August 26, 2003


Phillip Adams writes that people have “learned to live with the duplicitous and dishonourable. Scepticism may be healthy but cynicism like this is carcinogenic. It kills the body politic.”

Down with the duplicitous and dishonourable, as alliteration addict Adams might write. A curse on the cancer of cynicism! Not that Phil would ever stoop to such levels:

Recent polls show that legions of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein and his secular Baath Party were in bed with al-Qa'ida, that Hussein was one of the architects of the September 11 attacks. Millions are convinced that those WMD were used against US troops as they moved towards Baghdad. And, moreover, that the weapons have been found.

Millions? The poll to which Adams cynically refers for his WMD claims was a one-off conducted in May, by the looks of things. It involved 1,256 people, or around 0.0004% of the US population. Other polls, which have more frequently addressed the WMD issue, record vastly different responses. CNN, for example, found in late June that 76% of Americans were either not confident or only somewhat confident that WMD would be located.

The headline on Adams’ column: “Poison of the 'I don't want to know' syndrome”.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 26, 2003 02:33 PM

Is a legion more than a million?

Posted by: Sophorist at August 26, 2003 at 03:10 PM

Adams complains that while the US has voluntary voting, only the white middle class votes; however while Australia has compulsory voting, we don't vote enthusiastically enough.

Nothing satisfies this man about democracy.

I look forward to his comments on the Cuban elections.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 26, 2003 at 03:15 PM

How do you vote 'enthusiastically'?

Hey, at least he didn't mention dog whistles.

Posted by: Gilly at August 26, 2003 at 03:24 PM

Adams complains that... while Australia has compulsory voting, we don't vote enthusiastically enough.

Hmmm... maybe he'd prefer corrupt, Mugabe-style elections, where the enthusiastic voters (ie, the hired goons) get to vote again and again, in order to achieve the hired result?

Posted by: TimT at August 26, 2003 at 03:24 PM

Sorry, meant to say required result, but you get the idea...

Posted by: TimT at August 26, 2003 at 03:25 PM

Those 'legions of Americans' might just be right.

Posted by: Alex Hidell at August 26, 2003 at 03:41 PM

I would like to see voting made voluntary and the banning of handing out 'how to vote' cards at the polling stations. That way you only vote if you really want to and you've got to have a plan in mind before going to the booth. This way you get highly motivated well informed people voting. The only problem is the Greens and Dems voters probably fit in that catergory. Therefore we need to make voting for the Senate Preferential voting like the Legislative Assembly. That'd fix 'em.

Then again who gives a .....

Posted by: Razor at August 26, 2003 at 04:24 PM

Funnily enough, I am cynical about dupcitous, dishonourable, disreputalbe and deranged dingbats who maintain a well paid media presence long after their use-by date.Fat Boy is about as hip and relevant as flares and cheescloth bodyshirts (and don't even try to imagine the bastard wearing one- your central cortex would catch fire).
Cynicim of politics and politicians is HEALTHY, Blobby- look at places where they trust their politicians, such as North Korea; Phil would like it there- people would have to listen to the "Late Show" at bayonet-point.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 26, 2003 at 04:33 PM

So this is where the little Johnny fan club hang out to nod and wink at each other how silly all the lefties are. It's surprising that you don't have a picture of Greg Sheridan on the page. And how does everyone feel about your cheerleader Pauline being locked up. Maybe she'd prefer to be in a camp in the desert, or possibly where it's safe to return - Iraq and Afghanistan. Tim, I remember in an article you said you were a Collingwood supporter. Maybe my friends are right and Collingwood supporters are all a bunch of c#$%s.

Posted by: Billy at August 26, 2003 at 04:40 PM

Tim, I also forgot to ask why you don't have the gig at the Oz anymore? Was it really because you wrote utter crap? And yes I did note that you took Matt Price's spot while he was away a week or two ago. Talk about wrecking my weekend! If you could just take Greg and Janet with you, we'd be getting close to a decent opinion page.

Posted by: Billy at August 26, 2003 at 04:45 PM

It is an act of utmost hypocracy on Adams' part to bemoan the loss of faith in the political process when he writes ad nauseum (literally) about the evils of the Howard government, the absolute corruption of the church, the Americanization (and hence decay) of society, and so on and so forth.

Read (if you can) the last four or five of Adams' columns in the Australian, which address issues with the government, church and America. Is he cynical about every motive, every act and every statement? You bet his blobby white arse he is.

He should take a good long look in the mirror, and see if he really likes what he sees.

Posted by: Andrew D. at August 26, 2003 at 04:46 PM

Personally, I think we should combine our voting systems, free with bought and paid for. Why should democracy be one person, one vote? Why not let people not only vote for what they CARE for, but show their enthusiasm by voting a lot? (After all, in Chicago and other places, people are already voting more than once. In 2000, some U of Wisconsin students admitted voting from 5-12 times!)

Here's is how it could work. Everyone gets one free vote. That is, you can vote in any election once for each office or question on the ballot. You may then _buy_ additional votes at, say, $10 per vote, paid into the govt treasury. You must buy them at least 30 days before the election, and you can't cast them until your purchase has been logged into a computer system, where vote buyers are listed from highest total to lowest.

People who REALLY, TRULY care if, say, Ralph Nader gets elected could take all the money they currently spend on patchouli and jetting to anti-globalism rallies and Rachel Corrie love-fests and put it where their mouth is by paying to vote extra times. Think of how humilating it would be if all poor old Ralph got was the guaranteed "free" votes? People _buy_ Nikes, right? Wouldn't they _buy_ Ralph Nader?

Plus, if it is put on web for everyone to see, lots of people would start worrying about who is buying up a lot of votes that don't think the same way they do. Think of all the hits you get when people start looking up to see how many votes their friends, relatives, neighgors, enemies, etc are buying!! This should energize the population.

Plus, of course, it would be a boon for bloggers who keep track of all of this and put up lists of those that we would like to know about, like celebrities and other politicians, and so on.

Just think. Instead of asking for campaign funds, you ask people to buy votes to cast for you or your favorite ballot question. The votes will still be cast secretly.

Okay, so what if Bill Gates wants to vote 1,000,000 times? He pays $10M and hopes he doesn't piss off enough people that they buy even more votes. Plus, we get to see how much some people like, say Barbra Streisand or Tim Robbins really, really care. Will they put up their own filthy lucre and chance losing the election AND the money, without the pull that campaign donations bring? And with lots of public ridicule?

We could even buy vote stamps and hand them out to poor people. Would someone who really, really, really cares about the homeless (*coughJaneFondaCough*), even though they don't let homeless people live in any of the unused 8-9 bedrooms in their mansions, buy lots of vote stamps and give them to the homeless or the poor to let them "access the system" or would they just assume that poor and homeless people are to stupid to vote the right way (the way they seem to do now) and keep the votes themselves so they will be cast "properly?" Would limousine liberals be shown up for what they really are? Would Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson gag up some of that TV evangelism money to actually vote for something they preach about?

Finally, the winners would be getting constantly bashed by people keeping a real close eye on their behavior because, "Hey, asshole, I paid good money to get your ass elected. The least you can do is do what you promised." No excuses, no whining. Next time my money goes to somebody that, when he's bought, he stays bought.

Wouldn't it be fun?

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at August 26, 2003 at 04:48 PM

It would need to be one of those bloody great convex ones from Luna Park to fit the fat bastard in; if I looked in the mirror and saw Phillip Adams, I'd top myself.

Posted by: Habib Bickford at August 26, 2003 at 04:52 PM

Has anyone noticed that Tim's post is both duplicitous and dishonourable?

Nothing to see here.

Posted by: Nemesis at August 26, 2003 at 04:55 PM


> "The only problem is the Greens and Dems voters probably fit in that category. Therefore we need to make voting for the Senate Preferential voting like the Legislative Assembly. That'd fix 'em."

Uh... all Australian State and federal elections -- upper and lower houses alike, single- and multi-member electorates alike -- use preferential voting. Putting "one in the box" for a party-ticket vote above the line only disguises that. I think what you mean[t] to say was "winner-take-all voting" -- whether single-seat electorates, or else multi-member electorates where each seat is filled separately by a majority, not together at once by proportional representation (as in the Senate before 1948).

Posted by: Uncle_Milk at August 26, 2003 at 04:57 PM

That article linked by Alex Hidell, above, is quite interesting.

Two short extracts:

No fewer than five high-ranking Czech officials have publicly confirmed that Mohammed Atta, the lead September 11 hijacker, met with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim al-Ani, an Iraqi intelligence officer working at the Iraqi embassy, in Prague five months before the hijacking. Media leaks here and in the Czech Republic have called into question whether Atta was in Prague on the key dates--between April 4 and April 11, 2001. And several high-ranking administration officials are "agnostic" as to whether the meeting took place. Still, the public position of the Czech government to this day is that it did.

That assertion should be seen in the context of Atta's curious stop-off in Prague the previous spring, as he traveled to the United States. Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but did not have a valid visa and was denied entry. He returned to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and took a bus back to Prague. One day later, he left for the United States.


Ansar al-Islam--the al Qaeda cell formed in June 2001 that operated out of northern Iraq before the war, notably attacking Kurdish enemies of Saddam--has stepped up its activities elsewhere in the country. In some cases, say national security officials, Ansar is joining with remnants of Saddam's regime to attack Americans and nongovernmental organizations working in Iraq. There is some reporting, unconfirmed at this point, that the recent bombing of the U.N. headquarters was the result of a joint operation between Baathists and Ansar al-Islam.

And there are reports of more direct links between the Iraqi regime and bin Laden. Farouk Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey and Saddam's longtime outreach agent to Islamic fundamentalists, has been captured. In his initial interrogations, Hijazi admitted meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders at Saddam's behest in 1994. According to administration officials familiar with his questioning, he has subsequently admitted additional contacts, including a meeting in late 1997. Hijazi continues to deny that he met with bin Laden on December 21, 1998, to offer the al Qaeda leader safe haven in Iraq. U.S. officials don't believe his denial.

For one thing, the meeting was reported in the press at the time. It also fits a pattern of contacts surrounding Operation Desert Fox, the series of missile strikes the Clinton administration launched at Iraq beginning December 16, 1998. The bombing ended 70 hours later, on December 19, 1998. Administration officials now believe Hijazi left for Afghanistan as the bombing ended and met with bin Laden two days later.

Posted by: Evil Pundit at August 26, 2003 at 05:16 PM

JorgXMcKie - You are an idiot.

Posted by: Billy at August 26, 2003 at 05:37 PM


Got me on that one Uncle_Milk. Yeah, the proportional voting stuff is crap giving the balance of power to loonies who represent less than 10% of the population. Voting for a Senate seat should be no different to voting for a House of Reps seat in the way the winner is determined.

The Senate's a joke now anyway because it doesn't fill the role it was intended for as a States Rights' house. They all vote on party lines, not state lines. So I think get rid of it. If the Queensland government and local councils can operate without a house of review, then so can the Federal Government. The electorate reviews the Government and Opposition performance every few years anyway.

And WTF is Tasmania doing having as many votes as NSW, QLD or VIC? (And I'm from WA! We've been screwed by the Federal system for years which just proves how the Senate fails to represent States adequately).

Posted by: Razor at August 26, 2003 at 05:40 PM

Billy asks: "Tim, I also forgot to ask why you don't have the gig at the Oz anymore?"

Because The Bulletin made me a better offer, Billy. But I still turn up in the Oz every now and again, just for you!

Posted by: tim at August 26, 2003 at 05:59 PM

Is Nemesis, Tim's alter ego?.

Posted by: Gary at August 26, 2003 at 07:46 PM

Is, like, a comma,?

Posted by: Ferg at August 26, 2003 at 09:08 PM

Nemesis: no, we hadn't. Or at least I hadn't. What are you talking about?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at August 26, 2003 at 09:22 PM

To get rid of the Senate there would have to be a Referendum - and the referendum would have to be passed by a majority of electors, and a majority of states. Won't happen, so stop dreaming.

Just think about how Jack Lang tried to stack the upper house in NSW with the intention of getting his appointees to vote themselves out of a job. The obvious happened.

The Senate is actually more representative of the popular will in Australia than the House of Reps.

Posted by: Bai at August 26, 2003 at 11:06 PM

Au contraire, Razor. I like proportional representation because it requires more votes to win a seat. If a State has seven House of Reps seats, then dividing it into 7 separate electorates means you can get in with one-14th (ie, 7.2%) of the total vote, ie, 50% + 1 in one area. Whereas if you elect all eight at large by prop rep, you'd need one-nineth of the total vote, ie about 11.%. The only difference would be that your votes could come from anywhere in the state. I personally don't see why 7.2% of voters who happen to live near each other are more deserving of their own MP than double that number who live far apart.

Electing 12 Senators at a time, though, is a lot. 5- or 7-member electorates are better for prop rep and more manageable. Even electing 6 at a time isn't ideal because a party could poll 55-56% of the votes but still only get 3 of 6 seats in each State. The problem there isn't prop rep but even numbers. We should go to 14 Senators per State, 7 each election, which'd make the House of Reps about 170 seats -- and then leave it that way for a century. Or else fix it at 14 per State in the Constitution forever but allow the House size to fluctuate with population.

All systems favour minorities who're in the right place at the right time. Single-member systems mean that instead of Harradine controlling the occasional Bill's passage, you have 0.5% of the electorate, living in marginal seats, deciding who runs the whole govt for the next 3-4 years. Single-member systems, if not entrenching the major parties, tend to help Independents who promote their local area issues with little concerns for statewide or national matters (eg, Savage, Ingram, Cunningham: Andren, Mack, and Hatton were rare exceptions with broader agendas). Whereas prop rep tends to favour minor parties rather than lone-ranger Indeps. You have the balance of power being held by 5 Tas Greens or 6-8 Senate Dems instead of by Liz Cunningham or Martyn Evans (unless it's a micro-Parliament like the ACT's).

The problems with the Senate aren't prop rep, but [a] ticket-voting that means party backroom boys decide who gets elected 95% of the time (unless you want to number 40-50 candidates below the line), [b] same backroom boys can appoint whomever they choose to replace dead/ retiring Senators (Tas and ACT are much more democratic -- you recount the votes to elect a runner-up candidate, usually of the same party), and [c] every original State must have equal Senate numbers, even if the population of one dwindles to less than that of a small town. Better to copy Germany and Austria and have a range -- say, minimum 7 Senators, maximum 15, otherwise varies according to population. But that would require a referendum to amend the Constitution passing in _every_ State, so don't hold your breath.

Posted by: Uncle_Milk at August 26, 2003 at 11:13 PM

Billy's post is an excellent example of how the developmentally disabled are making tremendous strides in the world of typing. Isn't it wonderful! Keep at it, Billy, you're doing great!

Posted by: Jerry at August 27, 2003 at 12:17 AM

1,256 people, if picked randomly enough, can give a very good estimation of opinion in the larger population -- if everything is random, the answers in a yes/no poll have a 96% chance of being within +/- 3%age points (just the central limit theorem, you know.)

However, experimental design is even more important, and it's relevant as to the date of this poll, and even more relevant what the actual questions were (and that +/- 3% is changed when there are more than 2 possible answers.) But don't knock the projection to millions of Americans -- at least, millions of Americans in mid-May.

Posted by: meep at August 27, 2003 at 12:36 AM

Oz has mandetory voting?

Well, I guess you learn something new everyday.

Posted by: amy at August 27, 2003 at 04:38 AM

Amy: Technically compulsory unless you've got a religious objection or can't physically make it, I believe. But it is (was?) only a $20 or $25 fine and the Electoral Commission usually accepts almost any excuse you tell them unless you're determined to make a martyr of yourself for the cause of electoral apathy. Most Australians who don't want to vote for anyone just write rude words on the ballot-paper as a more explicit way of saying "Screw the system".

One problem with the choice between blank ballot vs valid ballot, though, is that in most States the latter requires you to number all the candidates in preferential order. You can't just vote [1] Green or [1] One Nation or whatever (maybe to help them get the 4% they need to recover their deposits and qualify for public funding) without also either deciding whether Labor or Liberal will form the govt. Albert Langer, an ex-Vietnam protester and anarchist, found a technical loophole (ie, you still number every square but put, eg, 1, 9, 9, 9, 9 so your vote becomes exhausted after the 1), but first Parliament made it illegal to encourage people to vote this way, then repealed that but also repealed the loophole, so now 1, 9, 9, 9, 9 ballot-papers become invalid before the count rather than exhausting in mid-count.

Posted by: uncle milk at August 27, 2003 at 12:01 PM

Australia has mandatory voting for Federal elections. Mandatory voting for referenda. Mandatory voting for State elections. Mandatory voting for local council elections.

With shortened terms, early elections, by-elections and double dissolutions, Australians seem to vote about once every few weeks.

Entire forests give up their trees for ballot papers in Australia. You would hope someone somewhere is working on a computer program to facilitate online voting.

Posted by: ilibcc at August 27, 2003 at 12:06 PM

You can say what you like about Billy and the utter crap he believes but he is right about Collingwood supporters.

Posted by: James Hamilton at August 27, 2003 at 12:18 PM