Diary

Gadfly
Weapons of misdirection

It’s comforting to see Julie “Asbestos” Bishop in her tin hat, firing from the trenches.

Australia will be in range of Kimbo’s nuclear warheads if he achieves his objectives, Asbestos warned in an op-ed piece for the Fairfax papers. She even threw in the key phrase “weapons of mass destruction” – not given a proper run around the block since the triumphant invasion of Iraq.

Memories flooded back about the famous dossier that Tony Blair and his cronies concocted claiming that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical weapons and his rockets could be fired within 45 minutes and reach the British base in Cyprus.

The trouble was that none of the chemical weapons could be found, although keen observer and former professor David Flint thinks that “as the intervention became certain, these were no doubt hidden, or moved to other countries”.

No doubt. The alternative is their presence was a concoction, a lie on which to invade.

Asbestos wants tough, tough, tough sanctions to compel North Korea to “return to the negotiating table”. This is the same table on which Dotard Trump has placed all his “options”, mainly “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Asbestos makes the point that Pyongyang’s ballistic and nuclear weapons programs “are illegal and in violation of eight resolutions of the UN Security Council”.

Yet what about those other Security Council resolutions whose violations our foreign minister supports?

Otto didact

Of course Ten Flags Tony must be right about climate – Otto Abetz says so. Tone put it so well when he told his rapt audience in the Old Dart that trying to reduce carbon emissions was akin to primitive people sacrificing goats to appease the volcano gods.

Otto followed up and, according to a report in Hobart’s Mercury, said it is counterproductive for Australia to commit economic self-harm while China and India were permitted to increase their emissions by more than Australia’s total annual output.

In fact, he is misrepresenting the Paris climate agreement. What China has said is that its carbon dioxide emissions will peak by 2030 but that it will be reducing its carbon intensity by 60-65 per cent from the 2005 level. India’s comparable reduction is 30-35 per cent by 2030. Australia’s pledge is for a 64-65 per cent reduction between 2005 and 2030.

Otto’s pronouncement looks quite comfortable in a post-truth world, which is understandable because it is straight out of Trump’s playbook.

At the moment we are on course for a catastrophic 3 to 4 degrees of warming by 2100, which future Ottos will have to endure. Why anyone would pay the slightest attention to a man who chomps raw onions and knighted the Duke of Edinburgh is a mystery.

Partisan animal

Still in the Apple Isle, and we welcome back to these pages Field Marshall Andrew Nikolic, a former Defence Department flack merchant and Iraq war booster. How we’ve missed him.

He was bounced by voters as the Nasty Party member for Bass at the last election, but then Bookshelves Brandis gave him a leg-up with an appointment to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal on
a juicy $300,000 a year.

He hasn’t quite given up politics, according to his Facebook page, which is replete with endorsements of Little Winston Howard, Tony Abbott, the horrors of same-sex marriage and how, as the local MP for Launceston, he secured funding for the redevelopment of a plot of land.

Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus observed that Nikolic’s Facebook page “is nothing but a campaign vehicle for himself and the Liberal Party”.

This sort of political flag waving by a quasi-judicial person is a bit much and in fact breaches AAT standards of conduct, which include: “partisan political activity in relation to issues of public controversy is not considered appropriate”.

Man Thursday

Last week we gaily mentioned in this page the liaison between former South Australian chief justice John Bray and the Adelaide playboy Christopher Pearson.

Historians from the murder capital have since been in contact, pointing out that Bray had not made much of his sexual relationship with Pearson. After all, the young blade was just one of a number of dalliances enjoyed by the CJ.

In fact, Bray had a nickname for young Christopher – “Thursday”.

Norwegian wed

Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 play Ghosts would have been radical for its time, but today is utterly contemporary. It deals with the role of women in society, human rights, syphilis, marriage, infidelity and the divine providence of insurance policies.

Possibly because of the scandalous nature of the play, it was first performed not in Norway but Chicago in 1882.

Gadfly caught the 2017 version at Belvoir, adapted and directed by Eamon Flack, and what a triumphant evening at the theatre it turned out to be.

It was as though the spirit of John Howard and Tony Abbott had come straight out of 19th-century Norway and was right there on stage.

Pastor Manders was firm about marriage and children, telling the widow Helene Alving, who for a time had fled her brutish husband: “A mother and a father each. Man and wife ... Who are you to demand happiness? What right does a human being have to be happy?”

But the best line in the play was reserved for Mrs Alving: “God and the law are the inventions of men and the misery of the world.”

Laps of memory

Poor old Ming. He’s being dredged up again by Goosebumps Cater at the Menzies “Research” Centre for a repeat performance of “The Forgotten People” oration. Like Menzies himself, Goosebumps has worked out when you’re on a good thing keep repeating it until everyone dies of boredom.

Peter Cousens, the father of right-wing blogger Daisy, will reprise his May performance in Canberra. This time it is at Hawthorn Arts Centre in Melbourne in November, “a place where Menzies gave many great speeches over four decades”.

The special early bird ticket price is $140 and the full rate is $190 for dinner and speech. Special guests include Josh Frydenberg, famously named in parliament as leaking classified material to Andrew Blot in an attempt to discredit another MP.

Forgotten people, and things you wish people would forget.

Shanghaied tours

One of Gadfly’s field agents has been hopping between China and Japan searching for a way to bring peace to the Korean peninsula. For inspiration, he visited the Peace Hotel in Shanghai, where he found a photo of Gough Whitlam and Rothman’s personal emissary, Graham Freudenberg, adorning the wall of the jazz club on the ground floor.

However, on a tour of the city the special guide skirted the Peace Hotel and when questioned why, given its historical significance, she said that it was just another British colonial building like many others on the Bund.

Forget the presidents, potentates and celebrities who stayed there, the guide explained these were “yesterday’s people”. The new wave of top-end visitors stay at the Peninsula. She added that the Peace Hotel was previously known as Sassoon House and if you want to see the place you should try the “Jewish tour of old Shanghai”.

Trumpette #43

Out now in all good bookshops is The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.

Masha Gessen in The New Yorker had a look at it and selected some choice morsels. Philip Zimbardo, who did the Stanford Prison Experiment, and his co-author Rosemary Sword suggest the president is an “extreme present hedonist” and probably a sociopath, a malignant narcissist, borderline on the bipolar spectrum, hypomanic and suffering from delusional disorder or cognitively impaired.

Not that any of those conditions is unknown to the White House. However, what some of the psychiatrists suggest is that there should be a mental vetting process for presidential candidates, along the lines of psychological tests used for “positions ranging from department store sales clerk to high-level executive”.

At least the mental health experts are now speaking out on their concerns about Barking Dog.

The book coincides with the latest research published by trumptwitterarchive.com, where we can find a tally of the most-used words in the president’s tweets. “Loser” appears in 234 of his tweets. “Dumb” or “dummy” is there 222 times. “Terrible” in 204 tweets, “stupid” in 183, “weak” in 156, “dishonest” in 115 and so on and so on.

No wonder Little Winston has come out and said of Trump: “I worry about some of his communication methods.”

 

Tips and tattle: [email protected]

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 14, 2017 as "Gadfly: Weapons of misdirection". Subscribe here.

Richard Ackland
is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.

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