Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Story So Far: Andrew Braunsberg’s Roman Polanski: A Memoir

Polanski, whom Tynan once called ‘a four-foot Pole you wouldn’t touch anyone with’, has had more good luck and more bad luck than most eighty-year-old Warsaw Jews now living, and working in showbiz.

He survived the Ghetto, the Holocaust and World War 2, though his mother was gassed in Auschwitz and his father, being marched away by the Germans, mimed the words ‘piss off’ at the little boy and looked elsewhere, pretending not to know him. He was a peasant farm boy at ten, a famous radio actor at thirteen, a moderately famous film actor at twenty, a world-renowned film director at thirty, a Hollywood celebrity at thirty-four. At thirty-six his wife and unborn son were butchered, in mistake for somebody else, by the Manson Family. At forty-six he was arrested for sex with an unwilling though obedient and sexually experienced minor, whom he gave a sore arse and hundreds of thousands of dollars, did his time in gaol and was released and then, after that, was told by the abruptly corrupt and headline-hungry sentencing magistrate he’d changed his mind, and he was going back in, for an unnamed period of years, at the magistrate’s pleasure.

And he bolted — he didn’t jump bail, he wasn’t bailed, he was freed — for London then Paris where, evading the FBI, he continued his distinguished career on stage and film, sometimes acting (he played Amadeus) or directing opera, and making Tess and Oliver Twist and Frantic and The Pianist, a film on most critics’ Best Twenty list which included memories of his own horrific childhood in the Ghetto, where his school friends were surrounded and one by one shot in the head and he alone, like Ishmael, escaped to to tell of it.

After that he was arrested again at a Swiss film festival where he was to be honoured and, despite his victim’s pleas, threatened like Assange or Manning with death in a cell in America in his eightieth or ninetieth year. And after many, many months of house arrest the French — and he was a French citizen, he was born in Paris — wouldn’t extradite him; and that, so far, was that. The story so far.

I of course hold that he has suffered enough — a murdered mother, wife and son, and a lot of suspense for thirty-eight years — and has given back in great art what he owed the world for a crime then thought worth only thirty days in the slammer, which he served, and a lot of money, which he paid.

Others, Reader 1 for instance, will have a different view.

They would like to see him in a California cell with Manson.

The film is very fine. It shows a kind of Wandering Jew, unageing, humorous, repentant, priapic, thankful, clear-eyed and keen to do more work; not unlike Woody Allen in at least four ways.

His old friend Andrew Braunsberg, his perpetual producer, made it and it should be seen.

Certain Housekeeping Matters (20)

I am told, I think, by Reader 1 that she is going away.

I ask her to confirm this.

In Twenty-Seven Words

How many Afghan migrants have gone to gaol in Australia in the last one hundred and seventy years? Fifteen? Ten? One?

How many Irish? Five thousand?

How many ten pound Poms, like Tony Abbott?


I Dreamed A Dream In Time Gone By: Hugo, Boublil, Kretschmer, Schonberg And Hooper’s Les Miserables

I was wrong to walk out of Les Mis, and a fool to write about it before I saw it all. I went back yesterday, and was overwhelmed.

All that seemed wrong in the Hooper ‘vision’ (the live recording, the close-ups, the incessant cruelty, the exultant grime) after twenty minutes took hold and engrossed me. And I ended purged and uplifted and a near-Catholic convert and I’m sorry. What a fool I am. It is an experience like no other. It has Lear’s despair, and Christ’s redemptive love, and Hogarth’s mud and squalor, and wonderful accusatory music. A few caveats, however.

Though true to the times, Jean Valjean’s bitter shame at his years in the slammer seems today excessive. He only stole a loaf of bread for Christ’s sake, and in a good cause, to feed a sister’s child. Many Australians are descended from such a man. The joyous, nasty, pick-pocketing low-lifes the Thenardiers (Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen) seem on screen a more fitting response to these evil Dickensian chapters of humankind’s oppressed and stifled upward struggle to produce, at last, the trade union movement and thereafter in France a great social democracy and in Australia the Hawke-Kelty Social Contract which we glory in today, than Valjean’s soaring whinge and snobbery.

It is, nonetheless, and at day’s end, the most radical Hollywood cry-for-justice ever. Fantine loses not just her daughter’s custody but her hair, her back teeth, and in whoredom her proud and beautiful soul to indifferent jackal Capitalism, spits at Valjean, its representative, correctly, and then dies, it would seem, of syphilis. Valjean takes his ill-gotten wealth to Paris and prospers, no doubt, by shrewd investments in the stock exchange, raising Fantine’s orphaned little daughter Cosette in close, aristocratic, Freudian seclusion far from the nascent Marxism simmering in the coffee houses and the streets.

It is a film like both the Occupy Wall Street movement and the Book of Job: the barricade-uprising part of it, and the Marseillaise-like anthem ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’, has no equal in world cinema, not even Wajda’s Danton, nor even, dare I say, Stanley Donen’s The Pyjama Game. It has the effect that opera ought to have and usually does not; unlike, say, The Marriage Of Figaro it is about more basic things. it was good to see it in the days before the Sequester pushes the American underclass back down into scrambling squalor again, and the Italians laugh the whole innumerate, predatory system (lately called ‘Austerity’) into oblivion.

Jackman is very fine, and Crowe, less assured in his singing but hitting the notes, is correctly unemphatic in his obsession with his mirror-soul Valjean, the poor-born good man he might have been. Hathaway, more briefly present, sears and smites the screen, as the trailer promised she would, with her gender’s curse, childbearing, and her only recourse, vagina-selling, more ferociously than anything since Cotillard’s Piaf or Judy Davis’s skinny smacked-out hooker in Winter Of Our Dreams. Eddie Redmayne, Amanda Seyfried and Samantha Barks are excellent as the roused and star-crossed love-triangle Marius, Eponine and Cosette and so are many young spirited actors as the insurgents, fighting to the death beneath a tattered flag for freedom, one of them six years old.

This is a great film and somehow, like Lincoln, more than a film. It’s like a shared experience of wartime bombardment, a tribal trauma we all go through together. Kretschmer’s lyrics of I Dreamed A Dream are the greatest lyrics ever, and the music, though simplistic, correctly transports us heavenward and hellward when it must.

It should be seen, and endured, again and again, as for many of us the stage show was (I saw it eleven times) and not walked out of before it takes hold.

I beg you, see it.

In Twenty-Nine Words

If a million Australians are uncontactable by landline, how can Newspoll be thought to be accurate in any of its findings? If it does not ring mobiles, how can it?

Classic Ellis: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream, 2011

A plague of sleeplessness is killing our civilisation.

Rudd, who was always jet-lagged and feverishly nitpicking pithy details till 4:00am, made or delayed such decisions as wrecked the Labor Party. Beazley before him flew back and forth to Perth and in his bleariness mixed up some names and lost his leadership. Smith after him flew back and forth to Perth and in his bleariness misheard some facts and is now at war with the army, needlessly, imperilling the nation. Gillard flew to Europe and, jet-lagged, said she wasn’t interested in foreign affairs. Abbott flew via Europe to Afghanistan, said drowsily ‘Shit happens’ and nearly lost his career.

All over the West college students are up till 4:00am Skyping or Facebooking and getting low marks in their exams. Company executives fly around the world and get back in no condition to do business. Office workers drive three hours a day, work late, rarely see their children, lose the thread of their lives and end bankrupt, divorced, retrenched, alcoholic or suicidal. Problem gamblers persist at their lunacy for 36 hours straight and end as corpses at Crown Casino’s downstairs mortuary.

Even in the siesta town, Barcelona, people carouse till 5:00am and wake black-hearted and self-disgusted there as everywhere. It’s a pandemic, and like the hung-over soldiers in Pearl Harbor on that Sunday morning in 1941, and the yawning air stewards that dawn on 9/11, it can cost us dearly in blood and treasure and eventual world wars.

It comes I think from television, which used to close down at 10:30pm, from pubs, which used to close at 6:00pm and are open now all night, from the new technology which allows intimate communication across oceans at all hours cheaply, from DVDs which keep you up after midnight watching Mad Men or Rome or Entourage, from good quality coffee available at McDonald’s after midnight, from Lateline which starts at 10:35pm and the NBC Morning Show at 4:00am and ABC24 which broadcasts round the clock.

But the main reason for it is, like smoking in the 1940s, no-one realises soon enough how big a danger it is and some don’t survive it. They fall asleep at the wheel and end crippled or widowed or blind. They make a fool financial decision, selling shares or property, and end up pauperised by it. They snap at their employer or grope a buxom girl at an office Christmas party and are fired for it.

The symptoms are always the same: impatience, snappishness, low-level paranoia, fogginess in remembering surnames, multidirectional randiness, failures in spelling, punctuation and good manners, and low self-esteem. Drowsiness in high school exams has cost many a university place (it nearly did me) and a future career. An argument can be made that sleeplessness causes the working classes who, housed under flight paths or beside roaring highways in thronged rooms they share with snoring uncles or restless, noisy, late-returning big brothers, or travelling long hours to school on early buses, get insufficient sleep to study well and pass what tests they have to in life to prevail.

Late-night football practise and rock-band rehearsal take a similar toll, and the net result is a West falling far behind the frugal, disciplined, uncarousing Chinese, outsourcing our jobs to them, and wondering where our good times went while we were yawning and scratching ourselves at 8:00am and gulping coffee and running after buses yelling vainly at 8:20.

What do we do about it?

Realising it’s a problem could be a start. Realising coffee is not the answer, nor whisky, nor ecstasy. An IA - Insomniacs Anonymous - wouldn’t hurt. Calculating how much under 56 hours, the bare minimum each week, you sleep should be a regular kitchen-table calculation, like the domestic budget. Ingmar Bergman’s solution, a half-hour’s kip after lunch, should be tried by those who can manage it. A pillow at work, and a nap with feet sticking out from under the desk, would be tolerated if essayed by enough public servants. Bed at 10:00pm, and a toasted cheese sandwich and hot Milo before it, works well I find. A wakeful interim at 3:00am, playing back the Lateline you missed, can work well too. Sex at 6:00am and an extra, guaranteed hour, is near infallible when catching up.

My preferred method is having always beside me on the pillow a small radio tuned to LNL or Tony Delroy or the BBC World Service at a level just above, or just below, audibility which lulls me, as did the buzzing of adult conversation around my cradle years ago, into confident, comforted, secure and restful oblivion. Waking in the night for the usual reasons, more frequent in old age, I find it may take 40 minutes, but it always slow-fades me back into unconsciousness, for it reliably provides that universal cause of all sleep, too much information.

Forty minutes a day brisk-walking, in 10-minute grabs, on a treadmill in front of CNN helps of course. And…one other thing.

I scarce dare confess it, but it seems to me fundamental in explaining my energy, sharpness of mind and (relatively) youthful appearance looking as I do at 69 a mere 61.

It is not sharing a bed overnight with my wife, our joint policy for thirty-five years. It saves us from those shallow interruptions to dreaming that a change of position or light snores bring into the 480 minutes one is wriggling around each other’s protuberances and skirmishing for the same pillow. It has saved me over that time about two years of deep sleep, I would calculate, and 15 points of IQ. I cannot understand how other couples survive with marriages uneroded this barbarous peasant habit of shared fitful restlessness which to me is as unimaginable as essaying sleep in a hayloft among calves, copulating possums and crowing roosters.

We should think on sleep as we do on problem gambling, drunk-driving, ecstasy-taking and schoolyard bullying, not as a minor lifestyle choice but as a daily habit, and a personal tradition, which shapes the human soul and the nation’s economy.

And it’s a really crucial mental crisis, lack of sleep - damaging to everyone, helpful to no-one. It keeps many of us crazy for a couple of hours a day. It makes more of us angry for half the day. It makes all of us inefficient, edgy, chafing and hard to bear for half the week. It increases wife-beating, drunkenness, adultery, divorce, harassment, date-rape, stalking, drug abuse, problem gambling, suicide and murder.

It costs us billions ever year and still we ignore it, refuse to treat it, let it multiply.

And it’s a pity.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend: The Last Days Of The Euro

It is reasonable to expect, I think, now that Italy is in political difficulty (‘It’s not hard to run Italy,’ Mussolini once joked, ‘it’s just pointless’) and the stock markets wobbling and stumbling, that the euro’s days are limited, and something called ‘uncharted waters’ are what the Europeans are now headed for.

But they are not, in fact, in historical fact, ‘uncharted waters’ at all. The prevailing currency of the South was abolished after the American Civil War, and greenbacks reinstituted. Japan and Germany after World War 2 had no gold reserves, their debts were forgiven, and they started, with help, and a Marshall Plan or two, from scratch. Britain after World War 2 was largely rubble, and with tyrannous American loans rebuilt.

What will happen, surely, is a reversion to old currencies – the lira, the drachma, the peso, the franc, the mark, the punt – and a repudiation of debt to some big banks which will disappear unmourned. And people will wonder why this took so long to happen.

For the foundations of each economy are still there, as Roosevelt noted in 1932. People still get hungry. They still need to buy nappies, and live under a roof. Arrangements can be made, officially or not, legally or not, by which they will do this. Barter will happen, wife-prostitution, forged currency, as in the former Soviet Union, if new currencies are not discovered or refabricated by the various frightened rulers of the EU facing, like the fool austeritist Monti, extinction.

In my two economics books I argued that the purpose of an economy is to supply money to humans, not corporate entities, and the more humans you give money to, the better, because each would buy a cake of soap, and much will follow as a knock-on from that purchase.

It is to be seen soon how right I am. The euro will fall. And unforseeable adjustments will feed, wash and shelter people, a lot of people, and change their nappies, as before.

Seize the day.

The Song Of The Visible Nipples Reappraised

Nathalie Reilly did a good smh piece on Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars this morning. She quoted his already immortally notorious list-song ‘We Saw Your Boobs’ in full and set me thinking on why it offends me, so offends me, too.

You will recall, of course you will, the scene in Schindler’s List where naked women are herded weeping and stumbling towards what they fear is a gas chamber. If one of them were lately famous, would it be all right, would it be even funny, if Seth MacFarlane on Sunday exuberantly sang of her, ‘we saw your boobs’? Or if he sang thus of the Miriam Karlin scene in A Clockwork Orange where the droogs with scissors cut into her garment revealing a breast? Or the scene in The City Of Life And Death where the naked corpses of Chinese ‘comfort women’ killed by repeated brutal penetration by Japanese soldiers come back in wheelbarrows? We saw your boobs! Funny, is it?

Actresses choose carefully roles in which they are naked. Judi Dench appeared naked in Iris as a sad, fumbling dementia sufferer; Helen Hunt appeared naked as a sex therapist salvaging with carnal kindness a crippled man’s racked soul in The Sessions. And, yes, we saw their boobs. No doubt it is Seth’s contention that these films should never have been made. Or perhaps they should have been made, yet deserved mocking anyway. One of these things is to him a self-evident truth, and a thigh-slapper.

We imagine him roving the Third World and yelling ‘We saw your boobs!’ at breast-feeding young mothers. If he did, he might at some point have been beaten to death.

It is hard, really hard, to discover what this calculated offence to six hundred million watching women actually portended. It was, I think, part of a Hollywood proof-of-stardom thing. You prove you are a star by doing something vile and getting away with it. You order the cameraman be fired, or a female Associate Producer to strip off and take it doggy-fashion in front of the crew. Because you can.

MacFarlane did this on Sunday, appalling the whole world, because he could. I do not normally recommend torture for actors, but I think he should be himself stripped naked and menaced by chained dogs in Abu Ghraib while readings of Gerard Henderson’s works drum loudly in his ears, for six unsleeping months or so.

It is important he suffer deeply for the suffering he has caused, and he should be made an example.

The Oscars: The Ellis Pick Revisited

I got Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, Best Support Actress, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing and Best Production Design right. And, on a second try, Best Foreign Movie.

I will not on reflection blow myself up in the Russian Embassy because Karenina got Best Costumes.

I should have picked Tarantino for Best Original Screenplay but I was inattentive, thinking Argo was eligible. I really admired Django, and called it in these pages ‘Shavian’.

I got about half right.

Ah well.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (79): Today’s Newspoll

The Newspoll fraud continues, and shows, this morning, variety.

It has not only ‘been weighted to reflect the population distribution’ (translation: we made up the figures) but, this time, would you actually believe it, not taken, not taken at all, ‘in areas affected by flood and bushfire’; in Queensland, that is, where the anti-Newman pro-Katter surge is huge now; in the Hunter Valley where Labor predominates, or used to; in Eden Monario, a litmus seat; and in Victoria where the Baillieu-blighted Liberal vote is rapidly tanking.

This uncorrected omission of numbers comes under criminal fraud I would think, and O’Shannessy should be arrested; in my view.

There are also 9 percent ‘refused’ or ‘uncommitted’, representing a million voters. A million is a tidy few. On top of which are, oh, fifteen million mobile phones not being rung.

It is tempting for these reasons to call this poll entirely worthless, or the equivalent of mass forgery, or Confederate currency in 1866; but it does show evidence, comrades, of a game-changing shift in voter intent.

This is to be seen in the ‘Others’ column, up from 6.6 in 2010 to 11 last weekend. That 4.4 shift, half a million votes, is clearly going Katter’s way in those heartland Queensland seats the LNP can’t easily hold any more, the ones unflooded last weekend that is, the half of rural and coastal Queensland that wasn’t flooded.

So, if you un-tweak the figures, throw in a margin of error, and some Katter votes trickling down to Labor in preferences, and some ten million mobile phones unrung, Labor wins this poll or scores 49.5, and Gillard leads Abbott 39-37.

I ask the Senate to investigate Newspoll and ask it to justify its methodology. About twenty-five percent of Australians don’t have, or don’t use landline phones any more since it’s cheaper to use mobiles only. And those mobiles aren’t rung, not one of them. Which means three million voters, probably, aren’t contacted. And the answered landlines, the whole of the sample that is, belong to and are used by preponderantly older people; who mostly, not always, vote Liberal.


It’s a pack of lies, probably.


The Seth MacFarlane Visible Nipples Lyrics Recalled In Mounting Despair On The Morning After

I am hard to shock, but the ‘I Saw Your Boobs!’ number at the Oscars had me reaching with trembling fingers for my hot Milo, and several eminent, blanching actresses observed in cutaway deciding forthwith to waterboard the lead singer and compere, Seth MacFarlane, soon after the show.

Was it he who was the fucking fool, or his agent, or his line writers, or the show’s producers? They all of them must have thought what Ricky Gervaise does is easy. And they managed that night to muff bad taste so often it is entirely possible they don’t know what it is.

There was one line, ‘The only actor who truly got into Lincoln’s brain was John Wilkes Booth’, which has me shuddering still. It’s like asking Saint Thomas More’s daughter Margaret, who took his severed head home and kept it with her for the rest of her life, what she talked to him about at dinner-time. In both cases, the joke is too early; and maybe not worth telling, comrades, in the first place.

Most of the awards had a smidgin of justice to them, however, Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook notably so. But to pass over Tony Kushner’s Lincoln, the best screenplay in the English language since Casablanca, in favour of Argo, a genial Hollywood Green Room tall tale of conspicuous fraud in amusing heathen settings, verged I think on blasphemy.

I will now have to see The Life Of Pi, dad blast it. Silver Linings Playbook is very good, but becomes extremely silly when the two depressives take up dancing.

The Streisand Hamlisch tribute and her commemorative performance of ‘The Way We Were’ was very fine, and Dan Day Lewis was quite funny and seems a nice bloke, and a worthy son-in-law of Arthur Miller.

It was otherwise the worst Oscar Night ever, and heads by God will roll.

Lines For Obama (10)

I am ordering the arrest of thirty Tea Party members of Congress for a new crime called Economic Terrorism. They can appeal their sentence if they wish before the Supreme Court, who may hear their case expeditiously in weeks or months.

But in the meantime I will get my Sequester amendments through. These will save three million jobs, and a lot of incovenience in airline waiting rooms.

I warn them now again, as I have before: If this is how they choose to play it, I can play it that way also.

It is too late now to repent. The deadline has passed.

Let the criminal proceedings begin.

The Oscars: The Ellis List

It is outrageous that Lincoln won’t win everything, but this is the likely outcome.

Best Picture, Argo. Best Direction Ang Li, Life of Pi. Best Screenplay, Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty. Best Adapted Screenplay, Tony Kushner, Lincoln. Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. Best Actress, Emmanuele Riva, Amour. Best Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. Best Supporting Actor, Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln.

Best Foreign Film, A Royal Affair. Best Cinematography, Lincoln. Best Art Direction, Lincoln. Best Costuming, Les Mis. Best Hair And Makeup, The Hobbitt. Best Editing, Argo. Best Visual Effects, Life of Pi. Best Sound Editing, Skyfall.

It is unlikely Moonrise Kingdom, a fine film, will get anything, or Skyfall, a great film, too much. Argo after The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire is a certainty, as the Academy members get more and more trivial and self-referential. They will be charmed by the joke ‘Argo fuck yourself’ and keen to reward it.

It is just possible Steven Spielberg will get Best Direction for Lincoln, or Michael Haneke for Amour. Amour may also, bizarrely, get Best Foreign Film. I’m unsure how this happens, but it does.

If Anna Karenina gets anything I will blow myself up in the Russian Embassy.

Waiting for Silvio

(From The Year It All Fell Down, co-written with Damian Spruce, to be published by Penguin, June 2013)

Silvio Berlusconi carried a single sheet of paper into the Chamber of Deputies. His rounded, flamboyant handwriting was large enough to be read in the photographs of him afterwards: ‘308’ it said (his estimate of the numbers he commanded on the floor of the chamber), ‘minus 8 traitors’. Below were listed his options, ‘Vote’ and ‘Re-election’ and then there was a heading ‘Take action’; and then, ‘a solution’. It was November 8, 2011.

But there was no solution; and by the end of the day he had written and handed in his resignation to the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, on condition that his austerity measures were passed by the Parliament. This was his last flourish of showmanship, casting himself as the fiscal hardliner whereas in truth he had scorned all pleas for these measures from the rest of the political class since the start of his present term in 2008
He was in big trouble elsewhere also. On February 15 three judges had set a date for his trial for underage sex with a Moroccan nightclub dancer whom he had claimed, when police came after him, was the niece of President Mubarak. His major right-wing ally, and the repository of political and moral credibility in his alliance, Gianfranco Fini, had deserted him late in 2010. He had survived more than fifty motions of no confidence in his government.

While each of these in themselves might have been fatal for another politician, Berlusconi had built up a resistance to scandal that enabled him to treat them as minor ailments. He had been the subject of more than twenty-five criminal prosecutions or investigations. His telephone conversations with callgirl Patrizia D’Addario had been publicly released. His second wife had left him for consorting with minors. His offences had achieved such acceptance that it became difficult to think of any further action that he could take that would shock the Italian public or debase its political institutions to any lower level.

He was like a decadent Roman emperor or a colourful Chicago gangster, and the Italians, keen on that sort of miniseries, loved him for it. He owned most of the media, had brazen facelifts, sang on CDs new songs by himself, charmed most audiences as he did when he was a ship’s entertainer; and, thus far, survived.

This time, as in 1994, when he lost government first, it was his friend Umberto Bossi who dealt the fatal blow. The head of the Northern League, a far right group who had advocated the secession of north Italy and opening fire on immigrant boats, had been a charmed member of each of the four Berlusconi governments. And when Bossi had informed him before the vote on November 8 that he could no longer support him to bring the country out of its financial crisis, he knew that he could not long survive.

That night the Roman streets flowed with prosecco and the sound of scooter horns and young people singing. They did not know what was to come but they knew that for the first time in seventeen years Silvio Berlusconi had left the political stage.

Classic Ellis: The Mouse In The Room, 2010

I might be wrong. But it seems to me on going to press that Assange has altered the way the world functions, and the alteration he has caused is as great, or almost as great, as Gutenberg’s in 1439, when a new idea could reach ten million people in a year or so, and couldn’t be easily stifled thereafter.

Assange has shown the nakedness of emperors and their feet of clay, and the tides they can’t turn back merely by barking at them.

Secrecy and power have always walked hand in hand, and shared a bed and a lavatory. The idea of a ‘State Secret’, or a file marked ‘Top Secret’ affirms this, as did in other times the King’s Seal on a document that couldn’t be opened, or a computer password now. John Ralston Saul said in Voltaire’s Bastards that all power structures require a secret language: Latin for the Catholic Church for a thousand years, Cardinal Richelieu’s intricate bureaucratic formulations after that. And lately, of course, un-hackable computer evidence of what people really think.

Secrecy gives you the power to threaten. If the tools that make an atomic bomb and instructions on how to build one are available in only one country, that country has power. If the tools and instructions are everywhere, it has no power. If the site of the D-Day landings is not known, the invader is very threatening. If it is known, less so. And, at the most ordinary level, if a policeman knows where you live he has power to threaten you. If he does not, he has less power. If he has a sample of your DNA, a lot of power.

And so it is, and so it goes, that the Americans are now panicked because the world now knows, or soon will know, what they’re thinking and what their strategies are, who they regard as dangerous, who they would like to bomb back to the Stone Age, whether they plan to pay their debts back to China, or nuke them instead, and so on. And this knowledge can’t be stifled or withdrawn. It can’t be made secret again.

And the world has changed. Now we know the Burma colonels are building an H-bomb we can’t afford to ignore them. We have to deal with them now, in a way that makes sense. Now we know the Saudis are funding many, many terrorists and have been for years, we know America’s War on Terror is a joke. Now we know we are not winning Afghanistan for sure, we can probably sneak out of it.

Power depends on a ruler’s assertion, a ruler’s word, being believed. He must say with credibility that we’re ‘making progress’ in Afghanistan (no-one says we’re winning any more) for us to stay there. That belief in his assertion depends on him having a body of secrets to draw from, spin, rearrange and, if need be, falsify.

He cannot do that now. Because Assange may, tomorrow, say what is really so.

‘You see these dictators on their pedestals,’ Winston Churchill growled in 1936, ‘surrounded by the tanks of their armies, and the truncheons of their police. A mouse, a little tiny mouse, of thought, comes into the room, and even the mightiest… potentates… tremble.’ Assange today is that mouse of thought, in a thousand throne rooms at once, and the mightiest of the earth are trembling, and bellowing for his head.

What can they do now? Well, not very much. The countries they would invade have been warned. The potentates they deride have been scalded, and want payback. Their failed wars will be ended sooner. Those they tortured can sue. The victims of poisoned meadows or carcinogenic broadcast electric towers can exact reparation. The international criminality of bankers can result, as occurred with Enron, in CEOs doing hundreds of years in the slammer.

It’s a remarkable upheaval of the very ground power sits on. It’s like the Peasants’ Revolt, but much bigger.

For look you, look you, and hear me out. No-one can plausibly threaten harm, or great harm, any more. Not when their own position is undermined, and honeycombed, with revelations of their power’s feebleness.

“Things falls apart,” Yeats said in The Second Coming, “the centre cannot hold; /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned; /The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity…Surely the Second Coming is at hand.”

This is what Assange, perhaps, has unleashed (what a good word that is). I hesitate to add ‘good on him’ but I note how enormous is the damage to the Great World he has done.

It may be revealed, for instance, that Bush and Rumsfeld intervened in December 2001 when Bin Laden was surrounded by British troops in Bora Bora and told them to let him go. It may turn out they did this because they didn’t want the ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan, they wanted years of war there, and opium and oil pipelines and funding for their friends the Northern Alliance and kickbacks from the various gangsters surnamed Karzai. It may turn out they will go to gaol for this, and the Bush administration become ‘the time of which we must not speak’ and the Republican Party crumble and the Fox News jocks, as accomplices, go to gaol too.

Or there may be some perfectly reasonable explanation why Bin Laden escaped, and why the Saudis continue to fund his confederates unhindered by the USA.

It may be revealed what Israel threatened Obama with in the pre-presidential period when he would not speak of the Gaza slaughter. Or it may be no threat was made at all.

It may be (let’s say it) that Arbib’s warning to the Americans that Gillard’s coup would soon take place was after, or because, Gillard agreed to do some things the Americans want. Arbib after all supported the WMD war though Beazley did not, and the Afghan war when Rudd was going off it. Maybe he and the Yanks preferred Gillard whose ignorant fervour was unchanged, to the doubting Rudd, revealed here. Maybe her going-to-water over Climate Change was part of this, and her fervid support for Israel while it was firebombing children, her East Timor gambit, her shaming of teachers and unionists, her curious desire to cancel Assange’s passport, and so on. Or there may be no truth in these wanton hypotheses at all. We will soon know, either way.

But whatever is revealed by Assange hereafter has a fair chance of being true. And if it is true, then power, all over, will dwindle.

The mouse is in the room, and the potentates are trembling.

All For Love: Leo, Tom and Joe’s Anna Karenina

(First published by Independent Australia)

It may have been Stoppard who beguiled Joe Wright into filming Karenina like a play; or a half-play-half-movie in the vaudeville-pier-end style of Oh What A Lovely War. Or it may have been Joe in an ego-tempest of self-love attempting to upstage Tolstoy as Baz and Benedict and Barrie do with Shakespeare on this faraway, fatal shore every year or so.

It was a bad idea, and I nearly left, but was glad I stayed.

For it was in most other regards near perfect. There will never be as good an Anna as Keira Knightley, nor as exquisite a widow’s black veil through which she beweeps with large, brimming eyes her outcast state. Nor as great, truly great, a Karenin as Jude Law: bearded, wispy-bald, pale-eyed, spectacled, pious, punishing, self-punishing, racked with guilt and unstifled love and puritan resentment of that love, he inhabits the role with the moral force of a Smoktunovsky or Scofield or Spacey. There will be no better reading I think of this role ever, nor no better dialogue, cutting like a shark’s fin through the story’s dark waters, showing what adultery was then, and the cost of it; and aristocracy; and duty; and the burden of one’s good name. In the doleful red-headed Levin (Domhnal Gleeson) we see hints of Chekhov’s Astrov, a sympathiser with the serfs, scything hay beside them and foreboding like Lenin the end of everything.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Count Vronsky, Anna’s impetuous high-born lover, is a bit of a worry. He seems too insipid, shallow, youthful and narcissistic to so easily pierce through Anna’s marital carapace, but such men do, I guess, and have. For me the role belonged to Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey, but what would I know. He is a fine actor, though, and that vital thing, his Russianness, is not in doubt.

The costumes are excellent, the lighting and angles very, very good, the walk-ons (Emily Watson; Alicia Vikander; Olivia Williams; David Wilmot; Tannishtha Chatterjee; Matthew Macfadyen as a jesting, Rumpolish Oblonsky) always unimpeachably fine, every one of them. But …

It’s in a theatre, much of it, and in the wings and the dressing rooms and the backstage ladders and corridors; and at one point a horse-race, with real horses, flashes past the footlights, and it feels like the Ascot Race number in My Fair Lady and you wonder why nobody is bursting into song. And … there’s a ballroom scene in an auditorium too small for it, and a parliament scene in an auditorium too small for it, and at one point an entire theatre full of meadow-grass, clogging up the aisles … And for most of the time the train is a toy train … And it seems like a musical without the songs ..

And it’s a pity. Always the directorial ‘vision’ is jostling with Tolstoy, one of the world’s greatest novelists, and with Stoppard, one of the world’s greatest dramatists, and you know it’s a contest Joe won’t win …

But it works, in an odd way. And you come out purged and wiser, as Aristotle recommended. And although the ‘auteur’ (what a silly concept that is on this particular project) has loftily sacrificed box office takings of somewhere north of six hundred million dollars, preferring twenty or thirty, he got his way.

Or Tom did; and the set designer had a ball.

And it’s a pity.

The Innocence Of Oscar Pistorius (4): In Twenty-Six Words

Let us imagine FDR blew Eleanor away in the first year of his Presidency.

Deliberate, would you say? Or an accident?

What would his motive be?

In Twenty-Eight Words

Since genocide is being committed on the Hazaras of Uruzguan and Quetta, we should take them all in.

And not send them back, like the Bakhtiyaris, to die there.

Class Ellis: Killing Hazaras, 2010

We continue to mourn the Balibo Five but we have not, thus far, much mourned the Uruzgan Six.

Though both groups were said to have been killed in crossfire the second group is felt to be less important for we do not know the names, ages or genders of the dead.

Though it is 19 months after their deaths we now don’t see reports of Samira, 2, Fatima, 4, Farzad, 5, Montezar, 7, Niki, 9, Rashida, 32, and Omar, 34, (in the absence of information let’s imagine that these are their names and ages) or accounts of what nice little people they were and how sad their cousins were to see them blown to bits. We do not even know if the ‘Taliban insurgent’ we were looking to kill was a relative of theirs or if some of them, indeed, were his children.

We know remarkably little, nineteenth months on, of this killing by Australians of innocent children compared with, say, the victims of Martin Bryant at Port Arthur three days after it happened. We do not see their photos, or hear their relatives’ words of grief translated on the radio. We know a lot about Port Arthur, the media told us lots.

Why, then, such a blackout of information from Uruzgan? Can it be racism, I wonder? Perish the thought.

But a species of colonial racism informs every part, it seems, of our presence there. We are in Uruzgan, we are told, to ‘train’ the inhabitants how to recognise and kill their cousins, or such cousins who hold the wrong religious faith, a faith whose wrongness we have designated. At no point in the last eight years did we think we had ‘trained’ enough of them to leave them and let them ‘train’ some more in the way they should go. Not in eight years, longer than the training of a specialist doctor.

Of course not. They were heathen savages. Sorry, they were ‘not yet ready to take full responsibility for their own security’. Of course they weren’t. How could they be?

Racism, I fear, informs everything we do there. ‘These people’ are not capable of defending or educating themselves. We must take the lead for, oh, twenty years or so and show them the way to the light at the end of the tunnel. ‘These people’ are like sheep, and we must lead them.

Hamid Karzai is in tears at how bad the war is going. Yet we think it’s going well enough to send Hazaras back into the thick of it.

Hazaras are the people the Taliban want to kill. The Taliban are the people Karzai wants to form a government with. And the Taliban are the people we are killing innocent children in mistake for.

If we knew a little more about these dead children (Their names? Their ages? Their genders?) we would be less likely, I think, to send Hazara children back, or any children back, to home villages where they might be massacred.

This is why we choose not to know anything much about them. Why we saw no newsreels of their funerals on SBS.

I ask the Gillard government not to send back children, Hazara or otherwise, to a country Hamid Karzai says is too dangerous to be in, so dangerous he fears his son will leave it when he can. I ask Julia Gillard to prove she is not (as I think) a racist, and to save these children from slaughter if she is in the mood.

If this plea seems to you to be based on an exaggeration you should read the DFAT Travel Guidelines for this month which say,

‘We strongly advise you not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, and the very high risk of terrorist attack. If you are in Afghanistan you should consider leaving. Australians who decide to remain in Afghanistan should ensure that they have personal security measures in place. You should monitor local information sources for details about the safety and security environment. Terrorist attacks and political violence may increase in the period surrounding the 18 September parliamentary elections. All major hotels continue to be attractive targets for terrorists…Due to the dangerous security situation in the provinces surrounding Kabul you should only travel in secure transport using reputable local drivers and guides. You should consider permanent armed protection, though even these precautions cannot guarantee personal safety…Unexploded land mines and other ordnance remain a danger throughout Afghanistan.’

It is hard to see why Hazara children, Hazara women or Hazara men, or any Afghan children, women or men should be sent back there. It is hard to see why we would even consider it if we were not racists, or culturists, or fundamentalist Christians fanatics, or we did not think ‘these people’ inferior to us and not worth saving.

It is clear the Gillard government is considering, at least considering, a racist policy of sending back into deadly danger what they feel to be a lesser breed of person peculiarly unfit to live in Australia. It is hard to read it in any other way.

I ask the Prime Minister to show she is not at least some fraction of a racist xenophobe and admit all ‘these people’ in, as Howard did with nearly all of the people on the Tampa. They were mostly Hazaras, and in danger if they went back, so even Howard let them in.

Or I ask her to explain why Australians should not go there, and ‘these people’ should.

And to say why she is the right sort of migrant, and they are not.

The Kitney Wars (1)

It is Geoff Kitney’s view that the unions, having created modern civilisation, should be punished for it. He also, this morning, spelled ‘Calwell’ wrong, twice.

His claim, that Australians are ‘over’ unions and want tyranny back, is odd in view of the unions’ WorkChoices campaign that threw Howard out of his seat.

The unions have supplied Labor with Curtin, Chifley,Mick Young, Hawke, Beazley, Crean, Beattie, Bacon, Shorten, Combet and Howes. It is hard to think of politicians more talented in either party.

He should go bag his head. And try to cope with an apparent, recurrent, neurological stifling of his ability to spell.

I look forward to his opinion, next week, of John Curtain, Ben Chudleigh and Geoff Wittenoom.

What a dumb-bum he has come to be. What a fool.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (78)

We now have a Murdochist running Channel Ten.

Let’s see how fair to Labor he will be in August and what ‘scandals’ he decides to put to air.

The Innocence of Oscar Pistorius (3)

Oscar Pistorius has got out on bail and must report to the coppers twice a week and not leave South Africa.

Already the prosecution case is tottering and spluttering like Daffy Duck and it is to be wondered if he will serve time at all. False evidence was publicised world-wide and there is no possible jury member who is not a tree-dwelling Hottentot who has not read it or seen it discussed on television. And, unable to get a fair trial anywhere, he may be simply let go.

And it is hard, old friend, to imagine a cinema feature (‘Chariots Of Fire Meets In Cold Blood!’) is not already in the works.

I and Ramsey are available, of course, to write it.

It’s an ill manslaughter that blows nobody good.

The Usual Murdoch Dirty Tricks (77): Today’s Galaxy

The wickedness continues.

A Galaxy Poll of 800 Queenslanders in Murdoch’s Courier Mail shows Labor on 47 percent of the primary vote if Rudd was leader and an election held now. This is 14 more than it would get now under Gillard. The two-party preferred vote, curiously, is not mentioned.

Nor are any numbers for Abbott versus Shorten, Abbott versus Combet, Carr, Clare, Crean, Smith, Burke, Plibersek, Roxon, Faulkner. Funny, that.

It may well be that Gillard, the proud atheist, is disliked in elderly, pious, hymn-singing Queensland. But no-one else’s name is on the table, a numerical curiosity unprecedented thus far in world history. All her rivals’ numbers are hidden, except for the one found incompetent as Prime Minister by all observers and historians. (This has never, ever happened before, in any country but Australia.)

It is clear Murdoch wants Rudd, already massively discredited, to run against the massively discredited Abbott, not someone who would win. And this poll keeps, once again, Abbott’s dumb policies (empty cities in the north, anyone? eighty billion in cuts and no job losses, anyone?) out of the headlines.

Underneath it is the real story, and it is not a federal one: 800 people saying if Newman made them less or more likely to vote Liberal. More likely was 11 percent, less likely 25 percent. This extra 14 percent would put State Labor, currently commanding four seats, back in power with forty.

The dodginess of the Galaxy numbers is evident in the first tranche of their figures. Labor 47, LNP 40, Greens 5, Katter Party 3, Other/Independent 4, uncommitted 2, are figures that, shaken down, would give Labor 54 percent two party preferred, and gain it fourteen seats in Queensland alone, and a landslide federally. Yet this two-party-preferred Rudd figure was not put up, of course it wasn’t, lest it seem what it is, preposterous. And the cheating, as always, continues.

The likely figures with Rudd as leader are — I think — Labor 38, LNP 37, Greens 9, KAP 12 (what it got last year at the State election; why would it get any less?), Others/Independents  4, Undecided 2. Katter numbers have been wickedly awarded, in my view, to ‘Rudd Labor’ to fabricate a headline, conceal Abbott’s policies and stir up trouble for Gillard.

The criminality of Murdoch polling, evident in America, where it always showed Romney doing better than any other poll, should be investigated.

Labor 54 percent two-party preferred in Queensland if Rudd runs it, and 40 percent if Gillard runs it? Nah.

Criminality lies too in the ludicrous sentence giving Abbott 55 percent and Gillard 45 percent ‘if preferences flowed as in 2010′. They would not flow as in 2010, when there was no Katter Party. Now, even on these figures, with Katter preferencing, as he will, against Newman’s detested LNP, it is more likely to be 51-49, a loss for Abbott in Queensland of five Liberal seats not fourteen.

Nothing in this poll shows anything but mischievous, craven Murdochist crookedness. In my view.

It should be investigated by the Senate, urgently.

Now The Good News (2)

There will be a nurses’ strike soon in Western Australia. Barnett is meeting with them but will not sign up to anything that takes effect before the election. He is famous for breaking his promises and must be odds-on stone-motherless to lose now.

There wil be of course no Newspoll in the next two weeks to show Labor gaining. That would not suit the Great Helmsman and it will not occur.

The Innocence Of Craig Thomson (63)

The Victorian coppers seem as dumb as the South African coppers and have not yet provided the prosecution with the hookers Craig paid for not fucking while he was in Perth or at a meeting in the Central Coast not in the relevant Sydney brothel. Since the dates are known they should have done this, interviewed the girls and got statements from them.

What a corrupt, incompetent bunch they are.

As odious as the South Africans, if better paid.

Classic Ellis: Theological Correctness, 2010

It was when the proud atheist Julia Gillard turned up to honour Mary MacKillop and say this emotionally-troubled woman should be sanctified that I first thought of the phrase ‘theological correctness’.

It applies to those who genuflect to a system of thought they despise (and, in some cases, suspect of organised pederasty) in order to further their political, business or academic ambitions.

It applies as well to those who say “so help me, God” in the witness box and those who murmur the Lord’s Prayer in Parliament House or sing Christian hymns at funerals despite having spent their adult lives in revolt against religion.

But the phrase can go further than that, beyond God, as it were. With a bit of a jump-start it can apply as well to those Australians who sing our National Anthem while disbelieving, or actively despising, most of the words in it.

And it should also apply, I think, to those many utterances by successive prime ministers and ministers for Defence and ministers for Foreign Affairs about ‘our mission in Afghanistan’. We are there, they tell us, to prevent the Taliban from providing, once more, ‘a safe haven for terrorists’ and one dead Australian per month, or even per week, is a worthwhile sacrifice, and even a noble one, if we were to fulfil our mission of keeping the drug-dealing Karzai brothers in power till they stabilise their democracy and form, at last, a broad coalition that includes, gulp, the Taliban. For then it won’t be a safe haven for terrorists any more (Bradford, Yemen, Hamburg, Miami and Lakemba will) and the boys who are still alive can come home, at last, from a mission, er, accomplished.

This is theological correctness too. It is an unexamined premise, like the Lord’s Prayer, uttered without caveat for political or commercial reasons hypocritically, corruptly or (mostly) lazily by men and women in quest of a quiet life.

Another is the Prime Minister’s avowed belief in free trade. Though it drives dairy farmers to suicide (as Bob Katter correctly yelped) and props up child slavery in South-East Asia and encourages Tasmanians to stop growing apples and to sell their family farms to red Chinese corporations and though (as Bob Katter correctly screeched) no other country actually practises it, and though no Australian actually believes in it, it nonetheless soothes and solaces some sad souls to murmur from time to time a prayerful affirmation of it, as the Prime Minister did last week in a public response to Katter that lost his vote. For though it’s an international disaster that kills tens of thousands of children a week it’s appropriate to speak well of it, to call it the only way of doing things. And though protectionism worked well for five thousand years this, though currently disastrous, is clearly the only way forward. We’re moving forward with free trade, repeat after me. It kills more people than Asian flu but we’re moving forward with it, march in step there.

Fifty years back John Kenneth Galbraith came up with a phrase,”the conventional wisdom”, which covered similar ground. Scoutmasters who advocated being prepared, television preachers who said Jesus hears and loves you, politicians who said our great battle with godless communism will be fought in the unions and universities and bureaucracies of bravery’s home and freedom’s land, qualified doctors who said moderate smoking of filtered Camels posed no danger, no danger to health whatever, were typical examples of this corrupt, emollient public language. It, like theological correctness, had a religious feel to it, and a vast component of hypocrisy.

Another frequent utterance by successful prime ministers adverts to ‘hard work’. When asked what he would do about his plunging popularity Rudd said he would “just have to work harder to get my message across” - though he was already up till 4:00am and crazy with tiredness and overwork. The phrase had no meaning, and has no meaning, mostly, whenever it is used.

Nobody advances themselves by sheer hard work. Nobody gets preselections, for instance, by sheer hard work. Some, like Hawke, Downer, Crean, Beazley, Jenkins, McClelland and Ferguson are born into political families who give them a leg-up. Some, like Tebbutt, Keneally, Nori, McKew and Turnbull marry into them. Some like Oppermann, Koperberg, Garrett, Rudd and Evatt are gifted with them after eminent careers in another sector. Some like Pauline Hanson and John Alexander buy their way in. Hard work has little to do with political advancement, or indeed with commercial success. The biggest bonuses are made not by hard work but by corporate takeovers of smaller entities by bigger entities. Hard work? A couple of lunches, maybe.

To seek out theological correctness you need only follow the present Prime Minister around. She’s full of it. She’s “letting the sun shine in” after decades of backroom secrecy. She’s “building the education revolution” while cutting money to disabled Indigenous adolescents. She calls prisons for innocents “processing centres” but I suppose prime ministers always did. She’s “moving forward” away from the Rudd era by including Rudd, big time, in her era.

Worst I think is her verbal formula, when asked her opinion about anything, of saying she has none. “I’ll leave that to the judgement of the Australian people,” she says. “I’m just rolling up my sleeves and getting on with the job.” She leaves nothing to the judgement of the Australian people, not while Simon Crean and Mark Arbib are in the vicinity, and she’s probably never rolled up her sleeves (a poor fashion statement) in her life.

And “getting on with the job?” What does that mean? It has no meaning. It is what all employed people do every day, all working mothers, all stay-at-home mothers, all carers, all volunteers. It has no meaning, yet it is presented as a laudable, unusual, refreshing, astonishing activity.

Theological correctness involves the admission by public figures of only the appropriate emotions. If sacked, they are not angry or bitter, only “disappointed that I am unable any more to serve the Australian community”. If sprung over porn sites, they agree wholeheartedly with their own demotion. If politically betrayed (like Stephen Smith) they pretend not to care what happens to them, since “that’s a decision entirely for the Prime Minister”. If politically destroyed (like Belinda Neal) for speaking sternly to a waiter, they profess a sympathy for the man who ruined their life, their one life on Earth, which they do not feel.

Theological correctness involves the telling of big lies about the way you feel. It involves the fabrication of high-sounding, high-stepping and high-rolling emotions (patriotism, unending party loyalty, overwhelming sense of duty, standing four-square behind my leader, marching shoulder to shoulder with George Bush and Tony Blair on the war on terror, or fervidly propounding premarital chastity to adolescent girls in 2010) that do not actually exist; and like the Prime Minister’s use of the phrase “what I’m really passionate about”, a phrase that has come adrift from its meaning of being aroused, enthused, in love with a particular idea, they weary their audiences with what is plainly ill-acted falsehood and thus imperil democracy itself.

A Theological Correctness Register (TCR) should soon be set up I think, like Private Eye’s OBN, the Order of the Brown Nose, and a prize each year awarded like the Ernies (in which, most years, I am a saddened runner-up) because it is a serious assault, worse in many ways than the bureaucrats’ gabble Don Watson rails against, on our language and the way we think, and makes us tell big lies to each other when the truth is almost always, in this imperfect world, a better option.

So the next time the Prime Minister says “I’m going to be perfectly frank and open about this” in a hall near you, it would be really good if you stood up and booed her.

And when you’re arrested, say to the cameras you totally agree with this prompt official response to your unforgivable behaviour.

The Innocence of Oscar Pistorius (2)

If he had intended to kill her he would have.

He had the means, he had the weapon, he had the time.

Instead, he tried to resuscitate her.

Ergo …

The Return Of The Painted Harlot Silvio

Berlusconi will do well on Sunday and he may even be Prime Minister again. Though charged with many offences, including sex with under-age prostitutes, he is eligible still for high office and nearing it. It seems as unlikely as Roger Rogerson becoming Governor-General, but there you go.

The reason for it is that Berlusconi owns most of the media of his country and uses this remarkable power to uplift himself and sabotage his foes. He differs from another famous Italian gangster, Nero, who also sang publicly, wore make-up, held orgies, enjoyed irregular sex and crucified his rivals, only in the level of his preposterousness and the number of his comebacks.

Should he, or Murdoch, have such power? It is hard to argue that they should. They wield what Lincoln called the freedom to oppress. The freedom to censor what is known, to touch up what is let through into national consciousness, the freedom to exalt or put down. The freedom to exert what Baldwin called ‘the prerogative of the harlot down the ages, of power without responsibility.’

Murdoch brought down Whitlam, elected Thatcher, Blair and Bush 2, brought down Prescott, Brown and Kerry, mutilated Bill Clinton, made millions from the forged Hitler Diaries, bugged Prince Charles and brought him into ruinous disgrace, and has not done time yet for terrorism or treason or conspiracy, and continues to stand by pollsters that had Romney, Abbott and Barnett winning, and to unleash groups like the Tea Party to harass and disempower a duly elected leader with the savagery of slave owners in Django Unchained.

It is time he was investigated, root and branch, for his possible crimes in Australia. And a rival national newspaper, as Mick Young wanted, set up and run by the ABC.

On Sunday and Monday we will see how far this kind of misused press power can go.

In America, lately, it is bankrupting the richest nation in history, and soiling the name of democracy everywhere.

The Innocence Of Oscar Pistorius (1)

If it is accepted he fired only four shots through a locked door he cannot have intended to kill his woman Reeva. He would have fired ten shots, or fifteen, to make sure she was dead.

Or he would have waited for her to come out of the toilet to get a good bead on her. Or he would have shot her as she slept beside him in bed.

The four shots through the closed door can only mean he did not mean to kill, but only disable, the person or persons behind the door. Or he would have fired more shots.

This makes an intention to murder, a premeditation of murder, impossible.

It is a tremendously inefficient way to do it also. This was a man who had no feet and yet learned how to run at Olympic speed. He would have planned it better than this. He would have staged a car accident, or a drowning while drugged in a bath, or a fall while drunk from a balcony like Bill Leak’s. There is no way a man of his intelligence would have done it in this way.

There is every chance, however, that he panicked and fired at a noise the way some white South Africans and many white Americans do. He had been assaulted before and burgled before, by Blacks presumably, and kept a gun by his bed to deal with such an emergency. It is only in this way he would have bungled Reeva’s killing. She was alive when the ambulance came and could have accused him. An efficient murderer would not have let her be alive when they came.

Ergo, he is not a murderer. He tried to keep her alive, as he said, and he is not a murderer.


The Pistorius Version

Here is what Oscar Pistorius said happened on the night. As a prizewinning writer of dialogue these last forty years, I find it rings true. It has what we call an ‘emotional line’ that would be hard for him or his lawyer to forge in such a convincing, human, believable way. You may respond to it differently. Here is what he said.

‘On the 13th of February 2013 Reeva would have gone out with her friends and I with my friends. Reeva then called me and asked that we rather spend the evening at home. I agreed and we were content to have a quiet dinner together at home.

‘By about 2200 on 13 February 2013 we were in our bedroom. She was doing her yoga exercises and I was in bed watching television. My prosthetic legs were off. We were deeply in love and I could not be happier. I know she felt the same way. She had given me a present for Valentine’s Day but asked me only to open it the next day.

‘After Reeva finished her yoga exercises she got into bed and we both fell asleep. I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes with a view to commit crime, including violent crime. I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.

‘During the early morning hours of 14 February 2013, I woke up, went onto the balcony to bring the fan in and closed the sliding doors, the blinds and the curtains. I heard a noise in the bathroom and realised that someone was in the bathroom.

‘I felt a sense of terror rushing over me. There are no burglar bars across the bathroom window and I knew that contractors who worked at my house had left the ladders outside. Although I did not have my prosthetic legs on I have mobility on my stumps. I believed that someone had entered my house. I was too scared to switch a light on.

‘I grabbed my 9mm pistol from underneath my bed. On my way to the bathroom I screamed words to the effect for him/them to get out of my house and for Reeva to phone the police. It was pitch dark in the bedroom and I thought Reeva was in bed.

‘I noticed that the bathroom window was open. I realised that the intruder/s was/were in the toilet because the toilet door was closed and I did not see anyone in the bathroom. I heard movement inside the toilet. The toilet is inside the bathroom and has a separate door.

‘It filled me with horror and fear of an intruder or intruders being inside the toilet. I thought he or they must have entered through the unprotected window. As I did not have my prosthetic legs on and felt extremely vulnerable, I knew I had to protect Reeva and myself. I believed that when the intruder/s came out of the toilet we would be in grave danger. I felt trapped as my bedroom door was locked and I have limited mobility on my stumps.

‘I fired shots at the toilet door and shouted to Reeva to phone the police. She did not respond and I moved backwards out of the bathroom, keeping my eyes on the bathroom entrance. Everything was pitch dark in the bedroom and I was still too scared to switch on a light. Reeva was not responding.

‘When I reached the bed, I realised that Reeva was not in bed. That is when it dawned on me that it could have been Reeva who was in the toilet. I returned to the bathroom calling her name. I tried to open the toilet door but it was locked. I rushed back into the bedroom and opened the sliding door exiting onto the balcony and screamed for help.

‘I put on my prosthetic legs, ran back to the bathroom and tried to kick the toilet door open. I think I must then have turned on the lights. I went back into the bedroom and grabbed my cricket bat to bash open the toilet door. A panel or panels broke off and I found the key on the floor and unlocked and opened the door. Reeva was slumped over but alive.

‘I battled to get her out of the toilet and pulled her into the bathroom. I phoned Johan Stander (“Stander”) who was involved in the administration of the estate and asked him to phone the ambulance. I phoned Netcare and asked for help. I went downstairs to open the front door. I returned to the bathroom and picked Reeva up as I had been told not to wait for the paramedics, but to take her to hospital.

‘I carried her downstairs in order to take her to the hospital. On my way down Stander arrived. A doctor who lives in the complex also arrived. Downstairs, I tried to render the assistance to Reeva that I could, but she died in my arms.

‘I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva. With the benefit of hindsight I believe that Reeva went to the toilet when I went out on the balcony to bring the fan in. I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved.

‘I also know that the events of that tragic night were as I have described them and that in due course I have no doubt the police and expert investigators will bear this out.’

I ask Reader 1 to say what she thinks happened, and anyone who reads the two accounts to say which one feels to them the more likely.

Gillard/Milne, Round One

It is wrong of the Prime Minister to say the Greens are a party of protest not government. They are in government in Tasmania, in partnership with Labor. They were in government for a long time in Germany. They guided her own and Rudd’s government for five years towards better global policy on carbon, whaling, water share, green industries and locking up children. They are at present risking their lives on the high seas to save a whale or two.

It’s a shrewd spin phrase, ‘party of protest’, but it’s like calling Gandhi or Martin Luther King ‘a man of protest, not government’. Protest precedes government, as the British Labour Party and the American Democrats and the Communists now ruling a third of India soon found out, and the various current governments of the Arab Spring.

Protest is no small thing. It is democracy at arms.

It was a fool thing to say and she should withdraw it. And whatever backroomer came up with it should be admonished, and made to stand in the corner, or study history on the weekend for six months or so. It’s the kind of loss-of-memory utterance (did Bob Brown for thirty-eight years seek only to protest? or to govern? or guide governance? which is true?) that makes you wonder how many brains are working in her office.

Not many, I think.

They should do better.

It’s like saying ‘the Catholics are only a cult, they’re not a religion’, and expecting to win some votes that way.


A Reminder

I’ve completed my review of Girls and I address your attention to this.

Classic Ellis: The Shakedown, 2010

This was an election principally driven not by politicians, minders or party tacticians but working journalists.

David Marr brought Rudd down (with an opening sentence some lawyers argue was treason), Phillip Adams partly resurrected him with his broadcast confessional, Bryce Corbett (of the Women’s Weekly) by raising her private life did great harm to Gillard from which Mark Latham, another journalist, bizarrely rescued her with a handshake; and then came Laurie Oakes, who all but finished off Gillard with the shocking news that negotiations preceded Rudd’s exit and Cabinets often robustly disagree, and Kerry O’Brien who with his weekly skewering inquisitions reduced both candidates to gibbering wrecks.

No move by any campaign strategist or mining giant was as decisive as these journalists’ interventions which were in their way as history-changing as Woodward and Bernstein.

And they changed history almost inadvertently, for none, I believe, were ideologically driven, merely sniffing blood. They raised some ordinary questions of ordinary behaviour and pretended they were important, beating them up, as they were trained to do, into livid, suppurating scandals.

They told some big lies too, perhaps out of ignorance, perhaps not. They called Rudd’s ending unique: never before was a first, elected leader thus brought down, shock horror, lord, lord, the days that I have seen. Yet Gorton was brought down after his first win at an election and so was Menzies; and Whitlam after only thirty-five months in office was brought down too, by a secretive and unelected though scarcely faceless man. Curtin won a single election and was likewise foreshortened, and the party leaders Snedden, Hayden, Peacock, Howard and Latham evicted after one lost election, Downer, Crean, Nelson and Turnbull without even one. Yet we were told Rudd’s fate was unique, and we believed this baseless fabrication and grew angry at the shock and the horror of it, the way we do. What fools these mortals be.

Another thing was the number of days these worthless, intrusive, distracting, trivial headlines chewed up. Rudd’s interventions cost eight days; ‘the new Julia’ three; the Women’s Weekly two; Mark Latham’s brusque body language two; the debate format three; Abbott’s unsleeping marathon two; leaving only 15 days out of 35 for debating policy difference.

We were told Abbott’s choice not to sit on a stage but to stand upright in an auditorium was ‘game-changing’. Why? It proved nothing; it meant nothing. We were told he would get little sleep for one whole night and this was somehow significant. Why? It meant nothing, nothing at all except that he was ambitious and physically disciplined, and we knew that already.

Subjects as big as the fate of the earth however were sidelined, and hair tinting, airbrushing, marriage - plans and old lovers contrastingly emphasised. The need for us to continue offering young Australian corpses to poll-cheating Karzais’ unending bloodbath went unexamined (why?), but the fact that Gillard’s former leader approached her on a street-walk was said to have ‘crossed the line’. What line? That you cannot ask a candidate for office a question in a public place? What line?

Five young diggers died in a spurious cause while the election raged and this was fine. Mark Latham adopted a bullying tone and this was a national scandal.

Worst, I think, was what might be called the campaign’s ‘theological correctness’. Mary MacKillop must be praised though the Prime Minister, an atheist, by definition despised her religion. The Prime Minister, a defender of jobs, hailed free trade as irreducibly necessary, though it killed jobs right and left, as Bob Katter with poignant dingo yelps and chest-beatings correctly noted. The war must go on though next to no Australian soldier or civilian, not one, thought it should. It was theologically correct to say it should, and, lo, it will. The surplus must return, though thousands will suicide for want of income because it does. Taxes must not go up, though interest rates are always free to. Why? Please explain.

The Unexamined Idiotic Premise (UIP) was everywhere apparent in this lump-witted campaign. That Rudd, who had without mercy ended the careers of Beazley, Howard, Nelson, Debus, McMullan, Kerr, McKew and Garrett, himself deserved mercy and a new career, though they do not. Why? That Rudd deserved a high ministerial position after vilely maltreating the highest office of all. Why?

Most amazing was the UIP that assassins get honeymoons - believed by Gillard even as late as our conversation in the Penrith Panthers on August 20. “Had to go with the honeymoon,” she said to me and Rhys Muldoon.

Assassins get honeymoons. Really? John Wilkes Booth was dead within five days, Lee Harvey Oswald within three. Brutus was deeply unpopular an hour after Caesar’s death, hunted down and killed within a year. Keating was deeply unpopular immediately after he topped Hawke and his polls deep-sixed though they recovered later. Peacock was so unpopular after he topped Howard that he lost an unlosable election. Yet fools thought Gillard would get an automatic honeymoon after an uncontested ballot brought on at a day’s notice and a felled Prime Minister outlining through tears his 800 achievements in a courtyard. A honeymoon period? Really?

And she will get none this time either. She has become through a bungled campaign, the worst since 1966 (when Arthur Calwell running against the Birthday Ballot and the Vietnam War lost 22 seats), that very strange thing, a powerless, genderless Prime Minister without influence or friends who is promising to ‘open the curtains and let in the sunlight’ after a lifetime of secrecy, flannel and backroom intrigue. So secretive that she wouldn’t tell Rudd his fate, or the nation who her Finance, Defence or Foreign Ministers would be (why not?) or if she planned to marry Tim or when she would occupy The Lodge (why not?), or how she differed in significant policy from the man who had lost his way and why, if he had lost his way, she wanted the wandering drongo back, and why Cabinet discussions would ‘go with me to my grave’, she is now on a promise to let the sunlight in and be frank and open about everything. She is just So-o-o-o 2007′ as a female friend just said to me and dizzyingly unsuited to the modern age.

The independents, by discussing things of real concern (like how the rural half live and what we do with our water) and restoring the old Athenian practise of thoughtful public discussion of things on the public mind have shown how wrong, how crashingly wrong has been the prevailing technique of whatever-it-takes and winning-the-24-hour-news-cycle and parroting-the-focus-group and dumbing-down-our-future-expectations and returning-to-surplus-by-2013-whatever-the-cost-to-our-civilisation, and she is the old-fashioned epitome of all that is wrong with media-tortured politics (as Faulkner, Debus, Turnbull, Tanner, Swan, Brown, Stott Despoja, Xenophon, Wilkie, McKew and, oh yes, Beazley, Hawke and Whitlam never were) and she really shouldn’t be there.

Still, there she is. And so it goes. The veteran of 11 (count them) significant campaign mistakes that cost Labor its majority and its policy agenda and its earthly power and its humanist reputation, and so it goes.

Smiling still, in denial still, in spin-mode still, laughing prettily still and telling us not to worry, I’m fifty years old and on a steep learning curve but not to worry, don’t you worry about that, planning no significant change in ministry or policy and political manners (and what bad political manners she has, budgie-smugglers and mincing poodles, I mean, really) and walking breezily at the head of a lemming-throng over a crumbling cliff as she always does. And so it goes.

See how she goes.

And so it goes.

Pistorius: A Question Of Motive

My impression is that Oscar Pistorius is innocent as charged. My reason, as always, is motive.

Why would he shoot his girlfriend through a door when he could, at any time that night, have smothered or strangled her? Why would he risk missing her, not killing her? Why would he do it?

Why would he kill her anyway, and not kill himself? The prospect of ten or fourteen years in gaol for an athlete with no feet and nowhere much to go running, seems to me a poor lifestyle choice and one such a disciplined man, such an overcomer of obstacles, would never have made. Why would he do it? Why would he do it?

A second question, why would he shoot an unknown intruder, is easier to answer. He lived in that most paranoid of structures, a Gated Suburb, and feared, no doubt, no doubt, as such men do, celebrity-stalkers like Mark Chapman, who shot John Lennon, coming after him and acted in self defence, or what he thought was self-defence, by blowing one of them away. No motive for shooting the beautiful Reeva, as opposed to knocking her about, has occurred to the authorities, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

For killing her and getting away with it would have been dead easy. He could have shot her in the face and put the gun in her cold, dead hands and claimed she was fiddling with it and it went off. He could have strangled her and forced a Brazil nut down her throat posthumously. He could have smothered her and thrown her in the swimming pool. He could have done a number of things, but not this one.

Does an Olympic hero at the height of his glory shoot a loved one through a lavatory door? A gorgeous woman he has had sex with a few hours before? Why would he do that? Would Douglas Bader have done that? Why?


The same Why proved the innocence, for me, of OJ Simpson who was said to have hacked to death, and near decapitated, the mother of his children, while they, his children, slept upstairs, and left her to be found by them in the morning, dismembered, lifeless, their mother. There is no way he would have done this, of course. He would have gone upstairs and killed them too, or taken them away with him. He would not have left them there, to find in the morning the bleeding shambles they then found.

Motive is worth considering, I find, old friend, in matters of killing when madness is absent from the ingredients of the equation, from what might be called the remains of the day. Lindy Chamberlain had no motive to kill her healthy baby, and wow, after doing three years for it, it was proved that, yes, she had no motive, no motive at all, and she did not do it.

Of course she did not do it. Why would she.

Find me Pretorius’s motive, and then we will talk.

And Now The Good News

Labor may win in Western Australia.

The Debate last night showed Colin Barnett, the Premier, to be a chronic breaker of his promises who would lose, soon, the state’s credit rating and go into more and more debt while traffic choked the suburbs and strangled the inner city.

The questioning reporters didn’t like him one bit, and his opponent, Mark McGowan, scored again and again on policy, the way Labor does when it is not o’erhung with smell and scandal. He was nervous at the start but grew more confident, and Barnett seemed weary of his own mediocrity and keen to go into retirement, as he was in 2008 before he was lured back into an election and a surprise victory by Buswell sniffing chairs.

There will be no Newspoll next Tuesday or Wednesday, of course, because it would show McGowan gaining and Preferred Premier. There will be none the following Tuesday or Wednesday. There will be one on election day showing Barnett narrowly winning, but it will I think be wrong.

The result will mirror Gallop’s win in 2001 which I witnessed up close, gladly, in that memorable year.

There will be no Newspolls in Queensland either lest they show Labor gaining massively and Katter overwhelming Newman in the bush.

This, in turn, will make the coming September federal election what Wayne Swan might call ‘a patchwork result’ with Labor losing six seats in New South Wales, three in Tasmania and one in the Northern Territory and picking up six in Queensland, two in Victoria, one in South Australia, two in Western Australia, the KAP getting two in Queensland, and Oakeshott, Windsor and Katter holding, and Brandt and Wilkie losing their seats, and leaving Abbott and, probably, Shorten, to vie for a coalition with Katter.

This is what would happen if the current figures hold. But the worsening news for Barnett, Newman, Baillieu and, to some extent, O’Farrell, may edge it Labor’s way; or not. The present Labor crisis is nothing to do with policy. It is absolutely to do with Gillard’s failure of salesmanship. That rectified, one way or another, it can be easier for Labor to win.

But not that easy. We wait on the Child Abuse Enquiry to take its toll on the Liberals.

And then we will see.

A Lost Generation: Lena Dunham’s Girls

Girls is a great series and hard to write about.

It’s facile to say it’s what Sex and the City should have been but it’s true, or it’s partly true. The girls are uglier, more down-market, more screwed-up, more hopeless, more bohemian and more doomed, and more aware they’re doomed than the Carrie Bradshaw crowd. But they utter some of the best dialogue since Dorothy Parker and you see them all naked and some of them are really ugly naked and the performances are astonishing and, what the hell, it’s a great show.

And it’s about being a girl, and how strange men are. One wants to piss on you in the shower. And you still like him, but you wish he wouldn’t do that. Another refuses to take your virginity but somebody’s got to do it. Another is your old boyfriend and now gay, emphatically gay, but fucks your best friend, a girl, in a moment of inattention, and you have to break with her and evict him because of it, and it shouldn’t matter but it does. There are drugs everywhere and artistic pretension and an older man, your boss, you quite like who feels you up at work and you’re not sure if you entirely dislike this and that’s a worry. You quit the job, but you maybe didn’t have to. You’d like to have stayed but he’s apologetic and though you need the money he smiles you out the door and that’s a pity, I guess. Or is it a good thing?

I’ve never before realised how terrified of sex girls are, how terrified of being knocked up or mortally infected with something dirty and communicable. In one episode three of the girls turn up for a friend’s abortion, to be there with her and soothe her through it, but the girl herself doesn’t turn up for her own abortion because she’s having a spare stray fuck with an attractive incidental worthless hunk during which she miscarries. So it’s a happy ending, really. Whew.

Lena Dunham stars, wrote most of it and directs a lot of it. She’s disproportionately built and pudding-plain with tattoos and a dress-sense like a bloodstained six-car pile-up, and she’s small-town-pretentious and wants to be a Writer and doesn’t get it and talks about herself all the time and loses good men almost deliberately and we watch her engrossed, and we care about her.

If the show has a theme, it’s probably self-destructiveness. Marnie, the toffy English Brett Ashley-style maurauding horny adventuress, gets married, actually married, to a seriously rich dull man, Thomas-John (Chris Dowd, the wonderful Irishman in The Sapphires), and, in a scene as lacerating as anything in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, mocks him with pointless savagery until he ends the marriage; and, of course, accepts only twelve thousand dollars in go-away money when she might have had twelve million. Jessa, the retrenched art-gallery administrator now angrily surviving as a club hostess, attaches herself to Jeff, a famous self-absorbed, promiscuous artist (Jamie Le Gros) and is flabbergasted when he snidely denies that she is his ‘girlfriend’ and offers her wads of money for hosting a ghastly party of his and bids her go away. Shoshanna the virgin talks really fast and can’t be understood and is envious and socially hopeless and never invited anywhere. Hannah, the Dunham character, has a good thing going with an older, sensitive, handsome doctor with a wonderful apartment (Patrick Wilson, today’s Paul Newman) and makes such instant, greedy demands on him the whole thing ends in a couple of days. And so on.

The actresses (they are called Alison Williams, Jemima Kirke and Zosia Mamet) are amazingly good, the actors no less so. The episode where Ray and Elijah, if I’ve got their names right, try to give back a stolen dog on Staten Island is like a chapter of The Catcher In The Rye.

The principal actors are called Adam Driver, Alex Ploshkansky, Christopher Abbott and Andrew Ramells, and they all look like each other — Jewish, lean, snot-nosed and self-loathing. The Jewishness of the whole thing (Dunham is Jewish but her father is not, he’s Presbyterian) verges on anti-Semitism but so I suppose do Woody Allen and the Coen brothers and Phillip Roth and there you go. The spare directors are Jesse Peretz, Richard Shepard and Jody Lee Lipes, the spare writers Deborah Shoeneman, Jennifer Konner, Judd Apatow and Bruce Eric Kaplan and you should see it urgently.

No greater act of generational awareness has occurred since The Beautiful And Damned by Scott Fitzgerald, and it must be seen.

Casting Julia

I am told by my producer that Toni Collette is keen to play Gillard and we should begin to talk to her people.

She looks on wikileaks pretty good to me and, as a great actress, clearly able to do it.

My first choice, Rachel Griffiths, my wife says, is ‘too glamorous’, to judge by her episode of Rake.

I need guidance on this.

Anybody who cares, please contribute.

Casting Kevin

More and more it is clear to me that Kevin Rudd would be best played by Matthew Newton. The face, eyes, body shape, height and voice are very close, and the calm inherent instability a perfect match.

It might encourage both of them to get a grip, and settle down.

Rudd Gaining: The Biggest Murdoch Lie Of All

In all democracies a leadership change is preceded by polls which discuss rival claimants and their chances, but not this one.

Here we talk only of Rudd, even though he ruled himself out, once again, on Sunday. Carr, who would earn Labor 53 percent, two-party preferred, Shorten who would get, oh, 54 percent, two party preferred, Plibersek and Roxon and Clare who would get 51, are not mentioned, nor ‘left-field’ candidates like Mike Kelly who in 2010 in the ‘litmus seat’ of Eden-Monaro got a swing to Labor when the swing elsewhere was the other way.

As in all Murdoch-dominated countries, the rules of engagement are changed each hour to suit the great proprietor. He needs an Ides of March facedown between two doomed candidates and this is what by God he will get. It is fated. Rupert has said Do this, and, lo, it is performed.

So no poll asking if Abbott or Shorten would be a better Prime Minister has ever been done, only Abbott versus Rudd, and Abbott versus Gillard, and Gillard versus Rudd, even though it is widely thought that Shorten will be Labor leader in September and might, as sitting Prime Minister, thrash him. Why, old friend, is this? Why is this?

It is because the Murdochists want an impression of Labor in chaos, facing a hopeless choice between losers on, preferably, the Ides of March, or near it. Labor in with a chance, or Labor, horrors, winning, does not suit the Great Helmsman’s priorities. So seventy years of democratic practice are overthrown, and only one other candidate, widely thought to be a failure, a pest and a pious loon, is mentioned in Murdoch’s one hundred and forty-nine papers. A strange choice, old friend, surely. Surely. Why not someone else?

For in 1963, for instance, when Harold Macmillan, ailing and battered by the Profumo-Keeler scandal, was thought likely to step down, five candidates – Maudling, MacLeod, Heath, Home and Hailsham – were spoken of. In 2007, after Howard lost his seat, five candidates — Costello, Abbott, Hockey, Turnbull and Nelson — were named and assessed. It was thought that the mighty post of Leader of the Opposition merited several contenders. But now the mightier post of Prime Minister merits only two, it seems, both with ragged records and likely to lose to even Abbott, a troubled, hectic, thick-eared, punch-drunk, some say crazy man. Why is this?

Well, it’s because Abbott is such a lousy candidate, the Murdochists dare not consider, dare not even name, anyone who could beat him. It is obvious Carr could. And Clare. And Combet. And Plibersek. And Roxon. And Shorten. And Kelly. And Smith. And Swan. And probably even Crean and Burke and Macklin.

So the Helmsman regally declares these faces must be erased from the Official Picture, and lo, they are. And only Rudd, a party-splitting non-candidate loathed by half his party, is wondrously superimposed.

The Murdochists have only two tricks. One says the Left are conniving crooks, the other they are chaotic fools. Gillard-the-union-crook having failed, they now try Gillard-the-embattled-klutz being opposed by Rudd-the-embattled-klutz. That should do it.

And it’s working. Though Labor is getting good laws through and the economy is fine, the impression given is Labor worried, scared, frantic, talking about itself all day and biting itself in its sleep. When in fact it is governing the country, quite ably. Getting on with the job, as they say.

It is terrifically unfair. And it is based on the weird idea that Rudd is the only Labor person who wants to be Prime Minister.

It is a Big Lie, and it should be nailed.

It is also worth pondering why six hundred thousand people turned against Labor in a fortnight, if they did, and they may have. Because the reason may be circumstantial, and it may be short-lived. Obeid and McDonald will go to gaol, Slipper and Thomson be acquitted, or shown to have done little wrong, Labor will pick up seats in Western Australia, Brough and Ashby go on trial for conspiracy and face imprisonment, and, it may well be, the Child Abuse Enquiry find prominent Liberal Catholics to have covered up, or not, priestly pederasts.

It can change. It can change in a fortnight, as it did last fortnight.

It is mostly a race against despair, against the Big Murdoch Lies that are overwhelming, lately, the western world.


First, The Bad News

The Nielsen was bad news, and Labor may be in trouble federally.

If they are, it’s worth asking what happened to the ‘surge’ of late last year when they went back up to 38 in most polls and 49 two party preferred.

Obeid. Thomson. Slipper. The chucking of the Surplus. The dudding of the Mining Tax by the Riotinto accountants. These may have had some effect.

The big thing though I think was the Peris-Kneebone ‘captain’s pick’ and how it lost again for Gillard the esteem she had painfully, slowly regained in 2012, among women especially.

For she stabbed a woman, Crossin, in the back. She gave a non-party member, Peris, a Senate seat she did not earn or seek or strive to get. She scorned the normal democratic Labor processes, despite what Carr, Bracks and Faulkner in their Report had recommended, to do it. She angered all the unpaid party workers in the Northern Territory and some Aboriginal candidates for preselection with better credentials. She chose a thrice-divorced woman of irregular private arrangements, like herself, who didn’t currently live in the Territory. And she pushed one Rudd vote, Crossin, out of caucus while she was at it.

This brought back all the remembered flaws in her character that had near as dammit lost her the whole ball game in 2010. The disloyalty. The sneakiness. The apparent contempt for the wishes of the high party grandees. The disregard for some other women. The ‘big noting’ of herself, as in the phrase ‘a captain’s pick’. And, oh yes, her ongoing twilight war with Rudd, an always more popular candidate.

And so it was, and so it went, that she lost overnight the women she had won back in a rush with her spontaneous, felt attack on Abbott the sneering sexist. It seemed she had no particular fellow-feeling with women at all.

It’s possible, of course, that the figures are wrong — mobile phones were not rung, Thursday night is late shopping, the KAP’s preferences are maldistributed, Morgan, bless it, still has Labor on 49.5 — or artificially affected by the hot, beach-going weekend in which they were counted, after two Swan stuff-ups, fresh Rudd rumours, the worst of the Obeid findings, Thomson and Slipper again in court, Xenophon under arrest , Zygier still dead in prison and an asteroid passing.

But the movement is unmistakeable; and Gillard, though not necessarily Labor, is in trouble, I think, as never before. Labor looks good in Queensland, after all, Western Australia, Victoria, South Australia, without Gillard in the picture. It looks very good indeed.

And the question, now, must be asked: Who else, among ten candidates, Shorten, Combet, Carr, Clare, Crean, Kelly, Burke, Swan, Rudd, Plibersek, would save more seats?

Or an eleventh, Roxon, if she could be persuaded to stay?

I’m sorry, but it must be asked.

And it is wicked of Nielsen and Newspoll and Essential and Galaxy not to have asked it in the eighteen months when it needed, sorely needed, to be asked.

A Prediction

It’s about an hour and a half before the Nielsen (I guess) comes out, and I suspect it may be good news for Labor.

If it’s so I’ll tell you why I thought this.

It’s to do with the Galaxy poll-of-women-voters in the Sunday Telegraph this morning, the details of it withheld from the interested reader.

A desperate Murdoch fraud if I ever saw one.

I could be wrong.

We’ll see.

The Frangipani Wars

The abashed and whimpering frangipani, back from her brief anguished exile pounding the bars of her imaginary prison, said in one of her copious responses that Government should of course have the right to ban the teaching in public schools of Nazi eugenic theory but it had no parallel right to regulate what Murdoch’s publications dared to say on any subject whatever. That Sarah ‘blood libel’ Palin was fine with her, and Glenn ‘the evil hundred year Progressivist conspiracy’ Beck was fine too, and Sean ‘Obama is a Kenyan alien Muslim secret agent’ Hannity, and Bill ‘patriots and pinheads’ O’Reilly. She thinks this is all fine, because greed for profit is all that is behind it, and greed for profit is fine with her, it’s what Liberalism is all about, greed for profit is great; but Leigh Sales savaging Abbott is a no-no because the ABC is Big Government made flesh.

She must understand she is wrong and ludicrously wrong this time. Government forbidding the publication of Nazi racial theory is exactly the same as Government bollocking Liberal send-back-the-boats racial theory and if you can have the one, you can have the other. Good governance extends to the classroom, and the kitchen table, and, to some extent, the bedroom, where incest, child abuse and marital rape are discouraged. The idea that Murdoch’s peeping-tom free-market Orwellian corporate fascism should undergo no admonishment is very, very foolish and probably, lately, illegal, since it encourages terrorism, media terrorism of the Murdoch legislate-my-way-or-else-you-minnows variety.

I ask her, once again, to contemplate her sins, and in these pages apologise for them.

Classic Ellis: Ash Wednesday, 1983

‘I wish I could die, burn with it. I never should have left. They made us go.’ (A middle-aged female survivor, February 1983.)

Like a Drysdale painting, orange and umber, black foreground fences against a sorrowing sky, yellow flames along the very rim of the world, Ash Wednesday quickly lodged in Australia’s race memory and festered there. Lit by lunatics (who would, if caught, have been brutally lynched by an ordinary bourgeois Australian, including myself) the fires burnt away some portion of the great Australian dream: a house among native trees just out of town, where your urban aches were soothed and the soul replenished. The dream went up in minutes, and young married people, standing at night in the sea itself, were watching it go. Some could not bear its going and, like the Christian martyrs, willingly went up in flames with their dream.

Not enough had been written about this bonding of ordinary Australians to their houses – how a convict descended people, accustomed to cells, would knowingly take on life imprisonment inside a suburban mortgage and exult in their confinement. On Ash Wednesday 1983 they died for it, and the name, so crude a joke it verged on the cosmic, a huge pun made by a wanton boy who kills us for his sport, became their epitaph. Children crouched between dam walls with pet canaries and kittens. Old people, advised to stay at home by the experts, went up with their heirlooms. The artefacts of memory, the photographs and chairs and toys of another time, seemed a loss even more irrecoverable. James Ricketson’s auntie, guardian in Mount Macedon of the Ricketsons’ family paraphernalia, got out of her husband’s car to see if the old lady next door was all right and a fireball hit them both and so they died among their heritage.

Annie, my wife, like so many others, sat stunned in front of television images, coming live, of the picnic grounds and weekend resorts of her childhood, burning up before her eyes. Soon the names of the towns themselves took on a separate meaning ¬– Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Greenhill, Mount Lofty, Cockatoo, Trentham, Macedon, Warburton, Hahndorf, Kalangadoo, Belgrave, Anglesea, Warrnambool – and the dirty frightened faces of the fire-fighting men took on, in the minds of those untouched, the quality of heroes. Dying is a more serious business that it was; no longer a mere way-station on an eternal journey to a singing place before God’s shining throne, it feels today a terrible foreshortening, cruel and not to be borne; to die therefore in defence of another’s house and die cremated in the act, and die for ever, is evidence of greater love, or greater civility, or greater tribal feeling or Christian decency than any in agnostic history.

I remember the cheerful young fire-fighting men (two of whom were soon to die) I met in the Blue Mountains in 1980, while researching the bushfire documentary that in due course provided the horrendous footage for the McElroy brothers’ movie Burning Man, and some of the things they said.

Q: What’s the hardest part of your job?
A: Evicting Alsatians. (Laughter)
Q: Are there any particular scary incidents you remember?
A: Well, I remember once I was up on this tin roof with the hose and the fire was coming over the ridge, and I noticed the view was changing. And I looked down and saw that the soles of my boots had melted, the roof was that hot, and I was sliding down the roof on this hot melted rubber and I didn’t know it was happening.

Another spoke of having fought a fire all night, and put it out, and of making a cup of tea and sitting down exhausted on the running-board of the fire engine, and looking up and finding it was snowing. ‘You’ve got to laugh at times like that,’ he said. I wondered then, and wondered now, what drove them to such risk. Most said it was boredom.

Twelve such young men were incinerated on Ash Wednesday in their fire truck. Five of them came from one small village: fewer local men had died in the Second World War. Fire, exploding from tree to tree and outrunning even kangaroos, made the Adelaide Hills silent with dead birds. The bearded radio newsman, Murray Nicols, in a broadcast as upsetting as the one reporting the Hindenburg disaster, saw his own house blazing and in a thin incredulous voice cried out to his wife, ‘Frankie, if you’re listening, I’m okay, the kids are okay. I guess we’ll just have to build again.’

Houses were left untouched while houses beside them were utterly destroyed. The wrath of God as ever was both selective and cruel. Cars melted down to half their size and sat crouched in their streets like frightened animals, wanting it to be over.

On television the images at times resembled Goya – a desolate brown field of dead sheep, a burnt-out windmill against a lowering sky – and sometimes with a terrible beauty, the most effulgent blood-red backdrop of films like Gone With The Wind. Each wavering helicopter shot over each scarred hill suburb brought with it a peculiar horror. Things larger than mere firebugs were time and time again evoked. One fireman spoke of an atom bomb; Race Mathews, Victoria’s Police and Emergency Services Minister, spoke of Moses’ Egypt, and this the third of seven plagues, with drought and recession, so far, as the others. Nothing could be conveyed in words about how people felt. The Irish song ‘A Nation Once Again’ came close to best expressing the fellow feeling of the ordinary citizens of a cruelly sunburnt country. A telethon the first night reaped two million dollars. Where’s the money coming from? one might have asked. From decent human sympathy for those less fortunate the answer would have been.

The fires sent smoke over Melbourne as thick and eerie as the dust storm. Once more over the heartland, and what Robert Menzies called the jewel of Liberalism (what a lewd misnomer that was the for the party that truly stood for the free contest of unarmed Christians with raging lions), an eerie pall descended, palpable in its symbolism, like smoke from the funeral pyre of the Caesar who was to come. As always in this weird campaign, the auguries ran only one way.

There Is A World Elsewhere

Xenophon arrested; Zygier dead in gaol; the asteroid passing and the meteor crashing ; the whale war; the Ash Wednesday fires remembered; the Blade Runner hero-as-murderer Pistorius in court: all these piddling insubstantial matters in one day drew attention away from the horror of Peter Slipper’s misspent thousand dollars and the national catastrophe of Swanny getting some numbers wrong for a minute and saying so. And they shrank, by God, I think, by a goodly amount, I think, I assess, Abbott’s chances of winning much more than an egg-and-spoon race in the coming year.

For it’s a bigger world out there than the tense wet dreams of these Popeless dim sodden boarding school Catholic bullies trying to seize government from an adequate Labor-Independent-Green coalition of reasoning, moderate, agnostic workaday decent souls. Crazed plans to dam a hundred rivers and pave the North with towns no-one will move to show how berserk these amateurs’ thinking currently is. They even want a motorboat to watch the leviathan-slaughtering might of Japan at work in cruel and mountainous incarnadined seas; and think this, somehow, would help. And scare Japan into going home, or something.

And they think Julie Bishop would handle Malaysia and Israel and the United Nations better than Bob Carr.

What silly shrieking messy wanking amateurs they are. And how clearly they will be seen to be that in the coming year.


Classic Ellis: The Usual Suspects, August, 2010

Mark Arbib thought assassins get honeymoons, but history shows otherwise.

Keating when he took out Hawke was immediately very unpopular. Peacock when he brought down Howard went on to be smashed in a campaign thought incompetent by most observers, like this one, by the ‘real Julia’. And John Kerr, most notably, was after the Whitlam sacking instantly detested by all shades of party loyalty and died reviled, alcoholic and friendless.

Arbib was wrong about this, as he was about Rudd versus Beazley (how good Kim looks now) and Sartor versus Rees (Frank didn’t even win) and one finds it odd that this charmless droid was ever thought gifted in any field (a Julia honeymoon indeed; a Women’s Weekly spread indeed; a debate-free zone indeed; a ‘small target’ campaign indeed; an unscalded quietly-campaigning Rudd indeed; a silent unvengeful Mark Latham indeed) or his track-record of frequent mountainous failure (he even managed to lose Wollongong) was not thought significant in his appointment as chief party strategist, and the locking-out of Hawker, Wedderburn, Rann and Carr, the Party’s most successful field marshals, from the daily deliberations he (and Julia) kept getting wrong. Historians will be divided only on whether he was a dolt or a moron, and his ‘name is writ upon water’ as the poet sighed.

That being said (and it does me a power of good to say it) it is likely now that Julia will win and it is worthwhile asking why, after a campaign of such badly acted changeability (I’m real, I’m not real, I’ll debate, I won’t, I’m an atheist MacKillopite, peekaboo) this turnaround has occurred.

There were a number of battlefronts she quietly - and sometimes accidentally - did well on, and they are worth enumerating.

One was the economy, and the interest rates not going up, and the trade figures being so propitious, and inflation unexpectedly stalling, and the aura of cautious, humble, honest success Wayne Swan ably brings to every triumphant announcement. Always Labor’s least appreciated secret weapon (he beat even Peter Costello in the Economy Debate in ’07 when Costello was still the Treasurer) he brings mild-mannered unboastful decency to this great stage of fools and pretty much always brings home the fiscal bacon. He, plus Costello’s view that Abbott cared not a whit for economics (or words to that effect) and Fraser’s lofty dismissive ‘no’ when asked if the Opposition was ‘ready for government’ won back a good few small-business males that had gone a-glimmering after the old-new debacle and the testy Ruddite leaks of Cabinet business.

Another was the reappearance of John Howard, ruddier and uglier and screechier than heretofore fore, as Abbott’s hero, mentor and cheerleader. This reminded males and females alike of a mendacious, prattling fool and bore so roundly detested by a surly nation he lost his own seat, and the things he was famed for - GST, AWB, never ever, children overboard, the Tampa kidnapees who came via Nauru to Australia after massive cost and needless traumatisation - and Abbott’s boyish admiration of him when a step back, surely, from the Howard slaughterhouse would have been more advisable. How wise was Abbott, the Maxine fans asked, to hail such an anti-hero?

Another was Rudd’s interview with Phillip Adams. It showed, however improbably, a man more sinned against than sinning who nonetheless was Labor still and would vote for even his own destroyer for his country’s good. More than the photo shoot with Julia where his rancour, remorse and self-pity could not be disguised for long, it got, I think, some pious Queenslanders, not too many, trickling back to the fold, and more will follow as he campaigns with cheer and self-mockery, something he does very well, in the marginal boondock seats of his fellow vapid Christians.

Another was Mark Latham’s bizarre intervention. Like Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, swinging in on a bell thickly mumbling ‘She made me deaf, but I love her’, he summoned up in a targeted handshake the primal fear in women of stalkers and pushed some votes back Julia’s way. It is widely thought Mark’s vigorous handshake with Howard cost him office in ’04 when appalled female sympathy went to the handshakee, and this if true will occur again if the word gets out, as it has already, that Latham, discarder of Whitlam, assaulter of cabbies, betrayer of secrets and overall Party-pooper, is not only aggrieved but unstable.

Another, surprisingly, was Abbott’s Brisbane campaign launch. It pinned him back in his place as a member of a reviled, rejected and bilious bunch of crocks - Howard, Bronwyn, Ruddock, Minchin, Andrews - bringers of war and horse flu and high interest rates and the kind of raggedy-arsed rhetoric (‘The worst government in our history.’ The recession-busters? Really?) and third-rate satire (‘How about The Vain and the Ruthless?’) that impresses few but the septuagenarian lamington-scoffing party faithful. Abbott had been running as a kind of hairy-chested Independent up till that point, and this acclamatory event (and its dated Mojo echoes of ‘It’s Time’) reminded us of where he came from and the dues he owed to a waxwork museum of iniquitous precursors and role models.

The final factor, and thanks be to GetUp for it, was the restoration of a hundred thousand disallowed voters, eighty thousand of whom will prefer or vote for Labor, enough to save a seat or two or three which this dud campaign sorely needs. Fifty thousand of these will be young and left-leaning, a not inconsequential addition to electoral rolls that have seen these past three years 480,000 rusted-on Liberal voters by my estimate die and 600,000 Labor voters come of age.

It could well be this democratic shift, this populational attrition of Menzies’ grey nomads, dementia sufferers and last-ditch hospice loyalists is what, more than even gender loyalty, does it for Julia in the end.

Abbott may have peaked too soon. An always-evident suspicion of his wayward cauliflower-eared spontaneity has time to grow in the days that remain. And he has erred, I think, in presenting himself as ‘grown-up’ and Gillard’s mob as therefore childish. It was his boyish eagerness, his shirt-off-and-go-for-anything breeziness and adolescent muscles that won those votes he won in what will now be seen as his honeymoon.

And there’s something else as well, I think, that goes to character and leadership. It’s best expressed in an email to me by the acclaimed dramatist Nick Parsons who wrote Dead Heart. And it’s this:

“Tony Abbott is Australia’s George Bush, a likeable dope who knows what he believes but doesn’t know what he thinks, and will take Australia on a series of expensive and disastrous adventures. Like Bush he makes decisions based on a religiously-based conviction rather than logic. Like Bush he’s charming and personable. Like Bush he’s a fitness fanatic with little interest in financial matters or the economy. Like Bush he comes from a privileged background, with a private education, and has little understanding of the needs and ambitions of the common man. Like Bush he may just squeak through to claim the election. And like Bush, at the end of his term of office we’ll look out at the rubble and ask ourselves what we were thinking. Likeable and personable people can still wreak great evil on the world.”

This was worth saying, I think, however unfairly, of a man surely smarter - and less alcoholic and wayward of mind - than America’s worst President. But George Bush is John Howard’s hero, and John Howard is Tony’s hero, and the logic of this weird mind-mulching campaign may as well take us there as to Julia’s hair roots and Rudd’s gall bladder and Latham’s manly handshake.

Twelve days remain, and the weirdness may increase.

Or am I wrong?

Certain Housekeeping Matters (15)

Frangipani has a week to escape a life ban by providing arguments, or finding others to provide arguments, why she should stay on after falsely saying I like seeing people hanged and Murdoch deserves free speech and his employees do not, repeatedly and frantically.

Spleenblatt is banned, again, for life for offensive levity, on, this time, the American economy.

Bob Ellis’s Salad Dressing is banned again for life for being, I think, John Birmingham, who lied and lied and lied about me in his blog, saying I applauded rape and Strauss-Kahn was guilty of it when he wasn’t, and being, I think, a creepy Liberal voter in plausible disguise, with a Liberal brother in the Senate, if I’ve got that right, and a pussy-whipped lifestyle and smack ‘issues’. May he never have a day’s luck. He has cost me, thus far, the cunt, a fortune, and I don’t like him.

And so it goes.

At Last, At Last, The Answer

‘How To Fix America’ is now complete and I address your attention to it, and request responses.

After Many A Summer

(First published by Independent Australia)

There are a lot of headlines lately blaming Swanny for allowing Rio Tinto to rob and cheat him, and us, of hundreds of millions of dollars and getting the unemployment figures wrong. But I’ve never met anyone yet who actively hates him.

Costello was hated; Keating; Howard; Lynch; McMahon; Fadden; even Chifley, when they each in turn were Treasurer. But Swanny’s plain, true-hearted good intentions shine out of him, and the occasional detestation Gillard ignites, and Abbott, and Rudd, and Abetz, and Heffernan, and Wong, and Garrett, and Bowen, does not adhere to Swanny, ever. He seems a good man. He may err, and stumble, and fudge, and misread, and shuffle, and obfuscate, but his amiable intent, his decency, his honourable purpose is not in doubt.

The Liberals try to counter this by calling him chaotic but it does not stick. The world’s most successful financial manager in the world’s most perilous, ramshackle three years, one acclaimed by American, British, European and Asian pundits for his cool, steady hand, he lives in this nation’s memory as a good navigator, not a Gyro Gearloose in a storm-lashed wheelhouse improvising frantically. He is, and seems, a better sailor than that.

Things are changing, I believe, and the daily more obvious Labor victory in Western Australia shows they are changing; and Kennett’s attack on his old friend Baillieu; and Katter’s progressive demolition of the LNP in the North, and the hydrophobic Newman’s bizarre decision to slash the numbers of nurses in a State full of old people. It’s becoming plain the tories have bad intentions, just like Romney did, and Cameron, and Berlusconi, and they don’t attract love as Beattie, Bacon, Bracks, Gallop, Rann, Carr and Martin did, and do.

They are voted for if it seems they can do things well. But it doesn’t seem they can, any more. And, like Barnett, they are headed for the woodshed, and a bollocking. You wait and see.

It is not insignificant that economic confidence is up, and the stock market now at a five-year high.

Swanny has done the job well. And he should be applauded, by us and the people, and he will be.

You wait and see.

The Fire This Time: Tarantino’s Django Unchained

At last, at last, ninety-eight years on, an adequate response to Birth of a Nation. It is Tarantino’s Django Unchained, a tall, vile, nauseous tale of Black revenge on the white Enslaver.

It is lavishly blood-spattered in the Peckinpah manner of course, and gruesome in its tortures. A harmless old black wrestler done sick o’ fightin’, massa, is rended by dogs while Django, reacting strategically, holds his peace. Tortures occur in the Bigelow and Homeland manner, and Django looks on them, and holds his peace. And bides his time.

And the several conflagrations that climax, again and again, this potent, funny, horrifying film do not distress or disappoint us, or him. Burn, baby, burn, we chant along, wanting, like the central Nigger, blood revenge and bags of it.

This is by no means a cheap sensational shallow satire, like Blazing Saddles, on the Hollywood western. It is more like a play by Shaw from a theme by Homer, with the arguments plainly and copiously set forth with eloquence and acuity on the question of human slavery, and one man’s appropriate, slaughterous revenge on the system. All aristocracy, it asserts with force, is built on cruelty to the poor. And we see what that means. And that aristocracy should be terminated therefore, with extreme prejudice. And we see what that means.

‘King’ Schultz, a very Shavian character, a cerebral German bounty hunter keen to get authentic signatures on every disgusting bill of sale and make swags of money from captured corpses, is played by Christoph Waltz, this millennium’s Werner Herzog, with a ferocious docility that makes plausible every hair-raising risk he takes. He is moved to each narrative cliff-edge by intellectual challenge, like a chess-player; can he survive even this?

He rescues from a black slave chain gang the whip-scarred, smashed-up Django as a way to get to some criminals whom he will deliver dead to the authorities: Django knows what they look like, and he takes him to them. But then he gazumps him by killing two of them first. King admires with keen Herzogian amusement Django’s initiative, and gets to like him, and to sympathise with his quest: to find his wife, lately seared with a branding iron and raped a lot and put down a sweat-hole in the ground, if she is still alive, and her beaming image haunts him down every harsh mile of his journey.

Schultz doesn’t mind spending a fortune to find her, she speaks German after all and is named Broomhilde von Schafft and, as played by Kerry Washington, voluptuous enough to desire himself. He seeks in a civil way to buy her back at stupendous cost from a sneery, decadent plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo di Caprio) whose mannerly scented Caligula qualities are for a time amusing to him and us but then turn, like a key in the lock, to obscenely loathesome, sadistic and scary. Guns are drawn, and one of them pointed at the girl while Candie speaks persuasively of the necessary punishment of niggers, and nigger-lovers, who should not take him for a fool.

A lot of the film is about running out of bullets and seizing yet another pistol from yet another corpse in order to blam-blam away at the next platoon of whitetrash Dixie low-lifes clambering in the door. Two of these vermin are Tarantino, acting badly as usual, and John Jarratt with an implausible Ocker accent, rare around Texas in 1858.

But it never gets tedious, or even for a second less than riveting, as Django (Jamie Foxx) improvises from fuck-up to fuck-up his next strategic survival (with pike and backflip) though beset at every turn by the dark Satanic Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson), Candie’s black Jeeves and the ultimate smarmily grinning, soul-bought Uncle Tom and Judas Goat, selling out his people to the prissy, perfumed Honkies and living high on the hog in a marble Tara-like mansion mixing cocktails.

Have I said enough? Maybe. This is a superb film, and an act of education second to none. We understand America’s Heart of Darkness now, and the source of the wealth by which it progressively overran, debauched, besotted, charmed and slimed the known world.

Go see it. Take an eight-year-old male. He’ll adore it.

Lines For Albo (27)

Joe says Riotinto dudded Wayne of a billion dollars. He’s probably right, they probably did.

I ask Joe what he proposes to do about it.