March 27, 2006
Benevolent dictator gives way to democracy with appalling results
In democracy's name, I was forced to watch the first hour of the closing ceremony to the Commonwealth Games.
I was recording the second and final part of The Blitz on the ABC, which was to finish at 8:25, but the ceremony was scheduled to begin at 8 PM on Channel Eddie. Based on experience, I protested that the first half hour would be back-slapping babble with the presenter and various sports stars and that the actual ceremony would not start until 8:30 or later. But no, democracy would prevail: the television set belonged to the family, not just me. I had to stop recording The Blitz.
So we watched, not thirty minutes, but around 40 minutes of back-slapping babble with the presenter and various sports stars before the ceremony began. This does not include several commercial breaks, which of course went on and on and on.
During the national anthem, we were blessed with a view of British PM Tony Blair and Our Own John Howard standing with the throng. I was accused of being boring when I sniped that here were two-thirds of the axis of evil responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis because of their toadying to George W. Bush's illegal invasion.
One of our family, who is learning Italian, said: "Ma sta zitto, scemo!" This lovely phrase, I was told later, meant: Put a sock in it, idiot! *
Oh, I tried not to ruin the moment, but the MCG's sound system was so bad we could barely hear the rock bands and Paul Kelly. As for the on-field entertainment, meh. Nothing will ever top the truly awesome opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sydney -- possibly the greatest spectacle of all time --and this one was only slightly better than your usual half time silliness at an Aussie Rules grand final.
My sniping finally resulted in the storming out of the lounge room of this family's devotee to democracy.
As I was right on every count, the only conclusion to be reached is that democracy is only as good as the total awareness of each citizen as to what the bloody hell is going on just about everywhere.
After one or two seconds of remorse, I continued to watch a film I had started earlier in the afternoon, Death and the Maiden, which dealt with Sigourney Weaver's revenge over Ben Kingsley's state-ordered torture of her during Pinochet's dictatorship. I put the film on pause long enough to snipe at democracy's representative, now in the kitchen furiously ironing: "This film is about Pinochet, so admired by Margaret Thatcher who in turn is John Howard's ideal. Shall we go back to the Commonwealth Games?" The kitchen door was slammed shut.
OK, I'm an arsehole who won't give an inch. Which is why we have very few friends and the rellies only tolerate me on Boxing Day.
So, the Games are over, with Australia winning some 35,425,398 medals and the other countries getting some too. Too bad about the defectors from Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Bangladesh. They picked the wrong country. You can just hear the razor wire vibrating in the wind and the iron gates creaking open to welcome them to their newfound hell.
On a positive note, there was a tremendous amount of goodwill generated. The free cultural arts festival that accompanied the games was an astounding success. The volunteers at both events worked their arses off and they, far more than the sports stars, represent the true face of humanity. Given half a chance, people prefer the spirit of community to aspirational greed. Today's parade in their honour in downtown Melbourne is a fitting tribute.
After that, it's back to business. And I do mean business, as business rubs its sweaty, puffy little hands over the new workhouse legislation which goes into effect today.
* The "Italian-learner" first saw this phrase in Gabriella Coslovich's Home and its half-truths
March 26, 2006
The Weekly Gee (14)
on the eve of John Howard's Arbeit Macht Frei reforms
and on behalf of new Laboral attempts to censor the internet
Copyright © 2006, Maurie Gee
March 25, 2006
Revenge of the annoying father
Off we go to the dentist, but not before our obligatory tussle over who gets to operate the Daewoo's CD unit. I want the Carter Family; my daughter wants Green Day. Even though she is praying for Reese Witherspoon to get the Oscar for Walk the Line, she cannot bear to hear the original recordings of June Carter's mum, dad and aunt. Where, I ask, would Reese's inspired characterisation of June be without them? By way of reply, she tosses her head, regulation latte coloured streaks catching the summer sun as it bakes the brick veneer kiln we call home. In a word -- or gesture -- she has never heard such awful music.
So we listen to American Idiot, mercifully catching every green light en route to the drillmeister. How sad it is, I wonder to myself, that this country hasn't produced a band who can tell us about our very own Australian Idiot. Most likely it's because the country is made up almost entirely of Australian Idiots. Daughter breaks into this depressing thought by reminding me that her generation will never become fascists thanks to Green Day. I should say something positive, but stupidly sing, "For they are jolly good fellows." She looks at me as if both of my conical heads were too small. I apologize. Stupidly, I make matters worse by doing a pretty good imitation of Billy Eckstine singing I Apologize. I try to tell her that it's not easy imitating Billy Eckstine, with his massive shifting clackers, but she just turns the music up. I sense that she would rather become a Magdalene Sister than ask who he is.
Now we're listening to Green Day whipping their English audience into ecstasy by shouting the word "England!" The fans go bananas. Dear one admits that the lead singer, Billie Joe, could have shouted "boiled cabbage" or "Inuit semen" and they would have reacted the same.
In the dentist's office, we settle in for the usual waiting period of 15 minutes to three days. She leafs through a celebrity magazine, flipping each page with nerve-assaulting violence while I try to concentrate on an expensive manual meant to make blogging with Movable Type easier. A remarkable tome, it uses full-page illustrations in colourful hieroglyphics coupled with concise step-by-step instructions in Aramaic. One of the words looks suspiciously familiar. "Eee-zee," I pronounce slowly, and, unfortunately, aloud. I am instantly slapped in the face by several hundred strands of hair as the daughter who must be obeyed turns her head sharply: "Be quiet. You're so annoying!"
She finally gets the call. I join her because my wife has requested I ask three things of the dentist regarding his opinion on the possibility of braces. I have also promised both daughter and wife to refrain from discussing politics with the amiable dentist while he goes about his work.
For a girl who routinely speaks a dialect of English in which every syllable of every word is contracted to an undecipherable slur, she responds to the dentist's banter with the aplomb of a grown woman speaking the dialect of English known to those who reside in our locality. I am forever amazed at this transition between languages … how does she do it?
After a few moments I realise I have forgotten one of the three questions I am meant to ask. Cleverly concealing my panic, I excuse myself and scurry to the waiting room where I whip out my mobile phone and call my all-knowing, all-tracking beloved. There is no answer. I am doomed to ask only two of the three questions, except that now I can remember only one.
The dentist is busy cleaning dearly's teeth when I return. I sit and fidget for a while. I sense that he wants to talk politics. Well, perhaps I don't sense this exactly, but supposing he does? Who am I to deprive him of his say?
We discuss the Prime Minister for the remainder of the session. In fact our conversation becomes downright eloquent. The dentist is a gentle soul and so I become gentle in turn. We conclude our dialogue in the waiting room on the sorrowful note that there is no hope of removing John Howard because there is no opposition.
I only remember to ask the only question I haven't forgotten as we are leaving. He says her teeth are fine and that she doesn't need braces. Secretly, I whinny with delight; now I can buy that DVD recorder with a whopping big hard disk instead of spending a fortune trying to make her teeth look like living dentures. The dentist agrees that slight anomalies in teeth can be quite attractive. As there are women present, I refrain from giving him a detailed summary of my research into this highly charged subject.
Daughter and I play Frogger with the traffic as we navigate to a Fish and Chippery across the street. She orders chips and a coke and then we go next door where I order a much needed Latte.
We sit staring at each other. In the hope of encouraging this recently turned 15-year-old to engage in human communication, I grasp at a topic which may have already been discussed at the dinner table: "You know, your mother couldn't find a decent latte when she was in Washington DC. And yet every cafe here in Melbourne, with the exception of Starbucks, makes adequate to superior lattes. Aren't we lucky to be living here?"
"Meh," she replies.
"Sorry I talked politics with the dentist," I plead.
"I didn't mind," she says in the English dialect I understand. "None of my friends like John Howard or the Liberal Party. But that's thanks to American Idiot," she adds, using both menacing index fingers to draw an exclamation point in the intimidated air between us.
"But American Idiot refers to George Bush, doesn't it?"
"Well, duhh," she sneers. "They're the same thing, or didn't you know that?"
How is it, I wonder, head slumped as if picadored, that teenagers can so easily make their parents look like imbeciles.
On the way home I get to thinking: I've been raving against John Howard for years, but she only hates him because of a song about his boyfriend. I suppose it all sinks in over time, but it makes a parent feel kind of useless.
I really want to hear the Carter Family but there's no point in trying. Hey, maybe I could pay one of her friends to say she likes the Carter Family. Twenty bucks oughtta do the trick. Nah, wouldn't work; they're all so loyal to each other. If she wasn't so rigid in her positions against this and that, she would easily hear the, er, beauty of the song Single Girl, Married Girl. Granted it sounds pretty raw -- no studio enhancements here -- but it's authentic ethnic folk music, it's history. Where would Reese's performance be without this 1927 recording of the plaintive, downright primitive voice of June Carter's aunt Sara?
Single girl, oh single girl
She goes to the store and buys
Oh goes to the store and buys
Married girl, oh, married girl
She rocks the cradle and cries
Oh, rocks the cradle and cries
On the same CD compilation is Blind Willie Johnson's croaky masterpiece, John the Revelator. Daughter hasn't heard this one yet, heh-heh. I know, I'll put it and the Carter Family tunes on the "Reveille" CD I made, the one I slip in her ghetto blaster in the morning when she refuses to get out of bed. It's across the room so she has to get up to turn it off, hee-hee. Well, she could use the remote, but in the cyclonic aftermath that is her bedroom, she'd never find it. I used to wake her up ringing a small but effective ship's bell, but this is even better. Reveille comprises bits of some of the most weird and cacophonic music I know and is therefore guaranteed to annoy teenagers. There is Diamanda Galas' Wild women with steak knives to scare the hell out of her, and Kate Smith singing God Bless America to bring on a round of gagging. An excerpt from Frank Zappa's Didja get any onya? and a wacky vocal from the Japanese film, Lies, normally sees the covers being flung aside, but if I add Blind Willie and the Carter Family, I'll want to have the camera ready. The face it captures will make Emily Rose look like June Allyson.
Then again, maybe a father shouldn't be so mean. Of course, she could always get up when I give her my jocular morning yoo-hoo. But, no, not her: she's a teenager. Oh well, nothing for it but to make a shiny new copy of Reveille, with those great bonus tracks.
Posted by Willikers at 10:30 PM
March 22, 2006
John Ditchburn exposes John Howard
Posted by Willikers at 1:52 PM
March 20, 2006
The body snatchers are among us
V for Vendetta is set in Britain sometime in the near future. While the United States has fallen into chaos after years of war and civil unrest, Britain has voted for tyranny: a grotesque local version of fascism. Strict curfews are enforced by patrolling thugs while the face of the apoplectic leader, played by John Hurt in a nice reversal of his role as the victim in 1984, beams from giant screens everywhere. Anyone racially or morally questionable is sent off to become an experimental subject in the quest to find newer and nastier biological weapons. -- Stephanie Bunbury Gunpowder, treason and plot
Iraq is not the only breeding ground for civil war. The whole world is.
While Dubya the Dumb, with his cretinous accent, continues to insult the world by claiming all is well in Iraq, his Secretary for War, arch-war-criminal Donald Rumsfeld, has admitted that a belated and no doubt half-arsed "Plan B" -- on dealing with the very real civil war taking place in Iraq -- is about to become official policy.
Thanks to the American Imperialist Empire's "Plan A," the original, illegal and brainless invasion of Iraq three years ago today, it's neo-conservative anti-social ideology and the concurrent rise to power of Christian fundamentalism, the whole world has been destabilised.
Every person in every nation, city and village and on every street is polarised. No one knows what is coming next. The funeral yesterday of Slobodan Milosevic shows how dangerously divided Serbia remains. But thanks to the madmen in Washington, the rest of the world is just as divided. We are all a hairs-breadth from turning on each other.
The ongoing riots in Paris, over industrial relations legislation meant to give employers feudal power while reducing student employees to fodder, are a beacon of hope for the polarised half of us who still claim to be social beings.
In Australia, the new powers Workhouse Minister Kevin "I may be a feeble little twit, but God works for me" Andrews has handed himself, in effect turning the Industrial Relations Commission into a spy agency, are as bad or worse.
Both the French and Australian legislations constitute a return to the Dickensian world of masters and servants. The ideology behind these deforms is one of singular hatred for the working classes and more importantly, humanity in general. They are, in a word, misanthropic.
The Christian fundamentalists, who profess to believe in "family values" (code for a desiccated patriarchal misogyny dressed up in wholesome square dance couture), are perhaps the greatest threat to family values since the Nazis.
Typically, they joined financial forces with the Liberal Party (representing the lords of big business) in Tasmania to run a scare campaign against the Greens just when that party had a good chance to neutralise main party corruption and take the balance of power. In Tassie, this Satanic branch of Christianity is called the "Exclusive Brethren". Scary, eh? Like the pod-people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" who, sensing you are still human and not one of them, point their finger and utter a horrifying screech. The name "Exclusive Brethren" sums up Christian fundamentalism and the neo-Liberal, neo Conservative governments currently ruling the world: Exclusive. They are in; all others are out.
Are we heading for the turmoil we had to have? Looks like it. Only a fool, that is, someone who has devoted all their time during the last week to "being in the spirit" of the Commonwealth Games, would be unaware of civilisation caving in around them.
V for Vendetta opens here in Melbourne on 30 March. I'll be the first in line at the earliest showing.
March 19, 2006
The Weekly Gee (13)
Copyright © 2006, Maurie Gee
Posted by Willikers at 2:22 PM
March 18, 2006
Another day another lie
It's not every day the Prime Minister can be called a liar outside of Parliament, that is, without Parliamentary privilege. But yesterday John "Of course I'm corrupt. Isn't everyone?" Howard was called just that by Kevin Rudd. "I reject, of course, the absurd allegations of lying made by Mr Rudd and I invite people to wait until the commission has brought down its findings," said the most powerful liar in the land. Standing next to him as he stated his government's motto -- The truth is absurd -- was Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of Weird Names and the woman the incredible shrinking Dubya gets to threaten nations considered to be lesser than his beloved Jesusland.
Kim Beazley got into the act as well. Looking up momentarily from his din-dins in Perth, he advised Howard to "look Condoleezza Rice in the eye and apologise for funding the enemy."
As we can see here, that is impossible for our two-faced PM. And anyway, Condi is showing just what she thinks of him.
Dennis Shanahan suggests that in the face of the escalating AWB scandal, the Howard Government is about "to adopt the Renae Lawrence defence. Lawrence, one of the four drug mules captured in Bali with heroin strapped to her body, maintained that others had forced her to do it with threats." Shanahan says it's all about to get worse because the " AWB is no longer saying the Government didn't know. Even if this is a sign of desperation from AWB, and recognition that they are going to go down over the kickbacks, then desperation could suddenly make it much worse for DFAT and the Howard administration."
Caroline Overington, in her article It's quite simple, reader … you know the pieces fit, says:
There are some people in Australia who claim that the Iraq wheat sales story is hopelessly confusing.
It's actually quite simple.
The Howard Government has long been in possession of a small mountain of documents - cables, emails, spy notes - many of which suggest Australia's wheat exporter AWB was paying bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime.
The Government wants you - the reader - to believe that it never put the pieces of the puzzle together.
For example, it will admit to knowing that AWB traded wheat to Iraq under the UN's oil-for-food program.
It will also admit to knowing that Saddam corrupted the oil-for-food program by demanding that suppliers pay bribes to his regime.
It won't admit to putting those two pieces of knowledge together, to conclude that AWB paid bribes to Saddam.
Is the wheat story really all that complicated?
No, but the Government is hoping you - the reader - are stupid.
You would like to think that ten years of world's best practice corruption would start to make John Howard's supporters a tad uncomfortable. Better to pin your hopes on gettting a first division win in Tattslotto.
March 15, 2006
Let the RON WALKER GAMES begin
Ron Walker's nice little earner, otherwise known as the Commonwealth Games, begins in Melbourne today.
Walker is the big end of town entrepreneur who stole the Grand Prix from Adelaide during the Kennett regime and brought it to Albert Park. Ostensibly to enrich Melbourne, the noisy hoon-fest disrupted the lives of hundreds of local residents, ruined the peace and tranquillity of Albert Park, and has cost the city -- oops, that's Victorian taxpayers -- hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue. Most likely, the yearly abomination remains in Melbourne's care solely to preserve Walker's reputation.
Like the Grand Prix, the Walker Games are facing an embarrassing lack of interest. As of Monday, nearly 400,000 tickets remained unsold. And they've given away 5,000 tickets for the opening ceremony.
Without going into the details of what a boring farce the games are -- OK, it's a bunch of former British colonies trying to compete with the subsidised sporting might of Britain and Australia -- the nearly two week event is regarded by the rest of the sporting world as somewhat less than ho hum.
Let's face it, the Games represent nothing more than a business opportunity, in this case using people who excel at running, jumping, and swimming. There can be no greater evidence of the capitulation of governments to big business than in Ron Walker's refusal to invite Phil Coles, the Sydney-based Olympic delegate whom Walker believes voted against Melbourne's bid for the 1996 Olympics. The Victorian Labor Government Minister for Sport, Justin Madden (who used to be such a nice boy), said the snub was out of his hands. Which means it's out of the government's hands. Which means that Walker has precedence over government affairs. Which means that business rules, even when it comes to personal grudges.
Since Ron Walker is a former Liberal Party treasurer, this should come as no surprise. The whole country is in the hands of his ilk.
March 14, 2006
2006: The cookie is starting to crumble
I've got a bad feeling about this year. Maybe it comes from too many jalapeño peppers and tequila shooters, but I don't think so. There is something transitional in the air, as if the little staple that binds the world's fragile concord is about to encounter the staple remover of devastation.
2005 ended on some scary notes. To name just a few:
In Australia, the Howard Government passed legislation cancelling worker's rights, curtailing freedom of dissent, and the removal of university services (student unions). All of these come into effect in 2006.
Despite Americans' growing awareness of the bleeding obvious, George W. Bush and the stark raving loonies pulling his strings will continue to bring Iraq and the world into chaos.
Hurricane Katrina signalled both the arrival of wild climate change and the incapacity of American government agencies to deal with it.
And then there was the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran in June of 2005. Both he and Bush are being goaded by their homegrown, patented gods into a nuclear showdown.
OK, we read the papers or watch the news and we know about all these things, but then the force of the "reality" we all share kicks in -- the reality in which we are born to toil at the expense of intellect in order to produce and consume the products that fill our lives with illusory time killers and which become meaningless when we die. This "reality" prevents us from properly assessing events and acting on them.
As the world slips further into chaos we are too overworked at our jobs and too busy maintaining the rest of our life to find the time to comprehend the enormity of events. How can we think outside this planet-size square if we are constantly bombarded by the unholy exhortation to consume, to watch the next episode of the latest clever series of between commercials filler?
This is the story of the human species. For all of recorded history we have blithely existed in a solipsistic cocoon devoid of any interest in analysing events beyond our own front door. And every so often those events get out of control and obliterate us.
That's how 2006 has felt to me for several months now. As if we are in the motionless eye of the storm.
And then I happened on this little item:
During continuing unrest in the Middle East, one of the leaders will be able to get hold of a nuclear bomb. He will go to the greatest lengths over the smallest things and will not hesitate to use the weapon because of his obsessions with deadly warfare. The people he is warring against retaliate with a nuclear weapon. The country has a coast on the Mediterranean.
One of the bombs will land in the Mediterranean instead of the land, poisoning all the fish. The passages of trade in the region will be disrupted so that the people on the other coast of the Mediterranean will be desperate for food and will eat the fish anyway. It will happen near the east coast of the Mediterranean in a region of dark-colored cliffs.
The nuclear weapon being dropped by one of the Middle Eastern countries will spark off yet another war on top of that war. European and Western nations will try to interfere to diminish the threat to oil supplies. When the European countries try to interfere, the crazed leader who earlier dropped the nuclear bomb will use the rest of his arsenal on Europe, most striking the closer southern part.
The European Mediterranean coast, particularly that of Italy and France, will be almost uninhabitable, and Italy will get the brunt. This leader is not the Antichrist but helps to set the stage for the Antichrist to rise to power with little or no opposition. The Antichrist will wield great power and authority; no one can argue with him.
Well, now, that joyous little scenario comes from our dear old friend, Nostradamus, in a book called "The Nostradamus Code," cleverly titled to coincide with the worldwide Da Vinci Code craze.
Sadly, we don't need the questionable prophecies of a sixteenth century Christian with irritable bowel syndrome to see the grotesque possibility of such an event happening. The point being that 2006 may be the year in which the accumulation of recent idiot misadventures begins to bear its strange fruit. Something has got to give.
In the meantime, I've ordered another U.S. gallon of jalapeños and stocked the larder with Patron Silver. I know how to deal with the bleeding apocalypse.
Posted by Willikers at 10:48 AM
March 13, 2006
One of the greatest photos of all time
This is a scan of a photo published in the Weekend Australian (11/3/06). It accompanied the article, Paris Protest recalls '68 riots. If anyone knows of a print online, please let me know. Otherwise, forward it to your friends. -- TGW
March 12, 2006
The Weekly Gee (12)
|Copyright © 2006, Maurie Gee|
Posted by Willikers at 2:55 PM
March 11, 2006
Harold on the French Riviera
The snails inhabiting the Willikers mailbox were joined a few days ago by this, the latest manuscript from Harold Hark. According to him, it is the first of three parts that will eventually make one very long story (or a bleeding novella). -- TGW
Vittorio Petrolio did indeed give me some of those old Lire but the exchange rate was pitiful. I won't even tell you how pitiful it was. Needless to say I entered France with little more than I had on me when I left the hospital.
And then it all went haywire.
I arrived in Nice by train around noon on a Tuesday. I set out to find an unpromising street that would lead to the squalid part of town, were such a quartier to exist on the Côte d'Azur. The one-star Hotel Verdier on the nearby Rue de LePante looked the goods. I asked for a room overlooking the street, where I could view the comings and goings of the locals. To my delight such a room was available at a reasonable price. But when I reached for my credit card, it wasn't there. Nor was my keycard. My knees buckled. There is no greater inducement to panic, short of an imminent threat to life, than discovering that you've lost the open sesames to your chosen credit card company of ill repute and/or access to your modest funds, held, in my case, at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. To me it's worse. Life-threatening situations can lift you out of your day-to-day complacence to a level of intense awareness. Unless you freeze, you suddenly find yourself able to make instant judgements on actions that may -- or may not -- save your skin. But lose your money and you become a non-person.
The réceptionniste eyed me with an equal measure of suspicion and boredom; he'd no doubt heard this line before. He told me their EFTPOS line was down anyway and they didn't accept credit cards or traveller's cheques. (I'd decided against using traveller's cheques before leaving Australia. So many places refused them and here was just another.) It would have to be cash. But before any transaction could begin, he would need my passport. My passport? Where was my passport? It was safe; I always kept it in a separate location, in the pocket next to my heart.
I forked over the money. This left me with barely enough to survive on until I could get the cards replaced. And that would have to be by the following Monday or Tuesday at the latest. Fortunately my next stop was a more or less planned visit with old friends who lived on the outskirts of Paris.
I had met Laurent and Julie years before at a Philip Glass concert in Avignon and we'd kept in touch. We exchanged emails before I left Australia, so they knew I was coming, just not exactly when. They had mentioned plans for a two-week trip to London, but I could not now recall in which month. A fresh frisson of anxiety transmogrified into a cold steel ball as it made the rounds in the pinball machine housing my quaking organs: surely, not now? No, I was certain they were going after the new year. I should call. Did I have their phone number? No, I only had their address. I could look them up in the telephone directory. But what if I called and there was no answer? I decided ignorance was bliss and left it up to the gods.
I was in luck with the room. It was spare and a little depressing with its worn bedding and dowdy wallpaper, but it was clean. I wanted to collapse on the bed or sit at the window and regard the passing mademoiselles, but there was no time.
It took the entire afternoon to deal with the cards. I won't bore you with the irritating details. Suffice to say they would be waiting for me at their respective establishments in Paris by the following Tuesday at the latest.
Things would have been looking up if I had had another hundred euros. As it was I barely had the train fare to Paris, let alone enough for food. Where had I lost the damn cards? I had no idea.
I grabbed a bite to eat, a savoury, very thin crêpe called socca, from a street vendor. Made with chick-pea flour and olive oil and cooked in a wood-fired oven, it had a smoky flavour enhanced, at the recommendation of the vendor, by a liberal sprinkling of ground pepper. It was that good I ordered another.
It seemed prudent to buy a ticket to Paris before I spent any more money, so I headed back to the train station. On the way, I heard organ music coming from the Basilique Notre Dame off the avenue Jean Médicin. It was four o'clock and a recital had just begun. I recognised the work, the Suite Médiévale by Jean Langlais. What luck! Was this an intervention by the gods to tell me everything would be all right? I decided not to sit in the pews (the organist was above and behind the few in attendance anyway), but to amble around and examine the stained-glass windows. The second movement, the melancholic Tiento resonated through the church as I wandered into a small alcove. At first all I could see was the brilliant sunlight coming in through a massive stained glass window. Then I saw the outline of a statue. It stood on a pedestal, which made its head level with mine. Moving closer, I beheld the most beautiful face I had ever seen. A plaque noted that here was Sainte Rita, the patron of lost causes. Uh-oh. But that "uh-oh" was quickly shamed by the uh-oh that passed my lips when I realised that Sainte Rita had given me a hardon. Perhaps it wasn't the gods who caused me to enter this church after all.
With my tail wagging in front of me, I quickly removed myself from the room and left the church to the rousing strains of the Suite's final movement, Acclamations. Was I embarrassed? Ashamed? Mortified? All those and more, and to punish myself I went in search of relief.
One of yours truly's defining characteristics is this: When it is of the utmost importance for me to curtail my impulses of the moment to guarantee survival in the future, I give in with the greatest of ease. Some would call me an arrested adolescent. But, as I've said elsewhere), maturity seems "like something a charwoman would do, drudgery without hope of the slightest transgression, a sad line-toeing downhill to a grey death."
A few blocks away I found ma petite pute Méditerranéenne, an erotic wisp of a surrogate for Sainte Rita. She stood in the late afternoon shadows against a wall between shops and I nearly missed her. I thought: Where have I been all her life? Here was a face guaranteed to drive men crazy. She reminded me of the French actress Anna Mouglalis, whom I had only seen once and never forgotten in the film Novo. Like the jelly-boning Anna, her lips invited the shyest percy to step into a phone booth and emerge as a sonorously humming monolith begging for immersion in the gooseneck of love. Her eyes, ardent and fierce, looked out from beginningless time, as if they had witnessed the moment before the big bang. Directed at any man insufficiently authentic, they could easily become weapons of male destruction. They were the gateless gates to everything that is or was or will be. There really was one true religion, and she was it.
While we were discussing the price, I became aware of her fragrance. She used one of those perfumes you've never smelled before and will never smell again but that every smell will forever remind you of. And then, I could smell her skin. Not since I was a teenager in the throes of uncontrollable lust have I been so unable to keep my distance from the beloved. I almost embraced her there on the street as I leaned closer to inhale the aroma of her lightly sweated, salty skin. I smelled her hair. She must have washed it last night; a night's sleep and the shampoo no longer overpowered the natural aroma of her exotic secretions. This was paradise. I gave her all my money.
I emerged from her little room drained of strength and finances. Emotionally, it was even worse. Yes, I had confirmed a longheld belief that Buddha nature could best be attained through dissolution in the pussy of the goddess, and yes, my inner Childe Harold will probably long for this woman for the rest of my life, but the emotions relating to survival now had me lying rigid on my hotel bed, the formerly exuberant Willie Wanka reduced to a microscopic nubble representing my fear. I may have seen the white light for one excruciatingly blissful hour, but now I was dead broke. Well, I had thirty euros and some change. I would have to hitchhike to Paris.
The next morning I bought another socca, devouring it on the spot, then a baguette, half a round of Camembert, a plastic bottle of Orangina, a packet of Ajja tobacco and Riz La Croix rolling papers; no more tailor-mades for me! This left me with the change.
I walked to the railway station, bidding a comfortable ride to Paris au re-fucking-voir, and beyond to what I thought was the beginning of the Voie Rapide, which I hoped would connect me to the Autoroute. I stood for three hours before getting a ride. As karma would have it, my saviour was only going as far as Cannes; at least I was en route. But when he came to his turnoff, there was nowhere for cars to pull over, so I went with him into Cannes-ville.
Not half a year ago and from the comfort of my lounge room in Melbourne, I had watched David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz hob-nobbing with the celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival. Now I was walking along the Croisette as a clochard. Never mind, I was in high spirits. How could I not be, when the breast-worshipping sun shown so brightly on the beach and it's reclining nymphs. Horniness always ready for renewal when travelling, I stood there ogling for the better part of an hour, imagining myself as the announcer for a different sort of Golden Globes, this one dedicated to the perfect pair of hooters.
"My word, but what a talented group we have today," I intoned breathlessly into a discarded ice cream stick pinch hitting for a microphone. "To my left, we have the mighty boswams of Gaspa Lamour, our home-grown entry from right here in Cannes. I'm sure our judges are experiencing significant hoist over Mlle Lamour's attributes, ha-ha, oh yes, indeedy-do. There on a beach blanket near her is the entry from Barthelona, Senorita Gloria Exquisito, whose perfectly formed chichis are rumoured to have launched a thousand chochos the first time she stepped onto Mar Bella Beach. Moving right along, perhaps we can have a word with the entry from Great Britain, Miss Gillian Moist. Miss Moist? Oh, miss Moist? My, isn't she shy. Now then, I believe I see Miss Jennifer Okaybaby, the contestant from America. Miss Okaybaby, may I have a … no? I don't understand, no one wants to be interviewed. No matter, let's try for a chat with our youngest contestant, Puberty Poltergeist. Oh drat, her mother is waving me away in a most irritating fashion. Over there is one of the hot favourites, the entrant from Finland, Miss Palenape Candlelight. Hello, could I … But she won't talk to me, either. Surely the gorgeous Italian Nelle Ruolodi? Oh-oh, the bodyguard of Putupon Rose, the great granddaughter of Pantopon Rose, is heading my way. This doesn't look good."
I moved on.
I walked to the outskirts of Cannes. No one seemed interested in stopping so I walked on to La Napoule. By now it was getting late. Crikey, I was facing a sleepover with things that go sting, prick, nip and pinch in the night. I made my way further to Théoule Sur Mer, a tiny hamlet built around a small harbour full of yachts, with the Esterel mountains behind it. What a fabulous place to be down and out. At the other end of Théoule, at the foot of a giant rock called La Pointe de L'Aiguille I found a spot well used by others in my predicament. It was dark now; I could see the bright lights of Cannes. Mosquitoes swarmed around me as I unpacked my bag. A pleasure yacht sailed idly by; the night was that clear I could hear the clinking of knives and forks as the well-to-do dined with unfurrowed brows. I toasted them with several slugs of Orangina, a chunk of cheese and the rest of the baguette. It was warm but I had to sleep huddled inside my old taped-up rip-stop nylon sleeping bag. I must have wakened ten times during the sweating night, once or twice deliriously wondering where I was.
I awoke at dawn with ants crawling all over and inside my sleeping bag. A weirdly strangled yell -- born from the seepage into consciousness of my newfound status among homo sapiens -- burst forth with epenthetical abandon: "Cock-fucking-sucker, I don't nee-fucking-eed this she-fucking-it! Here was the beginning of a day that could only get worse.
But once I was rid of the ants, with everything packed away, I looked up to see the beauty of my surroundings. I nearly wept. The apoplectic anger had changed into nirvana-summoning joy so quickly that I wondered if I wasn't going mad.
There is no time and place on earth as beautiful as early morning on this part of the French Riviera. There is something about the air: My nostrils twitched as if I were a dog setting out on the day's long anticipated walk. I couldn't help filling my lungs with the scent of pine from the forest and the salty tang of the Mediterranean. With each inhale my troubled mind was cleared, soothed and invigorated. The senses, so often shut down or numbed by the sameness of city and suburban life, are here seduced by nature at its most inspired: innumerable creeks spill from red rock cliffs to partition compact beaches nestled in magic inlets as they empty into the ocean so clear in all its permutations of green and cobalt blue that the only possible comparison is to the Garden of Eden.
I decided to walk instead of looking for a ride. Just as well, the traffic was light; the occasional car punctuating the uninhibited birdsong.
My mind gradually ceased its usual racket of aimless thoughts and random tunes and, for a while, all I heard were the birds. A sublime feeling came over me: I felt weightless, without substance, in the embrace of freedom. This feeling of, what? -- of undifferentiated totality? -- didn't last long. Whatever it was, as soon as I became aware of it, poof, it was gone. I tried to empty my mind again, but the mental noise was back, crowding out the birds. For a split second I had been here now. Perhaps for the first time in my life I was truly present, instead of peering out from behind the shield of my insufferable ego.
I was still on a high when I entered Le Trayas, another tiny village, this one built on the slopes of a hill, the Pic Martin. Le Trayas seemed less busy and touristy than the other villages; a place to come back to ... once I'd won the lottery.
Not far out of Le Trayas, I spotted a small isolated beach from the road. A path led down to it, where a few people were already sunbathing, stark naked. I scrambled down the slope as if the ocean was the first water I'd seen in weeks, dropping everything on the run, including my clothes, and dived in. The water was just that perfect temperature, like adjusting the taps on a 40C day to give you a coolly refreshing, but not cold, shower. I've never felt so clean, even though, after drying in the sun, I was sticky all over from the salt water.
My mission now was to reach the Autoroute near Fréjus, and thence to commence the serious business of autostopping to Aix-en Provence and from there to Paris.
In the small coastal town of Anthéor, I asked a few people for a couple of euros, but they looked at me as if I wasn't there. I talked with a German who was hitchhiking to Cannes. He too was broke, but cheerful. I gave him my last wedge of Camembert.
On the road into Agay, I stopped to talk to a one-armed man in his thirties. He said he was broke and had not eaten for days. He was intensely angry, spitting out merde after merde after merde as the cars passed him by. I had nothing to give him but words, but banter was the last thing he wanted. Survival had him between its teeth and before he got enough to eat or a decent place to rest, it was going to chew him to pieces. I was looking at a man who was about to die.
In Agay, I spotted a Deux Chevaux with an NL sticker. The Dutch are usually generous. I asked the guy sitting behind the steering wheel for a couple of euros. "Sorry," he said, without looking up. "No worries," I said, wondering how many encounters like this the one-armed man had endured before he started going nuts. Once more I walked to the outskirts of the town. I stuck out my thumb on the off-chance … et voilà! -- I scored a ride all the way to Fréjus.
My ride dropped me at the Roman ruins where I encountered an Englishman on his way east. He told me how to connect with the Autoroute, and blew my mind by giving me a couple of euros without my asking. "You look hungry," he said, adding that he was heading for Turkey, to the city of Konya, to look for a Sufi teacher.
I spent the euros on the last baguette in the Fréjus boulangerie. I gobbled down a third of it and shoved the rest in my bag. The Orangina bottle had long since been filled with water.
The trouble now was that it was getting late again. The thought of spending another night on an ant vs mosquito-infested beach, no matter how breathtaking the view, was out of the question. I decided to at least get the trip to Paris started.
An immobilier, content with his holiday house rentals that day, took me to Puget-sur Argens and the A8 onramp. He sped off to his home in Draguignan.
In no time a Mercedes pulled over, the driver heading to Cavaillon to the arms of his lover. Things were indeed looking up. He had just bought a sandwich merguez-frites in Fréjus. He offered me half, but had to pull over and stop to cut it. The thing has to be eaten with great care lest the sauce drip on your clothes and stain them for all eternity. If you've never had this North African-cum-French concoction you haven't lived. Simply put, a merguez sausage (made out of God knows what) and a handful of French fries are dropped into a toasted and sliced half baguette, the lot topped with Harissa Sauce. It is both delicious and deadly. (For more on the subject, clickez-vous ici). He also produced a bottle of Côtes du Rhone and two Duralex glasses, which sat neatly in his drinks tray.
He was suitably impressed with my summary of the last few days. I became downright rhapsodic describing the walk between Théoule and Le Trayas. Just as I was finishing, he opened his glove compartment and pulled out a CD. "Is this what you mean?" For a second I thought he was going to play some spineless New Age crap, but the opening few minutes of Sasha & John Digweed's Renaissance CD 1, a mix of dance, house, and techno music from the nineties, sounded like it was coming directly from heaven to bathe the moonlit beaches I now so badly wanted to call home. After some fifteen minutes, he pulled it out and inserted a CD called Immense Velocity. "This one lasts just over an hour, about how long it will take us to get to Cavaillon. Enjoy!" And did I. All windows down, we boogied on through the evening and into the night to pounding rhythms and lilting Tangerine Dream-like aural planes of melodic ecstasy.
As we neared Cavaillon I realised I was a hop, skip and jump from the town of M., where I had suffered buckshot wounds in the truffle war. Encroyable, non? What, you don't believe me? More incredible than that, the Merguez was starting to percolate in my ravaged stomach. I learned early in my travelling life never to go anywhere without a roll of toilet paper; now I was thanking the Good Lloyd for its presence in my bag. The rumbling was starting to get out of control when my ride dropped me off at the south end of Cavaillon. I scampered down an embankment and under the overpass where I enjoyed (if that's the word) my first fecal relief since leaving Nice. This massive evacuation left me exhausted. There was nothing for it but to get some sleep and head for Paris in the morning. I crawled to the other side of the overpass and lay down. This was no easy feat as the ground was on a nearly 45-degree-angle. Below me I could barely make out a small stream or canal bisecting the highway. I couldn't actually hear it for the roar of cars and camions overhead. I placed myself feet down and prayed I didn't wriggle around. A position-shifting nightmare would see me rolling like a tumbleweed into the wet.
Friday morning found me miraculously alive; I hadn't moved a centimetre. I hobbled sideways down to the stream and found it to be relatively clean. I washed my face and crawled back up to the highway.
A French girl picked me up. Whereas most of my rides to now had relented and spoken some kind of English, she refused, jabbering French like a Mexican on Benzedrine clear to Lyon. I understood next to nothing; in fact I spent most of the time trying to hypnotise my bowels. It finally worked and I heard no more from them.
She dropped me off in Lyon, again on the south side, this time unfortunately. I had to walk about five kilometres to get to the Autoroute leading north, including a half hour's walk through a long tunnel. A sign, "Pietons Interdit" at the entrance should have deterred me, but there was nowhere else to go, without perhaps getting lost for days in parts of Lyon no one, not even the inhabitants, knew were there.
I entered the fume-ridden tunnel on a walkway composed of unconnected metre-long cement slabs laid end to end over a metal grid protecting a huge pipe running underneath. Not once did I wonder about the pipe's function because every skerrick of my attention was on the slabs; they were barely wide enough to accommodate my girth, let alone my bloody bag, which I was forced to hold in front of me in a death grip. Worse, they continually rose and fell beneath my feet, threatening with each step to throw me off balance and into the oncoming path of the traffic whizzing by no less than a metre beyond my elbow. The trucks, in particular the five and six axle rigs, were a worry; I swear I heard maniacal cackles coming from the cabs, with their side mirrors straining to whack off my ear. I walked as fast as I could while sucking in my width to the thinnest possible size. It seemed certain that some protruding item of industrial building material haphazardly placed on the flat bed of a truck would eventually slice my head off, the rest of my twitching body then falling beneath axle after axle to be served up as chunks of horror-film flesh flying through the polluted air to smash through the windshield and into the face of an otherwise innocent but now screaming driver who would then lose control and careen in front of the other oncoming vehicles. Hours later the cleanup crews would stumble over my tyre-trodden bits and assume they were parts of the dozen or so dead drivers. No one would know I was ever there.
Eventually there was light at the end of the tunnel and I emerged into the sunlight, clothes drenched with sweat and several pounds lighter. The only damage was to my lungs from the exhaust of hundreds of cars.
The road divided almost immediately: Paris-Roanne or Paris-Macôn. I chose the latter and landed a ride with three French kids in a van, the driver and his girlfriend up front and the girlfriend's sister in the back. I climbed in with the sister. She was pretty in an uncut way, perhaps because she looked to be no more than fifteen: her face and body, still working their way through adolescence, had yet to decide on the finished product.
They were a strange lot; not much interested in any subject, minds on idle to the point of being neither here nor there. Maybe they were Christians. Our conversation petered out before we left Lyon.
But there was something about the girl…. Of course there is something about every young girl just because they're young. What was it? Was she the type who would try not to notice while you were feeling her up? I had known such girls in secondary school. They just sat there, not stopping you but not responding either. Before I knew it, His Nibs had sprung to attention and she was staring straight at it. Well, not at it, but at its enormous outline under my pants. No, wait, by enormous I mean that somehow it seemed more round, more firm, more fully packed than ever before. What a revoltin' development! Or was it? Shit, the last thing I needed was a moral moment with a moist maiden. Or was it a moist moment with a moral maiden. She wasn't staring because she was fixin' to scream bloody murder, was she? No, no, nothing like that. I tried to look out the window, but every time I looked back her blushing gaze was riveted on my cock, which was now quaking like an adolescent volcano. Good Lloyd, if it blew, a molten wave of spunk would engulf my leg clear to the shores of my knee. If she'd only been older, we could have fucked our brains out and the numb nuts in the front seat would never have noticed.
What should have been a pervert's dream turned out to be just plain uncomfortable. They were going to Auxerre, but I bailed out in Beaune. With, I might add, a pair of gigantic nuts number than the pea-sized bicameral equivalents residing in George W. Bush's skull.
I was just about to hop into the bushes for a relieving wank, when a snazzy Renault Vel Satis pulled over. A buxom woman flung open the passenger door: "Vous allez à Paris?" Like the little piggy who longed to go home, I cried, "Oui, oui, oui."
We spoke French for the first half of the trip and English for the rest. She lived in Dijon, had a son there, and travelled the world -- to Nepal one year, South America the next. This summer she went to Tunisia, always travelling alone. I asked her what she did. She said her work was depressing, "It doesn't matter." I mulled this strange reply over and over, until my blood nearly turned to hot wine. How could a job that required you to travel the world be depressing or of no interest? Especially with destinations like Nepal? She didn't look like a drug dealer. Or a businesswoman or a high class hooker. Maybe she trafficked in body parts. Nah. Child prostitution? Nah. Could she be a guru and too modest to talk about it? She did have a serene face … unlike my own, which was turning into a survivor's twitching mixture of lust and anger. How long before I started firing my own repetitions of merde between terminally clenched teeth?
After awhile I asked again. She sighed heavily. "All right, I work for Nestle. I sell their products to third world countries. Including milk powder for babies. Satisfied?" I should have kept quiet. Nestle's baby formula has been under fire for decades. We lapsed into silence; I took the cue and fell asleep. When I awoke, it was late afternoon. She had pulled over at the L'Hay Les Roses exit, just south of Paris. We shook hands and wished each other well.
I consulted with no less than four elderly gents on the best route to nearby Fontenay-aux-Roses. Each gave slightly different advice, so I made a sort of consensus and struck out. Within an hour I was on the street of the apartment I had been trying to reach for three long days.
At last, the "haywire" sequence of events had come to an end ... to be replaced, I was shortly to discover, by an apocalypse.
To be continued….
My word, but Hark's got himself in a right pickle here. Worse, it appears he's telling the truth for the first time, except for that reference to the village of M. But how could one of Australia's pre-eminent political polemicists have plummeted to such peripatetic penury? Such a miserable fall would never happen to the likes of Tim Blair or Andrew Bolt; it must be his left-wing karma. What on earth can have happened next? Stay tuned. -- TGW
March 9, 2006
Germaine Greer: Spot on as usual
Speaking at International Women's Day on the Gold Coast, Dr In-their-face spat bullets about a Holden car advertisement which shows a woman asking her partner about his fantasies before he drifts off on a daydream about "doing daring things in a four-wheel drive" with another woman by his side.
"Why haven't plate-glass windows in Holden showrooms been exploding all over Australia" she asked. "How much humiliation are you women up for? I promise you, they wouldn't dare do it in Europe." She said Australians were lazy. She's not wrong. Aussies are the laziest citizens in the world.
More gems followed: New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was Greer's ideal female leader. On the two women who look to be contending in the next US election, she compared Condoleeza Rice to Cruella DeVil and said Hilary Clinton was too closely linked to husband Bill. Neither are the answer to America's terminal woes.
Australia's nationalist scum will leap to their weapon's cupboards at her effrontery yet again, but she's right on all counts.
March 6, 2006
Little Johnny's list of "Things to do" for Decade Two
John Howard needed to come up with some ideas to keep the punters onside for the next ten years of his reign, so he asked wife Jeannette if she had any ideas: "You're the brains behind my brilliant career, pet, what do you think?"
She thought and thought and thought. "Well, let's begin by arresting Malcolm Fraser for treason."
"Splendid," said John, his lower lip thickening dramatically.
"Wait, I've a better, much less messy idea," she said. "We can send him on a diplomatic mission to Indonesia and get the AFP to tip off authorities that he is carrying drugs. They'll arrest him and the next thing you know he'll be sentenced to death. Then you can speak to the nation in that ordinary yet compassionate voice of yours and reassure everyone that dear Alexandre le Downier will do everything in his power to make sure the execution is painless."
John's lower lip was now so thick it was ready to burst. But wait, there was more. His snout was growing longer and longer. "Oh, dear," said Janette, rushing to his side, "perhaps that's not such a good idea. You're distinctly looking like the marsupial that murdered Bill Collins. It won't do for the mob to think you're a werewolf."
"You're right darl," said John, lip and snout zipping back to the shapes we all know and so dearly love. "Any less confronting ideas?"
Janette thought and thought and thought. "You could just keep doing the same old thing. Perhaps you could dress it up as something new."
And that's how she came up with The five great national challenges. You can read about them here.
Drawing inspiration from Mr Howard's sincere desire to remain awake during his second dynasty, Andrew Dyson set out to find the hidden meaning behind these utterly compelling, stunning and magnificent challenges. (From his column Cornered, The Age, 5 March 2006):
Refreshed and visibly reanimated by his decade of success, the Prime Minister has set the nation five challenges, each guaranteed to test its mettle. From the outset it is clear that these energetic challenges are far superior to Mr Costello's pithless bleatings, Mr Abbott's glum desiderata or Mr Turnbull's playboy frivolities. With typical bravura Mr Howard has grasped the vision thing by the eyelash, and skilfully inserted the wedge.
All Australian citizens may enter this epic contest, though the old, the ill and those held without trial are warned that some mobility is required.
For their first challenge, contestants are required to find an honest man. Despite recent eradication campaigns, small pockets of these economic retards can still be found in the less pleasant suburbs, tending their burdock and living blameless lives. Having located an honest man, the contestant must first steal his trousers, then sell them back to him. This will acquaint the victim with the realities of the market economy.
The second challenge is rebuilding the nation's infrastructure without government help. While this is a severe task, contestants with initiative will soon discover that bricks, dead wood and other building materials are readily obtainable, under cover of night, from state schools and other undeserving institutions.
Third, contestants are required to make Australia a more caring place. Caring for those who are less wealthy and, frankly, less attractive than yourself is distasteful at the best of times. Showing that you care is a perfectly acceptable alternative. If you cannot feign this, try pinching yourself discreetly on the thigh, or rubbing your upper lip with onion.
Challenge number four is encouraging the nation's youth. Contestants are reminded that the use of sharpened sticks is currently forbidden by law. Again, use your initiative.
Five -- the quest for decency. Buried beneath the gibbers somewhere west of Lasseter's Reef, the last shred of Australian decency remains. Find it, or die trying.
Contestants are reminded that our national debt forbids the disbursement of cash prizes to those who complete the course. Finalists will instead be presented with a likeness of the PM in pewter, and the comforting assurance of another decade of neo-conservative stewardship. Remember, you have to be in it to win it.
For a further treat, please see Melanie L'Brody's I'm sorry, you and me John, we're over
Posted by Willikers at 9:27 AM
March 5, 2006
The Weekly Gee (11)
Whoops! Maurie Gee says this graphic is not his. Anybody know who did it? -- TGW
Posted by Willikers at 2:19 PM
March 3, 2006
Mourning The Lyin' King's ten year Reich - Final day
Tonight it's Melbourne's turn to kill the fatted calf. Those commoners (formerly known as citizens) grateful for any trickled down crumbs from the plates of their Tory superiors please make your way to the wheelie bins near the servants entrance of the Myer Family Toorak Mansion, Cronulla -- oops, I mean Cranlana. No one but the corporate toffs who are invited know exactly where it is, but the forecast is for a balmy evening, so just stick your noses out the window and follow the odour of venal hubris.
As yet another toast is raised tonight to the rodent of the hour, all bets are on as to what he will say, if anything, about the headline in The Australian today:
A sensitive diplomatic cable sent directly to John Howard six years ago warned of alleged kickbacks in AWB's contracts to supply wheat to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food program.
The cable, from a senior diplomat and headed for the attention of the Prime Minister and, among others, his former adviser Max Moore-Wilton, was released as the Cole inquiry threatened to execute search warrants at AWB headquarters to uncover missing notebooks recording hundreds of crucial meetings with ministers and government officials.
The cable follows Mr Howard's repeated claims he was unaware of alleged kickbacks until they were raised by the Volcker inquiry late last year.
"We did not know that kickbacks were being paid by AWB. The suspicions of that first arose in the context of the Volcker inquiry which was long after the oil-for-food program had ended," he said last week.
Mr Howard is named on a list of recipients from the highest levels of government and intelligence organisations, including Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Trade Minister Mark Vaile, as well as the head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation.
Prior to the cable being tabled at the inquiry, Mr Howard told parliament yesterday that no one in his Government knew of the kickbacks until 2003. AWB is accused of funnelling $290 million to Saddam's regime.
"Let me say again, lest there be any doubt in the minds of anybody in this parliament: no knowledge in relation to the alleged bribery by AWB Ltd was in the possession of members of my Government, in my possession or any of my colleagues' at the time those offences occurred," Mr Howard told parliament yesterday.
Johnny is the master and ducking and weaving, so whatever he says, if anything, will be solid gold.
I'm just wondering if there is a precedent for all this. In a supposedly democratic state, that is. I have a feeling there isn't. A government so contemptuous of its people and yet supported and then elected over and over by the same people … it beggars belief. The real key to all this must reside with Labor. For ten years they have offered no opposition, leaving the Australian Liberals as incumbents in a one party nation. What then, are people to do?
Anthem for Howard's Second Ten Year Reich
White Australia here we come
Right back where we started from
Where hucksters and haters bloom in the spring,
Each morning at dawning
Johnny sprints to one-up Ming
A booze-kissed racist says "don't be late"
Industry reps can hardly wait
Seal off those borders, hurry mate
White Australia here we come
Not directly connected with the present pageantry of corruption, but perhaps a taste of the next ten year Reich is this little titbit:
Petro Georgiou, one of only a handful of Liberal members of parliament with a conscience -- he who fought against mandatory detention -- is being challenged for pre-selection. By whom? By Joshua Frydenberg, a director of global banking at Deutsche Bank and former senior adviser to the Prime Minister on national security. For what reason? Georgiou is the only national Liberal MP to have presided over five consecutive elections where his vote has declined. And why is this? Because he is the member for Kooyong, Menzies' old blue-ribbon electorate wherein resides the Myer Family mansion, Cranlana. There are only so many doctor's wives in Toorak. The rest must wonder how this former cutthroat, eased into power from his reputation as Jeff Kennett's hatchet man, suddenly turned into a compassionate human being. Not allowed in these parts!
To finish this round of political infamy, here are few meaty articles and letters from the last couple of weeks on Howard's nauseating glory. Read 'em and weep.
• For an audio snapshot of the Squidgereen's ten years of power, listen to the ABC's The World Today:
• "This Government decided in its first budget that it could not afford to continue the scheme that provided free dental treatment for low income earners. But it had had no trouble a few years later finding the money for the 30 per cent rebate for private health insurance, that at far greater cost subsidises the cost of dental treatment mainly for higher-income earners."
Mike Steketee: Richer, harsher decade
• "During his 10 years as Prime Minister, one of John Howard's greatest achievements has been to make the most of his opponents on the Labor side. For most of the time, most of the Labor team seems to have shown up simply in order for the political game to keep going; to be there to kick the ball back in after the Government has scored a behind or when it's gone out on the full."
Shaun Carney: Little to stop Howard
• "The mantra of choice has polluted the minds of our political class, both Liberal and Labor. Our leaders see the triumph of the open economy as an excuse to privatise society."
George Megalogenis: Government by default
• "Respect? For the man who misled us over the children overboard affair; the man who created the infamous distinction between core and non-core promises; the man who used $4 million of taxpayers' money to pay outstanding entitlements to the employees of a failed company of which his brother happened to be chairman?
"Respect? For the man who created an admirable set of standards of ministerial propriety and then revised them downwards rather than sack a mate; the man who sent Australian troops to invade Iraq, based on false information about Saddam's non-existent weapons of mass destruction; the man who never seems to know anything about the kind of scandals (such as the corrupt wheat deals) that would once have had any responsible minister hanging his head in shame, if not actually resigning?"
Hugh Mackay: Howard: an ordinary bloke who feeds a nation's prejudices
• "The Prime Minister sees little need for change. The cricket fan believes the stonewaller stays longest at the crease. Yet in the absence of a reform agenda, we now are seeing squabbling - low-level but divisive fights over trivia such as flag-burning and burqa bans."
Christian Kerr: Drifting in stagnant waters
• "[Under Howard] 'family values' becomes a code for being anti-gay, anti-euthanasia and anti-abortion. It is alarming to hear how frequently young people today embrace this kind of neo-conservatism, almost like a race to see who can be more right-wing.
"This generation has also been the generation to feel the impacts of the transition to a privatised society the most deeply. We have witnessed public transport losing its emphasis on personal service, while suffering a tangible decline in efficiency. And the "user pays" mentality that has now infiltrated health care, higher education and the utility sector has ultimately chipped away at the notion of the common good, that as individuals we are willing to make a collective sacrifice for the betterment of society as a whole. It's the inverse of socialism, the death of big picture idealism - lost to the ethos of debt, competition, user-pays culture, and rampant individualism."
James Norman: Howard's young people are shallow and disengaged
• "Howard once said he preferred to take an optimistic view of the past. I always thought this a puzzling claim. Optimism is properly an attitude about the future, one that puts a premium on hope and faith in the inherent order of things. Howard made this claim in one of his forays into the debate about relations between settlers and the indigenous populations in Australian history. He has taken a strong personal interest in arguments about Australia's history and has been a champion of those who see it mainly as a triumphant story of progress and development, albeit with a few black spots.
"Whatever we think about Howard's understanding of Australian history, after 10 years in power we know far more about how he sees the past 100 years than how he sees the next."
Judith Brett: Howard: man of this moment
• Aren't other fair-minded Australians tiring of John Howard's "Schultz Defence"?
Never in our history has a prime minister known so little about so much. He should take a lesson from a great statesman: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
Only a person with the arrogance of Howard could expect to come out of this scandal not smelling of sewage. But I suppose he can count on the willingness of the people to overlook his transgressions to be re-elected PM in the next election. Maybe the Australian public deserve to be treated like mushrooms for their lack of scrutiny of this contemptuous character. - Michael Higgins
• Hugh Mackay ("Howard: an ordinary bloke who feeds a nation's prejudices", Opinion, 21/2) has it almost right. The key to Howard's electoral success is that he appeals to Australians' basest instincts.
But electoral success is not real leadership. Real political leaders call us to be better men and women, not merely comfortable ones. Think of Churchill, who promised Britons nothing but blood, sweat and tears. Or Roosevelt, who called on Americans to be fearless in the face of the Great Depression.
The real tragedy of the Howard decade is that, with the exception of the Greens, the opposition parties too have forgotten that real leaders summon the citizens of a nation to be better people, and not just better-off people. - Dirk Baltzly
• "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his (peoples') soul" (Mark: Chapter 8, verse 36)
Most of us, but not all, have become more comfortable financially under John Howard, at a cost to our collective self-esteem and sense of fairness and plain decency. Many at the bottom of the pile have sunk deeper, with the contemptuous neglect of the traumatic lives led by indigenous Australians the most shameful.
For all Mr Howard's blatant courting of Australia's battlers, they are the ones who will lose wages or jobs and time with their families under his draconian new industrial relations laws. Education and health, potential circuit breakers of disadvantage that are capable of generating new hope and the skills for a better future, have been squeezed to dangerous levels despite a large budget surplus.
Starting with Pauline Hanson, the expression of racist sentiments has been encouraged and prime ministerial propriety has been lost to non-core promises, to stonewalling and to an amazing loss of memory. To the children overboard and the shameful treatment of asylum seekers we must now add the wheat bribes scandal, channelling money to the dictator our soldiers were sent to fight.
We have the potential and the resources to be a fair and decent society - no longer can we make that claim, thanks to John Howard's mean-spirited lack of vision and his brazen political ability to appeal to our baser instincts. - Sid Spindler
• Most of the comments about John Howard have missed the quality that has been the most distinctive during his term of office. What Howard has done, above all, has been to destroy the "unwritten rule" that, whichever party is in power, the self-elected intellectuals (generally of the left) will dictate policy on the big national issues.
Howard did this, notably, in the Tampa incident, when he articulated what the great majority of Australians were thinking, but might have been hesitant to say: that "we will decide who comes to Australia".
Time and again, he has infuriated the fashionable left (beloved of, and loving, the Italian-suited, French clock-collecting Paul Keating) by saying the words that mainstream Australia wanted to hear. He has ignored fashion and refused to blindly accept the mantra of the three Rs (refugees, republic, and reconciliation), preferring to make considered, pragmatic decisions that reflect the wishes of his mainstream electorate rather than those of the superior voices of radio commentators, university professors and others who claim to know better than the "ordinary people". - Rob Siedle
• John Howard is certainly no fool and knows exactly which buttons to press in his headlong pursuit of populism: he has now angered Australia's Muslim leaders by saying that a fragment of the Islamic community is "utterly antagonistic to our kind of society" (The Age, 21/2).
Pauline Hanson taught Mr Howard the power of xenophobia, even if at the time she didn't know what it meant.
We have a plethora of shock jocks in this country who relish their Islamophobic message as they, too, know this is what their audience want to hear. The fact that they are aided and abetted by our Prime Minister is a blight on the collective conscience of Australia. - Christopher Paul
• So John Howard believes there is a tiny minority of Muslims whose views on jihad and women are out of step with mainstream Australian values. Hmm, I would have thought a number of AFL footballers as well as one or two parliamentarians exhibit "extreme attitudes to women" - but Mr Howard found no need to comment on that.
Mr Howard also took Australia to war in Iraq on the basis of a doctrine that was certainly out of step with mainstream public opinion. But apparently it's OK when he does it.
Or perhaps it is that there are no votes in denigrating Australian footballers and pointing out his own inconsistencies, but many, many votes in dog whistling that it's OK to be prejudiced against Muslims. - Chris Curnow
March 2, 2006
Puny Nephew's Neo-Nuremberg Rallies - Day two
Tonite's "sedate" bash is in Sydney, at the Westin Hotel. Don't forget those chequebooks. Or, if you're one of the government's discarded souls, hang around in back with cupped hands.
Apologists for John Howard's decade of corruption, incompetence and crimes against humanity are well represented in the media these days. Today's entries include Gerard Henderson and John Carroll of LaTrobe University.
Henderson, who grows smaller in stature with every passing day, defended the indefensible on Fran Kelly's Radio National breakfast show. Like many coached or inspired by Howard, he has perfected Little Johnny's interrupting "Well, well, well," with each "well" rising in pitch to insure the interviewer shuts the fuck up. No matter what heinous moment Kelly brought up in the drab little fascist's ten-year Reich, Henderson was there to give it a positive spin.
In The Age, John Carroll concluded his article with: "John Howard may well be remembered for his virtuosity at the craft of politics. It will be a pity if that overshadows his contribution to the nation's wellbeing."
Come again? And again and again and again?
Next door on the opinion page to the assessment by John "Sorry, I just blew in from a decade on Mars" Carroll, is Kenneth Davidson's rather more cogent summing up. It's a must read, but here are a few excerpts:
"The task of nation-building has been handed over to haute finance because the political process has been corrupted. Politicians are terrified that if they put the public interest ahead of private financial interests they will be branded financially and economically irresponsible.
"The politics of division is a race to the bottom. Now Costello and others are seeking to play the race card, albeit sotto voce, for political advantage. Which politician is prepared to make the obvious point that the best long-term breeding ground for fundamentalism is fundamentalist schools, or military adventures that serve no real national purpose but cause collateral damage to social solidarity by inflaming ethnic tensions? This provides the excuse for government to suppress dissent with anti-democratic anti-terrorism and sedition laws that isolate "them" further and could even promote the terrorism they ostensibly attempt to prevent."
Meanwhile Peter "Hey, what about me?" Costello is making a fool of himself on all fronts. Even Greg Sheridan, Australia's foremost armchair general, is gagging at Costello's recent attempts to reposition himself from being to the left of Howard to becoming "über Howard" in rousing the racist rabble. Quoth Sheridan:
"Costello's foolish, gratuitous, undisciplined, and slyly offensive comments about Muslims in his windy speech on citizenship last week may well signal a change in the way he intends to pursue the prime ministership in the future.
"For the past 10 years he has tried to differentiate himself from Howard on the Left: Costello the republican, Costello the supporter of reconciliation, Costello the champion of a tolerant society. He ran as Howard lite, Howard minus, the little Howard.
"Now it seems he is going to differentiate himself from Howard on the Right. He will presumably now become the uber Howard, Howard plus, the meta Howard.
"The bigger disappointment about Costello is just how lazy and shallow his thinking is whenever he's not speaking from a Treasury script.
"An alternative view of Costello in the business community is that he's been a lucky Treasurer and a lazy Treasurer, a high-taxing, high spending Treasurer with a modest reform record. That he is prepared to play around so irresponsibly on race and religion to further his leadership ambitions represents his most pitiful moment in politics."
Let's not forget Alexandre Le Downier, Howard's imperious Minister for Ministerial Ignorance. After weeks of pleading ignorance of the AWB kickbacks, evidence was suddenly found indicating that he'd read cables suggesting impropriety way back in 2000. To which he replied, "Of course I'd have read them." Are we stupid? Just because he's denied knowing anything before doesn't mean that by admitting now that he's known something all along that he is in any way mendacious or less than an honourable member of the obviously squeaky clean Howard Government. He simply didn't believe there was any truth to the cables in question. If so, why should he bother to investigate? When some upstart Opposition MP shouted, "But that's your job, you idiot!" Monsieur Le Downier took great umbrage. "How dare you impugn my integrity as Australia's leading obfuscator and pompous twit. I know when to turn a blind eye to dodgy business deals when it's in the corporate national interest. Low-life scum!"
To celebrate his invincibility, the renowned Karaoke chanteur and cross-dresser plans to entertain the conservative throng tonight at the Westin Hotel with his scintillating rendition of "It ain't me, babe."
Posted by Willikers at 11:45 AM
March 1, 2006
Spewspoll: Avaricious sheep vote Howard greatest PM
The emperor walked in the procession under his crimson canopy. And all the people of the town, who had lined the streets or were looking down from the windows, said that the emperor's new clothes were beautiful. "What a magnificent robe! And the train! How well the emperor's clothes suit him!"
None of them were willing to admit that they hadn't seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor's clothes been such a success.
"But he doesn't have anything on!" cried a little child.
--The Emperor's New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen
What sort of person would give their vote for Australia's best Prime Minister to the man who recently compounded his earlier lies in regard to "children overboard" by uttering these words: "they irresponsibly sank the damn boat, which put their children into the water".
Think of the thousands of wild-eyed supporters, right arms extended in adoration as they cheered Adolph Hitler's triumphant cavalcade down the festive avenues of another time.
On second thought, that's not a very good comparison. Nobody notices John Howard.
On the eve of his tenth year as virtual dictator, John Howard is exhibiting the hubris of a man who can no longer see beyond his own Pinocchio nose. As the AWB inquiry moves closer to the invisible lair wherein skulk he and his henchmen, Howard feels no threat from a public totally at ease with his corruption. They love him because their pocketbooks have been filled with the proceeds from the sale of shorn hair, extracted gold fillings and valuables stolen from the vulnerable among us whose basic social services have been gassed and dumped in the open graveyard of Australian avarice.
That's right, Howard lovers, you've turned a blind eye to massive cuts in health, education and welfare for ten shameful years, cuts that have been transformed into bribes to secure your vote at every election.
If that were not enough, you backed him to the hilt when he spent millions treating asylum-seekers like Hitler's Jews; you couldn't be bothered when he risked the safety of every Australian by becoming the junior partner in the Axis of Evil's invasion of Iraq, an invasion that has invigorated terrorism and brought it to everyone's doorstep; you did little more than grumble when he shafted your children's future by propping up his mates in the greenhouse gases business instead of signing on to Kyoto.
And you follow him like zombies every time he hops on your shoulder and whispers hate, hate, hate at anyone not conforming to your xenophobic lust for a return to White Australia. Except that the white in the White Australia you long for is the colour of bloodless and sightless insects living under rocks.
You are just like the German people who looked the other way during the years of Nazi terror. You are the self-centred, spineless demographic that brings nations to their knees.
Enjoy the prosperity this thieving regime has brought to you. But know that you are like Hitler's loyal citizens who, without remorse, moved into the stolen houses and apartments of forcibly vacated Jews being sent to concentration camps.
Enjoy your leader's tenth anniversary celebrations while you can. One day, in the not too distant future, when this nation recovers its ethics and dignity, your children will look upon the years of your self-serving, treasonous apathy with loathing.
(Note: Thanks to Maurie Gee for the "Howard in Hitler's Clothing" image. TGW)