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Oh no, here we go again – I have that sinking feeling in my stomach, or is it my blood boiling. ScoMo is already following that long tradition of erstwhile Liberal PMs sucking up to a US president by offering to support the USA in actions against Iran (following America’s withdrawal from a nuclear deterrent agreement!). All the way with Donald J, who didn’t even request our help. Just like Vietnam back in the day, where we asked to join in. Remember how well that went for Australia, not to mention the poor Vietnamese?

Ironically within days Professor Hugh White, noted academic military strategist, has launched a new book ‘How to Defend Australia’, where he apparently argues strongly that we should shed any further delusions about Australia sheltering under the safety of a US security umbrella. A fictitious treaty obligation used by successive Australian governments to justify going to war alongside Uncle Sam, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan? Another calamity for all sides involved!

As China rises and US dominance in Asia wanes, we are gunna be on our own, says the expert professor, who also suggests doubling our military expenditure and even discuss getting our own nuclear weapons. Tell him he’s dreaming, which he clearly is! But meanwhile he could drop by ScoMo’s Canberra office on his way to uni, and let him in on the latest strategic thinking. So that we don’t have to risk Australian troops on another needless military excursion into the Islamic world. With no guarantee of US protection insurance. 

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Louis de Bernières’s book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin sold well in the day and prompted a movie with Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz, which I haven’t seen. Set on the Greek island of Cephalonia, the over-tragic love story deals with its wartime occupation by German and Italian forces, and the subsequent Greek civil war.

Although the plot is over-wrought and the characters over-drawn, the book has a hidden gem worth mentioning. Chapter 35 “A Pamphlet Distributed on the Island, Entitled with the Fascist Slogan ‘Believe, Fight, and Obey’” is a funny, sarcastic and hyperbolic take on Mussolini’s life and rise to power in Italy, in seven pages.

“Italians! Let us celebrate together the life and achievements of Benita Amilcare Mussolini, Who from unpromising beginnings has led us to perdition.

In His infancy He was thought to be dumb, but later proved to be incorrigibly garrulous and more full of wind than all the cows that browse the pastures of the Alps. As a boy He blinded captive birds with pins, plucked the feathers of chickens, was deemed uncontrollable, and pinched little girls in school in order to make them cry. He led gangs, started fights, sought quarrels without provocation, and refused to pay up on the bets that He lost. At the age of ten he stabbed a boy at supper, and then stabbed someone else shortly after….”

That covers just the formative years, followed by ever-increasing levels of violence, political manipulation and eye-popping transgressions. I’m not familiar with the history of the Mussolini years, but I presume the author hasn’t invented something so fantastically obscene?

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Recently in Hawaii your eagle-eyed correspondent discovered on a wall in a humble abode this ironic (iconic?) reference to a famous all-male supper, which may have taken place on 01 April many years ago. That’s what we call juxtaposition!

Hawaiian last supper

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John Menadue (Qantas boss at the time) recently posted online a memoir vignette of my brush with infamous French agents in the South Pacific:

https://johnmenadue.com/peter-ohara-my-lunch-with-french-secret-service-agents-who-sank-rainbow-warrior/

French agents

P.S. Latest news from Hao is a proposed Chinese project to build the largest fish farm in the South Pacific – Bon Appetit!

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The mind-bending Trumpian world, which operates in a bulletproof moral and factual vacuum, has made sarcasm and irony, my tools of trade, largely redundant there. So I’ve refrained from commentary on the Big Schlanger since his election.

However, his latest diplomatic sortie, meeting his mate Vladimir in Helsinki and his subsequent press conference is obviously redolent of Alice in Wonderland. The BS explained that when he said ‘would’ he meant ‘wouldn’t’ or v.v. This famous quote below from that literary masterpiece has probably come to mind for many of us.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

 

Humpty Trumpty

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Tim Cope is an Australian adventurer who made a remarkable solo trip by horseback from Mongolia to Hungary over a three year period from 2004. His book ‘On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads’ is a fascinating record and tale of high adventure, replete with maps and photographs.

Cope’s story of survival on the remote fringes of the Eurasian Steppes and ex-Soviet Union, with his loyal horses and dogs, is well told. They suffer extreme temperatures, dry marginal landscapes and encounters with rough locals. And are welcomed and embraced by traditional hospitality, which saves his life often.

The expedition is truncated by Tim’s return to Australia and elsewhere for various reasons, and we share his life story over those years, with some romantic interludes and companions.

I found it all engrossing, and closely followed the expedition’s detailed movements over the maps provided. His insights into the histories of those frontier territories, and the thread of nomad traditions that runs for thousands of kilometres, is fascinating. A great read!

Mongolian steppe

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Enzed is a great little country, full of civic-minded folk. By the way, little is good. It’s a pity they decided not to join the new Commonwealth of Australia in the day, as it may have toned down that rapacious Oz mentality. Sir Robert Muldoon’s famous quote that Kiwis leaving for Australia raised the IQs of both countries, is a favourite of mine.

Media coverage of NZ election night on Saturday exemplified some admirable qualities in our Tasman cousins. Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was shown sitting at home with her mum on the couch watching developments on TV. I couldn’t see whether she had her possum ugg boots on though. Her telegenic partner Clarke Gayford had probably gone fishing.

Outgoing PM Bill English rounded up a few more family members in front of TV in a public place at least. However, no hotel ballroom with thousands of supporters working themselves into mass hysteria for our sensible, modest, down-to-earth war buddies (remember the NZ in Anzac).

The Kiwi proportional representation voting system is more democratic and often involves negotiation with other parties to form government, as in Germany. And so to another election vignette. Veteran ‘kingmaker’ Winston Peters, who dislikes that descriptor, said he would consult his NZ First party members about which side of politics to join in government. Apparently no pre-determined plan and no hurry, or is that just Wily Winston?

The Maori Party looks like losing it’s seven seats to Labor. On a TV panel show veteran NZ Nationals ex-leader Don Brash said that the Maori party should disappear and even questioned Maoridom! Although fellow panelists were shocked they remained civil: a hallmark of NZ society. That wouldn’t happen on the other side of The Pond.

Imagine PM Jacinda meeting Canada’s PM Justin (such gen Y and X names) and joining him in taking over the reins of power from dreaded baby boomers. Add in Emmanuel, and it could be a trend, though 93 year old Zimbabwean Robert Mugabe is bucking it as he apparently lines up for another term!

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