Attila the Pun
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
First they came for the treehuggers...

Well hoo-bloody-ray. Some people were worried that anti-terror laws could be used against groups other Al-Qaeda and its ilk. It looks like in Britain, that may well be true:

ANIMAL rights activists who glorify militant acts against economic targets and laboratories are to face prosecution under terror laws aimed at al-Qaeda supporters.

The new terrorism laws were designed primarily to target the so-called preachers of hate who glorify terrorist attacks. However, the Home Secretary told MPs and peers that animal rights supporters who celebrated militant attacks should also face prosecution.

Speaking to the joint Lords and Commons human rights committee, he said: “I certainly think that animal rights terrorism is something that has to be attacked. Those who argue that committing violent acts of terror to promote the cause of animal rights and who justify it by referring to it would be covered by this legislation.”

But surely these people just want to protect the animals - we couldn't call what they are doing "terrorism" could we?

That depends on whether you considered bomb attacks on the homes of executives as an act of terrorism I guess:

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) claimed responsibility yesterday for leaving an explosive device containing fuel outside the home of Paul Blackburn, the corporate controller of GlaxoSmithKline. It said that Mr Blackburn was singled out because GSK was a customer of the animal testing group Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). A GSK spokesman said that the device was left on the porch of the house in Buckinghamshire and caused minor damage. Mr Blackburn was out of the country but his wife and child were at home.


A posting on the front’s website warned the pharmaceutical giant that more attacks would follow unless it severed its links with HLS. It said: “We realise that this may not be enough to make you stop using HLS but this is just the beginning. We have identified and tracked down many of your senior executives, and also junior staff, as well as those from other HLS customers. Drop HLS or you will face the consequences.”

Doesn't seem that different from Al-Qaeda' website rantings really. On a lesser, but still despicable, note - lets also not forget digging up the body of an 82 year old woman to hold her family to ransom over the remains.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Silk purse made

How is this for a hatchet job based on flimsy evidence:

THE US and Britain have lost confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and are hoping that December's elections will bring a new and more efficient government.

Thats a big call, and I imagine there must be some decent evidence to back it up - statements by officials, some sort of action showing a loss of confidence.

According to US and British officials, even members of the Iraqi cabinet are dismissive of Dr Jaafari, a former doctor who lived in exile in Britain and Iran, and do not expect him to survive in the job.

So now we have the US government, the British Government and al-Jaafari's own cabinet apparently thinking he is a lame duck (as a side note, using the phrase "do not expect him to survive in the job" in relation to an Iraqi government official is in very poor taste). To support the claims so far we have unnamed "officials".

"I wish January were here now. This Prime Minister is not a natural strong leader," one US official said recently. A British source concurred: "The transitional Government is ineffective."

There is that pesky official again, with the huge backing of a "source".

Coalition officials complain that Dr Jaafari, 58, has been an ineffective administrator and indecisive politician.

More officials, but this time they don't even give them a country.

Some experts are increasingly asking whether the coalition faces "strategic failure" in Iraq after more than two years of ever-worsening insurgency and failure to deliver basic services.

So strategic failure gets quote marks, but this "story" doesn't quote a single named source, official or expert. Considering some "experts" were claiming failure about one month in, the fact that some experts are claiming it after two years is hardly noteworthy.

Despite violence that shows no sign of abating, State Department officials said Dr Rice was expected to stress the Bush Administration's view that progress is being made, citing last weekend's relatively peaceful referendum as an example.

How dare she cite the example of a legitimate constitutional referendum occuring in the middle east as an example of progress being made. Doesn't she know we are in a quagmire?

US and British officials hope that, if the constitution is approved, the next round of elections for a four-year government in a permanent system will prove to be the turning point.

Those officials have a position on everything! Call me crazy, but I would also imagine that the Iraqi people hope that the elections will prove to be another sucessful step on the road to democracy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The world in which we live

Did you ever think you would read the following passage in an op-ed piece in Britain's Daily Telegraph:

Compared to being force-fed Grandfather Smurf's genitals, having his village strafed in some clinical air strike is about the least worst option for Baby Smurf.

Read the rest (registration required) for the context.

fight fight fight

A recent study has found that "armed conflict, genocide, political crises and human rights abuses" have fallen sharply since the end of the Cold War.

Whilst the decline in outright war accords with intuition, the decline in genocide since 1946 seems wrong. With the horrors in Rwanda and Dafur fresh in our minds, genocide (even ignoring the situations where the terms is grossly misused) would not seem to be on the wane.

So which countries have been causing the most trouble? Australia, that famous country of warmongers, comes in at number 5. Number 1 goes to Britain, which is not surprising given their post colonial history. Number 2 isn't a huge shock either, being the French. The USA and the USSR round out the top four.

So what has caused this decline? Considering the author of the report worked in the strategic planning unit in the office of Kofi Annan, the answer is not suprising - the UN.

Professor Mack, who was director of the strategic planning unit in the office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan from 1998 to 2001, cites several examples, including a sixfold increase in UN efforts to prevent wars from starting, a fourfold increase in UN peacemaking missions to end unresolved conflicts and an elevenfold increase in the number of states made subject to UN sanctions.

Sure. The former colonial powers' declining willingness to get involved in their childrens' problems, not to mention the victory of the US in the Cold War, had nothing to do with it. It is the famously effective UN sanctions (like Iraq) and peacekeeping efforts (like Rwanda) that have made the world a safer place.

The report, produced under Professor Mack's direction by the Human Security Centre at Canada's University of British Columbia, also accuses the US State Department of "spinning the figures" on terrorism incidents to reinforce Washington's constant refrain that it is winning the war on terror.

The report points to an eightfold increase in significant terror attacks to support this. But what is a "significant terror attack" though? The report classifies it as one which involves loss of life (fair enough), injury or property damage over $US10,000. (emphasis added)

Ten grand? Does that mean that if a bunch of greenies vandalise an SUV (not too hard to cause $10k of damage if you really try) then that is a significant terror attack? If so, that means that an attack by a bunch of hippies on a hummer will be recorded in the same column as the attack on the London underground or even the World Trade Center. Using that criteria, then criticising the US for "spinning figures" is a bit rich.

Not your father's toys...

When even Playmobil are getting into the anti-terrorism act, you know we are living in a new era. Now available - Playmobil security check in! It comes with two security guards, one smiling passenger, chair, metal detector, conveyor belt X-ray machine, luggage and two guns.

Amusingly, the luggage opens up and is the perfect size for one of the guns to fit in to. Thankfully the second gun fits into the hands of one of the guardsm presumably allowing them to shoot said terrorist nee passenger.

At $US15, thats a bargain. I look forward to Playmobil's Guantonomo Bay playset, and Abu-Ghrain prison fun house. Presumably it would come with a few dogs, and the figurines would clip together to form a human pyramid.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Department of Foreign Affairs and Tinfoil

It is comforting to know that the people tasked with representing Australia overseas are made of pretty stern stuff. Take for example Tony Kevin - ex-diplomat, current conspiracy theorist. Here he tells Webdiary about his terrifying encounter with Australia's new gunships.

On a sunny and still Tuesday afternoon in Canberra, as Australian state premiers were somewhere down below debating with the Prime Minister the need for harsher national counter-terrorism laws, I was rambling with my kids and dogs on Red Hill, a nature park overlooking and about a mile from our national parliament house. Having a tea-break at Mitzi's Café terrace on top of Red Hill, I became aware of unusually noisy and frequent helicopter activity above me and started taking an interest. With Red Hill's grandstand view over Canberra, it was easy to see what was happening.

Two RAAF helicopters, one about 300 metres behind the other, were flying circuits around central Canberra: north-easterly from the Fairbairn RAAF base, west over the city centre and the Black Mountain public lookout, south over Red Hill, and east back to Fairbairn over the southern suburbs. It took them around 10 minutes to fly this circuit, and they kept going round and round.

First up, the RAAF doesn't operate helicopters - the Australian Army Aviation Corp does. A minor point, but it gets worse from there.

They each appeared to be mounted with two large lethal-looking missile launchers, slung beneath the cabin.

No they didn't.

As the helicopters flew maybe 100 metres above my head, I saw these four launchers clearly.

No you didn't.

I wondered if the loaded missiles were armed, and I wondered what would happen if one of these helicopters were accidentally to crash over populated central Canberra.

I wouldn't worry yourself too much Kevin - Australia's Blackhawks don't carry missiles. They don't have the capability to. What you would have seen are external fuel tanks. Equally bad in the case of a crash, but not lethal looking missile launchers.

Why were they there, so visibly and ostentatiously guarding the perimeter of my city and its visiting premiers? Was it to protect against incoming terrorist aircraft? Surely not an efficient way to do that - ground radar would detect any unaccounted-for flight movement towards Canberra, and ground-ready RAAF aircraft could be in the air within seconds from Fairbairn RAAF base, to intercept and if necessary safely shoot down suspected threats outside Canberra.

No, thats a retarded rhetorical question. Why would you use helicopters to guard against air to air threats? Only someone who thinks fuel tanks are missile launchers would even suggest it.

Was it to guard against a possibility of ground-to-ground missiles being launched at Parliament House from a terrorist car driven up Black Mountain or Red Hill? Surely not, because police cars stationed on both roads for the day would have been less intrusive and more effective in any emergency. There were no police cars I could see on Red Hill.

Assuming you were right, and they were missile launchers, then a gunship armed with a few Maverick AGM's would actually be more effective against a ground target than a few police with revolvers, but that is by the by.

Or was it what I think it was - a terror threat display, government-mounted to impress the visiting premiers with the serious reality of the threat we are all supposed to be facing from terrorism nowadays in Canberra? It was certainly scary enough, under those black missile-armed military helicopters circling low overhead every ten minutes. But maybe that was the point. Maybe it was meant to scare us.

oooh booga booga. Or maybe it was a training exercise. I saw a seahawk cruising around the city the day before the grand final and managed not to post about it, or wet myself.

But could our premiers be so dumb and naïve as to be taken in by such devices?

But you just said you were scared by it? Are you suggesting the premiers are made of sterner stuff?

As I wandered thoughtfully down a Red Hill walking track, the helicopters kept circling overhead. I looked up at them - I guess my face could have been photographed then. If I had been carrying my camera, I could have taken photos of the helicopters and their missiles launchers too. But it's probably a good thing I didn't. Taking photos of legitimate counter-terrorist government activity might soon be illegal.

Its probably a good thing you didn't, as people would point out that fuel tanks look nothing like missile launchers.

Actually, people in comments did point it out, and Tony was big enough to admit his mistake. But then he goes and ruins it again:

And yes, I took them to be missiles. My mistake. But hang on a tick - there is more to this true story. Also having a coffee on Red Hill - I don't think it was a latte - was a pleasant woman who was talking about the helicopters with me (as well as complimenting me on my dogs). She said those helicopters were armed. I asked how she knew and she replied she used to be married to an RAAF pilot. Gospel truth, Stuart. So maybe these helicopters were carrying a suite of "missiles, rockets, machine guns and 20mm cannons" as well as the auxiliary fuel tanks that I saw and mistakenly assumed to be missiles. Of course there is no reason for the helicopters not to be carrying both; and this lady seemed to know whereof she spoke.

Except that the RAAF doesn't use helicopter gunships and neither does the Army. There was a slight chance that they were the new Tigerhawks we are getting, but Tony has confirmed they were blackhawks, and they *aren't* armed with weapon pods. As an aside, who the hell still uses "whereof"?

And when you think about it logically, Stuart, what were the two helicopters doing up there flying around all day guzzling fuel and pilot flying hours if they did not have a military function ie. if they were not armed?

Wow, killer point. What possible military function could a transport helicopter fulfill if they weren't armed? Same thing for those damn Hercules planes...

What is this conspicuous threat display, this militarisation of Australian urban environments, if it is not to scare the s**t out of us?

Dunno - training maybe? Security? Anti-terrorism? I can think of several actually. And if the purpose is to scare the s**t out of us, they are failing miserably. Whilst the SAS doing a counter-terrorism exercise in the city would scare poor Tony, most people I know would go "wow, cool" and sit down to watch.

OK, maybe I am a paranoid conspiracy theorist - I don't think I am, but that is not the issue here.

I do, but lets move on.

The issue is, these things flying around and around over our heads all day are scary and are meant to be scary for most people who like me don't necessarily know what auxiliary fuel tanks look like.

Grow some backbone man.

They make us think there is something to be scared of, or why are they there?

Here is a good test to see if you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist - if you see a miliary vehicle in an urban environment, can you think of any reason it might be there, other than as part of a Government plan to cow the populace? If not, you are probably a paranoid conspiracy theorist, fairfax/ABC journalist, or both.

Of course, it would be unfair of me to label him a conspiracy theorist on the basis of that alone, so lets check out his blog:

I am now firmly of the view, on the basis of substantial, albeit as yet incomplete, public evidence, that the sinking of SIEV X was the result of planned acts of sabotage in Indonesia, involving use of undercover agents under a people smuggling disruption program that was being conducted by elements of the Indonesian police, who had been trained and funded by Australian police; and that Australian government agencies have much more knowledge of this suspected crime against humanity than they have so far admitted to the Australian Senate or people.


Further to the post below, two of the most talented writers getting around have their say on "root causes" and "why do they hate us?" - Mark Steyn and Christopher Hitchens.

Firstly, Steyn:

But, on the other hand, despite Clive Williams's game attempt to connect the two on this page yesterday, nobody seriously thinks what happened in Bali has anything to do with Iraq. There are, in the end, no root causes, or anyway not ones that can be negotiated by troop withdrawals or a Palestinian state. There is only a metastasising cancer that preys on whatever local conditions are to hand. Five days before the slaughter in Bali, nine Islamists were arrested in Paris for reportedly plotting to attack the Metro. Must be all those French troops in Iraq, right? So much for the sterling efforts of President Jacques Chirac and his Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, as the two chief obstructionists of Bush-Blair-Howard neo-con-Zionist warmongering these past three years.


It's not hard to understand. All you have to do is take them at their word. As Bassam Tibi, a Muslim professor at Gottingen University in Germany, said in an interesting speech a few months after September 11, "Both sides should acknowledge candidly that although they might use identical terms, these mean different things to each of them. The word peace, for example, implies to a Muslim the extension of the Dar al-Islam -- or House of Islam -- to the entire world. This is completely different from the Enlightenment concept of eternal peace that dominates Western thought. Only when the entire world is a Dar al-Islam will it be a Dar a-Salam, or House of Peace."

and Hitchens:

Never make the mistake of asking for rationality here. And never underestimate the power of theocratic propaganda. The fanatics look at the population of Bali and its foreign visitors and they see a load of Hindus selling drinks—often involving the presence of unchaperoned girls—to a load of Christians. That in itself is excuse enough for mayhem. They also see local Muslims following syncretic and tolerant forms of Islam, and they yearn to redeem them from this heresy and persuade them of the pure, desert-based truths of Salafism and Wahhabism. (One of the men on trial in Bali had been in trouble before, in his home village, for desecrating local Muslim shrines that he regarded as idolatrous.) And then, of course, Australians must die. Why would that be? Well, is it not the case that Australia sent troops to help safeguard the independence of East Timor and the elections that followed it? A neighboring country that assists the self-determination of an Indonesian Christian minority must expect to have the lives of its holidaymakers taken.


So, what did Indonesia do to deserve this, or bring it on itself? How will the slaughter in Bali improve the lot of the Palestinians? Those who look for the connection will be doomed to ask increasingly stupid questions and to be content with increasingly wicked answers.

As always, well worth your time.

The more things change

After the departure of Margo Kingston, the SMH has replaced her with journalist Andrew West. His spelling is a lot better than the margonauts, but unfortunately the content appears to be similarly themed. Why the called the blog "the contrarian" is beyond me - lets look at the posting on the Bali bombings:

I don’t want this to be my “Susan Sontag” moment, but in the wake of the second, awful – and yes, evil – round of bombings in Bali this past weekend, we need to ask a lot of questions. We’ve already started to answer some: who, what, when, where and how. But we still haven’t asked, at least not in any depth, the most important question: why?

We haven't asked why? For a journalist he appears to be amazingly out of touch. Ever since 9/11 we have been bombarded with demands that we ask "why do they hate us" and calls for us to look for root causes. That may not have swung into full swing after the latest murders, but it is only a matter of time (this article confirms that)

Why are the perpetrators – fanatics, lunatics, to be sure – willing to martyr themselves in process of murdering scores of innocents?

Let me guess - Jews, Bush, Iraq etc etc?

The late Jewish-American writer Susan Sontag won herself infamy in American conservative circles when, just days after the September 11 2001 attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, she wrote, in an essay in The New Yorker, “… whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards”. Sontag was emphatically not excusing the 9/11 mass murderers. She was merely trying to understand – in a provocative way – why such sacrificial madness was taking place.

Hmm, I am not sure which article he read, but I don't see that she was "emphatically not excusing" anybody, in fact she said that the 9/11 attacks were a "monstrous dose of reality" which were "undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions". It is only a brief article, and I struggle to find any reprimand for the perpetrators at all.

And she was rejecting the empty sloganeering of George W. Bush that the attacks were "cowardly" and "mindless".

Hang on - you just said the Bali bombers were "lunatics" - does that not suggest a degree of mindlessness? West is falling over himself to have sentences damning the bombers ("look - I condemned them!") but is contradicting himself when he actually sets out his arguments.

Like the bombings in Bali in both 2002 and last weekend, the 9/11 atrocities were anything but. They were meticulously planned – in the case of the World Trade Centre, right down to hitting the building in just the right place to raze it – and involved a perverted form of courage.

He is going so far as to elevate the 9/11 murderers' luck (the buildings collapsing in the way they did) to the level of meticulous planning.

The problem is that after any act of terrorism like the Bali bombings, the right-wing brands anyone who dares to discern the reasoning or the perverse logic behind the attacks an apologist, or charges them with blaming the victim.

Well gee Andrew, if you go around apologising for terrorists and/or blaming the victim, then don't act hard done by if the evil "right wing" calls you on it.

But surely if we are to stamp out, or at least limit, such carnage in the future, we must understand the perpetrators’ motivation or grievance.

Nope, their names and addresses would be more than sufficient for our purposes thanks.

It may be – and probably is – the case that their grievance is utterly without merit, completely undeserving of sympathy.

You aren't sure? He is suggesting that the people who incinerated 202 people in Bali in 2002, and dozens more this week might have legitimate grievances and may be deserving of sympathy. At the risk of being labelled right-wing, but I am pretty confident in branding you as an apologist on the strength of that alone.

This is not some 1970s social worker-style desire to understand the "pain" of the perpetrator. It is a clear-eyed, strategic need to determine the root cause of the terror.

Cha-ching! It must be his inexperience in working for the SMH that caused him to take this long before mentioning root causes.

And frankly, it is a way of avoiding the kind of quagmire in which US-led troops are now floundering in Iraq, where a combination of conveniently ignored pre-war intelligence and misdirected vengeance over 9/11 has lead to an unmitigated military disaster.

Stuff like this makes me want to grind my teeth to the bone. People have such short memories that anything that doesn't go perfectly gets labelled a disaster or a quagmire. No one would argue that the liberation of Iraq has gone perfectly according to plan. There is a military axiom that no plan surives first contact with the enemy.

That said, Iraq fell in a matter of weeks, and the losses sustained (both military and civilian) whilst tragic, are extremely minor when you consider the scope of the undertaking. In the history of "unmitigated military disasters" (I would consider the removal of Saddam as a pretty big mitigation) this doesn't even come close. Before people want to make stupid statements like that, I suggest they read a little history first.

We have a duty to mourn and a right to be angry over the latest outrage in Bali. But it would be grave mistake if our response was driven by rage and not reason.

You mourn out of duty? Big of you to agree with our "right" to be angry though. And what's wrong with rage? Blind rage can be counter-productive, but properly channelled rage can be extremely appropriate and useful. See here in that regard. Note the date when it was written.

Monday, October 03, 2005
Mojo searched for

A Michael Gawenda column is often fairly self fisking. Sure, he occasionally says something less biased, but his angle on any story is well known before you even get past the first paragraph. This brings us to his latest effort:

When George Bush flew down on Air Force One to the hurricane-battered Gulf states for his seventh visit in less than two weeks, reporters asked him two questions shortly after his arrival.

Why was he doing all this flying up and down from Washington at a cost of about $100,000 a trip, and did he think he and his large entourage had got in the way of emergency workers in the aftermath of hurricane Rita with all these photo-opportunity visits?

These would be the same reporters that criticised Bush for not appearing to do enough I assume?

A year ago, the Bush White House would have noted the names of the reporters who asked these impertinent questions and then Karl Rove and his underlings would have made sure life was hell for them for ever more.

Dog whistle time. Gawenda has invoked the Rove keyword (second only to "neo-con") so we can all nod sagely, knowing that the Republican machine will crush all opposition. Does Gawenda have a single piece of evidence to back up his claim? Can he name me a journalist whose life was made hell by Rove and associated "underlings"?

A story that has done the rounds of foreign correspondents' circles in Washington for some time involves a British journalist based in Washington who flew to London to cover one of Bush's meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At a joint news conference with the leaders, the British journalist asked Blair to respond to the accusation that he was "Bush's lapdog". Tough question, no doubt, but a question that would not have surprised Blair, who is regularly subjected to far tougher questions from the British media.

This is all he has - a "story" that is doing the rounds of journalists. No names, no facts.

Blair answered the lap-dog question as a stony-faced Bush looked on. The story goes that after the news conference, a furious Bush told his aides that the reporter had insulted not just Blair, but the President. The reporter was never again to be allowed to attend Bush media briefings. Even when Blair subsequently came to Washington, the journalist was barred from the joint Blair-Bush news conference.

Surely it would be easy to name the journalist and confirm the "story". Isn't that what journalists are supposed to do? Instead we get a convenient rumour (which could have been invented for this column for all we know) with no substance. Great start Michael.

Something has changed in recent weeks. A year ago, no American journalist would have asked Bush whether his visits to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Texas to offer hope to victims and encouragement to rescue workers were getting in the way.

Really? Micheal is hoping that readers have the same sort of memory problems as the media, and will buy into his claims that 12 months ago Bush was all powerful, with no hard questions being asked by the media.

Something has changed about Bush. The charge by Bush haters that he was dumb and ignorant was always a dumb and ignorant charge, the result of hatred overwhelming rationality.

An accurate claim finally. Stopped clock twice a day I guess.

Since his politically disastrous handling of the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Bush has become a president who seems to have shrunk into just another politician. He seems to have been disconnected from the powerful aura of the office he holds.

"Politically disastrous" handling? Bush's poll figures may have taken a hit, but hardly into a disaster territory. Of course, the media decided that it was disastrous, thus it will be enshrined as having been so.

As a result, even journalists for the virulently pro-Bush Fox News Network have done what they never did before; aggressively question Bush about his Katrina failings.

What are the chances of Gawenda (or any other Age journo) referring to a network (e.g. the ABC) as "virulently" anti-Bush? About zero?

In the words of one commentator, George Bush seems to have lost his mojo and you don't need a literal definition of mojo to know what he's talking about.

No, but some sort of cogent point would help.

The hurricane visits, rather than repair the self-inflicted political damage caused by his initial tin-ear response to the vast suffering caused by Katrina, have made him look desperate, a president in search of photo opportunities.

Again, no polls, quotes or other evidence to back that up, it is purely Gawenda's opinion. Nothing wrong with that in an opinion piece of course, but when it is the basis of his whole article, it looks pretty flimsy.

He seems beleaguered, weighed down by problems; Iraq, hurricane destruction both human and material, an out-of-control budget, petrol prices at levels that could, on their own, destroy his presidency.

How exactly will they destroy his presidency? Is Gawenda seriously suggesting that Bush will resign over it? He can't be impeached, and he isn't allowed to run again, so what form will this "destruction" take?

And now there's the indictment on a conspiracy charge involving campaign donations, of Tom DeLay, the House of Representatives Majority Leader, the most powerful man on Capitol Hill, Bush's closest supporter and the man Bush has relied on to get his legislative program through Congress.

His closest supporter? What about the evil puppertmaster Karl Rove, mentioned earlier? Or the Vice President, Dick Cheney? Or does he only become Bush's closest supporter when he is indicted for something?

His ability to connect with the hopes and soothe the fears of much of middle America seems, at least for now, to have deserted him. He has lost his bounce, his sense of optimism.

Sorry Micheal, but are you expected me to take your word for it that Bush has lost his ability to connect with middle America? No thanks.

He is even starting to sound like Jimmy Carter, who was ridiculed by Republicans - and by much of the country - when he wore a cardigan as he addressed the nation almost 30 years ago from the Oval Office and suggested, after the oil price rises of the mid-1970s, that people put on their woollies and turn down their heating.

Oh really? Again, what has Bush actually said that sounds like Carter?

George Bush, Texas oilman, has now told Americans, in the light of rising petrol prices, that maybe they should leave their cars at home every now and then and take public transport. Maybe they should even think about car pooling, for heaven's sake!

Oh chortle chortle. What is wrong with those suggestions? Provided that he isn't wearing a cardigan whilst doing it, they sound like very sensible suggestions.

A year ago, the Bush Administration would have labelled such talk from Democrats as un-American.

What is with this "year ago" thing? And again, the whole sentence is complete BS. It is insulting that he thinks that we will believe that if a Democrat had suggested driving a little less, the Bush Administration would have labelled it as un-American.

But it's doubtful it will do Bush much good. What he needs is to find his mojo. A president without his mojo is prone to be asked rude questions by journalists, even American journalists, who no longer fear that their rudeness will be severely punished.

And thats it. Thats the sum total of the article. To summarise, here is the evidence that Gawenda has put forward to suggest that Bush may be facing the destruction of his presidency:

a) Bush got asked questions about his response to hurricane Katrina;

b) there is a rumour that Bush previously had an unnamed journalist banned for asking rude questions;

c) Bush hasn't banned any journalists lately

d) Gawenda thinks Bush looks desperate

e) Fox news has asked questions about his handling of Katrina

f) petrol prices are quite high

g) a prominent republican has been indicted

h) Bush has endorsed car pooling.

i) err, umm, mojo!

I think you will agree that nothing jumps out as being quite Watergate level stuff.

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