New US ambassador is Pacific fleet admiral
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was so excited by the appointment of an American Ambassador to Canberra following a frigid 16-month delay that he tweeted: “Great to see Admiral Harry Harris nominated by Donald Trump as US Ambassador to Australia. Look forward to seeing you in Canberra, Harry!”
This was followed by the usual bunch of suspects clambering out of the woodwork of Canberra’s defence establishment to greet Admiral Harris with fawning gratitude.
These people have no shame. They feel insecure, uncertain and fearful without an American ambassador in residence in Canberra right opposite Parliament and The Lodge.
To that extent the envoy is really not an ambassador at all but some kind of military governor sent by Washington to keep Australia inside America’s global alliance. Trump’s selection of a serving admiral fits perfectly with his “America First” nationalism and should set off alarm bells.
The first thing to note about Admiral Harry Brinkley Harris Jr. is that in his final naval career he was commander of the US Pacific Command, the largest nuclear-armed war fleet in the world, and the only command ever to launch atomic war in civilian populations – on Hiroshima (6 August 1945) and Nagasaki (9 August 1945).
Harris’s Pacific Command stretched from California to the Indian Ocean and from the Arctic to Antarctica, or as defence wonks measure it “from Hollywood to Bollywood”.
Under Washington’s three recent administrations led by George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, the Pacific Command has been boosted by extra warships, warplanes, submarines, drone technology and additional firepower in the form of rockets and bombs.
According to Harris, the greatest danger to peace in the Pacific region is North Korea. In the same breath, Harris also mentions China.
A question of ethnicity
Normally, ethnicity would play little or no part in the career of an American admiral. However, all Pentagon press releases stress that he is the first Asian-American to achieve the rank of admiral and the highest ranking Japanese American.
Harris was born in Yokosuka in Greater Tokyo in 1956. His father was a US Navy chief petty officer and his mother was Japanese. He grew up in America’s Deep South during the 1960s and 70s where he experienced the full terror of racial violence, discrimination and bullying.
His rise in the US Navy was meteoric and his 30-year career has taken him to theatres of action in NATO, the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm and in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
In 2006 he became commander of Guantanamo, the CIA’s illegal prison camp on the island of Cuba where he was responsible for “anti-terrorism” policy. During his time in charge, three detainees committed suicide after waging a hunger strike. Harris played a key role in keeping Australian David Hicks locked up, long after it was proved he was a non-combatant with no links to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
Predictably, the looney tunes at Rupert Murdoch’s Australian have given gushing support to Harris’s appointment to Canberra. With undisguised glee, the anti-China Australian said: “The move is likely to anger Beijing, given Admiral Harris’s hawkish views on China, but it will be seen as a coup by the Turnbull government to have such a well qualified and senior former US military officer in the role at a time of growing strategic uncertainly in the region.”
Highly respected Chinese commentator Zhang Junshe of the China Naval Research Institute described Harris as “the most prejudiced and Cold War-minded chief of all US Pacific commanders since World War II”.
Commenting on Harris’s new assignment, Melbourne’s RMIT academic Dr Binoy Kampmark wrote: “Imperial arrangements require decent overseers of subjects. In the Pax Americana, which is, in fact, rather violent, Australia is indispensable in the Pacific theatre.
“It offers land, facilities and the means to eye future enemies and keep allies in check. Wedged between China and the United States, Australia could focus on smoothing rocky roads and building bridges. But this is something Washington is very keen on preventing. Those in the business of empire want to monitor the level of satrap loyalty.”
In a blunt appraisal of Harris’s politics, Dr Kampmark wrote: “Harris is a man with a digest of distinct hawkishness where it counts. US power must be preserved; rivals must be contained. He also fits, in many ways, the profile of an appropriate governor of a distant province that might, should the time come, prove useful in war.”
Dr Kampmark urged Australians to deal sceptically with the Admiral’s ambassadorship which he described rather disparagingly as “a golfing stint”.
Can I say shithole or not?
When Malcolm Turnbull’s foremost overseas ally, President Donald Trump, referred to the entire African continent, Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries”, seat-warmers in the Australian media went into meltdown.
Should they report the word “shithole”, bleep it or print it as “s…..e”?
Some delicate news readers were so mortified they flatly refused to say the word “shithole”, which begs the question, “What kind of sheltered lives have they been living and where?”
If they bothered to consult the Macquarie Dictionary they would find shithole is listed and defined as “a place, as a town, room etc which is despised as completely unattractive”.
If the Oz media was in agony over how to report Trump’s shithole reference, fraught BBC executives in London were in utter turmoil. Steve Titherington, described as the BBC’s “senior commissioning editor”, wrote an internal memo to staff saying that BBC had an agreement to follow guidelines laid down by the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates television, radio, cable and satellite in the US.
The guidelines nominate seven words as “offensive” or “indecent”. They are shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, mothersucker and tits, all words regularly used in workplaces, prisons, films, theatres, the White House, the halls of Congress and news rooms across America.
Mr Titherington (surely a character from the Goon Show!) emphasised: “Under the current FCC rulings there is no exemption for news in any circumstances – whoever might say it.”
Colourful expressions such as “ … bastard, crap, bollocks, bitch or other words that depict or describe sexual or excretory organs or activities” are tolerated in the UK but might be objectionable to Americans, he wrote.
For the time being, however, “Titters” recommended that any future Trump expletives should be referred to the BBC’s “senior commissioner, World Service News, or “the controller, BBC World Service”. Problem solved!
Swill in the Senate
At the 2016 Federal Election Lucy Gichuhi was on the Senate ticket for the right-wing Family First party. She obtained the glorious total of 152 votes.
After the election, party leader Bob Day lost his Senate seat on constitutional grounds and Ms Gichuhi was promoted to the Senate after a countback.
But, suddenly, Family First ceased to exist because it merged with Cory Bernardi’s self-styled Australian Conservatives. The result was that Kenya-born Ms Gichuhi’s party membership became a roller coaster ride: she was counted as a Family First senator in 2017, then as an Independent and from 2 February 2018 she became a Liberal in Malcolm Turnbull’s party.
In November 2017, she was one of 12 right-wing senators who voted against the same sex marriage bill; 43 senators voted in favour.
At long last the British Tories seem to be losing interest in the terrible twins of political campaigning, Lynton Crosby and Mark Textor.
Knighted by failed Prime Minister David Cameron, Crosby has a record of misjudged campaigns. Last May he and Textor masterminded Theresa May’s disastrous “strong and stable” re-election strategy which dabbled in xenophobia and pro-Brexit rhetoric to win the votes of far right UKIP supporters.
Their tactic backfired and resulted in the British Conservatives going backwards from a majority regime to a minority one. They are now propped up in the Commons by Ulster Unionist reactionaries from Northern Ireland.
The Crosby-Textor polling firm gave cutting-edge advice to Tory MP Iain Stewart but the only cutting was to the Member for Milton Keynes South’s majority. He just managed to scramble back to the Commons after suffering a 12.7% swing to Labour.
In the aftermath of the election disaster, Crosby Textor donated £150,000 worth of its time to conduct a post mortem and recommend changes. Obviously, they didn’t recommend the sacking of Crosby Textor which would have been the sensible thing to do.
PS: Let’s hope that Malcolm Turnbull summons Messrs Crosby and Textor to Canberra to lead his re-election campaign.
The road to witchhunts
Matthew Parris is a former Tory MP, writer and now columnist for the London Times. He is also a celebrated gay man.
In his latest column Parris savages the current wave of moral hysteria which has given space to the wildest accusations against leading British figures, including the late Lord Ted Heath, Conservative Party Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974.
The chief accuser is a man known only as “Nick”. He named an “Establishment” paedophile ring which included Heath, Home Secretary Leon Brittan, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, the heads of MI5 and MI6 and ex-Tory MP Harvey Proctor. He claimed the ring operated from an apartment in Westminster’s Dolphin Square where young boys were raped, abused and even murdered.
One of the very earliest sceptics, Parris wrote years ago: “If Ted Heath was a child abuser, I am an aardvark.”
But “Nick” was believed by senior police at Scotland Yard who launched an expensive Operation Midland inquiry. Amazingly, they found “Nick’s” story “credible and true”.
In 2015, Wiltshire police staged a press conference outside Heath’s home in Salisbury appealing for “victims” to come forward. The press gorged itself on the “despicable evil” apparently at the heart of society.
Now “Nick” has been exposed as a convicted paedophile who has been behind bars since last year serving a long jail sentence. He faces fresh charges of lying to police, wasting police time and falsely claiming substantial public compensation for invented injuries.
When he appeared in court in 2017 “Nick” was charged with “voyeurism” and multiple offences relating to allegations of making and possessing hundreds of images of children.
Police have paid out £100,000 damages each to Lady Brittan and to Lord Bramall while Proctor is suing the force for £500,000, having lost his home as a result of the police actions.
“This man [“Nick”] is the stuff of every sane person’s nightmares: a compulsive and persuasive liar whose ravings could wreck your life,” wrote Parris. He questioned the vile role of the media: “The reply that ‘we must report what we hear’ won’t do. Palpable or likely hogwash should be reported in sceptical voice. Too often, ‘Nick’s’ exotic fantasies were reported wide-eyed.”
Aardvarks are the big winners!
Hard truths about journalism
In the opening paragraph of her 1991 book The Journalist and the Murderer, New York writer Janet Malcolm wrote:
“Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings have gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of non-fiction writing learns – when the article or book appears – his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and ‘the public’s right to know’; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.
“…. On reading the article or book in question, he has to face the fact that the journalist – who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his vision of things – never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own.”
I don’t agree with all of Ms Malcolm’s misanthropic views on journalists, but she has written a welcome antidote to the current wave of self-regarding bullshit contained in the Hollywood fairy story The Post. Instead of blubbering nostalgically as they leave cinemas showing the fake history of The Washington Post owner Kay Graham, editor Ben Bradlee and the Pentagon Papers, many journalists should show greater regard for the true history of their profession and start to admit some of its obvious failings.
London Times prints amazing correction
Oz-style foreign aid
“Tell the soldiers: ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will shoot you in the vagina’.”
- Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte telling soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Homeland Security Minister Peter Dutton, Defence Minister Marise Payne and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have sent Australian Federal Police (AFP) to the strife-torn area to assist Duterte’s blood-soaked regime.