush on Iraq: Mr. Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Mr. Howard.
The contrast between Australia's position on Iraq and that of Canada, a similar size power internationally, could not be more striking. As one of the world's eight leading economic nations, Canada has played a role in the international debate over Iraq that is both underwhelming and insignificant, reflecting an attitude of nonchalance toward the U.S. drive to build an international coalition.
As a consequence, Canadian influence on White House policy is virtually nonexistent. Indeed many Washington policy makers view Ottawa as a minor irritation, carping from the sidelines. Mr. Howard is undoubtedly a far more influential figure in Washington than Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
KEN NICHOLS O'KEEFE has been kicked out of Iraq:
Iraq has ordered five human shields out of the country after a dispute over where the Western peace activists should deploy to deter possible U.S. military strikes.
Accusing them of undermining the "noble and courageous" spirit of other volunteers, senior Iraqi official Abdul-Razzaq al-Hashimi told a heated meeting of about 100 human shields in Baghdad that the five should leave by Friday.
"Out of concern for the success of the noble cause you are here for, and so as not to let a few people in the group undermine this beautiful activity, I'm very sorry to say that I'm asking the five people to leave," Hashimi told the meeting.
He said the five who had been told to leave had set themselves up as representatives of the group and had been "holding unnecessary meetings, wasting time, knocking on doors at midnight...(and) asking stupid questions".
"We appreciate very much that you are here, but the rules of the house have to be respected," he said.
Former U.S. marine Ken O'Keefe, one of those ordered to leave, said it was "absolutely unacceptable that human shields would arrive and immediately be taken to sites without our knowledge".
O'Keefe, whose Human Shield Action Iraq group coordinated the departure of dozens of volunteers from London six weeks ago, said Hashimi's decision would ensure that many other human shields would be leaving Baghdad too.
"It's just a shame that there may be Iraqi lives that could be lost as a result of numbers diminishing," he told Reuters.
The shame is that O'Keefe is too stupid to understand the nature of totalitarianism, even when evidence of it is shoved right in his dull-eyed, tattooed face.
A WOMAN whose birth in remote North Dakota was recorded only in the family Bible has her death recorded 92 years later at Dr. Alice's So-Cal blog. Remarkable.
THE GUARDIAN, always eager to parody itself, is now running opinion pieces by Fidel Castro:
These are hard times we are living in.
Speak for yourself, bugbeard. Mice in chem labs are doing better here than most of your liberated socialist citizens living on Goat Meat Island.
In recent months, we have more than once heard chilling words and statements.
He's talking about Bush's speech to West Point graduates. Not, as you might have assumed, the announcement that Madonna is writing a children's book.
That same day, he proclaimed the doctrine of the pre-emptive strike, something no one had ever done in the political history of the world.
Never? Never ever? Man, the military history section of Cuba's only library must've been boiled and sold as food.
That statement was not made by the government of a small and weak nation, but by the leader of the richest and mightiest military power that has ever existed, which possesses thousands of nuclear weapons, enough to obliterate the world's population several times over - and other terrifying conventional military systems and weapons of mass destruction.
Listen to Fidel drool.
There is nothing like full independence, fair treatment on an equal footing or national security for any of us; none is a permanent member of the UN security council with a veto right; none has any possibility of being involved in the decisions of the international financial institutions; none can keep its best talents; none can protect itself from capital flight or the destruction of nature and the environment caused by the squandering, selfish and insatiable consumerism of the economically developed countries.
The US, with its economic sanctions, has tried its best to protect Cuba from selfish and insatiable consumerism. And this is the thanks it gets!
After the last global carnage in the 1940s, we were promised a world of peace, a reduction of the gap between the rich and poor and the assistance of the highly developed to the less developed countries.
Any oldsters out there remember these promises? Or is Fidel jabbering instead about the doomed promises of communism?
The world's soil is being eroded and losing its fertility; the climate is changing; the air that we breathe, drinking water and the seas are increasingly contaminated.
The seas between Fidel's Funpark and Miami are mainly contaminated with fleeing Cubans.
Authority is being wrenched away from the United Nations, its established procedures are being obstructed and the organisation itself destroyed; development assistance is being reduced; there are continuous demands on the third world countries to pay a $2.5 trillion debt that cannot be paid under the present circumstances, while $1 trillion dollars are spent in ever more sophisticated and deadly weapons. Why and for what?
Didn't Fidel once arrange for sophisticated and deadly weapons to be based on his Isle of the Damned? I seem to remember reading something about this.
A similar amount is spent on commercial advertising, sowing consumerist longings that cannot be satisfied in the minds of billions of people. Why and for what?
No advertising is needed in Cuba. What would you advertise? "Hookers now 50% more virulently infected"?
For the first time the human species is running a real risk of extinction due to the insane behaviour of the very same human beings, who are thus becoming the victims of this "civilisation".
Except we're living longer than ever before. Well, those of us who aren't subject to Cuba's world-standard health care, anyway.
However, no one will fight for us, that is, for the overwhelming majority, only we will do it. Only we can save humanity ourselves with the support of millions of manual and intellectual workers from the developed nations who are conscious of the catastrophes befalling their peoples. Only we can do it by sowing ideas, building awareness and mobilising global and North American public opinion.
The Indymidgets are gonna love this. Testify, great leader!
No one needs to be told this. You know it very well. Our most sacred duty is to fight, and fight we will.
Watch it, FC. You're sounding way pre-emptive there.
ANYONE SEARCHING for "hott pale indie boy ass", check out this shot of a nearly nude protest for peace.
THE ALWAYS BIASED CORPORATION deals its usual low blows to Israel in this radio account of the latest Palestinian lunatic attack:
Israeli forces, of course, have been active in the Palestinian territories for weeks now, even though today's suicide bombing was the first such attack inside Israel for two months.
That's from World Today host John Highfield, introducing a report from ABC Middle East correspondent Peter Cave (In To Terrorism), who assumes moral superiority over an unnamed Israeli interviewee:
PETER CAVE: What reaction should the government take?
VOX POP: I don't know if we should hit them with more force or not 'cause at the moment it's not really helping. But some action has to be done. We can't keep on living like this. It's day to day, you speak to friends and, the circles are getting closer and closer at the moment. Something has to be done urgently.
PETER CAVE: Is making peace something that should be done?
Ask the Palestinians, Caveman.
UH-OH. A woman in Iraq has written to Margo Kingston's Webdiary telling how her husband is in favour of war "because he sees no other way to get rid of this regime."
I hope this woman used a fake name, or Margo gave her one, otherwise she's just broadcast to the world (and Saddam's death squads) the identity of a Baghdad dissident. I wonder if Uday reads Webdiary?
UPDATE. Whoa! Very stupid me. Turns out the people in question are Iraqis in Australia, far from Saddam's clutches. Good for them.
You know how it is when you are a teenager, and you have a hot date with a chick on, say, Friday. It has taken a lot of guts to organise, and you feel sure that, if you play your cards right, it could be your lucky night. Like the world at the end of the Cold War, you are in a state of pleasurable excitement, not unmixed with anxiety. And then round about Tuesday of that week, you notice something worrying. Somewhere on your left cheek - roundabout the place where Iraq is on the globe - something begins to throb. There is no getting away from it. The thing is a zit.
Two red double decker buses and a white London taxi that ferried anti-war activists to Baghdad to serve as "human shields" are stranded in Beirut with their owner short the 3,400 pounds it costs to ship them home.
"The buses have to be shipped back. It's just not practical to drive them...I am not even really sure how much money I've got, but I'm sure it's not enough," said owner Joe Letts, adding that he would fly to London on Thursday to try to raise cash.
"I own these buses and they are my livelihood and my family's livelihood. And all along I was there really to take the people down and then come back," he said.
"I had promised my wife I would get the buses home," he said. "If I don't get them home, we're absolutely stuck."
Try calling Reg Varney. Meanwhile:
Some 50 other Swedish anti-war human shield activists who had travelled to Iraq began to leave on Monday, saying they had wanted to protect hospitals and schools but had been forced out to refineries, power plants and water works.
THE ARAB STREET intersects with Jerry Springer Boulevard:
Bitter enmity between Iraq and Kuwait erupted in a vitriolic name-calling match on Wednesday at an Islamic summit meant to unite the voices of the world's one billion Muslims against war.
In a clash caught on live television before the Qatar state broadcaster shut down transmission, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's top aide Izzat Ibrahim departed from his text to zero in on the Kuwaitis sitting across the conference chamber.
"Shut up you minion, you (U.S.) agent, you monkey. You are addressing Iraq," Ibrahim said. "You are insolent. You are a traitor to the Islamic nation," he spat out as Qatar's Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani tried to shut him up.
A Kuwaiti delegate responded that the insults were "the words of an infidel and a charlatan," as the two sides shouted and gesticulated angrily at each other.
THIS E-MAIL, written by a journalist attending this year's Davos conference and later published without her permission, has been bouncing around the web for a few weeks now, prompting much talk about ethics and whatever. The most interesting paragraph from the e-mail has been largely overlooked:
I was in a dinner with heads of Saudi and German FBI, plus the foreign minister of Afghanistan. They all said that at its peak Al Qaeda had 70,000 members. Only 10% of them were trained in terrorism -- the rest were military recruits. Of that 7000, they say all but about 200 are dead or in jail.
So much for the "distraction" of a war against Saddam.
THE MAYOR OF MOAB, Utah, doesn't understand the first thing about marketing:
Mr Sakrison said: "We strongly believe that our town's name could be severely damaged by naming the bomb after Moab, thereby negating years and dollars spent in marketing and promoting our town."
Hey, Sakrison - your town is getting huge press worldwide, for free, thanks to that bomb. Apologise to the bomb!
SORRY FOR the lack of posts, but I was trying to fisk this 11,183-word "It's All About Oil" psycho poem (hailed as brilliant by Margo Kingston) and my computer ran out of ink. Can you believe it? A computer that runs out of ink!
UPDATE: Preston Whip examines the above-linked piece. Key words in his response: "limited", "ignorance", "deranged", "surreal", "halfwit", "reductionist", "blighted", "dank", "madness", and "nonsense".
UPDATE II. Professor Bunyip is similarly unmoved by Jabbering Jack. Don't miss his link to seething Inner Margolia.
AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER John Howard was this morning confronted with the views of human shield Donna Mulhearn, the STUPID (Short-Term Utility Pod - Iraq Division) currently in Baghdad awaiting personal installation of US military hardware. Following is an edited transcript of the PM's interview with Radio 2UE host Steve Price :
PRICE: I spoke to an Australian women from Sydney who is in Baghdad, she was there this morning, Donna Mulhearn, 34 year old woman from Sydney. I asked her if she’d have a message for you this morning. If you don't mind, I'll just play this to you. It's very short.
MULHEARN: I'd like to say, Mr Howard please, please, please do what you can to stop a military attack on Iraq. These people do not deserve to be attacked. These are now people with names and faces. These are children I've played with. These are men and women who I have shared my conversations with and eaten meals with and taken me into their homes. They are real people. They just want to get on with their lives. They just want the same as you and I, to raise their families. They're not asking for anything more but to be left alone to get on with their lives. I just ask you, please, do whatever you can to stop this war. It's not our business. Do what you can to maintain the peace. Be a peacemaker. [inaudible], that's what I would ask him. I would plead with him to do what he can to help us.
PRICE: She's a 34 year old Sydney woman. She has been travelling around Europe. She has decided that she wants to go there and put herself in the line of fire. She says she will stay there.
PRIME MINISTER: So, she wants to make herself a human shield.
PRIME MINISTER: Well I don't think that is good behaviour. I understand the strength of her feelings. She talks about the ordinary people of Iraq, but I worry about the ordinary people of Iraq.
I wonder if she's thought about the million and a half ordinary people who have been killed by this regime over probably a 20-year period. I wonder if she's thought about the ordinary children of Iraq whose parents only crime was to be political opponents of Saddam Hussein, and are now detained in the most appalling conditions in Iraqi gaols. I wonder if she's thought of the ordinary people of neighbouring Iran who died in the Iraq-Iranian war. I wonder if she's thought of the ordinary people of Kurdistan and of the Marshlands who are the victims of poison gas and the most appalling human rights abuses by the Iraqi regime. You see, when you put human suffering into the balance on this issue, quite apart from the challenge of disarming Iraq, there is a very powerful case that human suffering will be greater if Saddam Hussein is left in power.
I wonder if she's read a very evocative piece in the Melbourne Age earlier this week from a British journalist who went there, to northern Iraq, as a sceptic, and whose views are anything but my views I could tell on most issues, who in a very emotional piece said - whatever might be the arguments about other aspects, in the name of human rights, the regime should be removed. Now, that's my answer to that lady. My principal argument is the disarmament of Iraq. It's not regime change. And I have to say in honesty that if there was a way of miraculously Iraq being totally and for sure disarmed, then I wouldn't be arguing for force to be used.
But let's not be under any false illusions. Putting human rights and human suffering into the balance, the removal of Saddam Hussein will be much better and result in less suffering and fewer atrocities and less torture, and fewer arbitrary arrests and executions, than would be the case if he continued.
A CLEVER newspaper would be at these demonstrations asking the kids to point out Iraq on a map: "Err ... I think it's on the border of Shaq and i-Pod."
Thousands of Australian high school students will take to the streets in an anti-war protest today, in what could be one of the largest student demonstrations since the Vietnam War.
More than 15,000 young people are expected to protest in capital cities and several regional centres under the banner "Books not bombs!"
Which doesn't really explain why they're abandoning school to chant dumb slogans in the street.
ANOTHER SIXTIES ICON passes its use-by date; the USAF's Daisy Cutter is soon to be replaced by the much more explodey but far less attractively named MOAB.
PHILIPPINES TERROR ATTACK - the
Islamist terrorists in the southern Philippines who have killed two American hostages in recent years say they are receiving money from Iraqis close to President Saddam Hussein.
Hamsiraji Sali, a local commander of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf on the remote southern island of Basilan, says he is getting nearly $20,000 a year from supporters in Iraq.
"It's so we would have something to spend on chemicals for bomb-making and for the movement of our people," Sali told a reporter this week, renewing earlier claims of support from Iraq.
That Washington Times piece was filed shortly before Tuesday's three-bomb assault. AP now has updated details on the dead and injured:
A powerful bomb hidden in a backpack exploded Tuesday at an airport in the southern Philippines, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 150, authorities said.
The dead included a boy, a girl, 10 men - including one American - and seven women, officials said.
MENTIONED IN this week's column for The Bulletin: Lee Ryan, Kylie Minogue, John Williamson, "the carers", Hans Blix, Shane Warne, Kirstie Marshall, the fun-loving Swiss, Stephen Mayne, David Marr, ugly protesters, Phil Gussin, George W. Bush, and Hugh Mackay.
IN LIGHT of the attack in the Philippines, this statement of Transnational Feminist Practices Against War by Lezbollah activists Paola Bacchetta, Tina Campt, Inderpal Grewal, Caren Kaplan, Minoo Moallem, and Jennifer Terry makes ever less sense than when it was written after 9/11. Read it and become furious.
The country's largest Muslim separatist group said they were not involved in a bomb attack that killed at least 19 people at the Davao International Airport.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was willing to be investigated by the authorities to prove it had nothing to do with the attack, spokesperson Eid Kabalu said in a radio interview by telephone. "We are willing to coordinate with any investigation for the purpose of determining the real cause of this bombing," Kabalu said.
AFP (via ABC) reports several arrests in the Philippines:
President Arroyo was informed by the national police that they have "already several men in custody being interrogated for committing these murders", her spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.
"The killing is a cowardly crime not only against the Filipino people but against humanity itself."
That's as good a definition of extremist Islamism as you'll ever read: cowardly, criminal, and against humanity.
A THIRD BOMB BLAST followed the two earlier attacks in the Philippines. Radio reports now say that an American is among the 19 understood to have died.
Still to hit the local wires: police have already arrested several suspects.
UPDATE. AP reports:
A powerful bomb hidden in a backpack exploded Tuesday at an airport in the southern Philippines, killing at least 19 people, including an American, and wounding more than 100, authorities said. The government called it a "brazen act of terrorism."
Three Americans from a Southern Baptist missionary family were among the wounded. Many of the injured were in serious condition, and officials feared the death toll could rise.
No one claimed responsibility for the blast at Davao airport on Mindanao island. But the military has blamed Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels for a string of attacks, including a car-bombing at nearby Cotabato airport last month that killed one woman.
YOSRI FOUDA recalls his April 2002 interview with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh:
Summoning every thread of experience and courage, I looked Mohammed in the eye and asked: "Did you do it?" The reference to September 11 was implicit. Mohammed responded with little fanfare: "I am the head of the al-Qaeda military committee," he began, "and Ramzi is the co-ordinator of the Holy Tuesday operation. And yes, we did it."
At least 19 people were killed and 100 injured in a bomb attack at Davao airport in the southern Philippines.
The powerful blast about 5.15pm obliterated a waiting shed outside the airport's passenger terminal as scores of passengers queued to get into the building to board two Manila-bound flights.
Another bomb exploded at a bus depot in Davao city but no one was injured while three others were wounded in a blast at a city health office in the nearby city of Taguma shortly after the airport attack.
Many of the victims, who included children, were rushed to the Davao City Medical Centre, local GMA television said, adding that its reporter counted 16 dead and 20 injured in the hospital.
Latest radio reports put the death toll ABOVE 50. Updates here as I find them. Fucking Muslim terrorists are suspected, obviously.
P.P. McGUINNESS in the Sydney Morning Herald:
One has to wonder what the anti-American campaign to save Iraq from liberation really wants to achieve. Perhaps the baby boomers facing ageing and death just want to ensure that nothing better follows them.
ACTOR VINCE VAUGHN, recently in England, reports the true downside of anti-Americanism:
"Man, it was bad," says the Rat Pack-y star of Swingers. "These girls saw us and were kind of flirting, and they kept asking us if we were American. Finally we said, 'Yes,' and they just took off.
"One girl turns and says, 'We were hoping you were Canadian.' Canadian? Since when was it cooler to be Canadian?"
IT'S BEEN my lifelong ambition to become a key influence blogger.
UPDATE. Glenn Reynolds refuses to get behind the cow on this whole "key influence blogger" issue.
THE LONDON SUN reports that the Taliban insider who shopped Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the CIA wants to live in Leicester:
The informant was offered 17 million pounds, a new identity and a house in the States by CIA chiefs desperate to nail September 11 schemer Khalid.
But last night it emerged the dad-of-four - a suspected Taliban officer - asked to move to Britain instead because he has a friend in the East Midlands.
What might the Leicester-bound informant do with his megadollars? The Sun has a few ideas:
He could munch 48.5 million standard bags of Walkers crisps, made in the city, or 6.8 million pounds of Red Leicester cheese.
The city is famed for its curry restaurants and he can afford at least 3 million spicy dishes.
If music is more his taste, he can buy 2.8 million copies of Leicester-raised crooner Engelbert Humperdinck's greatest hits.
In the unlikely event of him becoming bored in Leicester, he could make the day trip to London by train 515,151 times.
PROFILING THE Australian human shields ...
Ex-press secretary DONNA MULHEARN:
Fair Trading Minister John Aquilina's press secretary, Donna Mulhearn, is leaving politics for a higher calling. A stalwart of young Labor and former Maitland councillor, she is abandoning the rough and tumble of politics for a monastic existence which will see her embark on a lengthy pilgrimage to various monasteries to contemplate life's many mysteries.
Melbourne man JAKE NOWAKOWSKI:
On Tuesday, Jake Nowakowski joined 12 others "protecting" wheat and grain stored in the al-Tahadi complex, 18km out of Baghdad.
"I want to stress we are not under any pressure from the Iraqis. We are free to leave if ever we choose."
Tea Tree Gully councillor RUTH RUSSELL:
I am sorry that I will not be available to represent you for these two months and seek your tolerance and support in my important endeavour.
I hope I may see you at a farewell gathering before I leave, if not you are welcome to contact me via my email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Reality show reject GORDON SLOAN:
Favourite Book: I don't read books.
As one of his housemates said at the time: "A crazy blond hairdo cannot hide a beige personality."
ACCORDING TO a new survey, Sydney sucks:
When it comes to how well we live, Sydneysiders would be better off by moving to Zurich, Vancouver, Vienna or Geneva.
All four narrowly outpolled Sydney in a survey, released yesterday, comparing the quality of life in 215 world cities.
Maybe this is because Bob Carr has decided we are part of Africa:
Commercial release of any genetically modified food crop would be banned for at least three years if the Labor government was returned, the Premier, Bob Carr, announced yesterday.
BILL MAHER is undergoing a Michael Jackson-like decolorizing process. Here's Bill a few years ago, with a recognisably human skin tone. A year or so later, and Bill's flesh has turned a weak pink. More recently: the bloodless pallor of the night creeper. And today ... pure albino freakshow.
IT'S A one-day cash drive! Hit the PayPal deal on your left for all your donating needs. Otherwise I might have to get a real job.
THE AUSTRALIAN'S Stuart Rintoul discovers that Islam's Australian Aboriginal recruitment campaign is luring converts at the fearsome rate of almost five per year:
In a program called "Islam Dreaming", SBS TV's Insight program last week suggested that indigenous Australians were converting to Islam in increasing numbers and that Osama bin Laden's influence was thus "seeping into the suburbs of Sydney".
But are Aboriginal people really signing up to become soldiers of Islam? The program began with the old journalistic canard "reliable figures are hard to come by, but . . ."
In fact, reliable figures are not hard to come by. They are easily obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which measures Aboriginal religious belief. According to census figures, in August 1996 the number of Aboriginal people who said they were Muslim was 619, out of a population of 352,970. By August 2001, this figure had risen to 642 in a population of 410,003. Twenty-three people in five years.
That's some conversion record. More Australians are killed by lightning.
FIVE QUESTIONS* with LARRY KING:
KING: Why am I talking like this?
KING: Yes, what am I doing here?
KING: No, no. It's a general question.
KING: I forgot. I momentarily forgot.
KING: Did an ambulance come?
*All questions 100% genuine Larry.
IF SIMON CREAN was Australia's Prime Minister, I bet he'd support the war against Saddam. But Opposition Leaders are meant to oppose, so he's tied himself to the United Nations ... with predictable results:
Satisfaction with Simon Crean's performance has continued to erode despite strong opposition to Australia's military involvement in preparations for war on Iraq.
The Opposition Leader's disapproval rating has reached a record high of 55 per cent in the past two weeks.
"FILTHY VIOLENT SCUMBAG REDS" is one of the Wogblogger's more direct headlines. Click on WB's cryptic links ("Nuts", "Wha?") for extra fun.
THE MELBOURNE AGE'S Sian Prior thinks she's being resourceful and subversive:
A friend of a friend of mine borrowed this video. I think he's a Robert Redford fan. So he got out All The President's Men, that 1976 movie about the Watergate investigation where Redford plays Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.
Anyway, apparently there's a scene in it where two blokes are talking about ringing the president, and one of them says something like, "Yeah, you just dial 456 1414".
So when my friend tells me this story, I check out the time difference between Melbourne and Washington, and dial the same number. And lo and behold, a young man answers and asks me if I'd like to send a message to the president of the United States of America.
"Yes thanks," I say. "Could you please let the president know that most Australians don't approve of his obsession with bombing the bejesus out of Iraq, and we think he should stop trying to boss the United Nations around like a schoolyard bully."
I'm sure that once he gets my message, the president will see the light. Just to make sure, though, maybe you should put in a call to George Bush junior, too. 0011 1 202 456 1414. Be sure to give him my regards.
Prior, a journalist of some experience, requires a 27-year-old movie to tell her what she could've learned by looking in a telephone book. The number she provides is the White House switch, and is listed at the White House website. Great work, genius.
Still, why not follow her example and contact other people involved in the current conflict? Here is the telephone number for human shield leader Ken Nichols O'Keefe. Call him now. Apparently the customary form of greeting in Baghdad is "KABOOM!"
FIVE MORE QUESTIONS* with LARRY KING:
KING: Kind of chicken how we throw things, sit up there and they can harpoon them in the mouth with a stick.
KING: But we're beating a horse here.
KING: And it's important that the tarantula always be with us.
KING: In your opinion, an animal is not a human to you, right? It's not entitled to equal rights?
KING: If they dress funny like they did on "Let's Make a Deal," would that help?
*All questions 100% genuine Larry.
THE HUMAN SHIELDS who fled Iraq demonstrated that they are least capable of learning. The shields who plan to stay are just grade-A dips:
Former Big Brother contestant Gordon Sloan last night said he was determined to stay on in Iraq as a human shield, despite some volunteers leaving.
"You find people are here for their own agendas but, if you are getting nervous now when there's no soldiers with their fingers on the triggers, I'm not sure why you came really," he said.
"So some British people got scared and went home," he said. "Some of those people had planned to leave anyway." He said the political situation in Baghdad was so relaxed it was "kinda like a Club Med war zone really".
Tough words, Gordon, considering how only a few days ago you were busily scouring Baghdad for its least attack-worthy targets.
UPDATE. The very latest on the little-known second group of returning human shields. Quote:
"There I was, the human," recalled Ms Whet, a founding member of Oxstall, the war-delay group which co-sponsored this second human shield effort. "But where was my shield? It's as if someone has completely failed to grasp the entire concept."
FIVE BONUS QUESTIONS* with LARRY KING:
KING: You don't know what a Twinkie is?
KING: Then why do -- why do I associate you with San Francisco?
KING: A Twinkie is like a yellow thing with marshmallow in the middle. People love them.
KING: I think these are fake.
KING: Are you having trouble breathing right now? What is that sound I'm hearing?
*All questions 100% genuine Larry.
IT'S ALL ABOUT REAL ESTATE (and freedom and commerce):
Iraq is enjoying an unexpected property boom as canny Arabs snap up undeveloped sites in the most desirable areas of Baghdad and the southern city of Basra.
Iraqis and their neighbours in Kuwait are gambling that after Saddam Hussein is deposed, the properties will become prime development sites for hotels, clubs and luxury homes.
While Iraqi buyers will not say openly that the property boom is based on the hope that Saddam will go, it is their unspoken belief.
"Things are going to get better but I cannot tell you why," said another real estate agent.
"I am too scared to say such things."
You won't be in a few weeks.
ACCORDING TO this Guardian piece on the Google takeover of Pyra Labs, all but one of Pyra's founders have died or been killed:
Evan Williams, the only surviving member of Pyra's original team, and the man who brokered the Google deal, has seen the company go through some very hard times, despite its popularity.
They probably meant "only remaining member". But who knows? Blogging is a deadly game. Why do you think Layne moved to a moat-surrounded compound in remote Nevada? Hmmm? Hmmm?
FIVE MENACING QUESTIONS* with LARRY KING:
KING: You write all your own stuff, right?
KING: You look like a doorman.
KING: What's the difference?
KING: Boy, you are really intense about this.
KING: You do karate, huh?
*All questions 100% genuine Larry.
MARGO KINGSTON performs her first-ever fisking:
Well, well, the Sunday Telegraph has sunk the boot into the Greens. Had to happen, but really, did editor-in-chief Jeni Cooper have to sell her soul to do it?
I knew Jeni years ago, when she was a bright, thorough health reporter in The Australian's Canberra Bureau. Does money, or power, or both, bring people this low?
She began: "Perhaps we should have guessed something was amiss when the NSW Greens dropped the symbolic tree from their campaign literature." Pardon? A tree has never been the Greens logo - it's the symbol for The Wilderness Society. The NSW Greens logo was a globe - now it's a triangle.
Go Margo, you fiskin' wildcat!
SPEAKING OF FISK, here's the pebble-battered man himself, questioning reports surrounding the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:
And then, a Taliban "source" -- this means the real Taliban but "source" is supposed to cover the fact that the old Afghan regime still exists -- claimed that Mr Mohammed "is still with us and in our protection and we challenge the US to prove their claim".
Remember this the next time you read about a White House source. It is an attempt to cover the fact that that the White House still exists.
FIVE TROUBLING QUESTIONS* with LARRY KING:
KING: OK, I'll pay you.
KING: All right, hold it a minute.
KING: No fussing with it.
KING: That's wonderful.
KING: I am in love.
*All questions 100% genuine Larry.
GENERAL AMIR AL-SAADI, special aide to Saddam Hussein, is heartbroken over the mindless destruction of his beloved Al Samoud missiles:
They're just hurting people, these are creation by the people who designed, worked and manufactured, they belong to families and people, the whole people will be affected by this.
Poor little Al Samouds. Just more innocent victims of the West's brutality.
Al-Saadi said Iraq had not permitted photographs or video images of the destruction - despite the potential impact on world opinion - because it didn't want the Iraqi people to see what would be a bitter image.
"It is too harsh. It is unacceptable. That's why we have released no pictures," he said somberly.
The people need a happy picture. This is an early design blueprint for the next generation of Iraqi ul-Snoop anthrax fragmentation grenades.
WHAT IS IT with idiots and vibrations? The world's most influential scrambleheads seem to have hooked into a vast cosmic trembling. Here's some rhythmic reporting from Margo Kingston:
Have Muslim extremists destroyed the vibe of Hindu Bali to force us out?
One consequence of the border protection vibe, coupled with the Bali tragedy, is a heightened sense of ourselves as Australians.
I got the vibe behind the scenes here that the Greens are quite worried.
But where is this vibe, Margo? Where? WHERE?
The vibe here is just really, really there.
Er ... OK, scary lady. And here's Mark Morford, king spazz of the San Francisco Chronicle, from an article beautifully vivisected by Michele at A Small Victory:
You are also ... lowering the general vibration of the human collective cause.
That post-party feel-good vibe? ... That's the vibe you want. That's the vibe we all need. That's the vibration that makes all the difference.
You want to really annoy the conservative warmongering powers that be? Work your ass off to pump up the vibration.
Hey - the Bunyip is asking “What is it with nitwits and the Classics?” Must be some kind of vibe thing happening.
THE LEADER of this naked protest was interviewed the other day. Her main concern was that nobody should actually see the protest (apart from the official photographer). Organisers had identified two apartment windows that overlooked the sports ground where the nakedness was to occur, and asked the occupants to drape sheets over the windows lest the NO WAR message reach leering male eyes.
I applaud this trend. Soon all such protests will take place in private, with only a video camera to prove that they ever happened. Maybe some music would make them more entertaining. And zesty titles. They could become very popular.
MY BEAUTIFUL TELEVISION - purchased new in May, 1985, and a life partner in eleven houses since - has just died. I don't think there was any suffering; I heard a bursting sound, then a kind of electric death crackle. Then there was nothing ... apart from the smoke. The terrible smoke.
Farewell, General GC191.
UPDATE. Heartless John T. writes:
I had a Sony Trinitron that lasted from '83 to '00. Believe me, the new TVs are
much higher quality with better pictures. You won't miss the old sow.
What use is better picture quality when my eyes are blinded by tears? And from Ernie G.:
It was the smoke that did it. Years ago, an electronics technician told me a little-known fact about electronic components. You see, they are all made with a quantity of smoke sealed inside under pressure. If something happens to the seal and the smoke escapes, the component is ruined. He assured me that if a way could be found to capture the smoke and get it to go back in, the item would be good as new.
Now he tells me. After I've opened the windows and allowed GC191's precious spirit to escape.
THE MELBOURNE AGE'S Ray Cassin accuses Jose Ramos Horta of hypocrisy:
If the reason for going to war with Iraq is that it would be a war of liberation for the oppressed Iraqi people, surely we should be fighting to liberate other oppressed peoples around the world?
The people of West Papua, for example. They are oppressed, just as the people of your country were, and by the same oppressor. And, just as the people of East Timor yearned for someone to lift the yoke from them, I am sure the people of West Papua do, too. But you, the Foreign Minister of East Timor, their close neighbour, have nothing to say about them. Or about the people of Aceh, or the Maluku Islands, or other places in the archipelago where calls for independence, or even for greater autonomy, have prompted swift and brutal repression of a kind that is all too familiar to you. You are silent on all of these, while insisting that the democracies must serve notice on the oppressor of Iraq that his time is up.
Is this the hypocrisy that you condemned for so long while you were an exile, and while the Indonesians ravaged your country?
Ray Cassin seems to want all war, all the time. OK then.
UPDATE. Catallaxy Files' Jack Strocchi responds to our Little Ray of Sunshine.
THERE'S SOMETHING a little bit ... what's the word ... graceless about Salon's recent poverty posturing. David Talbot sounds like he's talking about a tiny grassroots media coalition instead of a (once) massively-staffed, for-profit business that's $76 million in the hole:
Thanks for everything! In just the few days since we posted my letter on Feb. 21 asking for your help, we've already received several thousand new subscriptions and gift subscriptions, as well as many Well subscriptions and other contributions. This outpouring of support is helping keep Salon going.
Now, Salon isn't poor. Poor people don't have millions of dollars to throw away in the first place. Salon is stupid. There's a difference.
From all across the political spectrum, from all walks of life, and from all over the world, it seems, Salon's unique group of think-for-yourself readers are stepping forward to pitch in.
Many of these Salon death-wishers gloat that, while Rush Limbaugh and Fox News thrive in the free market, progressive media outlets like Salon still struggle. But the thousands of new subscribers who have signed up for Salon Premium are proving them wrong.
Fools and their money. The testimony of this Salonista, cited in the Talbot letter linked above, is particularly touching:
With the way things are now in the world, I really rely on you people to give the news that I perceive to be the truth.
There's a slogan to rally behind: "Salon -- perceived to be true by 4 out of 10 cashed-up yupster chatter monkeys!"
"TECHNOLOGY CAN do little for people who have nothing to say," warns this Reuters column on the weblog explosion. Hell, I've been proving that theory wrong for more than a year now.
THE HUMAN SHIELDS are running away:
"I am ashamed to be leaving you at this time of need, but I'm going out of pure, cold fear," Godfrey Meynell, 68, told the two Iraqi factory workers standing before him.
He was not, however, the only "human shield" fleeing Baghdad yesterday in a state of high emotion. Nine of the 11 British shields on the pioneering wave of red double-deckers left this weekend.
Why have our brave Freedom Lemmings suddenly bolted?
Dr Abdul Hashimi, the official overseeing their mission in Iraq, had issued the shocked group with an ultimatum: deploy to the "strategic sites" hand-picked by the government or leave immediately.
Betrayed by the Iraqi government itself! Who could ever have predicted such a thing? Meanwhile, shield leader Ken Nichols O'Keefe is still in Baghdad after a fraught journey to the Iraqi capital:
The heavily-tattooed O'Keefe, who earned the title "black Ken" on account of his penchant for the colour and outlook on life, had alienated his companions who felt he had developed both a death wish and a messiah complex. Prone to tantrums and mood swings, his credibility had not been helped by the fact that he had, for much of the journey, been accompanied by his mother, Pat.
In Baghdad, Ken came into his own. Dressed in a thick, grey dishdash, he took to ambushing me in the Andalus corridors to brief me on his latest soundbites. "Dark forces have worked against me," he said, "but I have survived. My mission is hard core, in-your-face activism."
You tell 'em, Poochy. The entire human shield debacle is best summarised by this message, left on a hotel noticeboard by one of the British activists:
"Can whoever stole my bag of nuts, sultanas and dried bananas, please return them. They are my emergency rations".
UPDATE. In the case of Ken O'Keefe, Justin Katz presents evidence that Manson was right.
UPDATE II. More from AP on the panty shields.
UPDATE III. Reader John Frary writes:
The subhuman shields' hasty departure at the prospect of actually becoming shields seems to show that they never really expected indiscriminate bombing from the Crusaders. The prospect of taking up positions near targets for discriminating bombers concentrated their minds marvelously, although it left their loins a little loose.
On to Baghdad!
AUSTRALIAN UNIONS have decided to become the amoral loser gangs most people think they are anyway:
Key unions are drawing up plans to hit Australia's war effort in Iraq with industrial action. Under the plans, bans will be imposed on equipment and food meant for Australian troops.
The move is set to be endorsed by the Trades Hall Council and the ACTU at a meeting this month.
Trades Hall Council secretary Leigh Hubbard is leading the push to impose bans.
Mr Hubbard said it would be "a bit of an embarrassment if Australian unions did nothing about the war".
An embarrassment? This is a disgusting betrayal. Our armed forces have no say in their deployment; they simply take orders and go to whatever deadly hellzone awaits, on our behalf. And the unions want to deny these Australians food?
Watch the pro-war numbers spike in the polls after this. For that matter, watch the unionist resignations. Nobody likes a traitor.
ARE YOU a wealthy anti-war celebrity? Yes? Then maybe you should just skip Julie Burchill's latest excellent column:
May I just single out for salutations, on the "anti-war" side: Pop Stars For Appeasement, Dancers Against Democracy, Actors For Apathy, Fashionistas For Fascism and Jugglers For Genocide. All of them united under that flaccid flag of convenience, Show-Offs For Saddam.
What is most extraordinary about this unique level of celebrity bum-sucking in a global conflict - as opposed to a haircut - scenario is that it's being most frantically touted by the Mirror, a newspaper that only last year declared war on the cult of, um, celebrity. So, to sum up, their position would seem to be: Celebrities = silly show-offs when going about their usual business of attending premieres and getting on the telly. But, on the other hand, Celebrities = seers and sages who must be listened to when pronouncing on war and peace.
If Madonna, Damon Albarn, Richard Gere and all the other multimillionaire mummers seeking to salve their consciences by being "anti-war" really cared, they'd start by giving half their fortunes to Oxfam. But, instead, they prefer to sit on their dungheaps of dough and point the finger at nasty, greedy Bush and Blair. Bless!
Burchill's final paragraph is her best. Go read.