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Saturday



SITUATION WORSE TO THE NORTH

Jeez, now I have to deliver a blog-smack to some fat-egoed dumbkins who think the PM would waste his time reading the letters page of Australia's worst metropolitan broadsheet, the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD.
Cop this twaddle:
Dear John Howard: Today you sent our son-in-law to war. He is a career officer in the Navy and joined to defend his country. He sailed on the Kanimbla from Garden Island, leaving his wife of 18 years and his two daughters. Will he be back to see his girls start the new school term? Will he be home for his wife's birthday in February? Will he be back at all? Do you really care? -- Ros and Bob Barwick, Sunnybank Hills (Qld)
You bums. He's a career officer because he understands that his job is obey orders without question. You have insulted him by suggesting he should not have to undergo the same level of sacrifice as every serviceman with a family in every conflict in the past 100 years.
And yes, simpletons, even the most leftwing Blind Freddy would know, Howard cares. To a fault.



FERGAWDSAKE, HE'S GOT ENOUGH ON HIS PLATE!!!

Bloody hell, they're still at it. One of THE AGE'S more pathetic correspondents apparently missed yesterday's admonishment from this blog to scribblers for assuming the PM had so much down time that he actually got round to perusing their personal letters to him.
Sigh, it's a shitty caper, but someone has to respond on behalf of Howard. Besides, I can use un-Prime Ministerly language.
Today's bleat to the PM via the editor comes from Cynthia O'Keefe, Mount Waverley:

Please, Mr Howard, give peace a chance
Prime Minister Howard,
Aid agency experts, recently returned from Iraq, report that crippling damage inflicted during the Gulf War is still having a serious effect on the population. The inadequate water and sanitation systems are on the brink of collapse, a third of the electricity grid is non-functional, and the tenuous food distribution system is totally dependent on an intact transport network.
Consequently, most of the limited supply of even reticulated water is untreated, raw sewage flows back into homes and cesspits, and septic tanks do not work. This is dramatically increasing the risk of diseases such as gastroenteritis, cholera, polio and hepatitis. Despite the food rationing system provided by the international community, child mortality is soaring and malnutrition is severe.
A military offensive will intensify this catastrophe, creating a humanitarian crisis of manifold proportions and triggering another flood of refugees. It is very likely that it will also provoke a backlash in adjacent states, leading to further antagonism between Islam and the West, and a continuation of political extremism. A UN-sanctioned conflict will inevitably have the same outcome.


D'uh. Perhaps if Sadd Sack hadn't spent squillions on palaces, armies, weapons of mass destruction, genocide of his subjects and ridiculous homburg hats he might have got around to fixing the inadequate water and sanitation systems, the electricity grid that is non-functional, the tenuous food distribution system and inactive transport network. A military offensive by a coalition from liberal democracies against the leadership responsible for this humanitarian crisis of manifold proportions is the best way of ending it if the bastard won't do what he's told. And Cyn, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I'll blame that dreadful "Give peace a chance'' subhead on some kiddie who wandered unsupervised into the sub-editors' room.



COLD SNAP

Here's a NEWS FLASH for Bob Brown and those other green dickheads who claim the world is in the grip of manmade global warming.
There are icebergs out on Long Island's Great South Bay -- and one expert says that if the frigid temperatures continue, the Long Island Sound could freeze over.
Malcolm Bowman is a professor of oceanography at the Marine Sciences Research Center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
He says we've had what he calls a ``stationary cold trough'' for the last few weeks -- and if below freezing temperatures continue for the next few weeks, Long Island Sound could freeze.
Bowman says the last time that happened was the winter of 1976 - 1977.


Hmmm, 1976-77, wasn't that around the time when funds-chasing lab rat doomsayers were predicting an imminent ice age due to terrible man's destruction of the planet?



DOPE FOUND ... IN UNIFORM

What Chicago police thought was more than $660,000 worth of dope in a pickup truck last month turned out to be hay from a Roman Catholic church's nativity scene.
The SUN TIMES reports that prosecutors dropped felony drug charges Thursday against Jose Galvan, 43, and his co-worker, Juan Luna, 21, after crime lab tests confirmed the mistake.



RED BAD, GREEN GOOD

TEACHERS at an English primary school have been told not to mark children's work in red ink because it encourages a "negative approach".
Penny Penn-Howard, head of school improvement for Sandwell Council, said: "The colour of the pen used for marking is not greatly significant except that the red pen has negative connotations and can be seen as a negative approach to improving pupils' work.''
Reckon Penny Penn might be full of stupidity ink.



KA-BOOM!!!

If it is all about oil then someone's going to be disappointed, it would seem from this report in THE TIMES.
THE PENTAGON said yesterday that US officials have detected indications that Saddam Hussein is planning to blow up Iraq’s 1,500 oil wells in the event of a US-led invasion, including evidence that he has already wired some well heads with explosives.



AWWWW, THAT'S WHAT IT'S FOR!!

A DRONGO in Viriginia who tried to beat his dog to death with a gun was fatally wounded when it apparently went off accidentally.



TABLOID GUILT

JEFFREY SCOTT SHAPIRO shows in this Modesto Bee article why strong sub-judice rules are essential for fair process. It's an eye-opener.



DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

Our first nomination for tabloid headline of the year goes to the NEW YORK POST.



RALLY BAD, MAN

Indian priests holding a rally for world peace have torched the event's venue, sparking a riot, THE BBC reports.
The priests were apparently angry that they had not been paid for their services, police said.
On Thursday, several priests protested by setting fire to the tents used for the event.
Several residents, who were said to be tired of prayers being constantly blasted out of loudspeakers, then stormed into the field and started beating the priests.

Police broke up the riot using wooden clubs.



GAUNTLET FLOORED

It has to be said. If Simon Crean were Prime Minister he would be following exactly the same course as John Howard.
Argument welcomed.



ROLL UP, ROLL UP, TO SEE THE BEARDED LADY

I guess if you believe that claptrap about the pleasures of 72 black-eyed virgins, you're not going to be the brightest light in the casbah. With a straight face, the ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCE web site reports that a terrorist from Yasser Arafat's al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade dressed up as a Bedouin woman and opened fire on a Jewish town. The Israeli Defense Forces captured him. His disguise wasn't all that effective. He didn't bother shaving his beard! Makes you wonder what his mum looks like.



READ ALL OVER

Can someone track down this letter writer to THE AUSTRALIAN and talk her into blogging. It's a humdinger.

Everyone can play

I'VE been waiting for some other Aboriginal to write to you about the use of "black" as an insult, but as no one else has, I thought I'd better.
I and the rest of my family do not regard being called black an insult. In fact we call each other blackfellas and are bloody proud to be able to.
What galls me is that calling someone "white" is never considered an insult.
Is it because white people really are superior to "blacks", "slopes", "towelheads", etcetera?
Perhaps it's something for the PC brigade to think about. After all, white people have feelings too.
Gayle Kennedy
Balmain, NSW





ASPRIN, ENO, COFFEE, PRAYERS

Groan, in the words of some Caribbean wastrel..."My head hurts, my feet stink and I don't love Jesus...''
So this is what After Grog is about?
Spent several hours last night in the enlightening company of Tony the Teacher and Alan Anderson, tossing pots, shooting the breeze and getting labelled right-wing, violent blood-suckers by one of the nicest fellows I've met in months. There's hope for lefties yet.
No tips today. Magic's watching the sea-horses go round down at Pt Lonsdale and anyone who could pick a certainty in this weather has a cashed-up card for the Royal Telephone.


Friday



QUESTION TIME

One would think Prime Minister John Howard would be a tad busy today. He's got Australian troops on their way to the Middle East where they may or may not be deployed in combat against Iraq. He's got a goodly part of the Australian high country under flames and more threatened with 40 degrees plus temperatures forecast for the weekend. Then there's the Australian Tennis Open, World Cup Cricket and Australia Day gongs to hand out. So what on earth possesses tossers who write to The Age to think the PM's got time to read their drivel? Not to worry, Slatts will try to answer their troubled queries.

Simply put, Mr Howard, as the political and government leader of this country, you have an obligation to ask the people their position on this matter before lining up with and behind the US. -- Bernie Millane, Box Hill North
Then what does he do when he receives the myriad of opinions offered by the Australian people?

I just don't get it. Apologies, Mr Howard, but I fail to see how our goal of peace will ever be achieved through the implementation of its absolute opposite: war. -- Jane Carter, 18, Warrnambool
Well, Janie, it's a bitch I know, but that's how it's always been. You know, the greens before the ice-cream, the lessons before the playtime, the genocide before the liberation.





Thursday



RUSTIC CUISINE

They're a thirsty bunch down Timboon way in Victoria's south-west. It might be connected to the fact that legendary moonshiner Tom Delaney practised his art in those parts 120 years ago. Delaney, who outwitted almost every copper who set out to hobble his nefarious operations, made such a fine poteen it was the preferred toast of the district judiciary for many years.
Got to thinking about Delaney on hearing a tale at the weekend about one Mick Scanlan, a native of Timboon. Mick's 50th birthday celebration was an occasion to again relive the joyous tale of the beer drought, the tourists and the duck raffle.
A few decades back, Mick and mates ran out of Sunday booze at exactly the same time as their wallets were rendered empty. Mick had a brainwave and approached the licensee of the Port Campbell pub for permission to stage a raffle to raise funds for the football club. Well, they were all members of the footy club. The raffle prize, intended to introduce summer tourists thronging the pub to local culinary delights, was to be a plucked and dressed wild duck and two skun eels, all harvested from the nearby Boggy Creek.
The raffle was held and the boys had enough to buy a couple of slabs of beer. The raffle-winning tourists? The locals did wonder for a nano-second -- not an instant longer -- just how the visitors enjoyed a shot seagull and two snakes run over en-route to the pub.



FROM THE MOUTHS OF BABES

What is it about warblers and spear-holders that makes them think they're qualified to preach about war, politics and culture? The best of them are paragons of their craft, but so is Joey the carpenter who did our kitchen closets. Joey doesn't feel qualified to lecture us, so why should we have to put up with likes of dotty Kerry Armstrong and LA-LA canary Sheryl Crow and their anti-war banalities.
Honouring the media with her lofty thoughts on matters military, Crow opined:
"I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow.
I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies."


Too bloody late for you, Shez!



GOTCHA!

TIM BLAIR with an impeccable source, JAMES LILEKS, catches out his Oz stablemate Emma Tom peddling a journo myth involving a non-existent women's magazine and advice to a newly hitched bride.

Lileks: 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.

This reminded me of back when Ita Buttrose was having trouble interesting sufficient readers in Miss Australia's holiday preferences, the latest scone recipes and the love interests of Charlie's Angels (Mark 1), it was decided to publish the Australian Woman's Weekly on a monthly basis. It was a topic of much discussion in the news room which I inhabited at the time, prompting
a sweet young cadet to wonder aloud in the presence of 20 uncouth male subs: "Why don't they call it the Australian Woman's Monthly?''



Tuesday



TRAVEL BLOG

It’s parched out there. A trip last week through northern Victoria with my son, Tim, revealed to us just how waterless is the country north of the Great Divide. As dry as a dead dingo’s donger.
The forested ranges might be ablaze from Canberra to Corryong but the northern plains are so depleted of vegetation that if the fires head downhill they’ll fizzle out from lack of fuel.
Compared to the heavily grassed plains in this south-western stretch of Victoria, landscapes we encountered in the north resembled moonscapes.
Our first destination was the town of Mansfield which lies between Lake Eildon and Mount Buller. My daughter Erin works there for the Mansfield-Mt Buller tourism body.
The huge lake, a storage drawn from the Goulburn River system to provide water for Goulburn Valley irrigators, is at 16 per cent capacity. Normally a water sports playground, much of the “lake’’ is currently a vast expanse of dry grassland. It’s a trifle disconcerting to visit locations that have cove, bay and inlet in their names to find the only water is in the bottom of the esky.
Nevertheless, there is precious liquid by the shores of Lake Eildon. To find it travel 40 km south of Mansfield to the Eildon turnoff just before Jamieson. There you will find the Jamieson Lakeside pub and its inhouse brewery. Their Best Bitter brew is the finest commercial beer I have ever supped. Honey-gold and lastingly effervescent, it has that hoppy sherbet taste that long ago disappeared from brewery conglomerates’ products.
Best Brew is available only on tap at the brewery for now, but plans are afoot to bottle it later this year. You can buy Jamieson’s Brown Ale at bottle shops and it is a worthy gargle. Full-bodied and flavorsome, it had my Scottish mate ready to step out a jig.
We spent a night with Erin at Mansfield. The whole area was cloaked in a haze from fires to the north-east. Her district was not under threat but most of the other snow resorts in the Australian high country have fires bearing down on them. They'll be expecting a huge season at Buller if the other resorts are burnt out.
From there, we drove west along the Murray River through Shepparton, Echuca, Kerang and Swan Hill to Mildura. It's a favourite country city, and I worked there for a few years in the 1980s. You drive for hours through desert country to arrive at a breathtaking oasis of vineyards, orchards and rose gardens.
An old pal from there was away with his family for a week so he kindly loaned us his house. The house is built around a swimming pool and with the temperature in the high 20s, we lazed around much of the time, swimming, soaking up the sun and drinking beer. Great dad-son bonding stuff.
Tim is testing for his driver's licence next month and we took the opportunity for him to get some kilometres under his belt.
On our return south I made a point of stopping at several small towns that are suffering the combined effects of population decline and drought. It's a shame to see beautifully constructed, late-1800s shops and public buildings become empty shells. You rarely see anyone in the streets under 50 and those youngsters you do see have a desperate look about them. Only a generation ago, these small town shops, banks and post offices serviced hundreds of farming families. Every town had a newspaper, cinema and at least three footy teams. Now they're doing well if they've got a general store with eftpos and videos for hire.
The locals now have to drive 50km to the nearest regional city to buy their groceries and their kids have to move to the same cities to get any meaningful work. The sapping of small town lifeblood was starkly illustrated in one Wimmera town, where despite temperatures in the mid-30s, the local swimming pool was closed. Council bean-counting or paucity of users? Probably a little of both.
Australia's immigration regulations should be rejigged to encourage migrants and refugees to settle in these towns. After all, they still have to be serviced with schools, power, water and roads, despite the falling population. Property prices are at record lows and most country people are friendly and welcoming.
The northern country is mainly sheep and wheat farming territory where until last month it hadn't rained seriously for two years.
For mile after mile there are burnt yellow wheat crops that sprouted from the ground months ago and grew no further. The farmers are a resilient bunch, however, and most were glad to get good showers at Christmas which at least puts some moisture back in the ground. They're optimistic and talk about when, not if, the drought breaks.
Despite the hard times, country humour is never far below the surface. We crossed a bridge over a waterway where a wag had altered the sign to read "Fords reek'' (took out the "C''). It reminded me of an uncle -- a farmer, too -- who had neighbors by the name of Edge with whom he didn't get along. At the time the roads department would place signs where roadside clearing was taking place. The signs warned of "SOFT EDGES'' and they would often end up outside the Edge family property.
Tim reminded me of a hamlet near home named Boorcan which sports a roadside welcome sign. Someone got out the paint and changed the "oo'' to "ee'', which judging by the roadside glitter, was a dedication to the most purchased product in the area.



Monday



IN THE MONEY

A knighthood at least for our premier turf advisor Magic Mick Manley. Mick's Saturday tips have guaranteed nourishment on the family table for at least another week. Not to mention full payment of the lord and master's bar bill.
Mick's first tip, The Expat, failed to impress, so we were down $10 from the start of proceedings. But his second consideration, Panorama Heights, bolted in to return $47 for our $10 each way consideration. Mick then showed excellent judgement by tipping Tio Belle over the odds-on fav, The Mighty Lions, (even accurately suggesting them in that order in an exacta). Tio Belle returned $71 for $10 ew and our $2 exacta paid $21.20. Keep an eye on Mick, he's hot!


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