Publicly savaged by reason, good sense and logic, Hanson is unbowed

Writing in The Age, Mark Kenny reports: Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson appeared before the budget estimates committees of the Senate where she proceeded with all her customary thoughtfulness.

“Can you confirm that the four terrorist attacks and the 12  foiled, that has [sic] happened on Australian soil, was [sic] committed by Muslims and, if not, who?” she asked Duncan Lewis, director-general of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Lewis was frank, explaining that one of the thwarted attacks involved a right-wing extremist.

“So the answer is no, they have not all been carried out by Muslims. But I’ve got to stress, senator, this is very important, ASIO does not make its inquiries or its assessments on the basis of somebody’s religion.

Another incoherent Hanson preamble followed, before: “Do you believe that the threat is being brought in possibly from Middle-Eastern refugees that are coming out to Australia?”

Lewis: “I’ve absolutely no evidence to suggest there’s a connection between refugees and terrorism.”

Will this change Hanson’s mind? Will it stop her spouting xenophobic nonsense? Will it lead to her making a more constructive contribution to the national security debate?

Of course not. Reason and logic don’t work on bigots.  People like Duncan Lewis must be deeply frustrated that people like Pauline Hanson make his job so much more difficult and they do through blindAll and wilful ignorance.

A lesson the Trumpster is taking a while to learn

Nobody told Donald Trump that when he became President he needed to be careful who picked fights with. He thought that when he became the most powerful man in the world  he could do pretty much whatever he liked.


He is finding he’s not even the most powerful man in America and that it’s more a figure of speech. The Office of the President is very powerful but its power is qualified by the power of the judiciary and the legislature but no one really explained that to Donald. He will find out more about this if he gets a hammering in the next mid-term elections.

Donald thought once he became President he could take on the media and win. He may only now be beginning to realise how wrong he was to begin a full-scale war against  the media and how wrong it was to attack newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine and The Chicago Tribune and think that they would take it lying down.

The problem is that the media and in particular the television media is there is 24-hour scrutiny so you can’t fart, pick your nose or have your wife refuse to hold your hand without it becoming a global news event if the media decides that it is going to be.

And something else that no one really explained to Donald was that being the most powerful man in the world doesn’t change things at home. But now home life is just a little bit more visible.

And if the media has got it in for you, they are going to pick up on every little incident and turn it into a media sensation.  The humiliation will relentless.

Particularly for a man whose relationships with women have been so fraught and whose ego is so fragile.

Trump complains that media coverage of him is unrelentingly negative. He is pretty much right. And saying sorry for accusing major newspapers with a proud history going back hundreds of years of “fake news” is probably not going to help now.


Drawing a line between sport and social justice: the case of Margaret Court

Australian tennis legend Margaret Court has said she will stop flying Qantas “where possible” in response to the airline’s promotion of same-sex marriage.

 This is now.

This was then

Margaret Court was one of the greatest tennis players of all times.  As a committed Christian, she is now a staunch opponent of some of the more progressive social issues that we confront, in this case, gay marriage.

The arena named after tennis great Margaret Court has taken to Twitter to distance itself – or at least its management – from her incendiary stance on same-sex marriage.

Margaret Court Arena, part of the Melbourne Parks complex, lobbed into the fray, on Friday saying they remain committed to “equality, diversity and inclusion”.

Court, the 74 year-old founder of Victory Life Church in Perth, announced in the West Australian on Thursday saying she will be flying Qantas. That’s probably not going to make much difference to Qantas. But it gives her some media coverage for her retrograde social views.

And she only gets that coverage because she was once a great tennis player.

The problem is essential in this.

Court was famous for being one of the world’s best tennis players and for having a major tennis arena named after her.

She is now seeking to leverage that position to promote a point of view on gay marriage that is radically opposed to the vast bulk of most of the Australians whose money has funded the arena named after her.

So, the question is should we have to run, ride, walk past or sit in the Margaret Court Arena and be reminded that it’s named after a bigot. Albeit a brilliant tennis playing bigot. But still a bigot.

The answer is no.

Time for a rebirthing of the arena.

Perhaps the Martin Navratilova Arena would be appropriate.

Some advice to Tony Abbott on his leadership ambitions

John Howard recently said that there was no appetite for leadership change in the Parliamentary Liberal party at present.

John Howard examines Tony Abbott’s leadership chances

So here is some more advice. It’s a mix-and-match exercise. Take any phrase from Column A  and match it with one from Column B.

Column A

Column B

Time to hang up your family
Time to spend more time with yourself
Take a good hard look at your boots
Get on the peace pipe
Smoke the facts
Bury your bike
Face some bridges
Mend the hachette

So whichever way you look at it Tony, it’s time to hang up the hatchet, take a hard look at your boots and smoke some facts.

Pauline Hanson not pissed off by mural

A fairly unflattering mural of Pauline Hanson appeared on the wall in Footscray.

The leader of One Nation was unfazed.

“From what I’ve been through, for what I’ve had thrown at me over the year, you think that would offend me? Not at all,” she said. “I consider what I want to do, and what I am doing for the Australian people is more important than worrying about rubbish like that.”

Most of the people interviewed on the ABC in Footscray thought it was pretty fair. But then, Pauline Hanson is probably not too popular Footscray

The mural was by Melbourne artist Van T Rudd who said he painted the mural on a shop wall on Donald Street in Footscray as a statement against “extreme right-wing” views. Mr Rudd is a nephew of the ex-Prime Minister.

The mural only lasted a day.


Mr Rudd appeared on television muttering vaguely about his right to free speech. But really, does he have the right to offend and insult like this. Because, regardless of what you might think of Pauline Hanson and her views, this is offensive and insulting.

It’s not offensive and insulting based on race, religion or gender which is forbidden under the act.

So is this kind of thing okay?

To start with the Footscray Football Club may wish to remain politically neutral and not wish to have its mascot politicised. But that’s too late now, even with Pauline Hanson’s face painted out, the image has been well and truly fixed in the public imagination.

And perhaps we should be saying that this is the kind of ridicule and humiliation that we should not subject anyone to in a civilised society regardless of how much we may despise their political views.

And in defending them from this kind of ridicule perhaps we can encourage them to treat other people with more respect.

What does $100b arms deal with the Saudis actually mean?

According to the President, it means “Jobs jobs jobs!”


President Trump meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh AFP/Getty Images

Coal miners and unemployed steelworkers in the mid-West should probably not get too excited about this. If the arms deal does mean more jobs, it is probably not going to mean low-tech jobs like theirs are going to be reinvented.

 But more importantly, what it does mean is that the Saudis, already one of the world’s biggest spending military nations behind the US, China and Russia will have extra killing power to use on its near neighbours, particularly those in Yemen and Iran.

 So jobs in the US, if there are going to be any extra ones, probably means more dead bodies in the Middle East.  The problem is that this doesn’t seem to have occurred to the President of the United States.

 You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that giving more arms to one side in the Middle East is not going to be a solution for finding lasting peace.  And you also don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that if you start giving arms to the Saudis, the Iranians will start feeling threatened, then then someone might start selling more arms to the Iranians. Or the Iranians might start beefing up their nuclear program again.

 It’s also interesting that Trump is now selling arms to a nation which he denounced during his presidential campaign for masterminding the attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001 and after his election, said should be banned from exporting oil to the US, and has accused the country of killing gay people and enslaving women.

The President will soon move on to Israel where he will meet Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.


Netanyahu will probably want to know why the US has signed an arms deal that could  ultimately be worth almost half a trillion dollars with the Saudis much of which could be used against Israel.

 What’s the betting that Trump’s solution is to pat Netanyahu reassuringly on the arm and say,  “It’s all right, Benjamin, I will sell you $1 trillion worth.” And then boast about being a great dealmaker

Most Americans don’t know where North Korea is

An article published in the New York Times indicates that only 36% of the sample of 1746 adults knows where North Korea is. It probably doesn’t matter unless some of the other 64% are actually sending the warships to positions off the coast of North Korea. You will see from the second map below that some people in the sample to North Korea is actually in Australia. Now from an Australian perspective and given the propensity of Trumpster to act somewhat precipitously, that is a worry.

And here’s the map by country

Now you have to remember that a good proportion population of the US believes that God created the earth in six days and that men and dinosaurs lived on the planet together 6000 years ago so this kind of stuff is probably to be expected but it’s still a bit scary, because they are all allowed vote.

How poetry works: two love poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892 – October 19, 1950) was an openly bisexual American poet and playwright who received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 and was the third woman to win the award for poetry. She was also known for her feminist activism.

It was said she wrote some of the best sonnets of the century.

These are two of them.

I, Being Born a Woman, and Distressed

I, being born a woman, and distressed
By all the needs and notions of my kind,
Am urged by your propinquity to find
Your person fair, and feel a certain zest
To bear your body’s weight upon my breast:
So subtly is the fume of life designed,
To clarify the pulse and cloud the mind,
And leave me once again undone, possessed.
Think not for this, however, this poor treason
Of my stout blood against my staggering brain,
I shall remember you with love, or season
My scorn with pity — let me make it plain:
I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

The Sonnet is a 14 line poem and has been popular with poets for more than 500 years. Shakespeare wrote 152 of them. They come in slightly different forms. This first one comes in two parts: an octave (the first eight lines) followed by a sestet (the last six lines). It’s held together by the rhyme structure. (abbabba dedede).

The two parts of the poem deal with two different, but related, ideas. The structure of the ideas and the song is reflected by the rhyme structure

The poem is addressed to a lover to whom the poet says that because she is a woman making love leaves her “distressed”. The very presence of her lover and his “weight upon my breast” makes it easy for her to understand her sexual frenzy and to disregard her intellectual response, leaving her “undone, possessed”. This section of the poem is about poet’s disconnect between her mind and her body.

The second section of the poem, the sestet, introduces a new idea, the idea that this sexual frenzy is a “poor treason”. The poet says her lover should not to be deceived by this poor treason: “Think not…. I shall remember you with love.”

It is usual, in a sonnet, for the last two lines to be the killer lines. This one is no exception.  The poet’s scorn is withering, let me make it plain, she says,

I find this frenzy insufficient reason
For conversation when we meet again.

In effect, she is saying to her lover that the frenzy of sexual pleasure is really not worth talking about.

So, it’s not really a love poem, it’s almost an anti-love poem. The poet writes about love and sex from a perspective that would have been quite revolutionary (and shocking) in the 1920s and this is probably one of the reasons why Millay was regarded as one of the great feminist writers of the early 20th century.

The second sonnet is different in form, tone and content. With sonnets, it always helps to start by looking at the rhyme scheme. It gives you a clue to the way the the poet has constructed the poem.

In this case, the rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef, gg.  This is the form that Shakespeare used most frequently, three sets of four lines or quatrains and then a concluding couplet. In this case, you can expect three ideas and some kind of killer idea at the end.

Love Is Not All

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

In the first four lines, the poet begins by defining love by what it isn’t. In particular, it isn’t enough to keep you alive, to keep you afloat when you’re sinking. In the next four lines, the poet turns that idea around saying “many a man is making friends with death
..for lack of love”.  The paradox is that while love is not enough to keep you alive, lack of it may kill you.

In the next quatrain, the poet reflects on her own condition and how that  “pinned down by need”  or some other dire extremity she might  “sell your love for peace.”

And then, standing in contrast to the whole poem, the final beautifully lyrical line. Notice the beautifully timed pause in the middle of the line with the full stop. It turns the whole poem round.

It may well be. I do not think I would.