The talk-radio host died on February 17th, aged 70
IN 1987, AMERICA’S Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the airwaves, repealed the Fairness Doctrine, a policy that required broadcasters to present balanced views of controversial subjects. One year later, a former executive at ABC radio gave an opinionated but little-known talk-radio host from Sacramento a nationally syndicated show. This contravened accepted practice; most nationally known radio hosts were bland and inoffensive interviewers, the better not to alienate a range of listeners.
Rush Limbaugh was the opposite. His shows rarely had guests or more than a few brief pre-screened callers—the better to let him expound, for hours on end, on the ills of modern American society, most of which were the fault of liberals and the left. His political view was Manichean: easy to understand and engagingly delivered. He made no effort to credit opposing views; he—and by extension his listeners—were defenders of all that was good about America, while the liberalism of Democrats, as he put it, “is a scourge. It destroys the human spirit. It destroys prosperity.” He built this simple format into one of the most popular radio programmes in America, attracting millions of listeners and inspiring scores of imitators.
Like Donald Trump, whose presidency he championed, he styled himself a tribune of the common man, willing to say things that no one dared but everyone thought. Indeed, much as William F. Buckley’s libertarian-inflected traditionalism prefigured the conservatism of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, Mr Limbaugh’s cocksure derisiveness, and the glee he took in angering the left, provided the stylistic underpinnings of the contemporary, Trumpist Republican Party.
And like Mr Trump, he inspired a quasi-cultic following, with fans who called themselves “Dittoheads,” for the propensity to agree with everything he said, even though—or, perhaps, especially because—the things he said could be repellent. “Feminism,” he maintained, “was established so that unattractive women could have easier access to the mainstream of society.” He called gay men “perverts”, mocked people dying of AIDS and treated the rare phone-in guest who disagreed with him to a “caller abortion”—hanging up after playing the sound of a vacuum motor. He told an African-American caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back,” remarked that “all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson,” and said that the National Basketball Association should be renamed “the Thug Basketball Association”.
His first book, released in 1992, championed standard conservative views: small government, anti-environmentalism and a belief that “racial relations will not be enhanced or prejudice eliminated by governmental edict.” But few tuned in to hear what he was for. People wanted to hear him hate who they hated. He had particular scorn for Hillary Clinton, who he said kept her trophies in a “testicle lockbox,” and Barack Obama, who he mused may not have been an American citizen (he played a song on his programme called “Barack the Magic Negro”). He survived some embarrassing scrapes with the law, including getting stopped with Viagra prescribed for someone else in his luggage, and an oxycodone addiction. Being married four times did not seem to dent his traditionalist bona fides any more than did Mr Trump’s being thrice married.
Mr Limbaugh continued broadcasting until February 2nd, though by then he was something of an elder statesman. The day after he announced that he had advanced lung cancer, Mr Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, previously awarded to, among others, Jonas Salk, Felix Frankfurter and Martin Luther King junior. Yet that just testifies to how deeply Limbaughism had been absorbed into the conservative mainstream—its influences discernible in Trumpist Republicans’ demand for complete fealty, and their casting of political opponents, not as fellow Americans with whom they disagree but as evil. Those attributes make for entertaining radio. But they make governing impossible. ■
This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “Tower of babble”
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A charity responsible for the Tower of London has spent £350,000 over the last five years caring for the resident ravens, a freedom of information request has revealed.
Historic Royal Palaces, which looks after the Tower as well as Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle, is also responsible for the management of the Tower’s ravens.
£157,000 of the total spent was used to install a new enclosure to keep the birds in during the night, the Sunday Times reports.
Despite the investment, only seven ravens remain at the Tower of London after one bird, Merlina, went missing in January and is feared dead.
Historic Royal Palaces which is responsible for the Tower of London has spent £350,000 over the last five years caring for the resident ravens, a freedom of information request has revealed
Laura Hutchinson, a spokeswoman for the Tower, said that there is currently a breeding pair which ‘might produce some more raven babies this year’.
According to legend, both the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall should the number of ravens housed in the Tower fall to below six.
Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left.
However, Hutchinson said that despite ravenmaster Christopher Skaife having been placed on furlough, a team of wardens has been caring for the animals.
The ravens of the Tower of London are fed mice, chicks, rats and a selection of other raw meats – and occasionally a biscuit soaked in blood.
The ravens are free to roam the Tower precincts during the day and preside over four different territories within the Tower’s walls. The birds are trained to only respond to the ravenmaster Christopher Skaife (pictured)
Last month it was reported that Merline, dubbed the ‘Queen raven’, was missing from the Tower and is feared to be dead.
She flew off one night shortly before Christmas for her evening constitutional and, to the shock and dismay of Christopher Skaife, Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, she never came back.
Speaking last month, Skaife said: ‘We had a special relationship. I was her human buddy. She always knew where I was and kept her eye on me.
‘We used a special clicking noise — like a knock-knocking sound. So she’d chat with me and allow me to stroke her beak.
£157,000 of the total spent was used to install a new enclosure to keep the birds in during the night
‘She was quite affectionate. I’d never use the term ‘favourite’, but, well… I do have a tattoo of her on my calf.’
This is not the first time disaster that the number of ravens housed in the Tower has fallen dangerously low.
During World War II, just three — Mabel, Grip and Pauline — survived the bombing. But Pauline was killed soon afterwards and the other two died mysteriously, causing Winston Churchill to hurriedly order the flock back to full size.
In 2013, two Tower ravens were killed by a red fox that managed to infiltrate the grounds, and since Chris Skaife took over, one raven called Munin escaped, but was captured by a member of the public and swiftly returned.
The ravens of the Tower of London
It is said that the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress.
There are currently seven ravens housed at the Tower: Jubilee, Harris, Gripp, Rocky, Erin, Poppy and Merlina.
However, last month it was reported that Merlina, dubbed the Queen raven, had gone missing from the Tower just before Christmas and has not been seen since.
Charles II is thought to have been the first to insist that the ravens of the Tower be protected after he was warned that the crown and the Tower itself would fall if they left.
The King’s order was given against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower.
The ravens are free to roam the Tower precincts during the day and preside over four different territories within the Tower’s walls.
The birds are trained to only respond to the ravenmaster Christopher Skaife – who is currently on furlough.
The ravens are fed twice a day dine on a special diet of mice, chicks, rats and assorted raw meats. As a special treat, they are given biscuits soaked in blood.
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If approved, the tower would be constructed with a public arcade alongside the heritage-listed synagogue linking Mary and Margaret streets.
“The development presents a unique opportunity to redevelop a currently underutilised site in the ‘quieter end’ of the city centre, resulting in the revitalization of Mary and Margaret Streets,” an assessment report by planners Urbis says.
The tower would also have private event spaces and a “wellness floor” for “in-house functions … for future tenants to improve wellbeing, health and fitness”.
More than 46,763 square metres of commercial office space would be added to Brisbane’s stock if the tower is constructed.
The Brisbane Hebrew Community would also gain a new secondary hall, café, kosher kitchen, indoor kids recreation space, roof deck and residential apartments.
The 1880s-era Synagogue is state heritage listed, and the development would not alter the worship site except for minor alterations to make room for the pedestrian accessway.
The code-assessable application also requests changes to the existing boundaries to “facilitate a commercial arrangement between the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation and the Applicant which enables the development area to be under the control of the Applicant at the time of construction of the integrated office tower”, the assessment report lodged with the council says.
“Ultimately, ownership of the rear annexe facilities will be transferred back to the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation once development is completed.”
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COUNCIL will have the final say on an eleven-storey tower at Park Beach after a new development application was submitted with an estimated cost falling just shy of triggering its referral to another body.
“The proposed buildings would have excessive height and bulk and be incompatible with the existing and planned medium density character of the area,” the NRPP wrote in their determination.
Building B exceeds the Local Environment Plan height limits by 23 metres, equating to 150 per cent variation and the panel voted 3 – 2 against the $50 million development.
While Council supported the application and recommended it be approved by the NRPP subject to conditions, any development exceeding $30 million is considered regionally significant and is automatically referred to the NRPP for determination.
However, a month after the NRPPs decision, a new DA was submitted to Council for one of the buildings included in the rejected plan, Building A, which includes 22 self-contained dwellings at an estimated cost of $19,500,000.
Two weeks later a second DA was submitted for Building B, which includes the 39 metre-high tower at an estimated cost of $28,460,000.
Chair of the NRPP, Paul Mitchell, has been involved in Joint Regional Planning Panels since their inception in 2009 and said it was uncommon for DAs which had been assessed by JRPPs to be resubmitted as separate applications.
While emphasising he could not comment on the new DAs before Council, Mr Mitchell said legislation required all DAs to be “coherent” so the impact of a development could be considered as a whole.
The DA incorporating the tower is currently out for public exhibition with a Shoreline Variation Justification report which responds to each of the five reasons the NRPP gave for rejecting the previous plan.
“The current approval allows for taller buildings across this large site and with the setbacks, site configuration and landscaped areas the proposal is in keeping with the existing and planned medium density character of the area,” the report states.
“The taller building allows for a reduction in bulk and this in turn provides benefits in terms of minimising overshadowing and impacts upon view lines.”
“In this context the proposed Building B does not have an excessive bulk or height.”
Ripe Cheese in Queen Victoria Market has launched a stunning 4-tier Christmas cheese tower, encouraging Victorians to get behind local cheese makers this festive season.
Ripe Cheese’s artisanal Christmas range, including a 4-tier cheese tower made exclusively from Victorian cheese, is just one of many Aussie cheese products designed to encourage Australians to shop local for Christmas this year.
Ripe Cheese, located at Queen Victoria Market is the only cheese shop in Australia committed to selling exclusively Australian cheese. With over 50 types of cheeses available from producers all over the country – and the majority in regional Victoria – Ripe challenges the notion that ‘imported is best’. “Australia has many delicious cheeses that rival what’s available from France or Italy, and this Christmas, we’re hoping Aussies can support our local farmers and producers and give them a much-needed boost after what has been one of the industry’s most challenging years,” says Ripe cheesemonger, Hakim Halim.
The Ripe Cheese Christmas range features everything from the 4-tier festive cheese tower showcasing the best in local Victorian cheese, to a Christmas cheese wreath featuring the highly coveted Woombye ash triple cream brie. Ripe’s signature Christmas platters are available with delicious accompaniments such as Premium Tasmanian quince paste and gourmet crackers, while die-hard cheese lovers will relish the opportunity to pick up a 1.1kg wheel of Pyengana Dairy cloth bound cheddar.
Christmas parties might look a little different this year, but Ripe’s Cheese Talks Christmas Edition provides an online alternative. Co-workers are given the opportunity to come together via a Zoom masterclass, held by Ripe Cheesemonger, Hakim Halim.
Each participant will receive a cheese package, paired with either matching beer or wine and will discover how their cheeses are made and where they come from. For more information, visit the Ripe Cheese website.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump unfurled a giant campaign flag outside Trump Tower on October 13, before walking it to Times Square. This clip, posted on Instagram by @zipatacon, shows the flag unfurled as people chant “four more years”. Credit: @zipatacon via Storyful
James Packer’s long-held dream of opening a towering casino and six-star hotel on the banks of Sydney Harbour was to be a crowning achievement in the billionaire’s storied professional life.
Crown Sydney – now the Emerald City’s tallest building as it looms 271 metres above Barangaroo –was his “chance to do something special”, he said in 2012, and leave a legacy comparable to that of his media baron father.
But this week the $2.2 billion gambling mecca instead triggered one of the reclusive billionare’s lowest moments: a public reckoning, dragged out over three days and streamed live from his $200 million gigayacht moored in the South Pacific.
The 53-year-old appeared in a suit, tie and occasionally reading glasses, at times stressed and visibly sweating during an eight-hour grilling by the NSW probity inquiry into Crown Resorts.
What emerged was an unfiltered view of how one of Australia’s richest and most closely watched men does business – and it wasn’t pretty. It could have serious ramifications, from a management and board overhaul at the ASX-listed Crown to Packer being forced to sell his investment in the company he has dominated for almost two decades and personally ran from 2007 to 2017.
There was a sensational threat against a businessman over a deal gone wrong, made amid Packer’s struggles with mental illness. His stranglehold on Crown’s management could not have been clearer. And Packer, who places the utmost importance on loyalty, was ready to throw subordinates under a bus when asked to explain how things went so badly wrong at Crown.
The NSW Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority (ILGA) inquiry was called to investigate revelations by The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes last year about Crown’s partnerships with “junket” tour operators connected to organised crime; its failure to stop money laundering at its casinos; and the danger it exposed its staff to in China chasing high-roller profits.
Commissioner Patricia Bergin will recommend whether Crown should keep the licence for its new Sydney casino, controversially approved by the O’Farrell government in 2013 and which Crown intends to open in December.
Gambling regulators in Victoria and Western Australia are staying quiet for the time being, but a negative ruling in NSW will cast a question over Crown’s casinos in Melbourne and Perth too.
Packer’s influence over Crown and his vision to bring wealthy Chinese gamblers to Australia and super-charge its profits were long credited with the company’s success.
But the inquiry has revealed that in many ways, it was these things that put it on a course towards crisis.
In an explosive and unexpected start to proceedings on Tuesday afternoon, the inquiry tabled “threatening” emails Packer sent to a private equity manager, referred to only as Mr X, in 2015 after discussions to privatise Crown soured.
“Do you accept that your conduct in these communications was shameful, do you?” asked counsel assisting Adam Bell.
“I do,” a stony-faced Packer replied.
“You accept that your conduct in these emails was disgraceful, don’t you?” the senior counsel continued. “Yes,” came the response.
But when Bell asked Packer if his emails reflected adversely on his character, the billionaire said “my medical state [at the time] is what it reflected most on”.
Asked how the NSW casino regulator could have “any confidence” in his character or integrity, Packer said he was “sick at the time” and now being treated for bipolar disorder.
The strong medication Packer takes also apparently made it difficult to remember some events from his time as Crown’s executive chairman (2007 to 2015) and director (2017 to 2018). He stepped back from corporate life in 2018 amid ill health.
The inquiry did not reveal what the threatening emails said. But this masthead has confirmed some of the details, including that they made reference to a person connected with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.
Mr X – confirmed to be a private equity executive – took the threat seriously enough to get legal advice and discuss hiring private security.
While Packer’s public shaming may have seemed brutal, it had a purpose: to test whether he is fit to be a “close associate” of Crown owing to his large (36 per cent) shareholding, which requires him to be a person of “good repute”.
By Thursday afternoon, a more lucid and conversational Packer acknowledged his hold over Crown would likely have to loosen and that he could be ordered to sell down his shareholding.
“I think caps on shareholdings may be something that you will think about,” he told Bergin when she asked what could be done to fix Crown’s “dysfunction”. Packer has looked at several deals to reduce or exit his Crown investment over the past five years, and last year cut his stake from 46 per cent to 36 per cent.
“I think that the Crown board has a lot to think about in terms of who the right people are for the right jobs,” Packer said, predicting he won’t be the only one heading for the exit. “I think the board will be more independent than it was in the past.
“I think this has been a terribly painful and terribly shocking experience for the board, as it has been for me.”
The quick-tempered son of the fearsome Kerry Packer agreed that what Bergin called his “powerful personality” may have contributed to a culture when he ran Crown where underlings did not share bad news and only wanted to please their boss.
“I’d never thought about it before,” he told the commissioner. “Perhaps you’re right.”
The inquiry learnt how even after he stepped back from Crown, Packer had an open line to senior executives. He used it to demand confidential company information and appeared to instruct them on how to run the company.
As just one example, in November 2018, eight months after Packer had left the board, he chastised Crown’s then executive chairman John Alexander for going “on a world trip looking at restaurants” and asking whether “we” needed to “immediately implement travel bans for our executives”.
Packer told the inquiry that the secret agreement which enabled the flow of information with Crown management had to end. And while he admitted to personal failings in the midst of a mental health crisis, he was less willing to wear the responsibility for how Crown was run.
He was instead quick to pin blame on his underlings. Crown’s former chief executive Rowen Craigie and Packer’s replacement as chairman, Robert Rankin, “let the side down” by not knowing about the dangers Crown exposed its staff to when promoting its casinos in China, he said.
The arrest of 19 Crown employees in China in October 2016 on gambling crimes sent shockwaves through the company, caused Crown’s share price to plummet, triggered its exit from an Asian joint venture and sparked a shareholder class action seeking hundreds of millions of dollars.
Sixteen Crown staff spent nine to 10 months in jail after the arrests, which followed more than than 18 months of escalating signs China was cracking down hard on foreign casinos recruiting gamblers within its borders. Police even detained and questioned a Crown staff member on suspicion of organising gambling tours in mid-2015. But the inquiry has heard these warning signs never made it to Crown’s board or top executives.
“Mr Craigie should have been on top of this information,” Packer told the inquiry. “I don’t know how he could not have been aware of this if he was doing his job.”
The inquiry has heard how Crown insiders closely aligned with Packer – including Michael Johnston, an executive at his private company and a representative on Crown’s board, who Packer described as showing “complete loyalty to me and my family” – knew about the red flags. So did Barry Felstead, the executive in charge of Crown’s VIP business, who Packer said in a 2015 email “runs the businesses with me” and who also showed him “complete loyalty”.
“Are you sure it’s true that none of those men told you at the time?” Bell asked. “Is it likely that you were told about those matters but you’ve forgotten?”
“No,” Packer responded.
The one-time executive chairman accepted “not all, but some” of the responsibility for Crown’s China disaster. But he rejected Bell’s suggestion that Crown’s cavalier behaviour was due to “a corporate culture that focused excessively on profits”.
This put him at odds with Crown’s current CEO Ken Barton, who took over in January and told the inquiry the VIP international business had the “wrong balance” between “profit and compliance”.
Crown’s partnerships with “junket” tour operators linked to Asian criminal syndicates were made public by this masthead last year, triggering the Bergin inquiry and keeping Crown in the headlines ever since.
Packer revealed he was the one who first developed the strategy to work with junkets, after witnessing via Crown’s joint venture in Macau with Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts how successful they could be in helping wealthy Chinese punters get around China’s strict capital controls and into overseas casinos.
In an August 2017 email Packer told his “special assistant” Ishan Ratnam it would “be great if we could build a good new relationship” with the Suncity junket, the inquiry heard.
Packer said he was aware of “rumours” about junkets having links to triad gangs, but he didn’t have a good understanding of how Crown checked partners for unsavoury links.
“I do not and never had intimate relationships with junket operators and junkets,” Packer said. “I had nothing to do with the management or the running of those relationships.”
Bell asked Packer whether he placed enough importance on Crown only dealing with people of “good repute” when he ran the company. “Not with the benefit of hindsight,” he said.
Another rod for Crown’s back of Packer’s making was his deal in May 2019 to sell a fifth of the shares in the company to Lawrence Ho’s Melco Resorts for $1.7 billion, in potential violation of Crown’s licence.
The NSW government had long been desperate to keep Ho’s father, Macau casino kingpin Stanley Ho, out of the state. He was banned from bidding to operate a casino in Sydney in 1987 after the NSW Police Board found his consortium was associated with five triad gangs and was involved in “unsavoury practices” in Macau.
Crown’s Sydney licence ordered the company to prevent Ho senior, who died in May this year aged 98, and a listed of associated entities and family members from taking any beneficial interest in the casino.
Packer told the inquiry he was at one time aware Melco was 20 per cent owned by a Ho family trust, of which Stanley Ho was a beneficiary. But he said he had forgotten that fact by the time he struck the Melco deal.
“I regarded Melco as Lawrence’s company rather than Stanley’s,” Packer said. “I left it to my legal team and I gave it no thought.”
Packer gave up a $90 million contractual right when agreeing with his long-time friend and former business partner Lawrence Ho to cancel the second half of the transaction.
“I would never hold Lawrence to something that he didn’t want to do,” Packer said.
(Ho sold the first 9.99 per cent parcel he acquired in Crown to private equity investor Blackstone earlier this year, saying Melco needed to focus on Macau during the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, he avoided being dragged into the ILGA inquiry too.)
Crown’s 75-storey Sydney tower has clearly not worked out how Packer dreamed. And towards the end of his evidence, he admitted it will not be quite what the people of NSW expected either.
International VIP players were originally going to contribute a third of Crown Sydney’s profits, driven by the very junket business which Crown could now be ordered to cease.
Packer’s personal pitch to the NSW government in 2013 to open Sydney’s second casino promised it would almost triple the city’s share of international high rollers coming to the city (bringing millions in tax revenue with them).
“Well, clearly that’s wrong,” Packer told the inquiry. “But that’s what I believed at the time.”
with Sarah Danckert
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A 33-storey apartment building is being considered for Grote Street, replacing the former home of small bar and performance space La Boheme.
The development, which is pending approval by the State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP), is by development and construction company AUTA Group.
InDaily understands the building is expected to reach about 112 metres tall.
The site is only a few doors from the refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre and across the road from the Adelaide Central Market.
It would replace the former home of small bar and performance space La Boheme, a vape store and AUTA Group’s showroom at 32-36 Grote Street.
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Last year, CityMag reported La Boheme had struggled to stay afloat as it battled crippling debt.
Despite launching a crowdfunding campaign in February 2019 in a last-ditch attempt to remain open, the small bar was forced to shut its doors.
It has since been listed as for sale through real estate agent Mastracorp Group.
The buildings are currently listed as under contract.
According to the real estate website, the 1214 sqm property located on the corner of Penaluna Place and Grote Street offers “development potential”.
While 32-36 Grote Street is not listed on the state’s heritage register, the building next-door – known as Sarnia Place – is.
AUTA Group director James Guo told InDaily the apartment building would not interfere with the heritage building.
He declined to comment on the development further.
A showroom for the building is expected to be set up pending the sale of the property later this year.
Urban planning and development firm Future Urban will collaborate on the project.
The firm has worked on a range of other city developments including GPO Exchange in the city, Bohem and Wingfold Tower.
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