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Four Books, one Movie – drugs, drones, Hitler, India & Pakistan, Snowden

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Four books which have caught my attention, although I’ve only read reviews. Plus one movie, which I have seen.

Chasing the ScreamChasing the Scream, the First & Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari, a summation of why this is another war – like the War on Terror – which is absurd and unwinnable. The back and forth on the Bali 9 and the threatened execution of the two ‘ringleaders’ has certainly brought the whole absurdity up all over again. Legalise the stuff, there may be some costs in one direction, but I think there will be far more savings in the other. The Age/Sydney Morning Herald review in Australia certainly agreed. An Ed Vulliamy review in The Guardian questioned if the effects of drug legalisation might not be so positive in the developing world.




After Hitler: The Last Days of the Second World War in Europe by Michael Jones traces the assorted events in the 10 days after Hitler died before World War II finally stuttered to a halt and new horrors began. I’ve read The Fall of Berlin 1945 by Anthony Beevor, which recounts the horrors in Berlin as the war reached its conclusion there. The end of the war was, of course, followed by The Iron Curtain, the Crushing of Eastern Europe.

The Longest August: The Unflinching Rivalry Between India & Pakistan by Dilip Hiro looks once again at the damage partition has done to those two countries, lays blame (more Gandhi’s fault than Jinnah’s for the actual split, more Jinnah’s for the disaster that followed) and the ‘Divide & Rue’ review in The Economist raises, once again, the idea that perhaps they’d all be better off if it had never happened. The Independent’s review is not too enthusiastic.

Drone TheoryDrone Theory by Gregoire Chamayou, a summation of the absurdity of this one, something else which has nagged at my attention for years now. I certainly had opportunity to muse about drones as I travelled up through Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway for Dark Lands. Popular culture, the play Grounded as a good example, certainly focus attention on them, but there’s no sign of the US government rethinking what a stupid weapon they are.

Citizenfour-imageCitizenfour winning the documentary Oscar a couple of days ago reminded me of what I wrote about Snowden, Obama and drones back in 2013:

Last week Barack Obama showed he’s also got a sense of humour, even if it’s a rather macabre one, when he suggested that if Edward Snowden wanted justice he could come back from Russia and make his case in an American court. Uh, excuse me? Is that a court in the country that administers lynch-mob-style justice via drones, no accusation, no arrest, no trial necessary, just instant execution? Or grabs people and whisks them off to Guantánamo without any case presented? That sort of justice? If I was Mr Snowden I certainly wouldn’t want to make my case in a US court in the current climate.

Drone Theory

Four Books, one Movie – drugs, drones, Hitler, India & Pakistan, Snowden

24 February 2015 | Culture

Four books which have caught my attention, although I’ve only read reviews. Plus one movie, which I have seen. • Chasing the Scream, the First & Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari, a summation of why this is another war – like the War on Terror – whic...

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Australian cigarette packs

Some Numbers on Drugs & Deaths

19 February 2015 | Living

There’s lots of Australian attention focussed on the fate of two would-be drug importers caught in Bali and possibly facing death in front of a firing squad very soon. A bunch of facts and figures: • The ‘Bali 9’ had 8.3kg of heroin between them and apart from the ...

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Lorne – Cockatoos & North Korea

18 February 2015 | Places

▲ With some friends we spent a week at Lorne, a popular seaside resort on the Great Ocean Road about 140km from Melbourne. Lots of things haven’t changed at all, like the wonderful views along the road. This is the mouth of the St George River, just to the west ...

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More Tech Challenges – Grapefruit to Google

12 February 2015 | Transport

Grapefruit, Active Control Control, Google’s Self-Driving Car Yes even buying grapefruit can present you with tech challenges. My local supermarket has recently had grapefruit labelled Israeli (on the shefl) which turned out to be Australian (according to the stick...

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Indonesia etc

Indonesia Etc. Exploring the Improbable Nation

9 February 2015 | Culture

I’m a firm believer that you often learn a lot more about a place by exploring it than you ever will by sitting at a desk and reading briefings. Particularly if they come from somebody like the CIA. Indonesia Etc certainly proves that although it definitely helps that...

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Ever the Diplomat

More Political Hypocrisy, More Political Idiocy & the Badass Queen

27 January 2015 | Culture

Some days you scan the morning news and the sheer hypocrisy and idiocy of our political leaders simply stuns you. My last posting was over the gall of political leaders turning up in France to march for free speech while, back home, they were busy torturing, jailing, ...

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Charlie Hebdo, Hypocrisy & Saudi Arabia

16 January 2015 | Culture

As Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University, summed it up: ‘Glad so many world leaders could take time off jailing and torturing journalists and dissidents to march for free expression in France.’ Photo: Raif Badawi © Juan Osborne for Amnesty Internati...

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Summing up 2014 – restaurants

12 January 2015 | Living

I’ve run through my favourite theatre, films, hotels and books of 2014 – now on to the restaurants.▲ Ivan Justo in Havana The best – amazingly the year’s most interesting dining experiences were in Havana. A batch of places with interesting food, interesting décor ...

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Spoiled Brats

Summing up 2014 – Books

11 January 2015 | Media

I’ve run through my favourite theatre, films and hotels of 2014. Here are some of the book favourites: Travel Books – I met William Blacker while I was in Transylvania last year, so reading Along the Enchanted Way, his colourful account of his love affair with Roma...

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Summing up 2014 – hotels

9 January 2015 | Living

I've covered film and theatre, now it's the hotels of 2014. Industrial Chic in the US – it’s a currently popular theme and there were three notable hotels in the category. First of all Ace Hotel in New York (20 W 29th St, New York, NY 10001) Coming back to W29th St...

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