Dinosaurs should not be given oxygen

AUSTRALIA is a sexist country. This is something I’ve said before. It bears repeating in view of the behaviour of a Liberal party hanger-on this week.

Grahame Morris is a former chief of staff to John Howard, who held the office of prime minister from 1996 to 2007. For some strange reason, Morris, who is best described as a slime, is given lots of air by the radio stations and TV channels to comment on political matters. He is a card-carrying Liberal apologist but is still championed.

Part of this refusal to let deadwood like Morris go is responsible for what happened. The co-host of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program, Leigh Sales, conducted an interview with the Opposition and Liberal Party leader, Tony Abbott, last week. It was a good interview and Sales did what a good journalist is supposed to do – she asked tough questions.

Abbott had not done his homework and came off looking rather foolish.

A few days later, another ABC presented, Linda Mottram, had Morris on the line. She asked him about the interview. Morris response was that Sales tended to be a cow in some of her interviews.

But why was Morris on the line at all? Why are fools like this given oxygen.

Sales responded by calling Morris a dinosaur on Twitter. His sexism should have been dissected and he should have been given a blasting by the politicians whose arses he licks.

But nobody wants to point to the extent of sexism in this country – the last time someone did so was back at the time of the elections in 2010 when a survey clearly indicated that many people had not voted for Julia Gillard because she is a woman.

Fossils like Morris should be put out to pasture.

Lance Armstrong: an apology for a sportsman

ALL that Lance Armstrong had to do was to release one simple statement: “I have never taken performance-enhancing drugs.”

Instead what came forth from the seven-time Tour de France winner, when the US anti-doping agency said it was stripping him of his titles and banning him from competitive cycling for life, was, “I have never tested positive.”

He might as well have said, “I have never been caught.”

Doping in sport is a race where those who help athletes ingest performance-enhancing drugs advise them on the best blockers that prevent detection. The better the professional advising the athlete, the smaller the chance of getting caught.

It all depends on the talent you can afford to advise you. Unless someone in the circle leaks, you are safe. But in recent years, people have been leaking.

According to the technology site Wired, Armstrong was detected using a corticosteroid back in 1999 but he was able to get away, handing in a prescription that said it was being administered for saddle sores.

But he did not reckon with the fact that USADA and the world anti-doping agency have both concluded that testing has limited value.

After the scandal of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, which was accused of supplying anabolic steroids to major league baseball players, the doping agency has been more interested in finding snitches. In the BALCO case, the lab was sewn up after Trevor Jones, the sprint coach to Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, sent a syringe containing a mysterious substance to USADA.

What happened with Armstrong was that was members of his US Postal team had told USADA that he had been doping all along. There were repeated allegations and in the end Armstrong had only one choice – to go to court and defend the charges.

Perhaps he reckoned that there was too much human evidence against him. Perhaps he had nothing to throw back at the allegation which came from people who were once close to him. Perhaps the burden of guilt was beginning to weigh on him. After all you can only keep lying for so long.

Marion Jones lied for a long time after the Sydney Olympics but after her coach snitched on her, she had to admit the truth. Armstrong continues to offer the line that he has never failed a drugs test.

That will do him a fat lot of good. Even if the stripping of the titles never takes place due to bureaucratic wrangling between the doping agencies and the world cycling organisation, he is now spoiled merchandise.

He may have made enough money to last for the next two generations but as the good book says what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Armstrong had made a name as an incredible athlete who did the impossible; now he is reduced to a creature of chemicals who could afford better blocking technology.

To me he is a sad caricature of a man in a system that leads people to want to win at any cost, even if it means living a lie.

British traders being disadvantaged by pathetic mail service

BRITAIN’S Royal Mail service is royal no longer. Indeed, one could question whether it is a mail service at all, it takes so long to deliver material for which people have paid. At times deliveries do not take place at all.

This comes at an unfortunate time for a country which was once known for its efficiency. The number of people buying things across borders has soared with the development of the world-wide web and if things are not delivered in time, then traders risk losing customers.

Nobody will come back to a trader who cannot send his goods across in time. This is unlikely to be the fault of the trader but that does not bother the increasingly self-centred customer.

Apart from losing repeat sales, the trader also loses in another way. When the outside date for delivery is crossed, the customer often asks for a refund – and he or she is only willing to wait so long.

It is often the case that the goods turn up at the address they were intended to reach a week or so after the refund is granted. And the trader loses both the goods and the customer.

This happens with all kinds of goods. It has happened to me with books and shoes. In both cases, a week after the outside date for delivery, I wrote to the vendor and he sent me a refund. A few days later the goods landed.

This could well be exploited by an unscrupulous public to obtain goods free.

It is the responsibility of the country to provide a decent mail service and by letting the efficiency of the service go down the drain, Britain is also killing the hopes of traders who hope to join the growing throng of those who sell across borders using the wonders of modern technology.

Thomas Friedman, fraud supreme

WHAT does one call a writer who pretends that the life experiences of others are his own, and passes them off as such? A fraud? A poser? A plagiarist? I have not been able to find le mot juste.

Lest there is any mystery over whom one is referring to, I am talking about the diplomatic editor of the New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman.

Friedman has been ridiculed by journalists like Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald, and rightly so, for his ridiculous use of language and his incoherent writings which appear in what is apparently the greatest newspaper in the US. (That tells us why newspapers are closing down rapidly in that country.)

I’ve always felt that Friedman is an average reporter but a nothing writer. He cannot think straight and comes up with the daftest analogies and ideas to try and convey some meaning about complex situations. He fails, miserably. Maybe, as Taibbi puts it so eloquently, his editors are drinking rubbing alcohol.

But this kind of intellectual dishonesty aside, I never suspected that Friedman was also making up the anecdotes that go into his reporting. That was until I read this great piece by the late Alexander Cockburn.

Cockburn writes of a time in 1984 when his younger brother, Patrick, was in Beirut as the Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times. Friedman was doing the same job, for the New York Times.

One day, the pair returned to the Commodore Hotel, the place where most foreign journalists were staying, after a bloody day in the field – Lebanon was in the midst of a civil war. Friedman went upstairs to write his copy, Patrick found his way to the bar and sat down with a glass of whisky.

A little while later, a Shia gunamn entered the bar and proceeded to smash all the bottles in the premises. He did not spot Patrick, who was, according to Alexander, left with two conclusions: one, that “journalists drinking Scotch were unlikely to be viewed with fondness by the fundamentalist gunman”, and secondly, “he was drinking the last Scotch likely to be consumed in the Commodore for quite a while”.

According to Alexander, when Friedman descended later, Patrick told him about the incident. A few days later, it duly figured in one of Friedman’s despatches. But by the time Friedman wrote his first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, in 1989, the incident had morphed into something that happened to Friedman! I checked it – you can find Friedman’s deceit on page 225 of the book as published by Fontana Press. “My first glimpse of Beirut’s real bottom came at the Commodore Hotel bar on February 7, 1984… I was enjoying a ‘quiet’ lunch in the Commodore restaurant that day when…”

Alexander put it down to Friedman’s monumental conceit. He is probably right.

But this is also fraud, pure and simple. It follows in the great American tradition of stealing and then calling something your own.