These days Act is seldom referred to by its full name - Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.

Hardly surprising really: it's a bit of a mouthful whereas Act is short, sharp and decisive, dovetailing neatly with leader Rodney Hide's public image of hyperactive human headline who'd wrestle a wild pig in a cage if he thought it would lift his profile.

Now, however, it seems only a matter of time before Act stands for A Cult Terminated. If so, it shouldn't be forgotten that their "do as I say, not as I do" posturing didn't start with the hapless David Garrett.

Even before Rodney Perkbuster himself was caught with his snout in the trough, there was Donna Awatere Huata claiming her spectacular weight loss was due to diet and willpower when she'd had a secret gastric bypass operation at the taxpayers' expense. Act seems to stand for we consume, you pay.

The right certainly doesn't have a monopoly on humbug, but conservative politicians sometimes set themselves up for a fall by wearing their morality on their sleeves and insinuating a cause and effect relationship between private virtue and public integrity.

A spectacular example was the "Back to Basics" campaign launched by the British Tories in 1993 with its emphasis on public probity and old-fashioned values. No sooner had the term entered the political lexicon than John Major's Government was up to its neck in a swamp of sleaze.

If Tory MPs weren't jumping into bed with rent boys or procuring prostitutes for Arab businessmen, they were pulling on stockings and suspenders, putting a plastic bag over their head and fatally overdoing auto-erotic asphyxiation.

When it comes to hoisting themselves on their own petards, the home-grown holier than thou tendency can foot it with anyone. Shortly after he became National Party leader Don Brash denounced Helen Clark as an atheist who displayed "indifference to the institution of marriage".

Brash subsequently admitted that he hadn't set foot in a church for 10 years and didn't believe in stuff like the Virgin birth and the resurrection. The following year he took leave from his parliamentary duties for personal reasons amidst rumours - never denied - of an extramarital affair.

And no discussion of sickening hypocrisy is complete without a mention of Graham Capill, the former leader of the Christian Heritage Party and father of 10 sentenced to nine years in jail for abusing young girls.

They never learn. The Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, the Tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell, is on record as being so committed to telling the truth that she wouldn't have lied to Nazis to save a Jew who'd taken refuge in her house.

O'Donnell is nothing if not uncompromising: she's also on record as being opposed to masturbation - "It's not enough to be abstinent with other people; you have to be abstinent alone" - although when questioned about it recently, she declared it wasn't relevant to the campaign.

Americans can surely agree on that, even if they can't agree on much else.

Displays of national unity were conspicuous by their absence on the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Instead there were demonstrations for and against the so-called Ground Zero mosque and the Koran-burning drama.

Equally sobering is the fact that nine years on, the international community seems no closer to implementing a realistic long-term strategy for dealing with al Qaeda and its affiliates.

There's an approach which I've seen attributed to the former Australian cricket captain Ian Chappell but which probably goes back to Genghis Khan or some other ancient master of destruction: figure out what your enemy would least like you to do, and do it.

George W. Bush would argue that he did what was right and what the American people wanted him to do; his detractors have argued that he did what the oil companies and the neo-cons wanted him to do.

Assuming he's still alive, bin Laden would have celebrated the anniversary of 9/11, as would the mullahs who rule Iran. Why not? Instead of eliminating al Qaeda, the US overthrew the mullahs' mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein's secular, anti-Islamist regime in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.