Friday, 27 January 2017

North Korea Celebrates Trumpism with a new Ten-point Plan: Dr Sigmund Freud's exclusive interview with Kim Jong-un

SF:       If I may, Beloved, Supreme, Leader, begin with a profound apology for missing your recent birthday celebrations. I was delayed in leaving what you described in your recent autobiography—volume 26 I believe—as the Great Neo-Fascistic Capitalist Enterprise. So many Americans were departing it was impossible to book a flight.

BSL:      Relax Doctor, these things happen. And note I have just offered you a beatific smile. It doesn’t happen very often. But I feel particularly relaxed and comfortable even though I’ve never owned a cardigan. Good times are upon us, Doctor, as we, I that is, have just finalised our new Ten Point Plan. Here is your autographed copy. Let me summarise:

1.      Build wall to keep out South Koreans
2.      Test Nuclear Device
3.      Build islands in Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to increase living space for gallant North Korean people, to expand territorial waters and to promote cultural exchanges
4.      Test Nuclear Device
5.      Make triumphant State Visit to Great Neo-Fascistic Capitalist Enterprise
6.      Test Nuclear Device
7.      Execute a few uncles and hordes of other reprobates
8.      Test Nuclear Device
9.      Dye hair of Beloved, Supreme Leader a new colour to symbolise dynamism of new way forward
10.  Test Nuclear Device
11.  Update torture training manuals.

SF:       Excuse me for interrupting Beloved, Supreme, Leader but that’s eleven points.

BSL       (Silently reads the summary while counting on fingers. His brow furrows but, remarkably, he smiles.): What does it matter? We’ll be even more successful. And for future reference Doctor please note there is no comma between Supreme and Leader. I’ve overlooked it on this occasion because of my magnanimous frame of mind but others have learnt that it’s an unhealthful mistake to make.

SF:       It’s certainly an ambitious plan, Beloved, Supreme Leader, but some might question the priorities and surely the nation cannot afford it.

BSL       (Smiles again, setting a personal best for displays of good humour in a 24-hour period.): Ah that’s the genius of my plan, Dr Freud. I will admit we are not in the best of economic times. But from now on all those wishing to meet our desperate need for the essentials of life will have to pay a tariff on whatever they give us. We’ll collect millions, billions. (Claps hands in delight.) It’s genius, Dr Freud, pure genius. We can build walls and islands and nuclear devices and torture chambers and we won’t spend a cent of our own, even if we had one. I am most surprised no-one else has devised this economic model before.

SF:       I am sorry to dampen the occasion, Beloved, Supreme Leader, but I think they have.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Dr Sigmund Freud's gallant effort to analyse Donald Trump's inauguration

Among the spectators at Donald Trump’s inauguration was a well-dressed, bespectacled man, wearing a carefully trimmed beard and a severe look. He had been tasked by the International Association of Psychopathology to make sense of the occasion. 

SF: Excuse me madam, but I am enquiring as to the reasons people are in such an exuberant mood today. 

Woman (Looking warily at Freud): Because we all feel great again.

SF: May I ask the factors that have produced this sense of elation?

Woman (Shaking her head in disbelief): We feel great because with President Trump we know exactly where we stand. You could never tell with those horrible Democrats. With Mr Trump, there’s never a doubt. He’s put honesty back into lying, truly a new era for our nation and the world.

SF (Turning to a middle-aged man): And you sir, what brought you here today?

Man (In strong Southern drawl): I just loved The Apprentice. What a show! Couldn’t wait for those words, “You’re fired!” (Chuckles.) That’s exactly what Trump’ll do with world leaders. If they don’t play their part in makin’ America great again then, wait for it … “you’re fired!” Boy-oh-boy.

SF: I am not so sure it will quite work that way. (Speaks to elegantly dressed woman carrying a poodle wearing a Trump cap): And you madam, why are you here today?

Woman: Why that’s easy, I’m so worried about my husband’s hearing.

SF: Could you elaborate?

Woman: Oh my Chuck just loves to go shooting with his buddies—only wild animals of course, isn't that right darling. (She smooches the poodle.) They all come home their ears ringing, they can barely understand a word anyone says.

SF: I’m sorry, I am not quite following you.  

Woman: Oh, you must be a foreigner! But not from Mexico, thank God, your beard’s too neat. It’s just so hard these days for honest, hard-working Americans to buy silencers. It’s alright for Socialists to wear ear-muffs when they go shooting, but no red-blooded American wants to look like Elmer Fudd do they now? Never mind ISIS and Obamacare. It’s a fundamental right for all Americans to carry guns with silencers. And Trump will make that happen.

Freud, looking a little shaken by these encounters, now approaches a thickset man standing by himself, an expensive camera hanging from his neck.

SF: I hope I am not disturbing you, sir, but may I ask what brought you out today?

Man (Speaking in heavily accented English): It’s a wonderful day for our great people. Finally, we have our man in the Whitehouse.

SF: And which part of America are you from?

Man: I am not permitted to say anything more. Please contact my office if you need to discuss further with my superiors. (He hands Freud a name card.) Please note the opening hours of the Russian Embassy are 9am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Goodbye.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Australia’s campaign against the death penalty – real or phony?

On 10 October 2016, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, commemorated World Day Against the Death Penalty with a media release.
Her eyes fixed on Australia’s candidacy for the United Nations Human Rights Council – in which abolition of the death penalty is purportedly a national priority – Minister Bishop said the right things. The penalty constituted cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment regardless of how it was carried out. Given the lack of any ‘credible evidence that it is an effective crime deterrent’ the penalty was senseless. It was ‘regularly associated with miscarriages of justice, the inadvertent execution of innocents, and the disproportionate execution of poor, ethnic and religious minorities’.
All true, and welcome comment for those of us who believe that the death penalty has no place in a world with pretences of civilisation.
Fast forward to 12 December 2016 when Ms Bishop delivered a ‘Human Rights Speech’ to the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. In forum after forum, the Minister declared, ‘whether in bilateral meetings or in multilateral settings like the United Nations, Australia has argued the case for abolition - with calm, with patience and with determination’.
And, regrettably it seems, with a distinct lack of success.
If 2015 figures are anything to go by, between Ms Bishop’s media release in October 2016 and her Lowy Institute speech two months later some 250 people were executed by governments world-wide. And that figure excludes China, the world’s leading official killer, which treats death penalty data as a state secret.
Perhaps it’s unrealistic to expect a major diplomatic offensive every time someone is executed. But what levers, if any, is the Australian Government pulling to pressure the world’s top five executing states: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States?
Less than a week before Ms Bishop’s Lowy Institute speech, William Sallie was killed by lethal injection in the US state of Georgia. He had been on death row for 25 years. What did the Australian Government say to US governments about Sallie’s execution, or the 18 other executions in the US that preceded it in 2016? Very little it seems, if material I received in response to an earlier FOI request is any guide.
A cable from the Australian Embassy in Washington dated 18 September 2015 advised the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra: ‘Since January 2014 we have not made any representations to the US federal government on the death penalty.’
An email from DFAT to the embassy on 10 March 2016 asked: ‘We are responding to a piece of mincor [ministerial correspondence] on the death penalty … just wondering whether there are bilateral representations we could refer to?’ The reply: ‘Nothing at the federal level but a bit at the state level.’
This email exchange hardly suggests an energised, determined effort. The 'bit at state level' in fact was 'in support of foreign nationals, at the request of their governments'. No independent initiative there. Yet six months earlier, in announcing Australia’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council, Minister Bishop asserted that Australia would be ‘a strong advocate for global abolition of the death penalty, one of Australia’s core human rights objectives.’
Ben Quilty, Archibald Prize winner and mentor and confidant of Myuran Sukumaran, is currently co-curating an exhibition of Sukumaran's art which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the hanging of Ronald Ryan, the last person executed in Australia. Quilty wrote recently that 2017 was a year for ‘all Australian to stand up … against the death penalty’. Internationally, he claimed, ‘in 2017 we will have the moral high ground, the soapbox, and it should be used’.
Yet if Australia is truly to occupy the moral high ground, if its campaign against the death penalty is to have meaning, its advocacy needs to be more open and consistent. It must be genuinely universal, not mostly reserved for the occasions when Australians are facing the hangman or the swordsman, the bullet or the needle. 

On that, we have a long way to go.