Monthly Archives: May 2010

Kick Ass

Righteous Vengeance Demands Righteous Violence

Spoiler Alert.

I’ve been meaning to see this film for weeks but it’s just stayed elusive for some silly reasons. Well, I’ve watched it now and I’m a satisfied customer thank you very much.

What’s Good About It

There are many things good about this film, but if there is one thing that deserves to be singled out as particularly good, it is the remorseless manner in which extreme violence is meted out by a 11 year old girl in a mask. I know there are critics out there who are appalled by Hit Girl, but she is the best thing in this film.

It’s also so extreme, it is pissing off people it sets out to piss off, and there is something delightful about that too. With each punch and stab and kick and shot to the head, you feel the wowser critics are copping it to the part of their brains that just can’t handle this spectacle. In that way, it’s very punk.

I loved the opening titles which was a straight lift from the 1978 ‘Superman’. The opening scene where a deranged guy in a costume plunges to his death thinking he can fly is such a sly comment about one of the urban myths about George Reeves’s deaths – that he was on LSD and thought he could fly and leapt out a window. The film is full of pop culture and comic book references that leave you in stitches. I was shedding tears as I laughed so much.

What’s Bad About It

It’s not terribly thematically deep – and it’s not meant to be – but considering how ‘Defendor’ worked this material, it comes off second best by a long shot. Nevertheless the good thing is that such a fault is not really a blemish. The film is damn fine entertainment and asking for thematic depth is like asking for a Tetsuyas dish at McDonalds. Or nuance from a newspaper review. It has one theme – comic books – and works it beautifully.

I guess it’s not much of a complaint, really. More like a casual observation. It’s actually nice to see a film with not too much ethical consideration and minimal moral depth that is exciting, fun and bone-crunchingly intense.

What’s Interesting About It

The controversy over Mindy McCready and her foul-mouthed crime-fighting ways, is actually a little curious. Have a read of this line for instance:

But Australian movie critic Andrew L. Urban said publicity material and the film trailer could give parents the reasonable expectation Kick-Ass was a frivolous teenage comedy.

Instead it ”failed to recognise the line between black humour and sadism”, with scenes of carnage and massacre played for laughs, and had no moral framework.

”If I was a parent of a 12-year-old who took them to see this film I would be incredibly annoyed and upset,” he said.

Got that? No moral framework. Did he  just watch the film we saw? Last I looked, the film was pretty solidly normative in its ‘moral’ outlook. Goody guys (and little girls) are allowed to exact vengeance upon the evil in any which manner they see fit.

Here’s another line, this time from Sandra Hall.

Once again, the action is beyond belief. The heavy artillery includes a bazooka and the choreography reaches such a level of violence that it would be anatomically impossible for anybody to get out alive if the laws of the real world were in play. It’s ridiculous and the fact there’s an 11-year-old behind Hit Girl’s mask is supposed to make it even more ridiculous. But in me it produced a weird sense of disorientation. I felt as I did when Jack Bauer and his good guys were licensed to use torture in the early episodes of the TV series 24. On the surface, there’s no comparison between Bauer and Hit Girl but they do have a couple of things in common. Both are signalling a shift in the moral compass by which mainstream pop culture sets its course and both make me feel very queasy.

I simply doubt there’s any such shift in the moral compass by the mainstream pop culture. Likening it to Jack Bauer and ’24’ is simply an attempt to hang the pro-violence politics of ’24’ on to ‘Kick Ass’ when ‘Kick Ass’ is so obviously ironic (from title down to character concept and costumes), is disingenuous and an underhanded attempt to link it to something that actually is morally questionable. It’s Sandra Hall’s own business getting queasy with both but they are by and far not the same thing.

I don’t really have much sympathy for people who are put off by strong art. If you’re likely to be put off by strong art, then don’t hang around places that might have it. I like my art strong, and this creation of Mindy McCready/Hit Girl is terrifyingly powerful. In years to come I imagine Chloe Moretz won’t be living this down any more than Jodie Foster or Gary Coleman. Who knows what it will do to her, but this creation is something immortal. 20 years on, we will be talking about Hit Girl the way we talk about Batman.

Hot-House Parenting

What is probably more immediately disturbing about the film is Nick Cage’s character Damon McCready who hothouses this girl into being an assassin. Vengeance is one of the most powerful story engines for violent tracts, and inculcating a character with such repressed fury as Damon McCready does with his daughter is at once hilarious and scary. Not many of the critics of the film seem to be picking up on this angle, possibly because they’re the sorts of people who would be hothouse parents themselves. For there to be a Chloe Moretz to play Mindy, there must have been a stage-mom hot-housing the young actress – and nobody seems to mention the parallels between that and the story.

I’m not saying Hot-house parenting is wrong. It depends on which way you develop your kids. You see some amazing musical talent on YouTube where 4 year olds are playing Mozart sonatas and 9 year olds are playing live with Ozzy Osbourne. Yet it seems at least half appropriate that if people are going to complain about a Mindy McCready, they at least look at the issue of Hot-house parenting.

In turn, a fictional character like Mindy McCready really isn’t a problem in the world when compared to the recent incident where a Tasmanian mother sent out her 12 year old daughter to be a prostitute. That’s a deplorable story and I can guarantee you that it didn’t happen because the mother was into edgy fiction.

Vengeance And Retributive Violence

As important as vengeance and retribution might be in fiction, this film is actually quite ironic and light-hearted about the notion. It is also very hip about the rhetoric surrounding power and violence, especially when one of this film’s fine quips is “With no strength comes no responsibility”. The line exposes the fact that one’s strength and power actually is not tethered to social responsibility except by the character’s free choice.

This idea is repeated several times at the beginning where David explicitly explains that he himself has no vengeance and retribution text to propel him into the world of masked crime-fighting. Even the very macabre opening where some disturbed Armenian dressed as a superhero plunges to death in his costume serves to show the gap between appearance and reality. In a sense they do away with the moral polemics of hero action early on. Thank you for playing Mr. Shakespeare, and so much for Hamlet-like consideration. This film is firmly in Fortinbras’ corner. Don your Nikes and just go for it, boys and girls.

The film also goes to illustrate the point that it is not the Law that keeps society in the shape that it has, but because of the power structures within the society. The Law is simply a byproduct of the power structure. Retributive violence therefore is a byproduct of the injustices the exercise of power brings. For a film that likes to just zip along and tell a yarn, it actually has a Macchiavellian view of the city. In that sense, it’s realpolitik at least is intellectually honest.

You’d think they were selling The Prince to little children.

There Goes Mark Strong Again!

He plays such great baddies. Just once I’d love to see him play a goodie. Like a particularly hard-nosed detective or an embittered spy doing the one noble thing. He’s got such a great screen presence playing bad guys in ‘Rock’n’Rolla’ ‘Sherlock Holmes’, ‘Robin Hood’ and ‘Kick Ass’ but I sort of want him to do something different now. Or perhaps a comedy where he’s Stanley Tucci’s brother.

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Thanks Mr. Lowy

Tell It Like You Think, Frank

This week’s lovely news from the wonderful world of Westfield as they had they 50th anniversary do, was this little morsel in the papers.

Mr Lowy defended his family’s position at Westfield when it was pointed out that he and his sons, Steven and Peter, collectively earned $31 million from Westfield last year.

”It’s wrong in the first place to lump the three Lowys together,” he said. ”They are three different people doing three different jobs and they are entitled to get [paid]”.

”I don’t work for nothing … I’m entitled to get paid,” he said.

Mr Lowy let it be known that he saved his charitable streak for philanthropic interests.

”I don’t keep that money I get from the company, I give it away to a lot more deserving causes,” he said. ”I don’t think Westfield shareholders are a deserving cause to give them an extra cent.”

I’m trying to get my head around that. If you were the capitalist asking the shareholder to put in money to do your venture, how on earth do you come to the conclusion that the shareholders are undeserving, especially of an extra cent per share? I knw he’s a powerful, rich man, but calling your shareholders undeserving of an extra cent per share is such contempt and hubris on Frank Lowy’s part.

I’m never going to invest in Westfield Shares while it is under Frank Lowy’s control. Ever.

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The Other Boleyn Girl

Tragedy, Comedy, Tragicomedy, Historico-Tragico-Comedy

Sometimes you have to love a good frock opera, especially when it involves the kind of intrigue to do with English Royalty. Sex and Religion have a way of making itself felt in anything to do with Henry VIII, and in Anne Boleyn we have perhaps the most intriguing of Henry VIII’s Queens. In short, she reeks of scandal and she perished amidst scandalous accusations. All of which should make good fodder for any drama to unfold.

So what do we have in this Hollywood adaptation? It seems we’re not really interested in sticking to facts, and more interested in the titillation of Henry VIII having many a shagathon with multiple women in a bid to sire a son.

I missed this film at the cinemas in early 2009 because even with its strong selling points it wasn’t really a match for whatever else was on offer at the time. Now that it’s on DVD and selling for peanuts I thought “hey why not?”

What’s Good About It

The attitude of the Boleyn family portrayed in this film is alienatingly naked in its aggressive pursuit of advancement. They make your average social climber look like kindergarten bullies. Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk portrayed in this film is a scarily Macchiavellian man and that alone makes it riveting to watch.

In turn, the Boleyn girls as portrayed in this film are every bit up for some royal action in a bid to produce the future heir to the throne. It is decidedly un-modern and the attitude carried by the characters in this film are beautifully distant from our own present day mores. It’s positively exhilarating to watch naked, unfettered ambition. It plugs you right into the pulse of England as it reforms its way away from the Catholic Church.

The production design is great. The directing is okay, the cinematography is good. I don’t know how large the budget for this film was, but it has a lovely look to it. The locations looked fantastic.

Also, the actress who plays Catherine of Aragon – Ana Torrent – is excellent. More on that later.

What’s Bad About It

It’s a star-driven product. I don’t really know how to take Eric Bana’s King Henry VIII seriously. It’s not an issue of his acting so much as recognition, and what we recognise is that he can’t quite shake his Melbourne Aussie diction.  It’s distracting and on par with Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood when it comes to unbelievability. I mean, for a start, Henry VIII was a big boofy ranga. Eric Bana looks more like Ivan the Terrible than Henry VIII.

Similarly with Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn kept reminding me of her turn as Queen Amidala in the lesser-and-latter Star Wars trilogy. Yet, in many ways Natalie Portman manages to present a certain mood of a person who is gunning for power, she might not be the worst casting for Anne Boleyn. It’s just too hard to get past the baggage she carries in to this film.

Scarlett Johansson completes the triangle of stars that probably got the project up and running, and oddly enough she is the most believable of the three. I don’t think she looks like a period picture kind of actress, but she put in the most credible performance of the three. Then again her part may not have been the most difficult.

You feel sorry for the film for the casting that they had to make to get it made. Together with the casting disaster that was Russell & Cate’s ‘Robin Hood’, this film points to a great malaise in film making this decade.

Oh, and one more thing… the sex scene between Henry and Mary in the first turning point with its out of focus drift off camera move is godawful.

What’s Interesting About It

I guess the usual thing to do would be to pick nits and historical inaccuracies, but being that this film is already based on a book that is loosely based on history, I won’t go in for that fun too much. There are some interesting things about this film.

First of all, it is a very strange film where you are not sure if what you are watching is a kind of dramatised history or whether it is heavily molded to suit the screen. The movie flops about as it changes tenor of its gravity and all the while you think, “That’s Anne Boleyn, she’s going to get the chop” so there really is no suspense to the film. It makes for a better than average viewing of the emotional process,  but it takes too many liberties with history to you wonder if the emotional journey presented is even worthwhile.

I mean, for a start, Mary is Anne’s older sister, not younger. When Henry VIII says he relates to Mary Boleyn because they’re both second-children, it’s completely bogus as rationale.

The Catherine of Aragon Angle

Catherine of Aragon is one of the sadder characters in history. She may have been a religious zealot of sorts and a rather strident strict (and dire) Catholic of the Iberian persuasion, she also has the misfortune of being the first cab off the rank in the scheme of Henry VIII’s six wives. Indeed, she is history’s official first recorded member of ‘The First Wives Club’. Even though she was born to rule and she was queen to Henry for a solid 27 years, she never quite fills the pages of history as a totally positive figure. There is a lingering feeling even today, when people pass judgment that her failure to produce a male heir, alongside with her producing Mary I -aka “Bloody Mary” – as her contribution to the lineage of English Royalty, are her personal faults.

Indeed Henry’s other 5 wives are crammed into the last 11 years of his reign, and not many depictions of Catherine of Aragon amongst the other 5 wives cover this point. In most of his adult life, Catherine was Henry VIII’s love of his life, and it is in the last decade of his life that he turns himself inside out with his kingdom to produce a male heir that results in the strange set of events.

As such, the crux of the drama rests on how Anne Boleyn convinces Henry VIII to abandon his long trusted Queen and in the process junk the ties to the Catholic Church. Catherine in this film is an unfortunate bit of collateral damage, but in reality she would have been far more active in trying to preserve hr claim to being Queen. It’s an odd decision then to downplay this part of the drama, because this is where the best materials lie.

The Bountiful Boleyns

You kind of have to know how subsequent history went to understand the ironies of this film to get your money’s worth of laughs. Anne Boleyn’s daughter of course is Elizabeth I who goes on to reign for 45 years as one of the great monarchs in English history AND she got played by Cate Blanchett, another Australian like Eric Bana; so in recent movie-land at least the House of Tudor is a bunch of Aussies and Eric can ask Cate, “Who’s your daddy?”

Yet putting such casting related jokes aside, had Henry not been so fixated on a male heir he might not have worked his way through the other 4 wives. He actually had 3 issues who would reign, out of his first three marriages – Mary I, Elizabeth I and Edward VI. He did alright, as they would say, but how was he to know?

Perhaps the lesser known angle to all this is what happened to the Mary Boleyn line. Mary Boleyn’s descendants are still around and through history they have counted amongst them Winston Churchill and the late Diana Princess of Wales. Princess Di of course gave us the two princes, one of whom William will presumably one day sit on the throne.

Rick Wakeman Wherefore Art Thou?

This is just an aside and doesn’t have much to do with the film as such.

The more one reads about King Henry VIII and his Six Wives, the more one comes face to face the morbid fear of death that must have plagued Henry VIII. These marriages, as amorously charged in the beginning they may have been, all seem to have weird confluences of courtiers’ ambitions and issues of state hanging over them. The whys and wherefores of Henry moving from one wife to another is like an early harbinger of modernity and the search for true undying love.

Surely he loves Catherine of Aragon who gives him one daughter, but the needs of the state weigh upon him so greatly that he engineers a break from the Roman Catholic Church to get to Anne Boleyn. He gets a daughter, not a son and so he engineers a witch-trial to get rid of her to get to Jane Seymour. Jane Seymour gives him a son, but dies, so he quickly mail-orders a bride from Saxony and gets buyers’ remorse when he sees Anne of Cleves. So he ends up with Catherine Howard by which time he’s old and obese and has a pustular infection in his thigh – what a turn on for a teenage girl –  who essentially refuses to shag him. So he gets rid of her and sends her to the chopping block, and replaces her with Catherine Parr by which time he’s no longer really able to do it.

No wonder people keep going back to this well for stories to tell. The film made me want to hunt up for my copy of Rick Wakeman’s ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’. Yet, as interesting as the parade of these women are, I don’t think there has been a great cinematic investigation into the emotional crisis that was in Henry’s soul in the last 11 years of his reign.

The frantic changes of wives in the last ten years of Henry’s reign aren’t just scandalous by conventional moral standards, they’re existential and desperate. The man is clearly trying to affix something that cannot be affixed, like nailing the proverbial jello to a ceiling. He is searching for the perfect Queen who can at once give him what Catherine of Aragon gave him in her best years, plus give him that male heir, all the while his animal potency as a male is dying. Talk about raging against the dying light.

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Today’s Whaling Guff 28/05/2010

See You In Court, Slanty-Eyes!

Australia is pressing ahead with its International Court case.

The Federal Government will initiate legal action against Japan early next week over its “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The legal application will be lodged with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Environment Minister Peter Garrett announced this morning.

In a statement Mr Garrett, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the decision had not been taken lightly and had come after the government tried to reach a compromise with the Japanese Government through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and bilateral talks.

The ministers’ statement says the legal action is about one dispute with Japan in an otherwise “comprehensive strategic, security and economic partnership”.

“Both Australia and Japan have agreed that, whatever our differences on whaling, this issue should not be allowed to jeopardise the strength and the growth of our bilateral relationship,” the statement said.

Mr Garrett said: “We want to see an end to whales being killed in the name of science in the Southern Ocean.”

They – as in the anti-waling lobby – are saying this fulfills an ALP election promise and so this is a good thing. It’s questionable politics at best. The SMH analysis on the move is here.

By committing to a Hague case — but only if significant progress has not been made in diplomatic efforts — the ALP politically trumped the Howard government on the one environmental cause that almost all Australians support.

But would they really go so far as to upset a country who is a crucial economic and diplomatic partner over a few whales?

Instead of rushing to the lawyers when they first came to power, Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith sensibly attempted to first hammer out a compromise with the Japanese.

For three years Smith and Garrett tried different avenues. They flirted with a small working group within the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is trying to break the impasse between whaling and anti-whaling nations. They held bilateral meetings with Japanese officials. And they held out hope that the change of government in Japan last year would present new opportunities to cut a deal.

But in the end the compromises on the table from Japan weren’t enough. Left with no option Smith informed the Japanese Government last night that papers would be lodged in The Hague early next week.

The timing of the case is not accidental. Next month the IWC will meet in Agadir to discuss a compromise deal put forward by the IWC chair that allows Japan limited commercial whaling rights in the Southern Ocean.

If that deal passes Australia will no longer be able to take Japan to the International Court of Justice. Japan would have a legal right to continue its commercial whaling operations in the Southern Ocean.

Darren Kindleysides, director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, says Australia’s case will likely centre around “abuse of rights”.

Those “rights” are a loophole in the 1949 Whaling Convention that allows member countries to kill protected whale species for scientific purposes. Australia will allege Japan has been abusing this loophole for commercial gain.

I’m sort of worried by how they’re glossing over the clause at the IWC which allows scientific whaling, and calling it a loophole. I’m also worried about the fact that they don’t mention that it is agreed at the IWC that any whale taken for research purposes can’t just be thrown back into the sea, it has to be sent to the market. So the Australian case that the research whaling is a front for a commercial whaling industry is going to have a hard time proving their case given that the Japanese whaling fleets are abiding IWC rules to the letter.

Australia sure has its work cut out. And oh look, emissions are up.

Anyway… the response in Japan is pretty mature.



The minister for Agriculture Hirotaka Akamatsu said they disagree with it, that they’ll fight it at the IWC meet and also words to the effects of “look the Labor Party over there have a tough election coming up later this year so they have to do what they have to do.”

Here’s some differing perspective from New Zealand.

New Zealand says it won’t consider joining Australia’s international legal action to stop Japanese whaling until diplomatic efforts fail, because going to court is a risky move.

The Australian government announced on Friday that it will initiate action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague next week.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told reporters that New Zealand would stick to a “diplomatic route” with Japan over the issue.

“The legal opinion we’ve had is that court action may or may not be successful, but it’s certainly far from a sure bet,” Mr Key said on Friday.

“The reason we’ve gone down a diplomatic solution is not because we’re afraid of a court case but because the advice we’ve had is that it’s more likely to be successful.

“In the end, if that diplomatic route is unsuccessful then New Zealand will make a decision about whether it’s going to join Australia in the international court of justice.

“It doesn’t mean we wouldn’t join Australia if the diplomatic solution has been extinguished.”

Mr Key said the court process could take years and would be a risky move.

“If they go to court and they lose there are real risks here so that is the whole point,” he said.

“That’s why if we find a diplomatic solution it might be a lot better than a court case that we could lose.

“If we thought a court case was clear cut and easy to win then obviously that might be the fastest way to do that.”

It’s interesting that New Zealand is taking this position given that it is one of their citizens and not an Australian citizen sitting for trial in Tokyo over the recent Sea Shepherd actions and altercations with the research whaling fleet.

Meanwhile, here’s more from the IWC itself.

Monica Medina, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC, told reporters at a briefing that the Obama administration cannot accept the commission’s current proposal, which allows the hunting of too many whales. But Washington is willing to continue talks to see if a stronger accord to protect whales can be settled at the IWC meeting in Morocco, she said.

Medina, who’s also a principal deputy undersecretary in the Commerce Department, said: “The IWC is fundamentally broken and must be fixed.” Negotiators recognize that whaling continues despite a moratorium.

“The idea would be to cap that whaling and to get it under the IWC’s control so that it can be monitored,” she said.

The chairman of the IWC, Cristian Maquieira, said at the briefing a successful deal next month could bring international whaling under IWC control — something that’s not happening now.

“The negotiations will be very, very complicated and very, I suspect, intense, but I do look forward to a positive outcome,” Maquieira said. “I’m optimistic that we will arrive at some understanding.”

He was careful to note that the IWC proposal is only meant to spur negotiations — not to be a final agreement. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Maquieira said.

I think they’re being coy. Whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland during the last 25 years has always been under IWC control as such. What’s really being negotiated is numbers and really, at the end of the day, that’s what the commission is supposed to do: broker numbers. If talks at the IWC fail again, I guess the world will be watching the trial in the Hague. Joys of joys.

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Reading Doxa, Seeking Episteme

Grist For The Mill From Burqua-Lurkastan

During the last week I made reference to the growing Burqua debate in Australia and pointed how disturbed I was how vehemently self-declared Feminists were coming out infavor of banning them in the name of … oh, I don’t know, let’s be old-fashioned and call it “women’s lib”. Even somebody with a high profile as Elizabeth Farrelly had this hostile article denouncing the Burqua in Australia.

Who knows the difference between ethics and morality? Belgium does, for one. Technically, there’s not a lot in it. The dictionary makes ethics and morality synonyms, each relating to our cumulative attempts to tell right from wrong and act accordingly.

Aristotle’s Ethics examines what it means to be good; for him, and many thinkers since, ethics and moral philosophy are one.

In everyday life, though, we tend to distinguish on a public-private basis. ”Morality” tends to imply a code that is personal, often sexual and, just as often, religious in origin. ”Ethics” meanwhile, denotes a public and generally secular amalgam of these values. The baked crust, if you will, atop the pie. Hence talk of professional and corporate ethics, ethical investing and, of course, ethics taught in religion’s place in schools.

The St James Ethics Centre’s chief, Simon Longstaff, argues similarly, defining ethics as ”a conversation . . . [on] the question, ‘what ought one to do’?” Moralities, he says – and he stresses the plural – are the voices in that conversation; one Jewish, one Christian, one Hindu, one Muslim and so on.

Ethics, in this sense, come into play where there is conflict between moralities, or between rules within a morality – as when the truth imperative cuts across kindness.

I present that bit because it had me gagging on my morning coffee this week. The fact that Aristotle thought ethics and moral philosophy are the same, does not necessarily make it so. Now, I like Aristotle (in comparison to the political Fascist Plato), but that is simply as fallacious a position on ethics as the geocentric model of the Universe. The fact that other thinkers after him followed in his tracks, doesn’t make it necessarily so.

Be that as it may, she then stumbles to where most contemporary people agree about ethics, where she says “ethics comes into play where there is conflict between moralities or between rules within a morality (sic)”.Her precarious conclusion is thus “as when the truth imperative cuts across kindness.” What the hell exactly does she mean by that?  One assumes she is arguing that kindness shouldn’t count when we’re looking for the truth. Philosophically, that would be true, but it seems to me if she’s ultimately talking about the burqua, I don’t see how she can sustain any conlusion on her part is acting in the interests of truth and the truth imperative while the burqua supporter is not.

It’s a relatively simple logical point. Either she is going to make an investigation of truth in something which is falsifiable – thus achieving epsiteme (knowledge) or she is going to arrive at an doxa (opinion) based on some largely personal observations. I don’t want to bore the reader with epistemology 101, but what I am gagging on Elizabeth Farrelly is trying to set up an argument where her conclusion is going to be true, while the burqua defenders are  going to be *wrong* for not having her version of the truth.I might add, that she is not talking about a black or white issue like say, science. She’s talking about a cultural practice of people she does not have full knowledge thereof.

The startling three paragraphs thus ends with this:

Democracy pivots on the universal franchise; the presumption for each individual of a public identity, as well as a private one. To cover someone’s face in public, to reduce them to a walking tent, is to declare them lacking such identity, destroying any possibility of their meaningful public existence. It is, literally, to efface them.

To hide the face is to hide the person. As Shada Islam, Europe correspondent for the Pakistan paper Dawn, wrote last week, most European Muslim women have little patience with the burqa or its wearers, seeing it as ”a sad process of self-isolation and self-imposed exile”.

And while you could see even exile as a personal right, it does directly contradict a public duty, the duty of public presence. The morality of identity-erasure may be (barely) acceptable, but the ethics are not. Brave little Belgium.

And I am left shaking my head. Farrelly believes that Democracy is being undermined by people who choose to cover their faces because the effacement contradicts the public duty of presence. If ever there was tortured logic, I can’t readily recall one ad tortured as this. There is nowhere in the notion of Democracy that everybody must maintain a public face as well as a private one. Let’s be frank, she invented it for the purposes of her sophistry. Such a notion actually robs the legitimacy from people who are advocates for privacy.

It might be a surprise to Ms. Farrelly, but Democracy also covers the notion that should a person choose to remain intensely private, that person would and should have the right to do so. That person does not owe their neighbour or a stranger or Ms Farrelly their face. They simply do not.

Then it gets worse. In what follows this section – the Shada Islam quote – is mere opinion (doxa) as well. It’s one person’s stinking opinion, based on hearsay, without any statistical or empirical substantiation. It would hardly count as something in the service of the “truth imperative” as Elizabeth Farrelly claims.

The logical contortion Ms Farrelly applies to get there – even in an Op Ed kind of column is fundamentally dodgy. In fact, it borders on a non sequitur when she goes from that notion then to morality versus ethics, and then praises Belgium.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make any bloody sense, and pretending that it does is a lie – an out and out untruth! One suspects Farrelly knew, which is why she wrote the first bit above to bolster her own claims to being able to come at an ethical decision (as opposed to a moral one),  and then punch out a conclusion that says it would be unethical to let muslim women wear burquas in public.

Only in the twisted-logic world Elizabeth Farrelly lives in.

The Punch Says Back Off

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m neither female, or muslim. but I totally, totally agree with this article here. It’s really well written, I recommend it thoroughly, but I’m going to cheat and cut to the chase:

By denying Muslim women agency, we miss out on seeing their resilience, strength and passion.  When I tell people that I’m an Iranian Feminist most people assume that my fervent passion for defending women’s rights came from witnessing the way the government oppresses women in Iran.  That’s not the case.

I’m not a feminist because I witnessed first hand how bad things could be for women.  I’m a feminist because I had the privilege of watching women fight for their rights without compromise.

Seeing photos from the Green Movement to reform Iran shows this – at the forefront of most protests are women, donned in hijab, fighting not to have it obliterated but for their right to choose whether to wear it.  If the hijab isn’t a hindrance in fighting for democracy, freedom and basic human rights then its certainly not a barrier against playing sport.

In the end I want the sisterhood to acknowledge that I can control my destiny, not despite my religion, family or place of birth but because of them.

I want them to celebrate my achievements not tokenise them.  I won’t accept anything less than a unqualified acknowledgement of my agency, power and ability to make decisions in regard to my body and my life.

I know it strikes a lot of people as weird, but I totally get this argument. I have no issues with this line of thinking. I’m not a feminist, I’m just some un-reconstructed male-chauvinist-pig passing by the topic each day, but I have to say I find the feminist support to ban the burqua to be a kind of cultural imperialism and a very patronising position at the expense of people who should at least be given the benefit of the doubt, and those people really should be shown the same kind of tolerance and acceptance these very same feminists demand on behalf of asylum seekers on boats.

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Q And A Excerpt

I’m Shocked, Shocked I Tell You

Got a heads up about this today. Check out this transcript for a moment:

TONY JONES: No, I want to see if there’s someone on the panel who might defend Sarah Palin, and let’s go to Malcolm Fraser, first of all.

MALCOLM FRASER: Well, could she become president, yes.

TONY JONES: Well, she could run against Obama and she could theoretically win.

MALCOLM FRASER: Look, European economies fall over the edge. That drags American down again. American economy is going worse, in spite of Obama’s – you know, I’d go to America and vote for him 1000 times and risk prosecution for voting too often to try and keep him there. But if the world economies really go down the hill…

TONY JONES: You didn’t do that when you were in government, did you?

MALCOLM FRASER: Well, it depends who you ask about. But the – it’s not impossible that the Republicans could win next time around. I would have thought that there is a 50 per cent change it should be the Republican nominee and I’m absolutely terrified at the thought.

TONY JONES: Peter Carey…

MALCOLM FRASER: It would be a madness for everyone.

Wow. I know people who swear they thought Malcolm Fraser was the devil and a fascist way back when he was in power, all over that 1975 Dismissal thing, but the same people are now shocked to hear how attuned Malcolm Fraser is to their current points of view. I know he’d mellowed and found himself at odds with John Howard, but this is quite a shock.

Then, there’s this bit, which really had tongues wagging today:

TONY JONES: All right, let’s hear from Peter.

PETER CAREY: I keep on thinking about the role of the medial generally in this and how the media is always so continually hysterical about people lying and not telling the truth. And if I really think there’s a big problem in our society today, it’s that the media is not telling the truth to people and they know what it is. If you really want to know what’s happening the world, you go out and get drunk with journalists and they will tell you what isn’t in the papers. So they’re living – these guys are living every day with the reality of a proprietor, say, or a corporation who owns them will not permit them to tell what they know to be true. So, okay, this guy lied. He’s not a good person because he did it but I think the hysteria is about a bigger, bigger issue, which is we are not being honestly reported to. And if there was, you know, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction but…

MALCOLM FRASER: But they knew he didn’t.


TONY JONES: They knew he didn’t, you say?



TONY JONES: You mean the Howard Government knew he didn’t?

MALCOLM FRASER: It should have. I think the British Government did, the American Government did and the Australian Government should have.

TONY JONES: Okay. Well, I could pursue that for quite a while but we actually have a question in the audience. In fact, it’s directed specifically to Malcolm Turnbull(sic). It comes from Paul Sherrington. Malcolm Fraser, I beg your pardon. Did I say Malcolm Turnbull? I’m so sorry.

MALCOLM FRASER: You just took 30 years off my life.

You get the picture. Tony Jones was so flustered by the assertion by Malcolm Fraser that the Anglophone governments of USA, Britain and Australia knew there were no WMDs in Iraq prior to going in, that he called Fraser Turnbull – but think on that remark by Malcolm Fraser for  a moment. No WMDs. John Howard knew, and in Malcolm Fraser’s opinion, he should have known better. No WMDs.

UPDATE: Malcolm Fraser Quits Liberal Party

Over night, we find that Malcolm Fraser in fact quit the Liberal Party.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has quit the party, allegedly over a belief it has tilted too far to the right.

Mr Fraser resigned in December, shortly after Malcolm Turnbull was turfed as opposition leader over his support for emissions trading, The Australian Financial Review reported.

He allegedly told friends his replacement, Tony Abbott, was “all over the place” on policy and disliked the racist overtones adopted by the party in the debate on immigration.

Mr Fraser, the prime minister from 1975 to 1983, confirmed his decision to quit yesterday, saying the party was no longer a liberal party but a conservative party.

Although he failed to elaborate, he has recently been critical of the coalition in the media, particularly over its stance on the Israeli passports affair.

He has previously criticised the Liberal party for becoming one of “fear and reaction” and says it is now unrecognisable as the party he joined more than 50 years ago.

The Australian Financial Review says his final decision to quit was made after he became increasingly concerned with the conservative direction of the party.

I’m still shocked, shocked I tell you! Isn’t that like Ronald Reagan quitting the Republicans if only he were alive? Or Margaret Thatcher quitting the Conservatives if only she still had a mind? Jeebus Creepus. The Libs have tilted far to the right if Malcolm Fraser can’t abide it any more.

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NSW Looking Through A Glass Onion

The Walrus Wasn’t Paul, It Was Gay!

This week’s scandal for the NSW Government brought us the uneasy spectacle of Transport & Roads Minister coming out of a gay sex parlour in Kensington. Why the public need to know that David Campbell – aka ‘the Walrus’ – was never adequately explained by Channel Seven who initially ran with the story that it was an abuse of ministerial privilege to drive the minster’s car to a brothel, but quickly dropped that angle when it came to light that yes, he is allowed to drive his vehicle wherever he likes.

Just as promptly, David Campbell quit his minister’s job before the news broke, although it’s really not the kind of scandal one would expect to be a scandal. Channel Seven’s news desk is now alleging that a man who keeps a second life as a gay person needs to be outed if they are a politician. One imagines this might have some serious repercussions if people decided to live by that code.

Indeed, there have been some tawdry moments and affairs from the NSW Labor Government but one thinks that David Campbell as an in-closet married man actually constituted a scandal so much as lurid sensationalism. I for one thought we were way past the point of being scandalised by the notion of anybody being gay. Apparently Channel Seven’s news desk is still living in the mid-twentieth century. I mean, we live in a time when everybody knew Ricky Martin was gay, a decade and a half before he came out, and nobody even batted an eye-lid when he did.

All the same I guess our society will always run on the “You Fuck One Goat” principle, which essentially makes idiots of us all.

Here’s an article in Crikey sent in by Pleiades that sheds some light on the motives of the people who broke this non story.

There is also a factional dimension. Walters lost his job in September 2008 after the strategy unit was disbanded under Iemma’s successor Nathan Rees. At the time, Campbell was part of a group of ministers, including Meagher, that had moved against Iemma. While his girlfriend stayed on, the former premier’s treachery had left Walters without a gig.

After joining the Daily Telegraph in early 2009, Walters was accused of giving his lover preferential treatment, which just weeks before had pilloried Meagher with headlines including ‘GRIM REBA’.

David Koch picked up on this obvious conflict this morning, producing this amazing exchange on Seven’s Sunrise:

Koch: “Yeah, Adam, he [Campbell] has led a double life. Let me play devil’s advocate here: yes, he should apologise to his family, there’s no doubt about that. But is it a hanging offence? People make mistakes … to be polite you were involved in a similar situation when you worked at state parliament …”

Walters: “Very briefly.”

Koch: “… with a minister and things like that. Private things happened. So, should they have to resign? Yes they’ve got a lot of explaining to do to their family, but shouldn’t it be left at that?”

One Seven insider told Crikey this morning:

“Adam Walters is the last person who should be throwing stones. He has three children to three different women, and is unable to keep his own penis in his pants.”

Walters, who is paid $250,000 a year by Seven, has also been accused of attempting to protect his journalistic integrity by cloaking the headline-grabbing same-sex elements of the story in a sub-plot over Campbell’s use of a “ministerial vehicle”. But as premier Kristina Keneally remarked this morning, ministers routinely use their ministerial vehicles for private tasks, including picking up the kids from school.

This Adam Walters sounds like a real keeper. Somebody should *out* where this guy lives.

I was watching ‘Wag the Dog’ last night thinking, if this were the President of the United States of America, we’d be going to nuclear war right now. As it is, it’s only the NSW Transport&Roads Minister. We should count ourselves lucky we live in the venal state.

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