Diary

Gadfly
Jumped up Collapso

Here at Gadfly Central we have been so relaxed we hardly have enough strength to pick up a plastic pen and write this column.

One piece of news that managed to captivate a comatose nation involved the activities at the Kensington Wine Rooms, where High Commissioner Lord Downer fell into discussion with George Papadopoulos, a member of Dotard Trump’s campaign team, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Young George was so excited that he spilled the beans to Fishnets that the Russians had hacked the Democrat campaign emails and had the dirt on Hillary Clinton. This news wound its way back to United States intelligence services and culminated in Robert Mueller’s investigation of collusion between Trump’s team and the Russians.

But what of the Kensington Wine Rooms – not to be confused with Ken’s at Kensington, the Sydney steam rooms where local political figures have been engulfed in hot mists.

The wine rooms are invariably described in the newspapers as “swanky”, although the reviews on TripAdvisor do not always accord with that. One reviewer claimed all the tips go to the owners, which sounds like official Tory and Liberal Party policy. Another claimed he had almost eaten his steak before the potatoes turned up.

The Independent reviewed the place and described how the wine is dispensed by the glass from machines called Enomatics, which operate by means of smartcards filled with money from customers’ bank accounts.

The paper said there is some premier cru stuff such as Château Haut-Brion for £52 a glass ($92), as well as “Chateau Collapso”. Fishnets must have been on the Collapso, although The Sydney Morning Herald put it rather gently, saying: “Downer is known for his fondness for expansive conversation over wine”. Possibly, this explains the true meaning of the term high commissioner.

Sky’s the limit

In further London developments, the Competition and Markets Authority has come up with a one-handed slap in the chops for the Molochs and their bid to buy the 61 per cent of Sky shares they do not already control. The CMA investigators found it was not in the public interest for Moloch et Fils to have so much control of the media, and with 100 per cent of Sky they would have even greater heft to squirt their rancid views into the lounge rooms of Blighty.

On the other hand, the authority would have cleared the takeover by the Fox arm of the evil empire because the company had “a genuine commitment to the attainment of broadcasting standards”.

What powders are these CMA people on? Poms must have choked on their breakfast kippers as they recalled the rampant sexual harassment of women at Fox News, the hacking scandal in Britain that led to the closure of the Dirty Digger’s News of the Screws, plus the fact that his ace reporter Mazher Mahmood was sent to pokey for perverting the course of justice, quite apart from the jailing of other “investigators” and his editor Andy Coulson.

To make matters quite complicated, Disney was banking on Fox controlling 100 per cent of Sky before it finalised the takeover. James Murdoch may end up as one of the top brass at Disney when the transaction is complete, so we shouldn’t forget the telling observations in 2012 by Britain’s Office of Communications:

“We consider that James Murdoch’s exercise of responsibility [as CEO and chairman of News Group Newspapers] was less than we would expect to see exhibited by a competent chief executive officer … We consider James Murdoch’s conduct … to be both difficult to comprehend and ill-judged … We consider that the [hacking] events raise questions regarding James Murdoch’s competence …” etc, etc.

A right Christmas

If you pay any attention to the guest list for Lachlan Murdoch’s Christmas drinks you’ll know that once old Rupe kicks the bucket, opinions at the News Corp stable of rags will continue in the same vein.

Attendees at the Bellevue Hill party included Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton and Peta Credlin. No Malcolm Turnbull in sight. Guests left clutching a gift bag that included copies of the sainted Bill Leak’s collection of racially “provocative” cartoons, plus other News Corp trinkets and tat.

Border Farce

Gadfly spent a delectable part of the holidays touring the South Island of the Land of the Strangled Vowel. From across the Canterbury Plains to Mount Peel, over Arthur’s Pass to the aptly named Greymouth, then the dramatic coastal road to Westport, on to Nelson, then to picturesque Picton for a ferry across to Wellington and up to Auckland for a splendid Christmas with old friends who are still quite young.

If it’s scenery and sheep you’re after, the South Island is the place to be.

The return home through Sydney Airport proved to be a special treat, too.

Waiting for Mrs Gadfly in an area away from the passport people and not far from baggage collection, a large, blonde border forcette shouted at me to “move away”. “Why?” I asked. “Security,” came the snappy answer.

Later, your correspondent was informed that for standing perfectly still and out of the way he was “lucky not to have been arrested”.

So good to be back.

Patten recognition

Apparently, Lord Chris Patten andhis lovely wife, Lady Lavender Patten, have had no trouble with the Land Down Under.

Patten was the last British governor of Hong Kong, a former chairman of the BBC Trust and now chancellor of the University of Oxford. He was also a handy medium-pace bowler and was out here on the edges of the Barmy Army for the Ashes tour. And what a wrap he gave us in the pages of the FT Weekend.

Our prosperity, apparently, knocks the socks off the Poms, with our GDP per head at 25 per cent higher than Britain. “This shows itself in marvellous modern buildings … from the extraordinarily good municipal services and the quality of so many universities to the armadas of boats and restaurants in and around Sydney.”

He went on to quote G. K. Chesterton: “… there was attached to England a blessed island called Australia to which the souls of the socially dead were ferried across to remain in bliss forever”.

Gareth-Gareth Evans ferried Chris and Lavender to the TarraWarra Museum of Art in the Yarra Valley to have a look at the Fred Williamses. Then there was the food, the paradise of Lord Howe Island, the weather, and so on.

The picture Lord Patten painted was hardly recognisable from the place we know, with his putrid politics, culture war bickering, fear-mongering and divisiveness, torture of refugees and asylum seekers, slowness to innovate, destruction of the environment, strangled media and mismanagement of the budget.

The hole truth

The informative website Language Log has collected some helpful translations of the Trumpian term “shithole”.

In China there have been some interpretive difficulties, with the media there suggesting the term means “countries where birds don’t lay eggs”.

One Japanese translation gave the meaning as “countries that are dirty like toilets”. This is similar to renderings in Spanish, French, Finnish, Swahili, Korean and German, which literally took the word to mean “holes of shit”.

The Dotard’s sentence would then be given to mean, “Why do we have all these people from countries that are holes of shit coming here.” So much more evocative than the literal English.

Trumpette #53

Which gets us to porn actor Stormy Daniels and the US president. Stormy has given a full-length interview about her alleged fling with Trump to an organ with the apt masthead In Touch Weekly. Among other things, she says she can “describe his junk perfectly”. Fortunately, we were spared the harrowing details.

The even more disturbing aspect of the interview was the bit about sharks. Stormy said: “The strangest thing about that night – this was the best thing ever. You could see the television from the little dining room table and he was watching Shark Week and he was watching a special about the USS something and it sank and it was like the worst shark attack in history. He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ He was like riveted. He was like obsessed. It’s so strange, I know.”

Of course, this revelation should not edge out the alarming story about the caviar at a Mar-a-Lago fundraiser being served with plastic spoons.

One Florida attendee posted a snap of the caviar bowl and accompanying spoons to Instagram and wrote: “I hate to do this, but this is a total #disgrace, #shame on #maralago, you can’t serve caviar with plastic spoons! Please offer your caviar with mother of pearl spoons and dishes! Wait until you see the accompaniments … #horriblepresentation”.

Talk about “junk”.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jan 27, 2018 as "Gadfly: Jumped up Collapso". 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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