This sporting world — drug bans come to chess! I was so fascinated by the Crikey coverage of the world chess championship that I now get one of those Google news messages each day to keep me up to date. Not that I play the sport, mind you — I’m strictly a draughts man, but those that do are such characters. I use that word “sport” advisedly, because in this morning’s message is the terrible news that Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk refused to submit a urine sample for a drug test at the Chess Olympiad in Dresden and is now considered guilty of doping. Chess has subjected itself to the rigours of the World Anti-Doping Agency run by our very own John Fahey because the World Chess Federation (FIDE) has been trying, since the late 1990s, to make chess an Olympic discipline. Here’s the link to this latest drugs in sport scandal.

Paying the government to hold your money. You just know that it’s serious when people are prepared to pay the government to hold on to their money for them. I know it sounds mad but I’m a sucker for listening to news of the financial crisis and I keep hearing on Bloomberg that three month US Treasury notes occasionally sell at a negative yield. They rallied somewhat this morning to close yielding a magnificent 0.01%.

Not many without sin. President-elect Barack Obama has thrown a couple of verbal pebbles at Rod Blagojevich since the Illinois Governor was exposed doing a little fund raising, but generally American politicians have been relatively mild in their condemnation. Which does not surprise me at all really, for in my experience there would be many of them who have engaged in similar behaviour even if their methods are generally more subtle and not subject to being phone tapped.

I base this terrible accusation on my experience lobbying on Washington’s Capital Hill back in the early 1990s when doing a little stint for the Croatian American Association. The task was to convince the politicians that gallant Croatians were legitimately battling for their deserved independence from nasty communist Serbs and that the United States should remove an embargo on arms sales and support the fledgling democracy. After considerable effort, a delegation of Congressmen was persuaded to visit Yugoslavia and make their own assessment, which they duly did.

It was with some satisfaction that I listened to these commendable Congressmen brief the press and argue the Croatian cause but no sooner had they finished, then off I was taken by their staff for coffee and a cake and a discussion of how the Congressmen were to be paid for their efforts. It was every bit as blatant as any of Governor Blagojevich’s recent efforts and the sums this politician of Serbian dissent talks about are little different to those paid by the Croatian community back then to get support from Senator Bob Dole.

It is with this experience in mind that I wonder just how resolute Illinois politicians will prove to be in pursuing the suggestion that Governor Blagojevich should be impeached and thrown out before year’s end. Far better for other politicians with a little fund raising experience of their own to leave the matter in the hands of a zealous Attorney General while talking about their reluctant acceptance of the principles of natural justice needing to be followed.

Having noted that the general view on the Intrade events market as to the likelihood of removal was different to mine, this morning I snapped up some of the equivalent of 4/1 about the Governor still being the Governor as the New Year dawns.

The Fairfax email says it all really. They used to be the quality newspapers of Australia — The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. The kind of papers you read if you aspired to drive a Mercedes or a BMW. Perhaps that dwindling band of purchasers of these once great broadsheets are still that kind of people but the publishers clearly think their readers on the Internet are a different kind altogether.

As evidence, I produce this email received yesterday. “Win a Ute!” it says:

The search for Australia’s Hottest Tradie is on! At RSVP, we’re saying goodbye to the metrosexual male and celebrating our hardworking tradesmen. One winner will be crowned Australia’s Hottest Tradie and will take home a brand new Ute plus a host of fantastic prizes. So, if you’re a tradie enter now and ladies… we’re counting on your vote!