Monday, February 20, 2012

Labor's power squabble an empty show

Another week has come and gone and I have failed to produce something specific for this blog. I'd hang my head in shame, if I couldn't account for my all my evenings: basically, pub; pub; pub; pub; pub; Conehead's going away party (bastard is escaping to Melbourne); collapse in front of Midsomer Murders. Or something like that, I could *just possibly* be exaggerating, but it is a bit of a blur.

Regardless, this is the piece I wrote for last'week's "Carlo's Corner" column for Green Left Weekly. It is sadly, pathetically even more relevant now than when I wrote it over a week ago.

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Carlo's corner: Labor’s power squabble an empty show

Now that both Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry's marriages are over, and things seem quiet on the Brangelina front, the corporate media have been reduced to feverish speculation over another B-Grade celebrity circus: who will lead the seemingly doomed Labor government?

Will the skittish Labor caucus, freaked by polling data, stick with Julia Gillard or execute a dramatic reverse coup and bring back Kevin Rudd? Or will it be Wayne Swan or maybe that Simon someone-or-other who looks kinda familiar?

Strangely, the media appear to be ignoring the big question in all of this: what is Paul Howes doing? The Australian Workers Union national secretary, the least faceless of faceless men, the highest profile politician who sits in no parliament, the man with his hand on the knife in Rudd's back two years ago — he has been unusually absent from the media amid the latest frenzy.

Has Howes been kidnapped? Or is he quietly sharpening his knife and waiting for another call from Bill Shorten?

The most noticeable feature of the Labor leadership spectacle is how empty the whole show is. Given that it centres on a political party, it is hard not to notice that it is totally devoid of any politics.

The entire thing centres on the fluctuating polling data of the key personalities. No issues of policy or principle are raised by anyone involved. It is about how to hold power for power’s sake.

And yet, the coup against Rudd in 2010 was political. It was Labor capitulating to the powerful mining corporations campaigning against Rudd’s proposed “super tax” on their profits. Gillard immediately moved to water down the already very mild proposal.

But there is no hint that reverting to Rudd would mean seeking to impose a modicum of social responsibility on these huge corporations.

Nor is there any discussion of Rudd's statement, after he was dumped, that he would resist a “race to the right” over the treatment of asylum seekers (despite, as PM, having raced as far to the right as he could).

The only thing that matters is which individual is less likely to lose the next election — and which one will best serve which section of the power-hungry blocs within the party.

The irony is that this has a lot to do with Labor’s polling woes in the first place. It is hard to get excited about a party that stands for nothing.

If racist populism is your thing, the Coalition is your best bet. Labor is giving it a fair crack, but it just can’t compete with Tony Abbott’s natural flair for it.

On the other hand, if you want more humane treatment for asylum seekers, more public spending on health and education, or greater environmental protection, the Greens provide an electoral alternative.

(Of course, The Greens are also filled with wacko extremists and KGB agents — one of the few questions on which I agree with the Murdoch press. As soon as I read their proposal for a universal dental scheme, I realised the spirit of Stalin was alive and well. If history has taught us one thing, it is first decent dental care, then gulags.)

With no principle but power, Labor can’t please anyone. Worst of all, it can’t even satisfy the real power in the land — the big corporations. It is not that it doesn’t try, but whatever it gives, the corporations want more.

Labor won government on the back of anti-Work Choices campaign, and so was obliged to appear to kill it off. Labor’s replacement, the Fair Work Act, is Work Choices with some minor trimmings cut away, and still the bosses whine it is unfair.

Labor’s industrial relations laws are so rigged against workers that it allowed Qantas, legally, to lock-out its entire workforce without warning, stranding thousands of passengers, and then forced unions to end low-level industrial action meant to secure safety, job security and a wage deal that didn’t go backwards.

The big corporations are profit junkies — more is never enough. Labor is in no way threatening their supply, but the Liberals offer a purer cut.

I mean, two years ago Labor offered Kevin Rudd's head on a platter to the mining giants and how do they repay the favour? They get caught on film meeting with climate denier Lord Monckton plotting to further their control over the media to drag politics even further to the right.

Labor’s climate trading scheme doesn’t threaten their profits, but even admitting climate change is real is a step too far for those raking in record profits from industries destroying the planet.

Greater media power in the hands of mining giants is a truly frightening thought when you consider this is already a media in which Andrew Bolt has a column in a major paper and his own TV show.

The mining corporations' influence over the media is so great it even extends to altering the English language. The mainstream media, seemingly caring not a jot for dictionaries, refer, repeatedly, to the owners of these giant corporations as “miners”.

I am sorry, but Gina Rinehart is not a miner. I don't believe Twiggy Forrest actually mines. I am pretty sure they have people to do that for them.

Have you seen Mineralogy owner and “billionaire miner” Clive Palmer? I don't think he could even fit down a mine. It is a pretty safe bet the only thing Clive Palmer has ever fossicked for in his life was a hors d'oeuvre that fell under the table at a cocktail party.

It seems even the power to alter language is not enough.

Without any guiding principles but power, all Labor can do is keep caving in only to discover, every time, the interests that actually run the country still want more. In the meantime, pleasing no one, Labor is left to squabble over who sits at the front of a train that looks headed straight into the side of a mountain.

'Did you hear there's a natural order? The most deserving will end up with the most. That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top. Well, I say -- shit floats.' Whoever wins the sordid power squabble in the Labor Party...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Forget the race card, the bastard are playing the whole fucking pack

This was my rant in Green Left Weekly last week, that I never got around to posting here last week. There is a new one out, which you can read here.

Also, I know have an official, proper column in Green Left. It is called "The Machete"*.

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Forget the race card, they're playing the whole deck

Well, it is only February and one thing is certain: a federal election doesn’t have to be called until as late as November 2013, but the Tony Abbott-led Coalition smells blood and, as far as they are concerned, they are in election mode.

This means if you are dark-skinned, downtrodden or desperate, you had better look out. You are right in the Coalition’s firing line, and just behind them is a desperate Labor government (led, for now, by Julia Gillard) eager to play the futile game of blunting attacks from the right by joining in.

Abbott is in election mode. If you are dark-skinned, downtrodden or desperate, watch out.

This is such a well-worn path. If you had just come out of a coma you’d been in since 2001 and seen the headlines, you’d think: “Shit, when's the vote? I can’t afford any more AEC fines.”

The farcical hysteria around an Aboriginal protest at the Tent Embassy in Canberra on “Australia Day” shows the big party politicians will leap on any opportunity to stoke racist prejudices and fears.

The protest by a small number of Aboriginal people and supporters outside a restaurant, which was asking Abbott to come out and address them over his comments the embassy should “move on”, somehow got spun into a full-blown “riot” after police panicked and dramatically dragged Gillard and Abbott out of the restaurant and bundled them into a car.

No one was arrested, there were some scuffles with police (who violently attacked the protesters) and nothing was broken. If that was a riot, how they hell are they going to respond if, at some point in the future, a single rock gets thrown or one window broken?

The shock jocks would have Abbott on air, insisting this was far worse than the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution, which, as anyone who's read history knows, was also initiated by Gillard's office.

Abbott even took the opportunity to denounce the protesters as “unAustralian”. This has got to win an award for redundancy.

On January 26, a day which marks the start of the invasion of Australia in which Aboriginal people faced systemic extermination, Aboriginal people were protesting the racist polices they are still systematically subjected to.

In other words, they were protesting to reject Australia as it exists.

After all, the next day, some of them went to Parliament House and burned the Australian flag. That is surely a clue that the people Abbott directed his “unAustralian” jibe at were never exactly aspiring to win any “fair dinkum Aussie” award.

These are people who have had enough of the Australia that exists — one in which 25% of the prison population are Aboriginal despite making up only 2% of the population. An Australia in which more than 400 Aboriginal people have died in police custody since 1980, without one police officer ever being brought to justice.

The obvious response would surely be: “If we are unAustralian, can we go to unAustralia now please?”

The Coalition is bent on exploiting prejudices, fears and insecurities in the community in the hope we’ll forget that the last time they were in power they introduced polices such as WorkChoices that screwed all working people, wherever they were from or whatever the colour of their skin.

Buckle in for a year in which the major parties try to avoid talking about real solutions to problems such as rising housing prices and job cuts by playing race card after race card.

'You're just some racist who can't tie my laces, your point of view is medieval.'

* This is a lie. I would like it to be true, but my column is called "Carlo's Corner". Better a corner than no corner, I guess.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Racist cartoon reveals denial problem

My article first published in this week's Green Left Weekly.

Racist cartoon reveals denial problem

The day after the January 26 protests by Aboriginal people and supporters gave the media the sensationalist images of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Liberal leader Tony Abbott fleeing under police protection, the Herald Sun's Mark Knight captured the image with a truly hilarious cartoon.

Gillard is being led into a car by police, chased by an angry mob of Aboriginal people, faces contorted with rage, waving their fists in fury. The PM quips: “Geez, if the Aboriginals had've put up a fight like this in 1788, we might not be bloody well here celebrating Australia Day…!”

It is one of life's truisms: jokes about genocide just never get old. I don't think I've laughed so hard since I read that famous comedic tract Mein Kempf.

Aboriginal people failed to stop an invasion that resulted in the extermination of possibly 90% of the original Indigenous population, and now they get angry? It is really quite funny if you stop and think about it.

Fucking hilarious.

The cartoon says a lot about the systemic denial at the heart of any discussion about Aboriginal people in Australia.

First is the denial of what occurred at the protest outside The Lobby in Canberra.

The cartoon shows an angry mob surrounding Gillard and Abbott, protected only by police. But look at the pictures and footage depicting their dramatic exit.

How many angry protesters, bearing down on them, do you actually see? In most you can, at best, spot a couple of protesters in the background, looking on.

It is a long way from the scene painted by Herald Sun attack dog Andrew Bolt, who wrote on January 27 that Gillard was forced to “run for her life”.

The protesters were actually calling on Abbott to come out and address them over his comments that the Tent Embassy was no longer needed. Abbott and Gillard refused to talk with the protesters.

I just hope I never face any threat to my life more serious than Gillard did on January 26. I am yet to hear of a single case of anyone being killed by a robust discussion.

More significantly, the cartoon denies the very real Aboriginal resistance to European invasion that, in many places, lasted decades. In the wars fought across the continent from the late 18th century and well into the 19th, the invaders lost a bit more than one shoe.

Denying this resistance strips Aboriginal people of their real history and reduces them to passive victims.

But there is a very revealing twist to the question of denial. This cartoon, by making a joke of the invasion, actually acknowledges it took place.

Even this racist cartoon in a Murdoch tabloid is forced to accept that Aboriginal people had cause to resist invasion, even as it mocks their failure to defeat it.

This is a product of modern Aboriginal resistance, which has forced White Australia, however reluctantly, to confront the fact the nation was founded on dispossession and genocide.

The only reason this point is even acknowledged — amid self-congratulatory celebrations of how “unique” we are because, unlike anywhere else in the world, we have beaches, enjoy cooking food on hotplates, are fond of sport and don't mind specially brewed drinks with intoxicating properties — is because of the ongoing Aboriginal protest.

And a key symbol of Aboriginal resistance and demands for sovereignty is that institution Abbott is so keen to consign to history's dustbin: The Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which celebrated a remarkable 40 years of existence on January 26.

The argument is resounding loudly through the media that the images from the January 26 protest have “damaged the Aboriginal cause”. But the only reason the media is even discussing the Aboriginal cause is because of the protest.

The Tent Embassy confronts denial with the reality of ongoing dispossession and systemic oppression Aboriginal people face — and the determination to resist.

"Terrorists dressed in uniform under the protection of their law. Terrorise blacks in dawns of fear, they come smashin’ through your door". The Drones cover Kev Carmody's true story of the cold-blooded murder of Davi Gundy, a 32-year-old Aboriginal man shot in his own home.

Now listen here... Jeremy Brett *was* Sherlock Holmes you goddamn arseholes

This world, in many ways, is in bad shape. If it is not the growing ecological crisis, the war crimes of the Empire or Australia's determination to do its best impersonation of apartheid South Africa, it is the insistence of the corporate media to destroy any of the *actual* gains of modern civilisation -- to spit on them and drag them down.

When not ignoring, distorting or excusing the worst crimes of a decrepit system in terminal decline, racing towards barbarism like a giant mining corporation towards a fresh source of the most dangerous substance known to humanity to dig up and place in plants or bombs, the corporate media seems to take special joy in committing acts of unspeakable barbarism against popular culture.

I speak, of course, about the truly farcical "list" presented to the general public by that notorious British right-wing publication, the London Telegraph, purporting to "rank" the top 20 performances on screen of the world's first and greatest "consulting detective" Sherlock Holmes.

Look at the list. Go on, just have a look.

No, your eyes do not deceive you! Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes, portrayed in 42 episodes for Britain's ITV between 1984-94, came third.



What is more, it actually listed as *second*... Basil Rathbone -- whose Hollywood film depictions did so much to bastardise Holmes, turn him into a straight-out, uncomplicated *deerstalker hat-wearing* hero going on brave adventures and fighting Nazis and other World War II propaganda outings that bore sometimes but vague connections to Conan Doyle's creation! It was up to Brett to FUCKING RESCUE Sherlock Holmes from such a travesty.

The winner was Benedict Cumberbatch for the BBC's latest Sherlock adaption, in an updated series set in the modern day. Now, do not get me wrong. Cumberbatch turns in a fine performance. He injects enough manic edge, arrogant aloofness and spark of genius into the role. I really quite *like* his performance. I am a fan. A perfectly decent *second* would Cumberbatch have made in any list that aims to be taken seriously.


No one is better than Jeremy Brett at bringing to life that most amazing and complex of literature's heroes: Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective.

Even the Telegraph is forced to concede "For many, Jeremy Brett is Sherlock".

Yes, you fools, "for many". Indeed, surely, for *anyone* who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes, who has ever read the fucking stories and then *seen* Brett tear up the screen.

Such drama! Such passion! Such a personality, battling those internal demons that, all too often, haunt the true men of genius! This clip alone says so much about the man and his personal demons.

And it is not just the great detective, but the great actor who brought him to life on the screen as none before or after him have done, who battled demons.

It was Brett's great mission in life to bring Holmes truly alive, and he threw himself into the task with extreme passion and dedication.

The source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, informs us Brett "wanted to be the best Sherlock Holmes the world had ever seen. He conducted extensive research on the great detective ... One of Brett's dearest possessions on the set was his 77-page 'Baker Street File' on everything from Holmes' mannerisms to his eating and drinking habits. Brett once explained that 'some actors are becomers — they try to become their characters. When it works, the actor is like a sponge, squeezing himself dry to remove his own personality, then absorbing the character's like a liquid'."

Based on his obsessive observations and studies, Brett introduced a series of mannerisms, hand gestures and short violent bursts of laughter, that helped more fully realise the great detective's character on screen.

Wikipedia notes: "Brett was obsessed with bringing more passion to the role of Holmes ... Holmes' obsessive and depressive personality fascinated and frightened Brett ... Brett started dreaming about Holmes, and the dreams turned into nightmares."

It took its toll. The stress of his obsession to create the perfect Holmes lead to a nervous breakdown in the mid '80s. Brett sacrificed himself for his art, but returned for more.

Physical as well as mental health increasingly failing, often dependent on an oxygen mask simply to work, Brett marched ever onwards. "The show must go on, darlings!" he is quoted as saying.

Such dedication to a task as important as this resulted in what is surely one of the greatest artistic triumphs of the modern age. And... THIS IS HOW THE FUCKERS REPAY HIM!!!!

Well, I am a calm man by disposition and I can take many things. But this is too much.

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Dear The Telegraph,

I must confess I rarely find myself in agreement with your editorial line. But supporting brutal imperialist governments that massacre the poor abroad and abandon and brutalise them at home is one thing. Placing Jeremy Brett only at *THREE* in your list of the greatest portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, however, is a crime on an entirely different category, one that abuses the memory of a man who cannot fight back, being dead. I, however, can. I write to tell you shall never be forgiven for this crime.

Yours in ceaseless hostility and rage,

Carlo Sands

PS: And while we are on this topic... I note one obscenity was not enough for you goddamn arseholes. After your atrocity in the case of Holmes, you had the temerity to draw up a list of the top 10 performances of Dr Watson on the screen. After having the misfortune of reading your list for Holmes, my hopes were non-existent and, sure enough, they were fully realised. Seriously... number one is Nigel Bruce??? Who played opposite Basil Rathbone in the old Hollywood films???

The winner is quite obviously the man you deemed merely *second* -- Edward Hardwicke, who played along side Brett from the third season on, followed by David Burke, who played opposite Brett for the first two seasons. Both of whom played far less cartoonish Watson's much more in tune with Conan Doyle's original.

They were perfectly admirable counterparts to Brett's Holmes -- forming great artistic partnerships that brings to mind the sometimes troubled, yet artistically brilliant partnership I myself enjoyed with Ben to create the highly acclaimed Conversation series. But what the fuck would you useless pricks know of that?

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