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Paul can regularly be read in the mainstream press

FINEST CHINA

By | Book reviews for the press, China, Geopolitics | No Comments

I wrote Thunder from the Silent Zone some years ago, but much of it still resonates. I recently reviewed and compared the contributions from: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? By Graham Allison Scribe, 384pp, $35 China Matters: Getting It Right for Australia By Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson La Trobe University Press, 256pp, $29.99 Will China Dominate the 21st Century? By Jonathan Fenby Polity Press, 144pp, $21.95 My Recent Book Review In The Australian

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CHRISTOPHER ANDREW AND THE STRANGE CASE OF ROGER HOLLIS

By | Book reviews for the press, Intelligence | No Comments

  When Christopher Andrew’s Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 was published in late 2009, the Australian’s European correspondent, Peter Wilson, hailed it with a short piece headed “‘Mentally ill’ spycatcher more dangerous than KGB”. The spycatcher in question was Peter Wright, whose book, Spycatcher, the British government made strenuous efforts to suppress, only to be foiled in the Australian courts by the young Malcolm Turnbull. The book was published in Australia in 1987 (not 1985, as Wilson reported) and became a best-seller. Wilson’s piece was an eye catcher, because it concentrated exclusively on the question of…

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WERE THERE RUSSIAN MOLES IN ASIO? WELL YES, PRIME MINISTER.

By | AusPolitics, Critical Essays, Geopolitics, Intelligence | No Comments

  The final volume of the official history of ASIO admits, in muted tones, that there were multiple Soviet moles in the organization during the Cold War. Not one or a possible one, as so often rumoured in the past; but a number of them. The language is vague and elliptical, but the statement is there and it is buttressed by the rhetorical question with which the authors finish the whole work: ‘how extensive was the betrayal and how extensive was the damage?’ The official history was the best possible place to answer this question, but its authors were forbidden…

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EXPERT KNOWLEDGE AND SCIENTIFIC THINKING ARE UNDER SIEGE

By | Book reviews for the press, Cognitive Science, Geopolitics | No Comments

A social Issue of New Scientist, dated 1 April 2017, was devoted to the question ‘What is Knowledge?’ The sub-title was ‘The Biggest Questions about Facts, Truth, Lies and Belief’. It was clearly not intended as an April Fool’s Day joke, but there would be plenty of scope for a spoof which had done just that, given the bizarre beliefs and attitudes to truth held by altogether too many human beings. As Carl Sagan expressed it some thirty years ago, we have created a scientific civilization, but have allowed a situation to develop in which the vast majority of people…

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UNDOING THE CONFUSIONS OF THE INTUITIVE BRAIN

By | Book reviews for the press, Cognitive Science, Psychology | No Comments

  Michael Lewis writes good books. They tend to be concise, highly readable, immensely lucid and concerned with fascinating matters of human confusion and how to find one’s way through it. He also tends to be highly interested in thinkers who operate outside the range or authority of both popular prejudice and conventional intellectual wisdom. His first book, Liar’s Poker (1989), was about his strange experience in a Wall Street bank’s bond trading department. Since then, he has written a string of best sellers. Perhaps the most famous of them have been Moneyball (2003) and The Big Short (2010). His…

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THE DEFENCE STRATEGY DEBATE WE HAVE TO HAVE

By | Book reviews for the press, Defence | No Comments

  James Curran Fighting With America: Why Saying No to the US Wouldn’t Rupture the Alliance (Lowy Institute Penguin Special, Penguin Random House Australia 2016 154 pp.) Adam Lockyer Australia’s Defence Strategy: Evaluating Alternatives for a Contested Asia (Melbourne University Press, 2017, 320 pp.) Each of these books is worth reading, if you have any interest in Australian defence and security. Both are timely, lucid, scholarly and readable. The first is a handy introduction to current debates about the ANZUS alliance, China and our security, which avoids over heated language and shows a deft familiarity with the scholarly literature. The…

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JAMES PACKER GAMBLED AND LOST

By | China, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  There is a scene towards the end of Kostantinos Gavros’s 1982 film, Missing, in which a hard-edged US military officer tells Ed Horman, played by Jack Lemmon, ‘Suppose I went up to your town and started messing around with the Mafia and I wind up dead in the East River and my wife or my father complains to the police because they didn’t protect me. They really wouldn’t have much of a case, would they? You play with fire, you get burned.’ James Packer, gambling tycoon, played with fire in China and has just been burned. Eighteen of his…

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THOMAS PIKETTY’S ERRORS REGARDING INEQUALITY BADLY NEED CORRECTION IN THE ERA OF TRUMP

By | Critical Essays, Islam, Middle East | No Comments

  The Trump victory in the United States was a reaction, at root, to the real and perceived costs of globalization: inequality and immigration flows. Now that he is in office, there are serious possibilities of disruptive changes to the global trading system, as we saw with his instant dismissal of the Trans Pacific Partnership. For Xi Jinping, head of state of the world’s most mercantilist country, to stand up at Davos and extol free trade, while Donald Trump, head of the supposedly most ideologically free trade state on the planet vowing to set up tariff barriers has been a…

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POPPER AND THE PELVIS: AN ESSAY ON CONJECTURES AND REFUTATIONS

By | Critical Essays, History, Philosophy, Science | No Comments

  In the last issue of this magazine, it was pointed out by Todd Kliendienst (Organiser of the Karl Popper Philosophy Meetup Group, Brisbane), in a letter to the editor; that, while he enjoyed what I had written about Karl Popper, he felt obliged to point out that I was in error on a point of detail. I wrote, towards the end of the essay on Popper: Popper did not venture into the arena of biology, but a similar story holds in that regard, of course. The bold conjecture by Charles Darwin that natural selection had driven a process of…

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MOCKERY OF ISLAM CANNOT BE FORBIDDEN

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion | No Comments

  Last Monday, British journalist and broadcaster Douglas Murray, author of the satirical pamphlet Islamophilia, blogged that far from being something that should be frowned upon, mockery of Islam is a much needed antidote to its excessive severity and overweening claims to be taken seriously. He has a point that merits, dare I say it, serious thought. His remark was all the more notable because it was made in response to the assertion by Mohammed Shafiq that ‘our faith is not to be mocked’. Shafiq heads a body called the Ramadhan Foundation, in Manchester, has spoken out against extremism and…

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