Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Best Twenty-Five Films Ever Made

A lot of interest was aroused by my assertion that Julie/Julia was among the best twenty films in English. Subsequent violent argument resulted in the death, poor man, of Patrick Dignam, who dared mention Gerry and The Tree Of Life and proved to be unhinged, in a suicide-bombing of the Cremorne Orpheum foyer only twelve hours ago. My list of the best twenty-FIVE films of all time (with the caveat that there are half a million I have not seen) is this.

Best film of all time: Downfall.

In no particular order, the other twenty-four:

Jules et Jim. The Hustler. The Seventh Seal. The Russian War and Peace. Danton. Pierrepoint. The Best Years Of Our Lives. Modern Times. Taxi Driver. Chariots Of Fire. Casablanca. Brief Encounter. Armacord. The Seven Samurai. The Barbarian Invasions. The Lives Of Others. Beneath Hill 60. The City Of Life And Death. It’s A Wonderful Life. The Road To Perdition. In Which We Serve. North By North-West. A Royal Affair. Army Of Shadows.

It is entirely possible that in another mood fifteen of these titles would be different and include, say, Love, Actually and The Syrian Bride and Barney’s Version and Double Indemnity and Wild Strawberries and Limelight (and, indeed, Julie/Julia), but there you go. The Hustler, Jules et Jim, The City Of Life And Death and The Best Years Of Our Lives and Army Of Shadows would always remain.

Over to you.

Assange In Fifty Words

He has not been charged. He needs to be questioned. Why not question him … anywhere? Why not question him in England? What is the problem? What is the game?

If he had flown here would we send him back if he was not charged?

Why would we?

What is the game?

Classic Ellis: The Bakhtiyari Boys, 2003

Alamdar and Montezar Bakhtiyari lived in a childhood-suicide culture. They spoke of it in a hard-boiled, tough-kid way and seemed amused at the farcical details. It was no big deal to them. ‘I will just do it,’ Alamdar said, ‘and go to paradise.’

Alamdar: At first they did not let us go to school so we told Jeremy Moore and then they let us go to school. The school is not a school. The name is a school but it is not a school. When we go to school they give us some paper for colouring and teach us abcd. We said we are not learning and they say this is all we can do. I want very much to learn. When we ask for something more from our school they say it will happen next week and then when next week comes they say next week. And it goes on like that.

At school there are four adults, one fifteen-year-old and three twelve to thirteen-year-olds and the others are small. We only go to school for two hours or two and a half hours.

Montezar: When my friend Arif was with me he drank shampoo. I didn’t drink shampoo but I slashed my arms. I did this because we have too many problems and nothing to do.

Alamdar: When the adults hurt themselves the officers take them by force into the sealed room where there is one bed, one blanket, one pillow and an airconditioner which is on twenty-four hours blowing cold air and the door is closed on you. There are cameras on you all the time. And the officers watch you on the television. I have not been in that room myself. I am frightened of being put in that room.

Montezar: I was locked in the customs donga this morning by an officer. I was locked in the room by myself. I was let out only when the lawyers asked to see me. They accused me of throwing things, but I did not throw anything. I just said I want to go back to the centre because you are not teaching me anything. It is better that I go back to the centre.

Alamdar: We have seen other people try to hang themselves. We have seen everything. I saw my uncle when he jumped on to the razor wire. There are lots of people put together in one donga. Like too many animals in one cage. And some of them feel like dying. You can see that but they don’t speak. We are like animals in a cage. We see everything. What the adults do, what the children do….I will try my best to hang myself one day.

Montezar: My friend Sam is fourteen years old and he hung himself two days ago. He is not dead but he has a neck problem now. I tried to hang myself. After, my back was hurting and I went to the medical clinic. They said you are physically okay, you can go. I went to see the doctor but they said he was not there. They said to me ‘do some exercises, that is it, now go’. The clinic staff say I have too many problems. I went to the nurse and she said she could not give me medicine without the permission of a doctor. Last time I went to the medical I felt very sick, I had a bad headache. I was told I could not have any medicine without permission of my mum or dad. I said my dad is in Sydney and my mother is asleep. I took my delegate with me, but they still would not give me any medicine. I asked why when you want to hit me you don’t say you are a child, I can’t hit you, but now that I have a headache you say go and get your parents. I said I don’t want anything thank you.

Alamdar: We do not have toys in here. These things have a price and we have no money. They made the fences for us, we have to play on them. They don’t want to buy anything for us. Our play is on the fences.

Alamdar: They gave us a soccer ball and we were playing in the compound surrounded by the razor wire. We tried hard but the ball touched the razor wire and the ball broke. Then we asked the officer please give us another one. The officer said no and he swore at us and said no more balls, go. Then we wait wait wait, nothing to do with our time, and after two weeks they brought another ball. Every time the ball breaks they can’t give us another ball.

Alamdar: We sleep all the time. If we don’t sleep how can we pass our time. We sleep during the day and we can’t sleep at night. We are like animals who stay up all night and sleep during the day.

Montezar: Last night I went to sleep at about two in the morning and I woke up at eight because my friend came and said come to school because there is grass there and we can play in the grass. And because of him I went to school today even though I didn’t want to. But when I got there I didn’t stay.

Alamdar: There are many new officers now. They do not remember the past. The guards, they don’t see you are child or adult, they just hit you. There are too many guards now. Sometimes the guards call us bad things like ‘little shit’. When the Federal police were bringing us back to the centre from Melbourne they said things like, ‘Look at the people, they are enjoying their life. But look at you, you are going back to graveyard.’

Surviving: An Exchange

Canguro June 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm

As a people who haven’t experienced the events that convulse societies, like tsunamis or famines or earthquakes where thousands of lives are lost, it’s no surprise we’re a bit diffident about the matter of death.

We seem to be uncomfortable when it comes to this subject. It’s a kind of an anathema to a social consciousness that’s basically shielded from the ugly reality of sudden and tragic death on a massive scale.

A reality that as we know too well via the media happens elsewhere. It doesn’t really touch us. Not really. We don’t see it in the first person, the bodies, the smell, that visceral reality which sears our consciousness with the immediacy of it all. Not from the telly. That only dulls our senses and leaves us with something derived, a semi-complex narrative for our times.

Countless others live with political or geographic instability and in a certain sense, live much closer to death, whether that comes suddenly and on a massive scale or over agonisingly long periods of time through social violence.

We haven’t been there, as a nation, and we’re in some sort of sanitised denial because it doesn’t synch with our idea of how a society conducts itself. It’s too… ughh… third world. Not the white man’s civilized place where death is tidily dealt with by the white ladies in their sotto voce funeral parlours.

And so the death toll of those who sought to escape their proximity to death mounts, and we are without capacity to respond as we should.

And it’s to our shame, as a nation.

William Soil June 29, 2012 at 12:17 am

I have some pretty lucid dreams at times. I’ve dreamed of a nuke, a giant orange tower; All those I loved turned to shadows then nothing against the red.

I’ve had lightening strike so close I curled into a ball and just last week, the Earth shook, like a train from the distance it came and went, right under me.

I’ve never heard a bomb fall, I fear that and war in our time as a real possibility.

I think through another lens the relative innocence of Australia is something to preserve.

It’s also somewhat of a myth. Veterans have been coming home from wars and disasters and walking amongst us since Europeans landed. 1/4 of the population is born overseas and a fair portion of those folk come from horrible places, or have seen horrible things.

Personally I know an Armenian that lived through the Lebanese civil war, I’ve heard stories of him riding shotgun in the back of an old sedan nursing a crate of hand grenades. I know a Bosnian girl so intelligent she scares me; she can’t remember anything before 11/12, nothing, not a bit.

To live though the bushfires down here a few years ago, it seems callous to measure suffering or…what, in numbers? The earth burned. 45 degrees for a week running, 3 am, everything just went to sleep. Entire communities were wiped out.

I’ve heard people talking about standing over cliffs hearing the wailing of voices rising up from the valley below. Indeed the colonies that make up Australia were not built on peace but on illegality and genocide.

Though there are those that say there have always been a whispering in the hearts of white men, from the get go and there is evidence of this. In Tasmania where the white men lined up in a futile attempt to march the natives into the sea, there were those who cried foul and fought back, and wrote letters abroad, and took note of all.

I reckon Australians are deeply humane. I do think we live a life distanced from death compared with other cultures, to our detriment. Death is taboo.

I’ve seen a village in South America that has a week long annual festival in the graveyard. How wonderful. In Australia death is wrapped up in red tape and hidden behind the racket that is the white ladies and the funeral industry.

Apologies.

William Soil June 28, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I think, if I lost my brother the last thing I would want would be to talk to the media.

The pictures of the Christmas Island wreck are pretty real. There’s enough of Syria to go around three times.

First chance they get SERCO and Govt. are going to start asking questions and filling out forms – beyond standing outside the processing facility/s speaking about it or somehow getting hold of Navy tapes I can’t see how any journalist could do any better. I reckon those concerned have enough on their plates than to share it with us…but I can see the value in writing in a clause that guarantees media access to all detention facilities 24/7, riots, roof tiles n’ all.

More importantly I hope Houston F&*ks off SERCO from the asylum issue altogether.

hudsongodfrey June 29, 2012 at 12:10 am

I worked with a Vietnamese chap as a younger man. He was slightly older than I and as well liked an easy going a character as you’d ever want to meet. I found after three years of striving to climb through the ranks that it was good to find myself working alongside him as an equal and that I was doing well to have achieved a certain amount for myself even though I knew my colleague was unhappy with the level of recognition denied him during the period when I caught up. One day in a quite moment it stuck me as the right time to ask the one question I’d been curious about, “how did you come to Australia”. Slowly and hesitantly he told me. I may have pressed to hard. I don’t know. But the information he volunteered about his past, the horror he must’ve witnessed, and what they did to survive the boat trip…I don’t feel it demands repeating, you can probably imagine, and I felt then as now how much less my life’s achievements were alongside his.

There will never be a reason for me to suspect that most people who arrive here as he did by boat, as refugees should so casually and prejudicially be questioned in their desire, intent or capacity to contribute to Australian society. They make us stronger, and in a lottery of life, where I don’t believe an accident of birth should be the main guarantor of privilege in the world, are they owed that chance? I’ll be damned if they aren’t!

The Outer Limits Of Our Democracy

Why have there been no interviews of the survivors of the sinking a week ago? Why are there no camera crews on Christmas Island getting the stories up close and intimate?

A hundred years ago, after the Titanic, there were interviews.

What is the difference?

The Innocence Of Julian Assange (2): A Detailed Rescue Plan

James Ashby might now complain of having been sexually harassed by text-message by Assange, who could then be extradited home for questioning, found guiltless and let go.

He might thereafter run for the Senate in Victoria as a Democrat, and revive that party’s fortunes.

I think it has possibilities. Ashby would be wise to try this on. It might help abate his prison sentence for what he did to Slipper, which Burnside can plausibly argue was treason, which of course it is, and get his gaol term down to fifteen years or even less, and Pyne’s down to thirty.

My friend Jen Robinson is flying to Ecuador soon, she tells me, to plead her worried client’s cause. If they take him in it’s likely, though not absolutely certain, the Cameron-Clegg government would let him go. They are tremendously on the nose for having ruined the economy and punished the lower orders and smashed up the universities and they do not greatly wish to bestir the Left and the Tory libertarians and the Assangist Muslim majority to march on Downing Street or mass in Trafalgar Square by allowing the Swedes to beat him to death or claim he has hanged himself in his cell or the Americans to torment him for fifty or sixty years as they will Bradley Manning in a tiny bright freezing cell with no clothes on and loud bad music playing and no books to read. With Pilger, Bianca, Geoffrey, Kiley, Sting and Coogan on his side, and JK Rowling too perhaps, it will be hard to be against him and retain the Liberal Democrat vote.

They will probably let him go to Ecuador. But they would certainly let him go to Australia, and we should ask for him .

Or the good Ashby fabricate one of his charges in return for a reduced sentence, as I have shrewdly here advised.

Discuss.

Censoring The Witnesses Of Disaster, Australian Style

Interesting how democracy ceases and we don’t notice any more.

A hundred people die at sea and their relatives and friends are not interviewed on television.

We do not see the faces on television or hear the voices on radio or read in the colour supplements of the children who survived shipwreck and saw their parents drown, or their siblings drown.

It is as if they had never been.

They are Unpersons. They are no more.

Like their relatives, the dead.

How dare any agency, any government, conceal their story from us.

How dare they.

Discuss.

The Deterrence Argument For Drongoes, And Scott Morrison

The many, many deaths at sea did not deter the Incas from sailing in small boats from South America to Hawaii. More deaths at sea did not deter the Hawaiians from sailing to Tahiti, the Tahitians to Tonga, the Tongans to New Zealand.

The odds against survival did not deter Captain Bligh from rowing three thousand miles to Timor.

Or stop the soldiers on Dunkirk from going through storms in small, frail boats to England; when they could have, say, remained in Occupied France and sought work in the Third Reich.

They were motivated, you see. And motivated people will not be deterred. By anything.

Like the Jews on the Exodus braving British gunfire to reach their Promised Land.

Like the Israelites under Moses wading into the Red Sea.

Like the tens of thousands that fled Gadafi’s Libya and sometimes drowned on the way to Lampedusa.

No such people have ever been deterred, by anything. Humans do not work that way.

A hundred thousand Australians came here in voyages that took nine months on sailing ships that often sank. Nearly that number of Vietnamese took the same risk.

What are we talking about?

What are we talking about?

The Final Solution Made Simple For Drongoes And Scott Morrison

For those with too short an attention span, here is the solution to the boat people problem, in 170 words.

We cede one of our eight hundred islands to the north of Australia to East Timor.

Pay the East Timorese to build a detention centre and administrate it.

Pay some UN people to process the boat people there.

Fly all the people who have reached Indonesia and Malaysia to that island. Process them quickly. Admit all Tamils and Hazaras automatically, since their fear of persecution is justified.

If there are fifty thousand of them, take fifty thousand less Japanese waiters this year. This will end the queue. If there are a hundred thousand of them, take a hundred thousand less Japanese waiters. They are, by definition, less worthy of our urgent help. Let them wait a year. This will keep the annual migrant intake exactly what it is.

And it will end the queue, and the notion of ‘queue jumpers’. And save many, many lives.

And put the ‘people smugglers’ out of business.

Lift the number of refugees we take thereafter to twenty thousand a year. Process them in order, quickly.

All clear now?

Discuss.

Boat People: An Easy Solution In Two Stages

I was in Parliament House yesterday talking to Bob Carr about other things before driving back to Sydney to continue writing our Luna Park musical and so missed the most dramatic afternoon there in a long while. But on the way my collaborator Denny Lawrence and Annie and I slowly worked out a way to to solve the ongoing problem that keeps on killing handsome young men (study their faces closely, and think what we have lost) and it comes in two stages, and it’s this:

(1) Cancel the intake of 180,000 Japanese waiters this year and replace them with refugees, thus abolishing the queue, and tell them to come back next year. That they more deserve our welcoming mercy than war-smashed orphans who saw their uncles and mothers killed is a fool idea, and they should wait a bit. Six montys. Eighteen.

(2) Move our borders a bit, and declare, say, Bathurst Island to be international territory, and build a processing place there.

It will be off-shore. It will have human rights protections. It will have, probably, three thousand refugees a year, well under the twenty thousand both sides will accept now, once we have abolished the queue..

You could vary this a bit. You could donate the island to East Timor, or Nuigini. You could use the Navy to bring the asylum applicants to the island. That island could be Thursday Island, or Rottnest, or whatever. We have eight thousand two hundred and twenty-two islands to choose from. These include Maria Island, or King Island, off  Tasmania, which need an economic boost. Some are big enough to contain a nation, the size of Nauru. There will be one or two that are big enough, and needy enough, and suitable. This would also ruin the people smugglers. We would be bringing the people here ourselves, none of whom would drown.

The whole premise of the exclusion of people running from the Taliban, and from the killers of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, is morally disgusting. No Afghan or Tamil has gone to gaol for even a parking offence in 170 years. And Bob Katter’s electorate has more fertile ground in it than Great Britain, so there is room. Plenty of room.

We have nothing to fear from ‘these people’. What reason, then, that is not racist or religious, do we have for tormenting them, and sending them off to prostitution or drug-pushing or illegal carpentry in Malaysia?

Not that it matters. This answer will not even be considered. Why would it?

It woukd work

Ephron

Nora Ephron had a bad marriage to Carl Bernstein the Watergate journalist and Washington pants-man and out of it wrote Heartburn, the first novel with recipes in it, and her most enduring masterpiece, Julie/Julia, was about cooking too. The word ‘romcom’ erupted out of the success of When Harry Met Sally and the great Australian auteur Richard Curtis owed a lot of the mingled poignance and pratfalling of Love, Actually and Four Weddings to the path she trod before him; and so did Sex In The City.

She was the first female director to show you can tell it all, and not lose the admiration of your gender. The orgasm-feigning sequence in WHMS is proof of that; and Julia Child grieving when her sister has a baby when she cannot. All the colours and sadnesses of women are on her palette; and always, always, redeeming, purging laughter too. I suspect I learned more about women from Julie/Julia than from any other recent film: the obsessive need to fulfil a chosen task, the love of ingredients, the hero-worship of an unseen mentor she dares not strive to meet; the ache for task that comes from childlessness; the sorrows of being tall.

This is a tremendous loss. Though she made few films, there are not that many by Woody Allen that are up to her standard of completion, roundedness, punchline, joy in living: Annie Hall, Vicki Cristina Barcelona, Manhattan and Midnight In Paris and the list is at an end. Ephron has left us with five great perfect films which, like those of Preston Sturges, and those of Curtis and Woody, and Wyler’s Roman Holiday, remind us that Shakespearean levels of love and saddening laughter have been available, abundantly and generously and poignantly, in our time.

The Albrechtsen Wars (1): The Other J.A., Surprised

The word ‘narcissist’ was used against Assange by Janet Albrechtsen this morning as it was never used against Peter Costello, the ‘sado-narcissist’ (my coinage), or Margaret Thatcher, or Baz Luhrman, or Christopher Pyne, or Madonna; or, indeed, the lovely, slender, long-necked Janet Albrechtsen whom Rhys Muldoon so wants to fuck, and me too, sometimes, I ween.

Narcissism is what you should be killed for, she implies. This beast Assange wants only praise for what he’s done, relentlessly seeks publicity and says he’s a truth-teller but doesn’t want the truth to come out of ‘what really happened’ between him and the two Swedish women because, well, he’s a rapist, isn’t he, he must be, or he’d turn up in Sweden for his trial and sentencing.

And how would that trial be fair? How could it be? She has just prejudiced every jury in the known world.

The facts, as she well knows, are that the ‘sex by surprise’ woman, AA, slept naked beside him for three more nights, threw a party in honour of him and offered to be his unpaid secretary for life. The other, WS, the ‘raped me without a condom’ one, had had sex with him twice that same night, protested the condomless conjunction but did not forbid it, and tried to link up with him for eight more days wanting an ongoing affair with him.

This is the truth of the matter, uncontested by either side, and Albrechtsen, lying, says it is not known. And the girls therefore have no case. And she says they do. And this is why he has never been arrested, because they have no case. And she says they do.

And it is not the truth Assange fears but being tortured and killed.

He fears he will be given up to the US by Sweden and in a US prison treated as his informant Bradley Manning is being treated. In a six-by-nine cell, isolated from other humans, with loud music and bright flashing lights and freezing and frying temperatures and nothing to read, Manning is looking forward to sixty more years of the same and Assange, correctly, is not too keen to be treated likewise; or assassinated as Albrechtsen’s colleagues Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and, presumably, Rupert Murdoch wants him to be.

It is clear, then, to any reasonable person that Albrechtsen is lying with her every breath and hates Assange because he does stand for truth, and publish it, and I invite her to sue me for saying this.

Or to debate me anywhere, any time.

The Innocence Of Peter Slipper (1): Pyne In The Poo

Extraordinary scenes in parliament yesterday when Albo was repeatedly interrupted by Pyne and Abbott while he was trying to read out an smh report of how Brough colluded with Ashby in a plot against his employer may prove to be the hinge-moment of this administration and this Opposition, the moment historians will judge to be the one when the Abbott Adventure finally came unstuck.

Slipper will be Speaker again soon; with power to throw out his tormentors for a day at a time and, I imagine, to launch investigations into his recent stalking by Pyne, Abbott, Ashby and Brough, if that is what occurred. He is the second highest official in the land, after the Governor-General, and conspiracy against him, which this is, in wartime, which this is, is probably treason, and Pyne, if guilty of it, which he may be, may have to vacate his seat and go perhaps to gaol for a while. It is unlikely he would be hanged, as he would in, say, 1942, but he may do time if Slipper is in the mood to pursue him.

Which he well may be.

This is what happens when you collude in a lie whose purpose is the smashing of an elected colleague. A lie of this kind is a very serious one. I have heard things about Ashby that may be sub judice and I cannot reveal yet but they are, on the face of it, shocking and they will come to light I imagine soon enough. And they make Pyne’s collaboration with him, if that is what occurred, a political scandal that puts one in mind of, well, Watergate. Thomson, certainly.

Question Time today should be very interesting.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (8)

Reader 2 and The Shadow have been banned for life, for telling lies.

Slowly, the level of the respondents on these pages is lifting.

The Innocence Of Julian Assange (1): The Conclusive Evidence

In the piece I wrote called The Bottom Line I put the question, did either of the girls who said Assange had raped them sleep with him after the offense?

I fished about a bit, and the answer, it seems, is yes.

Their initials, I am told, are AA and SW.

AA, the ‘sex by surprise’ one, after being so surprised slept naked with him for the rest of the week, insisted he stay there in her flat though other friends were offering to lodge and feed him, threw a party for him, volunteered to be his assistant on a permanent basis, and didn’t go to the police until she was rung by SW.

‘You would be hard pressed to find a woman,’ my informant, female, wrote last night, ‘who would not have the man out of the house at first opportunity if he had done what she alleges he had done to her. And would certainly not be volunteering to be around him in a professional context or on an ongoing basis.’

With SW, the ‘minor rape allegation’, he had sex, using condoms, on and off during the evening, between sleep and wakefulness. Then there was a final interaction without a condom. She said she was ‘half asleep’ (the prosecutor, contradicting SW’s own testimony, said she was fully asleep), but he said she ‘reacted in a way that suggested she was awake and she certainly consented to sex without a condom at some point thereafter (didn’t raise a complaint)’, according to his testimony and also, bafflingly, hers.

He left, and she asked him to call her. She became upset, and then ‘frantic’ when he didn’t return her calls and in this mood rang AA. They compared notes, aware now that he had not told each of them of his contacts with the other. SW got through to Assange and asked him to do a venereal-diseases test, and he agreed to do that on the Saturday. In the meantime they had gone to the police on the Friday, and, my informant says, ‘he wakes up to tabloid headlines of double rape allegations. SW said she felt “railroaded” by police.’

There were also lots of text-messages, I am told, about ‘money and revenge.’

I’ll bet there were.

What is awful about all this is not the obviously spontaneous lies of the silly women he lucklessly and tactlessly dealt with but the likelihood that if he had turned up in Sweden a year ago, or eighteen months ago, he would have almost certainly have got off, on the basis of the evidence we see here, of raped girls behaving as if they still liked him afterwards, for days and days of affectionate dealing on end. But no fair trial of him now is possible. And the Americans have had the time since then to amass their forty thousand pages of evidence that he is/was a spy, deserving of torture and eight hundred years in a very small cell without clothes among bright lights and very loud music freezing and frying by turns.

The girls seem more innocent, and more entrapped by circumstance than I had previously thought. SW has vanished, AA went to Israel but is back now in Stockholm and going to a cocktail party of significant political people next week.

The difficulty now of course is that the Swedes would rather extradite him than try him.

Which means they will, if they get their hands on him. The Americans will want them to. Not before the election of course, for he is a modern Ellsberg to many Americans, but after. Under President Romney perhaps, on the insistence of the Tea Party.

And it may take twenty years, the whole process, and he will die in American custody, treated like poor, mad, romantic, baffled Bradley Manning, for the rest of his life.

Classic Ellis: The Ballad of Wikileaks, 2011

Attend the tale of wikileaks,
A war on government by geeks,
Which made today Assange, its founder,
Seem to some a frightful bounder.

He’s told what Rudd once said of China,
And touched, some swear, a Swede’s vagina,
Attained more scoops than all the journos
Weeping now in hell’s infernos.

He’s dug the dirt, he’s blown the gaff
On what ambassadors say to staff.
For such he should be waterboarded,
Such revelations vile and sordid,

For pushing noses up the arse
Of the Great World’s ruling class,
He’ll do, I fear, long years in gaol,
This honest, forthright Aussie male,

And yet, like many Aussie blokes,
Like David Marr and Laurie Oakes,
He’s merely let the sun shine in
And shouted, ‘Let the games begin!’

And this Australian of the Year
I’ll hail in print, I’ll shout in beer,
I’ll send him files, I’ll stand him bail.
Assange for sainthood, folks. Wassail

Lines For Albo (12)

‘Don’t talk to me about freedom of the press. Who among Murdoch’s forty-nine thousand employees has freedom of the press? Freedom to write and publish what he thinks? What he truly thinks? Not one. Not one. In Lincoln’s words, to me it is not freedom if that freedom you speak of includes the freedom to oppress. To me it is not freedom then, for it is tyranny.’

The People Smuggler Question Addressed And Answered In Twenty-Two Words

Did what happened to the Second Fleet stop the Third Fleet from coming? Or the Fourth? Then what are we talking about?

Assange And The Swedish Women: The Bottom Line

It doesn’t matter if the Swedes are planning to send Assange to America or not.

What matters is whether they will do so if they are asked to.

And of course they will.

So Assange is rightly afraid of them, and rightly trying to avoid their handcuffs and cells and months of waiting, trial by media and public pillorying. Obama may not ask for him but Romney, if President, will. The Tea Party will demand it.

How then is Assange to avoid a slow execution like Bradley Manning’s?

Well, we have to save him.

Let us ask one question of the Swedes. It is this. And it is the bottom line.

‘Did the women have consensual sex with Assange after the alleged offense, the alleged rape they suffered at his hands?

‘Did they really do that?’

‘Why did they do that?

‘How can they say he raped them, if, after being raped, they continued to deal cordially with him in bed for days after, when they could have reported him to the police?’

I don’t know what the answer to this question is, but it’s the only one worth asking.

If the answer is yes, we bring him home.

Fairfax Redux: A Modest Proposal

It is now reasonable the Government buy up Fairfax and give it to the ABC. It could insist that all the journalists be kept on and the present resigning editors re-appointed. A Board including Kerry O’Brien, Maxine McKew and Mark Scott could invigilate it. Three hundred and thirty million a year to keep it going could be provided by a fifty cents a week impost on all taxpayers. Its cost could be reduced to a dollar, or, on Kindle, fifty cents. It could available on Kindle all over Australia, at no cost for delivery. And advertising in it could cost half what it does now.

Is there anything wrong with this?

It would be wrong to talk about freedom of the press, because Gina Rinehart is currently guaranteeing there will be none.

Assange Futures (9): The Bottom Line

What is wrong with the following sentence?

‘Bradley Manning will spend the next sixty years going mad in a tiny cell and his publisher Julian Assange will be let go free and never, ever prosecuted in any jurisdiction.’

What is wrong with it is it is logical nonsense. One white male, American, is to be tortured for the rest of his life and another white male, Australian, his partner, his partner in crime, is to be not even harassed.

What is also wrong with it, and even worse, is it is official Australian Labor Party policy.

Discuss.

Executing Assange: An Exchange

Ania Nowakowska June 24, 2012 at 10:25 pm

I’m very curious to know how Assange’s critics justify their accusations of his ‘narcissism’, ‘petulance’, egocentricity’, ‘hubris’ and ‘intellectual arrogance’. Do they know him personally? Could they please point out examples of all these less than flattering qualities? Because in all my reading of the Assange interviews, and in all video footage I have seen of him, I have seen an incredibly bright, well read, articulate, thoughtful, and relatively humble person.

Doug Quixote June 25, 2012 at 5:52 am

You are entitled to your opinion; many share it. I do not – do not – want to see him killed. Or even punished by being put in gaol, for any crime which he may or may not have committed.

It may be that the Swedes will not even proceed to trial; but unless he stands trial in Sweden and is convicted, he should not be imprisoned. At all.

The relevance of his character is to the greater issue : should we really invest such moral and ideological capital in defending him and being partisans in his cause, come hell or high water. Is he really worth abandoning our principles for?

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:22 am

No, no, no, no. It is absolutely plain that he is innocent as charged, or he would have been charged by now in the eighteen months since he was accused, and they want him in Sweden for another reason. Each girl was seen amiable in his company after each ‘offence’. Neither complained until they colluded. Each wrote of getting money out of him. He is not charged and could be interviewed by skype.

So he is on the face of it innocent. You will recall that I alone wrote that Thomson was innocent, and this now proves likely as his accuser, Kathy, proves madder and madder and the hooker was in another country on one of the nights. You will recall as well that not I but others have shown that Slipper was probably framed. This is another example of right wing plotters diverting public attention from the main game — a casting vote in parliament under attack, the exposed lies of tyrants and war crimes of the US — into sexual speculation.

Assange is innocent: remember that. He must be, or he would have been charged and extradited a year ago. Assange is innocent.

It is the only explanation.

And all else you say is but a collusion in his killing.

Doug Quixote June 25, 2012 at 6:33 am

You misunderstand the Swedish system of justice.

They wish to question Assange before laying charges. The British Supreme Court have accepted that he should be extradited.

Did you read Cohen’s article (see ref below) Bob?

It is paranoia to see this as a huge plot to murder Assange. Surely you cannot be counted in that number.

Bob Ellis June 26 at 3.40 pm

Is there, was there, a huge plot to kill or torture Bradley Manning for giving Assange those things that Assange then printed?

Or not?

Why should that plot not extend to the messenger?

Why?

Reader2 June 25, 2012 at 6:38 am

No, Bob, we don’t know he is innocent. We ave not seen the evidence. That is what the Swedish legal system is trying to find out it it’s stubborn North-German way.

No legal system in the world would interview a witness by Skype or anything similar.

I agree it would have been simpler for them to go to England to do it, but that’s not the way they do things.

And by the way, the stuff you posted acknowledges that the Swedish prosecutor did want to interview him before he left Sweden.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:53 am

You have seen the evidence. The girls smiled in his company and continued to lodge him after each ‘offence’. They texted each other talking of getting money out of him. That is collusion. That is blackmail. That is a stitch.

Under law, I am obliged to presume innocence, and you have breached this law.

Reader2 June 25, 2012 at 6:58 am

Nonsense. The texts were a lawyer’s recollection of some he said he had seen but did not takes notes from. That is not evidence.

The presumption of innocence does not apply under the continental legals systems. They say we don’t know so let’s find out. That’s what the Swedes are trying to do but A refuses to co operate.

l’Inconnu June 25, 2012 at 8:24 am

Chapter 23, Section 20 of the Swedish Code of Criminal Procedure reads “Upon the conclusion of the preliminary investigation, a decision on when to instigate a prosecution shall be issued.”

The preliminary investigation does not come to an end until there is an interrogation of Mr Assange with the opportunity for further enquiries.

He hasn’t been charged because the investigation has been stuck in the preliminary stage by Assange’s legal appeals.

So what is absolutely plain to you is not in fact the case.

A series of British judges with access to all the facts, not just the uncritically repeated proposals of Assange’s defenders, went through all this at great length several times.

You are only left with smearing the alleged victims.

Patrick Dignam June 25, 2012 at 11:31 am

Quixote: “should we really invest such moral and ideological capital in defending him…..Is he really worth abandoning our principles for?”

For these question, upon which you appear to stake the bulk of your argument, to have any relevance whatsoever you must articulate the terms and address these specific questions:

(i) What is the moral/ ideological capital are we asked to give in his defense?
(ii) What exactly are “our” principles that you see as being “abandoned”?

Without a clear definition of these questions we encounter two insurmountable problems (with the argument): first, your argument is without substantial, logical foundation, thus highly suspect, and two, we (the reader) have no idea what you mean, or the exact nature of your motive.

Personal animosity aside – these questions need answering if the discussion is to advance in any meaningful way.

Act Rationally June 24, 2012 at 10:32 pm

It is amazing what someones ideological bedfellows will excuse if the cause is worthy enough. Perhaps people performing seemlingly worthy roles should refrain from acts which could bring their reputation into disrupute and therefore maintain their reputation. Or perhaps people should be allowed their day in court to prove whether their claims are fraudulent or not. Lest they only be judged in the court of opinion. Or they could just run away from it all.

allthumbs June 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm

“Perhaps people performing seemlingly worthy roles should refrain from acts which could bring their reputation into disrupute and therefore maintain their reputation.”

That’s a hell of a lot to ask from a human being AR.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:27 am

Like asking Abbott not to force his knocked-up girlfriend to give up her baby and marry someone else while he became a priest.

Reader2 June 25, 2012 at 6:42 am

At least he accepted that he was the father ( though it turned out he wasn’t) and did not continue disputing it even after DNA evidence was produced.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:54 am

Didn’t refrain, though, did he?

Reader2 June 25, 2012 at 6:59 am

Did you?

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 11:21 am

No. And…? That means…? What?

My Girl Pearl June 25, 2012 at 9:26 am

What is with you on this one Bob? At the risk of being labelled a Liberal again, I’m still going to pull you up on it. Abbott did nothing different to countless other young men of his generation, so stop trying to use it as some example of evidence of character. As Reader2 points out, unlike many other men, Abbott at least acknowledged his relationship and fatherhood and while I’m no Abott fan I think the way he handled that situation was admirable.

My Girl Pearl June 25, 2012 at 9:27 am

By which I mean how he handled it when the story became a public one and when it was learned he was not the father.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 11:13 am [Edit]

I have no quarrel with anything Abbott did when so confronted. Nor with anything Assange did when so confronted, including skip bail. Abbott had a career to lose if he was not skilful.

Assange has a life to lose.

Any man or woman so placed by greedy conspirators will do what she/he must.

Like Craig Thomson.

Or Peter Slipper.

It is really irksome when you, like them, are innocent as charged.

Or rumoured.

hudsongodfrey June 24, 2012 at 11:18 pm

In Doug’s defence I think he is genuine in believing the the consequences for Assange may not exist. I have argued the matter with him before and we disagree, but on that basis that while I don’t know what is going to happen to the man in the kind of specific and graphic detail that Bob fears will unfold, I think the consequences for the principle he stood for are crystal clear. If they can get at him then they’ll get at the next person too because the imperative to preserve secrecy is the stock in trade of autocratic bullies everywhere. It is the tactic of the credible threat writ just as large here as on the kneecaps of any victim of Mafia thuggery in a forsaken alley.

I state that I have a problem with this legal form of entrapment in those terms, and others for their sins state that they have a problem with the idea that we would beg to ride roughshod over legal process. I argue the principle of justice over the letter of the law. Others are less convinced.

Doug once responded to me that Justice is a bitch, blind and toothless, or words to that effect. In the case of Saddam who had but one life to give for the countless numbers he extinguished I had to agree with him. In the case of the three horsemen Bush, Blair and Howard there may be even more reason to be disconsolate. Yet if only in a small way my piss weak bleeding heart tends to weep at the thought of collateral murder in all its guises, then what doubt is there that Assange and Wikileaks were about the pursuit of justice?

On balance I ask less of myself and maybe I’m a little ashamed of that, but in terms of the credible threat or his defiance thereof I think I’m unmistaken about what Assange’s freedom represents.

Polybius June 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

No-one has said this. as you know.

M Ryutin June 24, 2012 at 11:43 pm

No matter what we see in his interviews, or assume from his actions and backflips, his (mostly former)friends testify to narcissism. As for his holy principles (trying to claim the release of the Climategate emails as his doing as an example) just look at his ‘show’ on the new Pravda “Russia Today” or his wanting to get to Ecuador which has no free press and will soon have nothing but government mouthpieces allowed.

When you deal with real autocrats, Guantanamo seems like a holiday camp.

Helvi June 25, 2012 at 12:19 am

There are plenty of people who see a narcissist when they see Assange, and Doug is not the only one, I certainly think that as well…

Funnily enough many women seem to think that, but many a man as well…

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:29 am

And…? So…?

What if he were as arrogant as Peter Costello? What then?

My Girl Pearl June 25, 2012 at 9:40 am

I don’t think anyone is arguing Bob that his character flaws are a reason to knock him off or deny him due process, but in light of attempts to cast him (as you do) as some kind of hero figure, I think it is worthwhile us getting a sense of who the man is, what motivates him and whether he is a man of integrity. You yourself claimed in an earlier post he was as popular in Australia as Fred Hollows. In the first instance I’d like to know how you arrived at that conclusion. And in the second – so what if he was? Is that supposed to mobilize us around him? should that be an argument for stopping him going through due process.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with the detail of the processes underway, it’s very difficult to get to the truth of what’s happening behind all of the hype.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 11:15 am [Edit]

He is a hero. He changed the shape of the world as we know it by helping begin the Arab Spring.

Ask about in Tahrir Square. Tomorrow.

Helvi June 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm [Edit]

My Girl Pearl, totally agree with your post, and of course Assange ought have due process…did Manning get that…

Hollows might have been a rake( according to my neighbour who knew him), but he was a good man, good enough to be called a hero :)

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

He was a rake, a drunk, and a rat with women.

And as popular as Ned Kelly.

And like Assange a saviour of millions.

Canguro June 25, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I see this word narcissist tossed around and defended in relation to Assange’s character.

Did you all satisfy yourselves as to the accuracy of the labelling, and why are we so intent on trying to justify our characterisation of him as thus? Are we suddenly all expert armchair psychologists?

Does he really fit this definition … [having an] excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance (Concise OED)?

I humbly suggest his preoccupations are elsewhere.

Doug Quixote June 25, 2012 at 5:20 am

Thank you for your excellent summary of the matter Bob.

May I refer you to Nick Cohen writing in the Observer yesterday/today :

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/24/nick-cohen-julian-assange-paranoia

“what must be the crankiest request for refugee status ever. Assange is the first asylum seeker to claim persecution at three removes. He wants to renounce his Australian citizenship and become an Ecuadorean because (and you may have to bear with me) the Australian government failed to help him fight an attempt by the British government to extradite to him to Sweden, whose government may, at some undefined point, extradite him to the United States – or maybe not, because there is no extradition request.”

The article summarises the absurdities of the paranoia of the (mainly leftist) case for Assange

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Was Bradley Manning right to be paranoid?

What is the difference?

What is wrong with you?

See me in Aussies tomorrow at 11 for a dressing-down.

Doug Quixote June 25, 2012 at 5:25 am [Edit]

“Reasonable doubt cannot stay the tongues of Ken Loach, Tariq Ali, Jemima Khan, Naomi Wolf, John Pilger and their comrades. They lament western wickedness with the reliability of professional mourners. For them, America is a demonic empire with supernatural power and reach. The constraints that bind ordinary nations cannot contain it. I refuse to call their conspiracy theories “leftwing,” and not only because most of the British liberal left behaved honourably during the WikiLeaks affair. Hofstadter’s caution needs to be remembered too – paranoia turns everything it touches to dirt. The professed principles of sufferers are no exception. The American right’s hatred of immigrants makes a nonsense of its belief in free markets, which require the free movement of labour. Its opposition to gun control makes its claims to be tough on crime equally ridiculous. Mutatis mutandis, the leftwing defenders of Assange are equally willing to destroy their own beliefs.”

Surely I cannot add Bob Ellis to that list of Nick Cohen’s. But some others . . .

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 6:35 am

Doug, Doug, Doug, Doug. He is afraid he will be killed. He is afraid he will be treated as Bradley Manning is presently being treated, by a government whose drone missiles frequently blow up opponents of its policies in foreign countries, illegally. This is not paranoia. This is logic. It is connective thought. Several presidential candidates and a hundred million Americans want him assassinated.

He is right to be afraid.

hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 12:09 pm [Edit]

I don’t know if his fear is justified. People say it isn’t. I believe you are genuine in your convictions that they’ll kill him as others are that they won’t. We can’t all be right.

But if I were Assange then I think I would have the right to be afraid and to behave accordingly. People who think he’s either not enough of a martyr or not enough of a saint are starting to become tiresome to say the least.

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm

The premise is that he should risk twenty years of torture on his trust in the eccentricities of Swedish law and the likelihood of a fair trial, after all that publicity, in that country.

If the risk of my death or torture were even one chance in a hundred I wouldn’t take it.

And it’s probably fifty-fifty.

Patrick Dignam June 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm [Edit]

Apart from parroting Cohen’s assessment how about you detail why YOU see it as “absurd paranoia”?

Because it looks quite sensible and justified to me.

I keep reading the words of others under your name. Do YOU have an argument or should I just wait for you to cut and paste from another’s mind/opinion?

William Soil June 25, 2012 at 8:54 am [Edit]

It is ridiculous this charade has continued, Khan – exonerated, Thompson – Innocent.

Assange is something else. The what do you call them, “I think you are misunderstanding the Swedish justice system” c’mon Doug.

US troops in Darwin, sex charges.
Hung Parliament, Brothel.

What does Julian Assange represent? Nothing?

Who does Julian Assange inspire?

Churchill, C*&t.

John Howard meets the Queen, Bob Brown retires without ever ministering to a ministry.

Hundreds of citizens of the empire have rallied behind him, despite the bollocks about the lost bail money.

Ya’d have to be daft not to see through it.

I will continue to assert that the US want Assange for what he knows, what he has, not what he has done, after all he hasn’t achieved anything at all besides stardom right?

Bob Ellis June 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

Well said, that budding poet, finalist elsewhere for a prize of good whisky.

The Rinehart Competition, First Round

(I lately offered a bottle of Glenfyddich to anyone who, in McGonagall-Milligan style, could better the doggerel of Gina Rinehart in a poem in praise of her. Some of the entries were excluded for very bad rhyming or needless obscenity, but most survived.

Entries will be considered and published till July 1, and the winner announced, and invited to lunch with me at Macchiavelli’s, or another convenient restaurant in a lesser city, on July 2.)

hudsongodfrey June 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Gina Rhinestone fat and round
she digs our minerals out o the ground
she brings the media to their knees
and quickly ships it overseas.

William Soil June 24, 2012 at 1:18 am

While the globe is welping under the weight of debt, poverty and strife
Gina with her billions now is pleading to enjoy a better life
Her hope lies with resources buried deep within the earth
With the conniving and the capital which give each project worth
Is her future threatened with massive debts run up by political hacks?
Who misrepresent the people by covering Gina’s back?
What about your kids Gina? What about the law?
“Nonsense jealous swine, you’re in my way of more”
Some dull instruments I know of have been conned
To think a state can be managed by waving a magic wand
Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled
Against democracy, culture and workers rights, who strive to build the world
Read a book, embrace philantropy and pay your way you nasty eh hem, (what was it your old man said?)
Stop stuffing your face with tim tams that you got from selling ore
The world’s poor need some food too: do not leave them to their fate
While you lavish yourself with luxury, usurp government, and spread hate.

Doug Quixote June 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Rolling in money like Scrooge McDuck,
I challenge you all to try your luck
Fairfax I’ll screw over fine
SMH, The Age they’ll all be mine
And as for the plebs, I don’t give a fuck!

Frank June 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Big Gina Reinhart, our mining heiress,
launched a cruise missile – her own Polaris!
Up it went right over Eastern Australia,
Bang! it struck! Labor paraphernalia!
How the Left despise her wealth,
Hope to remove her from Fairfax by stealth.
But Gina Reinhart steers Fairfax receipts,
Up 18 percent she needs to win three seats!
“Give me a place on the board!” she routs,
Whilst Conroy and Gillard eat their brussels sprouts,
Scheming Age journalists plan a mighty revolt.
Whilst Gina installs as editor her favourite, Andrew Bolt!
So dear friends how will this story end?
It’s beyond my wit to suggest or comprehend.

Canguro June 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

(Sorry, this is a truly execrable effort.)

Rinehart the lionheart,
I saw you once and then again,
On the telly, Channel 10
First time you was young and lissome,
Later, older, yer lost yer glisten
Richer than Midas
With hips as wide as
Gina I reckon you’re
a babacanoochier
Babe, my lust for ya’s futile,
I heard ya only thrust for rutile,
and zinc, and iron, it makes ya rich,
Yeh, makes ya rich, ya metallic bitch
Sandgroper Gina, ya ain’t no kiwi
Nor Chinese, no squat to wee-wee
Yer a bonzer Aussie sheila, fair dinkum
Keep up the fight gal, and you’ll lick ‘em
Yo Roger, Michael, Greg & Sandra,
Yo Sam, Linda, Rob & Peter,
Better get ready, you’re gonna greet her
For she’s mounting to board the board,
So make way, stand aside, or be gored

hudsongodfrey June 23, 2012 at 8:30 pm
Beautiful hole in dessert ground
that’s where Gina’s digging down.
Resource bounty shipped away
lines her pockets day by day.
Won’t share the minerals rent resource pie
And global warming she’ll deny.
She’ll buy Monkton
She’ll buy Abbott
She’ll buy Fairfax,
out of habit.
Gillard has no defensive armour,
when fat Gina brings fat Palmer.
Bullshit walks and money talks
Abbott panders, Gillard squawks
Nobody stands in Gina’s way,
even family have to pay.
Funds in trust to be released,
send a lawyer, send a priest.
When she sits a god’s left hand
Half his stipend she’ll demand
For the clay from Adam’s rib
Lang laid claim to in the crib
Mankind owes her evermore
We sold our soul to the company store.

spleenblatt June 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Those billions pleading for our ore to save them from their doom
Will add some more momentum to this lucrative boom
Never mind that many of the world’s poor live in countries replete with high value resources.
That’s the kind of lefty thing you say after three years in taxpayer funded university arts courses.

gerard oosterman June 23, 2012 at 9:54 pm

We heave and groan
when hearing Gina’s moan
the pillows are witness
to loves so listless
we make our choice
Iron ore from red to rust
it’s life’s fate return to dust
money bites like lawless dogs
instead of the croak of frogs
we make our choice, and after…
a riot of silence

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (60): O’Shannessy Tweaks Newspoll, Once Again

O’Shannessy is working hard to keep Labor down to 45. This week, changing the rules (again), he refrained from ringing on Sunday night, when everyone is home, a Newspoll first, did not list Katter’s party, at 7 percent, probably, or its likely Labor-favouring preferences, did not count a million ‘undecided’ or ‘refused’ (hang up when a foreign voice answers) and counted only 1146 votes not the 1200 that (probably) answered, sometimes grumpily.

Even then he couldn’t get Abbott’s approval above 31, the lowest ever for a Liberal leader in the sixty-eight years of the party’s existence, or above Gillard’s, 39 to his 38, meaning seven million eight hundred and twelve thousand adult Australians don’t want him as Prime Minister.

The actual figures, as O’Shannessy well knows, are Labor 49 and Coalition 51, and with Carr as leader would be Labor 53 and Coalition 47. No mobile phones were rung, no Friday night filmgoers, no Saturday morning soccer mums, no Saturday night bar staff, no Sunday morning bushwalkers or churchgoers or cricketers, and no-one at all on Sunday night, a Newspoll first.

He cheats with his every breath, does O’Shannessy, to please — as I suppose he must — the great cheat Murdoch, that unfit person to run an international company, and Labor staffers believe him, and so it goes.

I invite him to reply to this, or let it stand unchallenged.

The Darwin Solution

How many children died in the water on Thursday in a boat that had been ‘turned back’? How many more children should die in this way?

Killing children is frowned upon in our society even now, as Lindy’s twenty-year sentence lately proved, and Tony Abbott’s insistence that more and more of them be killed if we don’t save them his way seems unChristian, even unCatholic, to me but not I suppose to some of this readership, or to all of News Limited who think he should be Prime Minister and Julie Bishop Foreign Minister not Bob Carr.

The solution to all this is clear now. Admit all 120,000 in ‘the queue’ of refugees, delaying by a year 120,000 of the normal intake, the 170,000 Japanese waiters we usually find more deserving than children orphaned and smashed of soul by civil war.

The queue gone, there will be no more jumping it, and refugees without papers could be offered cheap flights to Darwin, a multicultural place, and Broome, a multicultural place, and ‘processed’ there. Most would get in. They could then be offered unemployment benefits and a free caravan in, or outside, country towns that want them, and there are about 120 of these, with the proviso that they work, or seek work, locally for seven years.

This would cost much less than what we spend now on air-sea rescue, Christmas Island, Villawood, Baxter and flying children across Australia for the funerals of their drowned fathers in Sydney. And it would also revive the country towns, and help revive the Australian regional economy.

Any questions?

Assange Futures (8): The Wages Of Sin, Updated

It is awful to see this readership, including even Doug Quixote, suggest that Assange’s ‘narcissism’, ‘petulance’, egocentricity’, ‘hubris’ and ‘intellectual arrogance’ comprise good reasons for seeing him tortured and killed.

This shows that Murdochism has prevailed everywhere. People must be punished, Murdochism decrees, not for crimes but for sins, foibles and bad manners, punished with ruin, public shaming and death. Thomson, Slipper, McLeay, Firth, Brogden, Buswell, Campbell, Rann, Rudd, Bartlett, Kernot, Evans are on this list. None of them committed a crime. Each was accused of lewd language, lewd thought, adultery, drugs or groping. Each was threatened with ruin. A few survived.

In Assange’s case an unproveable crime, ‘sex by surprise’, is alleged by a woman who in her own text-message said she was not asleep but ‘half-asleep’ and he may get six years for it and be beaten to death in gaol, or extradited to Guantanamo and tortured there as Bradley Manning is being lately tortured. And because he is a ‘narcissist’ this is okay with Doug Quixote. Would he have approved the torture of another narcissist, Michael Jackson, for his offenses against children? Of course he wouldn’t. Would he approve the public shaming of another adulterer, Edward De Vere, and his execution for his treasonous drama Richard II and its use in Essex’s failed coup? Of course he wouldn’t.

But Doug has copped the whole Murdoch line — character flaw merits capital punishment — hook, line and sinker. Assange is a narcissist, and a bad friend, and so must die.

Oh, what a noble mind was here o’erthrown.

And it’s a pity.

Assange’s Accusers And Prosecutor Lying, Court Told

My perpetual collaborator Stephen Ramsey has been researching Assange for our book The Year It All Fell Down and sent me this piece from The Guardian, Tuesday, February 8, 2011, which notes text-messages that seem to prove the two Swedish women he is supposed to have assaulted were lying in their teeth and motivated by jealous revenge.

Here is the article and its headline, unedited.

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

Assange’s accusers sent texts discussing revenge, court hears.

Bjarn Hurtig, the WikiLeaks founder’s lawyer in Sweden, says the women’s messages contradict their claims.

Julian Assange’s Swedish lawyer was shown scores of text messages sent by the two women who accuse him of rape and sexual assault, in which they speak of “revenge” and extracting money from him, an extradition hearing was told.

Bjarn Hurtig, who represents the WikiLeaks founder in Sweden, told Belmarsh magistrates court that he had been shown “about 100″ messages sent between the women and their friends while supervised by a Swedish police officer, but had not been permitted to make notes or share the contents with his client.

“I consider this to be contrary to the rules of a fair trial,” he said. A number of the messages “go against what the claimants have said”, he told the court.

Sweden is seeking the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition in relation to allegations of rape, sexual assault and sexual molestation. He denies the accusations.

One message referred to one of the women being “half asleep” while having sex with Assange, Hurtig said, as opposed to fully asleep. “That to my mind is the same as saying ‘half awake’.” One of the women alleges that Assange had sex with her while she was sleeping.

But the lawyer admitted that Swedish prosecutors had tried to interview his client before he left the country, contradicting earlier claims by Assange’s legal team and his own witness statement.

Hurtig told the extradition hearing that he had been wrong to assert that the prosecutor Marianne Ny had made no active attempt to interview Assange between her appointment to the case, on 1 September last year, and 27 September, when Assange left the country with her permission.

Under cross-examination by Clare Montgomery QC for the Swedish government, Hurtig admitted the prosecutor’s office had contacted him on 22 September requesting an interview. Montgomery asked him to take out his mobile and read two text messages received on that date. One, in Swedish, he translated as: “Hello, is it clear if it’s going to be good to have interrogation on Tuesday, 1700h?”

Hurtig said he could not recall calling Assange after receiving the request, but was sure he would have done. “You should bear in mind that it was very difficult to get hold of him during this time,” he said.

The omission was “embarrassing and shouldn’t have happened”, he said. “It’s true that that gave an impression that was to Julian’s advantage.”

But he insisted it was accidental: “I am myself a member of the Swedish bar association and it’s important that what I say is right. It’s also important for Julian that my statement is reliable and correct.”

The hearing did not conclude in the allotted two days and will resume on Friday. Judge Howard Riddle is not expected to deliver his judgment immediately.

He agreed to amend Assange’s bail conditions until Friday, lifting the requirement that he attend a police station near his rural bail address each afternoon.

Earlier, the court heard from a retired prosecutor who said the conduct of the prosecutor had been “quite peculiar” in not seeking to interview Assange earlier. Sven-Erik Alhem said he would also have tried to have Assange interviewed in the UK before seeking his extradition. He added, however, that if he were Assange “I would have gone to Sweden immediately to give my version of events.”

Outside court, Assange tried to put the spotlight on the Swedish prosecutor: “She has refused to come to these hearings. Our witnesses were brought from Sweden, my lawyer was brought from Sweden and expensively cross-examined.

“Where is the equality in this case? There is not an equality. Rather, we see an unlimited budget of Sweden and the UK being spent on this matter and my rather limited budget being spent in response.”

His lawyer, Mark Stephens, said: “We have seen Hamlet without the princess. We have seen a prosecutor who has been ready to feed the media with information but has been unprepared to come here and subject herself to the cross-examination she knows she cannot withstand.”

A further article was in The Guardian on Wednesday, February 9.

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Radical feminism: what it is and why we’re afraid of it

Calling the chief prosecutor in the Assange case a ‘malicious radical feminist’ reflects our misunderstanding of feminism

Jonathan Dean

Sweden’s chief prosecutor Marianne Ny has been accused by a retired judge of being a “malicious radical feminist”.

Alongside the obvious questions of freedom of information and criminal justice, the Julian Assange affair has also made visible a multitude of contemporary anxieties concerning sex and gender. This was brought into sharp relief by claims that Assange’s prospects of a fair trial might be compromised by the possibility that Sweden’s chief prosecutor Marianne Ny is a “malicious radical feminist” with a “bias against men”.

But what exactly is radical feminism? If popular attitudes to feminism are anything to go by, it’s clearly something pretty terrifying.

Research suggests that, in the popular imagination, the feminist, and the radical feminist in particular, is seen as full of irrational vitriol towards all men, probably a lesbian and certainly not likely to be found browsing in Claire’s Accessories. As an academic working on issues concerning gender and politics, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting lots of inspiring feminist women and men but despite searching I’ve yet to locate a feminist matching that particular description. Perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough.

A more likely possibility is that the popular insistence that radical feminists and often by implication feminists in general are all man-haters reflects wider misunderstandings about the history of feminism and its impact on contemporary gender relations.

So what is radical feminism? Historically, radical feminism was a specific strand of the feminist movement that emerged in Europe and North America in the late 1960s. Distinctive to this strand was its emphasis on the role of male violence against women in the creation and maintenance of gender inequality (as argued by the likes of Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon). And while a minority of radical feminists, most infamously Valerie Solanas, were hostile to men, radical feminism was much more instrumental in generating widespread support for campaigns around issues such as rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment.

However, in Britain at least, radical feminism has never been particularly dominant, partly because in the eyes of many socialist and postcolonial feminists it has been insufficiently attentive to the intersections between gender inequality and other categories, such as race and class.

So Rod Liddle’s peddling of the tiresome rightwing idea that radical feminism has destroyed the family, along with Dominic Raab’s assault on “feminist bigotry” and the Vatican’s efforts to address “distortions” caused by radical feminism, rest on at least two implausible assumptions.

First, they reduce feminism to a horrifying caricature that never really existed and second, they make the frankly bizarre suggestion that radical feminism is the dominant ideology of our times. It would seem that not only do these radical feminists commit the outrage of not wearing makeup, but they use the time this frees up to consolidate their world domination.

Or an alternative explanation might be that these are the paranoid anxieties of fearful anti-feminists.

Their fear is not totally misplaced, for radical feminism has undoubtedly had some success. Fortunately for Dominic Raab, world domination is not one of them. Three decades ago, the notion that rape and domestic violence are pressing political issues rather than trivialities, or that men should play an active role in childcare, would have been seen by many as radical and dangerous.

Today, thanks to the influence of the insights of diverse strands of feminism (including, but not limited to, radical feminism), these ideas have seeped into the mainstream. Despite this, genuine gender equality can seem distant, but many groups and individuals continue to push in the right direction.

Although the rights and wrongs of the Assange affair are at this stage far from clear, whenever accusations of “man-hating feminism” enter into a debate, our suspicions should be immediately aroused.

For more often than not, the temptation to close down debate by tossing around accusations of man-hating radical feminism is caused not by a fear of debate, but by the deeper fear that feminism might actually have something important to say.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Julian Assange police investigator a friend of sex assault accuser.

Officer and Miss A met through political party and corresponded over internet months before WikiLeaks chief was accused

The police investigator who first interviewed two Swedish women about allegations of rape and sexual assault against Julian Assange is a friend and political associate of one of the women, a Swedish newspaper has claimed.

The female officer became friends with the woman referred to in court as Miss A through Sweden’s Social Democratic party, in which both are involved, according to Expressen. The pair corresponded on the internet 16 months before the allegations were made against Assange.

Miss A commented on a Facebook update on the police officer’s page as recently as 10 February, the paper said, and Miss A links to the officer’s private blog from her personal page.

The paper said the officer had made anti-Assange comments on the internet.

The WikiLeaks founder is appealing against a British magistrate’s decision last month to extradite him to Sweden to answer the accusations, which include an allegation of rape against another woman, Miss B. Miss A alleges Assange had sex with her without a condom, against her wishes. He has not been charged with any offence.

His legal team has argued that the Swedish judicial process is unfair and a number of those involved in the prosecution are politically motivated.

According to Expressen, Miss A and the police interrogator had internet contact in April 2009, when Miss A wrote a blog about white men “who take the right to decide what is not abusive”.

The officer commented that the author “puts her finger on the bottom line and speaks out”, to which Miss A replied: “Hello! Thanks for the compliment. And like you say, white men must always defend the right to use abusive words. Then they of course deny that these very words are part of a system that keeps their group at the top of the social ladder.”

The paper said that when another newspaper, Aftonbladet, hosted a recent webchat with Assange, the officer commented “What the heck is this! Judgment zero!”

The previous day she had commented on the same page: “Way to go, Claes Borgstrom!” Borgstrom is the lawyer representing the women and a former SDP politician, who Assange’s team has argued is acting from political motives.

The paper says the officer had just started her shift at Klara police station in Stockholm on 20 August when Miss A and Miss B arrived to make a complaint against Assange. It says she did not declare a conflict of interest. The police say that the officer in question did not interview Miss A and she played no further part in the investigation.

On the basis of the interrogations, duty prosecutor Maria Haljebo Kjellstrand ordered Assange’s arrest, a decision overturned by a more senior prosecutor. Borgstrom appealed against that decision and the case was reinstated by prosecutor Marianne Ny. Mark Stephens, Assange’s lawyer, said they had been aware of the relationship, which had informed their arguments in court last month that the Swedish judicial process had been improper.

“There are a whole raft of issues like this which should cause reasonable people a bit of concern,” he said.

“I’m delighted that the Swedes, who objected so strongly to our criticisms of the case, have started to acknowledge that there are systemic problems in their judicial process which allow this sort of thing to happen.”

Police superintendent Ulf Garanzon told Expressen he was not aware of any relationship between the two women, and would not comment on rumours.

The Swedish prosecutor’s office also declined to comment, citing the ongoing extradition process in the UK.
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It is worth noting, Ramsey says, that the Social Democrat Party of Sweden, despite its name, is famously right-wing.

Lines For Albo (12)

‘Why did so few boats come under Hawke and Keating, and so many under Howard? What did Howard do wrong?’

The Henderson Wars (23): The Assange Analysis By The Great Papist Thinker, Decrypted

Gerard on Insiders a few minutes ago said that if the Americans had wanted to extradite Assange they could have asked the British for him. It was easier to get him out of Britain, he said, than to get him out of Sweden.

No it wasn’t, Cameron would have lost office over it. His partners in coalition, the Liberal Democrats, are anti-Guantanamo and to a great extent anti-American and they would have forbidden him to do it. And it may in fact have come up in discussions already and they may have told him already that he couldn’t. ‘Assange is a hero to about thirty million British,’ they may have said, ‘and if you deliver him up to torture and life imprisonment the Tories could lose eighty seats and we, the Liberal Democrats, be obliterated.’

Gerard fails to have noticed this. He says Assange is a ‘narcissist’, as if that had anything to do with anything, and has lost all his friends who will now want their money back; want him dead, it seems, and their money back; and Rinehart, moreover, has no plans whatever to interfere in the editorial policy of Fairfax.

He has clearly lost touch with the known world and I ask his new virgin saint Rinehart, whose poetry I have printed and praised here, for his job.

I will do four columns a week like this one for half his wage.

If Rinehart is interested in circulation, and why else would she buy shares in it, she will take up my offer.

Lines For Albo (11)

‘So now we see Tony Abbott’s policy writ plain. Turn back the boats! Tell them to turn back, and they don’t turn back, and a hundred people drown.

‘Our policy is to not let get on the boats. His policy is to drown them when they do. What a murderous drongo he is. What a dill.’

Assange Futures (5)

The ambassador is telling the president what the options are and they will be these.

(1) Leave him in the Embassy for a year and entreat the British to let him go to Ecuador or Australia.

(2) Move him out of the embassy under guard, shooting back at British police, and take him to a private helicopter which goes to France and a normal flight that goes to Ecuador.

(3) Let the British arrest him at the front door, or shoot him at the front door, and thereafter see reports that he was beaten to death in an ‘incident’ in a British gaol, or a Swedish gaol, or hanged himself in his cell.

What they should probably do is (1) and conduct, and ask us to conduct, investigations into who the accusing women are and whether or not they are currently being supported, and richly paid, by a right-wing foundation. If they are, they should be treated with the same suspicion as the provocateurs Ashby, Pyne and Kathy Jackson and Assange brought home to Australia and the women invited to testify here before a Senate committee.

These are high stakes now. If Assange is shot at the front door of the embassy or killed in Sweden by the kind of people who killed the equally outspoken Olof Palme in 1976, and the equally outspoken Stieg Larrson, author of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, before its publication in 2005 it will bring down the Tory government there and ruin the last chances of the Labor government here, who failed to protect and plead for a hero and protected instead and pleaded for a heroin smuggler in Bali. Assange will be credited with beginning the Arab Spring and liberating millions of souls from tyranny and become a figure like Che Guevara on T-shirts forevermore.

And if we let him die it will be a pity.

Discuss.

The Sydney Film Festival (6): The Old Master And The New World

‘Surviving active service in World War 2 and battle fatigue, as it was known then, he became a world famous watercolourist, a dedicated pacifist and a mentor of young talent and cut a track with Amy Winehouse in the month before her death. Now eighty-five, he still sings in a suit and a tie. He comes from poor beginnings, paints as well as Degas, and puts across a song more skilfully than any man now living with the possible exception of Harry Connick Junior. Let’s make him welcome, ladies and gentlemen, Antonio Benedetto, also known as Tony Bennett.’

This speech does not occur in The Zen of Bennett but it could have. What a wonderful backstage movie, of a man whose motto is to always dress up and seize the moment and ‘never sing a cheap song’. Conceived and produced by Danny Bennett, his manager/son, directed by Unjoo Moon and shot by the Oscar laureate Dion Beebe, both Australians, in glimmering sunset yellows and reds like the great man’s paintings, and edgy muttering studio rehearsals overheard by an always moving camera, it co-stars, as they co-record his latest Duets album, Lady Gaga (‘The Lady Is A Tramp’), Willy Nelson, Aretha Franklin (and the remembered ghost of Ella Fitzgerald, godmother of his daughters); and, magically and sadly, Amy Winehouse, whom he later mourns, singing admiringly beside him, besotted by him, poignantly, gustily, elegiacally, ‘Body And Soul’.

He outlives her, of course. He seems immortal, with a weathered Roman-emperor’s face, very similar to Christopher Plummer’s, agelessly absorbing the entire known world and, like many a survivor of war, thinking every day a radiant gift and retelling its colours and blooms on canvas and parchment. Love is our obligation, he says, forgiveness, joy, and he truly believes it, and in his singing, with its glides and husky shifts of pleasured sadness, hymns and hails and paints it with his every breath.

More Mexicans have died in the drug wars since 2008 than Australians in World War 2. One such soul inhaled into this maelstrom is Laura Guerrerro (Stephanie Sigman), poor-born beauty contestant of Bala, a seaside resort, like a downmarket Sorrento, near the US border who survives a shoot-out in a dance club, approches a bent cop (Noe Hernandez), is kidnapped, recruited, raped and ket loose to become, very briefly, Miss Bala (the film’s title) and made the honey-trap of the loathesome general Duarte, warns him, survives another shoot-out and is paraded before the news cameras as a criminal mastermind.

This is utterly persuasive and wonderfully directed (by Gerardo Naranjo from a screenplay by himself and Mauricio Katz), poundingly suspenseful evocation of grimy blood-splashed familiar territory which Get The Gringo, Breaking Bad and No Country For Old Men have lately explored, more accessible and female-friendly than any of them. We need, after this, no more convincing that drugs are the new currency, and the only currency, in most of the modern world.

Lines For Albo (11): The Rinehart Remedial Poetry Initiative Prefigured

‘Gina Rinehart writes such bad poetry she should not be let near the Warialda Echo let alone the Age, the smh and the Financial Review. It is wrong for illiterates, and philosophical drongoes, capable of a rhyme scheme like that, to influence, or seek to influence, what the people think.

‘Gina-specific legislation should therefore deny all minerals -  all, all of the people’s minerals — to her shovels till she has given up all her holdings in Fairfax, donated them to the ABC, and undertaken to enrol in remedial verse composition tutorials with Bob Ellis, Rolf Harris, John Clarke and Pam Ayres, and pays them six hundred thousand dollars an hour for it, for at least ten hours each.’

A Word From Gina Rinehart

OUR FUTURE

The globe is sadly groaning with debt, poverty and strife,
And billions now are pleading to enjoy a better life.
Their hope lies with resources buried deep within the earth,
And the enterprise and capital which give each project worth.

Is our future threatened with massive debts run up by political hacks,
Who dig themselves out by unleashing rampant tax.
The end result is sending Australian investment, growth and jobs offshore.
This type of direction is harmful to our core.

Some envious unthinking people have been conned,
To think prosperity is created by waving a magic wand.
Through such unfortunate ignorance, too much abuse is hurled
Against miners, workers and related industries who strive to build the world,

Develop North Australia, embrace multiculturalism and welcome short term foreign workers to our shores,
To benefit from the export of our minerals and ores.
The world’s poor need our resources: do not leave them to their fate:
Our nation needs special economic zones and wiser government, before it is too late.

(End of message. In the time it took you to read this, Gina earned twenty-two thousand dollars.

And Tony Abbott thinks she needs more money.

Discuss.)

Classic Ellis: Kristina Keneally, 2011

Attend the fate of KKK,
A flittering moth who’s had her day,
Who felled, betimes, the goodly Rees,
And thought the Great Game just a breeze,

Who whimpers now, at power’s end,
Without a teddy-bear, or friend,
‘I did things right, I praised the Lord,
I asked my fellow-Yank, Walt Secord,

How best to cornhole Joe and Eddie
While seeming hot, and calm, and steady.
And Walt said, ‘Kristina, iron your hair,
Conceal your brain, it isn’t there.

‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,
Claim you stand for honesty,
Go forth, look cute in a miner’s hat,
You do the tapdance whilst I grow fat.’

She cooed, she danced, she hit the spot,
And old men grunted, ‘Wow, she’s hot.’
But everyone voted for portly Barry,
Cuddly disguise for Oil Can Harry,

And now, aghast, ’neath alien skies,
So unfulfilled, and yet not wise,
Lies lovely, chirpy KKK
At the end of her working holiday.

And who’s to blame, and who’s to care,
Who’s to remember the flying hair?
The Labor diaspora weep and wail,
Their Golden Age kaput. Wassail.

The Imminent Killing of Julian Assange

(First published in Independent Australia)

It is now the Swedes’ plan, and their ally America’s plan, for a ‘Lee Harvey Oswald moment’ when, emerging handcuffed from the embassy gates, Assange will be shot from a high window across the street in an ‘incident’ Scotland Yard will profoundly regret, and his funeral will be watched by half a billion viewers across the world and the assassin get away.

This is their plan now. Their previous plan was not to try him for rape in Sweden, since his accusers were plainly right-wing conspirators who publicly kissed and hugged him for days and days after the supposed offence, but to beat him to death in gaol, in an ‘incident’ the authorities would profoundly regret.

This was always their plan. This is why they never charged him with anything, wanting only to ‘question’ him in Sweden. Though they could have questioned him in London, he had to be in Sweden. There can be no other reason for this, as any fan of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will tell you, but to kill him there.

It is not far-fetched or paranoid to say this. Four American presidential candidates have called for his death, two by assassination. His informant, Bradley Manning, is under torture and facing execution. Drone missiles take out, once a month, America’s political opponents without an arrest, or a lawyer, or a period of detention, or a day in court, just a sudden explosion in the house which they – and their children, sometimes – live in. Assassination is American foreign policy now, and an assassinated Assange is on their menu.

How are we to save him? Well, we could ask the Swedes to interview him in the embassy, and find him, as they did before, a person of no interest. Or we could ask the British to send him home. Once here he could be questioned on what happened, and the accusers flown out to be questioned too. If they have a case, he can be tried by Skype from Sweden and, if found guilty, if a fair trial is possible after the publicity, gaoled here.

And his life preserved.

It is not too large a thing to call him our Dreyfus. For Dreyfus too was accused of giving information to the enemy, amid newspaper headlines that divided a nation, and the nation’s families with it, for decades. Dreyfus was found to be guiltless of any breach of the law in any jurisdiction.

It is a pity that the now all-too-common alliance of American hubris, Fox News hysteria and the far right wing has brought this world hero, the truthful, stern, impelled auteur of the Arab Spring, to this mortal pass with the craven assistance of Australian inertia, Swedish greed and mendacious American vengefulness.

Or perhaps you disagree.

South Australian Gothic: Lahiff’s First Masterpiece

Craig Lahiff’s film Swerve is better than thirty-five Hitchcocks and very much in the style. The very first shot, looking down from way up in the air at the dry dusty junction of three outback roads, is like the start of the crop-duster scene in North By North-West. The driving scene that follows is like some of the pre-Bates Motel sequences of Psycho. There are moments after that which remind one of Shadow Of A Doubt, Strangers On A Train, The Lady Vanishes and Vertigo….

But this is not to say it is a mere patching-together of old classic scenes from the forties, fifties, and sixties of the Master. It has a heartbeat, an erection, a nose for trouble of its own, throbbed along by Grabowsky’s fine, shrewd score.

It starts with a swerve, a three-car crash, a corpse, a suitcase full of hundred dollar bills, and the wary driving-home of one of the victims, Jina (Emma Booth), by another, Colin (David Lyons), before he meekly, unaccountably, takes the money to the police station and the head cop, Frank (Jason Clarke), of Neverest, a remote, eventless, played-out mining town, where a brass band competition is in preparation. The only hotels are full of trumpeters and cornettists, and Frank offers Colin a room at his farmhouse, where … he finds that Jina is Frank’s discontented wife; and she, swimming naked in the pool while Frank is briefly absent on that hot night in the town, tempts Colin, who narrowly resists her…

Booth is superb in this role, like Janet Leigh in Psycho, and January Jones in Mad Men, both worldly and startlingly young. She explains that Frank goes wild sometimes, and beats her, and nearly killed a fellow cop and was exiled here; and big, burly, grinning Jason Clarke, a bit like a handsome Paul Chubb, gets this genial-kindly mad-dog quality superbly.

A lot of murder ensues, while the brass bands march up and down the utterly empty streets, a corpse put down a disused mine shaft, another corpse discovered in it, a corpse recalled to life and vengeance, a train boarded that is full of cops and menaced by Charlie, a Steve McQueen lookalike (Travis McMahon), the man who was meant to receive the missing money and keen to see where it has gone, a good deal of struggling at the open door of the luggage compartment, and so on.

It all works very well. We see too briefly Roy Billing, Chris Haywood, Vince Colosimo and Robert Mammone, but the small town, outback, desert-under-mountains atmosphere, unique to the genre, which I guess might be called South Australian Gothic, is slowly rendered, magnificent framing by magnificent framing, in shots as good as those in Vertigo, moving sideways and breathing menace, unsurpassed in most American films, and superior to much of Hitchcock, Wilder, Hawks and Ford.

It is a pity that its release here (though not in America) was so quiet and crowded. Instead of, say, a Broken Hill premiere, and a couple of sessions on four weekends in the western suburbs and selected provincial cities, it was put out, as usual, in four sessions a day in multiplexes against Prometheus in 3D and Snow White and the Huntsman and The Way and Brave, where of course it was overwhelmed. I saw it in an empty cinema in Avalon, and it’s a pity.

I note that Craig, whom I’ve written films for, is casting well and directing performance brilliantly, at last. jason Clarke is Oscar-worthy, and David Lyons, the passive, wary, unadventurous Iraq war veteran wanting a quiet life, an ordinary job and a beer perhaps and a stray fuck, but not if it’s too much trouble, is reminiscent of the young Simon Burke. Which is praise indeed.

The editing, by Sean Lahiff, is as good as Dede Allen (praise indeed), the photography by David Foreman, better, I think, than any thus far in Australia, and Grabowsky’s score, augmented by Souza, and Verdi’s ‘Force of Destiny’, a quiet revolution.

See it, if you can find it, on a big screen. It’s very good indeed.

Trial By Fire And Water

It was hoped by Jason Clare on Lateline a few minutes ago that a way would be found to stop people drowning in their hundreds in the sea on their way to Australia.

One way I think would be to stop burning the good boats that get here; and to sail them back to their owners in Indonesia.

By what right does a government burn a man’s boat? How can thay do that? It is piracy, surely. Or state terrorism. When it is known a boat at journey’s end will be burnt, it makes economic sense to make it a cheap and leaky boat, the sort that breaks up in rough seas and sinks, killing people. If we did not burn the good ones and sent them home to their owners, they would be used again, and fewer people would drown.

A law against this piracy should be passed forthwith, and previous boat burners given six months in gaol, and the ministers like Ruddock and Vanstone who ordered this vandalism shamed and gaoled for a month or two.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Saving Fairfax: A Modest Proposal

A weekly levy from each taxpayer of 50 cents would buy Fairfax and keep it going with the same writers and the ABC as its controlling editorship with Kerry O’Brien and Maxine McKew on the Board. It could be available for a dollar in the shops and 50 cents on Kindle with advertisements costing half what they do now.

Thus it would survive, and thus it would be free of Rinehart, Murdoch, Singo and the despised and slippery quisling Hywood.

The 50 cents contribution would mean, in the first year, 332 million dollars to buy up a controlling interest, and, in the second year and thereafter, 332 million each year to run it as a tabloid and a Kindle in the regions it no longer flies to, unchanged, independent-thinking, and profitable.

There is no argument against this, except that Gina Rinehart is a good idea and a friend of press freedom and worth a try.

Discuss.

Assange: An Exchange

Happily Morose June 22, 2012 at 12:06 am

Hmm. J.A. seeks political asylum in Ecuadorian embassy to avoid fronting a Swedish court because of a fear that once in Sweden, he might be extradited to the U.S. for as yet non-existent charges in that country.

As Carr said on Lateline lastnight (quoting “at least one” legal opinion he has been advised of), why would the U.S. bother trying to extradite J.A. from Sweden if they can do this more easily while he remains in the U.K.?

J.A. needs to take this one step at a time and face the music in Stockholm. Carr and Roxon have already explicitly asked the U.S. if they intend charging him with anything, and the answer so far has been no. What is so hard for people to understand about this?

If the sexual misconduct charges are vexatious or a honey trap, let this be examined by the Swedish justice system. J.A. needs to stop being such a sanctimonious twerp about these charges, as does his well meaning but unfortunately quite daffy mother.

Having said that, Assange the Musical will possibly be all the funnier, when it eventually opens in theatres in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, if the Ecuadorian thing plays out and he ends up there for several years waiting for the storm to recede, or until a U.S. drone takes him out while picking a coffee crop on the grounds of his hacienda.

The media seems to forget that J.A. is not some anonymous bearded Pushtun brother that the U.S. can quite comfortably extradite, torture, gaol on dodgy charges and forget about. He’s an international intellectual pin up boy for f***’s sake. Despite the ANZUS treaty, they’d be damned fools to even think about putting him through their justice system and making him even more of a martyr than he already is, so it’s very hard to see what J.A. and his supporters are so worried about at this point in time.

Go to Sweden. Go to Sweden. Go to Sweden.

Bob Ellis June 22, 2012 at 1:30 am

Hmmm. Would you go to Sweden and ‘face the music’ if two US Presidential candidates had called for your execution, one for your assassination and Hillary Clinton for your imprisonment in Guantanamo, and Sweden had refused to question you in Britain or on skype and also refused to charge you with anything?

Would you, too, fear for your life? Why not?

You know damn well that the UK was LESS likely to extradite him to America when local heroes John Pilger, Geoffrey Robertson, Bianca Jagger and Kylie Minogue would then with their protests endanger the hung parliament and bring, perhaps, the Prime Minister down, and the Swedish Prime Minister was in no such danger.

You also know damn well that the women involved had cordial relations with him, and further sex, after the alleged offences, and appeared in public smiling beside him in the following days, and only went to the police long after the DNA evidence had been laundered out of their sheets and vaginas and were, in any case, members of a movement that abhorred him and would gladly have seen him dead, as was the arresting officer.

And you think a man so placed should give himself up to torture or beating to death or poisoning in a gaol of a nation whose Fox News was calling for him to be hunted down and killed ‘like Osama Bin Laden’? Because he had nothing to fear?

Nothing to fear?

Of a nation whose drone missiles assassinate an opponent in a foreign country once a month?

And is a ‘sanctimonious twerp’ for being afraid? Afraid of being shamed and tortured and killed?

You are a deeply ignorant man, then, or a CIA agent yourself.

I ask what it is you do for a living, and in what country.

Bob Ellis June 22, 2012 at 2:31 am

I ask this because of your indifference to the danger an Australian is in, of being killed while in custody. It argues you are a foreigner or psychopath or, worse, a Liberal staffer.

You also think it laughable that a mother should fear for her son when he is in custody in another country and under daily threat of assassination.

What kind of monster are you?

Please answer this.

Terry Vanuatu June 22, 2012 at 9:08 am

I would be worried if I was JA but I didn’t know you held the singing budgie in such high regard.

Bob Ellis June 21, 2012 at 10:30 pm [Edit]

Assange is/was as popular as Fred Hollows among Australians and would easily achieve a Senate seat in any state.

And will.

If he lives.

The Boat People Argument in 222 Words

The many, many ships wrecked on the way to America did not deter the Mayflower from sailing. Big seas did not deter two hunded thousand soldiers  on Dunkirk Beach from setting out, in leaky boats, for England. Moses’ fugitive Hebrews were not deterred by the Red Sea from fleeing slavery into and across it. Deaths on the Second Fleet did not deter the Third Fleet from setting out.

Nothing has deterred migrants keen to better their children’s lives from making the voyage. So why pretend that something will?

The thing to do with boat people is designate towns in Northern Australia and Tasmania where they may settle. These can be chosen from among the hundred or so towns that want them and have said they want them. The fertile parts of Bob Katter’s electorate are bigger than those of Great Britain so overpopulation is not a problem. Towns should be designated to be preponderantly Tamil, Hazara, Palestinian, Sudanese, Acehans and so on. They should be allowed to seek work within a hundred miles and their children allowed to go to a university anywhere. We can end the ‘queue’ by letting everybody in it into these towns and regions. This will add perhaps a million people to our population in the next ten years and stimulate construction, language teaching, rug-weaving, competitive cricket and folk-dancing.

Any questions?

Assange Futures (4)

Fran Kelly’s interview with him reminds us of Julian’s secret weapon, a beautiful voice. We trust him as we do Bob Carr. We identify with him as we do with Barack Obama.

It is now fairly clear he was framed, like Peter Slipper, by agents provocateurs. Each was seen in his company cheerful and welcoming and, yes, loving after the offence. Each waited till the DNA evidence, if any, had been laundered away before they complained. He was then found to have nothing to answer and let go and went unharassed to England. A furious legal female, right-wing like the plaintiffs, then went after him but has not yet, after two years, charged him with anything.

It is not likely now he will be extradited to America. It is much more likely he will be beaten to death in gaol in Sweden, in a ‘rogue incident’ their government will officially regret, and his televised funeral will be watched by a hundred million people.

Discuss.

Send These Undrowned People Home

People defeated in a civil war are wrong to flee to another country. Their children will be better treated by their cousins’ murderers than they would be in Australia. Those who bring them here are wicked men and should go for twenty years to gaol.

These are the premises on which our present ‘people smuggler’ laws are based. They do not stand up to scrutiny.

Do we send these people back? Other fugitives from defeat in another civil war in Vietnam we gladly received. What is the difference?

I invite discussion of these questions.

Assange Futures (3)

Police are waiting outside the Ecuador Embassy and Julia Gillard, in the same room as Ecuador’s President, is refusing to talk to him.

A further outcome has occurred to me, of a ‘Lee Harvey Oswald moment’ when Assange, in handcuffs, will be shot dead by an ‘unknown sniper’ from an upstairs window across the road as he proceeds through the front gate of the Embassy and one hundred and twenty million Americans will rejoice.

It will have been done by some American agency who will not want Assange, in Ecuador, freely broadcasting as a regular commentator on Al Jazeera or local cable to an audience of hundreds of millions of alerted anti-Americans.

Not that it matters, but it is likely that Assange was framed with his alleged carnal misdemeanours, as Slipper was with his, and Thomson was with his, and Mike Rann, and John Della Bosca, and John Brogden, and it is highly suspicious that Sweden will neither question him on skype or face-to-face in England, nor charge him with anything, and just want him in custody in Sweden where he could be beaten to death in an ‘incident’ in a gaol there or extradited to Guantanamo. It is also highly unlikely that the US, four of whose Presidential candidates have called for his execution or assassination, does not want him in their custody and is not keen to question him and, if need be, torture him.

I fear for him as never before.

Dreyfus also, you will remember, was changed with supplying information to the enemy, and caused a division in his nation that lasted forty years.

Assange is on the brink of becoming our nation’s Dreyfus, and may have only hours to live.

Assange Futures (2)

I wait with interest to see what Ecuador will do.

If they agree to take him, it is likely he will be arrested for breaking bail on the way to the airport. This will mean he is gaoled in Britain and not sent to Sweden till his trials and appeals are played out. It is likely in that time that Cameron will fall and a new coalition Prime Minister, Clegg perhaps, will allow him to go to Ecuador, and a new Prime Minister here, Turnbull perhaps, or Carr, or Shorten, or Bandt, or Windsor, will extradite him home, give him three months in Goulburn Prison for presumed small crimes against two corrupted right-wing sluts, and let him go. This will take five years out of his life and possibly break his spirit. And this would be a pity.

If they do not take him, it would be good if we asked that he be extradited home and the Swedes invited to question him here, and if they will not to charge him with some crime or other, and prosecute him by skype and see how they go. He should then be protected like Corby and Hicks from cruel presumptuous foreigners and fined and let go.  He would then be elected to parliament and get an honest wage.

I wait with interest, and so, I’m sure, do you.

Assange Futures (1)

A few scenarios. Assange makes it to Ecuador, and there begins to do for al-Jazeera an interview show that rates well across the world. He then nominates to run for the Senate in the state of Tasmania, and the Gillard government strives to disqualify him. He appeals to the High Court and Julian Burnside argues that he has been convicted of no crime and cannot be disqualified. The High Court agrees that a citizen can stand for parliament if he wishes. The election takes place and he wins a Senate place. In the seven months before he assumes his seat, he is asked to guest-host Q&A a few times, and then is given his own show on SBS. He enters the Senate a hero and a TV star and becomes Deputy Leader of the Greens. The US then asks the Abbott or Turnbull Government to extradite him to Guantanamo for ‘questioning’.

What then, cried Plato’s ghost, what then?

Classic Ellis: Assange, 2011

(From The Year It All Fell Down, due out in November)

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 were surprised by his connection with each of them.

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 Latest Big Lie, Tested

A quite remarkable concept, ‘security risk’, is being tested in the High Court this week. Like all absurdist injustices, it is a phrase without a verb. It is wise to seek a verb in such a case. If let into Australia, what will he do? Kill someone, torture someone? And if he does kill or torture someone, can he be arrested for it? What then is the problem?

He is supposed to have worked, involuntarily or not, for the Tamil Tigers in a time of civil war. How does this make him likely to murder anybody in this country? Many officers of the Third Reich with British blood on their hands ended up growing wine in the Barossa Valley. Some Japanese soldiers who beheaded Australians opened restaurants here. Were they ‘security risks’? Of course they were. Did they subsequently kill or torture anybody? Of course not.

If there is a Tamil, a member of the Kamahl family, for instance, who has committed a crime, can ASIO name him? I think there is none. Why then is this man thought likely to do something he will anyway go to gaol for if he does it? Why would he do it? What are we being protected from? Anything? I think not.

Albert Speer, enslaver of Jews and prolonger of World War 2, committed not even a parking offence after getting out of Spandau in the twenty remaining years of his life. David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib, Mahomed Haneef, have thus far committed no crime; in their lives thus far no crime.

So what are we talking about? What are we talking about? Some superstitious idea that he has magical powers to evade arrest and imprisonment unlike other humans? What are we talking about?

ASIO is full of people like Gerard Henderson who should be told at long last about right and wrong. Punishment should not precede crime, it should follow it. Until there is crime, there is little to worry about. After there is crime, there are the usual processes.

What is the problem?

Please let this man go.

The Always Inevitable Assange Moment, Here At Last

For as long as Julian Assange has been in the Australian consciousness it has been clear to me he would end up as our Dreyfus if we were not careful. It was somehow thought this most revolutionary of bright and burning and egocentric intellects would passively accept his ludicrous fate, would be a pawn on the chessboard of nations and not a knight or a queen; a drama queen perhaps.

From Gillard’s first fool untruth, that what he had done was ‘illegal’, he has had the potential to blow up Australia’s politics. But no, it was imagined that though he was nearly Time’s Man of the Year and he was for a while as popular as Fred Hollows in Australia, and likely to be a Senator in any state he ran in, he was only a sideshow, and he would get five years in Sweden for ‘sex by surprise’ and be beaten to death in gaol when he was almost forgotten, and that would be that.

They did not reckon with the possibility that he had a mind of his own, or time to contemplate his imprisonment and waterboarding and secret Guantanamo trial and twenty years of appeals and execution by a far-distant American administration. Or his mistrust of all of us at home.

It would have been the work of a moment to extradite him here, to ‘answer certain questions’ about his possible treason and let him go, and, when Sweden wanted him, to ask Sweden to question him here.

It’s a process like racism, what’s happened. You believe a lesser human being will not jump off the roof and kill himself after years in Villawood, he will cop his infinite incarceration with oriental resignation, because that’s what they do, these lesser breeds, they obediently conform. And you believe a man of towering intellect who thinks himself the Einstein of current world politics, the Oppenheimer of this new information age, will cop like Oppenheimer his persecution and die meekly under torture if we ask him with British politeness to do so. That he will say ‘it’s a fair cop, guv’ and go quietly.

It is not so. He will fight for his life like any Primo Levi. And he will ‘overshadow’ in the headlines the rescue of Melinda Taylor, the Fairfax debacle, the success of the carbon tax, and all the goodwill the Government might have had.

And it’s a pity.

(The above piece was rejected by Unleashed on the grounds that it was ‘too brief’ and they had anyway another piece on Assange by a lawyer and it was, of course, impossible to print two pieces since it was of only passing interest and thank you.

I will think on these things.

Perhaps it might find paid publication in Ecuador)

Security Risk, Deciphered

See above.