December 29, 2006
Happy New Year from our future
The following photo (taken in 2000) and words are by Don Bartletti. They are a fine tribute to the best in us, and an antidote to the worst. -- Olney Garkle
Copyright © 2000, Don Bartletti
I was on the roof of a pitching gasoline tank car on a freight train I'd hopped 15 hours earlier in Tapachula, a Mexican border town in the southern state of Chiapas. With me on board were 40 or 50 stowaways, some children as young as 12 -- all illegal immigrants from Central America, trying to bypass Mexican authorities as they made their way north to the United States. They call this train "The Beast" for its terrors: hunger, thirst, brutality from cruel gangsters and corrupt police, amputation or death for those who slip and fall under its steel wheels. For weeks I'd been riding the rails to document the journey of its youngest passengers: Honduran children hoping to reunite with mothers who left them behind many years before when they sought work in "El Norte".
The tank car rocked wildly from side to side, and my eye caught sight of a horse running through a stand of banana trees. My concentration focused through the camera's viewfinder and I spotted two children astride the galloping horse, racing the train. I managed to squeeze off five frames before the horse disappeared into the jungle ahead of me.
When I see this image I marvel at its content. For me it captures the essence of joy, in the midst of a difficult journey. A surge of memory always sends me back to the train, to the things this picture didn't record. I can hear the whistles, yells and applause of the stowaways next to me cheering for the Chiapas racers.
(Originally published in The Good Weekend, December 9, 2006)
December 23, 2006
Merry Christmas from the neighbourhood pariahs
The neighbours to our left threw an afternoon Christmas drinks party on their driveway last week, one of the worst days in Melbourne's history, and we weren't invited. There were some among us who were hurt, but not me. "Why," I asked snarkily, "would you want to sit outside with a bunch of John Howard supporters and drink alcohol on a 37 º Celsius day with smoke from the Gippsland bush fires choking your lungs?"
Of course, I know why they shunned us -- me, actually. It's the loud music I play while washing the dishes: Sasha and John Digweed alternating with Prokofiev, George Russell or Hoyt Ming and his Pep-Steppers. (When I really feel like being an arsehole, on goes Philip Glass.) It's my voluminous cursing in the back yard when the neighbours two doors over burn plastic rubbish in their fireplace on warm days. It's the time I called the neighbours on our right every time their new dog barked at 6 AM one Sunday morning. I must have got them to pick up the phone twenty times before hanging up. They'd obviously left him out because they were too hungover from drinking Jim Beam and coke the night before, the fucking genetic garbage.
As for the neighbours throwing the drinks party, they're right out of the ark. They still believe in John Howard: he's a nice man who will save them from terrorism and the kind of people Pauline Hanson hates. Which may be the real reason for the snub: I'm a Mexican, worse than an Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian or Indonesian. They've heard of those countries, but Mexico? I can just hear them: "Isn't Mexico one of those shops you see in malls? Oh, no, they're are African. Thank God he's not one of those inkblots. This neighbourhood is meant for Anglo-Saxon John Howard Party supporters who wear cardigans, mow their lawns every Saturday, wash their cars every Sunday, and vote conservative every election!"
Too bad for them. After the weekly rubbish collection, I won't be putting the lid back on their wheelie bins in case it rains, no sirree. As for the neighbours to the right (who were probably their guests of honour), I won't be gently placing the empty bottles of "Passion Pop" (dropped on our nature strip by their kids when they come home) on the brick edifice encasing their mailbox anymore. No sirree, from now on I'll just throw the empties on their lawn, the fucking trailer trash.
So, Merry Christmas, motherfuckers. Er, I don't mean you, dear reader. To you, a genuine Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the displaced persons here at happily hated house.
-- Tommy Pendejo
December 20, 2006
A Christmas message for Iraqis from Australia's blood drinking Chicken Hawks
Courtesy, Michael Leunig, The Age
December 19, 2006
Wrong Turn: An allegory of religious conservatism and its prey
In a strange reversal of roles, I sat down to watch a slasher flick called Wrong Turn, while my teenage daughter repaired to her bedroom to watch the more suitable Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
I've seen enough of these movies over the years to assemble a profile of the men who inhabit these movies, the types who abduct and slaughter pretty teenage girls. (Their boyfriends are often abducted too, but you never see them being hacked up -- just the girls.)
These men all share the following attributes:
1) They live in the backwoods or outside of very small towns, usually in the south of the United States, or in the outback of Australia.
2) They are congenital idiots owing to generations of incestuous inbreeding.
3) They wouldn't have showered in weeks or months or ever, and thus stink to high heaven.
4) They are good mechanics; their pick-ups or utes, however old, always manage to run.
5) If they live near a small town and are sane enough to mix with the townsfolk, they will likely attend the local Christian church.
6) If they are sane enough to vote, their political preferences will always be for the conservative party: in the USA, the Republicans; in Australia, the John Howard Party.
7) Although popular consensus attributes inbred cretinism as the reason for their desire to murder, dismember, cook and eat female teenagers, the real reason no doubt has more to do with their obeisance to right wing Christianity, for which worldly beauty is blasphemous.
It has been said that if you scratch a conservative or an assimilationist you will uncover a racist. But here we have taken the family tree to its genealogical root, that of the repressed and mindless Christian face of your George W. Bush/John Howard supporter.
-- Tommy Pendejo
December 18, 2006
What happened to Pakistan
Back in the early 70s I spent some time in Pakistan, mostly en route to India and Nepal or back to Afghanistan. Those two countries were where it was at for travellers on the Hippie Trail.
Pakistan wasn't a particularly comfortable country to be in, especially for western women. There was a vague feeling of menace from some of the younger Muslims, a feeling neither myself nor my friends and fellow travellers ever experienced in Iran*, Afghanistan, India or Nepal. But all in all, Pakistan was still a part of the "civilised" world; that is, tolerance was guaranteed by law.
I returned to the west in July 1973, on the eve of the first coup in Afghanistan, when the amiable King Zahir was deposed by his cousin, Sheikh Daoud. In fact, the day after I crossed over to Iran from Herat, all borders to Afghanistan were closed. Afghanistan has never been the same since, and probably never will be again.
Pakistan suffered a similar fate a few years later, when Zia-ul-haq came to power. What had been a somewhat worrisome but democratic nation now closed, in the grip of religious fanaticism, not its borders but its tolerance.
Pakistani novelist Moni Mohsin, briefly describes what happened and why Pakistan is still lost to us.
-- Carl O'Hageman
* Because of the Shah's insane laws against dope, often resulting in public executions, everyone sped through the country without looking left or right. Once across the border into Afghanistan, they relaxed and spent the rest of their time stoned.
Best of Times, Worst of TimesOriginally published in The Sunday Times
By Moni Mohsin, from an interview by Caroline Scott
I come from a family of educated, westernised people. My father and grandfather studied at Cambridge, but we were equally rooted in eastern traditions and I felt completely at home with both. At my convent school in Lahore, I learnt the Lord’s Prayer and sang psalms. I read Enid Blyton alongside the Koran, yet there was never any question that we were anything other than Muslim. So when General Zia came to power in July 1977 and announced he was going to bring Pakistan in line with Islamic thought, we were all taken aback.
Pakistan has never had a taste for extremist religious parties. I’m a Shi’ite and I grew up in a minority, but I never felt that this was a problem. I had Parsee teachers and a Christian ayah. We accommodated each other’s differences. But now Zia had brought them centre stage, the genie was out of the bottle. Overnight, all non-Muslim practices — such as kite-flying or attending a New Year’s Eve party — were banned.
One of the first things he did was to pass a Hudood ordinance. So if a woman was raped and brought the case to court, she had to provide four male witnesses to prove she was speaking the truth. If she couldn’t do this, she was accused of adultery and stoned to death. Obviously, women stopped reporting rape and men became more aggressive.
A slogan, Chadar aur chaardhiwaaree (“The sheet and four walls”), started to appear everywhere. The message was women should be covered and confined to the home. If you were caught outside, you were asking for trouble. In fact, “She asked for it” became a kind of mantra.
My father is a very devout Muslim, but a staunch supporter of women’s rights. I remember him coming back from the mosque in a towering rage because the mullah had incited the congregation to take a stand against westernised working women, saying: “It is your duty to drag women into their homes and keep them there.” There was a lovely playground outside our house, where I’d played as a child. It soon became overgrown because no women could go there.
There was a growing feeling of anger and hostility towards us. I’d feel it all around me if I walked through a bazaar, because men were becoming more emboldened by women’s lowered status. They would comment on our clothes, disrupt whatever we were doing, and instruct us to cover up. If you went into a cinema hall with your head uncovered, men would pinch you or run up and bang into your shoulder hard. I felt anyone could do anything at any time. Worst of all, this was dressed up as belief in the sanctity of womanhood — as if this kind of behaviour was for our own protection.
When President Zia tried to pass a law that said the testimony of two women was equal to that of one man, women were in uproar. Seventy of us came out onto the streets of Lahore. Our procession was surrounded by about 500 policemen, who tear-gassed us and beat us and abused us.
Poets were silenced, journalists imprisoned, including my brother-in-law, who was kept in custody without trial. A man and a woman sitting together on a park bench could be stopped and asked for their marriage licence. I was once walking along a beach in Karachi with my cousin when we were stopped by a policeman and asked to prove how we were related. We were threatened with arrest unless we came up with either a marriage licence or paid a bribe.
Throughout my childhood the rickety gate to our house was always open. My father was passionately anti-guns, but after my aunt and my cousin were robbed at gunpoint, the gate was replaced by a steel monster flanked by a couple of guards with Kalashnikovs. Thieves could ring your doorbell before pointing a gun at you and asking you to hand everything over. Sunnis were pitted against Shi’ites, and the streets became dangerous. I remember Shi’ite doctors being picked off and shot on their way home from work.
When Zia’s aeroplane was blown out of the sky on August 17, 1988, people danced on the streets. One man picked bougainvillea flowers, tucked them in his turban and danced for joy. On TV, after 11 years, female presenters took off their headscarves and threw them to the floor.
I don’t know if Zia did what he did just to stay in power or if he believed he was doing the right thing. And I don’t really care. All I know is he wrecked my country and made me a stranger in my own land. People are very resilient, but once the genie is out of the bottle, it is incredibly difficult to get it back in again.
December 12, 2006
Overlooked Items (2)
Here at Bilegrip (headquarters for the Political Prisoners of the Future), we keep throwing juicy articles on the desk for potential use in this article or that, but they just pile up, never to be used. Unable to grasp a reality wherein our opinions are not awaited breathlessly by everyone (not to mention the potential uselessness of our very existence), I, we, feel you should read these offerings and are thus unable to shitcan them.
Phillip Adams: Terrorism running on fear
After September 11 the world was frozen in terrorism and the manipulation of fear rapidly escalated, eroding America’s civil liberties, adding to presidential power at the cost of Congress, Senate and constitution, justifying a war in Afghanistan and another, now one of the worst fiascos in military and political history, in Iraq. In this pas de deux, Bush and bin Laden pirouette like Torvill and Dean, but the score is a death march, not Ravel’s Bolero. This is symbiosis, a surreal alliance of two religious fundamentalists; of two fools who need each other.
Lionel Shriver: The last refuge of the outrageous
Freedom of speech that does not embrace the right to offend is a farce. The stipulation that you may say whatever you like so long as you don't hurt anyone's feelings canonises the milquetoast homily: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Since rare is the sentiment that doesn't outrage somebody, rest assured that if we enshrine this prissy fortune-cookie aphorism into law, none of us will say anything at all.
I'm sorry, but I'm under no obligation to respect you, or anything you believe. Respect is earned. It is not an entitlement. Since I find evolution credible and well supported by material evidence, I have every reason to regard creationists as delusional crackpots, which would make my at once respecting their beliefs patently absurd. Similarly, in books and articles, I am under no obligation to accord respect to any group, to any ethnicity, community, nation, or religion that hasn't, in my view, earned it.
Tim Flannery: Climate's last chance
By the mid-1970s, the Arctic icecap began melting away at the rate of 8 per cent a decade. This rate of melting persisted almost unchanged until 2004, by which time about one-quarter of the icecap had melted, revealing the dark ocean underneath.
During the summer, the sun falls for 24 hours a day on the Arctic icecap, delivering a huge amount of energy. But ice is bright, and before its melting the Arctic icecap reflected 90 per cent of the sun's energy back into space, keeping the planet cool. But as the ice has melted, more of the sun has fallen on the ocean, and it absorbs 90 per cent of the sun's energy, turning it into heat.
By last year, so much of the sunlight was being captured by the ocean and turned into heat energy that a dramatic change occurred: the ocean stayed so warm that the winter ice did not form properly, and the following summer about 300,000 square kilometres of ice melted. The same thing happened this year, so now huge areas of ocean are exposed where just a few short years ago there was ice.
Before 2004, the rate of melt was such that scientists believed the icecap would melt entirely by about 2100. At the trajectory set by the new rate of melt, however, there will be no Arctic icecap in the next five to 15 years. And with no ice, the Arctic region will rapidly begin heating, perhaps by as much as 12 degrees.
This change will put further pressure on the Greenland icecap, which is already melting at the stupendous rate of 235 cubic kilometres a year. If it succumbs to the heat, the ocean will rise by six metres, and icecaps in the Antarctic may destabilise.
James Hanson, director of NASA's Goddard Institute, is arguably the world authority on climate change. He predicts that we have just a decade to avert a 25-metre rise of the sea. Picture an eight-storey building by a beach, then imagine waves lapping its roof. That's what a 25-metre rise in sea level looks like.
Susan Maushart (a sample from): iAnxiety
Constiplaystation: having abnormally infrequent or painful turns at the video console.
mySpace Cadet: a teenager who spends too much time away with the pixels.
False-Positive Parenting: pretending to hug a child in order to read his Instant Message screen.
Infomaniac: a woman with an uncontrollable urge for text.
iDentity Crisis: when you can’t remember the hint to remember your password.
Michael Leunig: Lest we forget
Now it happens again - the all-powerful Australian swinger-people have changed their minds and are rejecting the war in Iraq. After having endorsed it at the ballot boxes they are now disowning it in the opinion polls.
The shouting and the tumult dies, the captains and the kings depart. Iraq lies mutilated, traumatised and chaotic. Western civilisation has once more created shit and derision in someone else's home. Has something gone wrong or has it all gone as guaranteed in the primal darkness of the great, white Western mind: this racist, relic treasure we're told must be defended?
What has taken the swinging people so long? Could it be that they secretly enjoy a little taste of fresh blood, but when it gets tainted with shit, then they spit it out and go and water the roses?
And where have they gone now - the ones who cheered and promoted this cowardly war: the ones who were never conscripted, the thinkers, writers and commentators - even the odd bishop and cartoonist who rose up to help with the government's dirty, deceitful work - what do these cruel blundering idiots say about this mess and misery which is spreading out of control? Most likely they are working on their exit strategies - fudging, skulking and weaseling their way back to nicey-nicey land.
Guy Rundle: The rat pack is in poll position
One way or another across the English-speaking world we are currently running what are more or less post-democratic societies. British New Labour rules with 36 per cent of the vote, and the support of only 22 per cent of the adult population. The turnout is not apathy about politics, but simple resignation at the uselessness of turning out in a first-past-the-post system when the contending parties are practically identical. Labour has no intention of letting that go, and nor do the Tories, which is why they are reported to have held talks about the possibility of a grand coalition if the next election should give the Liberal Democrats enough seats to hang the parliament. Should that occur, the plan goes, the larger of either Labour or Conservative would govern with the in-principle support of the other party on key issues such as passage of the budget and conduct of war, but without being coalition partners. Both sides will argue that first-past-the-post systems are necessary to have governments that can implement clear initiatives - such as Gordon Brown's recently established commission to find out why people are so disengaged from politics.
Patricia Anderson reviewing Shelly Gare's book, The triumph of the Airheads …
Those MBA and masters degrees that seem to be bestowed like free samples at a cosmetics counter, the erosion of literacy in schools, the disappearance of reasonable manners, the blooming of generic conversational mannerisms lifted from some American sitcom, these are all grist to Gare's mill. In increasingly unrecognisable times, she bemoans a world in which knowledge and common sense are an inconvenience and problems are dismissed by ethical midgets, buffered by more ethical midgets whose heads all nod together around the boardroom table like a field of sunflowers.
There were more, but I couldn't find an internet presence for them. Wait, there is another one. James Ellroy wrote a two page "final autobiographical statement" in the LA Times recently. Each sentence is fired from an AK-47. Here is his brief description of the people who migrated to Los Angeles in the Forties and became the underbelly of the whitebreads and their two-car garages.
James Ellroy: The Great Right Place: James Ellroy comes home
… picaresque grifters, dollar-driven D.A.s, well-hung gigolos, hollow-eyed strumpets, hophead jazz musicians, pervert cops, alcoholic private eyes, sadistic studio heads, laudanum-lapping layabouts, homosexual informants, religious quacks and an uncategorizable array of stupes with indefinable psychopathic mandates and plain inconsolable despair.
-- Olney Garkle
December 9, 2006
Cane 'em off stage
Courtesy, Bill Leak, The Australian
December 8, 2006
Question Time fun with TinTin and The Weasel
Courtesy, Michael Leunig
It's hard to see how the John Howard Party will ever get Kevin Rudd's measure. Rudd is too quick and incisive to come up stuttering when attacked by pompous, sycophantic fop, Little Lord Downer, or Peter "The Jerk" Costello, or Tony "I'm God and you're not" Abbott. As for Howard, his repertoire of passive-aggressive gobbledygook is already starting to wear thin. Increasingly, his rejoinders will sound like a talking robot suffering from part failure.
Here are a couple of encounters from this week's question time. First, ABC's PM Howard holds firm on Iraq:
KEVIN RUDD: "I refer to the report of the Iraq Study Group, headed by former US secretary of state, James Baker, which concludes that: 'current US policy is not working. Making no changes in policy would simply delay the day of reckoning at a high cost'. Does the Prime Minister agree that current Coalition strategy in Iraq has failed?"
JOHN HOWARD: "A premature American departure from Iraq would almost certainly produce greater sectarian violence and further deterioration of conditions, leading to a number of the adverse consequences outlined [in the report]. The near term results would be a significant power vacuum, greater human suffering, regional destabilisation and a threat to the global economy. Al-Qaeda would depict our withdrawal as historic victory. If we leave and Iraq descends into chaos, the long-range consequences could eventually require the United States to return. Now, they're not my words or Alexander Downer's words, they are the words of James Baker and Lee Hamilton, a bipartisan commission of inquiry."
[Garkle note: Not only did he fail to answer the question, but he fails to see that Al-Qaeda has already won the war, and that the present chaos is a direct result of the invasion.]
KEVIN RUDD: "Further to my … previous questions to the Prime Minister, why is the Prime Minister the only world leader who refuses to accept that current Coalition policy in Iraq is not working?"
JOHN HOWARD: "Mr Speaker, I've indicated on numerous occasion that I wish the operations ... were going differently. And I have said repeatedly that there is a case for reworking some of the tactics, Mr Speaker. But the fundamental, the fundamental position ... is that the Government is starkly different. What the Opposition wants is a course of action in Iraq which would produce the very bloodbath and descent into further disaster ..."
And then … From Michelle Grattan: Rampant Rudd
KEVIN RUDD: "How can the Government claim to be a supporter of family values when Australian detention centres have been used to lock up Australian kids?"
JOHN HOWARD: "That is the equivalent of saying that anybody who suffers any kind of injury while in a state prison, incarcerated under the laws of the state, means that the state government is insensitive to the family values of the prisoner who has been injured."
KEVIN RUDD: "Prime Minister, why do you take responsibility for any positive news that happens in this country? ... why do you fail to take responsibility for anything that goes wrong and always blame someone else?"
JOHN HOWARD: "I don't."
Oh, but you do, little man. And you're time is nearly up. The "flour overboard" scandal is just another in a long line of your nasty abuse of power for political ends. But even those of us who have, from the beginning, correctly judged you as the evil homunculus who became Australia's worst ever prime minister, even we will be gobsmacked beyond belief when the sum total of your heinous crimes against Australia and humanity are finally revealed.
-- Olney Garkle
December 7, 2006
Are religious beliefs a form of insanity?
Oh, dear. I'm always surprised when compassionate people allow their compassion to be eclipsed in the name of a religious belief. To me it sounds like split personality or some other pathological illness.
Take Labor's new leader, Kevin Rudd. Three days after giving AWACs (Australians with a conscience) hope that his intelligence and compassion will return this once proud nation to the fair go, he up and votes against the therapeutic cloning research bill. A conscience vote, it passed the House of Reps easily by 23 votes. This means (gasp) that some in the John Howard Party actually voted for it! But not Our Kevin. Said he:
"I find it very difficult to support a legal regime which results in the creation of a form of human life for the single and explicit purpose of conducting experimentation on that form."
This, in spite of his late mother's struggle with Parkinson's disease, and the possibility that future sufferers may be cured by the research.
What we have here is a rusted-on religious illusion taking precedence over very real human suffering. Boggling.
Of course L'il Johnny voted against it too, but his reason was to "take a stand for some absolutes". Hee-hee. Clarified he:
"I think we live in an age where we have slid too far into relativism."
I don't know which is the worse example of a blinkered mind. Fundamentalist religious perspectives are akin to stroke victims with hemianopia, or the inability to see information in half of their visual field, while the illusion that anything can be absolute simply points to a larval state of evolution. Combine the two and you have the blind certainty that leads to repression and war.
-- Olney Garkle
Link: MPs pass cloning bill
December 6, 2006
Rudd sights prey as Weasel season opens
Photo: Andrew Taylor, The Age
December 5, 2006
JHP pit bulls already after Rudd
Leave us begin with a letter in today's Age, acknowledging the perception we all have of the John Howard Party:
John Howard must be very worried, and will, I suspect, immediately set about the task of discrediting Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard. We must remember his ability to lie convincingly and consider anything he says very carefully before accepting it as fact. -- Miranda Jones
In that vein, the front page of The Australian has this charming article nicely titled Libs' animated first shot:
Senior Coalition strategists have spent months devising plans to neutralise the threat to John Howard's re-election chances of a Kevin Rudd-led Opposition.
Reflecting a belief that Mr Rudd poses a serious threat to the Prime Minister, the Coalition attacked Mr Rudd within an hour of his rise to Labor's leadership, launching a website featuring a disparaging animation.
Authorised by Liberal Party director Brian Loughnane, the site features a gawky-looking Mr Rudd - dressed in a pink jacket and black bow tie - standing in front of a broken-down car bearing L-plates.
Unfortunately for them, the Kevin Rudd who took over the Labor leadership yesterday is none of these things. The so-called "formidable" impregnability of John Howard belies a hollow man, and, if I am not mistaken, Rudd will be taking him apart bit by bit over the months ahead. I base this in part on the calm, almost tedious, points raised by Rudd of Howard's policies in question time yesterday. If Rudd stays on message while simultaneously deflecting the gobbledygook rhetoric thrown at him about the JHP's numbing perception of Labor, he will be successful at revealing each of them as a blustering fool with no clothes. What the people who backed him in recent polls see is a man who is not only informed, but also lucid. Rudd's lucidity, mostly free of spin, will do more to unclothe the JHP impostors than anything else.
Another letter in The Age challenges Rudd's putative lack of Prime Ministerial bearing:
Kevin Rudd may not look like a prime minister, Frank Hainsworth (Letters, 4/12) — but that did not stop a short, boring, dweebish looking specimen from white-anting his way to that position some years ago and still fooling enough of the people enough of the time to remain there. The incumbent, in fact, makes Billy McMahon look Churchillian. -- John Ogge
Meanwhile, do take a squiz at that Same Old Liberals lame attempt at humour, a rehash of the strategy used against Mark Latham in 2004: Same Old Labor.
While this may bring a slight upward movement to the corners of the mouth, expect much worse in the future. After all, the John Howard Party is not aligned with the US Republicans for nothing. Like them, the JHP has zillions of dollars donated from business to fund smear campaigns so easily swallowed by a gullible and perpetually distracted populace. It's in the nature of the conservative/reactionary/right wing to resort to such skulduggery. Naturally (or unnaturally) aligned to political parties that promote their interests over the well being of society in general, the only item on their plate is how to increase profit. Nothing else matters, unless it can be used as a tax deduction.
Of course, we here at Bilegrip resort to name calling on a routine basis, but that's different. We're on the side of all that is just and good. Ergo, those whom we defame are the representatives of all that is evil and rotten.
Surely, you agree?
-- Olney Garkle
December 4, 2006
Hope energises Australian politics at last
|The new leader||The old leader|