Saturday salon 13/5

1. Alan Joyce cops a pie in the face

It was impossible not to feel Schadenfreude when Qantas CEO Alan Joyce copped a pie in the face:

Joyce has been ruthless towards employees and unions in driving for profits.

Joyce cleaned up and announced he would press charges. The man was subsequently charged with common assault, damage and trespass.

Turns out the man was one Tony Overheu:

    a former Nationals candidate, senior member of the Church of Christ, and national director of the WA branch of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International.

Mr Overhue was grumpy about Joyce promoting the rights of gay people.

Cheesecake Shop, a bakery chain, apologised for a tasteless open letter promoting their own pies.

2. Remembering Mark Colvin

There has been massive coverage of Mark Colvin on the ABC, who died on Thursday after more than 40 years broadcasting in the ABC. His last tweet was:

    It’s all been bloody marvellous.

I’d like to link to some I think too good to miss. The first is Richard Fidler’s interview Journalist Mark Colvin reveals the secrets of his father’s life as a senior British spy. Ostensibly his father was a diplomat, with postings in Austria, Malaysia, Hanoi (during the American bombing), outer Mongolia and Washington, but he was a MI6 spy. There is much about growing up not knowing his father’s true role, and their relationship.

The interview was conducted last November, replayed on Friday (3pm on Radio National).

I gather on Monday we’ll get the second, A powerful journalistic force: Mark Colvin.

Colvin did masses of research on his father’s career for his book Light and Shadow: Memoirs of a Spy’s Son. For example, he found that spy work his father was doing in tunnels under Vienna was being reported to an officer in London who turned out to be a double agent. The Russians did not act immediately but later when they decided to act, many died. Also he believes that Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for a second term on the basis of a report his father sent from Hanoi advising that the bombing was simply not working.

There is a hilarious moment in Mongolia, when his father shouted at the ceiling of their home on the assumption the place was bugged, angrily demanding an apology for tampering with diplomatic mail, threatening to close the embassy to create a diplomatic incident. Next morning early a Mongolian government limo turned up at the door. He got his apology.

An interview with Phillip Adams recorded last October is also worth a listen.

3. Trump sacks FBI director James Comey

The airwaves have been full of the story of Trump sacking FBI director James Comey. Here are a few links.

Leigh Sales talked to Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer for the Bush administration from 2005 to 2007, and now with the University of Minnesota. He spoke very plainly:

    Donald Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey is an ‘abuse of power’ that will ‘result in a crisis with Congress’, the chief White House ethics lawyer during the George W Bush administration, Richard Painter, tells 7.30.

Here’s Bruce Shapiro talking to Phillip Adams.

The Washington Post’s early reaction, Firing FBI director Comey is already backfiring on Trump. It’s only going to get worse:

    After the president fired James Comey, the cloud hanging over the White House just got bigger and darker.

    — Donald Trump has surrounded himself with sycophants and amateurs who are either unwilling or unable to tell him no. He lacks a David Gergen-like figure who is wise to the ways of Washington and has the stature to speak up when the president says he wants to fire an FBI director who is overseeing the counterintelligence investigation into whether his associates coordinated with Moscow. Without such a person, Trump just walked headlong into a political buzz saw.

It was a schmozzle. There is no way Trump can escape the conflict of interest issue.Hence the most basic question was asked by former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum in The Atlantic:

    “This Is Not a Drill. The firing of Comey poses a question: Will the law answer to the president, or the president to the law?”

4. Marine Le Pen’s long game

Tom Switzer talking to Jonathon Fenby, just before the election, was the most interesting comment I heard.

Fenby says that five years ago, when Marine Le Pen first ran, she targeted 2022 as the election she wanted to win. Roughly doubling her vote this time, and positioning herself as the main opposition, she’s on target.

Fenby says Macron will have to work like a beaver to make an impact in the parliamentary elections. There is virtually no chance he’ll have a majority. Then he will most likely have to lean left or right to put together a coalition, which is likely to be unstable and require a lot of effort to maintain.

Le Pen’s strategy is that Macron will ultimately fail to revive the fortunes of France to the satisfaction of the electorate, and will damage the older parties in the process, giving her a clear shot at the top job in 2022.

Now she has only two seats in the 5777-member parliament, so also needs another cycle to gain momentum.

This article talks about the difficulties in the French system of having presidents and PMs of different stripes in the French system.

Macron is selecting younger people and around 50% women.

5. Drug-testing welfare recipients

I’m planning a couple more posts on the budget because it may be pivotal in our approach to government, but one of the most controversial moves was the trial of drug-testing welfare recipients, selected through profiling.

Jacqui Lambie says everyone should be tested, including politicians. Not reported in that piece, Lambie said the notion the politicians were drug-free was fanciful.

Turnbull said it was a “policy based on love”. Di Natale, who was a drug and alcohol doctor, said the policy would push vulnerable people over the edge.

21 thoughts on “Saturday salon 13/5”

  1. As a counterpoint to the government’s heavy handed approach to welfare and drugs, I recommend Johann Hari’s “Chasing the Scream”, a well researched examination of the failure of the ‘war on drugs’. You can get a taste of it here.

  2. zoot, thanks for the link. Back in June 2015 I did a post Portugal decriminalised drugs, from cannabis to crack which began by quoting Johann Hari.

    There is really no excuse for the LNP not knowing about this stuff. They are either incompetent or are deliberately setting up a stunt to make it look as though they are doing something.

    There is nothing ‘fair’ about what they are doing.

  3. David Roberts says we over-analyse Trump – he is what he appears to be:

    a hopeless narcissist with the attention span of a fruit fly, unable to maintain consistent beliefs or commitments from moment to moment, acting on base instinct, entirely situationally, to bolster his terrifyingly fragile ego.

    He says there are nine traits to being a narcissist and Trump ticks every box. However, to be recognised as a disorder these traits must inhibit normal functioning and impede success. So far he’s been successful.

    But it’s a dangerous experiment to see how this works out as POTUS. Roberts ends with:

    he is: a disregulated bundle of impulses, being manipulated by a cast of crooks and incompetents, supported by a Republican Party willing to bet the stability of the country against upper-income tax cuts. We need to stop looking for a more complicated story.

    And he sacked Comey because he wanted Comey and the Russia investigation off his TV.

  4. Paul Krugman:

    At this point, in other words, almost an entire party appears to have decided that potential treason in the cause of tax cuts for the wealthy is no vice. And that’s barely hyperbole.

    He is referring (of course) to the Republicans.
    He concludes:

    Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt.

  5. Mr Trump’s dismissal of Mr Comey reminded me of the “Night of the Long Knives” under Mr Nixon. More victims that time.

    Ah, Watergate! Deep Throat. FBI. Cuban exiles. Burglary of Democratic campaign office looking for links between Mr McGovern and Mr Castro. Burglary of Mr Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. Dodgy campaign donations. White House taping of Oval Office conversations; deletion of some tapes by accident; transcripts published; expletives deleted. Resignations of Nixon staffers, House hearings, impeachment threatened. Mr Nixon proclaiming “There will be no whitewash in the White House!”

    And the 20th centuries’ most suitable acronym: CREEP

    Committee to Re-Elect the President.

    Richard M Nixon, you cast a long shadow, buddy!
    So many memories, so many bad tastes left.

    And so many echoes now in Washington and NY, of those far off times.

  6. Not so long ago most Democrats wanted Comey sacked.
    What happened, did he improve that much ?

  7. Not so long ago most Republicans (including the now president) believed Comey was doing a great job regarding Clinton’s emails. Now he’s been sacked for doing a crap job regarding Clinton’s emails.
    Please explain?

    PS: the Republicans may destroy the republic.

  8. Zoot
    Just after Paul Burns ( nice fella ) called for Comey to be sacked I believe Brian did too,

    OCTOBER 31, 2016 AT 10:22 AM
    In the end Comey’s motivation doesn’t matter, the effect of what he did is a partisan act. He’s gone out on a limb and it should be cut off if Clinton wins.

    You in fact offered this as potentially ” the last word ” on it.
    So if Trump did the wrong thing you should argue with them.
    I never made a comment on Comey one way or the other,

  9. Vale Mark Colvin

    As a fellow human with a long term chronic illness, I respected Mark Colvin for how he put up with ‘his lot’ as much as for his grit and clarity in journalism.

    Below poignant exerpt from extended version of Anything But, an interview series published on The Brief, Julia Baird discusses beauty, resilience, happiness and stoicism with Mark Colvin.

    How would you define happiness?

    When you’ve had a lot of pain and a lot of illness over a long period, you tend to define happiness in terms of absence of pain. If you’re going to survive as a person with chronic illness and chronic pain, happiness has to be a moveable feast. You have to find it where you get it.

    In one way, I have been incredibly fortunate … over the last 20 years it’s become much easier to have a life, a kind of a social life without having to leave your house. I feel much less lonely than somebody would have in the same circumstances a long time ago

    How do you learn the value of resilience?

    I’ve probably had to learn the value of resilience much too early. I was sent off to boarding school when I was seven. My parents were in Kuala Lumpur because my dad was allegedly a foreign service officer but in fact a spook, and that’s what was done in those days – if you were being carted around the world, then the government would pay for you to go to boarding school.

    I was very, very lonely and very, very cold because I was used to living in the tropics and I went back to a freezing school in England where they made you play rugby even after a three-foot fall of snow. And basically it instils an unhealthy stoicism I think … something you have to work through the rest of your life. It instils a sense of abandonment and a difficulty in trusting people, and a feeling that people are going to leave you and dump you and something you have to be aware of and work on for the rest of your life.

    But how do you go from stoicism to resilience?

    I think stoicism is something you have to work towards. What the stoic philosophy meant in Roman times was, at it’s very essence, that idea that you have to put back into the world more than you take out from it. So you get that, and clearly that education was meant to send you out to rule over the colonies or whatever…

    You learn a baseline of toughness and then you have to work the worst of the toughness out of yourself. If you’re bullied, you have to be careful not to bully. You have to be careful not to be arrogant. If you feel that you are abandoned or lonely, you have to remember that not everyone else has been through the same things. You have to learn empathy.

  10. Ootz

    Sorry to hear you have had a long chronic illness.

    And our friend Paul Burns has suffered his poor months too.

    All the best,

  11. Not so long ago most Democrats wanted Comey sacked.
    What happened, did he improve that much ?

    Jumpy @ 12:51 AM, you seem to have missed my point (quelle surprise!).
    When the “Pro-Hills/anti-Dons” were saying Comey should be sacked because he had mishandled the Clinton emails case (see Brian’s comment which you quoted), Kim J Trump disagreed and publicly stated what a great job Comey was doing, what courage he had etc etc
    Now the Donald has sacked Comey because he mishandled the Clinton emails case.
    My comment wasn’t addressed to you, although I did hope you, as the resident “Pro-Don/anti-Hills” on this blog would be able to shed some light on this bizarre turnaround in the President’s thinking. (As an unbiased observer, I explain it by calling #45 a bullshitter.)
    Finally, it would be nice if you recognised that discussion amongst the commenters on this blog amounts to more than barracking for a team, and contributed accordingly.

  12. What zoot said.

    Jumpy, you’ve done impressive research and come up with a comment I made on the thread FBI bombshell, or storm in a teacup?

    You cited this comment:

    In the end Comey’s motivation doesn’t matter, the effect of what he did is a partisan act. He’s gone out on a limb and it should be cut off if Clinton wins.

    Then you said I linked to a Daily Kos cartoon as the last word. You’ll have to help me, because I had no memory of the cartoon, nor can I see where I linked to it.

    You ask:

    Not so long ago most Democrats wanted Comey sacked.
    What happened, did he improve that much ?

    I won’t go back over the whole saga, but Richard Painter quoted in the post, said after Comey’s pre-election intervention that he wanted the FBI director James Comey investigated for trying to influence the election outcome.

    Painter, a professional ethicist who worked for George Dubya, sees Trump’s timing as extremely problematic. Perceptions are a factor in politics, and this looks like a cover-up. The fact that Trump has gone ahead and done it anyway tends to suggest that he’s less worried about those perceptions than about what Comey would have uncovered.

    The proximal event for the sacking apparently was a request by Comey for extra funds to investigate what the Russians were up to. Judgements will be made if that investigation is in now stymied.

  13. zoot

    My comment wasn’t addressed to you, although I did hope you, as the resident “Pro-Don/anti-Hills” on this blog would be able to shed some light on this bizarre turnaround in the President’s thinking.

    It seems you have misinterpreted my position ( what a surprise! )
    I have been and remain an ” anti-Don/anti-Hills “, I saw Ben Carsons views lined up closer to mine both then and now.
    But we have to do the best with what we have.
    As for any elected ” Leader” doing a 180 on an issue, who was the last one that didn’t?

  14. Painter, a professional ethicist who worked for George Dubya,

    I wouldn’t see that as a plus, struth !
    Oh, and if you reread, I was talking to zoot with the cartoon ” hat tip ”
    As for Comey going hat in hand to Trump for a certain investigation, that’s not how it works according to the new dude McCabe to Congress.

  15. Ootz, that’s a great link to the Julia Baird piece on Mark Colvin. I’ll just mention a few things from the Fidler conversation that are relevant.

    When Colvin was in Malaysia he fell off a horse and was in hospital, alone, for a very long time because of the bone disease. He said that then, as a 6-year old, he first learned resilience.

    When he was sent to boarding school in England from Malaysia, he said he was beaten about twice a week. This was done by dropping his PJs at night and beaten on the bare behind and down the legs until the skin often broke.

    When his mother visited and they went on a picnic she noticed the marks on his legs and asked him. He hadn’t complained, because beatings had become normalised for him.

    Anyway his mum saw the headmaster and the beatings stopped.

    He also told Fidler that he had had extensive counselling for PTSD in later life.

    I think the Baird interview shows that Colvin never liked to make a fuss about himself. The Fidler interview came after the book, where Colvin in a way was forced to think about himself, knew himself better, and in writing about it gave Fidler more hooks than were available to Baird.

    Colvin said he never thought about death, even when it was obviously close, as in the illness he picked up in 1994 in Rwanda, when he said his father sat with him for months and he was so ill he couldn’t lie down for fear of drowning in the fluid in his lungs, and couldn’t talk much through lack of energy. I feel this probably changed towards the end, as it seems he managed the transition to death fairly well under the circumstances.

    Fidler, towards the end said he thought the book and the writing thereof was a search for “an integrated self”. Colvin thought that was about right.

  16. Jumpy, I’ve misread again. Sorry. Must be getting old!

    For the record the last word in the link was:

    The FBI meddled in the election, which isn’t new or surprising. It’s almost quaint when compared to their surveillance and harassment of other political organizations.

  17. I must say Happy Mothers Day to any Mums reading.
    I hope you all get the love and gratitude you deserve every day and especially today.
    We has an early BBQ last night at mine with 7 Mums present and more presents than Xmas!!

  18. We did Mothers Day last night combined with another celebration.

    My wife got a huge bunch of flowers from her current employer, where she hasn’t been at work for months. Full of beautiful lillies to which she’s a bit allergic.

    This piece says our Mothers Day actually grew out of calls for peace and anti-war campaigns following the American Civil War (1861-65), and took off gradually here from Sydney in 1924.

  19. I have been and remain an ” anti-Don/anti-Hills “, I saw Ben Carsons views lined up closer to mine both then and now.

    That’s the Ben Carson who endorsed Trump as both a combative campaigner and very cerebral in private? Doesn’t sound very anti-Don to me.

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