Monthly Archives: May 2012

Classic Ellis: Assange, January 2011

(From The Year It All Fell Down)

On Tuesday, January 11, his lawyers told the presiding judges that Julian Assange would die or suffer torture if they sent him to Sweden. It was said he had had sex without a condom with one Swedish woman and what is known as ‘sex by surprise’ with another, beginning while she was sleeping, or dozing, which is rape under Sweden’s heavily feminist laws. Both had had sex with him before, but neither knew of the other for a week or so, and each was surprised by his connection to the other.

If extradited to Sweden to face interrogation on these matters (why Swedish police could not question him in England was never explained), he could then be extradited to the US, on a charge as yet unnamed but similar to treason (though he was not a US citizen) and sent to Guantanamo and tortured before being, possibly, executed.

His crime was to have published cables and emails from US embassy officials who denigrated foreigners. This was thought to be in the US a hanging offence, ‘an attack on the international community that endangered innocent people,’ said Hillary Clinton. ‘He should be pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders,’ said Sarah Palin. ‘Palin says Assange like bin Laden’ a headline ran.

Assange’s lawyers argued that since the offences he was wanted for in Sweden were not crimes in the UK, and since his life was in danger in Sweden, or wherever Sweden sent him, he should not be sent there. He had not yet been charged with anything, and was wanted only for questioning.

In a good sign, Judge Nicholas Evans allowed Assange to take off his electric tag, but required him to report daily to a police station in Suffolk near the big country house where he was staying. Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger were in the court, and waved to him.

The judgement was deferred, as expected. Outside the court Assange, in his impressive Australian voice, told reporters, ‘Our work with Wikileaks continues unabated. We are stepping up on publications of matters relating to Cablegate and other materials. These will shortly be available through our newspaper partners around the world.’

His theatrical stance, his educated, almost scholarly accent, his detachment, righteousness and somehow angelic distance from the crisis he was in, reminded some of Shakespeare’s character Hamlet. His cause was just, his analysis true, his trajectory clear, and if he died of it, well, that was providence, his fate, his foredoomed narrative. He stood for truth, and like Hamlet was testing the monarchs of the earth with its unforgiving light, and if they killed him for it, that was his destiny. Let be.

He then returned to Suffolk. He was now a man more wanted, some newspapers commentators said, than Osama bin Laden.

The Great Escape From The Tainted Vote: An Agonising Reappraisal

The word ‘ratbag’ is hovering and fulminating over Tony Abbott as it did in times past over Bill Heffernan, Mark Latham, Peter Lewis and Barnaby Joyce, and it will not be lifted from his name in the near future. He has called an Independent member voting on a normal procedural motion a ‘stunt’ and believes his farcical flight from an ordinary parliamentary event is somehow a principled response to a ‘tainted’ member, as though he were a ghost or a leper or a Scientologist lacking in foetal thetans.

This is crazy stuff. Is he going to flee the chamber every time Craig votes that a Liberal continue to be heard? What will that look like? A bit like the recent proceedings in Nuigini I would, where the legal Prime Minister was prevented by the illegal Prime Minister from entering parliament, then sacked for not having entered it for three consecutive days. Is this man in his perfect mind?

Like the religious primitive he seems to have become, he has sought to ‘point the bone’ at a fellow member, one legally chosen nineteen months ago by Woy Woy voters still fond of him and still not charged with anything. His vote is tainted, he has claimed superstitiously, quaking at an evil he can only vaguely define. Although he himself has been sexually imperfect, ‘not as celibate as I should have been’ when a trainee priest, sharing a pregnant girfriend with her landlord, refusing to marry her and making her adopt the baby and surviving a charge of malicious groping, he thinks Craig’s vote, but not his, is carnally tainted, and ‘unacceptable’ in some wild way that ignores and disdains the Australian Constitution.

A curious opinion. In its light it is hard to see how Bob Brown, for instance, who practised homosexuality when it was illegal for twenty years in Tasmania, is not equally tainted, nor Bill Heffernan, who followed and stalked and sought to frame with gay whores a formidable High Court judge, nor Christopher Pyne, who treasonously conspired, it now seems, with Ashby to bring down a high official with homosexual whisperings in time of war, and how all of them are not likewise eligible by his reasoning for an Abbott bone-pointing and a heavenly curse.

A man who believes this kind of thing is not fit to be Prime Minister, surely, as Craig so eloquently charged, any more than the similarly bone-pointing Senator Joe McCarthy was fit for the White House. Like Joe he believes that persecuting people is a valid ingredient of an elective democracy. ‘Ratbag’ barely covers it. He seems to me, an old friend, more and more insane.

He believes he eats Christ’s living flesh on Sundays too, and his lesbian sister will fry in Hell for a billion years for her sins if she does not avidly repent them soon or on her deathbed, and cast off her lover and live alone.

Do we need a Tony Abbott in charge of this nation if he behaves as madly as this in public places and believes such foolish things?

Just asking.

Classic Ellis: Capote, 2005

Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s elfin, simpering, weird and baby-voiced Truman Capote, the surest acting Oscar since Bette in All About Eve, solves at last for me the deepening puzzle of how such a tiny, queeny, lispy slush-bucket attained the friendship, and the bedroom secrets, and the lifelong fondness of so many of the rich and mighty of the earth.

He had, it seems, and Hoffman magnetically exudes it, charisma, moral force and personal certitude by the popcorn-tub, and could stare down coppers, murderers, Brando, Monroe and Bogart with a burnished courage few of us now try on.

And he was a lush, of course, which helped, and gave Dutch courage to his other abilities: to recall exactly 94 percent of what was said to him, to know telepathically what other people were thinking and to write (of course) like an angel clear, strong sea-green prose the always competitive Norman Mailer once called ‘the best of my time.’

The film by Bennett Miller and Dan Futterman, from Gerald Clarke’s biography, is about the book, In Cold Blood, that finished him off at forty-one and sea-changed him into the pill-popping party-pooper and flittering jet-set social wasp that most gossip readers think him to have been. Hoffman and Clifton Collins Jnr and Mark Pellegrino as the two murderers show us exactly how it happened: the writer who saw himself so clearly in the murderer Perry Smith’s background, artistic bent and fatherless alcoholic furies, the big lie he told him (I will get you a lawyer that will save your neck by proving you insane) to get, as it were, into his mental pants, the informational coquettishness of the pursued beloved (who delayed for years the telling of what happened on that dread night in the Clutter house) and long, remorseful, anguished wait for the gallows-drop that would end the tale and set him free.

But it didn’t, of course. It both made and ruined him. He never finished another book. Whether like his childhood playmate and associate gumshoe Harper Lee (played with gleaming subtlety here by Catherine Keener) he had only one big, bleak bestseller in him, or whether like his fellow Southern poor relation Tennessee he was doomed by the sauce from his forty-first year anyway, is not for us to know. Suffice it that this fine film, and this great performance, as good and gutsy as Laughton’s Hunchback, Olivier’s Richard III and Crowe’s John Nash, gives us an unprecedented new understanding of a subject we had long thought closed.

I dread, though, the Hollywood spin-offs to come. A simpering gay private eye? Hey, that’s a genre! How about, how about, in computer simulation, Humphrey Bogart calls up Truman Capote and says, ‘Kid, there’s a case I want you to help me on’?

Run, Abbott, Run: A Song For Our Times

So it goes,
Nearly made it,
On the nose,
Your chances faded,
And looking backwards, you wish it wasn’t so,
You jog round Manly, and think no no no no….

Run, Abbott, run, Abbott, run, run, run,
Keep running, keep dodging, run, run, run,
Don’t think how soon you’ll be in the gun,
Run, Abbott, quick, grab it, now, old son.

Run, Abbott, run, Abbott, run like mad,
Keep swearing, declaring you’ve been had:
You won last time, you’re the coming lad,
Gut fishes, wash dishes, don’t be sad.

Question Time,
Boots and all now,
Filth and slime,
Will hit the wall now,
And every rumour you can spread about
You will shriek before you scramble out.

Run, Abbott, run, Abbott, seize the day,
Keep lying, denying that you’re gay,
Don’t think how there will be hell to pay,
Run, Abbott, cut, stab it, that’s the way.

Run, Abbott, run, Abbott, run, run, run,
Keep running, keep dodging, smile, have fun,
Don’t think how soon you’ll be in the gun,
Run, Abbott, quick, grab it, now, old son.

Fair Warning

I will attempt to have a song called ‘Run, Abbott, Run’ up on this website by midnight.

Craig To The Rescue, Talk About Laugh

I wrote the piece below this one before I heard of the Pyne-Abbott scramble for the exit — in a scene reminiscent of Death At A Funeral — and the Deputy Speaker saying ‘No way’ and pratfalls and foam pies and consternation everywhere at 9.15 this morning.

It hastens the end of Abbott and Pyne who have days not weeks now in their present positions and a lifetime of tearing their hair soon coming, and guarantees a vote of 49 percent in the Nielsen Poll (the honest one) on Monday.

And it shows as well that one of the shrewdest politicians in the building is Craig Thomson. On the gibbet with the noose around his neck when asked if he had any last requests he with one bound sprang free and sword-fought the villains to a standstill, heard their blubbering pleas for mercy and slit their throats.

Not since Errol Flynn in Captain Blood has there been a more dashing performance, a more pleasing punchline, a more uproarious double assassination of a couple of creeps or a nicer start to the day.

Now he belongs to the ages.

The Murdoch Retrospective Rules: Blackballing Craig From Democracy

The idea that a Prime Minister can refuse to accept a duly elected member’s vote, which has no precedent since democracy in its present form erupted in Iceland in the eleventh century AD, is not the first false retrospective tradition Rupert Murdoch has tried on us and it will not be the last.

Another was that you couldn’t get the Nobel Prize for Peace unless you had been President of the United States for at least four years. Everybody bought it but it was utter nonsense. Martin Luther King, for instance; Dag Hammarskjold; Al Gore; Joe Ramos Horta; Henry Kissinger; Elie Wiesel; Muhammad Yunus; Mother Teresa; had never been President of anything. Yet Rupert knows if you say with unflinching bellowed outrage anything at all his Fox News glove-puppets and Michelle Grattan and Tony Jones will believe it; and Fran Kelly most mornings if she’s inattentive.

You can’t deprive a member of parliament of his vote; no you can’t. It is a breach of the Crimes Act even to threaten, as Abbott did, to do so. Nor can you make him leave parliament before he’s been charged with a crime; or before he’s been convicted of a crime. Nor can you conspire to entrap, blackmail and overthrow the Speaker in wartime. That’s treason, and you can be hanged for it, or you could in the last war. The old rules might be looked up, and the new ones, if any, examined.

Yet Murdoch thinks up these new rules all the time. He pretends they’ve always been in force. A Minister says ‘fucking fantastic’ and must resign for it. A Prime Minister says ‘mate’ to Kerry O’Brien and must resign for it. A Prime Minister shouts at his staff in a time of economic meltdown and must resign for it. A backbencher says ‘Do you know who I am?’ and must resign for it. An actor throws a phone at a wall and must do six years in Attica for it. A Prime Minister says ‘bigoted’ in a private conversation with staff and must lose office for it.

You can’t try a 9/11 mastermind in New York, Rupert says, though Sirhan Sirhan, an Arab terrorist, shot Bobby Kennedy in LA, was tried in LA and has been in gaol in LA for forty-three years. But that doesn’t count. Trying the Arab terrorist Massoui in New York might upset the victims’ relatives. No murderer has ever been tried in the presence of the victims’ relatives in the town the crime occurred in, and we shouldn’t start that dread practise now.

It’s amazing what people will believe when it’s said with a confident voice. That Christ died for our sins but buggery wasn’t one of them. That Gallipoli was a good battle to lose, it made us an adult nation. That killing thirty thousand children in Hiroshima was a good thing to do.

And here we have another, that the Member for Dobell can’t vote any more, because Murdoch, awaiting trial on two thousand charges himself, thinks he’s a bad, bad man.

What a stupid, stupid thing to say. What a crazy thing to believe.

Discuss.

Lines For Albo (4)

Kennett, gambling executive; Greiner, tobacco executive; Packer, illiterate Scientologist; Abbott, brain-damaged pug; Pyne, shrieking twerp; Heffernan, poofter basher; Barnaby Joyce, innumerate bumpkin: here we have the Tories in their present earthly glory, fit and ready for government. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Vote for them.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (58): The Latest, Sensational, Game-Changing Newspoll Decrypted In Tranquillity

The latest Newspoll is a fairly honest one. You can tell that by its placement at the bottom right hand corner of page 6 where many, many readers won’t find it, instead of at the top of page 4 where it usually is.

But you have to read the fine print. O’Shannessy, fearful Murdoch will ditch him, has got the Labor vote as far down as he ‘honestly’ can. He knows if it hits 48 his life won’t be worth living.

So … the fine print, then.

6 percent ‘uncommitted’ and 3 percent ‘refused’, were ‘excluded’, we read. That’s a million voters unaccounted for. You get ‘refused’ I’m told by hearing a migrant voice and hanging up or asking for an hour of their time.

‘Based on preference flow at August 2010 federal election’. That was when there was no Katter Party, no NLP, no DLP in the Senate, no hung parliament making Independents more attractive; and so on. Which means Labor gets, oh, one percent fewer votes in preferences. Or two.

Then there is the ‘uncommitted’ 23 percent for Better Prime Minister. It is not excluded, as it is in the primary vote. Why is this? Well, if it were excluded it would put Gillard on 52 and Abbott on 48, a much more frightening pair of numbers; a bit like the 54-46 which Abbott is so comforted by.

And … there were 1152 interviews, or were there. Hard to believe there were not, say, 1202 and 50 excluded for … coming in late? Bad hand-writing? Accented utterences misunderstood? I ask O’Shannessy to deny this. I’m sure he will.

Then there is the plus or minus 3 percent the numbers can be wrong by. This could mean that, even by O’Shannessy’s slow count, Labor might be on 49, and within one vigorous campaign of a landslide.

It may not be so. Murdoch may insist on accurate fairness in this field as he does in no other.

But … given the shufflings and mumblings of poor O’Shannessy and his refusal, again, to list as a separate entity the Katter Party, which is probably nationwide on 5 and in Queensland 12, the vote, two party preferred …. is …. probably …. Labor 51 and Coalition 49. It is likely Labor is way behind in Queensland, which means it is picking up seats gangbusters in New South Wales and Victoria. O’Farrell and Baillieu have seen to that.

I should say ‘Prove that I lie’ at this point but I don’t need to. The Nielsen which is honest will be out on Monday, if Rinehart does not forbid it, and it will show Labor on … I’d guess 48.

And all hell breaking loose over Abbott and Pyne.

The Last Days Of The Liberals (3): The Moment It All Changed And Labor Hit The Front

It is eight and a half days since Craig rose in the House and an hour after that said Abbott was ‘not fit to be an M.P.’  And the political atmosphere has so changed (as I said it would) that the Liberal Party has no chance any more of surviving beyond 2017 as anything more than a rump.

Last night Bob Carr found the moral high ground when speaking of Syria’s slaughtered children; and Abbott lost it when it proved there was reason to think at last that Craig was innocent, or partly innocent, or framed, or unjustly enmired, or baselessly persecuted after all; and the interview with the hooker vanished from the TV schedule. And the Liberals will not find the moral high ground again.

They are enmeshed with Gina Rinehart now and they can’t be untangled. Their campaign against the Carbon Tax means, must mean, that she deserves more money than the two million dollars an hour she is currently getting and spending on barbarous vengeful family pursuits; and the many, many public servants they must sack to balance their ramshackle squalid Budget must get less. They are on the side of an acquisitive monster now eating her young; and they can’t get rid of her.

And they have said they would cancel the money coming to stressed poorer parents to buy their growing children shoes. They voted against this money a couple of weeks ago and they will not be forgiven for it. Katter will seize their rural seats with a promise of protecting jobs there and Labor will yield to his passionate rhetoric and begin a form of protectionism after the euro explodes and America withdraws from Asia and licks its wounds. And the adventure that began in 1944 will be over: they forgot the Forgotten People Bob Menzies serenaded and remembered only the very rich. And that was the end of them.

For O’Farrell and Baillieu and Barnett and Newman are showing now what they are made of: a greedy philistine vandalistic need to smash up the culture and little else. The broken universities will not be whole again; the struggling old people who lost their savings to capitalistic debacle will not be rescued; the children will not get new shoes nor the sacked breadwinners free dental care. The Liberals have shown what they are like and the people will not forget, and will not forgive the horror they now propose. They will give the Hungry Brontosaurus Rinehart more meat, more meat, and starve the children of the immigrant and rural poor.

And this is Class Warfare indeed. This is the worst of the world of Downton Abbey with no ameliorating splash of noblesse oblige or backstairs generosity. It is war to the death.

And the Liberals just lost it, once and for all.

Classic Ellis: Carr in Bligh Street, 2008

(From And so It Went)

Monday, 17th, March, 2008

Drove to town and proved welcome in Macquarie Tower, to which Minister Rees has been promoted, a blank bright low-ceilinged mausoleum I believed, I hoped, I’d escaped after twelve years ill-serving Bob Carr and Bob Debus in it. I pitched Tom’s filth-cleansing bio-miracle to Ross my chief of staff who seemed interested, then distracted, then bored. You never know.

I ran into Laurie Brereton, rubicund, scaly-faced and whooping in the foyer, joyed by Labor’s federal power, and a wealthy bemused Chinese he was grandly steering round Sydney. I gave him my bring-Howard-home-in-shackles pitch but he was humorously dubious, much as he was ten years ago when I bade him claim Howard’s proposed new dismissal laws, an earlier incarnation of WorkChoices, as ‘a sexual harasser’s mandate’. He whooped, laughed and bounced off (when politicians meet you inadvertently their urgent main purpose is the shared exuberant laugh that releases them from your conversation within, at most, four minutes), the sadder and wiser (and clearly jet-lagged) Oriental in tow, and the beset gay adviser Justin Di Lollo, and I asked myself again if Brereton had been a Good Thing historically for Labor or not.

His failure to succeed Wran (too many recent scandals) in 1986, and he would have been a good Premier, meant we got Unsworth and lost power in 1988; his theft of Carr’s long-nourished Federal seat of Kingsford Smith then lost us a great Foreign Minister; his encouragement of Keating’s moody sloth, you might say, helped lose us government in 1996. His invention indeed (and it was his invention) of the slick and conscienceless New South Wales Right, its free-marketeering, Zegna-suited, champagne-sipping, developer-duchessed Irish-Catholic-on-the-make agnostic lifestyle helped rip the working-class soul out of Labor (which became in his hands a Non-Core Labor Party) and sent it globally gallivanting and money-sniffing into uptown habits of mind and billionairist ambition. But he did give us Darling Harbour and the Monorail and he did, to Whitlam’s infarcting disgust, square things with East Timor as Shadow Foreign Minister; he was something between a Necessary Evil and a Judas Goat, I sluggishly decided. And soon he was out of sight.

Dawdling off towards The Pen Shoppe– I needed ink – I reflected on how things go. Had Brereton not sulkily quit his seat in 2001 Rudd could not have succeeded him as Shadow Foreign Minister and become sufficiently famous on morning television to make his run. Had Beazley, indeed, not equivocated over Tampa nor orated so well of the Kitchen Table and thus regained on the hustings a million lost blue-collar and suburban Hansonite votes, Rudd would have certainly lost his seat; and Crean, I guess, or Smith or Tanner or Swan or Gillard now been Opposition Leader and Howard still Prime Minister. Does it work like this, ill-winds that blow some smug souls good, and good great hearts like Beazley ever ill?

I’d reached Bent Street when I was hailed by Bob Carr, another autumn leaf blown sideways by history’s winds, and he forcibly, in his manicured baritone, proposed we have coffee. We did so, in a place called the City Grind cafe, at a footpath table where deferential strangers constantly hailed him, shook his hand and implored him to return to power. Part of the conversation, as I recall, went like this.

‘How is your book?’

‘It’s okay. I’m planning its launch, the radio interviews, the writers’ festival appearances, like a political campaign. How is your Olivier play?’

‘We’re negotiating, with difficulty, with Tarquin Olivier.’

‘Tell him, if he’s recalcitrant, that I will head your negotiating team. We’ll fly there together and convince him.’

‘Are you happy with how Iemma’s turned out?’

‘No, of course not. The worst of it is, as the corruption shadow creeps back to engulf him, it also retrospectively defames me and my administration.’

He spoke of his puzzlement over Iemma having no thought when he came to office of what he might do. ‘It didn’t matter what it was, but he had to have something. I had a list, a short-list, of things I purposed to do. The preservation of the wilderness as declared national parks. The encouragement of literacy and early reading. The building of a good Conservatorium, theatres, galleries. An improvement of public transport. A few other things, but not many. And he had no such list. He tinkers round the edges of existing problems but has no hit list, no Iemma initiatives, no landmarks, no monuments. I find it very curious.’

He urged me to look after my health. ‘Purpose on longevity,’ he said. ‘Give up all dairy products. Exercise. Be upright and vigorous in your nineties.’

‘I walk forty minutes a day.’

‘That’s good. That’s good. I’m certain obesity is a cause of cancer.’

‘I’ve got a new ambition,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘which is to live until I’m a hundred and two. That is, until 2050. No, I’m serious. I want to see the disasters. The first nuclear exchanges, the rise of ocean levels, weather out of control. Not to say, “I told you so,” or hear it said, “Carr was right.” Not just to prove the climate-change deniers wrong, but for the sheer entertainment value of seeing what happens next.’

‘Entertainment.’

‘Oh yes. I’ll get this. I have a meeting, I’ll see you.’

I watched him go off, shaking hands, down effervescing Bligh Street. After twenty-nine years of intimate acquaintanceship (hard to call it friendship though we ardently talk of everything) I barely know him; his wavelength, his inner theology, his emotional tone is not mine, or anybody’s much. His lack of children and love of them, his enduring passion for his ever-beautiful Chinese-Indian wife, his detestation of partisan stupidity, his obsessive care for the planet, his weather eye on death’s approach add up to somebody other than me: a nineteenth-century agnostic Midlands bishop, a sardonic Roman senator coping with the honoured presence in the House of Elders of Caligula’s horse, a Galileo hiding what he knows from the Inquisition lest he die on the rack for knowing it. Any of these, but too good a mind to be maddened by Iemma’s sluggard legacy or spent in assessing mere great books.

A Modest Proposal (4)

The revelation of the amount of money Gina Rinehart possesses and misuses is the most explosive political event of the last ten years and it will end the Liberal Party and ensure its replacement by the Katter Party.

The Liberals must now argue that she should get more money and the disabled, and the kids of the lower orders, and hospitals, roads and schools get less.

I propose a piece of targeted legislation, Rinehart-specific, which the Liberals must oppose in the House and fall on their swords for.

It is this:

‘That this House notes that Ms Rinehart earns two million dollars an hour from the digging up of minerals we, the people, own. And that this House proposes that she yield up the earnings of every other hour to the Australian people. Those eight billion, seven hundred and eighty billion dollars per year will allay overnight most fears that we, the people have for the upkeep of our aged parents, our sick partners and our growing children. We thank her for her contribution, and we do that sincerely, but we emphasise, most forcefully, that she has no choice but to make it.’

I invite arguments against this legislation, and assessments of how many votes it will lose.

Seven Days In May (2): The Reckoning

More importantly, these seven days in May showed the Liberals don’t mean well. They hunted down a homosexual for his text messages. They hunted down a heterosexual for his spectral whores. The found a whore and paid her sixty thousand dollars to drive a customer, if she could, to suicide. They told the customer to quit parliament or they’d continue to shriek at him that he’s a thief of union money and a filthy person. They said they felt sorry for him but he had to go. If he didn’t go he had to disfranchise his electors by not voting in the House, on anything.

They said the lower orders couldn’t be trusted to spend money on their kids and it was best they didn’t get any. They said the disabled were all very well in their way but they wouldn’t guarantee they’d spend any money on them. They learned that Gina Rinehart makes two million dollars an hour and said by their silence that she deserved it, unlike the disabled, who didn’t. Though three weeks of Gina’s pay was a billion dollars the disabled couldn’t have any of it. The nation couldn’t afford it.

They said Gina should get more money and pay less carbon tax and tens of thousands of breadwinning public servants should be sacked to give her more money. They said there was no better use her money could be put to than her wars with her weight and her children and the Fairfax board which doesn’t like her.

They called Bob Carr’s saving of the life of Schapelle Corby ‘tricky’. They called the atmosphere of parliament after a popular surplus Budget ‘toxic’. They called for an election sixteen months early, as they did in 1975.

They’re a pretty nasty bunch. They have no policies much of their own except gouging eighty million out of the money we currently get and spend.

And Murdoch, a man unfit to run an international company according to the Mother of Parliaments reckons their election is inevitable. They lost six hundred thousand votes in a month and there are fifteen months to go and they’re bound to win. Bound to win.

Discuss.

Better Than Shakespeare (3): A Nocturnal Upon St Lucy’s Day, Being The Shortest Day, by John Donne, 1593

‘Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s,
Lucy’s, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world’s whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr’d ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin’d me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that’s good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love’s limbec, am the grave
Of all, that’s nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown’d the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night’s festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year’s and the day’s deep midnight is.

The Last Days Of The Liberals (2): The Newspoll That Changes Everything

So Labor picked up half a million votes in the first half of May and one hundred and forty thousand votes in the second half of May and they’ve got no hope, the nation’s not listening, they’ll have to put Rudd in, to ‘save the furniture’, they have no alternative, it’s over.

This was the burden of Dennis Shanahan on the Tony Delroy show last night though he must have known the figures in which Gillard was again Preferred Prime Minister. The head is off, and the chook keeps running around the yard. Print the legend. Print the legend. Labor is bound to lose. Lose big. Flap, flap. Lose big.

The real figure in fact is Labor on 49. The margin of error is 3 and Rupert is the customer and the truth must be minimised. 50 probably when the Katter preferences are put in. 51 when you add in the unrung mobile phones and the pensioners who got their money yesterday.

And the simple fact is that Abbott blew it last week by his persecution of Craig. The true schoolyard bully so long suspected by the female vote was at last made vivid, red in tooth and claw with fist raised, snarling. And the money for the schoolkids, the eight hundred or sixteen hundred, is yet to arrive in the mail.

And we must have Rudd, we must have Rudd, poor Denis said. To save the furniture. Labor is bound to lose. Rupert said so, and he’s very angry. And Rupert is always right.

How pathetic they all are.

Labor has picked up six hundred and forty thousand votes in a month and there are fifteen months to go and Labor is doomed, they reckon, Labor is doomed, gone for all money, cactus. What bought brains they all are. Rebekah, their Joan of Arc, is off to gaol and it is they who are trying to save the furniture, trying to save their jobs lest Rupert in his final howling holocaust of blood bring them down into perdition with him. Blair last night was telling Leveson winningly of the infinitude of their corruption and the wickedness of their purpose and it’s Labor not they who are in trouble. It’s what Freud called transference, the willingness to impute to one’s enemy the vileness one senses in oneself and is in denial of.

You will note I predicted this, and I alone, yesterday, and began my series The Innocence Of Craig Thomson seventeen days ago. The hooker will go on 9 tonight with a growling blurred voice and a pixillated face and a fistful of dollars and a pack of lies and a crucial false detail and it will be all, all n vain. The game is up, and as of tomorrow, or the next day, or next month, the Liberal Party is over. Trying to save the furniture and looking more and more enmired, like Murdoch.

Prove that I lie.

Seven Days In May

It is a week since Craig finished speaking in his defence to the House of Representatives and with scornful raised forefinger swore Abbott was not fit to be an M.P.

In the days that followed Rebekah Brooks was arrested for concealing information, Joe Hockey said he couldn’t guarantee the disabled any money, Tony Abbott breached the Crimes Act by promising to lay off Craig if he resigned his seat, Mal Washer said Craig might top himself, the hooker stepped forward, Channel 9 said she wouldn’t be given any money, women all over the nation were revolted by Abbott’s bullying, Pyne shrieked at the Prime Minister, Abbott said he felt for Craig and wished him well, Carr saved Schapelle Corby’s life, Julie Bishop said this good deed was ‘tricky, pretty tricky’, Pyne proved to have a whorehouse-visiting past, or so it was alleged in these columns and not denied, Gina Rhinehart was shown to earn two million dollars an hour and said to need more money to dig up things we owned and was allowed to disadvantage further Aboriginal workers in her state by bringing in foreign ones, Gillard claimed she knew nothing of this, Howes called the idea ‘lunacy’, it began to be rumoured that Gillard would stand down on Tuesday, the Whip denied he was destabilising her, and, in the past hour, an enquiry showed Craig may have been framed by his rival Kathy Jackson’s current squeeze who might go to gaol, and Abbott was shown to have nearly bashed on the floor of the House a legless Vietnam War veteran, and Question Time starts in half an hour.

‘A week,’ Harold Wilson said, ‘is a long time in politics.’

It is unlikely that Abbott will be where he is now in August, and Gillard … well …

She may be saved by a good Newspoll tomorrow. If honest it will show Labor on 48 or 49 but it is not known what the flapping and furious Murdoch wants it to say and he may not have made up his mind. I expect he will opt to save her.

If she is removed or, more likely, made to announce she will stand down at the end of the fiscal year, the candidates to replace her — Carr, Albo, Shorten, Rudd, Swan, Crean, Combet, Plibersek — will start with similar odds but this will change in the time allowed, if any is. It is the Crean-Gillard method to move quickly to seize or preserve the crown and they may again.

I think on the whole she will survive, in part because there is no clear uniting candidate apart from Carr and he may not want it. Survive this session of parliament, that is.

But I am going down tomorrow, just in case.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (4): A Preliminary Oath

It has been most unpleasant and I have banned for periods of up to a millennium the worst of my crazed harassers. Other ones, however, have not yet come up with eight policies they think Labor should be thrown out for and their stupidity should be signalled before their opinions are blazed forth in this ever more influential online organ.

I will therefore from time to time preface their offerings with this sentence: ‘Bob Carr is a bad Foreign Minister and Julie Bishop would be a better one. I am in complete command of my faculties and believe this truly and sincerely.’

It resembles the statement required at AA meetings, ‘Good evening, I’m Ross Fitzgerald, and I’m an alcoholic’ and will be intermittently affixed to my more rabid Abbottite respondents’ wild hydrophobic fulminations.

The Last Days Of Paul Sheehan (1)

It is terrible to see the once keen mind of Paul Sheehan in such evident decay. In his column this morning he attacked John McTernan, the model for the smaller angry Scotsman in The Thick Of It, for using the F-word, and the insults ‘buffoon’, ‘obnoxious’ and ‘diddums’. The sheltered Sheehan, now sixty-one, has not heard these words before and smelling-salts, I have have been told by his good wife Susan, have been required.

He goes on to curse Wayne Swan for ‘ramping up the rhetoric of class warfare’ when he called the Opposition ‘the puppets of billionaires’. This in a week when Gina Rhinehart, who earns in fifteen minutes what Barack Obama does in a year, was universally acclaimed as deserving it and given seventeen hundred more cheap Asians to play with, and make more money with, thus quenching the flames of class war and hobbling the tumbrils forever.

He says too that Craig was wrong to call Abbott ‘unfit to be an M.P.’ ‘Breathtaking’, he said in stout uprearing Rumpole defence of the abashed non-bastardiser who had forced on his girlfriend the adopting-out of a child not his own in an ongoing thirty-year sexual farce that might have stirred the fledgling Geoffrey Chaucer to, well, an Abbot’s Tale of mistaken fatherhood, abandoned bride and cuckolding tardily uncovered in Parliament House amid a nation’s jeering. Sheehan thinks Craig a viler man than this girlfriend-sharer and bride deserter and amputee-basher for, gee, denying he went to a hooker on three nights when he was in another town (pray mark this) and saying this accusation wasn’t fair.

He has further said of Albo ‘he has made the gutter his present address’ for asserting, correctly, that Abbott had breached the Crimes Act, probably, by threatening Craig with further verbal violence if he did not resign. ‘Again, breathtaking,’ this old fool says.

‘Similar tactics,’ he adds, ‘were used by another desperate government, the government of Gordon Brown, now seen as a disaster for Britain.’ This is the one that saved the world from bankruptcy, kept poor kids going affordably to university, and whose party is now getting 42 percent and the Tories 29. McTernan was an adviser to Brown, he continues, and Blair, and was the cause, probably, of ‘this period of toxic bumbling by the Prime Minister and her staff.’

Well, gee, shucks, Labor picked up half a million votes in the fortnight from May 2 to May 15 and will pick up, oh, a quarter of  a million tomorrow and there are thirty-eight fortnights to ho. ‘Toxic bumbling’, is it. Gee.

It is time this hyrophobic war-horse were put out to grass.

I am available to fill his vacancy for half his wage.

And to debate him anytime.

Better Than Shakespeare (2): The Death Of Guinevere And Lancelot By Thomas Malory, 1485

And thus upon a night, there came a vision to Sir Lancelot, and charged him, in remission of his sins, to haste him unto Almesbury: ‘And by then thou come there, thou shalt find Queen Guenevere dead. And therefore take thy fellows with thee, and purvey them of an horse bier, and fetch thou the corpse of her, and bury her by her husband, the noble King Arthur.’ So this avision came to Sir Lancelot thrice in one night. Then Sir Lancelot rose up or day, and told the hermit.

‘It were well done,’ said the hermit, ‘that ye made you ready, and that ye disobey not the avision.’

Then Sir Lancelot took his seven fellows with him, and on foot they yede from Glastonbury to Almesbury, the which is little more than thirty mile. And thither they came within two days, for they were weak and feeble to go. And when Sir Lancelot was come to Almesbury within the nunnery, Queen Guenevere died but half an hour before.

And the ladies told Sir Lancelot that Queen Guenevere told them all or she passed, that Sir Lancelot had been priest near a twelvemonth. “And hither he cometh as far as he may to fetch my corpse; and beside my lord, King Arthur, he shall bury me.” Wherefore the queen said in hearing of them all, “I beseech Almighty God that I may never have power to see Sir Lancelot with my worldly eyes”. ‘And thus,’ said all the ladies, ‘was ever her prayer these two days, till she was dead.

Then Sir Lancelot saw her visage, but he wept not greatly, but sighed. And so he did all the observance of the service himself, both the dirge, and on the morn he sang mass. And there was ordained an horse bier; and so with an hundred torches ever burning about the corpse of the queen, and ever Sir Lancelot with his seven fellows went about the horse bier, singing and reading many an holy orison, and frankincense upon the corpse incensed. Thus Sir Lancelot and his seven fellows went on foot from Almesbury unto Glastonbury.

And when they were come to the chapel and the hermitage, there she had a dirge, with great devotion. And on the morn the hermit that sometime was Bishop of Canterbury sang the mass of requiem with great devotion. And Sir Lancelot was the first that offered, and then all his eight fellows. And then she was wrapped in cered cloth of Rennes, from the top to the toe, in thirtyfold: and after she was put in a web of lead, and then in a coffin of marble. And when she was put in the earth Sir Lancelot swooned, and lay long still, while the hermit came and awaked him, and said, ‘Ye be to blame, for ye displease God with such manner of sorrow making.’

‘Truly,’ said Sir Lancelot, ‘I trust I do not displease God, for He knoweth mine intent. For my sorrow was not, nor is not, for any rejoicing of sin, but my sorrow may never have end. For when I remember of her beauty, and of her noblesse, that was both with her king and with her, so when I saw his corpse and her corpse so lie together, truly mine heart would not serve to sustain my careful body.

Then Sir Lancelot never after ate but little meat, nor drank, till he was dead. For then he sickened more and more, and dried, and dwined away. For the Bishop nor none of his fellows might not make him eat, and little he drank, that he was waxen by a cubit shorter than he was, that the people could not know him. For evermore, day and night, he prayed, but sometime he slumbered a broken sleep; ever he was lying grovelling on the tomb of King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. And there was no comfort that the Bishop, nor Sir Bors, nor none of his fellows, could make him, it availed not.

So within six weeks after, Sir Lancelot fell sick, and lay in his bed; and then he sent for the Bishop that there was hermit, and all his true fellows. Then Sir Lancelot said with dreary steven, ‘Sir Bishop, I pray you give me all my rites that longeth to a Christian man.’

‘It shall not need you,’ said the hermit and all his fellows, ‘it is but heaviness of your blood, yet shall be well mended by the grace of God tomorn.’

‘My fair lords,’ said Sir Lancelot, ‘wit you well my careful body will into the earth, I have warning more than now I will say; therefore give me my rites.’

Then there was weeping and wringing of hands among his fellows. So at a season of the night they all went to their beds, for they all lay in one chamber. And so after midnight, against day, the Bishop that was hermit, as he lay in his bed asleep, he fell upon a great laughter. And therewithal the fellowship awoke, and come to the Bishop, and asked me what he ailed.

‘Ah Jesu mercy,’ said the Bishop, ‘why did ye awake me? I was never in all my life so merry and so well at ease.’

‘Wherefore?’ said Sir Bors.

‘Truly,’ said the Bishop, ‘here was Sir Lancelot with me with more angels than ever I saw men in one day. And I saw the angels heave up Sir Lancelot unto heaven, and the gates of heaven opened against him.’

‘It is but dretching of swevens,’ said Sir Bors, ‘for I doubt not Sir Lancelot aileth nothing but good.’

‘It may well be,’ said the Bishop; ‘go yet to his bed, and then shall ye prove the sooth.’

So when Sir Bors and his fellows came to his bed they found him stark dead, and he lay as he had smiled, and the sweetest savour about him that ever they felt. Then was there weeping and wringing of hands, and the greatest dole they made that ever made men.

And on the morn the Bishop did his mass of requiem, and they laid his corpse in the body of the choir, and sang and read many psalters and prayers over him and about him. And ever his visage was laid open and naked, that all folks might behold him. For such was the custom in those days, that all men of worship should so lie with open visage till that they were buried.

And right thus as they were at their service, there came Sir Ector de Maris, that had seven year sought all England, Scotland and Wales, seeking his brother, Sir Lancelot.

And when Sir Ector heard such noise and light in the choir of Joyous Guard, he alit and put his horse from him, and came into the choir, and there he saw men sing, weep, and all they knew Sir Ector, but he knew not them.

Then went Sir Bors unto Sir Ector, and told him how there lay his brother, Sir Lancelot, dead; and then Sir Ector threw his shield, sword and helm from him. And when he beheld Sir Lancelot’s visage, he fell down in a swoon. And when he waked it were hard any tongue to tell the doleful complaints that he made for his brother.

‘Ah Lancelot,’ he said, ‘thou were head of all Christian knights, and now I dare say that thou were never matched of earthly knight’s hand. And thou were the couteoust knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.’

Then there was weeping and dolour out of measure. Thus they kept Sir Lancelot’s corpse loft fifteen days, and then they buried it with great devotion.

And then at leisure they went all with the Bishop of Canterbury to his hermitage, and they were together more than a month.

Then Sir Constantine was chosen king of England. And he was a full noble knight, and worshipfully he ruled this realm. King Constantine sent for the Bishop of Canterbury, for he heard say where he was. And so he was restored unto his bishopric, and left that hermitage. And Sir Bedevere was there ever still hermit to his life’s end.

Then Sir Bors de Ganis, Sir Ector de Maris, Sir Gahalantine, Sir Galihad, Sir Galihodin, Sir Blamore, Sir Bleoberis, Sir Villiars le Valiant, Sir Clarrus of Cleremont, all these knights drew them to their countries. And there they all lived in their countries as holy men.

Here is the end of the whole book of King Arthur, and of his noble knights of the Round Table, that when they were whole together there was ever an hundred and forty. And here is the end of the death of Arthur. I pray you all, gentlemen and gentlewomen that readeth this book of Arthur and his knights from the beginning to the ending, pray for me while I am alive, that God send me good deliverance, and when I am dead, I pray you all pray for my soul. For this book was ended the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth, by Sir Thomas Malory, knight, as Jesu help him for His great might, as he is the servant of Jesu both day and night.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (58): Stalking Royalty

In the film on the Queen on ABC last night it was asked what caused the big rude alteration in attitude to Royalty from mannerly respect to aggressive prurience and the answer came, ‘In two words: Rupert Murdoch’. It became clear to me then that what I had heard, that Murdoch had twice been put up for a knighthood, by Thatcher and Major, and the Queen had twice knocked him back was very, very likely.

We were then shown what became the subject of the fine feature film The Queen, the four days after Diana’s death when the Queen was in Balmoral trying to cope with the young princes’ grief at the loss of their mother and Murdoch’s paper The Sun was demanding she come to London ‘as a sign of respect’ for the fallen goddess and she finally, obediently came.

A sign of respect. It was yet another example of the way Murdoch makes new rules and pretends they’re old rules and castigates and shames those who disobey them. The rule that a Prince does not say the word ‘tampon’ to his lover and if he does he should not be King. The rule that a Prime Minister cannot call a bigoted woman ‘bigoted’ in a private conversation and he cannot be Prime Minister if he does. The rule that an MP cannot say ‘Do you know who I am?’  to anyone and if she does she must lose preselection. The rule that you cannot say anything Rupert suddenly decides is wrong or he will come after you and ruin you after bugging you saying it.

This week the new rule was that you cannot ‘accept’ an accused man’s vote though there is no constitutional way you can refuse it. That if he offers it he must be thrown out of parliament for his corrupt impertinence. That he has no right to vote the way that Rupert thinks wrong. That fascist powers exist in our democracy to stifle a duly elected parliamentarian if Rupert does not like him for getting in Rupert’s way.

It’s been a remarkably successful technique and it’s based at his heart on English working class ignorance and their tendency to genuflect before a crisp voice speaking confidently. So if Rupert tells them in The Sun that Sarah Ferguson’s big bum is a national disgrace he is believed. If he says we must make war on Iraq to halve the price of petrol he is thought to be wise. If he says on Fox News that Barack Obama is an illegal Muslim alien who should not be in the White House he is believed. If he says climate change isn’t happening, it isn’t.

And lately he is saying in the same authoritative Anglo-Aussie voice that the Labor Government is bound to lose its numbers and fall in a month or so and in an Abbottite landslide be swept out of history and many, many Labor people believe him.

But it is not true. Labor gained half a million votes in a fortnight and there are thirty-eight fortnights to go. The money goes to the pensioners this week and to the parents of schoolkids next month and the hounding of Craig and his plain and evident innocence is hurting the Liberals badly and Abbott and Pyne will be sacked by their party in a month or so and it will be different, very different, after that.

But still he is believed. The touter of the Hitler Diaries and the WMD and the Florida numbers is believed.

The Queen is onto him and we are not. The young princes knew, or they know by now, that their mother’s death was due in part, at least in part, to the fox-hunters’ bloodlust with which his buggers and hackers and peeping toms pursued her; pursued her into her grave, and smirched her beauty beyond it.

And this knighthood will not be forthcoming from Charles The Third or William the Fifth or Henry the Ninth not ever; not even if Rupert lives as long as his mother.

He is scum: a stalker, harasser, forger, pirate, liar and blackmailer and he should be in gaol. The Queen thinks so and so do I.

Or perhaps Andrew Bolt disagrees

The Silence Of The Williamsons (15): What Now, My Love

I had hoped by now to see news of the David Williamson Scholarship or the Kristin Williamson Foundation or the Emerald City Theatre Company after David promised something of the sort in the month of his seventieth birthday in acknowledgment of the money he had made and fifty-seven better playwrights had not made out of theatre managements too lazy and venal to put on work by anyone else.

This has not occurred; and I wonder if he was lying.

During our quarrel I named a hundred and three Australian plays — or, at a slow count, ninety-six — better than his best and raised the question of whether he deserved his millions when one considered Nothing Personal was so very, very bad. Since then Barry Humphries has pronounced my and Denny Lawrence’s play Intimate Strangers ‘brilliant; astonishing’ and agreed to play Noel Coward in it. This is a play the Ensemble refused preferring Nothing Personal; and you see the problem.

It was therefore urgent that David keep his word, and make some reparation for the damage his preponderance has done to our theatre scene and the dozens, hundreds of better talents his dull greed, and his wife’s embellished angry territoriality, had stifled and smothered in their limelight-hogging rush to power and seeming royalty.

I ask him to make his intentions clear.

Lines For Albo (1)

‘Tony Abbott, who won’t let his lesbian sister have a legitimate baby or his girl-friend keep an illegitimate one, says the “moral stench” hanging over parliament has to be dealt with. He’s the moral stench. He’s the moral stench. You can tell he’s coming from fifteen yards away.’

‘Has the Manager of Opposition Business availed himself of prostitution services in Asia any time in this current millenium? What gender were they? What age-group?’

‘Can the Leader of the Opposition say why Gina Rinehart earns in eighteen minutes more than Barack Obama earns in a year? Can he say if this is a good idea? Can he explain as a good Catholic how this fits into his concept of an ordered, merciful, Christian universe? And a fair Australia? I move he be given half an hour.’

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (57): Van Onselen, Slimeball

For a while I had thought that Peter Van Onselen had some smatch of honour in him but he proves to be just another tampon-sniffing Murdoch tapeworm, better disguised.

In his column today he asks the question: ‘Did you know struggling foreign minister Bob Carr has hired as his senior political adviser former NSW Premier Nathan Rees’ chief-of-staff Graham Wedderburn? Let’s face it, Carr should be trying to distance himself at every opportunity from the disastrous 16-year NSW Labor government he led for over a decade.’

There are three big lies and one small one in these fifty-two words.

(1) Bob Carr is not ‘struggling’. He just rescued Schapelle Corby, pin-up girl of the Western Suburbs, from certain torment and early death and squared things with China and found a way to get us out of Afghanistan and advised with moral force a peaceful political settlement in Nuigini, in only ten weeks on the job. He is preferred as Foreign Minister to Julie Bishop by three to one and to Kevin Rudd by four to three. Struggling? Really?

(2) Graeme Wedderburn’s first name is not ‘Graham.’

(3) Carr’s part in the sixteen-year Labor Government was not ‘disastrous’. It included a triple-A rating and the best Olympic Games in two thousand six hundred years, the first free heroin in Australian history, the suing for asbestosis of James Hardie, the Blanchett Sydney Theatre, the Premier’s Literary Awards, the Premier’s Reeading Challenge, the Sydney Peace prize to Hanan Asrawi and a hundred national parks.

And, oh yes (4), Wedderburn, Rees’s Chief of Staff (let’s give him capitals, shall we) for those terrible, disastrous fifteen months. The months at whose end Labor’s numbers had climbed from 39 to 45. Disastrous. Terrible.

Wedderburn, in fact, had worked for Carr as his number two or number three from 1988 to 1996, that is nine years, and as his Chief of Staff from 2002 to 2005, another three. He had effectively run New South Wales in those three years, and choreographed Carr’s sweetest victory, where he won fifty seats out of eighty-seven in March, 2003. He had helped out Beazley too in 1998 when Beazley got 400,000 more votes than Howard and won back nineteen seats which Keating had mislaid but thirty months before. In his off-years he had been number three or four at Westpac and CEO of Origen Energy.

Yet Van Onselen presents him as a tired, clapped-out, useless right-wing hack, forever soused and plaintive, whose only earthly fame was as Rees’s inadvertent, shambolic destroyer.

I ask him to retract this imputation and crawl backwards out of the room.

Rebekah Brooks a week ago was arrested for concealing evidence and this, in this column, is what he has done also. Concealed evidence.

He is a Murdochist slimeball now and he has not yet turned thirty-seven.

And he should repent before Scotland Yard comes after him too.

I ask him now to recant his view that Carr had no good reason to hire his closest and most successful political adviser and do it soon.

Do it in these columns.

Or debate me anytime, anywhere.

A Word From Kristin Williamson

28/12/11

Oh Ellis, you poor man. You’re 70. Let it go. How sad that you spend late nights thinking of a new way to malign a playwright who has survived 40 years when you have barely made it in the alternative theatre. Yes, I loved King O’Malley but you did have a gifted co-writer. You have talents. Heaps. I used to read your Nation Review pieces and laugh out loud. I hear you are sought after as a speechwriter by every state politician who has ever lost an election. Why bother using your considerable wit on trying to destroy a playwright you once claimed as an admired friend? Ah, but you are an honest creature. You do admit you are envious. No, I didnt write a word of Nothing Personal. Yes, there was a mass of research into publishing companies. David acknowledged and thanked two major companies, Penguin and Random House, in the programme.

Why do I even bother to reply to you Bob? I never read blogs but Bruce Beresford alerted me, laughing in disbelief, to this one. And at the time he had just seen Nothing Personal and was genuinely positive about it. Check that out if you don’t believe me.

Enough, already. It’s Christmas. A dear friend up here on the Sunshine Coast has just lost his whole family -wife and three small daughters — in a tragic house fire and the whole community is in shock. There is more to life than creating vitriol. Sad man, let it go.

Kristin

Better Than Shakespeare

It has been said that the men who worked on The King James Bible were ‘the most successful committee ever’, and Melvin Bragg’s recent book makes a case for this, as will the book I am writing now with Roy Williams (author of God, Actually), which may be out by Christmas, The Best of the Bible. The following passage will be quoted in it.

It seems upon re-reading strangely resonant with the mood of the age of nuclear fear and despondency and gloom that I grew up in, and with Cormac McCarthy’s bleak novel The Road and the Lars Von Trier film Meloncholia. It is also not unlike the darker verse of T.S. Eliot, The Four Quartets for instance, and superior, I would submit, to most of it.

That it is a far, far better passage than any in Shakespeare goes without saying.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets;

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

The Phillippics (2): Ruddock And The Murdered Baby: An Exchange

This exchange followed my recent piece, The Phillippics: The Slaughter Of An Innocent, on Saturday, May 26.

M Ryutin May 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm

This is a serious request. Is there any online and reputable reference to the actual fate of this person’s baby?

I am under no illusions about the general use of tyrannical powers in such communist dictatorships but as the one-child policy used to result in fines (and pressures for abortions) dating such a killing as described would possibly date a change in emphasis from the time of the Ruddock murder to a more reasonable time where the policy itself is now slated to cease in 2015.

Bob Ellis May 27, 2012 at 6:19 am

My wife Annie is looking it up. I rang the Immigration Department at the time and the woman said, ‘It’s turned out well.’ And I said, ‘You mean the baby is alive?’ And she said, ‘No.’

A piece in The Guardian 21/10/2010, ‘Chinese Woman Forced To Have Abortion At Eight Months, Claims Husband, shows how recently — eighteen months ago — it was going on.

It may well end in 2015 but it won’t bring back the baby Ruddock helped kill.

A blog by Brian Harradine on 5/5/11 refers to ‘the case of the eight month pregnant Chinese woman we deported in 1997. She was forcibly aborted on arrival in China. Prime Minister John Howard said at the time “it offends my own instincts … and the instincts of millions of Australians”. The Prime Minister also commented “most Australians would consider it murder”. ‘

He naturally kept Ruddock on in the job, the way one does, rewarding murder.

The woman’s name, my wife now informs me, was Zhu Quing Ping. And, I quote from Zadok, Winter, 1999:

‘Zhu Quing Ping was an illegal. She arrived by boat in 1994 and sought asylum. During three years detention at the Port Hedland detention centre in WA, she gave birth to a daughter. Requests to be allowed to marry the child’s father were refused. Ms Zhu conceived a second baby in November 1996. All avenues of appeal were exhauated. The pregnancy was dismissed by a departmental official as irrelevant in a claim for refugee status.

‘Ms Zhu pleaded not to be sent back, at least not until her baby was safely delivered: her only request was to go home with a live baby. “The manager said I couldn’t. He said you must go back to China; all the procedures have been arranged. (He said) You won’t be persecuted when you return ti China,” she said in the video interview.

‘The manager was wrong. Ms Zhu’s baby was returned to little more than a state-sanctioned death sentence.

‘Seven days after deportation she was subjected to an injection through her abdomen to destroy the baby’s nervous system. Labour was induced, and the baby was delivered (there were rumours the baby wasn’t actually dead on delivery and may have been strangled, but the story is already gruesome enough).

‘Zhu received the bill for abortion shortly after.’

The responsible Minister, Phillip Ruddock, is now on the Ethics Committee, put there by the anti-abortion MP Tony Abbott.

The responsible Prime Minister, John Howard, is still at large.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (56): O’Shannessy’s Choice

It’s just possible O’Shannessy has grown honest and refused to give Murdoch the Newspoll he wants, one showing a ‘surprise swing’ to Abbott after this, his most disastrous week since his bastard son turned out to be somebody else’s bastard son.

I say this because on a left-hand page far down in The Weekend Australian is a peculiar confection, an Online Focus Group (were the voters contacted, or did they volunteer their opinions?) showing … well..

Nothing much really. Under the headline Labor’s Tactics Backfire we learn that 23 percent were more likely to vote for the government after the Budget, 42 percent less likely, and 34 ‘neither more nor less likely’. We are told that ‘only’ 54 percent of Labor voters are more likely to vote Labor after the Budget, and 81 percent of Liberal voters more likely to vote Liberal, but we are not told in each case how many that is.

Nor are we told if any of them actually plan to change their vote. If they do how can they be ‘Labor voters’? Or ‘Liberal voters’? How?

Dodgy; very dodgy, Squire…

We are also told the hand-outs reminded some voters of Howard hand-outs, which won Howard a lot of votes; but, but ‘Howard managed to represent his bribes in some overarching plan that justified them’, and Howard, widely thought ‘dishonest’, could be ‘trusted to deliver’, whereas this bunch can’t. (Waving their fistfuls of dollars the punters are crying ‘They can’t be trusted to deliver!’)

There are so many lies in the above sentence that it is clear no pollster, no honest pollster, composed it. We are told buying shoes and books for the kids of strapped parents is not an overarching plan. Nor is saving the planet from stewing in its own juice by a tax on poisonous emissions. Or enacting, eventually, an end to toothache.

And as for never delivering, well, fifteen thousand high schools that got their extra gymnasiums and science labs don’t think so. Six hundred thousand disabled who got their extra money and special housing don’t think so. Two million pensioners, or was it four, who got their extra money in the mail last week don’t think so. What big lies Murdoch tells. What mendacious wheezes he tries on.

What, for instance, is an online focus group? How is it chosen? Is it random phone numbers, random computers, or is there some sharp-eyed Shanahanite whizz-kid categorising people first? We are not told. Nor are we told how many ‘Labor voters’ they contacted and how they were thus classified. Nor are we told why there were 1041 people contacted and not, say, 1141. Or if there were indeed 1141, and 100 eliminated or disqualified or excluded for ideological impertinence.

It’s a pack of lies, in short, and meaningless anyway — it gives no numbers of those who will vote in either direction — and the interesting thing, the very, very interesting thing is it’s not Newspoll. Which may mean, could mean, might mean, that O’Shannessy has taken fright at Rebekah’s arrest for concealing information and has decided to publish an honest poll this time. One with Labor on, say, 49 after Abbott repelled every woman in the country by bullying and jeering Craig and pretenfing he felt for him, and Bishop called Carr’s rescue from the jaws of death of Schapelle Corby ‘tricky, too tricky for my tastes’.

Or he may on the other hand be dishonest again.

I doubt it. The waters are shifting under all the Titanic lifeboats lately, and the ivebergs forming atound them, and in this momentous week we have seen Labor going at last with a new tide towards a certain or probable victory. And even O’Shannessy dare not deny it, this time.

Or perhaps you disagree.

The Norrington Summation, 2009

From Marilyn, May 26, 2012 at 2:40 pm

This was in the Australian in 2009. And now the Australian claim that Thomson was deluded about Kathy Jackson and her mob setting him up.

Second Labor figure Jeff Jackson embroiled in union brothel scandal

by: Rick Wallace and Brad Norington

• From:The Australian

A SECOND influential ALP figure has been accused of spending union money on escorts, with enemies of Victorian union boss Jeff Jackson releasing bank statements showing payments to the same Sydney brothel where federal MP Craig Thomson’s credit card was allegedly used.

Police were called to a union meeting in Melbourne last night as it descended into yelling and brawling between rival camps.

The meeting was called by Mr Jackson to reassert his control on the union’s management committee. Mr Jackson, a prominent figure in the Victorian ALP, dismissed the claims against him as a politically motivated “dirty tricks campaign” and denied any misuse of union funds.

As secretary of the Health Services Union’s number 1 branch in Victoria, Mr Jackson has been embroiled in a bitter power struggle with branch president Pauline Fegan.

Ms Fegan last night called on him to resign over the emergence of credit card statements showing the payments to ‘Keywed Pty Ltd” – which takes money for clients of the Sydney Outcalls escort agency.
“It’s a union-issued credit card and it has been issued to Jeff Jackson,” Ms Fegan said. “On the face of it, it appears the union credit card has been used for escort agencies,” she said. “He should have resigned ages ago, that’s the reality.”

The factional dispute is at the centre of the claims of misuse of union credit cards for prostitutes and election campaign funds that threaten the career of Mr Thomson and could damage other senior party figures.

Mr Thomson yesterday strenuously denied allegations his union credit cards were used to pay for escort services and to help bankroll his election campaign for the federal NSW seat of Dobell in 2007.

In a terse statement, Mr Thomson dismissed as “incorrect and false” allegations that he had misused credit cards during his term as federal secretary of the Health Services Union, including cash advances exceeding $100,000 over five years.

Mr Jackson stressed that – unlike the Commonwealth credit card statement alleged to be Mr Thomson’s – his name was not even listed on the union Bendigo Gold Visa card concerned.

Federal Labor, however, is already in damage control over the issue because of the risk that it could engulf not only Mr Thomson, who is chairman of the House of Representatives economics committee, but also his mentor, the new incoming ALP national president and HSU union chief Michael Williamson.

Mr Williamson faces no allegations. He is the primary union and Labor mentor to Mr Thomson, having backed Mr Thomson as Melbourne-based HSU national secretary from 2002 to 2007. He then supported Mr Thomson’s move to Sydney before the 2007 election in a bid to run for Dobell.

The source of potentially serious collateral damage to Labor figures is a nasty battle for power in Mr Jackson’s HSU No1 branch as he fights to win control from union president Pauline Fegan.

Mr Jackson and Ms Fegan have been brawling for weeks, making claim and counter-claim against each other about alleged misuse of union funds.

Their battle erupted on the national political scene yesterday with the allegations against Mr Thomson, dating back to his five-year term as federal secretary.

According to published documents, officials of Mr Thomson’s former union concluded last year that his Commonwealth Bank credit card had been used to withdraw cash advances totalling $101,553 over five years.

The documents also indicated Mr Thomson’s card was used to pay $330 to operators of a North Sydney escort service called Aboutoun Catering, and two payments of $570 and $2475 to Keywed Pty Ltd Restaurant in Surry Hills, a company listed as escort agency Sydney Outcalls Network.

Pty Ltd Restaurant in Surry Hills, a company listed as escort agency Sydney Outcalls Network.

Mr Thomson yesterday withstood Opposition pressure to step aside as a committee chairman. He said he had sought legal advice about possible action against “the sources” of the false allegations against him.
He was confident an independent audit and an investigation by the Industrial Registrar would find no basis for the allegations.

Kevin Rudd took no action against Mr Thomson. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Rudd would await the results of inquiries before making any decision on Mr Thomson’s committee role.

The allegations against Mr Thomson were first detailed in a leaked letter written by Kathy Jackson, the HSU’s national secretary and head of the union’s No2 branch.

Ms Jackson’s involvement further complicates the puzzle for the Labor Party and its involvement with the wrangle.

She is the former wife of Jeff Jackson. Her new partner is Michael Lawler, a vice-president of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, whose industrial registrar is investigating Mr Thomson.
As news of the investigation sparked by Ms Jackson spread to embroil her former husband yesterday, Mr Jackson dismissed the claims against him as a politically motivated “dirty tricks campaign” and denied any misuse of union funds.

He said there were several union cards at the time and there were also doubts about the dates of the payments.

He was recalling all credit card statements from the union’s archives to prove his innocence.

The leaked Bendigo Bank credit card statements, obtained by The Australian, show four separate payments to Keywed between December 2003 and March 2004.

The payments, one of which was made on Christmas Eve, were for amounts ranging from $330 to $405.

There were two payments made on the same night on one occasion – March 18, 2004. The statement lists the Health Services Union’s No1 branch as the account holder but does not say who the cardholder is.

And now VanOnselen is whining that Thomson’s vote should be disallowed even though there are no such rules.

But wait – Sophie Mirabella looks like being caught in a long civil case over money from a man with dementia.

Abbott will be in and out of court defending defamation claims.

Pyne will be under fire and dragged to civil court over his role in the non-Ashby affair.

Bill Heffernan could be charged with assault and abuse.

Sean Edwards from SA is investigated for using 3 cars, hiring former excecutives of his own company and other things.

Chris Kelly is being investigated for lying about being a director of a bankrupt company.

All Liberals.

I wonder if they really want to pursue the kick out the vote claims now?

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The Phillippics (1): The Slaughter Of An Innocent

The Liberals have erred in putting on the Ethics Committee a man guilty, probably, of conspiracy to murder.

He is Phillip Ruddock, who sent back to China a nine-months-pregnant woman who begged to have her baby here and then go back without it.

She was duly sent back, on Ruddock’s orders, and her baby killed as she knew it would be. She has not recovered from this ordeal; nor, of course, has the baby.

It is hard to see why this is a fit and proper person to sit as a judge on the ethics of another politician; and why Tony Abbott, who opposes abortion, would ever even begin to think he was.

Perhaps it slipped his mind.

It is hard to see why Ruddock is not in gaol. Under The UN Convention Of The Rights Of The Child it is wrong to frighten, harm, endanger or murder infants, and there is no way he is not guilty of this. It was in his power to save this baby’s life and thwart its enemies’ desire to kill it, yet he delivered it up to slaughter ignoring its mother’s weeping pleas.

This is conspiracy to murder, surely. And conspiracy to torture a young mother with her worst fear and then deliver her up to it, looking away while she was butchered.

And yet here he is on the Ethics Committee, with Abbott the anti-abortionist’s consent and approval.

What a squalid bunch they are. Their cruelty has been shown in some small part this week, when Hockey threatened cripples and Bishop called ‘tricky’ Bob Carr’s rescue of Schapelle from certain death and asserted until she was silenced that the price was too high to pay, the price, that is, of sending innocent boys back to their sorrowing parents’ care . They show their colours more vividly every day, the closer they come to power in Australia.

It is a power they will not achieve now. Abbott’s breach of the Crimes Act and Ruddock’s likely imprisonment in The Hague and Pyne’s history, if true, of whoremongering in Asia (if true, if true) will see to that.

Last weekend was their high-water mark.

And they will never be this close to power again.

The tide is running out for them and the party, now, is doomed.

The Last Days Of The Liberals (1): The Hungry Brontosaurus Factor

It is five days exactly since Craig rose in the House and began the demolition of the Liberal Party that is gathering pace now. Joe Hockey on Wednesday greatly assisted in this when he said he would no longer help unaffordable cripples, Christopher Pyne on Thursday when he shrieked at the departing Prime Minister, Tony Abbott on Friday when he told Channel 9 that he feared for Craig’s health, I really do mate, and Gina Rinehart when she proved to be earning in fifteen minutes what Barack Obama earns in a year and hoped to make more money by importing cheaper Asians to dig our soil.

The latter, of course, was the neutron bomb that the Liberals cannot survive.

They will have to argue now that Gina Rinehart deserves more money, and the parents of shoeless schoolchildren less. This is a proposition that cannot stand, and will see them replaced in a decade by the Katter Party and vanish from history like the Democrats and Family First, overnight.

They cannot survive the support of this woman. The seventeen billion five hundred and thirty million dollars she makes each year would build one hundred and forty-six thousand air-conditioned Aboriginal homes, thirty-seven Opera Houses, one thousand new hospitals and sustain sixty-three thousand small theatre companies for a thousand years on the interest alone. And the same again next year.

And yet the Liberals must argue she deserves this money, and we shouldn’t want any of it, and to ask her to pay more tax is ‘class warfare’ and ‘class envy’ and unAustralian at its heart and the very opposite of what our country stands for, our Anzac spirit fought and died for.

It is an argument they will be unable to sustain. Because it is not class warfare to want some of that big woman’s pie, it is a parched yearning for justice; it is simple arithmetic; it is common sense. And to say that Asians must be flown in to do the jobs of Australians lately laid off similar jobs in similar towns now means, must mean, that they will lose to Katter every seat west of the Great Divide and become as the National Party is in Tasmania, invisible. Kaput.

This means, must mean, the Newspoll if fairly conducted this weekend will show a shift to Labor from 45 to 47 or 48, and a scramble for the Liberals’ leadership after Abbott’s arraignment, if it happens, for breaches of the Crimes Act, between Morrison and Turnbull with the odds on Morrison. Schapelle’s release will add two more percent and the Liberals will panic. But if it is not fairly conducted, it will show as it tends to ‘a surprise surge to Tony Abbott’ on the orders of the old bastard judged unfit to run an international company, corruptly, of course, in the way of all Newspolls lately.

But the countdown has begun. It begun with the raised finger of Craig and the words ‘not fit to be an M.P.’

It is only five days ago. And the tumbrils gathering for Abbott and Pyne and Hockey and Ashby and Brough will not be diverted from their sanguinary destination.

Their hour of judgment is coming, soon.

Classic Ellis: Robert F Kennedy Junior, 2008

Sunday, June 28th, 2008

Noon

Before I got on the train Mike Rann gave me, as promised, his written account of the visit to Adelaide of Robert Kennedy Junior, which I here paraphrase.

He’d come in February because Al Gore had told him how great an environmental Prospero Mike had become, and because Joe Ramos Horta (this was prior to his assassination) would be there and he could meet him. One of eleven kids, law-schooled at Harvard and Virginia University (Jefferson’s bequest to the nation), he became a heroin addict and was busted and sentenced to community work, went cold turkey and got over it, drinking no alcohol either, fought like his dad for the civil rights of Indigenous Canadians and Mexicans, fought to cleanse the Hudson River and punish with imprisonment corporate polluters, wrote a children’s book on St Francis of Assisi and was named one of Time magazine’s ‘Heroes for the Planet’.

He’d lately broken with most of his family by supporting Hillary, whose New York Senate seat he coveted because it used to be his father’s; no chance of that now, I guess. His resemblance to his father in looks, mannerisms and speaking style was ‘ghostly’, Mike wrote, and his devout Catholicism and feverish TV-evangelist oratory an unsettling mixture.

Mike met him at the airport, and he was surprised to hear that Mike’s good friend Dun Gifford had wrestled with Sirhan Sirhan on the fatal night. After his fourth Coke (I’m paraphrasing Mike’s rather longer account) he mesmerised his international audience that included Bob Carr in a speech that lacerated George Bush for appointing oil executives, polluters and their lobbyists to positions in the EPA where environmental protections were systematically undone to reward their former paymasters. He named the names of those involved in the pay off.

That night, at a State dinner, he did a repeat performance. But shortly before speaking, and after another half-dozen Cokes to keep him awake, he turned to Mike and asked for a favour.

‘Sure,’ Mike said. ‘What can I do for you?’

‘I’m leaving tomorrow but I collect animal skulls. I have a huge collection. My kids love them. Sometimes I stop the car if I see a dead animal on the road and take its head and use bugs to eat the flesh and once it’s clean, I put the skull in my collection. So I would really like a kangaroo skull to take home.’

‘No problem,’ Mike said, looking at this watch. ‘I’ll get one for you.’

He summoned Jill Bottrall, his press secretary of fourteen years and told her, ‘Get Mr Kennedy a kangaroo skull before the end of the dinner.’

‘Where the hell do I get that?’

‘I don’t know. Scour the freeway for road kill.’

Ninety minutes later the director of the Adelaide Zoo arrived with a kangaroo skull in a perspex case. Impressed, Kennedy gently removed the skull and in an ‘Alas, poor Yorick’ mood held it to the light, examining and savouring the moment.

Half an hour after the zoo director went home, a chuffed Kennedy turned to Mike and asked for another favour. ‘Can I have a second skull for my son?” Mike then sent a senior environment department officer out into the night. He was gone a long time but he did it and never said how, and Mike never asked him, never dared ask him how.

Shakespeare’s Betters: An Exchange

Doug Quixote May 25, 2012 at 5:26 am

How good are your powers of comprehension? Try this :

How old is the author?

Against my love shall be as I am now
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn,
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles, when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring:
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life.
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Is the author aged 28 or thereabouts? Or is he perhaps nearer to 42 – remember always that life expectancy in 1592 was about 40 years at birth, although an aristocrat once he had reached 21 could be expected to live to 65 or thereabouts. [Expectations of Life by H.O. Lancaster (1990) ]

Is the loved one 9 years younger, or 23 years younger?

The answers are thought provoking, are they not?

…..After you have looked at that one, (Sonnet 63) look at Sonnet 20 :

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted,
Hast thou the master mistress of my passion,
A woman’s gentle heart but not acquainted
With shifting change as is false women’s fashion,
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling:
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth,
A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
Which steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created,
Till nature as she wrought thee fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she pricked thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

‘Shakespeare’ was besotted!

There is more of the same, scattered throughout the first 70 sonnets, in particular; and thinly disguised in ‘Venus and Adonis’ the poem that first established his reputation.
Besotted with Wriothesley, Henry the W.H. of the dedication of the sonnets.

The same Henry Wriothesley who was Earl of Southampton, and being born in 1573 was 23 years younger than Edward De Vere (btw the man from Stratford was born in 1564)

Well? Was the author 9 years older than the object of his affections?

Or was he 23 years older?

Jeremy Dixon May 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Fair play to The Crucible, its a fine work and all that; but it was made not begotten – circuitry not flesh with messy bits dangling everywhere which is the fascination of Shakespeare….don’t know Cloudstreet…..Guys and Dolls isn’t even a good comedy, it just has a few good songs.

I can’t see the point of comparing Malory’s or More’s prose with Shakespeare’s; Shakespeare’s range is so much greater. I reckon Shakespeare could do a pretty creditable pastiche or the other two but not vice-versa…

A bit different when it comes to Donne…..a matter of taste there I guess.

By all means lets not worship Shakespeare, or anyone……but look, nearly 400 years after Will’s death my 16yo daughter, whose other cultural tastes run to classic punk and the like, has ventured out alone on a cold wet Melbourne winter dark to spend some of our scarce resources on watching an amateur production of Twelfth Night; rather a silly play if you stop to think about it and actually even if you don’t….there is something different in kind about his work…

allthumbs May 25, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Yes, well I must say I find Shakespeare’s comedy difficult and unfunny, although my favourite line in all of pShakespeare is up on the battlements of Elsinore in the cold biting air, Horatio is challenged by Bernardo,and asked if it is him and he replies “a piece of him”. That to me sounds so modern, such a correct and spontaneous response, so human, witty.
P
I know Will wasn’t the first, but then again Harold Bloom thinks he was the first to make characters change and grow and almost suprise themselves with their own lines during their time upon the stage, and such psychological representation Shakespeare truly pioneered.
P
This radical Bob Ellis is quite intriguing, nothing as good as Cloudstreet, can’t say one way or the other, haven’t read it yet.

Jeremy Dixon May 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

It is a startlingly modern-sounding line isn’t it, allthumbs…
As to humour….. I was shocked to watch “Life of Brian” lately and find it much less funny than I recalled….even the Biggus Dickus scene, which I had thought the funniest scene on film or anything….I think it is in the nature of comedy that it doesn’t age too well.

But, say, Orlando’s exasperation with Jacques in ‘As You Like It’, isn’t it still funny? Doesn’t Falstaff still have genuinely funny lines?

allthumbs May 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Well JD in some of the plotting of the Comedies there is much of Carry On, the cross dressing, the mistaken identities and Jaques can quickly succumb to Hattie Jaques.

Horatio is definetly a funny guy, “you might have rhymed” or “half a share” after the mousetrap play, more Bing Crosby than Bob Hope.

Falstaff funny, no not for me. Falstaff is a fat geezer who may know or not know that he is no longer just a figure of fun, but a receptacle for the barely veiled contempt of the future killing machine Henry V. Banish plump Jack and you banish the world are the words Falstaff might have written in his suicide note. He is supposed to be full of life like a Rabelaisian novel, alone he is one dark night away from deliberately drinking himself to death.

Bernard Manning would have been a great Falstaff or Jackie Gleason could have done it, a has been Minnesota Fats.

No way De Vere could have written “a piece of him”. No way.

Bob Ellis Saturday 26th May 9.22 am

Astounded you don’t esteem Guys and Dolls; it’s clear you have never seen it on the stage, with all the Marlon Brando self-indulgences cut out of it. I have seen various stage performances of it about forty times and regard it as the crown jewel of the musical theatre, much as The Band Wagon is of the musical film and Modern Times of the silent film comedy.

Life Of Brian beats the crap out of A Comedy Of Errors, the most relentless loud failure since — or before — It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. A lot of the Falstaff scenes work, but not the ones where he is gulled into telling bigger and bigger lies. The Merry Wives Of Windsor works well always on stage, though on the page it is indifferent. The scene where Falstaff and Hal play the King and Hal, and then turn-about, Hal and the King, is one of the greatest in Shakespeare, ending in Hal’s ominous ‘I do. I will.’ The scenes where Falstaff has fun with the names of recruited soldiers — Snot, Fart, Bumface, and so on — is way below Carry On standard and hard to bear.

Frank Wilson was the best Falstaff I have seen, with Anthony Quayle on BBC a close second. Emrys James at the RSC in 1968 achieved the remarkable double of a good Othello and a great Falstaff. I always thought Peckinpah should have filmed the Henry IV condensation (one Bell and Wherret used in 1978) but it is in fact the tavern scenes and the Gad’s Hill robbery-farce that make it impossible to believe.

I once performed the Orlando-Jacques scene with Gore Vidal in a coffee shop in Double Bay and it worked very well -’Sir, we must be better strangers,’ Gore said, and he kept his word. A witness, Bob Carr, will attest to this.

Carr thinks my Oxfordist leanings bizarre but Doug Quixote is very persuasive, and the pendulum is moving his way.

And so it goes.

How The Right Wins By Cheating

Because Labor has good policies and the Right cannot attack them on their policies, or the new laws they enact, they instead go after individual Labor people. They say they are corrupt, mentally unstable, adulterous or dying. These are the charges they always make, and the rumours they mostly put about. They dare not fight on policy, or even the economy, because Labor’s record lately has been very good.

Corrupt, mentally unstable, adulterous or dying. ‘Adulterous’ got rid of Jim Cairns, Cheryl Kernot, Gareth Evans, Don Dunstan, Mike Rann, John Della Bosca, David Campbell, politicians of larger talent than anyone on the current Liberal front bench. And it was of course mostly true, though Mike Rann (I know this) was innocent and scraped home in the election anyway, but was brought down by its widening ripples eighteen months later.

‘Corrupt’ was alleged of Neville Wran, Jack Renshaw, Laurie Brereton, Lionel Murphy, Brian Burke, Joe Tripodi, Bob Hawke, Graham Richardson, Paul Landa, Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Peter Slipper and it was sometimes true but it hardly ever worked politically. These were big, big talents and they mostly survived.

‘Dying’ got rid of Beazley after he admitted to a leaking brain and he tiredly mixed up Karl Rove and Rove McManus when jet-lagged as most Perth politicians are. It has also been used in the past against F.D Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Fidel Castro, Mick Young, Osama Bin Laden, Gough Whitlam, Wayne Swan and Bob Brown, unsuccessfully.

‘Mentally unstable’ has been used against almost everyone on the Left and the Centre-Left and the Greens. It is the underlying message of the verb ‘lashed out’, something only Labor people do (Craig Thomson ‘lashed out’ last week and Christopher Pyne merely ‘asserted’), and the nouns ‘dummy-spit’, ‘tantrum’, ‘meltdown’ and ‘rant’. It was used against Bob Brown for decades in various coded ways till history proved him sane and wise, at which point it was said he was dying. It is being used now against Bob Katter, whose policies are the most intelligent on offer in a ttoubling world. It is associated with almost any unionist. Bob Hawke was once called a crazy radical, and Bill Shorten, and Simon Crean. Paul Howes ‘lashed out’ only yesterday, Bob Katter on Sunday.

This is because the Liberals have no policies to speak of (apart from giving Gina Rinehart even more money than the two million an hour she gets now to dig up things we own and sell them to foreigners for big money we don’t share in) and Labor, the Greens and the Independents have a lot of good policies. The Liberals have to vilify and mock and sneer, they have to cheat, because they can’t win legitimately, arguing policy.

In the case of Craig Thompson, they are using all four adjectives conjointly: corrupt, mentally unstable, adulterous and dying. He misused money with whores; he committed adultery with whores; he is ‘at breaking point’ now there’s a whore coming after him and he may kill himself tomorrow. Better for him if he gives up politics, and takes a holiday. We’re only thinking of him. We only want the best for poor young Craig. He should take a holiday, now.

It’s interesting to reflect on the part Mal Washer played in this. It was he who started up the rumour that Craig might be mad, and suggested he should quit, or take a break. He wasn’t being benevolent at all. He was just following the usual plan: say he’s mad, and it’s best he gets out of politics, for his own good. And we take over.

And it was through this prism Craig’s brief press conference on Thursday was construed by the newly alerted media. He was actually quite normal — calm, concise and to the point. And all the media said he was mad, and ‘at breaking point, and likely to kill himself. Abbott this morning pretended it was a kindness when he said he shouldhe resign his seat and give the Liberals power. Just trying to help out, mate.

I’m not sure anyone has ever made this list of tactics in a published article before. It’s the Karl Rove method used here — Biden is crazy, Bill Clinton corrupt and adulterous, McCain dying, Teddy Kennedy adulterous and dying, Bin Laden mad and on dialysis with not long to live — and it’s significant I think that Barack Obama has not yet been smeared with any of these categories, not one of them.

And may, therefore, survive.

Dixon For The Defence

Jeremy Dixon May 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

Hmmm…”Forbid me not to love thee as I must/For love will have its morning and its day” is good pastiche and I think could be Shakespeare in language though I don’t think that the thought is representative of the Shakespeare of the sonnets. “Hell” was Elizabethan slang for the female private parts, and I think all uses of it in Shakespeare’s sonnets draw on that shade of meaning; I can’t see that your pastiche does.

The dialogue is enhanced prose; but of course not intended to be Shakespeare pastiche….it lacks I think the exuberance and apparent lack of self-consciousness, the “never blotting a line” quality of Shakespeare’s enhanced prose. Shakespeare’s enhanced prose I think is the latter.

I’ll catch the play if I can …certainly there is a regrettable lack of hand-jobs in the received Shakespearean corpus and this needs to be addressed.

As for the general point that others could have written like Shakespeare I think there is no doubt of that…on his off days at least he was imitable ….but also that people usually didn’t. Look at Troilus and Cressida; not usually listed amongst his best efforts but I don’t think anyone would doubt that it was finished by another hand. It is as if a Lina Wertmuller movie were finished by the Carry On crew.

The relevance of this kind of argument to the question of Shakespeare’s identity is pretty limited. No-one now doubts he had collaborators, that was the norm of his time. He was unusual in that his authorship was usually listed alone, his name had become so bankable. A pretty good explanation of this would be that his superiority was widely recognized….he has never been accused of being a colourful character in himself. Greene’s famous sneering tirade implies Shakespeare’s recognized superiority, that is what Greene found so upsetting.

But before the question of who was capable of writing Shakespeare’s works becomes relevant to the authorship question there has to be some good reason for doubting that it was on the whole Shakespeare.

I can’t see that there is.

You know, Bernard Shaw wrote a play about the American Wild West of which he had no experience. But his friend Frank Harris, also a writer, certainly did. Maybe I should start a theory that Frank Harris ‘really’ wrote Shaw’s plays, there might be a book in it for me. I could refer to Shaw as “the Dublin office boy”, and so forth…..

Lines For Julia Gillard (4): The Tourist

‘Can the Manager of Opposition Business assure us he has made no use of prostitution services in Asia in the past ten years?’

The Unusual Fairfax Dirty Tricks (2): Legless, With Abbott Punching

The smh this morning left the crucial words ‘legless war veteran’ out of their account of Abbott beginning to punch somebody in the House and being thrown out for it.

The words, of course, would have have ended his career if they had put them in. And they didn’t want that. They had to keep up the myth, reiterated by Grattan this morning, that Labor was doomed and just ‘trying to save the furniture’ when Abbott, in a month or two, became inevitably Prime Minister after the abashed and shattered Craig Thomson resigned his seat and shot himself when unmedicated, underoccupied and soused on cheap champagne in the shed out the back by the water.

It is a pity to see a lie of this size in the smh, in which I was once a columnist more popular than the Papist superstar Gerard Henderson.

Legless. Veteran. Tried to punch. So sorry. So. sorry.

Just tell the truth.

Okay?

The Human Factor

The Liberals are not very good at the human factor. They work on unseen bogeymen, and when a living human person appears in their cross-hairs — Slipper, gloomily stepping down; Nick Sherry, attempting suicide; John Brogden, attempting suicide; Don Dunstan, resigning in a dressing gown; Alamdar and Montezar Bakhtiyari, little boys in baseball caps, pleading for their lives- they are flummoxed by the immediate public rage at their evident cruelty.

Now it suddenly seems Craig may hurt himself, may do himself in, perhaps; bereave two infant children and smash the Liberals posthumously with a nationwide broadcast of his weeping funeral and of course, of course, they are backing off now; Abbott, his primary waterboarder, asking timidly after his health and wishing him well after jeering him down Golgotha for weeks and months and years.

He does not yet understand how the Liberals’ ancient accustomed method, the puppetisation of one’s enemies, now, in the age of the phone camera, the iPad, the tweet and ABC 202 has become technologically impossible. The enemy now can answer back, he can answer back, as the Arab Spring showed. You may ban him from the Letters Page but he can answer here, or on YouTube or Lateline. He is a puppet no longer. He has words. He has teeth.

And you can see the Liberals as they truly are on the floor of the House, repeatedly through the long loud raw foul-hearted bickering day: Abbott snarling and Pyne shrieking, and Bishop calling ‘tricky, pretty tricky’ the shrewd Bob Carr’s emollient merciful saving of Schapelle Corby’s life. You can see them on this technology as they really, truly are: schoolyard bullies, red in tooth and claw, shrieking for blood, more carnage, more vengeance, hurt and shaming, hating the human race, the common stumbling sorry lustful human race from which they feel such exiles.

And the game is up for them now. They used to be able to make us believe that mothers would throw their one-year old babies into the sea. They can do this no longer. They used to be able to make us believe Shock and Awe was not terrorism. They can no longer.

And they have lost the game, for good.

Shakespeare Contrasted With His Betters

The question of who could have written Shakespeare if not Will Shaxper the grain merchant and jobbing actor has many possible answers. Many of the authors of The King James Bible are in his league. The author of Ecclesiastes 12 is, if anything, a little better. Sidney’s sonnets, Ralegh’s prose, are as good as those of WS. John Donne’s poems are on average rather better than his songs. His long poems are not as good as Milton’s. Dryden’s All For Love is better than Antony and Cleopatra; but then, so is Run For Your Wife.

Of his modern imitators Anthony Burgess in Nothing Like The Sun and A Meeting In Valilodid are as good as he. The plays A Man For All Seasons and The Crucible and Victory and Cloudstreet are better than twenty-five of his. Tennyson’s Morte D’Arthur is as good in its last chapters as his best work, Malory’s Morte D’Arthur in some parts rather better. Dickens’s characters are better, and his comic dialogue vastly better. Evelyn Waugh’s prose is better, and Nabokov’s much better, Borges in translation better still. Max Beerbohm’s Six Men contains the best Shakespearian pastiche. Les Mis seems to me to be better than all of his tragedies other than Hamlet, the verse first rate.

And then there is the curious case of Denny Lawrence and Bob Ellis’s Shakespeare In Italy, coming soon to a small theatre near you. Five actresses acquainted with it call its lead female, Julia, better written than any of his. A sample of it, quoted here, might whet your appetite.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Philip, Rowley and Stephano go. Shakespeare is left restless, apprehensive, not sure what he should do. He walks to the harpsichord. Sits. Begins to play. Julia enters in a nightdress, sits on the couch.

Julia: You play?

Shakespeare: I trifle with playing.

Julia: You trifle with much.

Shakespeare: And you. With the faith of your father, and your husband, and the Pope, and the Queen.

Julia: He told you that?

Shakespeare: Yes.

Julia: It is a lover’s quarrel with my God. And with my lord.

Shakespeare: It is more perilous than that. It is what divides most families in England, secretly.

Julia: Have you a wife?

Shakespeare: Oh yes. And three babes in a twelvemonth of being eighteen. Judith; and Susannah and Hamlet, twins.

Julia: And you live there, in that house? With her, and them?

Shakespeare: In my master’s house. Forty miles from her, and them. She minds a shop with my brother Gilbert. Her mother tends the children. And once…on a fool occasion…

Julia: Tell me.

Shakespeare: No.

Julia: Do. My lips are sealed.

Shakespeare: A fine Roman saying.

Julia: It is. Say on, young man.

Shakespeare: I came back to Stratford on a swift horse and entering my own house found my own brother abed with my good wife, roaring and squealing at their joint pleasure, and this in working hours.

Julia: And you felt…

Shakespeare: Nothing.

Julia: Truly?

Shakespeare: Nothing. As she works with my brother by day she may lay with him by night, for all I care. It was not my business. It was theirs.

Julia: And you did then what?

Shakespeare: I returned to my master’s work in Shottery. And sent back money every week, as before. It was none of my affair.

Julia: Whose were the children?

Shakespeare: Mine perhaps. His perhaps. I do not know. I do not care.

Julia: Do you on your visits lie with your wife?

Shakespeare: Oh yes.

Julia: How is it between you?

Shakespeare: There is no difficulty. We tup and roar and squeal in the family fashion.

He sits beside her on the couch.

Julia: I have not known my husband these three years.

Shakespeare: Is he…unable?

Julia: No, I am unwilling.

Shakespeare: How so?

Julia: I too found him tupping another. A boy.

Shakespeare: Ah.

Julia: A boy from the district where such boys are. He brought him to the house. And I awoke in a restless spirit, and came upon them. Here. (She pats the couch) He sent the boy away and told me it was an infrequent stirring he repented.

Shakespeare: And you believed him?

Julia: I believed him, and it did not matter. And I turned away.

Shakespeare: You look well together.

Julia: Of course. We are diplomats. We must.

Shakespeare: You are friends?

Julia: Of course. (She strokes his face. He does not resist) We accommodate our life to its necessities. As all do. As all poor Christian souls must now in these times, to secure their end.

Shakespeare: In heavenly bliss?

Julia: Well, we shall see. (She kisses him. He does not resist) How is it you spend now your wifeless nights?

Shakespeare: I read. I think of other things.

Julia: And what do you read?

Shakespeare: North’s Plutarch. Seneca when translated by Studley and Neville. Plautus in the original. The incomplete Bible in raw English of Tyndale the Protestant martyr, which I would finish, or strive to finish, had I the Hebrew. (She puts her hand near his penis) The lewd tales of Chaucer and Boccaccio. The sonnets of Philip Sidney.

Julia: And you write?

Shakespeare: Sonnets, like Sidney. And I tear them up.

Julia: How many?

She moves her hand against him.

Shakespeare: Too many.

Julia: And you know five by heart.

Shakespeare: I know ten by heart.

Julia: Say them to me.

Shakespeare: No.

She puts her hand inside his garment.

Julia: Say them to me.

Shakespeare: No. (She begins to work on him. He gasps) No…

Lights down. Florio enters, playing on a lute, and singing.

Florio: (sings) I did see my love but once,
When heaven was still true,
And in a moment only,
My love was all I knew…
I saw forever passing by,
And love was there and so was I,
And love was all I knew…
And I became not I but we,
And then, not I but she,
And all the world was clear as day,
And the vision…fled away.

OLights up. Shakespeare and Julia are in bed, naked under a silk sheet, in candlelight. Night noises suggest restless birds. The lute music trails away. They have made love, or love of a sort, and slept, and woken.

Shakespeare: How long till dawn?

Julia: An hour by the clock.

Shakespeare: It hath been storming, busily, this night.

Julia: It is passed. Like the first of your lust.

Shakespeare: Do not test me.

Julia: My husband returns on these nights by noon, or eleven. We may love, and sleep again.

Shakespeare: His nights with boys?

Julia: A particular boy, I think.

Shakespeare: And you?

Julia: With whom I will. This night with you. It takes a wondrous looking glass to spy another’s marriage, how it goes. By what drifts and indirections a man comes to his bed.

Shakespeare: Or a woman to her child.

He rolls on top of her, proposing to make love.

Julia: No, no, there must be no spare Shakespeares in this house of chastity.

Shakespeare: (proceeding) I would fill you up with one. Or two. There is precedent for two.

Julia: (throwing him off) It cannot be.

Shakespeare: (lying back, disappointed) I know…

Julia: I will take you in hand. Or mouth.

Shakespeare: No.

Julia: And you will pleasure me. It is the modern way.

Shakespeare: I will.

He reaches towards her under the sheets and begins to work on her. She moves against his hand.

Julia: Sonnetise me.

Shakespeare: Pardon?

Julia: Sonnetise me.

Shakespeare: Ah.

Julia: Say me a sonnet. A love sonnet. In ten and ten.

Shakespeare: (continuing to work on her) Forbid me not to love thee as I must,
For love will have its morning and its day
And by rude August winds will not be swept away
Nor any whimpered word ’tis but my lust.
No harlot stirs the midnight as thou dost,
Nor fires to hot ceramic all my clay,
With angel trumpet summons up my dust,
Restores to sour October sweetest May.

Julia: (eyes closed) Oh.

Shakespeare: I cannot hope that thou wilt love me just
Because my love is love I cannot stay
I know by inches I must earn thy trust,
With wooer’s verses keep thy fear at bay…

Julia: (moving restlessly) Yes…

Shakespeare: But, lady, I am true and love thee well
And wait thy resurrection from this hell.

Julia: Who was she?

Shakespeare: Kate Hamnet. She drowned herself when she was fifteen.

Julia: Wrote you this before she did? Or after?

Shakespeare: After. Long after. I loved her well. We never touched. (Touching her) Not here. Nor there. Nor kissed. (Kissing her)

Julia: (climaxing) Oh. Oh. Oh God. You are swift. With mouth and hand.

She relaxes.

Shakespeare: In England now we yearn for the confessional.

Julia: For sins like these.

Shakespeare: In the old church was forgiveness. In the new church only accusation, gossip and revenge. The new girls of England are hot of blood in summer and winter, and put themselves about.

Julia: (snuggling up to him) We do.

Shakespeare: And some of them risk all for love.

Julia: Not I.

Shakespeare: I would have a child at last with you, my English girl.

Julia: Before you are twenty-one.

Shakespeare: It is time enough.

Julia: But you have a child.

Shakespeare: No.

Julia: Your first.

Shakespeare: I have three. Perhaps mine.

Julia: How perhaps?

Shakespeare: How knows a man whose child he has and is raising?

Julia: Speak more of this. Or less.

Shakespeare: Anne was with child, and swollen, and four candidates jousted for paternity; loud lads of the town, unwilling, unruly, drunk and unremembering. Her father and mine were in a trading business together. And I alone was persuaded to the altar.

Julia: With money?

Shakespeare: Money for my father. And his business adventures in Snitterfield.

Julia: And was she your child?

Shakespeare: She may seem that way some days, or not. She hath lusty lungs at midnight, and she wakes me, and I write. (He gives a short gasp. She is working on him under the sheets) And I sleep, and the twins wake me. How is this to end?

Julia: It has scarce begun, my sweet man.

Shakespeare: I see its ending soon.

Julia: With both of us beheaded for our love.

Shakespeare: I would like that.

He rolls on top of her, seeking penetration.

Julia: No, no, stay off. Let me take you.

Shakespeare: No.

Julia: Yes.

Shakespeare: No.

He tries again to mount her.

Julia: You shall not.

Shakespeare: No. No.

He comes outside her, and relaxes. She wipes him with the same neckerchief as she had in the play.

Julia: Come with me on an errand this morrow.

Shakespeare: (beginning to doze) An errand, you say?

Julia: An errand of joy. A tour and exploration.

Shakespeare: Exploration?

Julia: Of a great wonder.

Lights down. Florio enters with a lute, and sings.

Florio: (sings) I did see my love but once,
When heaven was still true,
And in a moment only
My love was all I knew…
I saw forever passing by
And love was there and so was I
And love was all I knew…
And I became not I but we,
And then, not I but she,
And all the world was clear as day,
And the moment fled away…

Julia and Shakespeare enter, dressed now, into shafts of coloured light, looking up.

Shakespeare: What is it called?

Julia: The Sistine. From Adam’s creation it goes to Golgotha’s cross and Christ’s return from the dark house of death.

Shakespeare: And the Last Judgement.

Julia: By Michael Angelo Buonarotti. And his apprentices.

Shakespeare: Are you a believer?

Julia: Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.

Shakespeare: I too.

Julia: Are you Catholic?

Shakespeare: I am dabbling. I am stirred. No greater work, I was told, than this there is in Christendom.

Julia: And now you are sure.

Shakespeare: I am.

Julia: He lived to be ninety. Yet much he did is unfinished. Peering out of the rock. Seeking its incarnation. Not yet born.

Shakespeare: When did he die?

Julia: Fifteen sixty-four.

Shakespeare: What month?

Julia: January, I think. In cold winter.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

In the scene that follows, Shakespeare toys with the thought that he might be Michelangelo reincarnated, and he must do great things in the world — in collaboration with Julia, perhaps, who is an actress/playwright, one of several then flourishing and praised and petted in Rome. Cardinal Peretti, in a great fury, interrupts them, afeared that his plottings with Shakespeare’s employer, John Rowley, a Warwickshire Papist wool-merchant bent on the overthrow of the strumpet-heretic Elizabeth, have been uncovered. The Pope is dying, and Peretti, later Pope himself, is much distracted. And so on.

Whether or not you much esteem the above confection, it is reasonably clear that if two far-flung colonial shake-scenes rough-schooled by Number 96 in dialogue-fudging can approximate the Stratford man’s smooth numbers another of his better-practised contempories could also. Lancelot Andrewes, for instance, who wrote, or co-wrote, the Bible. I invite opinions on this.

And so it goes.

On ‘Overshadowing’

The notorious Abbottite conspirators Fran Kelly and Michelle Grattan are speaking again of Thomson ‘s hookers ‘overshadowing’ a Budget of a trillion dollars and the future of a country triumphant among the shambles of the world economy and how Craig’s movements in 2005 are somehow ‘sucking the oxygen’ out of all other news. No-one listening can concentrate it seems on their child’s illness, or their embattled country town’s future now the jam factory has closed, or Paul Howes’ new thoughts about protection, or the wobbly Aussie dollar, or obesity, or aspro curing cancer. They are thinking only of Craig, Craig, Craig. The oxygen has been sucked away.

This I believe is a Big Lie and those like Fran who put it about should be relieved of their duties in the media forthwith. Paul Murray last night in his jolly bluff evil way said the Government should give up, call an early election and embrace extinction, losing a year’s pay while they’re at it, lest they become beneath the present bombardment suicidally depressed.

They forget, they forget, they forget and forget what it is to be human. If you, for instance, learned at 6 am today that your favourite uncle had been arrested for kiddy-fiddling and seemed on the face of it almost certainly guilty of it and bound for gaol, you would certainly be affected by it. You would make some phone-calls, write an email or two, have an extra cup of coffee…..

But … but … by 8.15 you would be on the bus to work, talking go a fellow traveller of other things. By 9 or
9.15 you would be at the office, coping with whatever is on your desk, and preparing with the Staff Meeting at 10.30. By lunchtime you would have other priorities, other urgencies, other things to do, and your uncle’s fate would fade a bit from the upper reaches of your concentration. And after work you would be in a bar with your current girl-friend or bloke, looking forward to Titanic in 3D or An Officer And A Gentleman, or a Japanese dinner, or an early fuck.

Yet these wicked fool hacks have put it about that the nation can think of nothing now but Craig’s whore, and have no conceivable interest in the fate of Greece, or the fate if the euro, or the fate of Assange, and they have no TIME to ponder anything other than Craig’s dipped wick and how he paid for it. All else has been ‘overshadowed’.

This is plainly untrue, and a libel on our entire democracy.

I call on them to cease being so sheep-like and Murdochist and vacuous and creepy, and go back to doing their job, of seeking news and printing it.

How dare they. How dare they.

Discuss.

Want A Girl, Love?

Would a prostitute lie for money in an interview?

Well, it’s what prostitutes do. They feign arousal or amusement or enjoyment or intellectual interest as the customer requires. The paying customer. For sixty thousand dollars, they might sign a stat dec saying this or that if a customer, a paying customer, Channel 9 for instance, wanted this or that sincerely said. They might go down on you as well, or allow unprotected penetration. (See Careless Love for details. The offered variety is copiously impressive. And none of it is true.)

Craig is right in objecting to this process and the people driving it. A man as vividly familiar with Asian cat-houses as Christopher Pyne (if that indeed is the case, and I may be terribly wrong, it is just my impression) is feigning moral shock, Mr Speaker, moral shock, Mr Slipper, I mean Madam Deputy Speaker, and relying on a Sydney strumpet to uplift his image in the land.

And so is Tony Abbott, who refused to accompany his pregnant girl friend to the altar and arranged that her baby be sent to Western Australia while he became a priest ‘not as celibate as I should have been’ after being arraigned on a charge of sexual assault and breaking Joe Hockey’s jaw (see how easy it is to make a genial, clever, pious, prayerful, bead-clicking man seem otherwise), and it isn’t working. It isn’t working any more.

He’s done his dash, I fear. He’s shown himself to be the sneering schoolyard bully many women feared he was.

And their vote is gone for good.

And it’s a pity.

The Innocence Of Craig Thomson (15): The Chifley Effect

Craig Thompson is what American lawyers call ‘a good witness’. He seems clean-cut, direct, undevious and accurate: a Henry Fonda, not a Lee J. Cobb; see Twelve Angry Men for the contrast.

Because of this quality, he has unexpectedly delivered the most damaging blow to Tony Abbott of his career. With one raised figure and eight words, ‘He is not fit to be an M.P.’, he has rekindled in a million women’s minds the mistrust they have felt from time to time for this hairy bully, this rat with women, this arse-baring jock, this smirking, leering, mendacious bike-riding mug lair.

Craig seems none of these things. He seems mild, prim, Presbyterian, undelusional; scarcely the swiving, roistering Berlusconi he is painted as. If one were to ask a stranger from Manchuria which of the two was the whoremonger he would pick Tony Abbott every time.

And this is the trouble Abbott is currently in. He talks of the stench over parliament but more and more of his own body odour invades the argument. He tried to dong a war veteran without legs in the House and was thrown out of it. He was a tried but unconvicted student groper. He shared his Catholic girlfriend with her landlord, and imagined like a fool her child was his. He was ‘not as celibate as I should have been’ as a trainee priest. And … No, I shouldn’t go there. It would ruin him. And Craig’s raised finger has done I think that noble work already.

Something else I realised about why Craig inspires trust: he looks like the young Ben Chifley. He’s not as tall, but he has that cast to his face and the same complexion, and he comes, of course, from Bathurst and may be a relative.

It’s a odd outcome anyway, what Alan Reid called ‘a turn-up for the books’. Labor won the week, and it was Craig who won it for them

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (56): Fudging Newspoll Once Again

Hugh Riminton said on Channel Ten that the Coalition were ‘licking their lips’ at the prospect of the Newspoll due out on Tuesday.

Hard to see now they could know the results yet of an honest poll whose ring-around doesn’t start until tomorrow.

A dishonest poll is another thing. They’d know the results of that already. And they will have been told.

It is the usual Murdoch dirty trick. When the Liberals are in trouble, big trouble, give them a good result. Howard after Tampa, Howard just before the Iraq War which no-one much on earth but he and Bush wanted, Howard after the Children Overboard hoax was shown to be a hoax, got acclamatory Newspolls ‘unexpectedly’ and felt much better and Labor much, much worse. This is what the Murdochists do. It’s their habit of mind. It’s their company rule. They cheat. They love it. There will be a Newspoll showing Abbott surging ahead on Tuesday.

This is because he has been doing very badly. The poofter-bashing Heffernan, unreproved by him; the conspiring Pyne and Ashby, unreproved by him; the persecution of Craig, who he says is lying about Channel 7; his history as a student groper on a serious charge; his violence towards a legless war veteran on the floor of the House; his refusal to approve gay marriage for even his sister; his ‘chaos theory’ approach to democracy; his assertion that lower-class parents would steal money from their children; his refusal to congratulate Swanny on the world’s only surplus Budget and a flourishing economy; his visible sadism, like a boarding school bully pushing a new little foreign kid’s head down the toilet; all of these things, these images and these utterances and these leers and these lies, have lost him a hundred and fify thousand women’s votes in the past month.  And he knows it, and so do I.

But Newspoll won’t show any of this. They’ll take damn good care to ring up when the young vote isn’t home, and hang up if they hear a migrant voice, the way they do, and make sure sixty percent of their respondents are men.

Nor will they do a poll matching Carr with Abbott, or Shorten with Abbott, or Albo with Abbott, or Faulkner with Abbott, or Beattie or Beazley or Plibersek. They’re not here to discover the truth. Rupert would hate that. His ‘this one’ pet editor Rebekah is going to gaol for concealing the truth. And he has to get a Liberal Prime Minister soon he can get sanctuary from when the FBI come after him. It’s no holds barred now. It’s a battle to the death. Catch Newspoll breaking the habit of scores of years and playing fair.

No way.

Classic Ellis: Facing the Music, 2001

The world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival of the Connolly-Anderson documentary Facing the Music brought the enormous audience applauding to its feet, but in the speeches from the film’s makers and its principal players afterwards there was no sense of triumph, only anger at what they had seen and been through, which was a kind of slaughter, a massacre of ideals.

In it Ann Boyd the formidable Australian composer and Professor of Music at the University of Sydney tries to save her department from extinction when Canberra’s budget cuts and the economic rationalists in the university administration progressively squeeze, then abruptly halve, the money she has to work with, and she changes in personality from a reticent artist-academic into a placard-waving demonstrator on the picket lines at the university gates, and a smiling wooer of corporate dollars to carry on.

And all in vain. The choir goes first, then the opera studies, the Stravinsky studies, advanced counterpoint and harmony, the evening concerts, computer music, Japanese music, orchestration, and for a moment the costs of the piano tuning, and in the sorrow and the clamour she gets only ten days that year to work on her great song cycle Jesus Reassures His Mother From The Cross. Her associate professor, the wondrous, rotund, hobbit-like Winsome Evans, after thirty years in the department, has a heart attack. Both take on extra teaching, unpaid. In a remarkable scene Boyd shrieks in frustration at a mild young female pupil who then in tears rips up her own composition. And much good music is never written, and hearts are broken, and careers aborted, and the innocent suffer and grieve, and no good comes of any of it as the numbers are crunched and egos smashed and dreams sent wittering into the void. In the same week as the film came out Jodee Rich of One.Tel, a company he’d helped ruin, tried to tiptoe away with seven million dollars, enough to fund Boyd’s deficit a hundred times over. But his achievement, of course, was so much greater. He wooed a few Telstra customers to a rival hook-up that failed. She by contrast merely enlarged the feeling heart of humankind and passed on how to do it. She must therefore be punished with whips and scorpions and he enriched beyond the dreams of all who dance and revel around the Golden Calf. He is clearly the more deserving. And his is the doctrine that will prevail.

Facing The Music is among the finest documentaries lately made (surpassing easily the directors’ previous work, Rats In The Ranks), in part because it asks the fairly important question of what we are here on earth for, and how it can be measured. On the often beautiful faces of the absorbed young pupils, pounding away at keyboards and delicately fingering harp strings and sawing and plunking with swaying heads at violins and cellos, there’s no doubt of what the answer is. They are here to channel a kind of divinity, a divinity of sound, through human ears. They are here to show us with sound a kind of final mystery, how strange it is, as Shakespeare said, that mere cats’ guts can hale men’s souls out of their bodies. And how fine it is, J.B. Priestley said, that great music can show us the mountains and lakes and valleys of a better world, a world that never existed, a world we have never visited, and can only yearn for, as the music plays.

And the idea, the very idea, that this can be measured in dollars and cents is the principal ingredient of the dark heresy that is currently ruling and punishing the world. That the week Mozart took to compose his Requiem can be said with precision to be worth, say, two hundred dollars, though he died of the pain of its composition. Or the month Florey took to come up with penicillin was worth, what, one thousand dollars, not a penny more. Or Logie Baird, television, three thousand dollars I guess, what the hell, let’s be generous. On this reckoning Einstein would have been fired after two years from Princeton for not in that time having completed his Field Theory of the Universe. The faculty’s budget is limited, professor, and you have signally failed to deliver; pray pack up your three stubby pencils and your floppy notebook and be gone. We’ve no time for dawdlers and shirkers here at Princeton, a great efficient university. Or the time George Gershwin took - seven minutes - to write in the last week of his life ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’ was worth, let’s be lavish, fourteen dollars. ‘Don’t be silly,’ George said with a touch of avarice to a young man mortified by the swiftness of his composition, ‘it took thirty-seven years.’ And he died the next day, and with him a lot of music worth, I suppose, on current reckoning, tens of dollars more.

And the music unplayed, and the songs unsung, and the young faces untransported in their communion with the mighty force they serve, haunt this film as surely as do the radiant young faces we see and the angel sounds we hear, and so does the question what are we here on earth for? and what do we teach the young? and who should decide what is there to be found, and learned, and celebrated?

A university used to be the way of finding these things out. The very word implies a textured study of the universe, its variety and enormity. And to say this study should be measured and assessed and counted mile by mile (can Jupiter be shrunk to fit in our annual estimates? can we airbrush, this year, the rings from Saturn?) is entirely absurd, absurd as the unmarked grave Mozart lies in beside other beggars who ran out of luck like him, and government subsidy, and money to carry on. A university is part of the remedy for all that, a way of restoring justice to the talented, of penetrating the dark of Time with brief candles, finding what is there.

And universities haven’t done too badly over the years. In the last millennium, on less money than humans have spent in toto on Coca Cola, they gave us the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Darwinian hypothesis, agnosticism, existentialism, the quark, linguistics, quantum physics, the structure of DNA and the cloning of Dolly the sheep, Aquinas, Luther, Erasmus, Marlowe, Milton, Newton, Voltaire, Byron, Tennyson, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Russell, Wylde, The Anatomy of Melancholy, Principia Mathematica, The Lord of the Rings, the polio vaccine, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, W.H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Richard Burton, Isaiah Berlin, Kingsley Amis, Phillip Larkin, Jean Paul Sartre, Mick Jagger, Saul Bellow, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, Noam Chomsky, Woody Allen and, on one university campus in one half decade, Robert Hughes, Clive James, Les Murray, Michael Kirby, Mary Gaudron, Germaine Greer, John Bell, John Gaden, Bruce Beresford, Geoffrey Robertson, Arthur Dignam, Richard Wherrett, Richard Walsh, Richard Butler, Richard Brennan, Richard Bradshaw, Mungo McCallum, Laurie Oakes, Henri Szeps, Hall Greenland and me. The campus was Sydney and the half decade 1959-64 and if its budget then had been cut in the way it’s lately been cut we’d be most of us driving buses now or dead or drunk or teaching English in Yokahama or running a whorehouse in Bolivia, or worse.

And uncertain what we’re here on earth for - to be ourselves, to do our thing, to awake the unplayed symphonies within us, the unsung songs of joy, or merely to scutter like soldier crabs by moonlight in disciplined multiple silent panic towards the engulfing sea. Economic rationalism has made such fugitive crabs of us all, and all our comings and goings a jostling rush towards death, and all now young who are scared of what is to come in a world where golden parachutes for fools who stuff up a company merger can be fourteen million dollars (its interest earning them thirteen thousand dollars a week) and Winsome Evans, teaching the loud clear language of angels, can die for want of the five thousand dollars cost for a part-time tutor for fifty hours a year in a university whose track record of talent fostered and genius realised rivals Oxford at its best.

It’s rational, we’re told, to cut money to such a place, and so stifle the next Stravinsky, or excise the study of music from the university altogether, bare ruined choirs where no birds sing, and merge it with the Conservatorium, where everyone learns how, but never why. It’s rational to torture Boyd, a musical genius, with the consequences of her generous heart and her joyous desire to teach, to increase the civilisation of humankind, the pleasure there to be had in the night at its darkest when the music plays and we know we are part of an enormity that can be told in no other language but this, the language of the feeling heart in touch with the universe, the totality we share.

For the want of seventy thousand dollars certain lunatics would end all this, while paying seven hundred thousand a year to Dame Leonie Kramer for her part, a big part, in its ending.

And everywhere this is happening, in faculties around the nation, the world, in history, social ecology, English, the ancient languages. Slowly, quickly, decisively, in panic, in revenge, with reluctance, with pleasure, they are choking, smothering, ending all memory of the world. Facing The Music is only a parable, a miniature, of what is happening everywhere, to the human spirit and the human soul.

Prove that I lie.

Redistributing Gina

If we were to confiscate one third of what Gina Rinehart earns every day from what she digs out of our soil and in equal measure give it back to us, the people, every taxpayer would get nine hundred and thirty-five dollars more a year. This would leave Gina still earnig in twenty-eight minutes what Barack Obama earns in a year.

Is anybody against this partial nationalisation of accidental wealth? Will anybody argue her need is greater than that of a night nurse, or a ditch-digging council worker, or a teacher like John Faulkner of profoundly disabled children? Anybody?

I invite contributions, and will print them all.

Class warfare, anyone?

Arise.

Poor Big Rich Girl

Curious how numbers are thought of in different ways. Gina Rinehart makes two million dollars an hour and spends it largely on self-indulgence and is mostly congratulated for it. Craig Thomson spends six thousand dollars in two years (if that’s what he did) on self-indulgence and is trashed and ruined for it. Rhinehart earns six thousand dollars in one tenth of a second. Does she spend it righteously? Does she pay for sex? Is it in any way our money she pays for it with? We do not even ask.

If we confiscated every three hours one hour’s worth of her earnings we would have sixteen more million a day, five billion six hundred and forty-four million a year to spend on the poor; on schools, hospitals, the disabled, the arts, on medical research. Why don’t we do this? A lot of her wealth comes from dirt that we, the people, own. Does she need that much? What does she need it for? Does she spend it here? Why should she be allowed to do this?

Gina Rhinehart earns in fifteen minutes what Barack Obama earns in a year. How can this be justified? Does she have a more difficult job than he? Does she make more testing decisions? Is she responsible for the welfare of more people? Why then do we put up with this?

We are told Class Envy is a bad thing, and we mustn’t question this rancorous fat bitch’s right to wealth others risk their lives to dig up and lay at her feet. We are told this by people who don’t want us to look at the figures and join the dots and follow the thread and form an opinion. We are told to leave off, it’s none of our business and to enquire how she gets it and if she deserves it is Class War.

Class War sounds to me like a good idea for Labor to look into. Taking half what Gina gets and spending it on worthwhile things would leave her still earning a million dollars an hour, twice what Obama gets in a year. Would that be an unreasonable sacrifice of what she gets out of soil we own? Can’t see why. Can’t see why there wouldn’t be votes in it.

Please consider.

A Bard For All Seasons: Quixote Sums Up

Dear Bob,

I have studied the Shakespeare authorship question for several months now, between jobs; sadly my leisure is now gone, but the upshot is as follows :

Edward De Vere was one of the best educated men in the world. Born in 1550, he had all the best tutors and gained degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, was the nephew of the translator of Ovid, William Golding, and in the mid 1570s he travelled extensively through Italy.

But before all that he faced being declared a bastard, as his then-deceased parents marriage was challenged. At 13 years of age, he stood to lose his lands, his title and his income, as well as his legitimacy.

He was a great nobleman at Elizabeth I’s Court, a favourite and one who wrote and caused plays to be performed at Court. He also wrote poetry.(!)

In the next decade or so, he had cause to set aside his wife for apparent infidelity. He eventually took her back. By the by, his father in law was William Cecil, Lord Burghley. (Burghley is widely acknowledged as the model for Polonius in Hamlet.)

De Vere was lamed in a duel in the early 1590s. Two epic poems were published in the mid 1590s under the name ‘William Shakespeare’ and any scholar who was asked in 1596 would have said “Shakespeare is a poet”(full stop).

At about this time or a little earlier ‘Shakespeare’ wrote over 50 sonnets addressed to the Earl of Southampton, then a handsome youth/young man, urging him to marry and procreate and addressing him as an equal and as ‘my lovely boy.’ Is that conceivable for the man from Stratford?

At the end of the 1590s, my theory is that De Vere rewrote and rejigged the plays he had written for the Court, mostly in the 1580s, and as artists and composers do, destroyed the earlier versions.

The great plays emerged at a frightening speed, so close together that it beggars belief; unless that is they were already largely written over the previous 20 years.

De Vere died in June 1604, and Macbeth written to celebrate the arrival of James I, shows many signs of being incomplete.

Over the next 10 years, plays kept appearing, with other hands more or less apparent, giving the impression that there were co-writers. In fact, I think, they were merely trying to make the dead Bard’s work in progress performable.

The sonnets were published as being by “our ever-living poet” in 1609 and immediately suppressed, not to reappear until 1640. The Earl of Southampton was then a great nobleman at Court, and wanted no reminders of his youthful indiscretions.

Southampton died in 1624, after the First Folio (1623) which made no mention of poetry (!)

A poet mines his own life, it has been said; De Vere had plenty to mine. What did the man from Stratford have?

Yours,

Doug Quixote

The Innocence Of Craig Thomson (14): The Lady Materialises

Thursday, 12.25 am

Channel 9 has turned up a prostitute who ‘recognised’ Craig from a photograph and was paid sixty thousand dollars for an interview they might not now air for a week or so.

Or this is what The Daily Telegraph online says. The story hasn’t turned up on the ABC yet, and you wonder.

They will I imagine put her through a lie detector test, find out if she is on heroin, or Ice, and check her HIV status and her sanity and the paperwork of her no doubt legal place of employment for the dates and hours and see if it fits the geography of where Craig was known to be that night.

The delay in broadcast leads me to think she is not very convincing, and probably had to be coached through her answers like, say, Michelle Chantelois in 2010. Channel 9 also offered Craig and his wife big money for an interview about his infidelity, if any, which, surprisingly, they both knocked back.

This in turn will ‘overshadow’, I suppose, the good Schapelle Corby news, out tomorrow also. What a coincidence. Who’d a thunk it.

What grubs they are. Tapeworms.

There’s an outside chance they’re on to something.

I will await more information, if that is the word I want, with interest.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (5): Some Necessary Executions, Thus Far Unregretted

Simon has been banned for life. Tiny Dancer for three years. G.K Cole for three years. Jim for a month in the hope he learns English, and paragraphing, and punctuation. Those who wish to continue appearing and hate the Government must say which eight policies they abhor. For want of this (he offered eight push-ups) Simon was forever silenced. I would appreciate it if Marilyn used the word ‘fucking’ less frequently.

And so it goes.

Lines For Julia Gillard (5): That Is The Question

‘Schapelle was bound to die in gaol. What would you have done?’